The Type of Discipleship
There's a question that I have had the occasion to consider recently. What precisely is a disciple? Of-course there are plenty of patent answers to the question that are used frequently without reservation. A disciple is a learner. H-e studies the ways and methods of his teacher to-learn about him. A disciple is a follower. She follows after the methods and ways of her teacher. A disciple is an imitator, imitating the methods and ways of his coach. These patent responses aren't inappropriate. Nevertheless, within my personal consideration, I've been asking a larger problem than just what is a disciple. I've been asking, what's discipleship? I feel quite comfortable that I know how to be a disciple of Jesus Christ, but I struggle with how to exhibit others how do I make disciples. I could show them the Bible and even show them how to study scripture for them-selves, but I have real difficulty showing them the absolute imperative of living a life that's fully surrendered to Jesus Christ - and what precisely that appears like on an everyday basis.
In the Christian community, there are way too many books out there explaining how to start discipleship. Nearly without fail, there is some method or system that's proposed that can help to make disciples. I in no way desire to disparage some of these. Each of them have their own merits, however it always seems to me that some thing important is lost in the technique. It appears to me that at the conclusion of-the time, the success of the efforts at discipleship finally boils down for the individual's own perception and attitude towards grace itself.
In case a 'disciple' does not have the right perspective about grace, then it is difficult for that person to be able to understand what's means to to be totally surrendered to Christ. We sing 'remarkable grace how sweet the sound' however in reality we are neither taken aback by it or do we savor its sweetness. Without understanding the overwhelming size of the grace bestowed upon us, we are inclined to have overtly low understanding of the phrase 'I submit all.' It becomes a self-deception. What we sing move from our lips so quickly that we rely on our hearts that we really have surrendered our all. And since we think that we've surrendered our all, we have great trouble seeing how unChrist-like and disobedient our lives truly are.
When I have a step right back from my Westernized religiosity and ask myself in true loyalty if I'm truly surrendered to Jesus Christ, there's only one honest answer. No. Upon that easy admission can be built the solid foundation where true discipleship can be built. We sing 'I surrender all' being an request for the lost to come quickly to Jesus, but after offering our lives to Jesus, we invariably get back a lot of it for ourselves again. Those of us who in music are advocating the lost to offer their all are often blind to the fact that they've just given that which is easy. Until we know the way amazing is our grace we cannot honestly surrender our all.
I do not suggest in this even though it is possible and probable that some or many aren't, that any of us who have such a shallow view are not saved. I do recommend, however, that such blindness towards the degree of grace and such blindness to the own failure to surrender our all to Jesus can just only be overlooked for so long without incurring permanent spiritual effects. Perhaps just the Holy Spirit can open our eyes to such blindness. However, when we come to an honest evaluation of ourselves and recognize that we really are not completely surrendered to Christ, then we are faced with a life-altering decision. When this occurs, we should choose between a life of blatant disobedience and a life of surrendered behavior. At the period, we make a decision.. and stand at a crossroad. Turn left and carry on in a life of low, self-centered, average Christianity... Or turn right and become a genuine disciple. I can't say whether the one who turned left is lost or saved, but I can assure you that for me, the challenges have such high eternal consequences that I am not ready to take them. Which will it be for you? Right or Left?
Oh, but that's perhaps not the conclusion of the question. This identification of the resultant decision to surrender and the transcendent cost of grace may establish you as a true disciple of Christ, however it still does not help us answer the question as to what's discipleship or how to be considered a disciple.
Lately, I have been greatly influenced by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Bonhoeffer has enlightened my perspective on discipleship in many ways. Like myself, Bonhoeffer understood that discipleship only happens once the believer is truly surrendered to Jesus Christ in most respect. Bonhoeffer, nevertheless, had a very interesting perspective on which that appeared as if within the believer's life. Bonhoeffer believed that discipleship got by living according to the Sermon on the Mount and he based a lot of his instruction on Christian living on the teachings from the Sermon on the Mount.
When I look at this method of discipleship, I find considerable merit inside, but with some essential exceptions. During the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said (in Matthew 5:17-18) that he did not come to abolish the law, but to satisfy the law. The rest of the Sermon on the Mount, thus, goes on to dismantle traditional thinking about the law and establish more appropriate understandings of obedience to the law. The Sermon on the Mount, therefore, is about the believer's knowledge and attitude towards obedience to what the law states. This is important to discipleship and so is very practical for teaching a disciple just how to live. However, it is still about obedience to the law, which the disciple is obliged to, but it's not about religion. A believer lives by faith and not by the law. As such, understanding the character of law and striving towards obedience to it is critical for the believer; but to seriously be a disciple, the believer must understand the ongoing effects of belief in his life also. To me, consequently, discipleship goes beyond Bonhoeffer's reliance on the Sermon on the Mount to something deeper.
That thing the believer needs to comprehend is the practical part of faith. Where the Sermon on the Mount gives us a practical look at our expected obedience to what the law states, we are in need of a similar practical look at faith. We could find this look at religion from your book of James. The book of James was published to new Jewish believers to greatly help them determine what faith seems like inside their lives on the day by day basis. This is discipleship, and it's not surprising that a lot of the themes in James resemble themes from the Sermon on the Mount.
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Many believers live their entire lives thinking that faith is something they have and perhaps not something they do. Many believers are also afraid of falling into a works-based mentality they limit their knowledge of faith to an incomplete organization of faith to simple perception or mental assent. Faith is a lot more than either belief or intellectual assent that James claims in James 2:19 that even the demons believe and shutter. Religion is a lifestyle that permeates every aspect of the disciple's life and it is alive and dwelling (James 2:26). The reality of the living faith is the building blocks for real what is discipleship. Deitrich Bonhoeffer could argue that each believer should study and follow their lives to the teachings of the Sermon on the Mount. I'd agree, but I would also say that this will set the believers head in the right place. For the believer to take the next step and put their life style in the right place, the believer should adopt and also examine the teachings of the book of James.