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What About Discipleship?

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What to do AFTER salvation
There are three facets to the term "salvation" in Scripture. When you are saved, you are saved from the:

<1> Penalty of sin
"The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly."          [John 10:10]

This takes place at a point in time and occurs when one trusts in Christ's shed blood as the propitiation (complete payment) for their sin. This is a gift of eternal life that is purely through God's grace. It results in the permanent indwelling of the Holy Spirit and the assurance of spending an eternity in heaven.
<2> Power of sin
"The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly."          [John 10:10]

We will see below that through the indwelling Holy Spirit, we have direct access to and guidance from God. This is also a gift and also solely by God's grace. This means that those that have trusted in Christ as their savior are no longer controlled by their sin nature. You now have direct access to and may enjoy the peace of God "that passeth all understanding" (Php. 4:7) as Christ works through you to accomplish His will.

"And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men." [Matt. 4:19]

"Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father." (Jn. 14:12).
<3> Presence of sin
The abundant life available today creates in us a growing desire to know God more fully that is so strong that,  We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord" (2 Cor. 5:8). When the Lord is done with us and we finally fulfil that desire, we will find that all temptation to sin has been permanently removed.
So, discipleship is the process described by <2> above. It is the term used to describe one's growth as a Christian believer after salvation.  However, it's probably not what you may think. 

To understand what discipleship is all about we must first examine how God created you.
 
How you were created

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You were created by God as a being with three distinct components (Ge.1:26; Num.16:22; Lu.1:46-47; Jn.4:24; Rom.1:9, 8:16; 1.Cor.2:9-11; 2Cor.13:14; 1Thess.5:23; Heb.4:12, 12:9, etc.).  They are as follows:

BODY:  This is the flesh and blood portion with which we are all familiar and includes your senses. The soul interacts with the world (outer set of arrows) through your senses.

SOUL:  The body then communicates to the soul from which are derived imagination, conscience, memory, reason, feelings (or emotions), passions, affections, and instinctive behavior (middle set of arrows).
The soul is also home for the sin nature. The sin nature was inherited from your father all the way back to Adam (after the fall of man). The sin nature becomes the natural (or wordly) filter for all thoughts and intents of our heart.

HUMAN SPIRIT: The soul then communicates  (inner set of arrows) to the human spirit--the seat of consciousness—to ponder questions like, "Why am I here," "What is the purpose of life," etc. To the unsaved, the human spirt is like a light bulb with no power to the filament—hence, no Godly illumination (Job.32:8). So, the unsaved person's soul raises these questions with the human spirit, but can only guess at the answers. The human spirit  seeks communion with God (although through their worldly experience the unsaved person can't really understand, recognize, or even fathom what that would be like). 

At some point in your life (perhaps at multiple times), God will use (or even arrange) the influence of the world to bring you to a place where you must deal squarely with the consequence of your personal sin and its impact on your relationship with Him. Now, I personally don't believe Scripture teaches that He will force your decision to believe or not believe at this point—there is still free will (2.Pet.3:9, etc.), but it is clear that if you are unsaved, His hand is guiding your life experiences and you are funneling toward this point—the most important point in your life. Hopefully, you have (or will) believe the Gospel when this time comes.

Once saved, the Holy Spirit superimposes Himself upon the human spirit and permanently reserves this link for God's later use (with your cooperation). In the previous lightbulb example, the Holy Spirit completes the circuit to provide power to the bulb.

Through this illuminating link—established forever by the indwelling Holy Spirit—God will cooperatively guide (never force) you into a stronger, deeper relationship through communication via belief and faith. The result of this growing relationship is diminished attention to the influence of the world.

This is what David refers to in Ps.23:3, "He restoreth my soul." David's soul was never lost, but his passions were frequently fueled by input from the world. Upon seeking God's face, God had redirected those passions to be divinely fed by the Holy Spirit to his human spirit and, though believe and faith, to his soul. It is through this faith-based relationship that God also works through you (Holy Spirit => human spirit => soul => body) to reveal Himself to others.
 
Why you behave the way you do
 

First, let’s define “sin.” Scripture describes the steps to sin in James chapter 1.

(1)    A person is enticed. Something that is appealing to a person’s unique sin nature (resident in their soul and body--or, collectively, as the 'flesh') catches their attention. The act may be good or evil (as the flesh see it). Both are sin (Isa. 64:6, Rom. 14:23b) because both are the product of ignoring the leading of God and, instead, going your own way. [Not a sin yet.]

(2)    Next, their sin nature conjures one or more sinful activities (mental or behavioral) related to the enticement toward human good or human evil and passes these possible activities up where the human spirit may then dwell on the possible sinful actions related to that enticement (Gal.4:14). [Not a sin yet.]

(3)    Then, the human spirit elects (1Cor.10:13) to break from the ongoing guidance of God provided through the indwelling (superimposed) Holy Spirit and instead embrace the selected sinful activity as a course of action. Once embraced (not yet performed, but only embraced), it becomes sin. The person has not yet engaged in the good or evil sinful activity, only embraced it as a course of action. THIS IS WHERE SIN HAS OCCURRED. It is not the embracing itself that defines the sin, but that the human spirit must deny God’s leading in the decision to embrace the sin.

(4)    The consequence of this going-your-own-way to produce human good or human evil is a break in the on-going, Spirit-led relationship a believer enjoys with God. Not a break in the "positional" relationship—you are still a child of God destined to heaven and the illuminating link remains, but a strain in the practical relationship not unlike that of a parent and child (a disobedient child, but still your child). This strained relationship is referenced in Rev.3:20, where God seeks to re-establish something the believer has interrupted.

Now, let’s describe “faith.” For the believer in this age, faith is also defined as the antithesis of sin (Rom.14:23b). Just like sin:

(1)   We can discern that faith begins with the human spirit 'believing' something God has revealed through the Holy Spirit (the mirror image of the enticement in the sin process). 

(2)   The human spirit will then try to impress this new truth onto the soul. After consideration, the belief is then personally embraced as a course of action when the soul concurs—this is how belief becomes faith. Faith is not a verb, mind you; it is an internal embracing of a belief as a standard--a new template or pattern--for behavior. It has become a standard for behavior because the soul--which has agreed with the human spirit--controls our actions through the flesh. Thus, the faith pattern/template created in your soul becomes an instinctive means for future behavior. These later behaviors result from the faith, but are not faith. It is only by your cooperation with the leading of God in creating and exercising these templates/patterns in the soul that is the basis for God's pleasure in us (Heb.11:6).

(3)   The result of this faith is spiritual life (and growth)—the opposite of spiritual death described as the consequence of electing to sin in James 1. This is why it is said that one can be a believer, but weak in faith (Mat.8:26; Acts 14:22; Rom.12:6; 2Tim.1:5). They believe, but their soul has not embraced the belief as the genesis for future behavior.

Can you see now how faith and sin are mirror images?

Now, a word about your old sin nature (OSN) resident in the flesh and soul (also called: the flesh, the old man, the body of sin, the heart of man). 


The OSN was inherited from Adam and—while not sin itself—is your soul's autopilot toward sin. If left to itself, it will always guide you toward sin. However, it is subservient to direction from the human spirit. That is why Scripture says that God will never allow one who is saved to be tempted beyond that which they can withstand.


That is, the OSN is easily enticed and very good at recommending sin as a course of action to the human spirit, but it is still the human spirit that must make the unencumbered decision to embrace the sin as a course of action.


Both prior to and after salvation your sin nature acts to produce two kinds of mental or physical behavior (or works) as directed by the human spirit. One is human evil while the other is human good.  The human evil produced by the OSN is easily recognizable.  Human good is represented by those thoughts and actions that, while on the surface appear to be noble, true and righteous, but actually are self-directed. As self-directed, these thoughts and actions deny God's guidance through the indwelling Holy Spirit and fall short of God's perfect holiness. Thus, they are still deemed as sin. 


Recall that "holiness" means "set apart for God's use." Denying God's guidance to engage in a self-directed, apparent act of righteousness leaves God out of the equation and, therefore, still defined by God as sin (Rom.14:23b). This is why all of our 'works' when we are unsaved—even the noble ones—are considered "filthy rags" to God (Isa.64:6).  All of these works are an election of the human spirit, under the suggestion of the soul, under the influence of the world through the flesh and are sin when compared to God's perfect holiness and guidance.

 

As an immediate consequence of salvation in this age, each believer is permanently indwelt by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit takes up residence in the human spirit both for Godly guidance and to lock out "possession" by Satan or his minions. External Satanic influence is still possible, but the indwelling Holy Spirit never allows the external influence to force itself on you.  Remember, the Holy Spirit will never allow your OSN to be externally tempted beyond the capability of your human spirit to resist. [That's not to say, that you won't routinely give in far short of your capability to resist.]

 

Once on board, the Holy Spirit acts to provide an available (yet never forced) source of guidance to the human spirit (1Cor.10:13) . For someone who is saved, there is the option by the human spirit to yield to God's sovereignty and guidance as provided by the indwelling Holy Spirit. Yielding to God—while probably not your first or natural inclination—allows the Holy Spirit to implement God's will through your human spirit to your soul and body so that the resulting 'work' or effort produced is divine good. Or, one could elect never to yield control to the indwelling Holy Spirit and, thus, never produce any divine good. 

How to get and stay in fellowship

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As a saved individual, how does one 'yield' to control by God?  Beginning at point 1, this is enabled by your recognition and desire to return to God's guidance (1Jn.1:8-9).  
 
Now, as we have seen above, it's not the actual confession or prayer that restores the fellowship any more than it was a confession or prayer that led to your salvation, but the belief that was embraced (faith) that led you to confess that actually restores the practical relationship.

This places you back into practical fellowship with God (via the indwelling Holy Spirit)—sometimes referred to as "led by the Spirit," "fellowship," or "walking in faith" (point 2). From this point forward, God can direct your behavior toward the production of divine good (DG) by working through you to impact others (Rom.5:5) at a rate dependant with your individual faith.
 
This continues until you break the fellowship again by electing to go your own way and listen to the flesh, purposely ignoring the Spirit’s guidance. This sin (point 3) drops you out of fellowship and you are no longer producing divine good.
 
At this stage (points 4-5), you are back to producing either human good (HG) or human evil (HE).  One could as easily replace the y-axis labels with faith/sin or in-fellowship/out-of-fellowship or Spirit-led/flesh-led.
 
Practical fellowship with God is again restored by your recognition and desire to return to God's guidance (1Jn.1:8-9). This starts the process all over again.
 
You can see from the illustration that there is no middle ground. The fruit of the believer is very dichotomous (2Tim.2:20-21).  One is either producing divine good (the product of divine guidance through faith), or, a combination of human good/evil (a product of the OSN and self-guidance).

In Scripture, the faith that produces divine good is rewarded with "gold, silver, and precious stones" while human good/evil is rewarded with "wood, hay, and stubble."  Notice that there is no middle ground. There is no "polished brass," or "shiny quartz," etc. (1Cor.3).
 
You want to listen to God's guidance, but how will you know what God is leading you to do in a given situation? The usual method of discerning God's direction comes from recognizing that God has already provided you with much of that direction—Scripture. As you study God's Word, you will learn truths (beliefs) that (when embraced by the soul) will lead to a growing faith. This faith becomes a predisposition (or template) to Godly action.
 
What does it mean to grow in Christ?
 
The believer who is growing in Christ is asked to be Christ-like. This is only possible under the dichotomous view illustrated above. 

We are Christ-like when we are in fellowship and are conduits for Christ to work through us for the production of divine good.  When we have sinned and are out of fellowship, then that production ceases and all efforts are being produced in our own strength (human good, human evil). 

The expression "growing in Christ" is shown in the illustration above by the increasing time spent in fellowship. Scripture illustrates this back-and-forth as a spiritual battle. As you grow in faith, you increasingly recognize the fierceness of the battle as well as the multiple fronts on which it takes place. C.S. Lewis describes it as follows.
 
I have found out ludicrous and terrible things about my own character. Sitting by, watching the rising thoughts to break their necks as they pop up, one learns to know the sort of thoughts that do come. And, will you believe it, one out of every three is a thought of self-admiration: when everything else fails, having had its neck broken, up comes the thought, "What an admirable fellow I am to have broken their necks!"

I catch myself posturing before the mirror, so to speak, all day long. I pretend I am carefully thinking out what to say to the next pupil (for his good, of course) and then suddenly realize I am really thinking how frightfully clever I'm going to be and how he will admire me…. when you force yourself to stop it, you admire yourself for doing that. It's like fighting the hydra…There seems to be no end to it. Depth under depth of self-love and self-admiration…Pride…is the mother of all sins, and the original sin of Lucifer."
(Green and Hooper, C.S. Lewis: A Biography. p. 105.)
 
No matter how sinful you think you are—you are far worse. No matter how merciful and gracious you belief God to be—He is far richer. If you fail to grasp the depth of the first truth, you will wallow your whole life in superficial Christianty. If you fail to recognize the depth of the second truth, you will sink into dispair. 

In the increasing recognition of the means of the flesh to inhibit your usefulness to God comes the increasing desire—like a stetched rubber band—to return to the abundant life of your true identity as a child of God under the wing of God.
 
What are the results of becoming more Christ-like?
 
Grace is not a doctrine that is placed on a shelf after salvation. It is the means through which God enables us to grow each and every day. 

As we spend time in fellowship (walk in faith) our faith becomes stronger, resulting in an increased desire to remain in fellowship.  Thus, God is able to use us as instuments of His will for the production of divine good on a more frequent basis, as illustrated above. 

We are never the producers of the divine good, mind you.  God performs the devine good while we are simply the yielded instrument. However, God pours out His grace on us as yielded instruments. Thus, your Christian "experience" is not really yours, but is God's experience shared with you as the "vessel unto honor."
 
Yes, there are future rewards for having yielded ourselves as vessels for God's use (see the study on Dispensations, particularly the Judgment Seat of Christ), but that's just the icing on the cake. God's daily grace is more than you can contain. It will fill you with contentment and spill out on everyone around you as fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, etc.) and as fruit of the vine (new believers).
 
SUMMARY
 
During your studies, please remember that as important as the correct doctrine can be in your walk with God (2 Tim. 2:15), you are not saved by a doctrine or theology, but by the person and work of Jesus Christ.
 
Okay, that's it in a nutshell.  You may not be a shining example of Christianity (neither am I), but you know what it is really important and that is your on-going relationship with God.  That means your goal—your primary goal—in life is to focus on believing, seeking, and embracing God. If that process is in good shape, everything else will fall into place. Never focus on your efforts. Never focus on what others think. Focus only on your relationship and God will take care of the rest.
 
Imagine you are piloting a boat across the lake toward your destination. The boat produces a wake, but you do not steer by studying and trying to produce the perfect wake (religion, self-effort). To do so would invite a wreck because your focus is misdirected. Rather, as you seek God's face (pointing your craft in the right direction), He will draw you closer. His drawing will produce the motion. His drawing will result in a 'wake' of grace directed toward you that will abundantly overflow and impact others in and near your path as you go through life.
 
Folks, it's THAT wake that matters. And, it's the ONLY wake that matters. The one you have been diligently producing on your own may have required great effort and looked very impressive, but it has profited you nothing in the sight of God (Isa.64:6).
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