Discipleship is important because it is the means by which Saints of God mature.
The disciple is not above his master: but every one that is perfect shall be as his master. (Luke 6:40)
I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me. (John 17:23)
One of the biggest potential traps in the walk of faith is the concept of perfection. Matthew 5:48 tells us, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.”
Man, that’s harsh. How can you be perfect like God is perfect? God is perfect in ways and dimensions we cannot comprehend. This Scripture, alone, has caused many a Christian to stumble. On the one hand, people willingly accept failure because they conclude perfection is unattainable. On the other hand, many create this standard of perfection that leads to legalism.
What I want to share with you, today, is that the definition of perfection that most people operate with is one that has its roots in the Old Covenant:
Perfect=flawless or unblemished.
h8549. ?âmîym; from 8552; entire (literally, figuratively or morally); also (as noun) integrity, truth:— without blemish, complete, full, perfect, sincerely (- ity), sound, without spot, undefiled, upright (- ly), whole.
AV (91)- without blemish 44, perfect 18, upright 8, without spot 6, uprightly 4, whole 4, sincerely 2, complete 1, full 1, misc 3; complete, whole, entire, sound complete, whole, entire whole, sound, healthful complete, entire ( of time) sound, wholesome, unimpaired, innocent, having integrity what is complete or entirely in accord with truth and fact ( neuter adj/subst
But I’d like to share a New Covenant definition of perfection:
Perfect=mature of complete.
g5046. teleios; from 5056; complete ( in various applications of labor, growth, mental and moral character, etc.); neuter ( as noun, with 3588) completeness: — of full age, man, perfect.
AV ( 19)- perfect 17, man 1, of full age 1; brought to its end, finished wanting nothing necessary to completeness perfect that which is perfect consummate human integrity and virtue of men full grown, adult, of full age, mature
g5047. teleiot?s; from 5046; ( the state) completeness ( mentally or morally): — perfection (- ness).
AV ( 2)- perfectness 1, perfection 1; perfection the state of the more intelligent moral and spiritual perfection
g5048. teleio?; from 5046; to complete, i. e. ( literally) accomplish, or ( figuratively) consummate ( in character): — consecrate, finish, fulfil, make) perfect.
AV ( 24)- make perfect 12, perfect 4, finish 4, fulfil 2, be perfect 1, consecrate 1; to make perfect, complete to carry through completely, to accomplish, finish, bring to an end to complete ( perfect) add what is yet wanting in order to render a thing full to be found perfect to bring to the end ( goal) proposed to accomplish bring to a close or fulfilment by event of the prophecies of the scriptures
If you catch this, it will set you free! Check it out:
Our first Scripture deals with the relationship between a teacher and a pupil. The student is not above her teacher but when she is mature or complete, she shall be as her teacher. In other words, the student will be able to do that which the teacher has the capacity to do.
This lines up with John 14:12, that Jesus has empowered us to do greater works.
Here’s a natural example: Ip Man was one of the greatest Kung-Fu teachers in Hong Kong. His list of pupils is a virtual “who’s who” of martial arts. But along comes a student named Lee Jun Fan, who not only masters the Ip Man system of Wing Chun Kung-Fu but actually improves on it. The student here you may know as Bruce Lee – a name synonymous with martial arts. While Master Ip is certainly legendary, he is one who exceeded his master.
Don’t get it twisted, here, folks – I’m not saying any of us will be greater than Jesus. But there are certainly some people reading this, who will become greater than me.
Do you get it?
Another example of maturity are plants. When plants mature, they bear fruit. This used to be the case with people that they had children once they matured – but that ain’t always the case, anymore!
There are a lot of people that teach we must strive to express and manifest the Fruit of the Spirit:
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23)
Did you catch that? The Law does not govern those who express and manifest this fruit! And, because there’s no law to uphold, we should produce this fruit without effort.
In other words, fruit trees produce fruit because they are fruit trees! They don’t know to do anything else. And fruit trees don’t have to try and produce fruit, they produce fruit in their rest.
So we should produce fruit in the rest of Christ!
But asking someone to bear fruit without first maturing is an unreasonable task. This is why discipleship is so important. Discipleship is the path to maturity. Just like plants do not effectively bear fruit without proper cultivation (pruning and purging), Christians cannot bear the Fruit of the Spirit without being discipled!
While I’m here, let me hang my hat for just a second. Contrary to popular belief, discipleship is not beating someone into submission! Rather, it is presenting someone with the truth, discussing the relevance of the truth to our lives, and explaining how to appropriate or use this truth in our day-to-day living.
Jesus took Twelve men who were not of any religious or scholarly order and reproduced himself in them. Eleven of them went on to reproduce after themselves. Then Jesus arrested a legalist – a pharisee of pharisees – on a road to Damascus and used him to write most of the New Testament.
Never once did Jesus beat or berate any of these men to get the best out of them!
There are some who will appear to bear fruit but are found lacking. There is a word for these kind of folks:
In the parable of the fig tree in Mark 11, Jesus found a fig tree with leaves. When fig trees have leaves, they should also have fruit. This tree had leaves but no fruit:
And on the morrow, when they were come from Bethany, he was hungry: And seeing a fig tree afar off having leaves, he came, if haply he might find any thing thereon: and when he came to it, he found nothing but leaves; for the time of figs was not yet. And Jesus answered and said unto it, No man eat fruit of thee hereafter for ever. And his disciples heard it (Mark 11:12-14)
There are a couple of things that are noteworthy here: first, the tree had leaves out of season (the time of figs was not yet), so it was doing something it was supposed to do but incompletely and at the inappropriate time; second, Jesus answered the tree – so what was the tree saying to Him? This is the only example of Jesus cursing anything – and in this case, it was a hypocrite.
Let’s take a look at those who don’t grow up:
He spake also this parable; A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came and sought fruit thereon, and found none. Then said he unto the dresser of his vineyard, Behold, these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and find none:cut it down; why cumbereth it the ground? And he answering said unto him, Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it, and dung it: And if it bear fruit, well: and if not, then after that thou shalt cut it down. (Luke 13:6-9)
Now, the idea here is not that Jesus is saying that anyone should be cut down or cut off, but you should be aware of the fruit of those you disciple and the time you dedicate to them. If you find they are not bearing fruit after a designated season, you may have to turn them over to someone else.
Here’s a test of discipleship given by Jesus, Himself:
I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. (John 15:5-6)
Maturity in Christ is when it is evident in the perception of any observer that we are abiding in Jesus and He is abiding in us. When the abiding presence of Jesus is so prevalent in our lives, we cannot help but bear fruit. And when we are bearing fruit, it is easy for those whom we labor among to “taste and see the Lord is good.” And when people taste or experience the goodness of God for themselves, they find Him irresistible!
When we mature (perfected), our fruit will manifest in abundance:
Do you have love? The empathy, compassion, and concern for others as you have for God and yourself?
Do you have joy? Do you choose to be at peace, courageous, and pleasant in spite of your situations and circumstances?
Do you have peace? The peace that passes all understanding. The peace of Jesus. And do you bring this peace with you when you enter the room?
Do you have longsuffering? Y’all, that doesn’t mean to “suffer long” like some say. It means endurance. Do you have staying power? Do you have “sticktoitness?”
Do you have gentleness? Are your words seasoned with Grace and salt? Are you kind to others?
Do you have goodness? God is good. We are created in His image (to look like him) and His likeness (to act like Him). We are to reflect Him in our thoughts, words, and actions?
Do you have faith? Faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen. Faith is the currency of the Kingdom of God – without it, it is impossible to please God. Faith is beyond belief – the Bible tells us even demons believe and tremble (James 2:19); it is the absolute confidence in both God’s will and ability to do a thing.
Do you have meekness? Contrary to popular belief, meekness ? weakness; rather, meekness is power under control.
Do you have temperance? Temperance is simply self-control. But it is not ordinary self-control; it is a self that is controlled by the Spirit of God. If the Spirit of God is dwelling in you, and the love of God is manifest in you, you will not do anything that offends God, your neighbor, or yourself.
In short, we are perfected spiritually in Christ but natural perfection is maturity and completeness. When we press toward the mark, we press toward the ability to express God’s will, culture, and intent — His Fruit — in the earth. And, because we press in His rest, our fruit should flow effortlessly.
Show me fruit and I’ll show you maturity.
© 2014 – Derrick Day (www.derrickday.com)