December 9, 2010 § 2 Comments
A previous post asked for indicators that discipleship is taking place. The conventional markers – theological accuracy, moral purity, liturgical continuity, and evidence of the Spirit’s power – are all critiqued by Jesus at one point or another. IOW, one can progress in these areas and still be lacking something. What, therefore, is the missing piece?
In the discussion that took place on Facebook, it was suggested that discipleship requires attachment to Jesus – what is described in John 15 as abiding in Christ. In terms of our own spiritual maturity, such attachment to Christ produces Christ-centered, Christ-defined, Christ-empowered faith, hope, and love. It is Christ who generates the faith, hope, and love and any attempt to grow in these areas apart from him results in despair (because we can’t do it) and/or legalism.
Justification by Christ must always precede imitation of Christ. The gospel must be the foundation of all discipleship, pastoral counseling, or missional activity.
But can we still ask what this will look like – assuming the foundation is the gospel, the source is Christ, and the means is abiding in him through faith? It remains a dangerous question because so easily we can play lip service to the gospel, Christ, and faith and simply move on to what we should be doing. Yet we’re slaves to the righteousness of Christ that has been imputed to us (Romans 6:18). His righteousness must define our living. So I’m going to run the risk and offer a suggestion of what Christ-centered, gospel-based discipleship looks like. Actually, this list isn’t original with me, but forms the structure of David Augsburger’s book Dissident Discipleship: A Spirituality of Self-Surrender, Love of God, and Love of Neighbor, though I’m listing his categories in my own words.
Augsburger does not deal at length with the centrality of the gospel to discipleship. He addresses the practical outworking of tripolar discipleship (God, self, and others). His suggestions can easily become dissident legalism, though much more trendy than the ‘don’t drink, don’t smoke’ variety. So heed the warning and consider the following marks of discipleship:
- Imitation of Jesus
- Faithfulness to a Christian community
- Stubborn submission and obedience to the will of God with the peace that passes understanding
- Service that elevates others
- Subversive, counter-cultural engagement with the world
My copy of Aubsburger’s book is filled with question marks, which I note in the margins when ever I disagree or remain unconvinced with an author’s argument. Yet his suggestions go beyond the ‘here’s what you have to believe and here’s what you have to do’ kind of discipleship. A life of Christ-centered faith, hope, and love will imitate Jesus, respond to evil nonviolently, elevate others, be authentic, and challenge the powers of culture.