In Jesus’ ‘Great Commission’ he instructed his followers to go into all the world and make disciples. Their disciple-making activity was to be comprised to two main activities: baptizing (conversion through evangelism) and teaching those converted to “observe all that I have commanded you.” Both works are needed to fulfill the Great Commission.
What is a disciple? More than just a ‘learner’ or ‘student’, a disciple is one who increasingly conforms their life to the person and pattern of Jesus. Discipleship is not just a passive receiving of teaching but also an active life of obedience to Jesus’ commands.
In Matthew’s gospel, he includes five great discourses or blocks of teaching from Jesus that help us summarize ‘all that he commanded’. The first great discourse is in Matthew 5-7 and it’s come to be known as The Sermon On The Mount. It’s a sermon about the nature of and need for true righteousness.
The growing disciple understands the standard of righteousness. That standard is the Law of God contained in the Old Testament. Part of Jesus’ fulfillment of the Law is in the fact that he, himself, lived according to it, affirming its value and validity. He never sought to abolish the Law though many accused him of doing just that.
The growing disciple also understands the power of righteousness. In legalistic religion, righteousness is sought from the ‘outside-in’; we’re made righteous by observing rules. The Apostle Paul, however, teaches us that rules (the Law) is unable to make us righteous, not because there is a problem with it but because our flesh is weak. The failure is with us. For Jesus, true righteousness works from the ‘inside-out’. A regenerated heart results in faith with leads to a transformation of the mind and will which then results in righteous attitudes, actions, and relations. All of this is helped by the Holy Spirit. So, the power of true righteousness is God’s power in us.
Finally, the growing disciple understands the source of righteousness. No human being was able to keep the Law perfectly except for Jesus. The good news for us is that, by faith, God counts Jesus’ righteousness as our righteousness. The source of the perfect righteousness needed for salvation is God’s gracious gift to us. This is the place where discipleship begins.