Discipleship 15 – growth stages

The aim of this devotional study is to consider the growth stages within discipleship, and to reflect on your own spiritual growth.


1 John 2:12-14

12  I am writing to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven for his name’s sake.  13  I am writing to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning. I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one. I write to you, children, because you know the Father.  14  I write to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one.


  1. Read through the text above and identify the three growth stages that John identifies within the little fellowship.
  2. What characterizes each of the growth stages? (in your own words)

Application and reflection

John writes to “Fathers in the faith” who have known the One who is from the beginning, mature believers who have known the sweet companionship of the Son of God and are satisfied with Him.  He writes to “Young men” in the spiritual family are characterized by vigor and by combatting indwelling sin by word and faith. He writes to “little children”, babes in the faith, who do not know much, but they do know God the Father.

  1. Consider your own spiritual life. Which of these growth stages most effectively describe your present journey with the Lord?
  2. What do you need to do to grow into the next stage of your journey with the Lord?

Note: for more on spiritual growth stages and the most helpful activities to grow in faith you can read this short article at http://walklikejesus.net/2015/08/06/how-do-i-grow-from-here-phases-in-discipleship/


Pray Paul’s a personalized version of Philippians 3:8-11, making it your own as you express your desire to know Christ and be found in him:

“8  I consider everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing you, Christ Jesus my Lord. For your sake I am willing to suffer the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain You 9  and be found You, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from doing the right things, but a right-standing before God that which comes through faith in Christ – 10  that I may know You and the power of Your resurrection, even sharing in Your sufferings and becoming like You in Your death, 11  that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead with You.”


Discipleship 14 – a living example

The aim of this devotional study is to consider your life as a living example of godliness to others.


Note: Today we consider two Scripture of Paul citing himself as an example worthy to be followed.

1 Corinthians 10:31-11:2

31  So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 32  Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, 33  just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved. 1  Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ. 2  Now I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I delivered them to you.

Philippians 4:4-9

4  Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.  5  Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; 6  do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  8  Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 9  What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me–practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

Observations and Reflections

Note: the context of 1 Corinthians 10:31-11:2 is about food in general – that everything is edible for a Christian, but to not cause an offense based on another’s conscience.  Regarding Philippians 4, remember that Paul writes to a persecuted church, and that he writes from within prison.

  1. Consider Paul’s appeal to the Corinthians in text above.
    1. Paul cites himself as example worthy to be followed. Reading 10:31-32, what example should they follow of him?
    2. When you read “imitate me” – what do you understand? (11:1)
    3. Why is Paul so confident to appeal to others to follow his life example? (11:1)
  2. Regarding the Philippian text: notice how Paul gives instruction about joyfully and living free of anxiety (even while in prison!) and then he says “What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me–practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” (4:9)
    1. Make a list of the habits from Philippians 4:4-8 that were visible in Paul’s life.


  1. Can you think of one person whom you can boldly say “I want to follow that person – he is imperfect, but I know he imitates Christ!”? Why do you wish to follow his example?
  2. Paul tells the church to imitate his way of life “in everything” (11:2), because he imitates Christ. Do you consciously follow the lifestyle of Christ?  How?
  3. Consider the habits that Paul practiced and referenced in Philippians 4:4-8. Which of these habits do you maintain?  And which should you cultivate in your own life?
  4. Consider your own life as a living example of Christ’s life.
    1. Which aspect of your life would you be glad that your children should imitate, knowing it is good and godly and leads to life?
    2. Which aspect of your life would you not want your children to imitate because it is not good, not godly, and does not lead to life?


Thank God for both Biblical and living examples Pray the prayer of Paul from Colossians 1:10 for yourself today: that [I] may walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.”

Discipleship 13 – discipline your body

The aim of this devotional study is to reflect on the need for a disciplined life-style.


1 Corinthians 9:24-27

24  Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. 25  Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. 26  So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. 27  But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.


Note: The context of this portion is Pauls’ defense in his rights as an apostle and his commitment to preaching the gospel at the cost of his comforts.

  1. What do you think Paul means when he writes about being “disqualified”? (verse 27)
  2. So why should Paul “discipline his body to keep it under control”? (verse 25)
  3. What could Paul mean to “not run aimlessly… not box … the air”? (verse 26)
  4. Which one word in verse 25 could best summarize Paul’s appeal in this paragraph?


Consider the temptations you are most vulnerable to.  It helps to “play the movie forward” so to speak.

  1. Which desires/ passions you have, if left unchecked, would ruin your life? Why or how?
  2. Which desires/passions you have in your heart, if left unchecked, could lead you away from Christ and your faith in God? Why and how?
  3. What do you do as a lifestyle to “exercise self-control” and to “discipline [your] body to keep it under control”?
  4. Which disciplines / habits should you grow in to prevent you from falling into such a destructive lifestyle?


Confess the weakness of your sinful self and your need for God’s grace, then pray for God’s help to grow in self-control.

Discipleship 12 – work it out!

The aim of this devotional study is to reflect on God’s role and our role in our progressive salvation.


Philippians 2:12-13

1 Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

12 Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.

Observations and reflections

  1. To get a more accurate grip on what Paul is saying, briefly summerise his exhortation above in each paragraph:
    1. Verses 1-4
    2. Verses 5-8
    3. Verses 9-11
    4. Verses 12-13
  2. We will focus on the last paragraph (v12-13):
    1. Does this scripture teach salvation should be earned? Why / why not?
    2. What “work” regarding our salvation should the believers do? (Consider the context of the instruction)
    3. Why does he say qualify the “working out” with the phrase “with fear and trembling”? [hint: consider the context – also verses 9-11]
    4. What “work” does God do regarding our [ongoing] salvation according to verse 13?
    5. What does Paul mean with “to will and to act in order to fulfill his purpose”? (verse 13). Say this in your own words.
    6. What role does Paul, the Apostle, plays in the ongoing salvation of the Philippians, according to verses 12-13? And what does that suggest about the role of other believers (and in particular church leadership) in ongoing salvation of believers in general?

Application and prayer

Take a moment and reflect on God’s ongoing process of salvation in your life [a.k.a holiness or sanctification].

  1. PAST: Think about a specific spiritual victory in your life, such as overcoming a particular sinful habit or notable character flaw.
    1. What steps have you taken in the past to overcome?
    2. In retrospect, can you recognize the work of God to give you the desire and ability to grow in holiness in that particular instance? Describe it.
    3. What role did other believers play in growing this steps towards holiness?
    1. What desires for holiness or God’s purpose for your life can you articulate at present? (One clear example will suffice).
    2. What steps must you take to respond to God’s work in your life in this instance?
    3. What help do you need from Christian leaders or friends?
    4. Send a message to an accountability partner / Christian friend and tell him/ her about this prompting of God, your intention and then ask for help.


Thank God for the areas where he worked in you to give the desire and ability to fulfill his will.  Celebrate the growth in Christlikeness!  Again, pray “that Christ may be formed in you” (Galatians 4:19) – then commit to “work out your [gift of] salvation” in light of Christ’s return, and ask God for his empowerment and wisdom to complete His work in you!

Discipleship 11 – grow in godliness

The aim of this devotional study is to reflect on the need for deliberate growth in godliness.


1 Timothy 4:1-16

1  Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, 2  through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, 3  who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. 4  For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, 5  for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.

6  If you put these things before the brothers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, being trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine that you have followed.  7  Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; 8  for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. 9  The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance.

10  For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe. 11  Command and teach these things. 12  Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. 13  Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. 14  Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you.

15  Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress. 16  Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.

Observations and reflections

Note: Paul here exhorts the young pastor Timothy to train himself in godliness, and to help the congregation grow godly too, so that they may live fruitful and resilient lives amidst an ungodly world and unhealthy teachings.

  1. To get a more accurate grip on what Paul is saying, briefly summerise the teaching above in the following sections:
    1. Verses 1-5
    2. Verses 6-9
    3. Verses 10-14
    4. Verses 15-16
  2. Read through the text above and mark / record all the references to exercise or training (either implied or explicit).
    1. What does he mean with each of these phrases? How does one “train”?
  3. Why should godliness be pursued (v7)?
  4. What is the “end” goal of Paul’s “toil and striving”? (verse 10)
    1. And how does he “strive”?
  5. What “things” must young Timothy “practice” for progress?
    1. And what “progress” must “all see”? (verse 15)
  6. In your own words explain what Paul says with Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.” (verse 16)?


Take a moment and reflect and record your progress in godliness.

  1. Briefly record in which ways you have grown in godliness since your salvation that is clear “for all to see”? Briefly record it here in the key areas that Paul mentions to Timothy in verse 12:
    1. speech [verbal culture]
    2. in conduct [behavior]
    3. in love [character, relationships]
    4. in faith [conviction]
    5. in purity [morality].
  2. Prayerfully consider where you need to grow in godliness the most next, and describe how you need to grow (choose only the two most critical areas):
    1. speech [verbal culture]
    2. in conduct [behavior]
    3. in love [character, relationships]
    4. in faith [conviction]
    5. in purity [morality].
  3. Now give yourself a simple “spiritual exercise plan” as Paul instructs Timothy to do. Ask yourself “what will make me grow in godliness in this area of my life”?
    1. Send a message to an accountability partner / Christian friend who will help you focus in growth in these two areas.


Thank God for the areas where you have grown in godliness.  Celebrate it!  Pray “that Christ may be formed in you” (Galatians 4:19) – in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity” (v12).

Discipleship 10 – make every effort

The aim of this devotional study is to reflect on the need for and effort required for character development in a disciple of Jesus.


2 Peter 1:3-12

3  His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, 4  by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.

5  For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, 6  and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, 7  and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.

8  For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.  9  For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins.

10  Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. 11  For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 12  Therefore I intend always to remind you of these qualities, though you know them and are established in the truth that you have.

Observations and reflections

Note: In this portion Peter exhorts the persecuted church to develop an enduring, godly character.

  1. Summarize each of these portions briefly.
    1. Verses 3-4
    2. Verses 5-7
    3. Verses 8-9
    4. Verses 10-12
  2. In your own words, why does Peter encourage the readers to grow in godly character? List and explain briefly. (v4, 8, 10, 11)
  3. How do you make sense of the fact that Peter says God “has granted us all things for life and godliness…”(v3) yet we ought to “make every effort” to add to our faith (v5)?
  4. According to Peter, what would happen if a believer will not “make every effort” to grow in godly character? (v8-11)
  5. Consider the context of the readers (see note above). What would the benefit be for these believers to grow in:
    1. virtue/ courage
    2. knowledge/ wisdom
    3. self-control
    4. steadfastness / patience
    5. godliness
    6. brotherly affection
    7. love

Application and prayer

“Add to your faith the virtue or courage of David; and to the courage of David the knowledge of Solomon; and to the knowledge of Solomon the patience of Job; and to the patience of Job the godliness of Daniel; and to the godliness of Daniel the brotherly kindness of Jonathan; and to the brotherly kindness of Jonathan the love of John.” 2 Peter 1:5-7 as paraphrased by Tom Ohlson’s father

  1. Consider 2 Peter 1:5-7. Which characteristic in that list do you need to grow in most?
    1. How will you “make every effort” to grow in this characteristic?
    2. Whom can you trust to help you grow in that area of Christ-likeness?
    3. Send that person a message now to tell him/ her so that they may keep you accountable as you grow in that area of Christ-likeness.


Start thanking God for the promises and provision for godly character, then pray into this area of character growth you need – pray that Christ may be formed in you (Galatians 4:19)!

Discipleship 9 – spiritual parenting

The aim of this devotional study is to consider the discipleship in terms of parenting.


1 Thessalonians 2:6-13

7  But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children.  8  So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.

9  For you remember, brothers, our labor and toil: we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God.  10  You are witnesses, and God also, how holy and righteous and blameless was our conduct toward you believers.

11  For you know how, like a father with his children,  12  we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory.

13  And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers.

Observations and reflections

In this portion Paul recalls his devotion and care for the disciples in the Thessalonian church.

  1. List the characteristics associated with “mothering” in verses 7-8.
    1. What do you learn of this analogy between discipleship and mothering?
    2. Which benefits were gained from this approach?
  2. List the characteristics associated with “fathering” in verses 11-12.
    1. What do you learn from this analogy discipleship and fathering?
    2. Which benefits were gained from this approach?
  3. In verse 13 Paul makes an important distinction between “discipleship” and normal parenting. What difference does he highlight?

Application and reflection

  1. From your observations above, what do you learn about Paul’s devotion to those whom he discipled?
  2. Does that challenge your commitment to people whom you disciple? How?


Thank God for this relationship between Paul and the Thessalonian church.  Then pray that God would pour grace of spiritual parenting into your heart.

Discipleship 8 – the perpetual cycle

The aim of this devotional study is to reflect on the meaning and implication of the Great Commission.


Matthew 28:18-20

18  And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.

19  Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20  teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Observations and reflections

  1. Concerning the Great Commission of Jesus quoted above, comment on the meaning and implication of the following, as implicit in this command:
    1. “All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me”
    2. “Go therefore… all nations”
    3. “make disciples”
    4. “baptizing”
    5. “teaching them to observe all that I have commanded”
    6. “I am with you always”
  2. Which commands should the disciples be instructed in? [hint: consider the context of the Gospel of Matthew…]


Jesus commanded deliberate evangelism for the purpose of making disciples through conversion and instruction in the teachings of Jesus – teaching them how to obey Jesus’ commands.

  1. If someone were to look at your life and relationships – would they conclude you are serious about Jesus’ command to make disciples? Why/ why not?
  2. Whom are you currently discipling? How and when?
  3. It is easy to teach someone that you must But how do you teach someone to pray?
  4. It is easy to teach someone that you must But how do you teach someone to forgive?


Thank God for those who played/(s) a role your growth in Christ.  Now pray about your relationships and your intention in making imitators (disciples) of Christ.  If you don’t have someone, ask for someone to disciple.

Discipleship 7 – marks of discipleship

The aim of this devotional study to reflect on the marks of a true disciple .


1 John 2:3-11

3  And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments.

4  Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, 5  but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: 6  whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.

7  Beloved, I am writing you no new commandment, but an old commandment that you had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word that you have heard. 8  At the same time, it is a new commandment that I am writing to you, which is true in him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining.  9  Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness.  10  Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling.  11  But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.

Observations and reflections

  1. What are the two marks of a true disciple John mentions in this text?
  2. Regarding OBEDIENCE:
    1. In which three ways does John express a disciple’s obedience to Jesus? [hint: v3, v5, v6]
    2. Note the progression. What do you understand in each of these three phrases?
    3. How do you interpret verse 4 above in the light of John’s writing in the previous chapter? “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:8-9)
  3. Regarding LOVE:
    1. What “Old Command” is John writing about? And why does he call it “Old”? (v 7)
    2. List the contrast and explain in your own words the difference between true disciples and false disciples in verses 9-11.

Application and Prayer

  1. Spend a while in prayerful reflection, asking the Lord if there is any command you have been ignoring / neglecting.
    1. Ask for grace and commit to obey it
    2. Send a message to a Christian friend about it now asking to keep you accountable!
  2. Spend a while in prayerful reflection, asking the Lord if there is any Christian brother/ sister with whom you are at odds with or who has something against you.
    1. Pray about that now, confess forgiveness and ask for God’s love to fill your heart. [pray until you experience it]
    2. Then send a message to the person to arrange a meeting for reconciliation.
  3. Pray that the Lord will fill your heart with pure love and readiness for obedience.

Discipleship 6 – life in the New Covenant

The aim of this devotional study is to reflect on Paul’s comparison between the Old and the New Covenant with it’s transforming power.


2 Corinthians 3:6-18

6  [God] has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

7  Now if the ministry of death, carved in letters on stone, came with such glory that the Israelites could not gaze at Moses’ face because of its glory, which was being brought to an end, 8  will not the ministry of the Spirit have even more glory? 9  For if there was glory in the ministry of condemnation, the ministry of righteousness must far exceed it in glory.

10  Indeed, in this case, what once had glory has come to have no glory at all, because of the glory that surpasses it.  11  For if what was being brought to an end came with glory, much more will what is permanent have glory.  12  Since we have such a hope, we are very bold,  13  not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face so that the Israelites might not gaze at the outcome of what was being brought to an end.

14  But their minds were hardened. For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away.  15  Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts.  16  But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed.  17  Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.

18  And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

Observations and reflections

Context:  Paul contrasts the New Covenant in Christ to the Old Covenant through Moses.  It is helpful to consider announcements of the two covenants as in these two cases

Exodus 31:18  And he gave to Moses, when he had finished speaking with him on Mount Sinai, the two tablets of the testimony, tablets of stone, written with the finger of God.

Jeremiah 31:33  But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel… I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. I will be their God, they my people.

  1. Read through 1 Corinthians 3 and make a comparative table
Old Covenant New Covenant
Letter ?
Kills ?
Ministry of death ?
On stone ?
Temporal glory ?
Ministry of condemnation ?
No glory ?
Shame of fading glory ?
  1. What does Paul mean with the phrases “ministry of condemnation” and “ministry of righteousness”?
  2. What do you understand with the phrase “the law within them… [written] on their hearts”? [Jeremiah 31:33]
  3. What does Paul say about the glory between the Old and New covenants? And what do you understand about that?
  4. According to this Text, how is one transformed into the image of Jesus? What does that mean in practice?

Personal Reflection

  1. In which way have your conscience been transformed since your conversion?
  2. In which way have your character been transformed since your conversion?
  3. What part of your character is in greatest need of transformation?

Meditation and prayer

Read the following portion of the Psalm a few times, “beholding the Lord”, then focus on the one part that most stirs your heart.  Mediate (pray, memoriss, repeat) that one portion, praising the Lord and asking him to transform your character to better resemble him.

Psalms 145:13-20

13  Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures throughout all generations. The LORD is faithful in all his words and kind in all his works.

14  The LORD upholds all who are falling and raises up all who are bowed down.

15  The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food in due season.

16  You open your hand; you satisfy the desire of every living thing.

17  The LORD is righteous in all his ways and kind in all his works.

18  The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.

19  He fulfills the desire of those who fear him; he also hears their cry and saves them.

20  The LORD preserves all who love him, but all the wicked he will destroy.