“People seldom improve when they have no other model but themselves to copy,” once quipped the 18th-century Anglo-Irish essayist, playwright, and poet Oliver Goldsmith.
In an age of extreme individualism that sets oneself as the standard, that parrots such expressions as “I must live for myself,” or “I must be true to myself,” and “I can only know what is right and wrong for me,” Goldsmith’s observation finds modern-day application.
Not long ago freelance writer Matthew Miller published an article entitled, “The Radical Individualism Raging Through America.” In it, he quoted Paul Krugman, a New York Times columnist, in a piece titled “The Cult of Selfishness Is Killing America,” which espoused that “too many Americans now subscribe to the positive power of greed and the innate belief that everyone is better off when they pursue their own self-interest.”
Unfortunately, this spirit has too often found its way into the church. It is witnessed in both overt and in subtle ways that elevates one’s personal preferences, political opinion, and self-interests over the collective good of the church and the leadership of godly Shepherds.
Most seriously, however, individualism diminishes the Biblical teaching of discipleship that values the virtues of self-sacrifice, self-denial, and self-control. It flatly contradicts Christ’s teachings that challenge us to follow Him.
Consider Jesus’ characterization of discipleship.
“Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple” (Lk. 14;27).
“A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone who is perfectly trained will be like his teacher” (Lk. 6:40).
“If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me’ (Lk. 9:23).
“He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it” (Matt. 10:37-39).
“My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me” (Jn.10:27).
Hearing Jesus, heeding Jesus, following Jesus, and striving to become like Jesus is the essence of discipleship.
Being a disciple of Christ calls for submissive, sacrificial, servile, and selfless attitudes and actions. This means that we submit to His will and Word. That we serve the needs of our fellow man and our church family. That we’re willing to give up whatever stands between us and our relationship with the Lord. And that we surrender our pride, prerogatives, privilege, and personal opinions.
A cursory study of the first-century disciples beginning with Acts 2:42-47 reveals that discipleship…
…Requires attachment to the Body of Christ. You can’t go it alone.
…Involves learning. Increasing in knowledge is a must.
…Engages in a devoted, loving fellowship. Think the “one another” commands.
…Issues itself in worship. Assembling with fellow Christians to praise God is vital.
…Results in evangelistic outreach. How can you not share the joy of your faith?
If all of this raises concerns that you fail to measure up to this Scriptural standard, be advised that discipleship is not an event. It’s a process. A life-long process. In the parlance of the Christian race analogy. Discipleship is not a 100-meter sprint. It’s a marathon. An ultra-marathon.
In the words of Bill Donahue,
“Disciples are not just people with more answers to Bible questions who attend more events or listen to more Christian radio. Disciples are people who act like Christ, who are willing to train to be like Him, who practice the disciplines of prayer, solitude, worship, Bible reading and study, community and ministry. They are lifelong learners and lovers of Jesus.”
Let us “Renew in ‘22″ our commitment to Christian discipleship.
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman