Discipleship begins with a faith relationally connected to Jesus.My dad was an alcoholic and a high school dropout. His addiction was ruining his life. When he and my mother learned she was pregnant — which the doctors had said could never happen — it was a shock. They had been married seven years, but had not been able to have children.
My dad had tried to quit drinking many times, and he tried again when he learned they were expecting– without success. Everyone had given up hope in my father and his many broken promises.
Shortly after learning about the pregnancy, my parents were driving home from a Fourth of July celebration. My dad had been drinking and started having chest pains. Without saying a word, he began to slow down to lessen the impact. While clutching the steering wheel and sweating, he whispered a prayer: “God, I don’t know how to pray, but my mother used to pray. If You heard her prayer, maybe You’ll hear mine. Spare my life to see my child. Save me, and if I ever take another drop of liquor as long as I live, I want You to poison me and let me drop dead.”
Dad had never kept a promise to stay sober, but in His mercy, God looked past all the prior failures and broken promises and saved him, healed him, and delivered him from alcohol addiction. From that day forward, my dad never took another drink.
How do we help those who are newly converted become spiritually transformed so they will not quickly become aborted believers or simply casual Christians?
An effective way to help people become fully devoted followers of Christ is by helping them embrace a Spirit-empowered faith that expresses it- self in Great Commission living empowered by Great Commandment love.
The ultimate goal of our faith journey is to relate to the person of Jesus — the One who spoke the Great Commission. Our relational connection to Jesus will produce Christlikeness and spiritual growth. His instruction was to “teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20, NLT).
We need to become disciples who make disciples who make disciples.
Would we recognize a Spirit-empowered disciple if we saw one?
Too many people start at the wrong point, which guarantees a wrong result. Many times a discipleship model exclusively calls on the disciple to obtain rational knowledge (learning) and do behavioral activity (how to act, what to do). Concentrating on what we should know, if taken to the extreme, can make us arrogant. Behavioral effort (doing more or behaving better), taken to the extreme, minimizes grace.
Knowledge and behavior are essential; but alone, they do not transform!
Relevant discipleship does not begin with doctrine or teaching, parables, or stewardship, but with loving the Lord with all our hearts, minds, souls, and strength, and then loving the people closest to us. Since Matthew 22:37-40 gives us the first and greatest commandment, a Spirit-empowered faith starts where the Great Commandment tells us to start: A disciple must first learn to love the Lord deeply and to express His love to the “nearest ones” — his family, church, and community. As we become relationally connected to Jesus, He helps us experience a power for living that gives us an extraordinary capability — a Spirit-empowered lifestyle.
The primary purpose of Spirit empowerment is to carry out the transformative mission of God among the lost. With the challenges facing us today, it would be senseless to attempt to affect a change in the lives of people by merely utilizing our own ingenuity, intellect, and human effort. God has not abandoned us to that fruitless recourse. When we take hold of the Spirit’s power, we are fully equipped and emboldened to confront our lost world with the hope of the gospel.
Our forefathers got it right. The last sentence in the Assemblies of God Statement of Fundamental Truths reveals the Pentecostal understanding of the importance of baptism in the Holy Spirit. The language is important. It speaks of something extra, something added on:
“With the baptism in the Holy Ghost come, such experiences as…overflowing fullness…deepened reverence…intensified consecration…more active love.” A key word here is “MORE.”
The Holy Spirit will help us be more than we are. “But you will receive power and ability when the Holy Spirit comes upon you; and you will be My witnesses [to tell people about Me] both in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and Samaria, and even to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8, AMP). We will need power for the enormous task of fulfilling the Great Commission.
The Spirit helped a shepherd boy become a king, fishermen become disciples, a murderer become a deliverer, and a carpenter become the Messiah.
The Holy Spirit will help us say more than we know.
The Holy Spirit helped Peter beyond his ability on the Day of Pentecost. Because of the extraordinary ability of the Holy Spirit, a man who had recently denied he was with Jesus was so anointed that when they heard him speak, 3,000 were saved and baptized.
The Holy Spirit will help us do more than we can. He will help us accomplish more than we ever could using our own natural ability.
Samson killed 1,000 with a jawbone; Shamgar killed 600 with an ox goad; Gideon overcame odds of 450 to 1 when 300 defeated 135,000 with trumpets, clay pots, and lamps.
In what areas do you long for “MORE”? You can begin by exhibiting the Spirit-empowered lifestyle.
Editor’s note: This article first appeared in the magazine Pentecostals.