“We are not meant to remain as children…but to Grow up in every way into Christ” Ephesians 4:14
“…grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus” 2 Peter 3:18
Are there ways we can tell whether Christ is alive within us? Are there “measurements” to being a disciple? In other words, should we be able to tell whether someone is alive in Jesus? Well…YES! Can you tell whether a person is married or not? You should! Can you tell whether a person is a parent or not? You should! Can you tell anything about a person’s real identity? Of course you should be able to!
A Disciple is passionately alive…they can’t help it because the life of God through the Holy Spirit lives in them. A disciple who is alive grows – because it is something that God designed into the Universe - things that are alive grow! As Philippians 1:6 says, God isn’t through with you yet!
A Disciple is alive in Jesus and because of that has access to inexplicable power…effortless and spontaneous in action, a disciple is not concerned about what is truly God’s business…in other words, a disciple obeys God and trusts God with outcomes. A Disciple exhibits the “fruit” of the Spirit’s life within their lives (see Galatians 5:22ff). A Disciple manifests the gifts of God (they are recipients of “every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” Ephesians 1:3). Disciple is not necessarily a member (except being a member of Christ’s body) but on a mission. And Christ demonstrates HIS life within their lives through aspects of His divine nature being made known (“being incarnated”) through us (the New Testament calls these aspects of Christ’s nature given to His disciples “spiritual gifts”). Disciples build THE Church (the Body of Christ, being involved in the realization of the Lord’s Prayer petition, “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”) not necessarily A church and especially not THEIR church…Jesus said, ”upon this rock I will build MY church” – not yours or someone else’s. A disciple is about making disciples. The Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20) isn’t just a mission statement for the Church, it is a Disciple’s personal mission and lifestyle – they actively live a life where discipleship and disciple-making is the essence of who they are and what they do. You see, we need to understand the gift of God’s grace in eternal life…but we are misinformed about our part in eternal living. We have learned our part in the faith and practice by our group/denomination but not from Jesus himself. If Jesus is hidden in our lives…the power of the universe is shut down from being expressed in and through us by our choice to die rather than really live. And that’s what your friends, neighbors, and coworkers need to really see and experience in relationship – a person that is TRULY alive!
Questions for thought and prayer – When you hear the words of Jesus in the Great Commission, who do you think of? Do you think of yourself? Why or why not?
Here's where this is all coming from...many of us have seen people come alive in Jesus Christ. Without training, extensive study, without commissioning or titles or degrees, many of us have witnessed disciples supernaturally discipling others. We have seen people transformed from being dead bystanders to being active and alive, passionately sharing the life of Jesus with all who come in contact with them. For many of these people, being a disciple is not what they are aspiring to be or trying to pull off in the habits of their life...rather, it is something they know they are because they know the life of Jesus. In this instance, the Holy Spirit is producing fruit…they are not trying to be better people, attempting to be moral and upright and loving...they just are because of the power of God residing in their lives. If you were to type their blood, they would bleed Jesus. For a disciple, Jesus is not a cause to be understood and/or represented…Jesus is their life, pure and simple.
Why have many of us missed the boat? Why all the discipleship ministries and programs and studies in the local church and few actual disciples? Why do we have to do hand stands and heroic efforts to convince people to share their life, tell their God-story, live out their faith with Kingdom courage? Could it be that we are a bit confused when it comes to being a disciple? Could it be that we are finding it extremely difficult to paint a compelling picture of the experience of being a disciple? Could it be that we have succumbed to drafting a legalistic, "doing" vision of what a disciple is that has actually not brought life to people who desire to follow Jesus? Could it be that all of our efforts have led people more into sin management and shallow spirituality that remains an addendum to an already busy and culturally defined life (through narrowly defined spiritual exercises like the infamous "10 or 20 minute quiet times) than into the very life of Jesus in and through them?
I think we have gotten discipleship wrong and it is time to regain and then unleash the Disciple that lives within YOU! When some people talk about discipleship, they define it in primarily "privatistic" terms...as if being a disciple of Jesus is epitomized in a person's life as "private territory". Some describe discipleship as something that emerges out of a person's belief system, or that which is seen in an individual's devotional life (prayer, bible reading, quiet times, etc.)...for others it has to do with what a person "learns" about Jesus via doctrinal, apologetic, or theological exploration as if the more knowledge one has about God the more of a disciple they become. There is a problem with that though - cognition, mental assent, and doctrinal sophistication where never meant to be measurements of discipleship. Trust me...there is nothing wrong with knowing more about God and knowing God more. That should be one of the prime passions of every Christ follower.
Rather what did (at least biblically) define discipleship was how the follower of Jesus responded in and through their lifestyle to the invitation to participate in the movement of God’s life in the world. Make no mistake about it - there is a difference between being a "believer" and a "disciple"...they are not synonymous. Belief does not necessarily mean action...belief can lead and should lead to action. Discipleship assumes belief but primarily means action. Because of that, discipleship is best clarified in our lives by how much of the life and passions of Jesus are imitated in our daily experience. Jesus defines the disciple’s existence as we share in his divine nature and lifestyle. Below are some "ideas" of what discipleship can "live like" in someone who claims Jesus as Lord:
"So then, you will know them by their fruits" (Jesus in Matthew 7) – what are the FRUITS that should mark our lives?
James 1:22 says we should not just be hearers of the Word but “doers”. What does that mean?
How do we live that? Jesus said (John 14:15), “If you love me, you will obey me.” What does that mean for daily life for a Disciple?