The Christian walk is made up of two vital elements. One could probably point out more, but, I believe, that it can all be boiled down to these two things: deliverance and discipleship. What I want to do today is explain what these are and then extend those ideas into other areas where the same principle applies.
The first step in the Christian walk is deliverance. When I say “deliverance,” I am not speaking of that thing that “deliverance ministries” perform. That is an entirely different matter. I am speaking of the deliverance offered by God. This is what Jesus died on the cross to secure for His people. When He said, “It is finished,” I believe that this is what He was referring to. When Jesus died on the cross, He made it possible to be delivered from bondage to sin and bondage to the law. No longer, to gain God’s favor and come into union with Him, do people have to follow a set of do’s and don’ts. We are no longer bound to that, which is why Paul can say,
It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery. (Galatians 5:1 NASB)
But, our redemption does not stop there. To truly follow Jesus means to actually do what He says. This is where discipleship comes in. This is the second step in the Christian walk.
Jesus made a very bold statement when He said,
Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. (John 14:12 ESV)
What Jesus is saying here is that if you really believe in Him, then you will do the works that Jesus did. (As a side note, this goes directly against the idea espoused by cessationists. Jesus did works of healing and such things. And Jesus says that “whoever believes” will do those works and then some. Whoever means…whoever. It is an inclusive word, not an exclusive word denoting only the apostles.)
And this is interesting because, more often than not, when we share the Gospel with someone, we stop before we get to this point. We are quick to tell people that Jesus is the only way to heaven, but slower when it comes to His bold little statements about the importance of obedience. And when they do come up, we make them sound like they are second in importance to believing in Jesus for salvation. And in doing so, we neglect that second step of discipleship.
You see, discipleship is when a teacher trains someone to be like them. When Jesus told His disciples to go and make disciples, He was commanding them to go and make more of Him. To make more Jesus’, if you will. This concept is vitally important because, without discipleship, the doors are opened for cycles of sin and repentance and sin and repentance and sin and repentance on and on until the day the person dies. But Jesus has offered deliverance from this kind of bondage, hence why we need discipleship. It is the only way that we will be freed from our addictions to sin.
Without discipleship, deliverance will only be a temporary fix before we fall back into the cycle of sin addiction that is so common in most of our lives.
Applying the principles
These same ideas carry over into our social lives as well and have strong implications on the meaning of personal responsibility.
(What I am about to say is not a response to anything my uncle has recently written. Strangely enough, I was thinking about some of those very things that day after a conversation that I had with my mother-in-law on Sunday afternoon.)
You see, when the government or a charity or a church offer things like Welfare or Food Stamps or even just hand out money, they are offering deliverance. These people are in dire circumstances and in need of immediate assistance. Food Stamps or a few bucks gives them access to that help. The problem is, all too often, there is nothing more than that. It stops at a check in the mail every month or a $10 bill. The same is true with Rick Warren’s addiction recovery program, Celebrate Recovery. Once these people have recovered or been delivered from their immediate need, the next vital step is often overlooked. We don’t disciple these people.
My mother-in-law posed the question in our discussion to the effect of, “How long do we hold their hand? When is it time to just let them go?” I would say that you have to take it case by case. A person who has made a lifetime of mistakes is going to need a lifetime of guidance. But someone who screwed up once, may only need a couple of months or years of aid and guidance. To write these people off because we don’t see immediate results is just foolishness. If Jesus had given up on you, think about where you would be today; think about how different your life would be.
But the point is, we need to give people both deliverance and discipleship. To offer one without the other is not the road to healing. Whether we are speaking of our relationship with God or our relationship with others, without deliverance, people will never become disciples; but, without discipleship, deliverance will only be a temporary fix.