disciple (Greek)
a learner (from a root math, indicating thought accompanied by endeavor or discipline); In contrast to didaskalos, a teacher; hence it denotes one who follows or conforms to another’s teaching.
disciple (Greek)
  1. a learner i.e. pupil;
  2. one who follows another’s teaching;
  3. more than a pupil, also an adherent to the teaching and life of the teacher, hence spoken of as imitators.

Our study of discipleship, as it relates to the local church, is twofold:

Matthew 28:19-20 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you, amen.

It is extremely difficult for a Believer to become an informed and maturing disciple without the aid of a dedicated Body of Believers assisting in the process of making that person a disciple. It is absolutely impossible for a Body of Believers to make a disciple of a Believer, unless that Believer wants to be a disciple, and is willing to pay the cost of discipleship.

The term make disciples in Matthew 28:19-20 is a good translation from the Greek. However, English is not a good language conduit for the thought of the Greek in this case. In the Greek, this is simply a statement of the discipling process, or of maturing a person to think and act in the manner appropriate to the avocation or calling of being a disciple of Christ. To make disciples in no way indicates that the church is to force a person into a certain process or mold. However, the Bible does teach that if a Believer does not want to, or is not interested in becoming a disciple, that Believer is a detriment to the local body, and should move on.

2 Peter 2:19-21 While they promise them liberty, they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by whom a person is overcome, by him also he is brought into bondage. 20 For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning. 21 For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them.

1 John 2:19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us.

The church body is to provide the necessary information, and opportunity for the Believer to develop and grow in discipleship.

Ephesians 4:11-16 And He (God) Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying (teaching, discipling, building-up) of the body of Christ, 13 till we all come to the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; 14 that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness by which they lie in wait to deceive, 15 but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head--Christ-- 16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.

God gave to the church gifted men for the purpose of equipping the saints for work of the ministry, and for the edifying of the Body, so that all Believers, including the gifted men, may grow-up in Christ. By so doing, the Body continues to edify itself and grow spiritually. This passage is a good description of the discipling process.

Even though God has given to the church those needed to bring about the discipling process, the individual Believer must be willing to be discipled. If the Believer is not willing to enter into, and continue in the process of discipleship, that Believer will remain an immature child of God, battered around by the practices and philosophies of the world. In that condition, the immature Believer slows down, or even stops the maturing process of the entire local Body of Believers.

Please note, in this passage as in most passages on discipleship, the disciple is to do something:

It is interesting to see that in the many lists of things that a Believer is to do in the process of becoming holy in his conduct, this matter of honesty or truthfulness finds a prominent place in those Biblical listings. I wonder if the Holy Spirit knows something that many Believers try to hide, that of being less that truthful in conduct, word and attitude, etc.

During a study of personal holiness and Biblical discipleship, many uncomfortable facts come to the surface, and some of those facts make a few Believers down right mad. If that is the case, then we can understand why the Scriptures say that discipline is not a fun walk in the park.

Hebrews 12:11 Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but grievous; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
Luke 14:26-33 If anyone comes to Me and does not hate (have less love for) his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. 27"And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. 28 For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it-- 29 lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all who see it begin to mock him, 30 "saying, 'This man began to build and was not able to finish.' 31 Or what king, going to make war against another king, does not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32 Or else, while the other is still a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks conditions of peace. 33 So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple.
Discipleship will cost 
Discipleship is not easy
Discipleship will require change
Discipleship will demand holiness in your conduct
Discipleship is being like Christ in your attitude and actions
John 6:60, 66 Therefore many of His disciples, when they heard this, said, "This is a hard saying"...66 From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more.

Two of the most important questions you will answer in regards to discipleship are...

disciple (Greek)
  1. a learner i.e. pupil;
  2. one who follows another’s teaching;
  3. more than a pupil, also an adherent to the teaching and life of the teacher, hence spoken of as imitators.
1 Peter 1:13-16 Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; 14 as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; 15 but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 because it is written, "Be holy, for I am holy."

In the third stage of discipleship we are to be imitators of Christ. If we are to imitate Christ, we must be holy in our conduct just as He is holy.

The answers to these two questions will determine what method you choose in your quest for holiness of conduct.

False Religions

In the last lesson, I introduced four religious systems. These religious systems or religious formats are manmade as a substitute for God’s method of holiness or discipleship.

The essence of one of these four makes up the heart of every religion in the world. Most religions are a combination of some or all of these four basic religions. Keep in mind that religion is man’s system of beliefs and actions intended to please or appease God through human merit. In religion, humans, through their own effort, attempt to do things or sacrifice in a such manner as to please God and win His acceptance, or they have concluded that God does not require anything of mankind, therefore they live as they please.

Let’s review these four basic manmade religion formats.


Legalism sets forth a list of things, sometimes Biblical things, and supposedly by the doing of those things, a person gains holiness. Legalism is a form or religious order of principles and practices that bring and keep one in conformity to the list of actions that has been declared to produce a state of spirituality and holiness in the one keeping that list.


The practice of license is the opposite of legalism. The religion of License says that mankind is incapable of doing anything of a righteous nature. Plus, God’s grace has provided all that is needed to be accepted of God. Therefore, they are free to live as they see fit, because in Christ they have freedom. It is antithesis of the religion of atheism, however the end results are very similar. The atheists do as they see fit, because they say there is no God, so it doesn’t make any difference how they live, anyway.

There is an element of truth in the premise for the religion of License. Mankind cannot produce any righteousness through human effort, and God has provided everything needed to be accepted by God. However, those living by License ignore a great volume of Scripture. As Believers, we have been accepted by God, totally on the basis of the provision of God’s Son, Jesus Christ. Because of those facts, there are some things God has ask the Believer to do, and some things God has ask the Believer not to do. God does not command the doing or not doing of these things in order for the Believer to gain holiness, but through obedience, these things makes it possible for the Holy Spirit to demonstrate God’s holiness through the conduct of the Believer. Therefore, Scripture warns over and over again and in many ways not to use this freedom in Christ as a license or cloak to do evil.

1 Peter 2:15-16 For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men-- 16 as free, yet not using your liberty as a cloak for vice, but as servants of God.


There are many who claim we cannot take the Word of God literally. The Liberalist says that God never intended to give us instructions for living. Instead, the Bible was given so that we can see the love and acceptance of God for all people and all religions. The Bible, they say, is a collection of writings by people who expressed how they saw God through their circumstances. In a sense, they say, we are continuing to write the Bible by our expression of how we see God through our circumstances.

Liberalists go on to say that God never intended to restrict the actions of mankind today by some 4,000 year old code, or the 2,000 year old writings of primitive men. Instead, a God of love wants His creation to explore all activities as long as they do not bring harm to, or discredit other humans. Therefore, no action is wrong! There are only wrong circumstances in which to perform those actions. Many main line denominations have fallen into this pattern. From this basic format springs most of the New Age and Cults.


Webster’s definition expresses this religion quite well.

asceticism (Webster)
The doctrine that through the renunciation of the desires of the flesh and the pleasure in worldly things, and through self-mortification or self-denial one can subdue his appetites and discipline himself so as to reach a high spiritual or intellectual state.

The true ascetic tries to separate himself from all the pleasures of the world, and to suppress any feeling of pleasure derived from personal experience. When it is impossible to totally separate themselves from the world and the flesh, the Acsetics attempt to punish or mortify themselves so they have no pleasure in that which they must be involved. Once they have attained the status of doing very little, and what they have to do, they do not enjoy, then they feel that God will accept their sacrifice as sufficient. This devastating spiritual cancer has even invaded may good Bible believing churches.

I’m sure as you examine any religion, you will see that none contain a pure form of any one of these four basic religious formats. Most religions contain some, or all these manmade religion formats in one combination or another.

Religion is mankind trying, by their own merit and effort, 
to please or appease God. 
Christianity is a relationship with the Son of God 
in which we are transformed more and more 
into the image of the Son of God. 

Every religion has certain physical expressions or rituals by which their concept of God is demonstrated.

The Legalists express their concept of God by what is contained in their list of don'ts. Not a very high concept of God when God is equated to things we should not do.

The Licenseists express their concept of God by what they allow themselves to do. Not a very high concept of God when God is equated to questionable human practices.

The Liberalists express their concept of God by accepting any human practice from the fertility dance of the heathen to striptease dance of the cultured. Not a very high concept of God when God is equated to any vulgar human practice.

The Ascetics express their concept of God by rejecting all that God has created. Not a very high concept of God when God’s handy work is equated as indecent.

The Bible says that the Christians should express their concept of God by allowing the holiness of God to be demonstrated through their conduct by means of the Holy Spirit through the Fruit of the Spirit.

The religions of humanity are centered around what I can do, and what I can get. Christianity is centered in what God has done, what God is doing and what God wants to do through the Believer, and what the Believer can do or give as a result of God’s provision.

Let me illustrate. Most believers come to church to receive or get something such as inspiration, a blessing, teaching, etc. There is nothing wrong with that in itself, as long as we don’t allow our worship to stop with this give me and give me some more. Our worship is to be a response in both our attitudes and actions. In worship and in life, the Believer is to respond in an appropriate manner to that which we have received from God through His Word, His teachers, the Holy Spirit, etc. There are many passages that speak to this type of worship in one form or another. It is not our purpose to study this subject in this lesson, but it is needful to establish the fact of the proper Biblical response to God in our worship. Let’s look at a couple of passages that clearly present this truth.

1 John 4:19 We love Him because He first loved us.
In the spiritual activity of the Believer’s life, 
every attitude and action is to be a response to God for what He has done,
and a reflection of God as to Who He is.

Keep that truth in mind as you read and study the Bible, and you will see it brought out over and over again. If our actions and attitudes are not a response to God and/or a reflection of God, that leaves only three other sources that can produce the motive for our actions and attitudes:

Strange, now that you think about it, that’s exactly what the Bible told us isn’t it?

Our public worship and the Church services should contain the opportunity of

Too often we come to church only to get. To get what we want, and we take, and we take, and we take only what we want. Somehow in fundamental circles, someone started the idea that responding appropriately to God for Who He is and what He has done is non-essential, and even a little bit wrong. To a great extent, Biblical teaching is what the Believer gets from God through the church. Giving and service can and often are performed by the Believer as a response to what God has done, and as a reflection of who God is. However, far too often, those things are a reflection of guilt, pressure, ego, bargaining with God, etc. Please keep in mind, service and giving are performed by many Believers as a response to and reflection of God, but not always and not by all.

Psalms 54:6 I will freely sacrifice to You; I will praise Your name, O Lord, for it is good

The sacrifice of praise is a service to God that is sadly neglected. Praise and adoration is one of most valuable responses to and reflections of God there is. Yet, it is largely ignored my many Christians. Adoration and praise to and for God can be of the flesh, just as any other human activity. However, true praise and adoration of God, without selfish motives, is one of the purest responses to, and reflections of God.

If we had the time, we could take a study of Angels, and see this fact very clearly. For right now, I want to refresh to your minds to the fact that one of the major duties of angels is that of adoration and praise of God. Adoration of and praise to God is a high and holy spiritual practice.

Yes, this has a great deal to do with our subject at hand, that of being holy in our conduct. As a matter of fact, all of this, up to this point, has been introduction to our lesson. We won’t even get the introduction finished this morning. Before we can understand how to be holy in our conduct, we must realize that any activity of a Believer that is not a response to God and a reflection of God, is not holy. Any action or attitude that is not a reflection of God or response to what God had done and Who God is, is carnal at best. One response to and reflection of God is praise and adoration, and it is needed in the life of every Believer.

Jeremiah 33:11 and of those who will bring the sacrifice of praise into the house of the Lord. For I will cause the captives of the land to return as at the first, says the Lord.

We aren’t going to study the context of this passage except to see that God has been talking about the return of the Jews from captivity, and the glories of His coming kingdom. Instead of telling them to bring burnt sacrifices, meat offering, etc., which only the priest could offer, God told the people to bring the sacrifice of praise. This was a sacrifice that all the people could offer to God.

We, as New Testament Believers, are not under the Law of sacrifices and holy days, but we are still enjoined to bring sacrifices to God. One of those sacrifices is praise.

Hebrews 13:12-16 Therefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people with His own blood, suffered outside the gate. 13 Therefore let us go forth to Him, outside the camp, bearing His reproach. 14 For here we have no continuing city, but we seek the one to come. 15 Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name. 16 But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.

In this passage alone, there are several sacrifices mentioned that the Believer is to bring to God. All of those sacrifices involve the Believer doing something. However, this doing is a response to or a reflection of God. The doing is not from the source or the power of human good or human energy. One of those sacrifices is the sacrifice of praise, the fruit of our lips in giving thanks to God.

When was the last time you spent a hour just praising God and thanking Him? It wouldn’t take most of us very long to count the minutes we’ve spent in praise to God during the last year, to say nothing of praising Him continually. Some of you had the opportunity to praise and adore God for an hour and a half last Sunday night. Those participating received a great blessing and a needed realignment of attitude.

There are a few things the Believer is to do continually. One mentioned here is to praise God continually. In another passage, we are told to pray without ceasing. Those factors will need to be examined as we see how to be holy in our conduct. If we are to do some things continually, then I believe that will have a profound effect on our conduct. Wouldn’t you agree? These things have a great deal to do with the understanding of why God put His great treasure of the light of His glory in earthen vessels.

I know some of you are wondering when we’re going to get back to our two friends here on the front table, the Lamp and the Earthen Vessel. Don’t despair! This all has a great deal to do with lamps and earthen vessels, both of which are Biblical illustrations of the Believer’s life.

2 Corinthians 4:6-7 For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. 7 But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us.

In closing, let’s add a few more facts concerning these two illustrations of a Believer. In order to bring human understanding to spiritual things, God often uses physical illustrations. Sometimes, God uses more than one illustration for the same spiritual truth. When we have more than one Biblical illustration, we must reconcile and harmonize the facts of those illustrations. God realized that one illustration, by itself, could not give the total picture. We must understand that not every aspect of the physical illustration will be pertinent to the truth being taught.

Last lesson, we saw that God puts His light in earthen vessels (illustration of a Believer). The light of God is that which is used to illuminate the hearts and minds of a non-believers before they accept Christ as Savior. As we can see from our earthen vessel on the front table, light put inside that vessel will not, nor cannot shine through it. The earthen vessels is an illustration of the Believer. We have God’s light inside of us, but there seems to be no way for that light to shine through us to those who need it.

We will be back to this problem in the next few lessons, but for now, we want to turn our attention to the other illustration of Believers as they dispense the light of God to those in the world. The lamp is the other illustration. Our lamp is not constructed in exactly the same manner as the lamps of the Bible, but the function and properties of both are close enough for us to follow the illustration.

All the physical structure of the lamp represents the life and body of a Believer. The Believer is to be a light to the world, primarily through his manner of life and conduct. However, no matter how well the lamp is constructed or the quality of its materials, the lamp has no ability, of its self, to give light. There can be no light given by the lamp without oil.

That is not without significance. In the Bible, the Holy Spirit is symbolized by oil. When we accepted Christ as our Savior, the Holy Spirit was placed in our lives. Now the Believer has within his life what is needed to produce light.

However, the oil itself cannot produce beneficial light. If you were to burn just the oil inside the lamp, it would burn for a while, but would soon put itself out because of the lack of air. Plus, during the short time the oil did burn, it would put off more smoke than light, and the smoke would cloud the glass chimney to such an extent that nothing could be seen through it.

However, when the oil completely saturates the wick of the lamp, illustration of the soul, or the Believer is filled with the Spirit, then the light of the glorious Gospel can shine forth. The light is not the result of the merit or value of the lamp. The light comes only from the oil, the Holy Spirit. However, the light of the oil can only shine forth as the lamp is clean, and the wick is trimmed. So, likewise with the Believer.

Ephesians 5:6-9 Let no one deceive you with empty words (saying it’s OK to do the things of the world), for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. 7 Therefore do not be partakers with them. 8 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.

Walk as children of light 9 (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth)

Wow, what a passage! This passage, in a few short verses, said what I’ve been saying for the past three lessons. You see, if you would read your Bible more, you could listen to me less. There is great profit in reading and understanding the Bible, even more than not having to listen to me. We’ll be back to this passage later in our study, but look at just a few things so you can take them with you.

As a non-believer we were once darkness, not just in darkness, but we were darkness, itself. Darkness was a part of our very being. We were one with darkness. But now, as a Believer, we are light, not just in the light, but we are totally associated with the light, and are part of the light, itself.

Light is a part of our very being, because we are in Christ, and the Holy Spirit is in us. Now that we have light in us, we are to walk like children of light, so that others can see the light through the Fruit of the Spirit in our conduct or walk. We need to keep our wick trimmed, and our chimney clean!

Philippians 2:14-16 Do all things without murmuring and disputing, 15 that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, 16 holding fast the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain.
© Clyde White, Austin TX, 1998