The deep-life work required for authentic discipleship is hard, frustrating, and sometimes tedious.
These are some of the reasons most of us don’t get real serious about the transformation demanded in order to truly follow Christ. For most of us, discipleship has become an intellectual exercise to know as much as we can about Jesus, the Bible, church history, and theology.
What we learn, however, rarely changes the way we behave.
But the whole point of being a disciple is to change the way we live. Certainly changing the way we think is part of this, but if our changed thinking doesn’t lead to changed behavior, our efforts are worthless.
Being a disciple begins with a ruthless examination of ourselves. No excuses, no illusions – just the facts.
How do we live in our world?
How do we make decisions?
How do we express our love for Christ and neighbor in real, tangible ways?
What are those things in our lives that don’t look like Jesus?
How are we dealing with them?
See what I mean? This process can be rather humiliating.
Most of the time, there’s a large gap between who we think we are and who we actually are. If we’re not careful, we’ll fall into this gap, lost in despair.
That’s one of the reasons discipleship is always done best with a group of close friends. They’ll keep you from going off the edge by reminding you it’s the grace of Christ that’s pushing you to do this, not the judgment of Christ.
Christ’s will is to make you more like Him, to be closer to Him. The stuff you’re getting out of your life keeps that from happening.
The second part of discipleship is adding into your life the attributes of Christ.
The difficult part of this is that none of these things come naturally to us. Grace, gentleness, kindness, faithfulness—and all the other gifts that make up the fruit of the Spirit—have to be intentionally added to our lives.
Usually, as we grow as Christ-followers, we end up adding them to our lives one at a time. There’s no spontaneous explosion that melts all of these gifts into our lives. Again, the process is tedious and is best done with the help of fellow disciples.
Well, if it’s so hard, why do it at all?
We do it because there’s joy in every minute of it.
When I confront my failures, I’m beginning the process of being released from them. When I add a characteristic of Jesus to my life, I’m becoming more like Him. In every act of obedience, I find I’m closer and closer to Jesus. His Presence makes the effort worth it.
I want to get rid of anything that keeps me from being close to Him and add anything that helps me stay closer. Sure, it’s tough. Jesus never said it would be easy. He simply promised it would be worth it.