Using Symbols To Find Significance

As a disciple maker you may need to help your disciple discern where he has displaced God in his life and if so with whom or what.  Mankind is constantly searching for substitutes for God. The Israelites displaced God with a gold calf while Paul tells us in the book of Romans that man has exchanged the Creator God with created things.

Insecurity and delusional thinking will cause your disciple to attach himself to a symbol that represents for him a value that he believes will contribute to his own importance both in the eyes of others and in his opinion of himself.   He thinks that if he wears a particular piece of clothing, owns the latest cell phone, has a girlfriend, or belongs to a specific group of friends that somehow their importance will rub off on him.  He seeks to find value by association.

Discerning symbols is tricky because what is significant for one person may have no meaning to another.  For one man the type of automobile he drives is an important statement while for another a car is nothing more than a means to get from one place to another.

Insecurity comes from placing my trust in anything or anyone that can be taken away from me.  Good looks will age, abilities will fade, cars will rust, and relationships may fail.  Security for your disciple can only be found in his placement of trust and value in God.

In closing:

  1. The Lord will use suffering to wean your disciple off of misplaced trust.
  2. Help your disciple bridge to new friendships with people who are secure followers of Jesus.
  3. Read and discuss Israel’s distrust in God and their misplaced trust during the Exodus.  (Numbers 14; Deuteronomy 1 & 6)

Longing to Belong

Parents and disciple makers get it wrong when they try and form a person’s character by outward conformity.  It is putting the second thing first, the cart before the horse.  To make a disciple of Jesus begins by engrafting him into a group (family) where he belongs and then out of this belonging will flow the character of Jesus. It is the first thing.

C.S. Lewis wrote, “…you can’t get second things by putting them first.  You get second things only by putting first things first” [1]. It is fruitless to try and get your disciple to live by kingdom values or to have a right attitude if he does not understand to whom he belongs.  You will become frustrated and you will frustrate your disciple if you do not begin by helping him unite to God and to a people, which I would argue are inseparable.

Man is created in the image of God, which means he was designed to belong.  When your disciple feels disconnected his behavior will become erratic and often self-destructive as he seeks to compensate for his detachment.   He will attach himself to some inappropriate group through inappropriate bonds to give the illusion that he belongs somewhere and to someone.

When Jesus called his men to follow him, he was also calling them to belong to a group of 12 other men. Jesus formed a community not only because it flowed out his nature but also because he knew that for his disciples to live as God intended they must belong to one another through bonds formed by love.

In closing:

  • Rarely do I disciple someone apart from being with him in community.
  • A large part of the discipling process is teaching your disciple how to love and receive love and how to serve others and to be served in community.
  • Starting a discipling community is difficult as seen in Jesus’ disciples’ relationship with one another.  It is more difficult than starting a bible study, small group, or maybe even a church plant.  It takes months and years rather than weeks.  The process does become easier as your disciples learn how to love one another.

[1] C.S. Lewis, “First and Second Things,” in God in the Dock: Essays on Theology and Ethics (Eerdmans, 1994), p. 280.


The Manipulator #4

A manipulator carefully studies his prey. He continually probes and prods your disciple looking for a weak spot. The manipulator then uses this weak spot as a point of leverage to control your disciple.  It does not matter how many strengths your disciple has, it takes only one point of vulnerability for a manipulator to take him down.

A common vulnerability is shame.  Shame is a painful emotion caused by the loss of: innocence, reputation, or self-respect. This shame may be private, of which only your disciple is aware, or his shame may be public of which everyone is aware, either way shame makes cowards of us all.  The manipulator discovers this shame and then uses it to control his victim.  I have even seen manipulators draw a person into a sinful act into order to establish shame as a control point in his victim.

The good news of Jesus deals directly with shame.  The cross removes all shame, whether private or public.  No matter the decree of shame in the life of your disciple the grace of the gospel goes even deeper.  Shame has a powerful attraction that draws your disciple to fixate on his own shame.  As a disciple maker you want to point the inward eyes of your disciple upon Jesus.  Hebrews 12:2 states:

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

  • Shame if one of the most powerful dark forces in your disciple’s life.  Expect aversion and push back.
  • Shame casts a long shadow.  Shame may come from your disciple’s childhood or as recent as yesterday.
  • Unless your disciple confronts his shame he will be vulnerable to any manipulator.

Love and Right Thinking

One of the first things to do as a discipler is to stabilize your disciple.  When someone is insecure because of rejection, loneliness, shame, or detachment, not only does his mind not think clearly, he can be irrational.  (A simple illustration of this was your inability to concentrate for a test or to make good choices after your college girlfriend broke up with you.)  What brings an inner steadiness to your disciple is an understanding of God’s love.  Paul writes of this stability in Ephesians 4 “…being rooted and established in love…” Later Paul connects love and right thinking in Philippians: “And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ…” (This is not a quick process and usually takes months.)

I begin the relationship by asking my disciple to share his story so that I can listen for the points of suffering, rejection, voids, hurt, and disappointments in his life.  His life stories give me insight into his inner man and God’s approach in his life.  It is at these points of suffering that I introduce him to the sovereignty of God. The sovereignty of God is made of up of three strands:

  • God’s Power- God’s power means God is able to do anything that is in harmony with His wise and holy and perfect nature.
  • God’s Wisdom- God’s wisdom means that God always chooses the best purpose and the best means to that purpose.
  • God’s Love- God’s love means that God eternally gives of Himself to others.  (This definition understands love as self-giving for the benefit of others.)

Stories are powerful conveyers of truth.  I refer to the life stories of biblical characters to illustrate the Lord’s sovereignty in the life of his children. (e.g.  Joseph, Moses, Ruth, Esther, David, Daniel, Elizabeth, Mary, etc.)  Disciples relate differently to different biblical characters, so we explore the various characters until we find one that resonates with him.

Love and Insecurity

Disciple making is a love relationship.  Love is hard work, so it should be expected that the first months with your disciple are difficult.  You should not be surprised when you come up against instability, fear, contractions, resistance, anger, and moodiness in the life of your disciple.  He may become evasive and lash out at you, even though you have reached out to him with love. These are not unlike the relational issues Paul encountered in the lives of his disciples in Ephesus.  He pled: “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.” Paul goes on to tell these disciples that rather they are to “Be imitators of God  . . . and live a life of love.” Ephesians 4:31-5:2

You can expect your disciple to test you in three areas:

  1. Trust.  Your disciple will send up “trial balloon” stories and behaviors to see how you will respond before he will trust you enough to share his deepest wound, shame, or fear.  This trust can takes months or even years to build.  (Note: Be careful! What you assume to be his deepest wound may not be, and what seems trivial to you could be the source of his inner pain.)
  2. Commitment.  He will test the commitment of your love by withholding his commitment from you.  He will ask himself: “Will this friendship last? Or will I just add this to my list of other relational disappointments?” Persistence over the long haul will communicate love to your disciple.  (Note: It is important for him to learn how to love you as well as how to receive love from you.)
  3. Insecure people like to control.  Some will try and control the relationship believing that by taking control they will be safe.  He will purposefully test you probing for weaknesses in your life in order to try and manipulate you, deflecting the attention off of him and onto you.   (Note: Some will seek to pull you into the drama of their own life.)

Fear and Making Disciples 2

My fear obstructs the making of disciples. A discipler is to love his disciples, but if I am insecure it is difficult to love others. I have experienced the pain of rejection which has caused me to become fearful and leery of relationships, I even fear those who love me the most. The voices of insecurity and shame boom in my head something like this:

  • “I can’t even get my own act together, how can I help someone else?”
  • “I have disqualified myself from ministry.”
  • “If this person finds out what I am really like, they will not want to continue in this friendship.”
  • “I can’t afford to go through another relational disappointment, so I had better play it safe right now.”
  • “Why would they want to spend time with me?”

Christianity has tried to accommodate this fear by creating ministry systems and programs which require a minimal amount of relational investment. The problem with these approaches is that the kingdom of God was founded upon and still advances on sacrificial love. There is no place for fear in my life, because fear disrupts my relationship with others so that I can no longer love.

The obvious question is, “how do I remove fear from my heart?” First, I need to understand that wrong thinking is the cause of my fear. My view of God and my perception of how he views me are incorrect which has resulted in me having a fearful outlook on life.

So then, the antidote for my fear is a right understanding about the Lord’s love for me. Jesus takes the initiative to love me first, which in turn removes the fear from my heart, (because love drives out fear, 1 John 4:18) so that now I am able to love others as Jesus has demonstrated through his own death on the cross.