The Urgency of Messianic Discipleship

by Sam Nadler

I’ve been privileged to see Messiah raise up many for His service. And sadly, I’ve also seen many casualties in the Messianic world, sort of “Messianic failures.” By this, I mean those who have come to faith in Yeshua but have never matured enough spiritually to be able to care properly for others. Their own issues, problems, and desires become their agenda for life. However, there are many others who have developed into wholesome, caring believers, who in some cases, despite difficult family backgrounds and miserable early experiences, have excelled in the faith. What makes the difference? Discipleship.

For the Future: Discipleship

Without question, we need to bring the Good News to our people that they may believe in Yeshua and have eternal life. But, if we do not make disciples, the wisdom will die with us. Discipleship is the means by which new believers are enabled to grow in their relationship with God, to develop spiritual understanding of the truths of God’s Word, and to gain wisdom for living faithfully for the Lord. Faith in Yeshua makes you a child of God, discipleship is God’s way for you to mature as His child. As there is no salvation without faith in Yeshua, so there is no spiritual growth without discipleship.

Discipleship = Dedication

Discipleship is important because the Jewish Scriptures exhort us to be dedicated (or discipled) servants and “sons.” In Genesis 14:14, Abraham’s dedicated servants are the ones who enjoyed the victory. In Proverbs 22:6, it is the dedicated child who will not depart from the faith. These verses use the Hebrew word chanak, which means, “to make narrow, dedicate, train, experience.” Yes, it’s similar to the word chanukkah (or Hanukkah, dedication). Likewise, our Messiah expects all believers to be involved in this training and maturing process. He has commanded us, saying, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations…” (Matt. 28:19-20). This is commonly called The Great Commission, for it is Messiah’s commissioning of His talmidim (disciples or students) and servants in the great work He has for them.

Fruits of Discipleship

Discipleship is what spiritually stabilizes the believer in the faith. Undiscipled Believers are the ‘Wandering Jews (& Gentiles)’ of the body of Messiah. “We should no longer be children, tossed to and fro, carried about with every wind of doctrine…but, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, Messiah” (Ephesians 4:14-15). Discipleship is nurtured through studying and meditating on the Jewish Scriptures. “How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping it according to Your word…Your word I have treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against You” (Psalm 119:9, 11).

The New Covenant reiterates this:

“All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16-17).Although these Scriptures may be familiar, I wonder how often they are applied as a ‘congregational training program’ for new believers in the Messianic faith.

Resources + Process = Results!

If we want to have the right result (“...that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work“), we need to have the right resource (“all Scripture is inspired”) and the right process (“and profitable for teaching, reproof, correction and training in righteousness”) for developing new believers into mature servants of God, able to do all that the Lord has called and equipped them to do.

In Acts 20:20, Paul gives us his practice for discipleship that necessitates regular one-on-one teaching (house to house) and training, as well as being part of the Shabbat school class, and Shabbat sermon (publicly). Besides personal areas of challenge to the new Messianic believer, we must help position him or her as a child of God in the basic issues of salvation assurance, prayer, Scripture reading and application, fellowship (active and regular congregational involvement) and sharing their faith with others.

Faith needs to become “profitable,” that is, useful in a practical fashion. A Messianic disciple does not merely understand prayer, he actually prays. He regularly “studies to show himself approved.” He helps in a loving way to build up the Body of Messiah by sharing his faith.

Discipleship is the process of growing in God’s love and life, so that we may enjoy and share the great news of salvation, making more disciples among our people. Ultimately, it is through discipleship that we go from the tragic failure of a sinful lifestyle, to becoming faithful followers of our victorious Messiah, and living the fulfilling life God has planned for each of us!

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