Cloud and Townsend use these three concepts (Grace, Truth and Time) to talk about the Disciple-making journey. Their thought is that you cannot walk alongside someone well in change without these three working in tandem. If you are lacking any, then healthy growth cannot occur.
Let’s examine these three concepts as we look at being a disciple-maker. Grace is unmerited favor. Grace is what we receive from God because of Christ’s work on the cross. We do not deserve His favor, but God chooses to give it because our sin has been atoned for (payed for) on the cross. Because we deserve death and condemnation due to our sin and yet receive God’s favor instead as believers in Christ, He calls us to treat others with that grace. For there is nothing that they can do to us that we have not done infinitely more to God. “Be kind one to another, forgiving one another just as God in Christ Jesus has forgiven you.” Ephesians 4:32
As a disciple-maker, there will be much opportunity for grace to be given. Because disciple-making involves a relationship, there will be conflict and wrong and sin. No matter how much commitment the disciple has, sin enters in (as does the disciple maker’s). Without grace, the gospel is missed in the relationship. We act in accordance with the power of the gospel by showing grace to one another. I can give countless examples of how I have been called to show grace to young women whether it involved a minor infraction of someone being late to deceit or anger lashed out at me. Without grace, the disciple-maker becomes a task master or a law enforcement officer. Much spiritual abuse has been handed down from disciple-making gurus who judge the character and slap the hands of those not performing well.
In “The Cost of Discipleship,” Bonhoeffer talks about the concept of cheap grace compared with costly grace. Grace without Truth becomes cheap grace. Bonhoeffer asserts “cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline. Communion without confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ.” In a disciple-making relationship, this would be the equivalent of saying it doesn’t matter what you do or say…overlooking blatant sin and being flippant about sin. Allowing someone to treat you as a doormat would be preaching cheap grace by your actions. Bonhoeffer asserts “costly grace confronts us as a gracious call to follow Jesus, it comes as a word of forgiveness to the broken spirit and the contrite heart. It is costly because it compels a man to submit to the yoke of Christ and follow him; it is grace because Jesus says: “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.” “
An example of giving costly grace involves marrying unmerited favor with the Truth that sin is serious. Sin is so serious that an innocent God-man had to bear the wrath of His Father for your sin–your blatant rebellion, your lack of care. We are called to repent of sin and to be holy as God is holy…this is done in the Gospel. Cheap grace does not treat sin seriously, but costly grace treats sin with gravity and treats God’s holiness with the respect it deserves. If you, as a disciple-maker, treat sin lightly and God’s holiness lightly, you are not marrying Grace with Truth. It becomes cheap.
Without Truth, there would be no reason to be a disciple-maker. Truth teaches God’s character, the gospel, and the very direction one’s life in Christ is to take–one’s very Hope. Without the foundation of Truth, we are lost. A disciple-maker who does not walk in truth or teach Truth is leading their disciple astray. God’s word is to be our food. Without food, we cannot live. Without His Truth, we cannot grow or live.
The problem becomes when we impart Truth as simply knowledge , a textbook, or a weapon. Truth without grace can become something to perform by self-righteousness. It can also become a weapon to use against someone else. Many may memorize and study without any regard to heart change. It does not make it less True, but it can lose the power of it’s effectiveness without Grace. It becomes twice the condemner of the self-righteous for they are not following the gospel truth but relying on their own righteousness which Isaiah refers to as a soiled period cloth. The truth can also be lobbed as bombs of judgement on a person’s life without the love and concern of the person’s heart. If all the disciple gets is criticized with the truth they look up to see a Pharisee task master without the heart of the gospel.
Those who have been given grace and understand the magnitude of Truth are usually eager to share that. As a disciple-maker, this marriage is where we aim–grace and truth in tandem.
An experienced disciple-maker or parent knows that each of these things may be present and change may not occur instantly or at all. Think on your own life. You may have grown up around truth and been given grace over and over again by those around you, but it did not click in your heart and head until a later time. In fact, you might not have even been aware that truth was shared or grace was given because you did not have eyes to see or interpret it. Or, you were terribly offended by the truth shared with you while you were in sin and it was at a later date that your heart’s desire changed and you could swallow the truth and see the reality of your heart.
Time is the hardest part for me. I want women to get the truth and grace and to learn quickly and to change quickly. I forget the patience God has had with me to teach and train me to be like Him, the patience to bear with my sin and idolatry in order to lead me to repentance. I forget the pain and the wrestling that I have been trained in order to become more like Christ and to treasure Christ first. I get impatient and want others to skip the process. I want to be God and get instant results instead of waiting on Him with them or on their behalf. It becomes about me and my comfort instead of loving them well. However, God teaches me that time is of essence every time in every relationship. I am called to continue speaking truth, showing grace, and pleading with Him to work until He works in their heart.
When He does open their eyes and bring fruit and growth, you truly know it is of Him and not you. I have to be reminded of this all the time–over and over. It helps for me to remember girl’s lives that I have prayed for and shared with and waited on God . He is faithful and He has been faithful with me. As a disciple-maker, God is continually teaching me I cannot produce fruit but I can plant and wait on the One who waters in His own time.
A warning to those who want to make disciples: If you are unwilling to be patient and wait on God while teaching truth and extending grace, walk away. You can do a lot of damage in your sin of being impatient and longing to control. More on this later…