The third stage of the journey in Christ has to do with His followers becoming disciples. To review what I wrote last week: in the first stage of the journey believers profess their faith in Jesus Christ, but may not realize all that Christ calls us to do in their lives. During the second stage followers really take the Biblical teachings seriously and learn to apply it to their lives through the Indwelling Holy Spirit. They invest themselves in being true to their beliefs, developing a personal relationship with Christ and trying to live up to all that Jesus taught. Then in the third stage, the disciples are those who have integrated Jesus’s teachings into their lives, have a personal relationship with Christ and are living out their purpose as Christ defines it for them. For each person two things–living the presence of God, and following all that the Holy Spirit says to that person are the keys to becoming a disciple of Christ.
Have you read “The Cost of Discipleship” by Dietrich Bonhoeffer? I’m about halfway through and I’m thinking that every Christian should read it. Bonhoeffer was a Christian academic and a pastor who fought the emergence of the Nazi regime from its inception in the early 1930’s to His death in a concentration camp just three weeks short of the end of the war and the arrival of the allied troops. He knew the true cost of discipleship; he lived it and died on his own cross, too. In this book, written before his incarceration for his opposition to the Hitler’s regime, he pulls no punches about Jesus’s invitation to us to follow Him, to leave the world behind and all its attractions to us. He writes of the meaning of Jesus’s words in our lives and the costly grace they call us to. And yet he also writes of how Christ helps us so much, no matter what happens to us, that He is always there in the midst of what we are going through—on that we can count.
Jesus, after predicting His own death on the cross, called us to take up our own cross and to follow Him. As disciples we are well prepared to follow Jesus wherever He would lead us, even to our death. Modern disciples of Christ, Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Mother Teresa and many others did just that: they picked up their cross and followed Christ wherever He led them. This is how I think of my own relationship with Christ: He’s the pilot of the plane that is my life and I am the co-pilot, working with Him to accomplish His goals for me. We all depend upon Paul’s descriptions of the life of a disciple, on how he has been transformed by God into the person he was created to be, speaking the faith of a disciple, leaning upon the Holy Spirit, being true to the love of God in everything and then taking whatever comes to them, be it life or death, as it what was meant to be by God. So, in everything, a disciple follows Christ no matter what. No objections. No alternative suggestions. No fear, because they know that God is always at their side.
A disciple just goes where he is sent, does what she is call to do and rests in the total faith and trust of a true believer in God. These disciples were not perfect people; in fact, in some cases like Paul’s, they are the most unlikely person to be chosen for that job, that is, in a human estimation, but not in God’s. Paul had not only persecuted the early Christians, after his conversion he wrote of his delight in being weak, because he knew how strong Christ was, so that his own frailties and failures didn’t matter at all.
There is a freedom unknown in human cultures in being a disciple. Fear is not an issue at all. The only thing that counts is what Christ is prompting you to do, for you know that you are in His good hands, no matter the outcome. You can march yourself off to the hill where the executions take place like Bishop Cyprian did in 3rd c. North Africa. He knew that he would be executed for his beliefs. Or shed all your fine clothes and riches like Francis of Assisi did and serve the poor. Or be burned at the stake like Joan of Arc in the early 15th c. You trust God in everything. In life, in death, in everything!
The life of the disciple of Christ is
one of freedom from the world and its influences,
filled with the love of God and love for others,
being the companion of Christ,
with a mission to spread God’s love and Gospel to the world and
enjoying the fulfillment of all that the person was created to be.
It is a life beyond anything that anyone in the world can imagine, but one that is totally satisfying and fulfilling.
Questions to ponder over the week: How deeply have I gone into the life of a believer, a follower or a disciple of Christ? What more is Christ calling me to do right now in my life to be truer to Him? Do I recognize the voice of the Indwelling Spirit of God? Do I follow whatever He suggests? On a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being the highest devotion, how devoted to God am I?
Blessing for the week: May we be the people of God who are following Christ in everything we do. May we be true to you, Lord; may that be the intention for our lives. May we allow God to show us the purpose of our lives and then live that purpose to the fullest, all with your help.
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 Matthew 16:24
 2 Corinthians 12:7ff