by Clyde W. Harvey
In his book, Jesus Christ Disciplemaker, Bill Hull states: “There is probably no other more primary matter of negligence in the Church today than our failure to follow the Lord’s command to develop disciples.”1
We find this command in what we know as the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19,20): “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
The key principle here is not “go” as we like to emphasize from our pulpits. The key principle is “make disciples.” Go, baptize, and teach are all part of the process laid out for us as we disciple others.
Jesus was concerned with building new believers in the understanding and standards of the Word. He not only spent much of His time discipling those around Him; He left us a standard by which to disciple others.
We find this standard, or formula, in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5–7). Let me share what I see as discipleship: Jesus’ way as reflected by His life.
1. His Character (5:1–12). Your character starts with your attitude. Jesus speaks of what I call the “Attitudes of Being.” What better starting point for discipleship than to teach the concept of right attitude? When a person walks in the right attitude, God promises to bless him or her in return.
2. His Influence (5:12–16). The Bible reminds us that our actions influence others. Jesus tells us what a strength our influence can be. The believer must know and walk in his position in the Kingdom. We are not only given opportunity to change our world, we are provided with the tools to affect that influence on the world. We are the salt; we are the light.
3. His Righteousness (5:17–48). These verses present a series of reminders concerning righteous living with roots in the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20). These commandments come with a directive — righteousness. Righteousness is simply rightness, or living the right way. We each have our teaching agenda for new believers, but sometimes we compromise harsh teaching because we fear rejection. No, we are to train, disciple, in rightness. Jesus’ life reflected right living.
4. His Lifestyle (6:1–7:29). Not too long ago the key question in the church was “What Would Jesus Do?” (WWJD). This major section teaches what Jesus would do. Humility, commitment to prayer, fasting, heavenly goals, and nonjudgmental attitudes are part of Jesus’ lifestyle. We must teach young believers just how Jesus lived, how He handled difficulties, and how He found victory in His circumstances.
5. His Perspective (6:19–34). Jesus’ perspective was on the future. Even Paul said, “Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13,14). Discipleship includes helping people overcome the past, standing firm in today, and focused not on what is, but what is to be. That was Jesus’ perspective. He knew His time on earth was short, but eternity waited His arrival.
6. His Relationships (7:1–20). Relationships play a big part in a healthy church and in the lives of individuals as well. We need to share with new believers the proactive way to handle relationships. In these verses Jesus sets a standard for us to establish in our lives, and a pattern to pass on to others.
7. His Commitment (7:21–29). Lack of commitment is one reason many fall away from the faith. “No one told me it would be like this.” We need to establish for the new believer an understanding of the possible cost of being a disciple. One of Jesus’ final illustrations in this dialogue is about counting the cost. As we disciple, we need to help new believers make those sacrifices. Help them understand they may lose friends, change lifestyle, spend more time at church, which are all a part of the cost of being a follower of Christ. Assure them the benefits far outweigh the costs.
Yes, the Sermon on the Mount reflects Jesus’ life. There is a definite pattern of discipleship in these verses.
Jesus commanded discipleship, yet it is one of the most neglected matters in the church today. Your challenge is to examine “Discipleship: Jesus’ Way” and begin to pattern it within the lives of new believers in your congregation.
Clyde W. Harvey has pastored churches in California, Iowa, Minnesota, and North Dakota. Currently resides on the Iron Range of Northern Minnesota.
1. Bill Hull, Jesus Christ Disciplemaker (Grand Rapids: Fleming H. Revell, 1984), 10.