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Real Discipleshipby Duane Mabee on July 22, 2021
Many believe in a form Christianity that does not require a person to make any serious attempt at submitting to or following Jesus. But according to Jesus, there is no such thing as a Christian who doesn’t obey and follow Him (Jn. 14:15; Matt. 16:24). Bill Hull discusses what it means to be a disciple in The Complete Book of Discipleship. Here are some thoughts taken from his book.
Jesus told us that following Him would be costly. That’s why He encouraged us to count the cost before offering to follow Him. He wants us to determine upfront that we are willing to pay the cost, rather than walk away later. In the U.S., however, we are obsessed with numbers. The more people who make a profession of faith the more successful we feel. So, to obtain bigger numbers, we minimize the cost of following Jesus. The results haven’t been good.
We modified the gospel so that people believe they only need grace to be saved and have their sins forgiven. By doing so, we limited the extent of God’s grace and left people thinking that once they “get saved” they must live the Christian life on their own power. God’s grace is for the entire journey from salvation to glorification. His grace is available to transform our lives and give us the divine ability to follow and obey Christ.
We modified the gospel by separating justification from sanctification. We have taught people that once you are saved, you are justified – declared righteous in God’s sight – which is true, but we failed to teach them that justification is only the first step. You can’t stop there. justification always launches us into a lifelong process of transformation called sanctification. If we are justified, we will continue to grow to be more and more like Christ. It’s not optional.
We modified the gospel to teach that faith equals agreement with a set of religious facts and that’s all it takes. It is true that you must believe the right things about Jesus and the gospel but believing them without learning to live by and obey them is meaningless. Discipleship is a lifelong process of being transformed into the image of Christ.
You cannot separate being a Christian from being a disciple. In other words, you cannot “be saved” without going on to learn to obey Jesus. Obedience doesn’t save you, but there is no such thing as being saved without following and obeying Jesus. By preaching a gospel that teaches that all you have to do is believe, we have convinced many people that they are saved when they probably aren’t. We need to count the cost of following Jesus for ourselves. We also need to be up front about the cost when we talk to others about following Jesus. Jesus was, and the results were good.