New believers become spiritually mature disciples through observing and learning His commandments and participating in an abiding relationship with Christ. Jesus emphasized these two components of discipleship in Matthew 28:19-20.
1. Observing His Commandments
“…teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you…”
True biblical discipleship requires the study of God’s Word whereby a young believer grows in their intimate understanding and personal experience of God’s character, attributes and will. To be brought under the authority of Jesus Christ is to become a student of His Word; to believe in the truths, receive the promises, accept the warnings, and submit to the commandments. The doctrines of our faith and the biblical principles, which govern our lives, must be understood and embraced in order to grow in spiritual maturity.
“For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.”
The word “observe” is the Greek word Tereo, which means to guard; to keep an eye on; to obey; to observe attentively.
A Disciplers life is to reflect what they are teaching. This is why it is so important to use wisdom and God’s standards when appointing a disciple.
2. An Abiding Relationship with Jesus Christ
“…I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
In the temple a heavy woven veil separated the holy place from the Most Holy Place, where the presence of God dwelt. This veil was a reminder to the worshippers of the separation that existed between them and God. Because of man’s sin he did not have access to freely come into the presence of the holy God. At the moment of Christ’s death this veil was miraculously torn from top to bottom.
“And Jesus cried out with a loud voice, and breathed His last. Then the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.”
The Heavenly Father was signifying that the death of His Son put an end to the necessity of repeated sacrifices for sins, and provided the way for man to enter freely into His presence. As believers in Jesus Christ we have forgiveness for our sins, the privilege of an abiding and intimate relationship with God, and access to enter into His presence through prayer.
“Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, and having a High Priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.”
Jesus Christ did not shed His blood on the cross in order to establish the Christian religion, but to open the way for man to have a relationship with God. New believers need to be taught the truth about Christ’s abiding presence with the church, and His desire to have an intimate relationship with them individually through the indwelling of His Holy Spirit. Through the Spirit we have God’s counsel, guidance, strength, encouragement, comfort and correction.
“And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever—the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.
“I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you. A little while longer and the world will see Me no more, but you will see Me. Because I live, you will live also.
“At that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you.”
Andrew Murray, in his classic, Abide in Christ, wrote the following commentary on Christ’s great call to believers to “Come to me…” (Matthew 11:28) and “Abide in Me…” (John 15:4).
“The blessings He bestows are all connected with His “Come to Me” and are only to be enjoyed in close fellowship with Himself…the call means, “Come to me to stay with me.” And yet this was in very deed His object and purpose when first He called you to Himself. It was not to refresh you for a few short hours after your conversion with the joy of His love and deliverance, and then to send you forth to wander in sadness and sin. He has destined you to something better than a short-lived blessedness, to be enjoyed only in times of special earnestness and prayer, and then to pass away, as you had to return to those duties in which far the greater part of life has to be spent. No, indeed; He has prepared for you an abiding dwelling with Himself, where your whole life and every moment of it might be spent, where the work of your daily life might be done, and where all the while you might be enjoying unbroken communion with Himself.”
Without an understanding of God’s longing for a relationship with us, and His provision for that relationship by the indwelling Holy Spirit, believers in Christ will naturally divert to religion. In the church today, the predominance of religious activity for God rather than an intimate relationship with God reflects the lack of understanding of this intimacy.
If God were to take the Holy Spirit out of this world, most of what the church is doing would go right on and nobody would know the difference.
Multitudes of volunteers are needed to support, oversee and man the many programs, functions and activities in most churches today. We have bought into the mindset that “the church with the most stuff and ministries wins!” New converts are quickly enlisted into service before they are mature enough to know God’s will in tending to the things God has already given to them in their lives. As a result, many immature Christians fall by the wayside out of sheer exhaustion, seeing God as a taskmaster rather than the Savior who invites them to come to Him to be eased of their burdens through a relationship with Him, and to serve Him in the fullness and overflow of that relationship.