In my last blog I described how disciples are called to become competent at doing the things that Jesus trained His disciples to do. This included (but was not limited to) things like proclaiming the good news of the Kingdom, healing the sick, cleansing the lepers, casting out demons, raising the dead and displaying generosity (see Matt. 10:7-9).
In this blog I want to look at the need for a disciple to develop Christlike character.
According to John’s Gospel, Jesus washed His disciples’ feet at His final Passover Feast. After doing so, He tells His disciples that He has given them an example of the way they are to be. Whilst foot washing is a worthy cause, Jesus is simply giving them an example of His humility, which He expects them to imitate in fresh ways (John 13:15).
Luke’s Gospel records a similar exhortation to His disciples to be servants, just like He had been (Luke 22:24-27).
The Apostle Paul exhorts the Corinthian church to imitate him just as he imitates Christ (1 Cor. 4:17).
This imitation of Christ is the process of us becoming more Christlike in our character. We learn to love, serve, honor and lead with the same values that Jesus demonstrated. As we become more Christlike, we will increasingly exhibit the fruit of the Spirit that Paul talks about (love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control). How? Because the Spirit of God in us is transforming us more into the likeness of Jesus, who had the Spirit without measure.
Theologians speak of this process as sanctification. It is not optional! It is something that Jesus called His disciples to do. Paul called the churches he oversaw to do the same. The writer of the book of Hebrews tells his readers to “Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith” (Hebrews 13:7, NIV).
To be a disciple is to become increasingly competent at the things Jesus did but also to become increasingly Christlike in your character. It is not an either/or choice. Jesus is looking for both. We need to invest in both.
Many churches have been willing to accept half-hearted discipleship: “But he’s so gifted!” (subtext = he lacks any sense of godly character), or “But she is so godly” (subtext = she lacks any of the competencies that Jesus calls us to).
A friend of mine says when we have high character but low competency, we have limited potential to see kingdom breakthrough.
When we have high competency (which we sometimes refer to as “anointing”) but low character, we have unlimited potential for harming people. But when we develop both high character and high competency as disciples, then we carry unlimited potential for kingdom breakthrough.
So, disciples are called to grow in “being” like Jesus (character) and “doing” like Jesus (competency).
A disciple of Jesus is someone who is learning from Jesus to become
increasingly like Him both inwardly (being) and outwardly (doing).
In my next blog I will look at some of the ways we can learn to do this thing called discipleship.
In the meantime, which area of your life do you think you most need to grow in? Is it in your character or your competency? Would others agree with you? What steps will you take to position yourself to grow?