If I were ever asked to provide a short, succinct summary of the gospel, it would be these three words: Jesus is Lord.
He is Lord of our justification. He is Lord of our salvation, and He is Lord of our sanctification. Jesus is also Lord of our lives. If we believe these things to be true, then nothing or no one else can claim first place in our hearts and our devotion other than Jesus. This is the heart of authentic discipleship.
At our church’s most recent worship service, we discussed what is often referred to as the “Great Commission,” which is found in the concluding verses of the Gospel of Matthew. These were the marching orders, so to speak, of Jesus to the 11 apostles as He prepared to leave Earth.
“Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,” Jesus told them. This remains the mission of the Church today.
Anyone who has spent any amount of time in church has, undoubtedly, heard this scripture quoted many times over. What has been quoted less, however, are the words Jesus used immediately after making the above statement.
“And teaching them to obey all I have commanded you,” he said.
Dallas Willard referred to this last command of Jesus as “the great omission,” because it has been frequently overlooked, minimized, and ignored by the Church. I agree.
Jesus called us to be and make disciples; not converts, not believers, but disciples – people devoted to learning how to be and do the things Jesus said to be and do.
Simply put, one cannot be a Christian disciple without being a convert or believer, but one can certainly be a believer, a Christian, and not be a devoted disciple. This makes all the difference in the world. Jesus explains the beginnings of discipleship when He admonishes us to teach others, “to obey all I have commanded you.”
If Jesus is truly Lord of our lives, no one or nothing else can can be. If He is our King and we are His subjects, we respond to Him through loving obedience to His commands – yes, even if those commands run contrary to our wants, desires, and fragile egos; even if it messes up our comfortable lives or collides with our culture.
We are justified, forgiven, and reconciled to God only through our faith in what Jesus has done for us through the cross and His resurrection, but we are sanctified (“Moving on to perfection” in the words of John Wesley) when we learn how to be lovingly submissive and obedient to Jesus. This is the calling we all have, but it is not easy.
Fortunately, we have the grace (work) of God and the Holy Spirit guiding and prompting us through the process of discipleship. We have the historic church disciplines (practices) that God so often uses to transform us into the image of Christ from the inside out. We have our brothers and sisters in Christ, encouraging us along the way, and holding us in mutual accountability to one another.
The world has enough “casual Christians,” may we all begin and continue to look to God to transform us into DISCIPLES – for His glory, for our good, and for the good of everyone around us.