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9 How To Train a Disciple – Conviction and Perspective

Baseball, like most other sports, has its “Hall of Fame.” In Oklahoma City, one can walk through the “Cowboy Hall of Fame.” On the right is Will Rogers, and down a ways are the Buffalo Bill and many others, men who carved out the west, heroes of what has become the American way of Life. Hebrews 11 is God’s “Hall of Fame” – the heroes of the faith. As you walk through its corridors, you see heroes and heroines of a bygone age – men and women from all walks of life but with one thing in common; they believe God!

Faith, simply defined, is “believing the promises of God and acting on them.” It is obeying the promises of God. Faith is never passive – always active. Note the action verbs in the chapter. Abel offered (v4), Noah prepared (v 7), Abraham obeyed (v 8).

But faith without a commitment on God’s part is not faith at all; it is presumption. God had made some pretty fantastic promises to the people mentioned in Hebrews 11, and they acted on them. Without these promises from God, their actions would have been without reason.

Let us imagine that you and I are flying in a small aircraft at 10,000 feet. I ask you, “Could God catch me if I jumped?”

With a note of hesitation you answer, “I… I’m not sure.”

Believing that you are expressing a lack of faith, I say, “I believe He can,”  and then jump. On my way down, I realize to my horror that though my statement is true, “God can catch me,” He never promised that He would. I die not because of lack of faith but because of the lack of a promise from God. I was presumptuous. Faith must have a basis for its existence.

Before a person is willing to commit himself to act on what God has promised, two things must be true. He must have conviction and perspective. These attributes are readily seen in the life of Moses as described in Hebrews 11.

Verses 23: “By faith Moses, when he was born, was hid three months of (by) his parents, because they saw he was a proper (beautiful) child; and they were not afraid of the king’s commandment.” Notice that faith as it relates to the life of Moses began with mom & dad. Moses was a baby. He couldn’t act on the promises of God. It was his parent’s faith that saved the day.

Verse 24: “By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter.” Previously, it was the faith of Moses’ parents; now the faith of Moses. How did this happe? When did it become his faith? “When he was come to years.”

I imagine when  Moses was growing up, he mimicked the essentials of godly faith with great enthusiasm because of what he has heard from his mother. (You will remember after the daughter of Pharaoh found Moses, she turned him over to his own mother to be nursed.) To hear a small child say, “Jesus lives in my heart” is cute, even though this maybe simply an expression of the parents’  faith. But there comes a time in each of our lives when it is no longer valid to base what we believe on the convictions held by others. When we “come to years,” our lives must be base by our own convictions. Moses believed in the same God in verse 24 as his parents did in verse 23, but they were his own convictions, the result of his own personal experience with God.

Look at verses 24-27. He refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. He chose to suffer affliction with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season. He forsook Egypt. These were actions based on Moses’ convictions.

When we enter into training, what we do in the initial stages is largely determined by the person who is helping us. The things that a small child says and believes are basically dependent on what she hears from her parents. It is fun listening to her prayer. Because she does not understand the meanings of the words, she mixes them up, parroting phrases she has heard other people use.

So it is for the new Christian. Often he prays before meals or goes to church not because of his own personal convictions, but because others have suggested this is what he ought to do. This is not necessarily bad. Having come to Christ through the influence of another, it is natural that he continues by doing what others suggest.

There comes by a time, however, when such reasons for doing things are no longer valid. He must eventually arrive at his own convictions. Knowing what to do and how to do is important, and has been given a lot of emphasis in this book. But knowing what to do and how to do it must be superseded by a personal conviction that this is what God wants me to do.

Joe Marine goes through boot camp at Parris Island, South Carolina, or Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. After eight weeks of training, the commanding officer has a general  inspections. If we were to follow the commanding officer, how would we find Joe’s bed? Perfectly made, with the blanket so neat and tight you could bounce a quarter off of it. The locker? Immaculate,  with everything exactly in its place. And the bathroom? So clean you would think it had never been used.

Four years go by and Joe is now a sophomore at the University of California. We visit him in his room. How do we find his bed? As if it had never been made. His locker? A shambles. How about the bathroom? So bad that it reminds you of a restroom in a rundown gas station in the most backward part of the country.

Why the difference? It is not that Joe does not know what to do, or how to do it. Joe’s problem is that he has no conviction that he should continue doing it after leaving the marine corps.

Many Christians have neither/ have neither the convictions  nor the methods needed to disciple others. But if a choice had to be made between conviction and methods, conviction is more important by far. (I say if because I do not believe such a choice is necessary. I call for the choice here only to emphasize the importance of conviction.)

Discover the person who has the conviction without knowing how to disciple others, and you will eventually see that the person find the method. Give a person all the methodology in the world and, if he lacks conviction, eventually  he will stop discipling others, no matter how careful you have been imparting the methods. The person who has methods without conviction is like a bouquet of cut flowers – he is impressive to look at, but he will not last!

Back to the story of Moses in Hebrews 11:

Verse 26:”Considering the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he(Moses) was looking for the reward”(NASB). J.B. Philips renders the last part of this verse, “For he looked steadily at the ultimate, reward.” That is perspective – the ability to see the end from the beginning. We can call it bifolical vision – the ability to see what is directly in front of us in the light of the long range.

The person who has things in perspective in perspective makes his decisions on the immediate in light of the ultimate. Of the two arch stones in training, conviction is one; perspective, the other.

Perspective is seeing it like it is. It has to do with a person’s philosophy of life, what is important to him, his sense of values, the things that motivate him. Jesus said, “Consider the ravens: for they neither sor nor reap; which neither have storehouse nor barn; and God feeds them. How much more are you better than the fowls? And which of you with taking thought can add to his stature one cubit? If you then be not able to do that thing which is least, why take you thought for the rest?  Consider the lilies how they grow: they toil not, they spin not; and yet I say to you, that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.

“If then God so clothe the grass, which is today in the field, and tomorrow is cast into the oven, how much more will He clothe you, O you little faith? And seek not you what you shall eat, or what you shall drink, neither be you of doubtful mind. For all these things do the nations of the world seek after; and your father knows that you have need of these things. But rather seek you the kingdom of God; and all these things shall be added to you.

“Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell what you have, and give alms; provide yourself bags which wax not old, a treasure in the heavens that fails not, where no thief approaches, neither moth corrupts. For where your treasure is, there your heart be also” (Luke 12:24-34).

This is a perfect example of perspective: seeing it like it is, the end from the beginning. Here Jesus is urging us to make present decisions in light of ultimate results.

The only time a person willfully sins is when his perspective goes out of focus. He deceives himself into believing he can sin and get away with it. A man walks into a bank and robs it of $100,000. If he could have visualized himself spending the next 25 years in an 8’ x 12’ “cage” do you think he would have done it? No! He robs the bank because he cannot see the consequence of his act. He lacks perspective. This is the case each time we sin.

Conviction and perspective characterized the life of Moses. They are the two most important aspects of the training process. They are essential ingredients in “The Art of Discipling.” If the aspirant lacks either conviction or perspective, he is not trained.

How do you develop conviction and perspective? How do you build them into your life, and how do you build them into the life of another? The Psalmist says, “Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it; except the Lord keep the city, the watch man wakes but in vain”(Psalm 127:1). Training begins and ends with God. If he is not at work in us “to will and do of His good pleasure,” we labor in vain. God imparts conviction and perspective.

Having said this, however, there are certain guidelines that can help us in exercising our responsibility. I will mention four of them for your consideration and application. These four are by no means exhaustive. You may want to amplify them and add more of your own.

  1. Major in principles rather than methods.

In this, as well as in the other three guidelines, the phrase “rather than” is not meant to connote “either… or.” It is not principle or method, one to the exclusion of the other; it is both principal and method. But in building conviction and perspective, we want major in principle rather than method. It is a matter of emphasis.

In Jesus’ Parable of the Sower (Luke 8), He tells why the seed is sown, what takes place, and when. But he does not mention how to sow seed. The “how” is left up to us. Jesus is dealing with principles, not methods.

The Great Commission is another example. The command is to go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature. Jesus said to begin ate Jerusalem, Samaria, Judea, and then move out into the rest of the world. His life and ministry are an example of how to do it. Mark 3:14 says, “And He ordained twelve, that they should be with Him, and that He might send them forth to preach.” From Jesus’ example, we can see the best way to do the job is to select a few people and invest our time and our very lives in them.

But the actual method, the nitty-gritty of working it out, was left up to the disciples. The Book of Acts is the methodology of how these men sought to obey Christ Great Commission. Most of what they did was the application of principles taught to them by Jesus. We read in Acts 6 that the widows had been neglected. The method the disciples employed to meet the need was the appointing of deacons. The office of the deacon was not something Jesus in His earthly ministry urged them to initiate. It was method used by them to meet a need.

As Christians, we have our methodology. We may have a worship service and Sunday School in the morning and have another service in the evening. Each denomination has its own way of doing things: its order of worship, method of baptism, doctrinal instruction, and Sunday School curriculum. And all of this may be right and good. There is nothing wrong with having methods.

If, However, we follow our methodology because of tradition (“we have always done this way”) rather than because of carefully thought-out principles, we close our minds to new and better ways. Change become a threat. But if biblical principles from the basis for what we do, then we will be eager for new and better ways of doing it.

Let me draw an illustration from the kitchen. My wife has a certain way of washing dishes. First into the suds go the glass, then the silverware, followed by the plates, then the bowls, and finally the pots & the pans. But I had no conviction that should wash dishes that way. One day I began with the pans – she corrected me. While discussing why I should begin with the glasses, she pointed out that the objective in washing is to sterilize them – this was the principle. Therefore, it follows that it is best to wash first those things which have contact with the mouth and last those utensils which have a chance to sterilize themselves.

As a result of this, I always wash the glasses first, then the silverware, and so on. I no longer do it this ways just because my wife is watching. Having understood the principle behind the method, I developed my own conviction. Convictions are built, not by practicing the method, but by understanding the principle.

The would be principles sees things clearly (perspective) and develops convictions by probing into the whys of what is done. And yet, frequently, why is an irritating question, often hard to answer. In training, resist the temptation to gloss over the why. Probe deeply. Ask such questions as “is this the best ways to have a quiet time?” “What are the implications of possible alternatives?” such probing helps builds perspective and conviction.

2. Major in meeting the needs of others rather than in developing and imparting techniques.

    Jesus and His disciples walk down the steps of the temple. Before them is a blind man. His need is obvious. If I had been there with Jesus, I Probably would have whipped out a tract and begun witnessing, only to realize suddenly that the man could not follow what I was doing. He could not see!

    Jesus approach was different. Squatting down beside him, He spat on the ground, made some mud, and rubbed it on the blind man’s eyes. “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam,” was the command, and “He went ..Washed, and came seeing “(John9:7).

    You will notice that the man eventually did find salvation, but Jesus began by meeting his need. Many a Christian views training as sitting in a classroom situation, learning how to master some techniques. He learns how to teach a Sunday school curriculum, how to make a financial presentation to another member of the congregation, or even how to pass out a piece of literature and follow it up with a Gospel presentation. In the last illustration, more often than not the person to whom you “witness” does not respond and so you become discourage and head back for another training session, or possibly you quit altogether. The person does not respond because you are not addressing yourself to the point if his felt need. He has no conviction he should pursue the conversation further and, because you do not see the continuing such a futile exercise.

    While I was ministering to students in Michigan, the Lord gave a great deal of fruit. Christian students living in the dorms with non- Christian friends related well with them. They went to class, meals, football games, and elsewhere together. Relationships were formed that became natural bridges for communicating the Gospel. Every so often we have a pizza party or an “Andrew Dinner” at our house and would have the privilege of seeing a number of people come to Christ.

    Hearing of these and similar successes on other campuses, a Church in Ohio asked a group of us to come down and become involved with them in an evangelistic thrust. They decided to invite their friends to a “neutral” spot and to share a testimony or two before giving a short Gospel presentation. When the time came, many from the congregation showed up, but not one non- Christian. All had invited someone, but no one had responded.

    As we sat together analyzing why this had happened, it soon became apparent that, though many of the people had non- Christian friend. So, when approached, the “acquaintances” were hesitant in accepting.

    How then do you become friends with an unbeliever and discern his needs? Let me offer a suggestions:

    • Be a good Listener. We live in an age when everyone wants to talk and no one wants to listen. When others find out that you are willing to listen, it is amazing how much talking they will do. Often in an accepting atmosphere they will expose their needs and reveal their concerns. Have you ever talked to someone and found that he had turned on his “uh huh”? as you talk, he says, “Uh huh, uh huh, uh huh.” Be a good listener.
    • Share your own needs, weaknesses, experiences. Do not make your friend feel as though he stands alone. The Bible says, “There has no temptation taken you but such as is common to man” (1 Cor. 10:13). Admit this to be true in your own life. By sharing your shortcomings, an accepting atmosphere will be created in which others will feel to share theirs.

    In Amarillo, Texas, a group of men get together each week for prayer and fellowship in somebody’s home. They read a passage of Scripture and discuss it in light of their needs. Believers and unbelievers come together as friends sharing common concerns. The Christians make sure to avoid the impression of “we” and “they”. Instead they talk about “our” problems, “our” struggles, “our” sins. Then together they pray over them. As a result, men are consistently coming to know Christ as Saviour.

    • Spend time together. Invite your friends over for dinner. Join them at their parties. Go fishing together. As relationships are built, barriers come down. A true friendship means mutual acceptance of one another. If I accept him the way he is, a freedom will exist between us that will allow the sharing of mutual needs and concerns.

    As these needs are exposed, it will become very natural to talk about how Christ shares your life. These are just three possibilities, and a flood of other ideas may have already come to your mind.

    Meeting needs is how conviction and perspective come, both to the trainer and the trainee. As you and your non- Christian life, you will be amazed how issues will come into focus for you, and doctrines that were once theological jargon will become deep- seated convictions.

    3.  Major in developing the thought processes rather than the skills

      Jesus Christ is far more interested in what we are than what we do. ‘It is for you to be; it is for God to do,” provides a simple but wise piece of advice. The savior wants to reprogram our computer; to change our whole thought process. What was His one complaint with the Pharisees? That they did not know how to evangelize? Jesus Himself said they would cross the sea to proselyte one individual. That they did not know the Word of God? They studied it regularly. They tithed their income, prayed, and fasted regularly. From all outward appearances, they were good men.

      Proverbs 23:7 says,” As the thinks in his heart, so is he.”This is where Jesus found fault with them. It had to do with their philosophy of life, the way they thought. Their problem was seen in their attitude, their sense of values, their whole outlook on life.

      A partial list of concepts that indicate an inner change includes: not feeling the need to shape your own destiny because you trust God’s sovereign control over your life; being a servant; submitting to the authority of others; looking after the interests of others at the expense of your own. You may want to make your own list of concepts you feel are essentials for the disciple of Jesus Christ.

      Often such changes in the thinking process come slowly and subtly. Not until we have a point of comparison do they become evident. A friend of mine, training in the Christian life in California, said it was not until he went home months later and begun interacting with old friends that he realized how great the changes in his life were.

      Many people think of training as the imparting of ideas or skills which takes place in the classroom through a pupil-teacher relationship. What we are talking about here has to do with the imparting of character-the changing of a person’s sense of values.

      The world says, “Get all you can, can all you get, and poison the rest.

      God says, “Give without any thought of getting.”The world says, “Shop for a mate.”

      God says, “Trust me to provide you a spouse in My time.”

      The world says, “Climb the ladder of success, even if it means stepping on others in the process.”

      God says, “Do not look after your own interest, but the interest of others.”

      These kinds of changes in a person’s life are of great importance to God, more so than the acquiring of skills such as a particular Bible-study technique. Major in bringing the philosophy of life into conformity with the Bible, and the convictions and perspective will naturally follow.

      4.  Major in how to trust God rather than teaching theories about God.

        Earlier in this chapter, we talked briefly about the Parable of the devil “takes away the Word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved.”The second response to the Word is faith without conviction.  “They on the rock are they,  which,  when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, which for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away” (v.13). Such people give people give mental assent to the Word, but when times of testing and sacrifice come, they “abandon ship.” They lack the conviction that Christianity is worthy of the cost.

        The third response is seen in verse 14. “And that which fell among thorns are they, which, when they have heard, go forth, and are choked with cares and riches and pleasure of this life, and bring no fruit to perfection.” This is faith without perspective. After receiving the Word, such people confuse their priorities. What was once important in life goes out of focus, and they give their lives to insignificance. Mediocrity is the by-product of a lack of perspective.

        Verse 15 gives us a final response to God’s Word. “But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the Word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience.” Such people take God at His Word and act accordingly. This fourth illustration is the only proper response to God’s Word—reproductive faith.

        So, the issue of the parable is: no faith, faith without conviction, faith without perspective, and reproductive faith. After this brief  lecture on faith, Jesus moves out into real-life situations, giving the disciple an opportunity to see what it means  to walk by faith. The rest of Luke 8 can be divided as follows:

        Verses 22-25—Crossing the stormy sea

        Verses 26-39—Maniac in the Land of the Gadarenes

        Verses 40-56—Raising of Jairus’ daughter

        Verses 43-48—Healing of Woman with an issue of Blood

        In all of these life situations, Jesus is trying to communicate the importance of faith. The pattern in each of the stories is basically the same:

        (1)    A need arises

        (2)    Jesus intervenes and promises to meet that need.

        (3)    No sooner is the promise made than seeming disaster strikes.

        (4)    Jesus responds by urging the person to trust Him: “Only believe.” / “Have faith.”

        The daughter of Jairus is sick. Jesus promises to meet the need. The daughter dies. Jesus says, “ Fear not: believe only, and she shall be made whole” (v.50). Jesus was not interested in people mastering the different theories on the attributes of God. He wanted people to learn to trust God.

        Who do you imagine knew the most about God? Abraham in the old testament or a modern-day theologian? Let me suggest it would be the theologian of today. Abraham could not have told you about the two advents of Christ; nor could he have explained the differences between the pre-, post-, and amillennial positions; nor the dual nature of Christ; nor the Virgin Birth; nor a dozen other pints of theology.

        But Abraham knew God! He has a singular place in Scripture as a man who pleased God. In the New Testament alone, he is mentioned 74 times. “Abraham believed God and it was accounted to Him for righteousness” (Gal.3:6). God was so pleased with this man that Hebrews 11:16 says, “God is not ashamed to be called [his] God.”

        It is one thing for you to be known by God. It is entirely different for God to known by you. The Creator God of heaven and earth says, “I am the God of Abraham.” Fantastic! The Creator is known by the creature. “If you want to know what I am like,” says God, “take a look at Abraham.” Can the living God can be known by you? Can God say, “If you want to know what I am like, just look at the life of the person reading this book”?

        We have said that in training disciples you should:

        1. Major in principles rather than methods.
        2. Major in meeting the needs of people rather than on developing and imparting techniques.
        3. Major in developing the thought processes rather than the skills.
        4. Major in how to trust God rather than teaching theories about God.

        By now, you may realize that these four suggestions are simply four facets of the same truth, like the facets of a diamond. The gem we are looking at is conviction and perspective.

        Somebody once said 90 percent of the Christian life is survival. This may or may not be. But if survival is your objective in the Christian life, you will fail. You are like a boxer who enters the ring knowing only how to defend himself. He cannot possibly win. He needs a good attack as well.

        For the Christian, an attack is another word for a plan or objective. An aggressive attack in your walk with God requires conviction and perspective, and these are hard to come by. Training is hard. But remember, training means growing, and growing means stretching. Growing never has been and never will be a pleasant experience. This is why babies cry. A child learning how to walk falls down and hurts himself often. You say to him, “Get up and try again.”

        Does he say, “No, I have it several times, and it does not work. I think I will just lie here for the rest of my life”? No, he has to get up and try it again. My son fell so many times we called him “Scar Face.”

        Growing is so painful, a process that the first chance we get, we want to stop. But there are certain pressures that keep the young person growing. Physical growth itself is one. My daughter once said to me, “Dad, I have done all the growing I want. I like my age and size; I think I will stop here.” The trouble was, she could not stop growing just because she wanted to. Biologically she was forced to grow. The state laws also force us to grow. A child may want to quit school in the fifth grade. But the law says he cannot. And finally, there is the pressure of a society which expects a person to be able to care for himself—he is expected to learn a trade or profession.

        By the time a person is in his mid-20’s, these pressures ease a bit. We have probably done all the physical growing we will do. Our education is behind us, and we have learned how to make a living. So great is the temptation to stop growing that, when we graduate from high school or college, they call it “commencement.” Anything to encourage us to keep growing. But our desire to escape the pain of growth is, in most instances, too great an obstacle to overcome. We begin to coast for the rest of our lives on past experience. Having begun well, we drift into mediocrity.

        Perspective and conviction (the ability to see the end from the beginning, and a deep-seated belief regarding what is on the heart of God) are the only things I know that will check this natural inclination.

        John W. Gardner in his book, Excellence, says, “We fall into the error of thinking that happiness necessarily involves ease, diversion, tranquility—a state in which all of one’s wishes are satisfied. For most people, happiness is not to be found in this vegetative state but in striving toward meaningful goals. The dedicated person has not achieved all of his goals. His life is the endless pursuit of goals, some of them attainable.  He may never have time to surround himself with luxuries. He may often be tense, worried, fatigued. He has little of the leisure one associates with the storybook conception of happiness. But he has found a more meaningful happiness. The truth is that happiness in the sense of total gratification is not a state to which man can aspire. It is for cows, possibly for the birds, but not for us” (Harper & Row).

        The arch stones of training to be Christ’s disciples are conviction and perspective. They make the difference between the” finisher” and the “also ran.” It was not easy for Moses, and it will not be for you. Moses spent the first 40 years were spent on the backside of the desert squeezing sand between his toes as he took care of another man’s sheep. The last 40 years were spent wandering in the wilderness suffering with his own generation. After such a brilliant start, what a seemingly miserable end. Everything in him must have wanted to quit. But he did not give in. He hung in there and became a finisher. As a result, the whole world about Moses. Every Arab, Jew, and Christian knows about Moses. Every educated person in the world knows about a great lawgiver.

        Moses’ life of seeming frustration and failure was in reality a success. Why did he finish so well? It was because he had conviction and perspective.