GET PEOPLE SAVED OR MAKE DISCIPLES?

GET PEOPLE SAVED OR MAKE DISCIPLES

 

Copyright Š 2006 Trumpet Ministries, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright Š 973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.

There are millions of people in America who have believed in Jesus Christ and have been baptized in the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Thus they may have been saved from destruction in the Day of Wrath. But they may not be disciples of the Lord Jesus.

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Get People Saved or Make Disciples?

Saved or a Disciple?

GET PEOPLE SAVED OR MAKE DISCIPLES?

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. (Matthew 28:19,20)

Get People Saved or Make Disciples?

"Therefore go and make disciples."

Do you see anything in the Great Commission about getting people "saved"?

Neither do I.

Is making a disciple the same as getting someone "saved"?

I understand "he who believes and is baptized shall be saved." This means in the Day of the Lord we will be saved from destruction if we believe in Christ and are baptized in water in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

We have millions of people in the United States who have believed in Christ, been baptized in water, but most assuredly are not disciples of the Lord Jesus.

I know someone will ask if he can be saved without being a disciple. I am not certain he will be saved from destruction, but I do know he or she by definition is not a "Christian."

What does it mean to be a disciple of the Lord Jesus?

Then Jesus said to his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me." (Matthew 16:24)

Does this sound to you like a typical American "saved" person? Do you know any American Christians who deny themselves and carry their cross behind Jesus? Instead, don’t they view the Lord Jesus as the One who helps them get what they want out of life?

In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:33)

What about the above? Honestly, I think if the Christian preachers and evangelists in America insisted that no one can be a Christian unless he gives up everything he or she has, we would have the greatest "backdoor revival" in history.

If a pastor is reading these words, why don’t you on some Sunday morning inform the people they cannot properly be termed "Christian" unless they deny themselves, take up their cross, and follow Jesus?

If the Board then asks for your resignation you will know you have not been preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom of God. You are like the unjust steward who changed the ledger so the debtors did not appear to owe as much as they actually did.

If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple. And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:26,27)

Then he said to them all: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me." (Luke 9:23)

When you think about the above Scriptures it makes you wonder if the Christian religion of today is the same salvation taught by the Lord Jesus and the Apostles of the Lamb.

Let me tell you what got me started on this discussion of discipleship. I came across a picture of Christ carrying His cross, and following after Him is a great multitude of people carrying their crosses. I have become so enamored of this picture, which we are using by permission of the Christian Sisters of Mary of Darmstadt, Germany, that we are employing it as our church logo.

While I was pondering this picture I thought, "This is not a true representation of American Christians. The American believers are not faithfully carrying their cross after the Lord Jesus. In fact, the picture of all these people carrying their cross looks depressing when we think of the happy, positive-thinking emphasis of today’s evangelistic efforts." (Although the truth is, the believers in America often are bowed down to the ground with a multitude of emotional and domestic problems.)

We are not fulfilling the Great Commission. We are not making disciples and teaching them to keep Christ’s commandments. We are not telling them they have to deny themselves, take up their cross, and follow Jesus. We are advising them that if they will just "accept Christ" their sins will be forgiven and they will go to Heaven when they die.

We would tell the rich young ruler that if he would just believe in Jesus he would have eternal life; although it would be nice if he would give a tithe of his riches to the church.

Maybe the Lord Jesus is not the same as He was when He walked in the land of Israel. But the Bible says He is!

We have got some kind of unscriptural religion we are preaching. We are making proselytes to our religion instead of cross-carrying disciples.

Of any ten thousand converts to our religion, perhaps twenty-five follow on to know the Lord.

What can we do about it? We can pray that God will help us turn from our fleshly adaptation of Christianity and begin to make disciples, telling them they must keep Christ’s commandments if they are to inherit the Kingdom of God.

In fact, we are not even preaching the Kingdom of God. We are preaching "go to Heaven and live there forever." This is not scriptural. The saints will be with Christ, governing the nations of the earth during the thousand-year Kingdom Age; and then, when the present earth and sky flee from the face of God, the saints will come down with Christ from Heaven and be installed forever on the new earth as the new Jerusalem, the holy city.

In no manner does the Bible teach that the saints will live in Heaven forever. Our home is the earth, whether the present earth or the new earth, and we shall live on the earth forever in righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. This is what the Bible teaches.

So we are unscriptural in our goal as well as our method.

Where did we get the concepts we are preaching and practicing?

We are advising people to believe in Christ and be baptized in water so they can go to Heaven and live forever.

The Lord Jesus commanded us to go and make disciples from the nations, teaching them to keep His commandments. When they do this the disciples grow into the image of Christ and enter the rest of God, the place of abiding in the Person and will of God.

The average believer in America presents no threat to Satan’s Kingdom. He desires to flee to Heaven where he will do nothing of significance for eternity.

He ought to be preparing himself to appear with the Lord Jesus Christ and to help with the installing of the Kingdom of God on the earth.

Today we have numerous plans, seminars, marketing strategies whose goal is to bring more converts into the churches. But we do not have numerous plans, seminars, marketing strategies to make them disciples once they have been brought into the churches. Why not? Are we afraid they will leave us if we present the demands of discipleship to them?

I think most of this is nothing more than fleshly ambition and is an abomination to the Lord.

I knew a pastor years ago. He was deathly afraid of offending his congregation so he restricted himself to preaching only those messages that would please them.

The inevitable took place. The sincere Christians finally went looking for God and this pastor was left with a lukewarm crowd that the Lord will spit from his mouth.

What does the Scripture teach us?

The Scripture teaches us that the ascended Christ gave gifts of ministry to us that we might bring every believer to the stature of the fullness of Christ. The gifts and ministries are not given for the purpose of bringing in more converts but for the purpose of bringing each believer to spiritual maturity as measured by the fullness of Christ.

If this is the case, why don’t we place more emphasis on bringing each believer to spiritual maturity?

Some "expert in church growth" said we must keep on growing, keep on growing, keep on growing. I think his assumption is that the new believers will become disciples automatically. If he thinks this he is mistaken. It takes a terrible travail on the part of the ministries of the Spirit to form Christ in people.

Perhaps if we did what the Bible says the Lord would be pleased to add to us such as should be saved.

We have been predestined to be changed into the image of Christ that we might be His brothers. Such change is infinitely more demanding that just believing and being baptized in water.

It seems to me that we have become devoted wholly to adding more numbers to our particular denomination without giving much thought to the spiritual development of the believers.

Every industry has a department of quality control. We Christians have no quality control. We assume the more people we have the more successful we have been.

Suppose a machine shop turned out millions of screws and bolts without giving thought to quality control. The company rejoiced in its tremendous output, but there were no gauges or inspectors to determine if the screws and bolts conformed to the tolerances given in the blueprints. We would say the management of the factory was incredibly stupid and doomed to failure. Well, this is precisely what we are doing with our Christian "strategies." We are turning out millions of "believers" without determining if our product conforms to the Bible. I don’t know if we even have standards by which growth in Christ and in God’s will can be measured! To us, church growth means nothing more than numbers of people under a roof.

Speaking of quality control:

We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ. To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me. (Colossians 1:28,29)

We are in a grand mess today.

My own denomination is The International Church of the Foursquare Gospel. It was founded by Aimee Semple McPherson. The Foursquare denomination did not come into being through a committee of ministers for the purpose of standardizing doctrine and sending out missionaries. It was born in the fire of the Holy Spirit as a revelation from God given to one woman.

That this revelation indeed was from God cannot be denied when one examines the fruit of the denomination.

Now God wants to move us forward along with all other true Christian groups. God has a revelation and experience for us that is past Pentecost and we need to go to the Lord to find our His will more perfectly. Otherwise we are going to keep trying to chop wood with a very dull axe.

My opinion is that most if not all Christian organizations were, at their beginning, inspired by the Holy Spirit. Now the Lord Jesus is waiting to see if we are going to try to complete in the flesh what was begun in the Spirit.

Are we going to keep strategizing, holding seminars, examining our statistics, or are we going to return to the Bible? We have inherited much error from the Protestant Reformation because of the emphasis on "faith alone." We absolutely must repent and begin to keep Christ’s commandments. When we do our eyes will be opened and we will behold Christ, and our ears will be unstopped so we can hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches in America.

The Bible tells us that the Temple of God, which is Christ in us, will be completed "not by might nor by power but by My Spirit, says the Lord."

Are we willing to follow the Lord Jesus Christ as He completes His Church, or are we going to persist in our blind proselyting, gaining numerous adherents to our denominations who are not qualified to be the salt of the earth or the light of the world?

Are we going to go God’s way or our way? That is the big question today.

Saved or a Disciple?

He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned." (Mark 16:15,16)

The risen Christ commissioned the eleven in the above words.

The risen Christ also commissioned the eleven as follows:

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. (Matthew 28:19,20)

The first commission is about getting people saved.

The second commission is about making disciples.

I have thought a lot about these two commissions. Although they are related, and were spoken by the same Person to the same apostles, I am not sure they refer to the same objective.

A great deal of thought is being given today to getting people saved. Not nearly as much attention is paid to making disciples and teaching the believers to keep the commandments of Christ. In fact it is not uncommon for a minister of the Gospel to tell his congregation that they should keep Christ’s commandments, but if they don’t they are not to worry for they will be saved by "grace."

There certainly is a  difference between merely believing and being baptized, on the one hand, and denying yourself, taking up your cross, and following Jesus, on the other hand. By saying "merely believing and being baptized" I am not minimizing the value of basic salvation. Sometimes the initial act of accepting the salvation that is in Christ Jesus is a tremendous experience.

However, it seems to me (and I am guessing, of course) that about ninety-eight percent of Christian resources is devoted toward getting people "saved," that is, encouraging them to become properly oriented to the Christian salvation.

Probably about two percent is directed toward making disciples.

Since Paul wrote that the gifts and ministries given by the ascended Christ are for the purpose of bringing each believer to the stature of the fullness of Christ, I would venture that we should be devoting the greatest portion of our resources to making disciples.

Until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. (Ephesians 4:13)

Why we are so intent on getting people saved, without seeming to care too much about their becoming disciples or pressing on to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ, I am not certain. One reason may be the natural human desire of the Christian leadership to gain as many members as possible. Vigorously stating the demands of Christ may drive away numerous people who would remain if we permitted them to assent to the atonement and did not insist on their presenting their body a living sacrifice.

Another reason may be we do not know what a disciple is or how to make a disciple. In fact, the pastor or evangelist himself may not be denying himself and carrying his cross patiently behind the Lord.

It may be true that we are entering a new era of God’s dealing with us, in view of the nearness of the coming of the Kingdom of God to the earth. Now God may be emphasizing the necessity for sternly following Christ. Such a stringent demand is not always made in Christian churches, but nothing less characterizes the true Gospel of the Kingdom of God.

Before discussing discipleship further, let us first think about what it means to be saved. To be saved means to be rescued from wrath in the Day of Christ.

And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath. (I Thessalonians 1:10)

Today we are preaching that we are to "accept Jesus" so we won’t go to Hell. This is not scriptural. I know of no passage of Scripture that teaches we believe in Christ so we won’t go to Hell. It is the wicked who go to Hell whether or not they profess faith in Christ. I know this is hard to accept, but the rich man was not in Hell because he refused to believe in Christ but because he was selfish.

The Apostle Paul never mentioned the term "Hell," so it is not sound to make escape from Hell a centerpiece of our teaching and preaching.

We believe and are baptized so we will not be destroyed in the Day of Wrath.

In some cultures a person can be murdered for no other reason than that of being baptized into the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. So I do not wish to present water baptism as a light, meaningless, insignificant ceremony.

Water baptism means we have repented of our life in the world and now are entering the death, resurrection, and ascension of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The above is what it means to be "saved." At that time our sins are forgiven and we receive a portion of eternal life.

The Great Commission does not mention being "saved." It is directed toward making disciples who will keep the commandments of Christ and His Apostles.

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. (Matthew 28:19,20)

Before the advent of universities, a master of some area of knowledge would enter a village. He would sit in a central location. Soon there would be grouped around him disciples who desired to learn what the master had to teach. When they had learned the entire curriculum they would be as their master. Then they themselves would be masters and gather disciples around them.

This is the concept of discipleship. It is not the same situation as being saved from wrath in the Day of the Lord.

To be a disciple the individual must deny himself, take up his cross of personal suffering, and set out to follow Jesus. He must keep his eyes fastened on the Lord at all times. He must listen to everything Christ has to say.

Little by little be becomes like his Master.

The disciple is not above his master: but every one that is perfect shall be as his master. (Luke 6:40—KJV)

The purpose of the gifts and ministries given by the ascended Christ is that we all might come to the unity of the faith. This does not mean we all believe the same doctrine. Belief in doctrine is an affair of the brain. Its purpose is to lead us to the Master. There is no salvation in what we believe with our brain except as such belief leads us to the Master.

The unity of the faith means we are perfectly, diligently following the Master, Christ. We are giving every decision to Him. This brings us to the full knowledge of Him, resulting in our being transformed into the stature of the fullness of Christ.

Can you see from the above how different being a disciple is from what currently passes for being "saved"?

The Apostle Paul to the end of his life was striving to know Christ. Undoubtedly Paul already was saved from destruction in the Day of Wrath. But Paul was a disciple of Christ. Paul wanted to experience the power of Christ’s resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings. Paul was determined to attain to the first resurrection, the resurrection which is from among the dead.

We do not know too much about attaining to the first resurrection because we Christians, to a great extent, have stopped at the level of basic salvation from wrath, perhaps adding speaking in tongues and prophesying. Not very many of us, perhaps, are really being discipled by the Master.

Why must we be discipled by the Lord? So we can be made in His image. So we can know Him. So we can enter perfectly and completely into God’s rest, into the Person and will of God.

Why must we be conformed to the image of Christ and enter untroubled rest in the Father’s Person and will? So we can be authorized and competent to appear with Christ.

When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. (Colossians 3:4)

Why must we be authorized and competent if we are to appear with Christ?

Because we will appear with Christ for the purpose of installing the Kingdom of God on the earth. An individual who has believed and been baptized, and then has not grown into the image of Christ and has not entered untroubled rest in the will of the Father, is neither authorized nor competent to assist in the task of installing the Kingdom of God on the earth.

He is not authorized to be a judge of men and angels because he himself has not been judged. He still is living in the sinful adamic nature. Christ is not his life, and only those whose life Christ is are authorized to appear with Christ.

He is not in the moral image of Christ and is not sternly obedient to the Father. He has never grown in the ability to recognize good and evil nor does he have a fierce desire to embrace the good and renounce the evil. Therefore he is not competent to force the doing of God’s will on the earth.

He is not authorized or competent to be part of the Temple of God; to be a member of the Body of Christ; to be the salt of the earth; to be the light of the world; to be a restorer of Paradise on the earth; to be a source of eternal life and healing for the nations. Because of his lack of preparation he will not be resurrected and caught up to meet the Commander in Chief in the air when He appears.

You can see immediately that if we Christians devote the greatest portion of our resources to getting people "saved," and then do not bring them to Christ in the role of disciple, leaving them with the impression they can remain as a member of a congregation and will be caught up into glory when they die or when Christ appears, we are preventing the establishing of the Kingdom of God on the earth.

The world endures its joyless, drunken, insane existence in the hope (without knowing it) that one day the Head and Body of Christ will appear bringing justice and healing. There is no hope for the world until the Body of Christ has been brought to maturity and is ready to appear with the Head.

He will not falter or be discouraged till he establishes justice on earth. In his law the islands will put their hope. (Isaiah 42:4)

Those who have believed and been saved, but have not learned to follow the Lord Jesus in the rigorous disciplines of discipleship, are not qualified to be members of the Body of Christ. By no means are they competent to bring justice and healing to the bedraggled inhabitants of the earth.

The need today is for Christian leaders to turn their attention to the scriptural teaching concerning the coming of the Kingdom of God to the earth. The pastors and teachers must think about the fact that we are to appear with Christ and govern the nations, and then ask the Lord for wisdom that they might prepare God’s people for their role in establishing the Kingdom.