Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Life-Long Learning

What does it mean to be a disciple? Is it the result of mastering a few basic truths or finishing a set of easy lessons? A disciple is a learner, one who sits at the feet of Jesus and learns from Him (Luke 10:38-42; Matthew 4:19,20; Mark 3:14). Now Scripture calls all believers disciples (Acts 6:7; 11:26; 14:22). Even those who merely outward followers are called disciples (John 6:60-66; 8:31-44; 12:4). But those who are Christ's disciples are called to live in a certain way (John 13:34,35; 15:8; Matthew 10:24,25). Being taught to obey all things Christ commanded is a big order. Simply knowing them is a big order, let alone obeying them all. But that is the goal (Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 20:26,27; 2 Timothy 3:16,17). Therefore, the entire Christian life is a process of growing more and more in Christ (Philippians 3:12-16; Hebrews 12:1-3; 1 Timothy 4:7,8). Not that we can accomplish anything without the power of God working in us (2 Corinthians 3:18; Philippians 2:13; John 15:5). But this process of transformation works over the entire course of our lives.

Now I want to be careful here. The people who put out the little booklets may only have in mind that these give the first steps of introduction to discipleship. But not uncommonly they are not taken that way. And not uncommonly "disciples" can become a designation of some small subgroup within the body of Christ who are regarded as really serious or committed. But the distinction is unbiblical (Ephesians 4:3-6; Colossians 2:19;1 Corinthians 12:25). It can result in complacency in those who feel they have achieved it. It can result in discouragement to those who cannot convince themselves they have attained it or are afraid they cannot continue to maintain it. Rather, the Christian life should be seen as a life-long growth process, where we are all at different places and we need to be careful to avoid judging others (1 Corinthians 4:3-5; James 4:11,12; Romans 14:4). I do not mean we should not correct specific sins; we are required to do that (Galatians 6:1; Matthew 18:15-20; Jude 22,23). But we should be careful of judging a person's state of general progress toward God. They may be further along than we think they are. We may not be as far along as we think we are. And we must be careful of pigeonholing people where Scripture gives no basis for it.

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