5 Ways Discipleship Begins BEFORE Salvation

Journeying with Jesus

I always thought discipleship flowed out of a salvation. You learn about Jesus, experience grace, make a commitment to accept and serve Jesus, and then discipleship begins as we follow after Jesus.

Ways Discipleship Begins Before Belief

Then I read the gospels.

Jesus called his disciples, and they followed, but it says nothing about them believing. Absolutely nothing. That doesn’t necessarily prove that they didn’t; however, later in the story, we learn about their journey of belief. It wasn’t until much later in their journey of discipleship, did they fully understand and believe.

Everyone from Peter to Judas, portrayed signs of confusion and disbelief of who Jesus actually was. It’s not until the very end, when they witness the risen Saviour, and empowerment of the Spirit, that they reach a powerful turning point. And the transformation is amazing — Peter goes from denying he even knew Jesus, to preaching in front of thousands.

So what can we learn from the disciple’s journey? Let me give you 5 ways discipleship begins before salvation:

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When We Doubt God’s Truth

Christian Doubt, Part 2

We’re told not to doubt, and yet Christians still doubt. Is there something missing from our equation of Christian living?  Why do some believers seem to question God’s truth?  If we have the faith we say we have, why is doubt still a part of our lives?  Even if the action of “doubting” is somewhat different for everyone, I think we all could agree it surrounds our lack of answers for our many questions.

Christian Doubt, Part 2

Let’s look at Thomas’s struggle with doubt found in John 20.  This story is found just after the other disciples saw Jesus following the resurrection.

24 Now Thomas, one of the Twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”

26 Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:24-29)

Here are four things we can learn from this story:

1. Jesus’ disciples doubted on their journey of belief.

We experience faith by processing our doubt over time. Click To TweetSometimes we forget this obvious truth.  Even though the disciples dropped what they were doing to follow Jesus, it took a while before they actually expressed signs of belief.  I’m not actually sure it’s fair to say thoughts of doubt ever left the disciples.  There were glimpses of belief, (John 16:29-31) and yet doubt led Judas to take matters into his own hands and betray Jesus,(18:1-11) and led Peter to deny Christ just after he was arrested (18:15-27).  We experience faith by processing our doubt over time.

2. Thomas wasn’t with the other disciples when they saw Jesus.

We have to give ourselves and others some mercy as we process our doubt. Click To TweetI almost feel bad for Thomas.  The other disciples would clearly believe before he did – they SAW Jesus in person.  I think if I were Thomas, I would have been very upset with them and the whole situation.  After all, their mentor and teacher had just been crucified and now they were saying they just saw him alive! His doubt was based on something that just didn’t make sense.  We have to give ourselves and others some mercy as we process our doubt.

3. Processing doubt takes time.

There’s a journey from the first time we hear about the risen Jesus to when we actually believe. Click To TweetScripture specifically states that it was eight days before Thomas had a physical encounter with Jesus.  I certainly wouldn’t read into the meaning of eight days; however, some scholars have pointed out that eight people were saved on the ark, and that Jewish boys were circumcised on the eighth day.1  Perhaps we could loosely identify Thomas’ journey of eight days as a sort of new beginning, just like the eight were saved on the ark (1 Peter 3:20) and the eight days prior to a Jewish boy’s ceremonial covenant (Genesis 17:12; Philippians 3:5).

We could never use this timeframe, however, as an absolute for everyone today.  The point is: there’s a journey from the first time we hear about the risen Jesus to when we actually believe.  Those “eight days” represent the space we need to process our doubt.

4. The disciples saw with their eyes; we see with our faith.

Faith is not seeing Jesus' nail-scarred hands & yet allowing them to transform us from the inside-out Click To TweetThe disciples had the opportunity to physically witness Jesus with their eyes.  Christians today, however, can only experience Jesus with faith. Faith is not seeing Jesus’ nail-scarred hands, and yet allowing His nail-scarred hands to transform us from the inside-out.  This kind of transformation is a life-long journey of faith with Jesus.  And, according to Jesus, those who believe without seeing are blessed (John 20:29).  Because of this dynamic, having faith in Christ requires us to process our doubt so that our faith can guide us in the right direction.  Otherwise, without that space, our doubt may actually push us further away from God’s truth.

How do we respond?

I love how Jude simply instructed the early Church: “be merciful to those who doubt” (Jude 1:22). He was helping the Church protect the faith by ensuring that mature believers would help and encourage new believers.  Jude knew what it meant to doubt – it took him (and Jesus’ other half siblings) even longer to figure out the faith than it did for Thomas.  As a result, we need to respond in one of two ways:

  1. If we find ourselves doubting:

We need to remember that processing our doubt helps to develop our faith and understanding of God’s truth, and that process takes time.  If we continue to mature in the faith, we may not doubt the same things we did yesterday; however, because we’re human, we will experience new doubt tomorrow.  The key is allowing for space to process the uncertainty we face.

  1. If we find ourselves mentoring someone who is doubting:

We need to remember that showing them mercy as they process their doubt will help develop their faith.  Unfortunately, we are sometimes quick to put pressure on Christians during this process.  I believe if Thomas wasn’t given eight days, he would have been less likely to accept the faith he eventually stood for with his life.2  We need to show mercy and give space.

When we doubt God’s truth, we must choose to give ourselves & others space to process our doubt. Click To TweetBecause we live in a world with so much spiritual tension, it’s vital the Church figures out how to manage doubt.  John Ortberg calls uncertainty a gift “because it gnaws at us to pursue truth.  As hunger prompts our stomach to find food, doubts prompt our minds to find reality.”3  This, however, takes time.  When we doubt God’s truth, we must choose to give ourselves and others the space we need to process our doubt so we can build a stronger faith.

Check out Part 1 of this series – “What is doubt and is it sinful?”

Your turn…

Have you ever doubted God’s truth?  How do you process doubt?

I would love to hear from you!  Feel free to comment below, on social media, or by email (andrewholm@gmail.com).  SUBSCRIBE HERE!

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What is doubt and is it sinful?

Christian Doubt, Part 1

If I had a dollar for how many times I thought those words as I wrote this blog series, I could retire now!  Just because I’ve been a Christian most of my life, have two degrees, and now pastor a church, I still don’t have all the answers.  I never will.  In fact, as many have said before, “the more I learn, the more I realize how little I actually know.”  At the end of the day, it is this lack of knowledge that forms the basis of my doubt.

Christian Doubt, Part 1

I think if we were all honest for a minute, we would ALL realize we experience some levels of doubt.  Unfortunately, the word doubt seems to have negative connotations and therefore, when we experience doubt, we either keep it locked up inside, or count ourselves as unspiritual.  As a point of introduction to this series, I’d like to help define what doubt really is and set some of the ground work for the next three parts.

  1. Doubts are unanswered questions.

Doubt is simply processing the things we don’t know for certain.1 Depending on our spiritual journey, our uncertainty could be anything from whether or not God is real, to why God doesn’t always heal those who are sick.

  1. Doubt is natural, not necessarily sinful.

I read an article recently about how some people aren’t physically healed.  Unfortunately, in years past, we have made people believe that doubt is a sort of spiritual disease that somehow blocks us from God’s healing power.2  This is simply not the case.  Doubt is a natural experience that flows out of our humanity, and causes us to think and act accordingly.  The only possible sinful activity, would be how we chose to process that doubt – we’ll explore this further in the series.

  1. Doubt is not the same as unbelief.

We tend to associate doubt with unbelief because they are closely related.  Just because we doubt, however, doesn’t necessarily mean we don’t believe.  I’m reminded of the father and son found in Mark 9:23-25.  The son needed to be healed from an unclean spirit.  Jesus said he could be healed if he believed.  The father responded honestly: “I believe, help my unbelief” (Mark 9:24). John Ortberg wrote it this way: “I believe and I doubt.  I hope and I fear. I pray and I waver.  I ask and I worry.  I believe; help my unbelief.”3  The father both believed and doubted, and Jesus still answered them by healing the son.  Our doubt and belief is much more encouraging and complicated than we might think.

Depending on where we are on our journey of faith, we all experience both belief and doubt.  For example, a new Christian may believe in Jesus and His redemptive work in his/her life, but may doubt the idea of the Trinity.  It doesn’t mean they don’t believe in the one and only God, it simply means they have not yet understood how one God can simultaneously exist in three relational ways.  Likewise, a Christian may know for certain that God CAN heal; however, may be uncertain of why their loved one (a faithful Christian) was not healed, while their neighbour (an unbeliever) was healed.  It doesn’t mean they don’t believe in God’s ability; rather, they are processing their doubt (uncertainty) regarding God’s activity. It’s a spiritual journey.

  1. We tend to associate our doubt with failure and not growth.

At the end of the day, our doubt will propel us to choose between two directions.  We can either allow our doubt to push us further away from God, or we can allow ourselves, and others, the space we need, to process our doubt, and to bring us closer to God.  If we choose the latter, we choose discipleship.  As a result, our doubt leads us on our journey of growth, rather than describing our failure.

I spent a long time trying to figure out the best way to approach such an important discussion.  While examples, stories and ideas play a major part in our Christian journey, the next three posts will focus first and foremost on four biblical examples of how we should process our doubt:

Part Two: “When We Doubt God’s Truth” (Exploring “Doubting” Thomas’ journey of faith).
Part Three: “When We Doubt God’s Voice” (Gideon’s uncertainty of God’s voice).
Part Four: “When We Doubt God’s Plan” (How John the Baptist and Paul questioned God’s plan).

Your turn…

How have you viewed your doubt?

My prayer for this series is that it will help us process our doubt so we can grow spirituality and become more mature in the faith.  Along the way, I would love to hear from you!  Feel free to comment, or send me an email (andrewholm@gmail.com).

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