Now, onto what discipleship and age-appropriate Lordship are. How many disciples did Jesus have? You answered short if you thought twelve like many people would answer. It is written that the resurrected Jesus appeared to five hundred-plus disciples. Remember, Jesus chose the twelve apostles of the Lamb from a group of many disciples.

In simplest terms, a disciple turns away from leading himself to surrendering leadership to Jesus through the Holy Spirit.

Every time we go to church, we are discipled, at least for those with ears to hear. Every time we read the Bible, listen to a biblical podcast, or read a gospel post on the internet or magazine, we are discipled.

Some believe that discipleship is relinquishing control to another person or establishment. A falling in line with the doctrine or traditions of certain religious men. Some bring up fear with accountability and shepherding. Accountability and leadership are important, but it should not violate free will and conscience. The fear is legitimate but shouldn’t stop us from discipleship in the way God intended.

People shy away from discipleship because of experiencing an out-of-control pastor or teacher. I once had a pastor calling people awol or MIA if they didn't notify him when they would miss a meeting. I find it respectful to tell leadership whether I can make it, but it is not owed and must certainly not be demanded. Also, I am not talking about leadership roles or breaking commitments. I mean, the pastor wanted control of people's lives. He wanted Lordship. Lordship only belongs to the Lord and not a man. I can't even be Lord in my own life if I am going to follow Jesus, so why would I choose another flesh and blood person to lord over me? God set up authorities that we are to submit to but not as if they are Lord, owners of our souls.

Discipleship is not about control. Jesus didn't force anyone to follow Him. Jesus made the commitment clear and allowed it to land where it did. Some followed, but most walked away. Also, disciples belong to Jesus and not man. If anyone calls you their discipleship, make it clear to them that they don't qualify for the role. Follow me as I follow Christ is how Paul, the apostle, put it. We need the body to teach us and not one person. No one person can disciple us.

Some people confuse discipleship with what we call mentorship. Jesus had over five hundred disciples; there is no way Jesus, with the limitations of man placed on Him, could take a personal interest in five hundred disciples and mentor them regularly. Out of the many, Jesus chose twelve that He would mentor. And even three disciples that He would go even further. The twelve disciples He called apostles.

I have been discipled by many people in the body of Christ that I have never met. They don't know me, and I don't know them. There are many teachers but not many fathers, as Paul shares in one of his epistles. A father mentors, a teacher teaches, and both disciples.

Allow me to give you what I see as three stages of discipleship. These three stages don't have a timeframe, as it is up to the individual to draw close to God. Some draw closer quickly than others. These three stages don't make you better than another disciple, as everything in the kingdom of God runs on grace through faith and not of ourselves. No one can boast about being a better Christian or disciple. Jesus' disciples argued this point repeatedly, but, in the end, all forsook Jesus. Paul states that he is the least of the disciples because of his past, but he is doing far more than those who walked with Jesus; however, it wasn't him, but the grace of God given to Him.

The first stage is coming to salvation. Discipleship begins before you are born-again and continues after getting outside help on the inside, a new heart and spirit. This stage is full of carnality. When a person is born-again, one-third of them becomes a new creation. Out of this new creation, we live and renew our minds to the word of God and make our bodies slaves to righteousness. We learn to walk in this new spirit, not to fulfill the carnality of the soul and body. We are not made new in our mind our body yet.

Carnality can mean the wicked sins we usually think of, but its simplest definition means placing this world first over the kingdom to come. Carnality is when we pay more attention to the cares of this world over a well-disciplined life in Christ. The church in Corinth was born again but was carnal. They were not disciplined or sanctified in their lifestyle.

The second stage is sanctification. A setting apart oneself for the things of God; an intentional disciple. A disciple that seeks out the ways of God more than the ways of this world, a stage of maturing. Some disciples enter this stage immediately after the born-again experience; others take years to set themselves apart. It is God's will to immediately be intentional in living for Him. Everyone born-again is auto-enrolled into discipleship, but only those with the intention to mature in Christ grab hold of discipleship. In a lactose-intolerant church, the newborns in Christ are kept babies so as not to grow to the fullness of Christ.

Maybe you were born again long ago, but your new hunger wasn't fed, and your cries of unwanted continued sin went unanswered or, even worse, justified. You were taught or implied that the born-again experience is the end game. All that is left is to live your best life now and wait for Jesus to return or die after a full life, then go to heaven. Where evil resides, grace much more abounds. If this is you, take hold of the grace you have been denied all these years by the traditions of man that nullified the power of God in your life. Your eyes are now open. The light is on. Take responsibility for yourself and intently become a disciple of Jesus. Set yourself apart and grow to maturity in Christ.

The third stage of discipleship is a fully surrendered life growing in holiness. A holy life is a life in which God is active. And not just you but others as well. This stage takes intention as well. There are many attributes to the simplicity of the Gospel. When something is broken, you take it apart and replace the broken part. Then, put it back together again. The broken Gospel, according to Western Christians, is that surrender is optional as it is considered a work rather than a grace by those who love the works of the flesh. My response is that you don't know what you are talking about because surrender doesn't come anyway but through grace. The more I trust God, the more I surrender—the less trust, the less surrender, or no surrender. By grace, I surrender to God so that sin lodged in my flesh may be defeated as it was on the cross.

Age-appropriate Lordship deals with trust issues. Trust comes with experience. The more enjoyable the experience, the more trust grows. And with more trust comes more surrender. Let me give you a personal example and then a biblical example.

Years ago, I found a godly woman I thought could make a good wife. I was young but bold in faith, so after talking with her twice or three times, I asked if she would like to seek God with me to see if we were a good match for marriage. She barely knew me, but my boldness threw her in a timelapse, so she said she would pray about it.

I went home, allowing my thoughts unchecked until God spoke up in my heart. The Lord asked why I thought it was a good idea to ask this woman to follow me and become my wife when she didn't know me and couldn't possibly trust me to follow me anywhere.

The Lord continued. One day, you will trust me enough to follow Me wherever I will lead without question. I repented to the Lord for my presumption and apologized to the godly woman. She remains a friend.

The biblical story is the story of Peter, also presumptuous. He thought he trusted the Lord more than the others. However, Peter discovered in the garden that he trusted his sword more than Jesus. Without the sword, Peter forsook Jesus. This is the first stage of discipleship. I trust you, Jesus, but also myself. We are co-lords, partners in ownership. We think we have come to a mutual decision. Is this you? Do you trust Jesus and yourself? Do you still hold on to the deed of your life as if you still have ownership of it?

After the resurrection, Jesus confronts Peter gently and lovingly. Instead of calling Peter out, He asks Peter do you love me? Jesus is using the Greek word that means the God kind of love. Peter responds with the Greek word for affection. Jesus asks Peter do you love me? Peter responds, Lord, I have an appreciation for you. In other words, Peter said my former actions say that I don't love you all my heart, soul, mind, or strength, but I do like you and want to love you with the God kind of love. But I am ashamed to say I don't love you as much as you love me. And I don't know how to change. I paraphrased this account.

Is this you? Is your love for God more affection and less than a mature love that would lay its life down to show true Godly love? Peter was living a fantasy about the particulars of His relationship with Jesus before the fall. A romantic type of love that didn't have personal sacrifice. A love that doesn't require crucifying one's flesh. Love without personal sacrifice for the other person is lust. What can I get out of this relationship without giving? Peter entered the second stage of discipleship in sanctification and maturity. Trusting our feelings and unchecked thoughts of love is easier than genuine, sanctified, mature love.

Not many days after Peter entered the second stage, he learned of a third stage that would take years to resolve. Jesus talked to Peter about how when he was young, he went wherever he wanted to go, but there would be a day that he would go where he didn't want to go but would be willing to go because of mature love. Peter, in his third stage as a disciple, surrendered to the holiness of God. Peter no longer trusted in himself but offered any part of Lordship that he held back to the Lord Jesus to command. Peter willingly followed Jesus to the cross and died a glorifying death unto God. Paul said whether I live or die, I will do it for God's glory. Peter glorified God in his death as he did in his life in total surrender to Jesus.

A disciple is a person full of grace who comes to Jesus and sits to learn of His humility. A disciple is not a hearer only but also a doer so that he is not deceived by intentions that never become evident. A disciple is a follower of Jesus who puts both hands on the plow and does not look back yearning for the days when we were Lord over ourselves. A disciple of Jesus has an ever-increasing awareness of sin and the continued need to surrender to the One who knew no sin but became sin so that we could become the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus.

Discipleship may feel like a commitment, which is why it is so difficult. But if Jesus is going to be the only Lord in our lives, then commitment must break away into surrender. We still share the Lordship with Christ as long as we commit ourselves as disciples for ourselves. That sounds wrong, but surrender is the only way to follow Jesus. I know many committed Pharisees who do not live surrender to Jesus.

I don't know how to fully surrender where Jesus is Lord alone except to be so committed that our flesh cries out for mercy. I can take you through the lives of the Old and New Testament disciples who had to come to the end of themselves until Jesus was all in all. Discipleship is progressive, so we have what I call age-appropriate Lordship. As disciples, we are to live fully surrendered lives as we know. Anything else is rebellion and stubbornness. Circumstances and situations will present themselves and reveal how much we surrender to Christ. Jesus is gentle and humble at heart; He will correct us with loving-kindness. But when those moments happen, we must decide to surrender more or take back control. What we haven't surrendered will be revealed as we grow in the Lord. Don't feel condemned when this happens; surrender to the grace of God while it is available. You don't blame your children for what is not age-appropriate obedience. But as they mature, more obedience to your words is required.

A final word to those unsure about discipleship: there are dangers of opting out of discipleship. Discipleship is not an after-school program with extracurricular activity to add to our four-point grade average. Jesus said that we are either for Him or against Him. We will either gather with Him or scatter against Him. We will either fall back into sin or fall forward into His grace. If we are not growing in Christ through discipleship, we deconstruct what we once knew as true. And the greatest danger of opting out of discipleship is finding out one day that Jesus isn't our Lord because we are.

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