Ok – here's a good one for you…how would define the word, "Disciple"? Most of us when we think about the word "Disciple", innately click into prescriptive mode – in other words, we prescribe what a disciple is by what a disciple does. In other words, a Disciple is defined by Discipleship…the actions of a Disciple. In this instance, actions would be focused primarily on things like worship attendance in a local church, bible reading, prayer, a person's devotional life, financial giving, etc. Now, don't get me wrong – all these activities are good and can even be used as "measures" in assessing discipleship.
Yet, what is a Disciple? What is a Disciple in a descriptive perspective? Well, try this one on for size – a Disciple is one who is alive in Jesus Christ. In other words, a Disciple is a person who has the life of Jesus implanted by the Holy Spirit and
manifested by the Holy Spirit in their life that they are now alive in
Jesus. Again, a Disciple is defined not by what we do but by the life of Jesus in us. Before there is any "doing" as a Disciple, there is an essential "being" that comes from the life of Jesus alive in the heart.
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 that 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 life, pure and simple.
Where 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'm working on this…so allow me some latitude. A Disciple is alive in Jesus…the Holy Spirit is drawing out what is true, right, holy and pure within their heart because that's where Jesus resides. Good works? They are not something that they are trying to do because they are attempting to be like Jesus…good works are what the Holy Spirit is doing through them. They are happening because of the life of Jesus in and through them. Good works happen almost effortlessly, quicker than you could have ever imagined because they happen not by sheer will power, guilt, or even training/mentoring but because they are being released through the work of the Holy Spirit. A Disciple, to allude to something I read in a new book by Len Sweet and Frank Viola, The Jesus Manifesto, doesn't ask "what would Jesus do" as if they could match up their actions with the actions of the biblical Jesus…but rather a Disciple asks and seeks to know/discern what it is that Jesus is doing and wants to do in and through their life? There is a difference! You see, the Holy Spirit wants to release what is already there in the life of Jesus in the disciple's life…in this manner, a Disciple is more than a noun – it is a verb, implying action and life.
You would think that we would have had this down…but the more I think about it, the more I feel like we need to reengage and enjoy the struggle to define what a disciple of Jesus is…any thoughts?