As followers of Jesus, we are to reorient our lives around participating in what Jesus is doing, joining in the mission of Jesus. He said “Go into all the world 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” (Matthew 28:18-20). It is the main thing Jesus has given us to do. In fact, if we’re not involved in Jesus’ mission, I’m not sure we’re really following Jesus!
So, the big question for so many of us is this, how do we go about participating in this, how do we practically make disciples of Jesus? I’ve found that much of our discipleship, our learning to follow Jesus in every area of our lives, can flow out of a few core questions. I’d like to invite you to try these questions on yourself, and then begin to interact with others around these simple questions as well.
Question 1: What has God been saying to you lately?
There is nothing more crucial in our relationship with God than hearing his voice. Discipleship to Jesus starts with helping people realize that they can hear God for themselves. Interacting around this question gives us the opportunity to process all of the ways that we can learn to recognize what God is saying and doing in our lives. We hear God through the scriptures, through others and of course, through the presence of the Holy Spirit.
Many people think that they don’t or can’t hear God’s voice. This gives us the opportunity to introduce them to a real, living, interactive relationship with the living God. Most of the time we miss hearing God because we don’t expect it in the way it comes to us. We expect a burning bush experience or perhaps to hear God’s voice audibly. But God’s voice often comes much more subtly.
Many of us don’t hear God’s voice because we don’t slow down enough to hear it. Helping a person learn to slow down and recognize the still small voice of the Father is the first step for them to begin a life of following Jesus.
Question 2: What are you going to do with that?
The second question focuses on our radical obedience to whatever God might be bringing up. Obedience to the teaching of Jesus is one of the most neglected parts of discipleship. Yet right there in the verse I quoted at the beginning, Jesus tells us to “teach these disciples to obey everything he commanded us.” It’s pretty clear.
This theme runs throughout the scriptures. In the gospel of John we read Jesus saying that one of the ways we know that we love him is that we will obey him. This is a difficult one for us in our culture today. Most people have seen authority so misused that we have become afraid of obedience. We hear the word obedience and think immediately of words like authoritarian, tyranny, repression, control, and restriction of our freedom.
God doesn’t just give us a list of dos and don’ts to keep us in our place. The real reason for God’s commands in our lives is to prevent sorrow and to maximize happiness. Obeying God really is the best thing for us. In the end, you really aren’t following Jesus if you’re not putting his teaching into practice.
At its core, discipleship to Jesus is learning to hear the voice of God and developing the courage to do what he’s telling us to do.
Question 3: Who else do you know that needs to hear about this?
This is where discipleship to Jesus turns outward, it’s where each of us begins to participate in the mission of Jesus. In Acts chapter 1, as Jesus is leaving his original disciples, he tells them that they will be his witnesses. The job of a witness is to talk about what they’ve seen or heard, to just talk about their experiences. I think every single human being is hardwired to be an excellent witness. We already do it every single day: whenever we throughly enjoy something we tell everyone we know about it. Or just the opposite, when we have a bad experience, we rant about it on every platform available to us.
As we experience hearing God’s voice and then begin to put what we’re hearing into practice, as we experience the goodness and grace and mercy of god in our lives, we will naturally want to share our experience with others. This third question helps us to focus on participating in what God is doing in the lives of those around us.
I love these three questions because of the way they help ourselves and others develop an interactive, deeply personal and ongoing relationship with God.