Discipleship in the church has often been defined as the solitary pursuit of information. It meant having a Daily Quiet Time by myself where I read the Bible silently and reflected on it internally. It meant spending time alone in prayer. It meant learning to practice spiritual disciplines by reading books about fasting and meditation and solitude. I assumed that acquiring more biblical knowledge, theological insight, and spiritual practices would change me and make me more like Jesus. Imitating someone who is helping me learn how to follow Jesus never occurred to me.
Simply seeking more information isn’t enough. Biblical discipleship is intrinsically relational because it is an invitation into a mentoring relationship.
The disciples learned to do the things Jesus did by actually imitating his way of life. As they grew in their competency, Jesus sent them out with his authority to do what they had seen Him do.
As the disciples began to multiply, they continued to follow the same pattern Jesus had set for them.
Paul said, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ” (I Corinthians 11:1).
Paul shows us that Jesus-shaped discipleship begins with information, gets put into practice through imitation, and is ultimately released in a life of fruitful innovation.
It begins with revelatory information from God, and is combined with relational proximity where practical demonstration can be imitated. Once trained this way, rabbis then release their disciples to innovatively fulfill their own unique calling as they raise up another generation of disciples.
If our good works could save us then there would be a limit to what God could ask of me or put me through. We would be like taxpayers with rights.
But if it is really true that I am a sinner saved by sheer grace–at God’s infinite cost–then there’s nothing He cannot ask of me.
Sheer grace has 2 edges to it:
- It cuts away fear.
- But if God loves us freely, despite our flaws and failures, then we are not our own. We were bought with a price.
Martin Luther said, “We are saved by faith alone (not our works), but not by faith that remains alone.”
Discipleship and consumerism are mutually exclusive!
We cannot consume our way into discipleship. All of us must become much more active in the equation of becoming life-long followers of Jesus.
When we recognize consumerism is counterproductive to discipleship, it leads to some challenging conclusions about the way we are seeking to fulfill our mission. What are we willing to stop doing that feeds a consumer culture? What cost are we willing to pay to begin developing a discipleship culture?
Some will point out that Jesus attracted large crowds everywhere he went. But attracting large crowds was not the primary means of Jesus’ mission. The authority of his teaching, his ability to heal, and his absolute power over evil was a strong draw to the disaffected, the hurting, and the curious. Consumerism is not a modern phenomenon. People have always asked, “What’s in it for me?”
One of the problems in dealing with people in a large crowd is that it allows for very little personal accountability. A mob mentality feeds the human tendency to seek reward without responsibility. Jesus saw the consumerism of the crowd was only going to get worse, so he steadily increased the challenge of his teaching, telling the crowd eternal life was found by eating his flesh and drinking his blood (John 6:54). By the time he finished, most of the crowd had disappeared along with some who had considered themselves his disciples.
Jesus made it clear that his followers were to be producers, not consumers. He described us as branches who abide in the vine and produce good fruit that lasts. Jesus chose to prune the consumeristic crowd back to twelve disciples and extended family because this is the best context to live out the message of Jesus and multiply that way of life in the lives of others.
One of the pitfalls in our faith life is trying to seek our identity through obedience.
There is a path to identity and to obedience but getting them in the proper order clarifies your identity AND helps you be more obedient to God. One path leads to legalism; the other to fulfillment.
God offers us a covenant. If we accept, this covenant of love conveys to us an identity that leads us to desire to do the will of God, who loves us, and to live in obedience to Him.
Some believers have inverted this order. They have tried to find their identity and worth in God’s sight by trying to please and obey God. But it is impossible to obey our way to the Father.
Ephesians 2:8-10, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”
The more deeply we trust the Father’s adoption of us as His children, the greater our passion to do His will becomes. The more fully we recognize our Father as the King of the universe, the greater our confidence in the authority Jesus has given us becomes. The more we step out in faith by claiming that authority to do the will of our Father as Jesus did, the greater power is available for us to do God’s will. This is the secret to living the abundant, transformational, extraordinary life Jesus modeled for us.
Power. We think of strength or authority in our daily situations. A baseball hitter is known to have power when he hits lots of home runs. The President certainly has power as a ruler of a country. A boss has power over employees.
What does “power” mean in the context of Acts 1:8 (But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.)? Practically speaking, what power does the Spirit give me?
- The power over sin, the flesh, and Satan.
- The power of the Spirit bears fruit (love, joy, peace, patience, etc.).
- The power of identity: I am God’s adopted child, righteous in His sight.
- The power to witness to God’s love and truth.
That’s a lot of power! Let’s claim it and use it!