We recently concluded a 14-week discipleship course, here at Disruptive Reality. As I usually do at the conclusion of a study, I sat and reflected on how the teachings went and what I personally learned from them. Yes, I still learn even after more than 30 years of teaching the Bible.
I think the thing that stood out to me most this time around (I’ve been through the discipleship course so many times I’ve lost count) was the personal benefit of discipleship. As we learned, being a disciple glorifies God. But it also benefits us. How so? In many ways. The one on my mind right now is pretty straight forward: discipleship keeps us from sin.
On the Wrong Path
I did not become a Christian until I was 19. In my preteen and teenage years, I was engaged in some pretty bad behavior that had me on the wrong path. Had it been left unchecked, it would have led to all sorts of deviancy. I can easily imagine myself having ended up as a drunk, sexually deviant thief.
Today, I am in my mid-fifties. I praise God that I am none of those things I feared I would become. And it’s not because of anything I have done. It is because of what Jesus has done in me. But I don’t want to stop there. That’s too easy. There is more to the whole Christianity thing. There is more in terms of discipleship.
As I said, I became a Christian at age 19. During my early twenties, those past behaviors that I feared so much subsided a bit. But they didn’t quite die. The temptations were still there. Every now and again I succumbed to those temptations. At one point, I realized that I was on the same path to deviancy. It was just a slower path. I realized something needed to change or I would still arrive at the same destination.
What changed? I finally got serious about being a disciple. I stopped being just a believer who went to church on Sunday and hung out with my Christian friends every now and again. I got serious about following Jesus like the 12 apostles did.
You know what I discovered? When I’m doing my best to be a disciple, I am much less likely to pursue sin. I am less likely to live for the flesh. When I do my best to emulate Jesus, sin is easier to walk away from. Temptation is easier to reject.
Not Genuine Disciples
Well, I left my 20s behind and finally grew up. Many years later I became a pastor. During those years, I did a lot of counseling with people who found themselves in all sorts of trouble. Though their problems may have been different in the details, they all had one thing in common: they weren’t genuine disciples.
Yes, they were genuine believers who had truly given their souls to Christ. But they had not given him their lives. They had not made the commitment to be genuine disciples.
Here’s the thing: there is no middle ground. The Bible warns us that the devil is like a roaring lion seeking whomever he can devour. Jesus warned Peter that the devil wanted to sift him like wheat. We are no different. We are not so special as to be exempt from sifting and being devoured.
Our Enemies Are Real
We have three enemies: our flesh, the world, and the devil. All three are constantly seeking to pull us away from the LORD. Our only means of escape is following hard after Him. But guess what? It’s one or the other. We are either moving forward as disciples or we are being pulled back by our enemies. There is no standing still.
The point here is that discipleship benefits us by keeping us moving forward with the LORD. In so doing, it keeps us away from evil. If you see your life consists of one sin problem after another, ask yourself if you are truly pursuing Christ as a disciple. If you’re just a believer, that explains your troubles.