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The Living Word for Discipleship

Jesus is alive! I can only imagine the sounds of those words reverberating through the small gatherings of followers of Jesus immediately following the resurrection two thousand years ago. None of them—not one—had even remotely thought Jesus would live again in his body three days following His death on the cross. The events of that early Sunday morning, the first Easter Sunday, took them all by surprise and literally rocked their world.

The belief that Jesus is alive remains fundamental for Christian disciples today.

Since He is alive, He still seeks the lost, still makes disciples, still intercedes, and still speaks.

He is always the MOST important person in the room and demands our attention! Since Jesus speaks, it is very important that we listen to Him. So, how do we hear His voice today?

One of the ways Jesus speaks today is through the Holy Spirit. When Jesus was on this earth, He spoke as you and I speak, through vibrations of His vocal cords and audible sounds. After Pentecost, Jesus speaks to His disciples through His Spirit who convicts, guides, points to Jesus, and sanctifies. Believers hear His voice most often today through a gentle whisper that comes in our thoughts.

Jesus also speaks today through His body—the Church. You have experienced this in worship services, Sunday school classes and small groups, and in personal conversations with fellow believers. His word comes through a brother or sister in Christ at just the right moment.

The third way Jesus speaks today is through the Word of God—the Holy Scriptures. The Word of God stands as the foundation for Christian discipleship. It is never changing. It is alive and active. Hebrews 4:12 says, “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” The Word of God grounds believers on the truth. It teaches who God is, who we are, how He has made salvation possible, and how we are to live in relation to God and others. In a day when humanistic philosophies abound and the winds of change are overwhelming, the voice of Jesus through the Word of God can effectively reach the lost, establish new believers, and help every Christian experience the power of God for heart cleansing and entire sanctification.

Pre-Christian Discipleship and the Living Word

Most people rarely consider the importance of the Word of God in discipling unbelievers toward the cross of Jesus. Helping pre-Christians gain a strong understanding of the Bible is vital in our witness to the world. This becomes particularly important in a post-Christian culture where unchurched people have a negative impression of the Bible often before they read it. While the church generally has failed to encourage the use of Scripture in our contemporary evangelism methodology, Christian families have done this naturally for two millennia within their homes. Parents have taught and trained children to know and understand God’s Word on their path toward personal faith in Jesus.

Using Scripture along a journey with unsaved friends must become a part of our witnessing lifestyle.

I would like to illustrate this with a personal example.

I met Bogdan when my family moved from Kyiv, Ukraine, to L’viv, Ukraine, in order to help start a new church. We had been in L’viv for only two weeks and were preparing to begin outreach ministries and start worship services with a very small core group consisting of two families.

My family had gone to the mall one day to shop, when I ventured over to a kiosk to purchase a cell phone for my oldest daughter. Behind the desk was Bogdan, a 22-year-old young man who spoke broken English. We had a great conversation that first meeting. He asked why I had come to Ukraine. I shared that God had given new life to my family, and we had moved to L’viv with hopes of helping others begin a relationship with God. I told Bogdan we would start a free English Club, do compassion projects in the city, and start a church. To my surprise, Bogdan said, “I am in!”

The night of our first English Club came. The first knock on the door was Bogdan and eight of his college friends with him! Over the next fourteen months, we shared friendship, our home, and the love of Christ with Bogdan and his friends. God often gave us opportunity, through natural conversations, to disciple Bogdan and his friends through biblical stories, which spoke directly into the lives of these young people. While many would have considered themselves to be “religious,” few knew more than a small group of cursory “children’s stories” from the Word of God. They were biblically illiterate but open to what the Bible had to say about their real-life journeys.

New Christian Discipleship and the Living Word

Once seekers come to faith in Jesus, the Bible becomes their daily reading book for the rest of their lives. No other book available to humankind plays this role. The new believer discovers that the Bible “speaks.” In reality, of course, the Spirit of Christ is speaking through God’s Living Word. Verses and stories read once before pop off the page and speak a new word into the heart of the new believer. The Bible becomes an indispensable roadmap, of sorts, on the journey of life. It can be read devotionally and studied in detail. It becomes richer the more one reads it. These are all wonderful lessons awaiting the new believer!

On November 20, 2017, my Ukrainian friend Bogdan repented of his sins and put his trust in Jesus as his Savior and Lord. We continued his discipleship journey through more structured Bible studies as I helped to establish Bogdan in his new faith. We started with the Basic Bible Studies for New and Growing Christians by Dr. Charles Shaver. After the initial eight weeks, we started a 6-month Bible study series for new Christian men.

Bogdan was hungry for the Word of God and wanted to grow in his understand of the things of God. He quickly understood the Living Word to be the single greatest resource for Christian living, orthodox doctrine, and getting to know the God who had saved him just months before. Dr. Victor Hamilton said, “To call our Bible ‘the Word of God’ means that the Bible is not only a revealed word from God, but is also a revealed word about God” (Illustrated Bible Life, Fall 2021, The Foundry Publishing, p. 5). The Apostle Paul exhorted the new believers in Colosse, “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ” (Colossians 2:8).

Mature Christian Discipleship and the Living Word

The Apostle Paul often equates the Scripture to spiritual food for the follower of Jesus. In 1 Corinthians 3, Paul disciplines the believers who are still only able to handle spiritual “milk” and reminds the church that it is better to move on to “solid food” in their spiritual development. As new believers are grounded in their faith, the Word of God becomes a more regular part of their daily “diet.” First Peter 2:2-3 says, “Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.”

In August 2018, God and the church called us to return from Ukraine to the United States to serve in the area of Sunday School & Discipleship Ministries International. Bogdan had been a Christian for only nine months. I remember the final day we were together in person. Bogdan said, “When you are back in the States, would you be willing to continue to meet with me over a video conferencing app?” I agreed but thought it would only last a month or two.

In one of our early online discipleship sessions, I mentioned a common Old Testament story in the life of King David to illustrate the need for believers to be alert in the face of temptation. I said, “Bogdan, you remember the story about King David and Bathsheba, right?” He shook his head “no.” Soon, I discovered anew that Bogdan had so little biblical understanding. I asked him if he would like to use our video times to simply walk through the Bible. Three years later, Bogdan and I are still meeting weekly to study the Word together online. We are in Jonah and anticipating the coming of Jesus the Messiah as we draw closer to the New Testament.

My desire in our friendship is to help Bogdan develop a passion for God, learn obedience to God’s will, grow in love for God’s Word, and embrace the call to make disciples of others.

At the heart of this discipleship journey, at every stage, from no faith to new faith to mature faith, is God’s Word.

May Christ’s church never take it for granted. Let us grow up in pure faith through our daily consumption of the Living Word that we might be like Jesus in every word and action.


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