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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Are We ALL ‘Children of the same God’?

A Response to the Call of Unity and Salvation

The call for unity and peace has never been greater.  The world is searching for an appropriate answer for the political, religious, and racial tensions that overwhelm the news every day.  Unity seems to be the best solution.  If all positive people unite together to obtain peace and love, we’ll be alright.  The problem – while peace and love can be unifying characteristics, it doesn’t mean we believe the same thing.

Are We ALL Children of the Same God

In a recent homily, Pope Francis said this:

“All of us together, Muslims, Hindus, Catholics, Copts, Evangelical [Protestants] brothers and sisters – children of the same God – we want to live in peace, integrated.”1

Are we really “children of the same God”?  Is his understanding correct?  Can there be more than one meaning to that phrase?  I believe Pope Francis is correct in what he means, but misleading in what he said.

God is the Father of Humanity

From the beginning, God created both male and female in His own image (Gen 1:27).  God is the Father of Adam.  In Luke’s genealogy, Jesus is literally related to “Adam, the son of God” (Luke 3:38). God is the Father and creator of every person on this earth.God is the Father and creator of every person on this earth. #Gen1 #Luke3 Click To Tweet

Sin Changed the Relationship

When Adam and Eve sinned, the relationship between humanity and God changed (Gen 3).  God remained as our Father, but we failed to remain his faithful children.  In family terms – because of sin, we are no longer natural heirs of the Kingdom.  God is our Father, but our sin has forfeited our rights as His children.

God Made a Covenant with Israel

As history unfolded, God made a covenant with Abraham, and through him all of Israel, to be a great nation – “the children of God” (Gen 15, 17; Ps 82:6). The Israelites would be God’s chosen people.  Even then, however, the people turned away and lost their blessing (Jer 2; Hos 11).  God remained as their loving Father, but His children relentlessly turned away.

Until the turning point – when Christ was born.

Jesus Provides Adoption

Through Jesus, and only through Jesus, we can become reunited as God’s true children.  He always was, always is, and always will be our Father, but the only way we can receive the “right to become children of God,” is by “receiving [Jesus] and believing in His name” (John 1:12).

As Paul wrote:

26 So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

4 What I am saying is that as long as an heir is underage, he is no different from a slave, although he owns the whole estate. The heir is subject to guardians and trustees until the time set by his father. So also, when we were underage, we were in slavery under the elemental spiritual forces of the world. But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir. (Gal 3:26-4:7, NIV)

Until we accept Jesus we are like slaves and have no right to Kingdom.  We are all created by the Father, but naturally heirs of our sin.  When we accept Jesus and follow Him, we not only become “adopted children,” but also “rightful heirs” of the eternal Kingdom to come.

Where we misunderstand each other…

Pope Francis is a positive wildcard in the Catholic Church right now.  He is stirring a new generation of Christians to engage in acts of service and love.  His true “Good Samaritan” acts, like washing the feet of Muslim migrants, is truly humbling and inspiring.2  When he said all are “children of the same God,” he was referring to our origin, not our salvation.  Our word choice and our understanding of those words, can dramatically impact authentic unity.

I believe God is my Father.God is the Father of all, but those who follow Him are His children. #ChildOfGod Click To Tweet

I believe Jesus, God’s son, is the only way to the Father.

But I also believe in peace.

I believe in choice.

I believe all people (who God created) have the ability to choose their path.

That means all people are created and Fathered by God, but not all people will choose to become rightful children of God.  We are not ALL children of God simply because He is our Father.  God is the Father of all, but those who follow Him are His children.

Your turn…

How have you used the phrase “Children of God?”  Are you a “child of God?”


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Who’s More Important: Jesus or Me?

The One Who Really Matters

We’re living in a world that demands our every moment of every day. Whether its politics, our jobs, family, friends, local church or community, we find ways to keep busy. The question is – who is at the center of all those activities? Is Jesus the one who really matters in our lives, or do we put ourselves in the center?

Who's More Important - Jesus or Me

The more we put ourselves in the center of our lives, the more we move away from Jesus. The more we move away from Jesus, the more stressed we become about the things we can’t change and the less likely we are to take the healthy risks that are required to follow Jesus’ agenda.

Jesus desires for us to selflessly use our resources so to benefit the Kingdom, not us. Click To TweetTo put this another way – are we being selfless or selfish?  If Jesus is at the center of our lives, then we use our money, time and energy for the benefit of Jesus.  If we are at the center of our lives, then we use those resources for our benefit.  Jesus desires for us to selflessly use our resources so to benefit the Kingdom, not us.

As I reflected on this personally, I thought about the two potential options this way:Discipleship Journey: Selfless vs Selfish

I know I need to make sure I’m moving towards the selfless side, but my humanity clearly wants to pursue the selfish side.

So how do I make sure I’m becoming a selfless disciple of Jesus?

The answer: start putting Jesus in the center.

That might be easier said than done.  I get that.  But let’s start with a simple narrative from Luke’s gospel.

Mary and Martha…

38 Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. 39 And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching.40 But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” 41 But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, 42 but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:38-42, ESV)

Luke is trying to teach us about holy hospitality – how we welcome and allow Jesus to be the center of everything we do.  So much so, that we almost allow Jesus to be our host and we follow His lead.1

Mary focused her attention on Jesus.  She humbly took full advantage of the opportunity with Jesus. An opportunity that, in their culture, wouldn’t normally be an option.

Martha, on the other hand, was distracted by being “anxious and troubled about many things.” She was doing well and serving her guests, but was selfishly overwhelmed.  So much so, that when she spoke to Jesus she referred to herself three times (10:40).

Are we disciples (selfless) or are we distracted (selfish)?

I think we get distracted in our world of busyness and perfectionism quite often.  We get caught up doing things according to our agenda and forget to balance our lives according to Jesus’ agenda. Jesus is waiting for us to eagerly become selfless disciples, and not be distracted by selfish performance.2

What would our agenda look like if Jesus was at the center?  On the other hand, what would our agenda look like if we put ourselves at the center?  Would our priorities be different in each case? All too often, we sacrifice what really matters to pursue things that aren’t as important.

For example, when we become busy the first thing we often cut is our personal time with God.  Think about that – we cut the most important thing first.  From my experience, when we cut our personal devotions, we tend to default to selfishness.  From there, our priorities start to shift.

We shift from pursing God’s agenda to our own agenda.

We shift from growing the Kingdom to spending our money elsewhere.

We shift from committing our families to the local church to protecting family time at all costs.

Don’t get me wrong, family is very important!  But when Jesus is at the center of our lives, His call to put Him before our family begins to make more sense:

26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:26)

Of course, “hate” is not referring to “dislike” rather the extreme difference between a selfless disciple and a selfish unbeliever.  We need to stop thinking like unbelievers and start challenging ourselves to become disciples.We need to stop thinking like unbelievers and start challenging ourselves to become disciples. Click To Tweet

I’ll let Paul’s words conclude:

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. (Romans 8:5)

Your turn…

Is Jesus at the center of your life?  Do your daily activities prove it?

I gave our congregation the opportunity to challenge themselves with a little exercise.  I gave them a sheet to list all their activities and to indicate which activities were most important if: 1) Jesus was at the center of their lives; and, 2) if we were at the center. It’s a humbling exercise if done honestly.

You can download the template here: Who’s More Important Worksheet. Maybe it’s a great way for you to take a spiritual inventory of what we spend our money, time and energy doing. I’ve also included a blank version of the above graphic.


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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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