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F E L L O W S H I P
F E L L O W S H I P
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Dallas Willard wasn't calling people to leave the church. He was calling them to lead it, by being true followers of Jesus — by being true disciples. As he also observed, the way to become one has never changed: "In the heart of a disciple there is a desire, and there is a decision or settled intent. Having come to some understanding of what it means, and thus having 'counted up the costs,' the disciple of Christ desires above all else to be like him."
Disciples can be brand new believers in Jesus or spiritual mothers and fathers in the Body of Christ, but the thing they all have in common is the burning desire, "above all else to be like him." Always. They never stop learning from Jesus. They never stop encountering the Holy Spirit. They never stop surrendering their hearts to Him.
As a fellowship of disciples who meet together, we always want God to move in our midst, to reveal His heart to us and to change us.
We think He wants the exact same thing.
So the greatest issue facing the world today, with all its heart-breaking needs, is whether those who, by profession or culture, are identified as 'Christians' will become disciples — students, apprentices, practitioners — of Jesus Christ, steadily learning from him how to live the life of the Kingdom of Heaven in every corner of human existence. Will they break out of the churches to be his Church — to be, without human force or violence, his mighty force for good on earth, drawing the churches after them toward the eternal purposes of God?
We need each other. There's just no way around it. It's part of God's plan for His followers. Jesus said, "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." Another translation says it like this: "If you live by what I say, you are truly my disciples" (God's Word), and still another renders it: "If you stick with this, living out what I tell you, you are my disciples for sure" (John 8:31-32, The Message).
Discipleship is more than just taking a class. It is more than just reading the Bible. Discipleship is a way of life, a choice one makes to follow Jesus, to try to understand and act like Jesus and to be His lifelong student. Jesus wraps it all up in this: " "If you love me, you will obey what I command." John 14:15-16
We are told that "The word became flesh and made his dwelling among us" (John 1:14). Jesus came as the living Word of God. And He said "The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life" (John 6:63). But after that, as Dietrich Bonhoeffer notes in Life Together, "God put this Word into the mouth of men in order that it may be communicated to other men."
True discipleship is loving the Lord, obeying his commands and always desiring to be more like Christ. It is also explaining to others what we have learned about Him and how we have experienced Jesus in our lives so they can also become disciples of Christ. Which may be why Peter reminds us, "If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God." 1 Peter 4:11. What a responsibility.
That's really what the Great Commission is all about: "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." Matthew 28:19-20. Our job isn't only to share the Gospel and hope they receive Jesus, it's to help them become followers — students of Jesus — whose priority in life is to become more like Him. Not just on Sundays, but every day. Salvation isn't the finish line, it's the starting line. Which is why Paul tells us to work out our salvation "with fear and trembling," not because of God's wrath, but because we are living epistles, living letters to all who know us. And what we do speaks louder than what we say we do. If we are true disciples of Jesus, those who look will see Christ in us when they are deciding whether or not they want the Christ we profess in their own lives. It's more than a responsibility, it's a great honor and privilege.
There is a cost to choosing Christ and becoming a real disciple. Jesus calls it taking up our cross daily and following Him. Making a confession of faith in Jesus is the start, but if we don't begin to align our thoughts and attitudes and actions with Him, what’s the difference? How can we call ourselves his followers? The late Dallas Willard in his book, The Great Omission, sees the problem this way: