What it is to be a Disciple
Who are we following?
Last week my accountability partner, Pastor Angela France, was working on a sermon that I could tell was a big deal. She always takes sermon preparation seriously, but there are some where it’s evident that God is working on something extra special. So I called her and asked to hear what she was putting together. It was like having my own private church service over the phone!
What she was working on was tackling the question : Who are we following? And the follow-up question: Whose voice are we listening to?
She shared an instance where, during a church service, a phrase popped into her head as clear as a bell. It was so clear and so applicable to a struggle she was dealing with that she just assumed the phrase came from God. But as time went on, she was less certain of that, and yet, the phrase stuck with her. Now she asks: was that from God, or was that the enemy trying to deceive?
This led into a focus on the importance of discerning, of knowing whose voice it is we are hearing and following. When we recognize the voice of the Shepherd, we can more easily identify counterfeits.
That conversation and her sermon were fresh on my mind yesterday when I had to follow my husband in an unfamiliar area so that he could return the rental car he’d been using while his company vehicle was getting repairs. I was following this unfamiliar car on unfamiliar roads when we came to an intersection that made it impossible to stay behind him.
When I finally made it through and caught up to him, there was a large truck between us. I had no address for our destination, so GPS was no help. I had to follow the little white car. But I couldn’t reach the little white car, so I had to go with the next best thing. I knew the big truck was following the little white car, so I had to follow the truck and hope that the truck was doing a good job of following the little white car.
Here’s the thing, though. The big truck was not who I ultimately needed to follow. So if that truck made a turn to a different destination and I followed it without making sure the little white car was doing the same, I’d be heading the wrong way. If the little white car turned and my focus was on the truck continuing straight, I’d have missed my turn.
I hope this parable is obvious. In our Christian walk, we have to follow Jesus. When we don’t know how to do that, we look to the people who we know are following Jesus. But we must always remember that it isn’t the human we follow. The human in between is a helpful and necessary guide, but ultimately we are responsible for our actions. If they go the wrong way and we blindly follow, we are responsible for our decisions.
On the road, I had to settle for following the truck, but my goal was to get directly behind the little white car as quickly as I could. In the same way, while the person in between can serve a purpose for a time, our goal should be to get directly in line behind Jesus as quickly as we can.
On Tuesday night, Pastor Mike Benson shared this quote from Hans Urs Von Balthasar in his message:
“From time to time we take up a book of ‘meditations’ which presents us ready-made, with the contemplation we ought to produce for ourselves. We observe someone else eating, but it does nothing to fill our stomachs. We may read his ‘meditations,’ but what we have done is spiritual reading - not contemplation. We have seen how someone else has encountered the Word of God, we have even profited by his encounter, but all the same it was his and not ours - and we ourselves have achieved nothing.”
This quote perfectly explains the counterfeit devotional time so many of us fall for. We think when we hear or read what the people we’re following are getting out of their Bible reading and prayer time, and we think that conversation substitutes our own Bible reading and prayer time.
Friend, I’m not looking to beat you up if this describes where you are today. It’s my intention to draw your attention to the food you might be missing while your stomach is grumbling.
Those conversations with stronger believers are not bad! They are the snacks, the desserts! But you must consume the meal yourself. Here’s the recipe: Open your own Bible and read. Have your own conversations with the Creator of the Universe.
When we dive into Scripture for ourselves, we learn what God has to say to us, individually. What He is able to draw your attention to is from His Spirit to Yours. Just like the people we love to listen to are sharing what His Spirit spoke to theirs.
I began this post by explaining how my friend shared what God was speaking to her heart and how hearing that blessed me. It even prepared my mind and caused me to notice the metaphor in my frustrating drive yesterday. But here’s where that snack held me over for my own meal…
This morning, I dove back into the area of Scripture I’ve been in. I’m studying Judges, and this is my third time, recently, reading through it. I opened chapter 2 today, and saw something in a new light. Chapter 2 of Judges gives an overview of the period of Judges. Here’s the short version:
While Joshua was alive, the people worshiped the Lord. When Joshua and the elders who had seen God’s work died, the people fell away. The next generation didn’t know what God had done (at least not first hand) and they started to worship false gods. They had access to the false gods because the people they were following (Joshua and their parents) had failed to fully obey God and get rid of the pagans in the land. As they abandoned God, He became angry, and held to the consequences He’d given: He no longer protected them. So God rose up Judges to rescue them and lead them back to Him. While the Judges were living and leading, the people worshiped God, but as soon as the reigning Judge died, the people reverted and behaved even worse.
This returned me to the question Pastor Angela posed: Who are we following?
It says these people were worshiping God, but as soon as the human died, they stopped. So were they really following God, or were they following the human that was following God?
It caused me to pause. May I never be confused about who I’m following, and may I never be a leader who gets in the way of someone following Jesus.
The word disciple refers to the followers of a teacher. But the word actually means student. What does a student do? She studies. Jesus commissioned His disciples (us) to make disciples. Never let someone else’s encounter with God substitute your own! Open His word and see what it has for you!
I will be following up on this post with more on how to really be a disciple. If you have questions or struggles, I'd love to read them as I dive deeper into this topic, so leave a comment!