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Tuesday, July 1, 2014

July 2014

I have been thinking a good deal about this idea of "discipleship" lately. What does it mean to be a disciple of Jesus? How does one become a disciple? What kind of impact would being a disciple have on my everyday life? A great deal of ink has been spilled attempting to flesh out exactly what discipleship is supposed to look like. Much of the material I read makes me think that loss of ink is a real tragedy! That ink has only been used to confuse the church, and in some cases, unnecessarily burden the consciences of Christ's sheep.

I recently read a book that suggested not all Christians are disciples. The argument goes that a disciple is a Christian who follows everything Jesus says, who is always learning from Jesus' words, who is doing everything possible to evangelize the world and reproduce disciples. Every part of the disciple's life is lived out wholly and fully for Jesus. When you are striving to live like this, then you are a disciple. Otherwise, you are nothing but a mere Christian. This means, I suppose, that you are saved but not getting everything out of the Christian life you would otherwise achieve by lining yourself up with Jesus' plan.

Something in this view of discipleship rubs me the wrong way. I know what you're thinking: What could be wrong with listening to and learning from Jesus? What could be wrong with evangelism and reproduction of disciples? Absolutely nothing is wrong with these things! In fact, they are marvelous responsibilities we have received from Jesus. In fact, every Christian should strive to live in such a way. However, such responsibilities do not a disciple make. Our efforts do not make us disciples at all. It is Jesus who makes us His disciples.

My struggle with this attitude is that it makes being a disciple into a sort of special achievement only some Christians accomplish, while the others sit around "merely" going to church and existing as second class citizens. Further, suggesting that only some Christians are disciples may lead some to think they are off the hook for carrying out their lives in a way that glorifies the Lord. Such distinctions create either unnecessary fear or unjustifiable laxity.

Discipleship is not something we get to decide to do nor is it a goal we seek to achieve. All Christians are disciples. Period. Disciples are made in the waters of baptism and formed by the Word of God. This is what Jesus means in His great commission when He tells His disciples to, "go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you..."(Matthew 28:19-20). Jesus says that baptism and teaching make disciples. Baptism is Christ's work. He chooses us in our baptisms to be His own. What is taught is His Word of repentance and forgiveness, of Law and Gospel. It is what Jesus does to us that makes us disciples!

Discipleship is not an achievement, but a gift. You are a disciple because Jesus chose to have you be His follower. He chose to die for you and baptize you into his family. Becoming a disciple is not an act of our will, but an act of God's grace for us! Thus, as one of Christ's disciples, you live your life under His grace. Your family life, your work life, your social life, your church life, all of it has been purchased with the blood of Jesus. Because we have a marvelous and gracious Lord, we listen to His Word so that it forms and shapes our wills to conform more and more to His will. When we sin, He forgives. When we pray for guidance, He listens and answers. When we do well, we glorify Him for using us in His kingdom. Christ has graciously chosen us to follow Him! So, rejoice all of you! You are disciples!

Pastor Bob

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