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? Here are some other realities that shape a Disciple’s lifestyle:
• Disciples don't necessarily just have principles that they are willing to die for…they also have a list of practices that mark their lives – what are those practices?
• Disciples see each moment as one with an opportunity to be filled by Jesus – they sacramentalize each moment – who do we do that?
• Disciples receive with a thankful heart and know what it means to worship God by giving things away – how do we apply that?
• Disciples are gripped by the things that are gripped by grace – what does that mean for daily living?
• Disciples live out the significance Jesus placed on the gathering/community of His people, what is called the Body of Christ, as being the hope of the world – how do we do that?
• Disciples know the difference between a "please, God" and "please God" prayer – do you pray that way?
• Disciples approach living for the Kingdom of God not as obligation but as an adventure – are you living the adventure?
• Disciples know the difference between their effort, knowledge, experience, and energy and the potential that fills them when they are able to tap into the ultimate power-source, gift-releaser – the Holy Spirit – how does the Spirit manifest Himself uniquely in your life?
• Disciples are not into volunteerism because they know that Jesus calls them into servant leadership and dedicated, humble service to God – what are ways we can live as a servant?
• Disciples understand the mystery of God and knowing that only by living the mystery will they understand what life is all about – what are some of the “mysteries” of God?
• Disciples know that having "eyes to see and ears to hear" has to do with being on the lookout for the movement of God in every moment of life – how is God moving in and through you?
• Disciples know that Jesus calls them to be the Church more than He does to go to church – how can you BE the Church to others? What does that mean?
• Disciples know that God is not through with them yet and that their life would be best lived with a sign around their neck, "under construction" – what is God doing in you now?
• Disciples know that listening and loving is just as powerful, if not more powerful, than sharing their faith – do you find it hard to “listen and love”? why is that?
•Disciples realize that prayer has more to do with their transformation than it does with getting God to do something – what is God transforming in you?
• Disciples know that when they are in the presence of one or more other disciples that the power of God is waiting in the wings – when does that happen in your life?
• Disciples know that there is a difference between being hearers and doers of the Word – what IS the difference?
• Disciples know that in the midst of every human contact there is the potential of a Divine appointment – when was the last time you experienced a Divine Appointment? Why don’t we experience them more often? Is there anything we can do to make them more prevalent in our lives?
• Disciples live out the reality that discipleship for them means discipling others who will in turn disciple others who will in turn… In other words, Disciples understand that every person they come in contact with is "fair game" for discipling – who are you discipling?
• Disciples love expressions of worship but understand that true worship is embodied in the phrase, "living sacrifice" – what does it mean to be a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1-2)?
• Disciples know in their heart the cost of discipleship and that discipleship continues to cost – what is the cost of discipleship? Is following Jesus “costing” you? How?
• Disciples know that when they follow Jesus they are not just joining the fellowship of “blessings” (Ephesians 1:3) but also the fellowship of suffering (Philippians 1:9) – what does that mean to you?