We are all disciples of somebody. We all learned to live from somebody else, there are no exceptions. As human beings, we are the kind of creatures who have no choice but to learn, and keep learning, from others how to live.
Of course, we live in 21st century America, the land of “rugged individualism”, we are all our own man, or our own woman. We do what we want to do, we ‘don’t need nobody‘ telling us how to live our lives. Except for one thing – we learned this “rugged individualism” from somebody, or more likely a whole bunch of some-bodies, who taught us this “rugged individualism”. We don’t need anyone telling us how to live. What we need is to get the right job, live in the right neighborhood, drive the right car, wear the right clothes, marry (or not marry) the right person, use the right phone on the right phone network, eat the right food, drink the right beer, use the right deodorant, get the right hairstyle…and everything will be just fine, because I GOT THIS. I am in charge of me. Yes, we have been taught and discipled in such a way that we know that we are to live our own lives as we see fit, and we don’t need anyone butting their stinking noses up into our business.
This is what it means for us to be modern people, living in an overwhelmingly secular society. We are ruggedly individualistic. But we did not become the individualists we are through our own individual and independent thoughts and insights on ultimate truth. We did not come to our individualism individually.
We, like every other human being, learned how to live our lives from somebody, again probably several somebodies. We are all, mostly, students of a few crucial people who have been in your life at crucial times to help you form your standard responses in thought, word and action to the world around you. This process is really ongoing, never ending (which is a good thing for most of us), and self-correcting.
Usually we begin as disciples of our closest family members, hopefully our parents. For most of us, this is very good. Maybe you were taught very young by good, strong people who knew God and ways in his ways.
Not all are so fortunate. Sometimes we are disciples very early on of parents and family that are dysfunctional. Our original family examples can for many of us be mildly debilitation or outright disastrous. We can look at the results of children who were raised by alcoholics or drug addicts. They learn from their chemically dependent parents how to exist and function in the world around them, and in many cases the results can be tragic.
We later become disciples of our teachers, and our playmates and peers. Once we get to the teen years, those who are teaching us to live will set in stone for us the way we see and approach the world around us. We could learn from teachers or college professors or military instructors. We learn far more than we would care to admit from music stars, actors and actresses, the celebrities we follow. Maybe a writer or well know professional type. These people all give us an impression of what life is supposed to be about, and what we learn from them gives us the necessary orientation of our conscious behavior and outlook toward ourselves, toward others and toward God. We all have (must have) these orientations, even if they are wrong.
At some point in time, we must recognize who has taught us, mattered us, discipled us. We must evaluate and understand the results of the teaching we have received. This is a sometimes frightening task, and many of us just can’t do it. But when we do this, it can result in us opening the door to finally learn from the true master of life.
Jesus assumption during his time on earth was that his followers, his disciples, would live their lives as his students and coworkers. That his people would (and should) find him so admirable and wise in every respect that they would constantly seek to be in his presence and guided, instructed and helped by him in every part of their lives. He assumed this because he is the firstborn of the new creation, the new Adam who walked on the earth as the first Adam was supposed to – in obedience to our Father in the heavens. In the words of Dallas Willard, “he is indeed the living head of the community of prayerful love across all time and space.”
If we live our lives as disciples of Jesus, we will become the kind of people who would do everything we do “in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Col 3:17). We would do all we do in his behalf, or in his place, as he would do it. His great commission to us at the end of Matthew’s Gospel is “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”” Matthew 28:19-20 ESV. Notice what it explicitly tells here, that we will baptize in the name of the the Lord – teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And what is implicit here? How would his disciples, then and now, teach others to obey all that he commanded them if they themselves are not obeying his commands? So we obey his commands (right?), and our inner life is transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit, the Christ within us.
There is no good reason for us not to do what Jesus tells us to do, because he only tells us to do what is best. But do we do what is best? One day, we know we will stand in the presence of Christ. Have we been good and faithful servants, or will Jesus stand before and ask this question – “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?”
What are the commands of Jesus? You know them, you’ve heard them. “And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”” Mark 12:30-31 ESV. Pretty simple, right? Love your God, love your neighbor. And don’t forget this one – “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”” John 13:34-35 ESV.
So why do we call Jesus ‘Lord, Lord’? Do we believe that he is lord? By which I mean, do we believe that he all power over all things right here and now? Maybe we don’t see his power playing out in the world because we don’t have his power in our lives. Maybe his power is not playing out for the world to see because those who claim to be his disciples call him Lord, Lord, but don’t actually do what he says.
What am I saying?? How do we know we love God?? The biblical test for love of God is the love of neighbor. “If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.” 1 John 4:20 ESV. God is here, but we can not see or touch or directly work for him. Except that we can, because we do have our brothers, each one made in the image of God. The trouble with our brothers as opposed to our God is that we can see them. We can touch them. We can smell them. We can see all their bad habits. We can hear their annoying laugh. We know that they don’t love God like we love God. We know they don’t live by his word like we live by his word. We know they don’t forgive others like we forgive others. But we love them anyway, don’t we?
We know we love God by our love for our neighbor. But, the classic question is, just who is our neighbor? Anyone we can help (see Luke 10). The biblical test case for love of God is love of neighbor. The test for love of neighbor is love of enemy. “”You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” Matthew 5:43-45 ESV. If we are living as the image of God, the image of Christ in the world, we will know that our enemy is our neighbor just as much as our closest friends.
Love God. Love neighbor. Love and pray for our enemies. How about forgiving others? “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” Matthew 6:14-15 ESV
Who’s disciple are you?
“”Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?”
Luke 6:46 ESV