My two abiding images from the Olympics. Firstly, Usain Bolt coasting to victory, effortlessly breaking the world records. Reminds me of the disciples in Luke 10v17, sent to preach coming back rejoicing that even demons have submitted to them. Jesus affirms that this happened and then diverts their joy to something else. There names are written in heaven, because of the cross to which he's walking, they belong in heaven.
Why point them there? Partly because life is unreliable for joy. The second image I remember is Debbie Flood. She gave it all, so much so that she was unable to speak when interviewed by the BBC. All that effort and no reward. Secondly, because there is something better than even the most extravagant evangelistic exploits. An eternity with Jesus beats anything else. John Newton longed for it: Christ who called me here below, will be forever mine.
Discipleship is about people and Jesus. Discipleship is caught from watching people. Discipleship is taught from beholding Jesus in the word of God by the Spirit. Adoring Jesus.
What does it mean to be human? Not to err, but rather to be an image bearer of God. Imaging forth his glory into his world. And yet, all have deliberately fallen short of that glory. By stark contrast to every other person there is Jesus. The Image of God. And the stunning news of the gospel includes that he wants fallen image bearers to be re-created and transformed to be like Jesus, to be as we were meant to be so that we can forever be with him.
Discipleship prays with Charles Wesley: Adam’s likeness now efface, stamp thine image in its place. Second Adam, from above, recreate us in thy love.
How does this change happen? Tim Chester puts it well: “…CHANGE TAKES PLACE IN OUR LIVES AS WE TURN TO SEE THE GLORY OF GOD IN JESUS. WE SEE THE GLORY OF CHRIST AS WE HEAR THE GOSPEL OF CHRIST (2 CORINTHIANS 4:4-6). MORE EFFORT, FEAR OF JUDGEMENT AND SETS OF RULES CAN’T BRING LASTING CHANGE. BUT AMAZING THINGS HAPPEN WHEN WE TURN TO THE LORD” TIM CHESTER, YOU CAN CHANGE, P23, IVP 2008
The discipler prays for themself and those they disciple, again with Charles Wesley:
FINISH THEN THY NEW CREATION,
PURE AND SPOTLESS LET US BE;
LET US SEE THY GREAT SALVATION,
PERFECTLY RESTORED IN THEE.
CHANGED FROM GLORY INTO GLORY,
TILL IN HEAVEN WE TAKE OUR PLACE,
TILL WE CAST OUR CROWNS BEFORE THEE,
LOST IN WONDER LOVE AND PRAISE
Discipleship battles with new hearts for their affections for Jesus. What comes from the heart is what we do. We go after what we love. I find Neil Postman's introductory comments in 'Amusing ourselves to death' to be very helpful. He notes that George Orwell thought we'd be ruined by the Room 101's, by the things we hate. Aldous Huxley thought that what we love would ruin us because we have "an almost infinite appetite for distractions".
And so in discipleship desire counts. Piper says we praise what we prize. Piper says we become what we behold. If we fix our joy upon things that cannot satisfy we become all the more marred and deformed away from the glory we're meant to display. When, recreated by Jesus, we further behold him, we're transformed slowly, step by step, one glory-degree at a time, to be like Jesus. Transformed by him. Not by self, but by his word, by his spirit, in the company of his people.
Digested notes from part of a seminar on Discipleship.