Beware the con game!

None of us likes to be conned. There’s nothing more irritating than realizing that a salesperson tricked us into a purchase. Deception leaves an empty feeling in our hearts. How does this happen in disciple-making?

We can trick ourselves into thinking that life change has happened because we’ve learned something new. It’s easy to scurry from one Bible study to another, priding ourselves on the new information we’ve collected. Along the way, no one pressed us to reflect and obey. The New Testament writer James knew about this con game:

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves . . . . But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing (James 1:22,25).

Hearing and knowing without doing is deception, a con game. James writes that maturity is gained through obedience not information. We deceive ourselves and others if we think change happens without life application. Disciple-makers travel a different route — we encourage people to reflect and apply what they are learning.

Jesus taught that obedience was the essence of discipleship (John 14:21,23). A practical tool to encourage obedience is a personal application of the Scriptures. Alongsiders help people practically apply what they read in the Bible. Author Jan Johnson writes that we should “train ourselves never to walk away from Scripture without responding.” Application is a practical response to what the Holy Spirit is showing us in His word.

To be a disciple-maker, and not a con artist, I intentionally encourage practical application. Here are some simple tools I use.

1. Focus on one thought. When I leave my time with God in His word, I try to capture one main thought. A question I ask in disciplining others is, “What is one take-away truth from your time in the word?”

2. Employ the imagination. I ask people to picture their lives in the next twenty-four hours. “What difference would this passage make in your life in the next day?”

3. Consider the possibilities. When I think about how a passage can impact my life within the next twenty-four hours, I like to consider several possibilities. These could include:

  • An affirmation (“Today, I’m thankful for ____________.”)
  • A specific action (“I will do __________.”)
  • A change in thinking (“I will begin to think today about __________.”)
  • A change in relationships (“Today, I will ________ with _____________.”)
  • A change to study or reflect more deeply (“I need to study further ____________.”).
  • A change in attitude or behavior (“I must repent from _________.”)

4. Keep it small. Too often we equate an application with a lifetime commitment. An application is a simple practical action step in response to what the Holy Spirit shows me in His word. It could take place within the next ten minutes, the next ten hours, or the next ten days. Keep it small and practical.

Disciple-makers are not con artists, leading people to think that acquiring information is the same as transformation. As an Alongsider, I come alongside people, helping them to respond to the Holy Spirit, practically applying the truth of the Scriptures. When this happens, people will be blessed!

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