Over the past several days I’ve started to dive into a study that I’ve wanted to do for a while now. The question I’m trying to answer is this: what exactly does it mean to be a disciple? For those that don’t know me, I’ve considered myself a Christian for almost 30 years now, but looking back over the years, I would say that it wasn’t until the last 10 or so that I truly began to understand what it means to follow him. And I’m still learning. I’m also willing to bet that any of you willing to be honest with yourselves would say that you are too. So, I decided to write about the topic today–and very likely over the next few weeks–to help others understand what we are talking about when we claim to be disciples. And, as my friend Dave did in a sermon he delivered yesterday, I hope to provide a mirror that helps us to clarify where we might be able to sharpen our walk with Christ.
First, I think Dave was on the right path when he said that we have two types of people in church today–believers and followers. I’m sure that New England is not the only place you see this either. Heck, reading through James 2:14–17,1 don’t even think this is a phenomenon that is specific to our time. James is calling out a group of people in his time who claim to believe in Jesus. He’s essentially saying that the people he’s addressing are paying lip service to their faith. James also states that faith without works is dead. Let that sink in for a minute–then read on in James. He goes on to say that even the demons believe in God and shudder before continuing to prove his point using Moses, Abraham, and Rahab as examples of what it looks like to truly have faith in God. Any one of these people put it all on the line to follow what it was that God called them to. It cost every one of them something–usually something dear. James wraps this thought up by stating that just as the body is dead without the spirit, so is faith dead without works. Ouch.
But you must understand me. I’m not claiming that there is anything other than faith in Jesus Christ that saves you from your sin. It is by faith alone that we are saved–and this is through the free gift of His grace extended to us through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. But I think that faith–true faith involves way more than saying a cute little prayer and walking away with a good feeling. Dietrich Bonhoeffer explores this idea in his book Discipleship in which he discusses (and cautions against) the idea of cheap grace. According to Bonhoeffer, cheap grace is the “church’s inexhaustible pantry, from which it is doled out by careless hands without hesitation or limit.” He goes on to talk about how the world would see any church that preaches this kind of grace is merely peddling a cheap cover up for sin that shows no remorse. Essentially, this is a denial of God’s living word–which calls for us to sell everything we have, give to the poor and follow Jesus (Luke 18:22).
We’ll explore what it looks like to truly follow Jesus in the coming weeks, but for now I’d challenge you to do a bit of hard work. Take a look in the mirror, and ask God to search the depths of your soul. Are you truly following Jesus? Are you laying it all on the line for Him–or do you live with one foot in the world and one in the Kingdom of God? If God reveals areas in which you do that, it’s probably time to prayerfully pursue change in that area of your life. Believe me, it’s not easy to give up living in this world–but as the man who found that hidden treasure in a field discovered (Matthew 13:44), it is worth living a life that is completely sold out to following Jesus. In the end, it is the difference between hearing “well done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:23) and “I never knew you, depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.” (Read Matthew 7:21–23 for the context behind that statement–it’s eye opening!).