When Jesus said, “Go and make disciples,” he insinuated by his instruction that it was something that could be done. He expected us to put something together, to produce a plan, to create a process that makes disciples.
Like many others, I have searched over the years for the “holy grail” that would do what Jesus commissioned us to do.
Then while doing research for a sermon series I read Studies in the Sermon on the Mountby D. Martyn Lloyd Jones, minister of Westminster Chapel for 30 years. In that time of reading several things came into focus.
The first was that Jesus has given us a very specific and successful plan for making disciples: the Beatitudes.
Second, Jesus’ plan was about becoming before doing, heart before action. If a person is becoming the right person, they will do the right things. And the plan for becoming the right person was given by Jesus in the first 16 verses of Matthew 5. Here Jesus clearly, intentionally, and specifically gave us the how for going and making disciples.
“Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them” (Mathew 5:1, 2). This is where it starts. This is where we begin to become committed followers of Jesus and reproducing disciples.
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
A relationship with God must always start here—the proper spirit. A poor spirit. An awareness of who we are and who God is. A humbling awareness of our sin that can only be taken care of by a Savior.
I can be a church member without a poor spirit, I can be involved without a poor spirit, but I can never be a disciple without starting here. Until I have a conviction of my condition, there will be no conversion. It is emptying myself so God can begin to fill me. Beginning every day with this ongoing awareness, the awe of God, only happens with the proper spirit. When I start here, when my spirit is correct, the second step is natural.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
This is Jesus teaching his disciples about following him. This is not about earthly sorrow, this is not mourning over the death of a loved one. This is the mourning of David in Psalm 38 who said, “My guilt has overwhelmed me like a burden too heavy to bear. My wounds fester and are loathsome because of my sinful folly. I am bowed down and brought very low; all day long I go about mourning” (vv. 4-6).
This is where a person cries out “What must I do”? Those who heard Peter preach on the Day of Pentecost were “cut to the heart.” They were convicted, broken, mourning their sin. They asked the question, “What do we do?”
The answer hasn’t changed. Repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of your sins and the gift of God’s Spirit. The proper spirit followed by the proper awareness and response in regard to our sin is followed by the proper attitude—meekness.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Meekness comes from knowing who I am and who I am not. This meekness frees me from having to defend myself. I don’t become puffed up or defensive when someone confronts me or points out a weakness I have. I don’t make excuses. I humbly respond with meekness and ask the person to pray for me.
Meekness comes from living with an awareness of God’s grace. We are no longer trying to prove ourselves. It is a peace that comes from the awareness of what God has done for us.
These first three steps become as natural as breathing to a disciple. These are the constant heart checks of a follower. They also produce a change in appetite that flows from being the person God calls us to be.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
When we are healthy, we don’t have to remind ourselves to eat. It’s natural. When our heart condition is healthy (first three steps) our appetite for the things of God will be natural. With an awareness of who God is and who we are, we will develop a hunger for holiness and begin to avoid that which is unholy.
The next three parts of Jesus’ plan represent the natural outgrowth of the first three and can only happen when the first three are taking place.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
Mercy does not come naturally to us. It is not a consistent human quality. We may be moved to it at times, prompted by some emotion, but to consistently see others as God sees them, to love others as God loves them, only can happen when we have the proper view of ourselves. Only a person who is poor in spirit will be merciful to those around them.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
We begin to develop a pure heart once we are honest about having an impure heart. As we mourn over our sin, we cry out as David did, “Create in me a pure heart” (Psalm 51:10). When we acknowledge the impurity of our hearts, our need for God’s grace, we then make a way for God to make our hearts pure.
The more honest we are about our sin, the purer our hearts become. Then we begin to see God in ways our sin had previously prevented.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
Who can be a peacemaker? Do you know one? Only someone who has been transformed to a life of meekness. A person who has nothing to prove, who does not blow up or get defensive, who has no territory to defend. Peacemakers don’t have to protect a position or power or possessions. When you become a peacemaker, God is proud of you. He says, “That’s my child!”
Jesus went on to point out the consequences of a discipled life. The world will take offense which will lead to times of persecution. Jesus concluded with the goal of every discipleship plan—to make disciples who will become salt (who we are) and light (what we do) to the world.
When we begin to make disciples using Jesus’ plan, when we begin with who a person is rather than what a person does, we set the stage for real, lifelong commitment. We begin, like Jesus, to make disciples who make disciples.
Gary Cox is a graduate of Cincinnati Christian University. He and his wife, Linda, have been at First Christian Church in Fort Myers, Florida for 29 years. He has been the preaching pastor since 1995.