Sunday, October 12, 2008


Being and Growing
The other day I was reminded of a section in Jim Robbins' book Recover Your Good Heart that talks about how (in my own words) we're holy, righteous and complete in Christ, and yet at the same time we're growing in it day by day. A section in one of the chapters is How can it be both/and?

How can it be that in Christ we're perfected forever (Heb 10:14), we've become the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus (2 Cor 5:21), we're holy (1 Cor 3:17), we're born again of incorruptible seed (1 Peter 1:23)... and so much more, all by the gift of God's grace, and yet all of this doesn't always show in our outward behavior (and even in our inward thoughts and attitudes). In other words, how can all of this have been an absolute transformation at the time when Christ came to be our life, but yet we're still in a process of being transformed?

Robbins' provides a helpful explanation:
"...I am always beginning with a firmly established holiness and wholeness within me. Further, I can only change as I rest - rest in God's unshakable favor for me. I therefore learn to live from a new purity in increasing measure while I live buoyed by his delight and already-accomplished work in me. I continue to be transformed into "ever-increasing glory." (2 Cor. 3:18) As I do this, I mature in the goodness that God has already given me. That goodness may be as yet not expressed, but nevertheless still present in me. Discipleship is the process by which I enjoy and continue to express an already-present holiness and wholeness within me." (bold emphasis mine)

Over-complicated Discipleship?
Isn't that really what discipleship is all about? Do you feel as I do that the church has over-complicated discipleship? Does "go and make disciples" really mean "go and get people to follow you?" Does it mean "get people to church every week, and involved in all kinds of church programs and activities?" Does it mean "get people into accountability groups?" Does it necessarily mean one person leads and another person follows? Is discipleship about becoming a "better" Christian and making sure we do all the things Jesus did? Is discipleship about learning all the do's and don'ts and how-to's of the Christian life and applying them as best we can?

To "disciple" simply means to teach. To be a disciple is to learn in such a way as to grow in maturity. As a disciple of Christ, I'm not trying to become more of something. I already am what I am, but I'm in a lifelong process of learning and maturing in who God has already made me to be. I don't believe discipleship is meant to be some tedious process by which I learn all the rules and get my act together more and more. Rather, I take Jesus' words to heart, "Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light." (Matt 11:28-30)

Now there's a type of learning I can relate to! Why do we make it so hard, and so exhausting, monotonous and laborious, when it was never meant to be that way!

True Discipleship
Don't we really disciple one another? Sure, there are wonderful close-knit one-on-one relationships that form within the body of Christ, in which great discipleship takes place, but in the body don't we all teach one another and learn from one another? Aren't we all to build one another up in love and grace, and spur one another on toward expressing the love that is already in us and the good deeds that God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them?


Related Post: The Starting Point


  1. Joel,
    Great topic and excerpts from Jim's book.

    I love the questions you pose in the last paragraph. To all of them, I say "Yes!" Amen! I believe we all disciple one another through our close one-on-one relationships with the people Papa puts in our lives. We all learn from one another, grow from one another, express God's love to each other, point one another to Him and point out His love and grace He has for them, and encourage and build each other up.

    ~Amy :)

  2. Joel--Great thoughts! I've wondered for a while if one of the reasons we have developed so many "discipleship programs" is that we don't trust the Holy Spirit to do His work of growing God's children.

    I'm convinced that growth happens best in more natural settings as we experience life together. Classroom settings can help us acquire knowledge about Christian life, but what we learn in a class doesn't always translate into real life.

    I'm not saying that we can't experience growth from books and classes, but I believe we grow best when we all engage in building each other up in Christ.

  3. Richard,

    Yep indeed, I totally agree. Textbooks and classroom-type teaching settings can be very wonderful and valuable, but I think that most learning ("discipleship") truly does happen in the form of simply living it out with each other and building one another up in love.

    Your thoughts about the amount of programs in the church being based upon a lack of trust in the Holy Spirit working in us really resonates with me. That's been a frustration of mine for a long time. Not that I've got all the answers, but as I've looked around the church I've seen so many things - programs, outreaches, ministries, etc - that aren't necessarily "bad" in and of themselves, but yet are all too often done (in my opinion) in place of allowing the Spirit to work in and through us.

  4. Jim Robbins book, sounds like something I might like to read, do you or any of your readers recommend it ???

    Also My take on discipleship, " I've been chewing on the lords words, (go and make disciples), and I'm thinking what he meant by that is go and make relationships with people that lead them to ME the Lord of Life, after all I will tend my sheep.",,, in other words lead people to Me and I will raise and tend them myself, I the Lord that is.... Yes He dose speak to us through others, but I think it's important to know who is actually doing the speaking and yield to Him alone.

    I hope I shared that plainly enough, sometimes I don't fill in all the blanks and misunderstandings develop.

  5. Crap, I posted b4 reading the comments of others and I sound like an echo...

  6. Hi Leonard,

    I do indeed think that God is the Shepherd and He tends His sheep. We yield to Him alone, and we abide in Him.

    I also think that a lot of this is done through each other. Paul said that we are body of Christ, and we are "members of each other." Not that we make anyone else out to be an idol, or to be higher on any totem pole. Not at all. But there are so many "one anothers" in the Bible (love one another, teach one another, exhort one another, serve one another, submit to one another, etc, etc), that I think our life in the Lord involves these vital connections with one another. So in that respect, I think it's God who disciples us, but my thinking is that He does it through the various members of His body.

    I know fully what you're saying about not filling in all the holes, and misunderstandings that come from that. :) I've had many a person misunderstand me because of that! At times I feel I overcompensate for it by trying to fill in TOO MANY details, and at other times I'm comfortable not filling in the holes, because I think it can often lead to great conversations, IF the people who are involved are willing to talk things through.

  7. Joel, sounds like were on the same page...

    So about that book ?????

    Grace for us both we sure do need it....


  8. Leonard,

    The book is a really good one. I posted a review of it last week. I've had some encouraging email exchanges with the author. There are some small areas in which my 'theology' is slightly different (as I'm sure is the same with people who read my stuff), but this book really is of great help in getting people out of the mindset that they're 'bad' people who are prone to sin, but rather are righteous people who are prone to do 'good' because God has given them a new heart as prophesied by Ezekiel. In short, it's a book that talks about living from your good heart rather than trying hard to 'be a good person.'

    Amy had recommended it, and Aida as well, and a few other people have commented to me that they'd like to read it.

  9. Discipleship is one of the area in Christendom there is a lot of misconceptions. To me, it was sitting in classroom and learning all the right things we should be doing to be a follower of Christ. I always had a picture of a tough teacher teaching tough things to kids. But like you said, 'I'm not trying to become more of something. I already am what I am, but I'm in a lifelong process of learning and maturing in who God has already made me to be.'

    That is the truth what sets us free, but today whatever people do in the name of discipleship (or like you say over-disciplining) is taking the freedom out and putting more and more bondage.

  10. Joel
    Thanks, Ill obtain a copy, musta missed you post on it...
    Best always.

  11. Leonard,

    In case you're interested, my review is here.


    Yes I too had a much more grueling view of discipleship. It was supposed to be "hard" as I killed my flesh and strived to be the man of God that I was supposed to be. How freeing it is to lighten up and relax and just rest in Christ and allow Him to work in and through me, and grow me at His pace.

  12. Discipleship is an ongoing process of becoming in experience by faith who we already are in Christ by position.


  13. Andy,

    It's amazing how hard we make discipleship out to be. Indeed, it's simply a process of growing experientially in the expression of who we already are.

  14. I practice making Christ alone my focus and inheritance. When I focus on the blessings of the abiding/exchanged life instead of the person of Christ then I am missing the mark.

    He alone is our lot and our inheritance. His life through us gives us the ability to love. That and many other blessings are too wonderful even for words but when the blessings and freedom are the focus, then the blessings and freedom are lost. Our aim should be Christ as life.


  15. Andy, a great word! Couldn't have said it better.