Discipleship. What’s the image that comes to your mind? Bible study? Working through a curriculum in a group? Serving in the church? Memorizing Scripture? Sharing the gospel with non-Christians? All of the above?
Discipleship certainly includes those activities and others like it. But the heart of discipleship is a relationship… a call to follow Jesus, to be with him, to know him, and learn from him (Mark 1:17; 3:14; John 17:3). But it’s possible for us to “hear” that in a sterile, task-oriented way. And, again, there are things to do when we follow Jesus. But the relationship with God that is at the heart of discipleship is a desire for God, a longing to know him and be with him. Consider the following passages:
I will glory in the Lord… Glorify the Lord with me; let us exalt his name together. …
Taste and see that the Lord is good… (Psalm 34:2-3, 8)
Delight yourself in the LORD … (Psalm 37:4)
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God? (Psalm 42:2)
So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. (1 Corinthians 10:31)
But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ… (Philippians 3:7-8)
The picture of discipleship that emerges from the Scriptures calls us to not simply to believe certain things, or do certain things, or avoid certain things (it does call us to all of those things, of course); it chiefly calls us to delight in God and find our glory and joy and satisfaction in knowing him. It calls us to experience God as our highest good and to love him by making him the center of everything that we do. In short, to glorify God and enjoy him (now and) forever.
Sometimes I catch myself self-assessing how I’m doing in the Christian life. When I do, my mind naturally goes to ministries I’m involved in, people I’m spending time with, opportunities I’ve had to share the gospel, and things like this. In other words, when I self-assess about my spiritual life I tend to think about the things I’m “doing for God.” More recently, I’ve been thinking more in terms of my delight in God. Perhaps a better question, at least for me at this point, is not so much how I’m doing (understood in terms of my performance), but how am I delighting in God? How have I experienced his love and presence and joy and peace in my life? How am I expressing my love for him in return?
The gospel reminds us that our standing before God is not based on what we do for God—how well we’re doing in so many Christian activities—but on what he has done for us in his Son. The heart of discipleship is growing in our experience of God based on our identity in Christ and work of the Holy Spirit in us. When that overflows in a desire to make God the center of our lives and glorify him in all we do, things tend to take care of themselves. We read the Bible to experience God, not because we’re supposed to have daily devotions. We share the gospel with others, because Christ’s love compels us and we want others to know and glorify him with us. We serve others, because in so doing we experience Christ—we find our lives by losing them for Christ’s sake and the gospel’s (Mark 8:34-38).
As we seek to make disciples, we are essentially finding ways to intentionally walk with one another to encourage each other to glorify and enjoy God. Perhaps some regular questions we can ask one another could include: How have you been experiencing God recently? Have you been delighting in him? How is your heart toward God these days? How has it overflowed toward others?
Steve Sage is our Pastor of Discpleship.