August 19, 2021 | Spiritual Disciplines by Jake and Julia Siegwart
The fall season brings change. Kids head back to school, and adults return from summer leisure while new routines begin. The focus tends to be on children being good learners. But we sometimes forget the biblical reality that youth and grown-ups alike never stop being a student.
There are nearly 8 billion people on earth. Every one of them, including you and I, is a disciple. I know you are already questioning, "Aren't there only 12 disciples?" Let us explain.
By definition, a disciple is a follower, learner, or student. We all follow something or someone; we learn how to live by watching and imitating. We observed our parents or siblings and learned to do the things they did. We followed their lead. Adults learn from friends or co-workers because they want to better themselves. Even culture is a teacher. Consider the social media influencers. What happens? People start to talk like them, dress like them. Why? They want to be like them.
Whether we realize it or not, people are watching us, too; learning from us, even trying to imitate us. We built our first home ourselves. Our son had a tool belt complete with rainbow suspenders, a hammer, and nails. At two years old, he wanted to do and be just like dad. He watched closely. He tried to mimic everything, including climbing the roof ladder, almost giving his mama a heart attack. Little did we know at the time, our son was being discipled in the construction trades. Dad was the teacher; our son, the student.
The reality is we were all created to be disciples, followers, imitators, and image-bearers of God. Genesis 1:26a tells us, "Then God said, 'Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.'" And, again in verse 27, "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them." After creation, sin entered the world through our disobedience (Romans 5:12). Sin corrupts our relationships and draws us away from the One we should follow. It separates us from God and leaves us longing for that perfect relationship. To fill the void, we create our own idols.
Amid our idolatry, God the Father sent the perfect example for us to imitate, His Son Jesus. As fully God and fully man (John 1:1), Jesus lived a sinless life, died on a gruesome cross for our sin, and rose victoriously from death. If we confess and turn away from our sin, believing in what Jesus did in our place, He restores our relationship. Jesus Christ enables us to be His disciples who follow, obey, and imitate Him through the power of the Holy Spirit. Our restored relationship with God gives purpose to all other relationships.
Every one of us influences through relationships. There's always someone younger or less spiritually mature around us. We affect our friends, co-workers, spouse, children, neighbors, and church family. Our choice is, will positively encourage them toward obedience to God and His Word, or negatively toward worldly idols? We either point toward God's glory or away from it. As believers, we are disciples of Christ, and, as His obedient followers, we use our influence to shape others.
Jesus was the most remarkable and perfect example of how we ought to live for other's sake (Phil. 2:1-11). The two greatest commands He gave were to love God and love others (Matt. 22:37-39). Neither command points toward us. Although they transform us, these commands are others-focused. As Christians, we are to stop asking, "What's in it for me?" and instead, ask, "How do I love and obey God today?" and, "How might I influence others' relationship with Jesus today?" As we love God and love others, we are disciples and imitators of Christ.
The apostle Paul understood this as he poured into others for the sake of the Gospel of Christ. In 1 Cor. 10:31, Paul tells believers to "do all for the glory of God." He then immediately follows that command with, "Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ" (1 Cor. 11:1). As Paul learned, those around him learned. Paul's directed his life toward using his gifts and influence to teach and train others.
Like Paul, all Christians must be students of Jesus through His Word and teachers of others, obedient disciples who make disciples. Jesus left us with a final commission, the fulfillment of which we should whole-heartedly pursue.
He didn't just tell us to share the Gospel, although that is part of it. He told us to teach others to obey all He commanded. Jesus said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age" (Matt. 28:18-20).
As continual learners from Jesus, Christians follow the Bible. As we read it, we ask ourselves if we are genuinely doers of the Word (James 1:22). We humbly hold up the biblical mirror. Ask challenging questions, so God is glorified. Who impacts me most? Where do I use my influence to point to or away from God? How have I been passive, a disobedient hearer only, a bystander of God's mission? How will I actively involve myself with discipleship – in learning and teaching relationships – so I and others grow in Christlikeness?
Remember, God graciously transforms us into the image of Christ as we learn and teach.