Spirit of Grace Ministries
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Spirit of Grace Ministries
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Students of Jesus

African students

by Dennis Pollock

In the last chapter of the Book of Matthew we find Jesus’ final words and His great charge to His disciples. We call this passage “The Great Commission,” and rightly so. Jesus gives us our marching orders, and shares His heart with us, as to what He wants of us as we live out our lives through faith in Him. In this devotional study we are going to look at a single phrase within this commission. It is the command to make disciples of all the nations.

Sometimes we evangelicals put such a premium on an instantaneous conversion that we forget or neglect the fact that one’s conversion if it is true and genuine, must result in that individual becoming a disciple of Jesus. A disciple is simply a learner, or to put it in another way, a student. Jesus tells us to go and make students everywhere. Any conversion that does not result in one becoming a student of Jesus Christ is no conversion at all.

Unless he has been taught well by his mother, when a child goes to kindergarten on his first day, he knows very little about math, English literature, science, or geography. If he were to maintain his current state of ignorance over the next twenty years, he would have a difficult time finding even the most menial work or participating positively in society. But of course he doesn’t maintain that level of ignorance. From day one of his schooling he begins to learn. At first his lessons are pretty simple: he learns the names of the colors and is taught how to count to ten.

As the years roll by his education becomes increasingly more complex. Soon he is reading simple sentences, then simple short books, and by high school he must read long novels and complicated textbooks. His mind is filled with historical events and grammatical concepts. Having begun by learning to count to ten, he is now solving difficult algebraic equations and working out complex geometry proofs. What has happened to that little kindergarten boy with the slicked down hair who came to school knowing almost nothing? He has grown up, and while he grew he has been through a thorough process of learning. For all his growing-up years, the word that might describe him best is “student.” He has been learning much, in preparation for that time when he will strike out on his own and take his place in society.

Spiritual Students

There are several parallels between this natural education and the spiritual education which Jesus has for all who call on His name. We are called not to go and make “converts” or go and make holy men and women; we are told to go and make students – disciples of Jesus.

Students must have a curriculum. They must have subjects to study. If you discovered that your child’s teacher had no particular subjects in mind to teach her students, that she simply planned to show up each day at school and share whatever pops into her head, you would do everything you could to pull your child out of that class and enroll him into a class with a teacher who had definite objectives, and subjects to teach.

Jesus’ primary subject is Himself! He tells us: “…teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you.” In Jesus University our number one objective is to learn of Jesus: His commands, His ways, His nature, who He is, what He says, what He did while on earth, His miracles and healings, His rebukes, His words of encouragement, His death for our sins and resurrection, His teachings about the Heavenly Father and the Holy Spirit. We must allow our minds and hearts to become thoroughly immersed in Jesus Christ, until we begin to talk like Him, think like Him, love like Him, and hate sin just as He did. When I was young I had textbooks which taught me about science and history and geography and English and math, but in Christ my one textbook is the Bible and my major subject is Jesus Christ.

Students naturally need teachers, and in spiritual things we need a teacher as well. Our Teacher is Jesus. He told His disciples, “And do not be called teachers; for One is your Teacher, the Christ” (Matthew 23:10). So we find that Jesus is both our subject and He is our Teacher. Sounds like it’s all about Jesus!  When He says, “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me” this was not just poetic language. This is at the heart of what it means to follow Jesus. We become His students, and He becomes our Teacher and our curriculum.

International School

Jesus has a great big classroom. He tells us to go into all the world and make students. He wants a school filled with Africans, Asians, Hispanics, Whites, and every other people group that makes up our world. In America’s past we have had white schools and black schools, and never would the two meet. Finally, in the sixties that began to change, but it took court orders, Supreme Court decisions, and National Guardsmen to make it happen. However, Principal/Teacher Jesus has never had a whites-only or a blacks-only or a female-only or a male-only school. His center for divine education has always been on a “whosoever will” basis. All are welcome and none who want to attend and fulfill the entrance requirements are excluded.

But make no mistake about it, there are entrance requirements. For all who desire to learn at the feet of the Master must prequalify by demonstrating two evidences of grace in their hearts: repentance and faith. Repentance involves a change of heart and mind which creates a strong desire to turn from a sinful and selfish lifestyle. Jesus is so big on repentance that He does not merely suggest we tell prospective students about it; He commands us to declare it, saying, “Repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations” (Luke 24:47).

But repentance, as important and necessary as it is, is merely preparing the way. The real transformation from dropout to student happens when we believe. What must we believe? It is not merely a set of doctrines or a list of theological truths. We must believe on Jesus Christ. Paul told the Philippian jailer, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31). We believe Jesus died on the cross for our sins, we believe that He rose from the dead the third day, and we believe in Him! This belief is a belief of the heart and not merely of the mind. It is a living, powerful, dynamic, life-changing faith that forcefully pulls us out of our spiritual numbness and lethargy and creates in us a passionate, all-consuming desire to do the will of God and present ourselves to Jesus that He might make of us whatever He wants. And when repentance and this kind of faith are present, we are fully equipped and qualified to enter Jesus University, where we will learn of Him and learn from Him.

College Recruiters

As we present Jesus Christ to those who do not know Him, this must be our mentality. We are not aiming merely to get people to say a quick prayer, or have a quick baptism, or to quickly join a church. Salvation may indeed be quick – it can happen in an instant. But the moment of salvation is the first step in a lengthy process, in fact it is so lengthy that it goes on all our lives. We are out to transform dropouts into students of Jesus Christ. We are sort of like college recruiters, eagerly attempting to convince men and women that they really, really need to enroll in the school which we represent – Jesus University. And we must let them know that what Jesus wants from them is a lifetime commitment to learning of Him and from Him, obedience to His commands, growing in our knowledge of His ways, and diligently studying His word.

Every earthly school provides students with an anticipated date of graduation. Most high school students graduate in their eighteenth year. Most college bachelor programs take four to five years to complete. But the school of Jesus is for a lifetime. Graduation only occurs when we draw our last breath. Until then, whether we are eighteen or eighty we are required to keep on learning, keep on studying, keep on reading, keep on praying, and keep on actively participating in Jesus’ discipleship program.

The Bible tells us that Jesus chose those original twelve men “that they might be with Him and that He might send them out to preach” (Mark 3:14). The first part seems kind of easy – just hang out with Jesus, just spend time watching, observing, and learning by association. Still, these men did what few men would have done. They put aside all their other interests and paid the price to follow Jesus wherever He went. They had no clue where all this would lead or how it would affect them the rest of their days. They misunderstood a lot of what He had to say. Still, to their credit, they followed, they did what was asked of them. They spent time with Jesus.

Eventually He initiated the second part of their education – student teaching. He sent them out to preach. They were not trained speakers. They had no earthly diploma. Most were simple fishermen and peasants from the despised area of Galilee, men who spoke with such a “hillbilly” accent that it was easy to instantly recognize the area of their upbringing, even as the Jerusalem crowd did with Peter, saying, “Surely you also are one of them, for your speech betrays you” (Matthew 26:73).

Time with Jesus

But although uneducated in earthly schools these men were highly educated in the one school that really mattered, the school whose Teacher and Curriculum was Jesus. Later, when Peter and John were preaching the gospel, healing the sick, and turning Jerusalem on its ear, the Bible tells us:

Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled. And they realized that they had been with Jesus (Acts 4:13).

We cannot walk with Jesus the way those first disciples did. He is no longer present on earth in the flesh. But we can walk with Him, and we must walk with Him. We do this today by reading the gospels. I love the thought that when I read through Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John, I have just walked with Jesus from birth to death to resurrection to ascension. Yes, I know that I am getting His life in an abbreviated form. But when I read the gospels I am reading the precise teachings, the miracles, the commands, the promises, and the comforts which the Holy Spirit has deemed necessary for men and women. And in those four gospels we have a complete package; we have all of Jesus that we need to know. The Holy Spirit, who inspired the thoughts, words, and passages, included precisely what needed to be told. He made no mistakes.

Immersed in Jesus

Usually one day of the week, I spend several hours reading in one of the four gospels. It’s not that I always gain some new, special revelation unlike anything I’ve seen before (although sometimes that can happen). But usually I am simply reading stories and teachings and events which I know almost by heart, things I have been reading for the last forty-five years again and again.

Why do I do this? Because I am convinced that it is faith in Jesus that makes me an overcomer, faith in Jesus which brings the grace of God in my life and my ministry and my family and everything else connected with me. And the more I immerse myself in Jesus, the more my faith grows, and the more I learn to think the way He does and embrace His values and perspectives as my own. It doesn’t happen overnight; it doesn’t happen with one reading. But like a white shirt dipped for days (or decades) in a rich, dark, blue die, the shirt, by reason of its long exposure to the die, begins to take on a deeper and deeper hue. And the longer it stays in the die, the richer the color becomes.

You who desire to take on the beautiful “color” of God, immerse yourself in Jesus. Become His lifetime student. Fellowship with Him, focus on Him, read about Him, and constantly acknowledge Him in your life as Savior, Keeper, Filler, True Vine, Defender, Wisdom, Righteousness, and more. He is our life. And we are His students.

 

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