How Discipleship to Jesus is Being with Christ
What we’ve been posting about lately (and even more fully in The Discipleship Gospel) reveals that there is a connection between being with Jesus and coming to the point of confessing Jesus as the Christ. Jesus chose the Twelve so they could be with him. It was his primary purpose in setting them apart to be his disciples. Mark 3:14-15 says that “[Jesus] appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) so that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach and have authority to cast out demons” (emphasis ours).
Before this passage says Jesus set his disciples apart to preach and cast out demons, it first says that Jesus appointed them to be with him. This was Jesus’ first and primary purpose in choosing the twelve apostles. For Jesus, discipleship wasn’t about getting through a curriculum, as we often do, or training people to “do stuff” for him. Discipleship for Jesus was first and foremost about being with his disciples—being with them so he could influence them to be more like him.
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The ultimate goal of discipleship is Christlikeness, and this transformation occurs as we begin living our lives with Jesus and living for his purposes. The fact that Peter’s confession of Jesus as the Christ didn’t occur until the disciples had spent a lot of time together—two years—shouldn’t get lost in all the action (and there is a lot of it in Mark’s Gospel).
The Holy Spirit used the disciples’ time with Jesus to open their hearts to him, and while we are not Jesus, as disciple makers in the body of Christ, we make a similar impact by spending time with those we are discipling. After being with him for some time, they not only knew that he was the Christ, but they had experienced him as the Christ. They not only believed in the grace of Christ, but they had also experienced his grace. They not only learned about the forgiveness of the Christ, but they had also heard Jesus say to them personally, “Your sins are forgiven.” They had not only heard about the love of the Christ, but their hearts were also burning with love for him (Luke 24:32). It was their being with him that caused the truth that he was the Christ to move from their heads to their hearts. The same change happens with us. That’s what happened with Amy. This transformation happens best in the context of intentional and loving, discipling relationships.
Now let’s drive this point all the way home. In our experience, discipleship groups of three or four are a great way to help people spend time with Jesus. As you gather in his name together, study his teaching, pray to him, seek to hear his voice, and put his teaching into practice, you are spending time with him, and more importantly, he is with you. Jesus’ presence is a major promise of his great commission. He said, “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:20, emphasis ours). As we obey Jesus’ command to be disciples who make disciples, he is with us and we are with him. We’ll go into more depth about the transformative environment of discipleship groups later, but for now, remember this: discipleship is one of the greatest ways for knowledge about Jesus as the Christ to become love from the heart for Jesus.