A More Difficult Discipleship

by Bill Denton

"So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free'" (John 8:31-32).

"Today there are multitudes of men who are willing to give their minds to the Word of God to study it as an intellectual pursuit, to listen to what Jesus Christ has to say. And they may even submit themselves to the teaching and preaching of the Scriptures from an evangelical pulpit. But these people have made no response to that truth or to the person of Jesus Christ

"It is possible to approach the Word simply to have one's intellect stirred, to do what the Athenians did-to listen to some new thing-without any relationship to the truth or without any impact of that truth on one's life. Such a person may call himself a disciple, but on the authority of the Word of God, he is not. He is among the curious who sit to be titillated and tantalized without any response to the truth that is presented."

J. D. Pentecost, (1996). Design for Discipleship: Discovering God's Blueprint for the Christian Life.

For years, I've tried to get people to see that there is a difference between intellectual Christianity and real discipleship. I haven't always been successful. Of course, one of the most difficult people to deal with has been myself! It's easy to make discipleship only a mind game.

I do fear that we have neglected serious discipleship for a milder, less threatening catechism, and I realize I'm saying this largely to folks who don't think they have a catechism! I think most of those folks are just unaware of reality. When a large part of your discipleship is spent learning how to regurgitate a specific list of doctrinal items, and when one's standing in the "faith community" depends on the ability to provide appropriate answers, then this pretty much fits.

Of course, the other end of the spectrum is a disdain for "intellectualism," at least that seems to be the substance of some people's faith. They don't seem to want to have to learn anything at all. But you know, it takes a pretty staunch mental effort to offer such a consistent resistance. Both extremes miss the target of real discipleship.

When it comes to following Jesus, there are some things to learn. You just can't get around it. Jesus' approach to people focused on teaching. He wanted to communicate some things that folks could wrap their minds around. But, Jesus didn't offer just a mental or intellectual exercise. What Jesus taught was intended to change a person's life.

The sad thing is that you can miss either end of things. In other words, you can miss what Jesus taught or you can miss putting it to work in your life. Either way you miss it. Frankly, I think this was much of the problem of the Pharisees. They knew a lot. Then again, they had missed knowing a lot, too. Worse, what they knew, they didn't put to into their lives to be changed by it. A disciple of Jesus must be a learner' and a practitioner.' Anything less won't do. Freedom is in knowing the truth so that the living of life comes within the will of the Father. A real disciple wants to know, and wants to do.

© 2005, Bill Denton All rights reserved. Articles may not be reprinted in any "for profit" publication without further permission by the author. Articles may be freely distributed via e-mail, reprinted in church bulletins or in other non-profit publications without further permission. Please keep this copyright and Web Site information intact with copied articles. www.crossties.org

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