By Danelle Bancroft of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
Ladies, how did you learn to ride a bike? Brush your teeth? Tie your shoes? Shave your legs? Apply make-up? Drive a car? Your answer to most of these questions, if not all, is someone taught you. From potty training, to writing papers, to planning for a wedding, we learn important lessons from someone else. As a Christian, one of your biggest priorities in life should be finding out what the Bible says a Christian woman should act like. Do you know? Have you asked? Are you positioning yourself to be a humble learner?
Matthew 28:19-20 references the term “disciple.” The English word “disciple” that we have in our Bibles comes from the Latin root word with a basic meaning of “learner” or “pupil”. As Christians, the word automatically has meaning for us because we are all disciples of Jesus. Our Savior wants us to be taught to observe all that he has commanded. As a learner and follower of Jesus, we are to be committed to his Word and all the instructions he gives in how to better learn his Word and live it out.
So how do we engage in discipleship on a macro level? Sunday morning sermons teach us how to think and live. We are being discipled every Sunday morning by listening to the sermon. Also, books we read disciple us in different areas of sanctification. Conferences we attend teach us about specific topics.
Titus 2 gives us much insight into how we are discipled at the micro level. The apostle Paul writes to his disciple, Titus. Paul gives Titus some encouragement and helps him think through how to establish godly leaders and other believers in the church. Then Titus 2 details for us what relationships within the body of Christ should look like practically. It even gives a specific list (though not exhaustive) of what the older women are to teach the younger women in the church as disciples of Christ. As older women in our churches model godly living and interact with us at various times, they are teaching us what godliness looks like in action.
Many of you have probably experienced the macro and micro level of discipleship in some form or fashion. But I would like to take it a step further and propose another helpful aspect of discipleship. Personal discipleship is the intimate level where you can get very personal and specific. Personal discipleship is the process where a more mature Christian (either in age, knowledge and/or experience) instructs a less mature Christian in knowing and obeying the Word of God. We can take all the passages we have discussed so far and add some very practical ones to those. Philippians 4:9 points out four components to good discipleship: learn, receive, hear and see. But it doesn’t stop with those four components. What should we do with what we have learned, received, heard and seen? Practice it ourselves. We have to do something with what we learn.
One thing in ministry that my husband, Eric, and I love doing is premarital counseling. Young couples don’t get married and easily figure out the complexities of marriage on their own. Imagine what a bumpy road it would be if you didn’t read any books about marriage or ask any advice from older married couples. Some of you might even have that testimony to tell. We have met with many married couples that had no premarital counseling or bad premarital counseling and they suffer the consequences in their marriage. As we have learned from other strong believers that have built their marriages on the principles of Scripture, we have sought to pass that onto other younger couples. Our hope is it will strengthen their marriage and they will pass those lessons onto others. I think churches would look amazingly different if people were honest and asked the difficult questions about marriage from other godly couples. But therein lays two huge elements to discipleship: honesty and humility.
If you are interested in growing as a disciple of Christ, here are a three suggestions to get you started based on Titus 2:3-4:
1. Christian content. How well do you know the Word? Do you know God’s character well? Do you know how to study your Bible? What books are you reading? Are they theologically solid? How are your prayers informed by Scripture? 2 Timothy 3:16 says, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.” Your goal here is to strive to learn godly content from another godly women.
2. Christian character. Christian character traits are abundant throughout the Scriptures. We have to remember to be careful not to separate these first two categories. A pastor’s wife that I learn from based on her writing is Carolyn Mahaney. She says, “The world does not judge us by our theology; the world judges us by our behavior.” Titus 1:1 states this very thing, “The knowledge of the truth which is according to godliness.” We can’t have one without the other. James even challenges us to be doers of the Word and not just hearers. The plea for paying careful attention to our character is all throughout Scripture. Have you given someone permission to speak into your life? Have you asked someone to tell you the sin they see in your life? Do you have someone who loves you enough to tell you the gracious truth? Ladies, we want real friends like that!
3. Christian life. This encompasses our families, homes, churches and friends. Colossians 1:10 calls this our walk. “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.” Notice that it not only speaks to our walk but also references our knowledge again as well. Again, how we respond to life’s challenges comes from our knowledge of God, His Word, and His character. To say it another way: right doctrine should lead to right behavior.
Have you ever noticed that the table of contents in books for Christian women are almost all the same? They almost all have a chapter on intimacy, homemaking, submission, kindness, raising children. That is because there is no new sin. It’s all the same things we have been struggling with for thousands of years. The Word is just as helpful in our thinking and actions as it was back in the days of the apostles. The big question is, are we willing to admit we sin, ask for help, and purpose to change with the help of the Holy Spirit? If so, it is likely part of God’s provision to bring about that change is other women in your local church. Now, go and find them.