What do we need to do to be a disciple of Jesus? We know that a follower's life begins at our conversion when we are born again by placing our faith in Jesus Christ as savior and Lord. But the journey forward to be like Jesus, what does it look involve?
In my journey as a follower of Jesus, I have experienced different seasons. There have been times as a disciple where I felt like I should be doing more (more prayer, scripture memorization, fasting, etc.). In other seasons I sensed God leading me to do less (rest, solitude, sabbath, etc.). Is there a right way, a wrong way, and only one way?
I'm learning that doing more or doing less follows having the right understanding of being a disciple of Jesus. All the things we "do" as followers must flow out of a heart of gratitude for God's saving grace, not as a means to earn God's favor. At the same time, God is not opposed to our efforts and discipline to follow, pursue, and know Him more.
Understanding the elements of discipleship has helped me immensely. In his classic book, "The Great Omission: Reclaiming Jesus' Essential Teachings on Discipleship," Dallas Willard shares what he calls "The Golden Triangle." He believes that there are three sides to discipleship:
Let's take a closer look at the three sides of discipleship.
1. The faithful acceptance of everyday problems
I don't know many people that include endurance and perseverance as an integral part of their discipleship and spiritual growth. Most of us are praying God will remove our struggles and replace them with comfort and happiness. But when we read James 1:2-4, we get a clear picture of how God uses our discomfort for our discipleship.
"Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything."
Isn't it true that we grow more through difficulties and trials?
2. Interaction with the Holy Spirit
The Holy Spirit is always at work within us to do two things: transform our character (fruit of the Spirit) and to make us useful in the Kingdom of God (gifts of the Spirit). Both the fruit and the Spirit's gifts are the result of God's presence in our lives. We must pay attention to what the Holy Spirit wants to do in our lives. We can do this as we develop intimacy with Christ and an ear for the Spirit's voice. Daily, let's remember Paul's words in Galatians 5:25:
"Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit."
3. Spiritual disciplines
As we desire to "be like Jesus," we follow His example of practicing spiritual disciplines. In the Gospels, we see Jesus spending time in prayer, fasting, solitude, and service. The consistent, daily practice of these disciplines brings about spiritual transformation. Sincere prayer, study, and the meditation of God's Word, worship, and solitude change the inner man and cause us to be more like Jesus.
We are careful not to practice a rigid "check the box" Christianity as if our disciplines are required for salvation. Instead, we practice these disciplines with a hunger to know God and realize that intimacy with Christ produces the life of Christ within us. Being a disciple, Jesus requires us to follow, to put some effort into our growth. Remember 2 Peter 1:5:
"For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge..."