Jake’s family didn’t go to church and didn’t own a Bible. They have five TV’s though. Out of nowhere his friend Thomas invited him to a summer youth camp in CO. It sounded fun so he went. Some stranger paid for it. It slipped Jake’s mind to try to thank him.
Sixteen-year old Jake heard God’s good news and was convicted of his many sins. He repented and trusted Christ. Unknown to Jake at the time, he became a new creature, indwelled and sealed by the Holy Spirit.
Then he came back home to chaos and dysfunction, drinking and cussing, MTV and ESPN and all manner of noise and distraction. And no one discipled Jake. No one talked to him about growing as a Christian. No one stressed his need for a church home. No one at camp said, “Jake, now that you are a Christ-follower, you need to get baptized.” Or, “Jake, you need to start reading your Bible, going to church, praying to God.”
Jake certainly knew something real happened but he didn’t know it was only the beginning.
So his growth was stunted. Like a child in poverty, he was undernourished and undersized but didn’t know it. He was alive but that was about it. What was missing? The disciplines of disciples; a.k.a., the means of grace.
Not to earn grace but to enjoy grace. Not to become a Christian but to be a Christian. And grow up to be like Christ.
Margaret had been a growing disciple for decades. Kids, grandkids, great grandkids, then she lost her husband and lost her way. It was very gradual. Bible reading became sporadic then non-existent. It became easier to stay home from church. She still prayed but didn’t expect much to happen.
She began to dry up spiritually. It became a winter season of the soul. She would wonder, “Am I just waiting to die?” How will she be refreshed and renewed for the life God has called her to live?
In both examples, the answer is the same – grace-enabled disciplines of disciples. Where we pursue the means of grace God has put in our lives for our growth and change. Theologically, we are talking about sanctification that always follows justification. Grammatically, we are talking about moving from the indicatives of Scripture to the imperatives. Historically we are talking about the pattern of God with Israel. They were first redeemed and rescued from bondage by way of the Passover and Red Sea crossing. Then God gave His Law at Mt. Sinai, not as a means of salvation, but as a way to please Him as His covenant people. The do’s and don’ts of the Ten Commandments were loving guardrails and holy protections for the infant nation.
Ephesians is an example. Chapters 1-3 are the indicatives of our faith, with only one command to “remember” in 2:11. Chapters 4-6 then are loaded with over 35 commands related to living out the faith. From doctrine to duty, from wealth in Christ to our walk with Christ.
This can even be observed on a micro level with a comparison of Eph. 2:8-9 to Eph. 2:10.
The point being, real Christianity is not just belief or chasing a feeling but involves doing, bearing fruit and producing good works.
Jesus stressed this in the Sermon on the Mount and James echoes this in his clarion call to be doers of the word, not deluded hearers only. This series of blog posts will focus on disciplines of disciples, even the same disciplines our Lord practiced as He walked with God. As in all things, He’s our example without fault. I’m talking about grace-induced, grace-enabled duties of the Christian commitment, not legalistic moralism of dead religion. Legalism is of the Devil. Duties are from God. They flow from faith.
There are disciplines and habits of life we must actively pursue as believers. The language of the NT includes laying hold, seeking and doing. Denying our flesh, saying no to sin and laziness, buffeting our body, making it our slave, disciplining ourselves for the purpose of godliness and pressing on toward the goal. The Christian life involves striving and laboring while resting in Christ.
Yes, there is rest but it’s the rest of His yoke, plowing His field, bearing His easy burden.
Yes, God is sovereign but we have delightful duties that have nothing to do with our justification and everything to do with our sanctification. And we must do them. You must do them. No one else can do them for us. No one else is responsible. No one else will be held accountable. It’s time we all take our Christian duties a lot more seriously.
“So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” Phil. 2:12,13