Discussion Guide: Purple Book | Discipleship and Leadership

Prayer

Take the first few minutes of your time together to listen to what God is doing in one another’s lives and pray for any specific needs people in your group may have.

Today’s Discussion

“Jesus’ plan called for action, and how He expressed it predicted its success. He didn’t say “you might be my witnesses,” or “you could be my witnesses,” or even “you should be my witnesses.” He said “you will be my witnesses.” ― Charles R. Swindoll

Two of the last things Jesus told His disciples to do was to, “make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey all that I have commanded,” (Matthew 28) and to, “wait until you receive power from on high and you will be my <strong>witnesses</strong>…” (Acts 1). That charge has not changed for those of us who follow Him today.

The Bible uses all sorts of phrases to communicate this call to make disciples. It says we are “ambassadors for Christ,” and “ministers of reconciliation,” but it all points to the reality that we are called to be disciples who make disciples. But, what exactly does it mean to <em>be</em> a disciple? And, how are we supposed to go about <em>making</em> disciples anyways? It seems that what was once so easy to understand for those original 120 followers has somehow become confusing and foggy to millions who call themselves Christians today. If it was the last thing on Jesus’ mind, however, it is highly likely that He wants it to be at the forefront of ours.

In this discussion we will talk about what it means to be a disciple, what is required to follow Jesus and why we would want to make disciples of others in the first place.

Discussion Questions

The Call Of Discipleship

How would you define the word disciple?

How does that definition line up with your experience with Christians/the church?

Matthew 4:18-20

While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Immediately they left their nets and followed him.

According to this passage, what is the essence of being a disciple of Jesus?

Leader Notes

The essence of discipleship is to follow Jesus, which means to make Him top priority in your life. You cannot follow in two different directions, and the direction Jesus calls us to walk is different than any other direction we could ever walk in this life. Therefore, discipleship is putting Jesus’ Word and God’s glory as the number one pursuit of your life.

How would you describe Peter and Andrew’s response? What does their response say to you?

Leader Notes

What we can gather from this passage is that when Jesus calls you to follow Him our response should be immediate obedience. We see in other passages, like Luke 9:57-62 and Luke 19:16-22, that making the call the follow Jesus secondary to any other priority is essentially the same as making Him last. The call to discipleship is a call to forsake everything else in comparison to following Jesus. Peter and Andrew walked away from their jobs, their reputations and their provision, simply at the invitation to “follow” Jesus. Now, this doesn’t necessarily mean that following Jesus would carry the same implications in our lives. He may not be calling you to quit your job, break up with your boyfriend/girlfriend, stop frequenting this place or that, change your internet browsing habits, etc. But, if He did how would you respond? Within the answer to that question lies the reality of who or what you are truly following.

Based on what we read in the gospel accounts of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, how would you describe the discipleship process for those who answered the call to, “Follow?”

Leader Notes

What we see in the gospel accounts is a long, up-and-down, process of men and women maturing in their relationship with Jesus. We see moments of transformation followed by ongoing growth in both the knowledge of who Jesus is and the implications that has on their lives. Look at Peter. His initial encounter with Jesus leaves him humbled, bowing before this man who had stepped in to his boat, and proclaiming, “away from me Lord, for I am a sinful man.” Later we see Peter making the proclamation that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of the Living God. But, in between these moments we see Peter stumbling his way through a pursuit of Christ. We see him making claims and boasting in his own abilities, and even being called Satan by Jesus Himself. We can see in most of the disciples this ongoing struggle of knowing Jesus and still getting to know Jesus, of following Jesus and still learning how to follow Jesus. We see that following Jesus, being His disciple, is both a momentary decision, and yet an ongoing and lifelong decision we continue to make and grow in on a daily basis.

What does/would it look like for you to “follow” Jesus today?

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship

“Discipleship is not an offer that man makes to Christ.”

What do you suppose Bonhoeffer means by this statement?

The Cost Of Discipleship

Mark 8:34-35

And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.

What does it mean to “deny” yourself?

What does it mean to “take up your cross?”

Leader Notes

to deny yourself means to put your wants, desires and needs behind God’s wants, desires and “needs”. It means to sacrifice for and love God above all else, especially yourself. To take up your cross takes this concept to another level. The cross was an instrument of death. It’s victim would be tied to, or nailed to in some cases, the cross. He would have difficulty breathing. We would be absolutely humiliated as others looked upon him while he struggled to control his bodily functions and hung naked or mostly naked on these beams of wood. So, what Jesus is telling us here is that we are to seek to live in such a way that we not only sacrifice our lives and die to self, but that we recognize our total dependence on God for life, even when it humiliates us in the eyes of others. Taking up our cross means completely losing ourselves in the glory of God.

In commenting on this C.S. Lewis wrote, “The Christian way is different: harder, and easier. Christ says “Give me All. I don’t want so much of your time and so much of your money and so much of your work: I want You. I have not come to torment your natural self, but to kill it. No half-measures are any good. I don’t want to cut off a branch here and a branch there, I want to have the whole tree down. I don’t want to drill the tooth, or crown it, or stop it, but to have it out. Hand over the whole natural self, all the desires which you think innocent as well as the ones you think wicked—the whole outfit. I will give you a new self instead. In fact, I will give you Myself: my own will shall become yours.”

Elisabeth Elliot, Passion and Purity: Learning to Bring Your Love Life Under Christ’s Control

“We are not meant to die merely in order to be dead. God could not want that for the creatures to whom He has given the breath of life. We die in order to live.” 

How have you had to “lose your life” as you have followed Jesus? In other words, what has following Jesus cost you?

How have you experienced true life in the face of this “death”?

Are there any areas where you still need to “die to yourself?” If so, would you care to share?

The Passion Of Discipleship

Philippians 1:21

For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.

What do you suppose Paul means by this? Why do you think Paul feels this way?

Leader Notes

Paul had been completely transformed by the power of the Gospel. He was a religious man of great reputation who persecuted Christians. He had great wealth and great comfort. But on his way to arrest some Christians in Damascus he was confronted by the resurrected Christ and converted to Christianity himself. Upon seeing Christ in all His glory, Paul’s life was flipped upside down. His value system was completely up-ended. Having received this amazing grace (meaning God saved him rather than kill him) Paul now considered all of life as an opportunity to glorify Jesus and make His glory known. So, if he was alive it was for the purpose of knowing Jesus more, and making Him more known to others. And, to die meant to enter into the very presence of Jesus in all His glory. This is what happens when you have experienced God’s amazing grace in the person and work of Jesus. Being a disciple, a follower, means you have a completely different value system, a system that puts Christ way above anything else this world has to offer, even life itself.

In commenting on this C.S. Lewis wrote, “The Christian way is different: harder, and easier. Christ says “Give me All. I don’t want so much of your time and so much of your money and so much of your work: I want You. I have not come to torment your natural self, but to kill it. No half-measures are any good. I don’t want to cut off a branch here and a branch there, I want to have the whole tree down. I don’t want to drill the tooth, or crown it, or stop it, but to have it out. Hand over the whole natural self, all the desires which you think innocent as well as the ones you think wicked—the whole outfit. I will give you a new self instead. In fact, I will give you Myself: my own will shall become yours.”

Why did God the Son, Jesus the Christ, come in the flesh to live the perfect life of obedience you could not live, die the horrific death of a traitor you should have died, and rise again conquering sin, death, hell and Satan?

Leader Notes

not just so we could go to Heaven, but so Heaven could once again come to earth. To restore His Kingdom both in our lives and in our world. as we grown as disciples we should see more and more of His Kingdom displayed in our lives and through our lives. Jesus did way more than just forgive us of our sins. He has overthrown the kingdom of darkness that we were once slaves to, and has ushered in His Kingdom of Light in our hope arts that we might now be subjects, and not just subjects but sons and daughters, of the King of kings, and as such, represent His Kingdom on the earth as we love Him and love others as we love ourselves. The Gospel includes us gaining Heaven, but it totality it is the story of God redeeming and restoring His Kingdom on the earth. What began in Genesis 1 with Him creating a people for His glory, continued through the call of Abraham in making a nation called by His name, continues even today in our lives as we join this story of redemptive history.

How does that perspective, seeing yourself as a subject of the King and a representative of His Kingdom, change the way you think about discipleship?

What should the life of a disciple of Jesus look like?

Does your life fit that description? If not, where is growth needed in your life?

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship

“Fruit is always the miraculous, the created; it is never the result of willing, but always a growth. The fruit of the Spirit is a gift of God, and only He can produce it. They who bear it know as little about it as the tree knows of its fruit. They know only the power of Him on whom their life depends.”

What, then, is the motivation and power by which we live this life of “following” Jesus?

Closing Thought

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship

“It is only because he became like us that we can become like him.” 

The call to be a disciple and to make disciples is not just some job description God has given us in order to earn our place in Heaven. It is an invitation to join Him in the redemption of the world and the restoration of His Kingdom. As we are transformed by His Spirit and surrender our lives to Him, we will be His witnesses and have the honor of participating in the transformation of other people’s lives along the way. All the while representing our King and His Kingdom to a lost and dying world that desperately needs to see, in us, what it truly looks like to follow Jesus.



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