By Georges Boujakly
Who is a mature disciple? Many answers can be given. My preference: a follower of Jesus who is learning to live the ChristLife. But what does that actually mean? Whatever else it means, it has to include the core of Jesus’ relationship to his Father.
It is possible to recognize maturity. It is imperative to make maturity the goal of our discipleship work. People recognized Jesus’ disciples by the way they spoke and taught. (Acts 4:13). Jesus told his disciples that the world would know them by their love (John 13:34-35).
We make a mistake when we equate maturity with knowledge. The Pharisees mastered the jot and title of the law of God. The Inquisition sent many to their early graves by wielding the sword of biblical knowledge. Surely maturity eluded both!
Equally, we commit a grave error when we measure maturity by emotional-speak. But zeal is a poor substitute for maturity. The Sons of Thunder were passionate about destroying villages they deemed worthy of punishment. “Kill them one and all, Jesus!” Peter in bursts of emotions and zeal for God would have had a cross-less Christianity in favor of a sword wielding religion. Disciples they were, but mature they weren’t.
Just as we can’t tell whether a ball player is a mature Christian from the way he plays ball, so too we mustn’t label a disciple mature by his knowledge or his zeal.
So if knowledge and emotions are poor scorecards of a mature disciple, what is?
A faith that leads to obedience. A mature disciple trusts and obeys his Father’s wisdom just as Jesus did. At every turn we see Jesus trusting in his Father’s wisdom. He chose his disciples, healed people, taught, and was silent in obedience to his trusting relationship with his Father. “Father knows best” was his motto. “I do the work of him who sent me, and I only do what I hear him say.” In the desert of temptation and in the garden of agony he trusted his Father’s wise counsel. The ChristLife is a life full of trust in the wisdom of God and obedience. An essential implication of Jesus’ trust is our trust in the Father’s wisdom. Trust and obey is what mature disciples do.
When choosing the next leader, or Bible teacher, or greeter at your church, pick a mature disciple: One who lives the ChristLife of trust in the Father’s wisdom. When evaluating your discipleship program, or process, ask whether what you do in discipleship is producing people who “trust the Lord with all their hearts and do not rely on their own understanding. In all their ways you see God at work.”
A surrender that leads to obedience. A mature disciple submits to God’s heart and leading. In everything Jesus surrendered his life to his Father’s charge. He chose to have another’s authority. He lived under the command of another. Equal in essence yet he set aside his equality with God in submission. The honor and the glory all went where they belonged: His Father. With Jesus, there was never a question of who was in charge.
A mature disciple is a surrendered disciple. A submissive disciple obeys what he hears the Father says in imitation of Jesus. A mature disciple places himself under authority. A mature disciple discovers the heart of God and follows his will in humility.
It should always be that when leaders are chosen for church responsibility that those that are most surrendered are those who are most ready to be used of God. It should also always be that training to live surrendered lives is one of the main tasks of the church and its disciple makers.
A love that leads to obedience. A mature disciple loves as Jesus loved in obedience to his Father. Jesus fulfilled the will of God to save the world from the disaster of sin out of love for God and for humanity. He loved sinners just as the Father loved sinners. Where there was judging and condemnation, he showed love just as the Father would. No one who came to Jesus for love left disappointed. Whether it was the Greeks, the Phoenicians, the widows, the prostitutes, the broken hearted, the seeking Pharisee, the prodigals, or the little children, they all received love because Jesus loved perfectly his Father’s will.
The world Jesus knew was void of grace. A world where crucifixion is a normalized punishment qualifies for a graceless world. There was no love lost between the Jews and the Romans. There was artificial peace in Rome but grace was the road much less traveled. Into this dark world Jesus came flooding it with his and his Father’s love.
Sinners, lepers, and widows came. They received forgiveness, cleansing, and mercy. Hardened soldiers beat and crucified him, spit on him, ridiculed him, and falsely accused him. In response he loved in obedience to his Father’s will.
The ChristLife’s bottom line is obedience. Maturity means obedience. Jesus and the maturing disciple obey because trust in the Father’s wisdom drives obedience. Maturing disciples obey out of a spirit of submission because Father knows best. Maturing disciples love to do God’s will in solidarity with Jesus because our neighbors will know us by our love.
Obedience as the fruit of trust, surrender, and love, is the pearl of great price of life in the kingdom of God and the maturity all followers of Jesus are called to pursue. We must sell everything we have in order to pursue it and attain it. We must gear all programing in our churches to make mature disciples who trust, surrender, and love out of obedience.
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