Discipleship is the point of organized church. Of course, The Church (proper) is people, but organized church is for building people up in their identity in Christ and equipping for the work of the ministry. "The work of the ministry" being multi-faceted and highly creative in terms of expression. In other words, ministry can be nearly almost anything as long as it ultimately points people to faith in Jesus. And you know what I mean by "anything."
A MASSIVE element of discipleship is self-discipleship, or self-discipline. If we can become masters of self-discipline, The Church would become much more mature, healthy and effective, no question. I think that's possible. The more The Church identifies with Christ, the more we will live accordingly. The problem is that we have too much water under the bridge of our previous life (before Christ) that the hard wiring of our brains hasn't full transformed like our spirit has.
I want to address 2 passages and a scientific point relating to discipleship:
Allowing the words of Jesus to abide in us - John 15:1-8
Spiritual thinking - Romans 8:5-10
How the brain recalls memory
Jesus is speaking of discipleship when he talks about fruit bearing. His followers / students / disciples should bear fruit. If they don't, he lifts them us. By the way, the actual definition of "takes away" in John 15:2 is "to lift up." The picture is a gardener lifting up and supporting a weak branch so it becomes strong enough to bear fruit. He says, "apart from me you cannot bear fruit." Jesus instructs his disciples to "allow his words to abide in them." It's really another to address the idea of his power being perfected in our weakness.
Then, in Romans 8 we see that spiritual thinking, or a mind governed by the spirit, will yield life and peace, whereas carnal thinking will produce death, pretty simple. That's the two passages, I'll address the scientific in a moment. First, a little more on Romans 8.
What is spiritual thinking and what is carnal thinking?
Allowing the words of Jesus to abide in you until fruit is produced
Thinking that agrees with what God says is true
Bringing thoughts captive to the obedience of Christ
Setting your mind on things above where Christ is seated at the right hand of the Father
Whatever is true, lovely, of good report, noble, just, honest, has praise or virtue
Did God really say...
I see it in the Bible but why don't I see it in my life
I don't understand what God is doing
Why won't God just do it
The bottom line is this, spiritual thinking looks at who God is and what he says is possible and holds on to it no matter what, even if it looks impossible. Carnal thinking looks at life and then looks at the promises of God and gets confused. The promises and ways of God seem confusing or impossible to the cranal mind.
The spiritual mind looks at the circumstances of this life and says, "I don't care what it looks like, God said this _________________."
That's what Sarah and Abraham did. When she was too old and he was "as good as dead," they gave birth to a son that would bring about the lineage of the Messiah. When God tested Abraham's heart to see if he could be trusted, Abraham said, "I don't care if God has to raise Isaac from the dead, through him the whole world will be blessed."
Spiritual mindedness simply believes God's promises over physical circumstances.
I'm not talking about how much faith that individual has, I'm talking about how convinced a person is that God is faithful. The spiritually minded person is more convinced that God can be trusted. That's the difference.
Neuroplasticity and the Recollection of Memories
Take the definition of spiritual mindedness and apply that to how the brain recalls memories. Your brain stores memories in neurons. Those neural pathways also store emotional data with the actual event. The brain secretes neurochemicals for emotion when it's recalling data from specific events. Meaning, when you remember something, you don't just recall the images or memories, you also recall the emotions you experienced during the event. You also remember how you felt about yourself in that moment.
In addition to that, every time you recall a memory, not only do you expoerience the old emotions, you experience new ones, which subsequently also get stored with that memory. You may recall an event over and over again, over a period of years and become more and more angry or guilt-ridden each time your recall that memory. Before too long, the emotions you feel about that memory begin to shape how you see yourself even more than the actual event. The problem is that you may not actually be remembering the facts of the event, you're also recalling the judgments and destructive emotions you mixed in the last time you recalled the memory.
This is how you overcome the pain of the past but this is also how you reinforce it.
Now, let's join that bit of brain science with the concept of spiritual thinking. When you recall an event, you have to also mix in the current truth of who you are in Christ. For example, if you remember a particular failure that causes you to feel defeated, you have a choice; you can allow that feeling of defeat to rule in your thinking and most likely end up repeating the behavior, or you can intentionally mix in a current truth about who you are in Christ, with a promise God has for you in that area, and override the negative association that's stored with that memory.
If you successfully traverse that situation, you have successfully repented and replaced old destrustive, carnal thought patterns with new, in Christ reality truths (he who knew no sin became sin so I would become righteous), which will bear fruit. These newly stored/believed truths will begin to shape that part of your brain and subsequently that part of your life each time you think about it through the filter of your New Creation identity. The words of Christ will have borne fruit.
For example, if someone feels guilty for getting drunk, watching porn or screaming at his child, when he remembers the last time the did it, he can choose to think of himself in terms of his identity in Christ and break the power of the guilt. Of course there is remorse and humiliation assocoated with failure but if the shame and guilt are the only things remembered, the behavior will continue. If those memories are interrupted with the hope of behaving a different way, it becomes easier and untimately more natural to choose the godly option next time the opportunity arises.
The overarching point being this, choose life in your mind. When you start thinking about the past, distant or recent, be careful because you may be reinforcing the negative patterns and end up repeating the carnal cycle which leads to death. Mix in some spiritual thinking. Mix in some life thinking. Mix in some "in Christ" thinking. Put on the new man, don't just beat yourself up for the past, decide that you'll override the destructive programming and disciple yourself into victory.
This is the power of the logic, character and integrity of the word of God in your heart. When you behold it, over and above your failures, doubts and fears, it not only gives you emotional peace, it also changes the biochemistry of your body. It reorganizes the electrical patterns of your brain and rebuilds your physical body to reflect your spiritual reality. When is unseen becomes seen, as you behold him and allows his words to abide in you.