Making Disciple Makers: Cultivating a Culture of Obeying Jesus

by Dave Buehring 

 What Most of The People Do Most of The Time

At the very core of the life of Jesus is His love relationship with His Father. The overflow of this passionate, self-­‐sacrificial and unwavering love for His Father is a life of obedience. A quick sampling from the scriptures reveals this: Jesus said and did only what He heard and saw His Father doing (Jn.5:19, 12:49); His will was fully yielded to His Father’s (Mt.26:39); and we see the extent of His obedience in Philippians 2:8 as He “humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

And, It didn’t stop with Jesus. A read through The Book of Acts shows this same value and attitude of obedience was imparted and exercised within the lives of His disciples (Lk.24:49’s command is tied to Acts 1:12-­‐2:47’s  obedience; Acts 5:29; 6:7).

While commissioning His disciples to reproduce disciple-­‐makers in Matthew 28:18-­‐20, Jesus used the phrase  “teaching  them  to  obey”.  Of  course,  they  knew  exactly  what  He  meant  because  He  had  schooled them  in this very manner. Teaching someone to obey Jesus is the deliberate process of helping them  learn how to  see/hear/discern  what  God  is  revealing  to  them  while  guiding  them  towards  obedience  to  it.  The  great news is that since Jesus learned obedience (Heb.5:8) we can too!

A good friend of mine has a great working definition for the word “culture”: what most of the people do most of the time. Pause and consider that for a moment. As you do, consider the culture of your family life, hometown, country and your local church. When we apply that definition to current church culture what is it that most of the people do most of the time? My experience is that “obeying Jesus” doesn’t make the Top Five answers given by most American church members, if asked, and may not even make their Top Ten!

If obeying the Father out of love was primary for Jesus, how can we as disciple makers create within His followers a desire and habits of obedience, and a culture of obeying Jesus with His Bride?

I want to share a story that shows a process that I’ve watched bring real life transformation in the lives of followers of Jesus. It’s scriptural, doable, transformational, multipliable, and like leaven, can affect entire churches over time.

A Process of Transformation

Not long ago, I received an invitation to lunch with a pastor who I had not yet met. As we began to chat, I could tell we would become fast friends! He was aware that I lead an organization whose aim is making disciple-­‐makers and sensed that I knew something about transformation taking hold in the lives of  followers of Jesus. He said, “Dave, I come from a denomination in the Body of Christ where the scriptures are highly valued and studied. The people that I pastor know the Word. They could provide you with overviews and highlights from books of the Bible…” At that moment, with his glasses lowered to the edge of his nose, he leaned across the table toward me and with great humility and the sincere concern of a shepherd that loves his flock, stated, “…but I’m not seeing them be transformed!”

After listening to His heart, I shared with him a process of transformation that I had observed both in the life of Jesus and from my own four decades of making disciple makers. To explain it, I drew three circles on our table with my finger that looked  something  like this:

We talked at length about how God transforms a heart. He begins by revealing something of Himself, a piece of truth from scripture, conviction or guidance from the Holy Spirit, an impression to share with someone else, etc. As we respond to what He reveals by obeying Him it can lead to transformation.

My new friend and I began to tackle this a step at a time. First, what do we mean by revelation? I’m not talking here about the last book in our Bibles, but rather, the means by which God reveals things to us. It’s how we came to Jesus in the first place: He allowed us to “spiritually see” our desperate condition and His offer of love, forgiveness and reconciliation. Revelation is the parting of curtains so we can see as God sees!

I went on to illustrate this further. “Imagine yourself in a theater. Perhaps you’re there to watch a family member perform as part of a play. You hear the noise of the gathering crowd while you pick out your seat. Sitting in a near-­‐darkened room your attention is focused on those huge velvety burgundy curtains in front of you. You have absolutely no idea what’s behind that curtain. As the curtain is pulled back suddenly you have a completely different vantage point as you see the dusty streets of an old western town! What you could not see only a second before you can see now! That’s revelation!”

Consider the scene in Matthew 16 where Jesus asks His disciples who people say that He is. After Peter pipes up and says, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God!” Jesus says in vs.17: “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-­‐Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.”

God is the Revealer. If He doesn’t “part the curtains” we have a hard time seeing. The good news is that we can posture ourselves to receive revelation: seeking His face in worship, prayer, fasting, and being in the scriptures, through a sermon or in a conversation with a friend. When I can’t yet “see” something I have the opportunity to press in to Jesus for Him to reveal it to me!

My friend and I skipped over the middle circle for the moment to discuss the final circle of transformation, and what real transformation looks like: a young woman moved from woundedness to wonder as she grasps who Jesus has made her “in Christ”; a truth from scripture altering a young man to think, live and look more like Jesus; a destroyed relationship restored through mutual forgiveness; a troubled part of a city experiencing profound change as followers of Jesus do what He shows them to do.

Transformation is God intervening to bring His grace, truth and power to bear upon people, relationships and communities. Like revelation, spiritual life transformation cannot be humanly manufactured; it is a divine work of God. 2 Corinthians 3:18 states, “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” Like how God miraculously transforms an apple seed into a tree that produces more apples and eventually orchards, so the Spirit amazingly transforms people!

What is the bridge between the first and last circles – between revelation and transformation? Now was the time to talk about that middle circle. It represents the part WE play in the process of transformation! Our response to what Jesus reveals to us is to walk in obedience. Once again, we entered into our relationship with Jesus by responding in obedience to follow Him, and so began our journey of transformation!

Fueled by our great love for Jesus, we are to walk daily in obedience, doing what He has revealed to us in the scriptures and by His Spirit. This is exactly what Jesus did with His Father! When God reveals something to us, it’s not meant to be negotiated; it’s simply meant to be obeyed. The other option, of course, is disobedience – which leaves us untransformed and may even drive us deeper in to places of deception in our hearts.

As disciple-­‐makers, we need to pay close attention to what God is revealing in those we’re pouring in to as    it shows us what the Holy Spirit is emphasizing and doing in their lives! We may be going through the same material – but He may be applying things differently within each one we’re discipling! He is the transformer and my role is to watch and cooperate with Him, while demonstrating and encouraging those I’m walking alongside to simply obey what Jesus is revealing to them. Obedience is the engine of transformation!

My pastor friend left excited to apply these things among his flock – after first applying them in his own life.

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