Foundations for the Disciple

Christians are discipled, or should be, the same way the original disciples were discipled – by following Jesus. The purpose of this study is the same. We are going to be examining Jesus’ words, in a simple, easy to understand devotional style format. Prayerfully, when we are done, we will have come closer to the place we need to be in order for the Lord to fulfill His will and His work in our lives.

Foundations for the Disciple
Part One

“I must be about My Father’s business.” - Luke 2:49

We are going to initiate this study by examining Jesus’ statements that specifically preceded the beginning of His public ministry. They form the foundation of what any believer needs to understand at the start of their walk with God. We will begin with Jesus’ first recorded words in the Bible, and they are found in Luke’s Gospel, Chapter Two, verse forty-nine. -

“I must be about My Father’s business.”

     These words were spoken by Jesus when He was only twelve years old. His parents had taken Him on their yearly pilgrimage to Jerusalem for the Passover. When they were returning home, they discovered that He was not travelling among their friends and relatives as they had assumed. Joseph and Mary hurriedly returned to Jerusalem to search for their missing son. After three days of frantic searching, they eventually found Him in the temple -

“sitting in the midst of the doctors, (theologians) both hearing them, and asking them questions. And all that heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers” (Luke 2:46, 47).

     When Jesus was asked by His mother why He had left them and caused them so much anxiety, it seems that He was perplexed by His earthy parent’s concern. He responded simply, -

“And He said to them, ‘How is it that you sought Me? Didn’t you know that I must be about My Father’s business?'”(Luke 2:49).

     Can we repeat these words to ourselves and make it personal? – I must be about my Father’s business.
     These first recorded words of Jesus were spoken when he was very young. Likewise when we begin our Christian faith, in the youth of our devotion, these words must be embraced and included in our foundation as believers. If we are to follow the Lord we need His mindset. Jesus’ focus on doing God’s will must be our own as well.
     Jesus reiterates His devotion as a grown man, speaking to His disciples in John 4:34. –

     “My meat is to do the will of Him that sent Me and to finish His work.”

     Jesus’ nourishment, His fulfillment is again to be about His Father’s business. And when we come to the place in our lives and ministries where we are faced with challenges that are tempting us to run away, we kneel with our Lord in Gethsemane and cry with Him; -

...not what I will, but what You will (Mark 14:36),
…Thy will be done (Matthew 26:42).

     We will be enabled to endure the pain, and we will reap our own glorious resurrection day, because we have embraced Jesus’ mindset as our own. God’s work and purpose in our lives must be first.

     Today, there are multitudes of books being written to guide people to a temporal, material success. More Christians will attend seminars on how to be prospered financially than they will show up at a prayer meeting. Jesus gives us the only formula for success in this life. He said, -

But you seek first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you (Matthew 6:33).

     In other words, be about your Father’s business and He will provide everything you need.
     The Father’s business is to bring people into His kingdom by sharing the Gospel; - Jesus died to remove our sins, He rose from the dead and by faith in His death and resurrection we have the gift of eternal life. Then we are to disciple those who have received Him as their Savior by discipling them into the image of Jesus and encouraging them to serve others. These are the three “pillars” of the Christian faith, the Gospel, discipling and service.
     If we are having problems in our homes, marriages, work, finances, health, etc., if we make our priority serving God by being open to those opportunities to witness to others during the course of our daily routines whenever possible, the word of God promises that when we put God’s work first, He will work out those things in our lives He knows we need.

     Can we repeat this for ourselves again?
I must be about my Father’s business.
My meat is to do the will of God and to finish His work.
Not My will, but Thine be done.
I will seek the kingdom of God first and believe that everything I need will accompany my desire to be about my Father’s business.

     We have just examined the first of three spiritual requirements we need for discipleship. We must imitate Jesus’ mindset to make God’s work our first priority. The youthful zeal of Jesus’ first recorded statement, “I must be about My Father’s business,” is about to be put into action as we proceed to explore the significance of His second statement in the Scriptures, and we follow our Lord into the waters of baptism.

Foundations for the Disciple
Part Two

Permit it to be so now: for thus it becomes us to fulfill all righteousness. –
Matthew 3:15

     In part one we have adapted Jesus’ mindset – “I must be about My Father’s business.” Jesus next recorded words shows us His mindset being put into action as He is about to follow God’s will by being obedient to fulfill the ordinance of baptism. Let’s keep in mind that Jesus is submitting to baptism before He begins His public ministry. If we cannot obey God in this first test of obedience by submitting ourselves to baptism, then our commitment to the Lord must be questioned, because this is what baptism is all about, as we shall see.

     Jesus shows us that obedience “becomes” us. In the Greek the word for becomes is prepo (prep’-o). The word in this context means it is fitting, and it can also mean to be conspicuous or eminent, to stand out. In contemporary usage we often say when we are admiring an outfit on someone, “That is very becoming on you,” in other words it makes you look good. Likewise, we when are obedient to God, we are beautified in His eyes by our obedience and He makes us stand out in contrast to a world that is living in the darkness of their disobedience. God therefore is glorified by our submission to His will, which brings to mind more of Jesus’ talking, and He says;

     You are the light of the world, a city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it gives light to all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven. – Matthew 5:14-16

     Obedience is beautiful. When we are adorned with it, we shine. It’s a great deal and we can’t lose.

     The waters of baptism represent the Holy Spirit. When we symbolically allow ourselves to submit to those waters, we are baptized into Jesus (Romans 6:3) and His Holy Spirit. We are submitting ourselves to a union with God through our Messiah, willing to die to our old sinful natures and allow God to reform us into the people He desires us to be. We emerge from the waters of baptism committed to living a new life for God. The past is left behind, and we arise like butterflies with new wings, symbolically freed from the confines and bondages of the cocoon of our old lives.
     God requires this act of commitment if we are to live successfully for Him. I remember talking to a friend about what love is. She said that to her love means commitment and I believe she is right. Jesus said, “If you love Me keep My commandments” (John 14:15). Without the foundation of commitment, or love for our Savior, we cannot be obedient or faithful.
     A Christian I knew who had fallen away into some grievous sins, admitted to me that he wanted to serve God, but that he didn’t love Him. This one statement uniquely explains why he had made such a disaster of his life. Without love for God we cannot serve him, and this young man proved this to be painfully true. If we love God we will willingly submit to the ordinance of baptism and the union with God it represents.

     Baptism originates from an ancient Hebrew marriage custom. Before a man and woman were married, they partook in an engagement ceremony which included a ceremonial washing. They made a commitment that would be as binding as the actual marriage. This engagement or betrothal period would generally last a year while the bridegroom prepared a home for his bride. The only time the marriage would not take place would be if either one of them were found to be unfaithful during the engagement period. Then a formal divorce would have to be obtained, even though the marriage and its consummation had not actually taken place.
     When a believer makes the commitment to Jesus through baptism, we are making a promise to be faithful to Him until He returns, when we receive the outcome of our faith the salvation of our souls (1 Peter 1:9).
     During our time on earth we wait for our Bridegroom while He prepares for us a home. He speaks to His bride as she arises from the waters of their union, made new by His adoration. –

     In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also (John 14:2, 3).

     While we are waiting for our Bridegroom, we prepare for His coming. In our lifetimes we make this preparation by remaining committed to Him and faithful. We are obedient to God’s word as His Spirit within enables us. We do this, not because we have to, but because as His bride we are in love with Him and we want to do those things that are pleasing to Him. And if we love Him, we will willingly follow Him wherever He leads us, whether it is into the waters of baptism, - or the dry sands of a wilderness wasteland.

Foundations for the Disciple
Part Three

It is written, man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God – Matthew 4:4

    The third foundation that a believer needs in order to guard himself from failing in life or ministry is illustrated for us within Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness. Jesus was confronted by the devil three times, and we are going to combine all three in this study, because all three of these temptations refer back to how the believer should relate to the Word of God.

     Today there are many books being written about how to survive in the wilderness physically and these things can be helpful to know. But it is far more important for us to be equipped to survive spiritually in the wilderness we experience in this life because our success or failures have consequences. God wants you to be successful in life. Jesus’ wilderness temptation is designed to teach us how to avoid the traps that the devil uses to cause us to fail. The wilderness represents this life. The devil is the serpent lurking in the sand, waiting to spring up at opportune moments to try and inject us with his venom. We must be careful and cautious where we place our steps in this life. We do that, not by looking at the sand and keeping our eyes on the ground, but we walk with our eyes heavenward, relying on God’s Word and His Spirit to guide us safely around the devil’s minefield.

     Jesus was purposely led into the wilderness by the Holy Spirit to be tempted by the devil after His baptism (Matthew 4:1). This time of testing was ordained by God to be a preparation for Jesus’ future ministry. It’s important for us to understand the enormity of what Jesus was facing in this trial. If He had failed in anyway, He would have been disqualified from being our Savior and we would have no hope for our salvation.

     Even though Jesus was deliberately led to this place of temptation by God’s Spirit. God does not tempt, (James 1:13, 14), but we are tested, or tried by God when we are confronted by temptation. God tests the righteous (Psalm 11:5). Our responses are instrumental in our spiritual growth. If we fail, we learn from these experiences, the Lord picks us up, dusts us off and moves us on. When we succeed we are rewarded in the spiritual realm. In other words we may not be aware of what is being laid up for us when we successfully pass these tests. In either instance, success or failure, everything we experience as believers is designed to form us into the image of our Messiah Jesus.

     As Jesus was led into a place of temptation to prepare Him for ministry, this pattern is often repeated with new believers. Sometimes when a person makes a commitment to Jesus, suddenly all hell seems to break loose upon his life. This happens because what the devil can no longer use he tries to destroy. At the same time, God uses these trials to test and help strengthen a believer’s devotion and resolve. When it is discerned that a believer is being attacked by spirits of destruction they can be removed in the name of Jesus.

     The three temptations Jesus faced as we shall see, are the same three temptations the devil uses on all of us; the lust of the flesh, the pride of life and the love of the world (I John 2:15,16). He always uses the same three in various ways, hopping back and forth between the three depending on our particular weaknesses.

     Jesus was physically drained at the end of forty days of fasting. Luke’s account tells us that the devil was tempting Him the entire time (Luke 4:2). Matthew’s account tells us that Jesus did not experience any hunger during the time of His God-appointed fast, only afterward (Matthew 4:2). When the fast was over, Jesus was experiencing hunger and was at His weakest point physically. The devil assessed the Lord’s physical condition and tempts Him with “the lust of the flesh.” –

     “If you be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread” (verse 3).

     The devil has the ability with his suggestions to make anything an object of lust, here he uses an ordinary object, a rock. Sometimes he uses people. A great example of this is found in 11 Samuel Chapter Thirteen. David’s son, Amnon was smitten with lust for his half-sister, Tamar. Immediately after he raped her, the demonically inspired lust he had for her dissolved into hatred and he rejected her. The devil had made Tamar an object of lust specifically to create war and dissension within David’s house.

     Jesus was not immune from experiencing extreme lust. He was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin, (Hebrews 4:15). As we have learned from our examination of the first two foundations, Jesus’ will was fully submitted to the Father’s will, He was devoted and obedient to fulfill all righteousness. Before Jesus was permitted by God to endure His temptation, He was prepared and already possessed the first two foundations. He loves His Father, and because He loves His Father, He loves and obeys His Word. Therefore, He was not going to allow Himself to obey His Father’s enemy in anything. Jesus shows us here that He is committed to following God’s Word and not the devil’s words. Therefore in all three instances of these temptations Jesus relies on the pure Word of God to combat the devil’s lures. The Word of God is the weapon of God’s Spirit (Ephesians 6:17). As a man, Jesus yielded Himself to the Spirit and fought back wielding the sword of God’s Word. –

     “It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (verse 4).

     Here Jesus illustrates for us the third foundation which is total reliance upon the word of God as our guide for life and ministry. We will not survive in the wilderness of this life without relying on this this third and vital foundation.

     The foundation of all foundations is Jesus Himself, who is the Word of God and the cornerstone of our faith. We cannot separate Jesus from God’s word, for they are one as Jesus is one with the Father (John 10:30). To negate or downplay the importance of God’s word is an indication of apostasy and a counterfeit Christianity.

     Getting back to our place with Jesus in the wilderness facing the devil, we acknowledge we have experienced the lust the devil presents before us in his attempt to get us to gratify a physical need. Some of us have a lot of broken teeth from biting down on those rocks. Now when Jesus was told to turn a rock into food, there really isn’t anything in the Scriptures that forbids converting stones into nourishment. If there was a practical way to do it, it would be a great provision for famine in the world. But the sin here is allowing ourselves to be directed by the devil to gratify a need, instead of being led by God’s word combined with His Holy Spirit for the solutions to our problems.
     As he did with Jesus, the devil will come to you at times when you are at your lowest and most vulnerable. He will suggest you find a remedy to your situation by a means that is not supported by the Scriptures. You can be lonely, in great financial need, or afflicted physically. Maybe you are unhappy in your marriage and you are being tempted to find your way out through a divorce without Biblical grounds, or maybe you are being tempted to have an affair. Instead of following the devil’s suggestion, you retreat to the word of God and remind the devil that adultery and fornication are sins. God hates divorce (Malachi 2:16) and if you are following the Lord, you will hate what God hates, and love what God loves. Through prayer and counseling you determine to follow God’s ways and trust Him for help in your situation.

     In this first recorded temptation, the devil is trying to get Jesus to use His power for selfish and personal gain. Witches lust for power to control others, exalt themselves in the devil’s domain and advance his cause in the world. In turn this power gives him control over the witches and ensures their ultimate destruction for their rebellion against God. The lust for power to gratify the flesh is the snare that lures many into the devil’s possession. God grants power to His people, but the power God gives is for the advancement of His kingdom and it is not to be abused for personal gain. Jesus would not use His power to gratify a lust at the devil’s suggestion.
     The devil can create a lust for power in anyone whose egos are vulnerable to deception in this area. Some Christians can be snared by a demonic counterfeit in the church that creates a similar lust for “power.” If the carnal nature, the self-life, is not fully submitted under the control of God’s Spirit, then a believer can be manipulated to operate in a false power that is not God motivated. Some Christians today are taught that they can “claim” whatever they desire. If the self- life is not under the Holy Spirit’s control, then some of these believers can be led into the sin of coveting. One of my Christian neighbors told me to “claim” a portion of a garden spot that would rightfully belong to the incoming tenants of the apartment adjoining mine. This neighbor had been taught you could claim anything, not realizing that there is a difference between claiming righteous things for the advancement of God’s kingdom and the sin of coveting, “claiming,” someone else’s property.

     It’s important to understand that each one of the temptations that Jesus’ faced were all designed by the enemy of our souls to appeal to the flesh or the self-life. Therefore it makes spiritual sense that if our flesh is submitted to the Holy Spirit, the “self handles” the devil uses to motivate us to sin are removed. Relying on the Holy Spirit and God’s word, Jesus wrestled His self-life, putting it under full control of the Spirit. He was practicing selflessness, which ultimately enabled Him to submit to His death for our salvation.
     The soul that is submitted to God is given great power, first to overcome sin in this life and secondly to help us serve others.

     We proceed to temptation number two. The devil was unable to get Jesus to succumb to the lust of the flesh, now Jesus is about to be tempted by the pride of life.
     In verse five the devil takes Jesus to Jerusalem and sets Him upon a pinnacle of the temple. Jesus has been lifted up from a place of obscurity in the desert to a pinnacle of religious prominence. Symbolically we are being shown that this temptation takes place when a person is exalted in religious service, or has been moved to a certain place of status or spiritual security. From this height, Jesus is taunted by His tempter. -

     “If you are the Son of God, cast Yourself down for it is written, ‘He shall give His angels charge concerning You: and in their hands they shall bear You up, lest at any time You dash Your foot against a stone’” (verse 6).

     The devil couldn’t get Jesus to eat a rock, now he wants him to trip on one. This spiritual stumbling block appeals to the pride that comes with the status of knowing who you are in God. You are saved, a treasured child of God and you know you have His protection, yet…. You are being tempted to commit the sin of presumption. “I’m saved, if I sin this once God will forgive me, because I am special.” So you take the bait and jump into whatever sin your pride has led you to commit, not thinking that any sin has consequences. God will forgive you if you repent, but you are still going to have to live with the painful results of your bad decisions.

     You are lying on the ground now, in your brokenness, wishing you had never made that first step out onto thin air. You look back up at Jesus, standing on the pinnacle above you and learn from His example. Sure He is the Son of God and He could fly if He wanted to, but He also knows that any disobedience will never glorify the Father He loves. And the consequences of any action that is taken at the devil’s suggestion will have ramifications. It is a natural principle of creation. The density of your self will can pitch you out of God’s will for your life, and sometimes it can take years to regain what you have lost.
     Again Jesus relies on the Word of God to remind the devil He is not going to violate what God has inscribed.

     “It is written again, ‘you shall not tempt the Lord Your God’” (verse 7).

     Even though Jesus is the Son of God, here in this example, He exhibits a respect and reverent fear of the Almighty which protects Him from failure.

     The final temptation Jesus has to face in round three occurs on the top of a mountain. The devil places Jesus on the summit of a very high mountain and shows Him all the kingdoms of the world and the “glory of them,” (verse 8).
     Mountains in the Scriptures are sometimes used to symbolize worldly kingdoms or God’s kingdom. In this instance, the mountain is symbolic of the devil’s kingdom. As Jesus looks out over the panoramic landscape that represents all the wealth, treasure and comforts this life can offer, He experiences the lust of the eyes. He can see all that is desirable in this life.
     The devil tells Him, -

     “All these things will I give you, if You will fall down and worship me” (verse 9).

     At this moment Jesus is being given the opportunity to avoid the pain and torture of the cross in exchange for idolatry. There are multitudes of Christian today who are being faced with the same temptation. They are being told to deny Jesus or face agonizing martyrdoms.
     These kingdoms that the devil wants us to give for our souls are only temporary. Our future in Jesus is eternal if we are faithful.
     Jesus replies,

    “Get away, Satan; for it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord thy God, and Him only shall you serve’” (verse 10).

     The devil has just been told to go by the Son of God so he was left with no choice. As the devil vanished, so did the false landscape of his illusions of worldly success in this life. We suddenly find ourselves with Jesus back in the wilderness, where we realize that camping in simplicity with the presence of the Lord is much better and safer than the idolatry of lusting after a temporal kingdom of materialism.

     At the end of Jesus’ temptation we are shown in Matthew 4:11 that angels came to minister to Him. His triumph over the devil’s temptations rewarded Him with supernatural comforting and attention. We can anticipate the same supernatural reward at the end of our journey through the wilderness of this life when we are faithful. And the gift of the Holy Spirit nurtures now, strengthens and helps in the present, when we call upon our Lord for rescue. Thus when we experience temptation we can come boldly to the throne of grace to find grace to help in our time of need, (Hebrews 4:16) because Jesus understands. He has been there, suffering in the wilderness to subdue His fleshly desires. And He has successfully accomplished our salvation for us by His sacrifice on the cross.

     Standing with Him in this desert, we suddenly hear the sound of weeping. We turn to see a man and a woman kneeling and sobbing by a dry desert plant. They are clothed in skins and we realize that we are being shown a portrait of Adam and Eve repenting in desert sand that was once a lush, verdant garden. Jesus turns to look at them and we see the compassion in His eyes. We discover that His gaze is fastened upon all of fallen humanity. Slowly He raises us to our feet and He wipes away our tears. There is a new garden waiting for us in the distance. Our Shepherd begins to lead us to our final destination in eternity. He knows the way and is the only gate we can enter into this promised land of eternal life. With hearts filled with thanksgiving, we follow the One who has succeeded for us. Thank you Jesus.
copyright 2017 by H.D. Shively

The Seed Must Die - Scriptures for the Disciple

Return to Bible Insights | Cafe Logos Homepage