58 – The Three Essential Things That Make a Disciple
What is the greatest problem facing men today? It is the same problem that faces the church and men’s ministries.
As a whole, the church is not making disciples. We have a great problem in the church today. An executive in a major denomination said one day, “Our churches are not making disciples.” But that’s not the real problem. The real problem is – we think we are. So what?
Most men only know enough about God to be disappointed with him. They listen to the sermons, they try to do the right things, they have it in their hearts to be faithful Christians, but they don’t have much joy, and certainly lack victory over sinful habits. They feel a sense of shame. That’s because they have never actually been “educated” about what it means to “be” Christian. They are not disciples.
What does a man need to know, think, and do to be a disciple, or follower, of Jesus Christ? Psalm 8, the favorite passage of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., suggests three things a man needs to know to be a disciple:
1. To know the God who created man,
2. To know who God created man to be, and
3. To know what God created man to do.
These, then, are also three tasks for a man who wants to make disciples.
The order is very important. I believe that too often we teach men “what” they are created to “do” before they actually understand “who” God created them to “be.” In other words, we put them to work but don’t adequately tell them who they are in Christ.
Or, if we do tell them “who” God created them to be, we sometimes leave it there. Then they fall on a hard time, but they don’t understand the faithful character of the God who created them, and they wither in the heat of the moment.
Instead, the first task of making disciples is to help men understand something of the character of the God who is.
TO KNOW THE GOD WHO CREATED MAN
Psalm 8 (which I’ve paraphrased throughout this article) begins, O Jehovah (self-existent, eternal), our Adonai (sovereign), how excellent is your reputation, your good name, among all of us here on earth! You have painted your glory on the canvas of the deep space we see in the evening sky.
When I contemplate the cosmos, the earth must seem to you like a pebble in the palm of your hand. When I ponder the work of your fingers, the moon and stars which punctuate an evening sky that would otherwise be dark, desolate, and foreboding, a moon and stars which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?
Before a man, a “creature,” can truly understand who he is created to be or what he is created to do, he must first understand something of his “Creator.”
Who is our Creator God? How much does he know? Does he care? Can he do anything about it? How good is he? What is he like?
Psalm 8 speaks of “the work of your fingers.” It was “finger work” for God to create the moon and stars – not the back-breaking work of felling a forest, but like snapping a pencil between his fingers. Psalm 8 continues, “which you have set in place.” He dipped his hand into a bowl of liquid light, then flicked his fingers against the curtain of the night sky.
We could go on endlessly, but here is a sample of his greatness: He is sovereign, holy, awesome, gracious, loving, merciful, faithful, patient, omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, omnibenevolent, infinite, eternal, invisible, immutable, the only wise God, transcendent, immanent, the King of kings, the Lord of lords, the CEO of CEOs, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace, the God who was, the God who is, the God who is to come, the alpha and omega, the door, the gate, the bread of life, the living water, the Good Shepherd, the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, the soon and coming King, the LORD – just to mention a few.
TO KNOW “WHO” GOD CREATED MAN TO “BE”
Once we plumb the depths, or should I say, begin to plumb the depths of the character and attributes of the eternal, self-existent God, we can make progress to discover who he created us to be. The Psalmist continues, What is man that you are even aware of him, the son of man that you actually care for his well being? He made you just a little lower than the angels themselves, and crowned you-yes you!-with glory and honor.
Now we can begin to understand our own splendor, our dignity, as creatures. Such a great God would only create a magnificent creature, especially one upon whom he literally stamps “the image of God.”
Maybe your dad told you that you were stupid, that you would never amount to anything. Maybe you’ve been trying to prove him right, or wrong. Maybe your father made his approval conditional to your performance in sports, schools, chores, and so forth. As one man told me, “No matter what I did I could never please my dad.”
But God thinks you are absolutely super! He loves you, man! He made us-you, “a little lower than the angels themselves, and crowned you-yes you!-with glory and honor.” In other words, you are God’s most excellent creation. You are God’s crowning achievement. You are the full expression of God’s creative genius! Yes, yes, yes. God was at his very best when he made you!
TO KNOW “WHAT” GOD CREATED MAN TO “DO”
It gets better. Now, finally, when you, or your disciple, understands who God is and who God created you to be, you are ready to probe what God created man to do. Caution: Don’t go here until you understand the first two things. Otherwise, you will make huge mistakes. The Psalmist continues, What is man that you are even aware of him, the son of man that you actually care for his well being? . . . You made him ruler over the works of your hands; you put everything under his feet:
Ahhh! I am to take dominion over God’s creation, the world. How? There are four universal purposes God has for all men. Our individual calling will be the unique way God shapes these four purposes into the fabric of our lives,
To tend the culture (The Cultural Mandate)
To build the kingdom (The Great Commission)
To love God (The Great Commandment)
To love one another (The New Commandment)
Get these four clearly in your mind (after knowing God and knowing who he created you to be) and God will release you for a joyous celebration of obedience, love, joy, and good deeds.
I say again, O Jehovah (self-existent, eternal), our Adonai (sovereign), how excellent is your reputation, your good name, among all of us here on earth!
So, how are you doing? Better yet, how are you “being?”
In the space provided, give yourself a grade (A, B, C, D, or E), then, if applicable, write out a step you would like to take.
“I know the God who created me.”
“I know who God created me to be.”
“I know what God created me to do.”
How can your discipling of others be improved? What is one step you could take in each of these areas?
Business leader, author, and speaker, Patrick Morley helps men to think more deeply about their lives, to be reconciled with Christ, and to be equipped for a larger impact on the world.
© 1998. Patrick M. Morley. All rights reserved.