Know the Spirit’s Role in Discipleship

This blog is an excerpt from the free eBook, Invest in a Few: Giving Your Life to What Matters Most. Download it free here.


Ignace Jan Paderewski (1860-1941) was a prodigy pianist and composer. He took piano lessons from the age of six. He entered the Warsaw Conservatory at the age of twelve and by eighteen, he was appointed as professor. He was a master piano composer and performer, mesmerizing audiences across Europe and America.

As the story goes, the Great Paderewski was preparing to play a concert in a certain city. The stage was set. A beautiful ebony grand piano sat strategically placed on center stage. A mother brought her son to the concert in hopes of renewing his interest in playing the piano. As the audience settled into their seats, the young mother noticed that her son was missing. Then, in horror, she watched her young boy walk onto the stage, climb on the piano seat, and begin playing “Twinkle Twinkle, Little Star”. The audience gasped as Paderewski appeared. He placed his arms around the child and—to the audience’s surprise—began to play “Twinkle Twinkle, Little Star” with him. Together, they made a beautiful arrangement of melodies, counter melodies, and harmonies. All the while, the great composer whispered in the boy’s ears, “Don’t quit—you are doing great. Keep going!” That night the small child and the master composer made beautiful music together. When the song was over the audience burst into applause.


This is from Craig Ethredege’s eBook, Invest in a FewDownload the eBook here in your favorite format at no cost.


This story illustrates what happens when we partner with the Spirit of God to make disciples. In many ways, we are like that young boy. We can’t do much, but with the Spirit’s power, God can do amazing things through us. It’s important that as you invest in people, you are clear what your job is and what the Spirit’s job is. Let’s first look at the Spirit’s role in making disciples.

The Spirit’s Role

The Holy Spirit is the one who causes spiritual growth to happen. Without him, you can’t make someone grow any more than a farmer can make a crop grow. Spiritual maturity is a divine work of God and a miracle to watch. What does the Spirit do in the lives of people that affects their growth? First, the Spirit gives new life in Jesus. He is the one who opens our minds and hearts to hear and respond to the gospel (1 Corinthians 2:12-13). As he brings God’s Word to the heart of a wayward person, he also brings conviction of sin, righteous, and judgment (John 16:8-11). He is the one that draws us to Christ, causes us to be born again, makes us new on the inside, and places us into God’s family (John 6:44; 3:5-8; 2 Thessalonians 2:13; 1 Corinthians 12:13). From beginning to end, the Spirit draws us and brings us into a relationship with Christ.

Once a person is a believer, the Spirit’s job is not over; in fact, he’s just getting started. The Spirit lives in every follower of Jesus (Romans 8:9-11). He actually takes us residence in our lives (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). He leads us, teaches us, comforts us, and grows us to look more and more like Christ (Romans 8:4; John 14:26; John 14:16; Titus 3:5-7). He helps us in our weaknesses, guides us into truth, empowers us to serve God, gives us courage to tell others about Christ, and produces lasting change in our lives (Micah 3:8; Romans 8:26; John 16:13; Acts 1:8; Galatians 5:22-23). As we abide in Christ and keep in step with the Spirit, he works through us to produce lasting spiritual fruit that will remain forever (John 15:4-5; Galatians 5:25; John 15:8). In reality, it is the Spirit who does the work of growing every believer toward maturity and fruitful living. You may ask, “If that’s the case, then why don’t we see more people fully mature and following Jesus?” The answer to that question lies in our part of the spiritual growth process.

Our Role

While the Spirit does the work of growth on the inside of us, we must participate with him. Paul told the believers in Philippi, “Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear. For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him” (Philippians 2:12-13, NLT) The Spirit is the one who gives us the power and the desire to please God; it is our job to work hard to obey God and revere him in everything we do. The Spirit does his work, but we have work to do, too. So what’s our role?

First, we must live under the control of the Holy Spirit day-by-day and moment-by-moment. Paul called this “walking in the Spirit” (Galatians 5:16). We need to keep in step with him and walk at his pace along the path he has for us. Imagine walking with a good friend along a well-worn path. As you walk together there is fellowship, you talk about what’s on each other’s heart, you share openly and freely, and you are both headed in the same direction. That is what God wants with us. He wants to walk with us step-by-step through each day in constant fellowship, leading us and directing our lives through his Spirit. Unfortunately, many people don’t walk in fellowship with the Spirit like this, but everyone who has the Spirit living in them has the choice to live in step with the Spirit.

Why? Some resist the Spirit’s direction. When the Spirit prompts them to speak, they stay silent. When the Spirit prompts them to forgive, they hold on to the offense. When the Spirit prompts them to act, they stay still. Disobeying the Spirit’s leading is called “quenching” the Spirit (1 Thessalonians 5:19). Just as you quench a fire by pouring water on it, many people quench the Spirit’s influence in their lives simply by disobeying him.

Another reason some fail to walk in the Spirit is by doing the things the Spirit warns them not to do. If you begin to veer off road from God’s will, the Spirit will warn you, convict you, and challenge you. But if you ignore the Spirit’s warnings and persist, you “grieve” the Spirit (Ephesians 4:29-30).

Now imagine you have a friend who loves you and only wants God’s best for your life. What would happen to that friendship if you constantly offended them and ignored their loving direction in your life? That friendship would become distant. You wouldn’t know the personal fellowship you had at first. That is what you are doing when you willfully refuse to disobey God. Repeatedly quenching and grieving the Spirit virtually brings all spiritual growth to a screeching halt. This is why so may never grow and never produce spiritual fruit in their life.

So our job is to keep in step with the Spirit and follow his lead and obey his promptings (Galatians 5:25). In order to be used by him, we have to abide in Christ through prayer and God’s Word, seek to obey all that Jesus has taught us in every part of our lives, and be busy making disciples that make disciples (John 15:4; John 8:31; Matthew 28:18-20). It’s a beautiful thing to watch the Spirit of God work with the people of God. That’s what I’ve tried to describe here. When we do our part, we know that God always does his part, so what are we waiting for? Let’s do this!

Written by Craig Etheredge


A gifted communicator, author, and Bible teacher and the Lead Pastor at First Colleyville, a thriving church in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, Craig Etheredge is the host of Morning Thrive, a radio program that covers central Texas. He is Founder and President of discipleFIRST ministries and a regular speaker at the FlashPoint Conference across the United States. Craig is also Adjunct Professor of Discipleship at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas and is actively involved in his local community serving on various boards.

Photo by Clark Young on Unsplash

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2017-12-07T23:30:30+00:00

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