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Aug25WedSearching for authentic discipleship August 25, 2010 by Colonel Floyd Tidd
My friend looked up from his coffee. “It's about one thing,” he said. “Am I really following Jesus? I know that I'm saved and serving others, but am I truly living the life he wants for me?” The conversation that followed was both challenging and encouraging as he outlined the practical implications of fully surrendering to the will of Christ.
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This was just a reflection of the numerous discussions that have happened across the territory in recent years. At Symposium 2008, Salvationists articulated the need for The Salvation Army to be “intentional about discipling its soldiers and members.” Delegates proposed that the Army should provide “resources and encourage mentoring,” and that through discipleship, Salvationists and members “articulate their plan for spiritual growth and holiness.”
Through the recent Territorial Young Adult Research Project commissioned by territorial headquarters, Salvationist youth expressed a desire for authentic discipleship that would “take place in the context of meaningful relationships. Young adults are looking to be in discipling relationships that are characterized by genuine care, interest and transparency. This includes being given opportunities to serve according to their gifts and passions.”
Whether young or old, Salvationists want to engage in dialogue on important matters of faith. Their voices call out with a searching for authentic discipleship. They counter the warning of Dallas Willard in The Divine Conspiracy when he writes: “The most telling thing about the contemporary Christian is that he or she simply has no compelling sense that understanding of and conformity with the clear teachings of Christ is of any vital importance to his or her life, and certainly not that it is in any way essential.”
There is emerging awareness that as followers of Jesus and soldiers of Christ, we must wholly embrace this discipleship journey. The early Christian's declaration that “Jesus is Lord” was more than a verse in a song or a greeting ritual. The statement clearly identified that Jesus was not merely one god among many, nor was he subordinate to the rule of Caesar. For the first followers of Christ, the declaration that “Jesus is Lord” affirmed their decision to identify Christ as their personal Lord, no matter the outcome. The task for authentic Christ followers—including each one of us today—is to strive to bring every aspect of our lives under his lordship.
As we work out this submission to God's will and direction in our lives, we may find value in accessing various discipleship programs and resources, as well as teachers and mentors. We need to remember, however, that being an authentic disciple of Jesus ultimately requires us to make him the central influence in our lives. Our journey must focus on the person and work of Jesus. This means that we must take the Gospel accounts seriously and thoroughly examine his messages, commands and example. What did Jesus say? What did he do? How did he go about doing and saying these things? What does he expect from us today?
Authentic discipleship is not all about us. It comes down to the primary purpose and objective of the Great Commission (see Matthew 28:16-20). As my friend suggested, “It's about one thing.” We are to make disciples and teach them to obey all the commands Jesus has given us. This includes sharing biblical truth with people to help them accept Christ as Saviour and to be his obedient and lifelong followers. This commitment should result in an increasingly biblical lifestyle, as we abandon our previous lives shaped by the world's value system.
Authentic discipleship is the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer and involves mature Christians sharing the journey with others as they follow Christ. These disciples reflect the life and character of Christ in their everyday lives and provide an important example to Christians and non-believers.
Now is the time to rethink your commitment to Christ as Lord. Submit to the transforming and sanctifying work of the Spirit in your life. Count the cost of living under his lordship as he commands. Live as salt and light and be a transforming influence in your community. Embrace the privilege of being “partners in the gospel” by sharing in deep journey, commitment and accountability. Explore the degree to which the life of Christ is reflected in the daily details of your life.
During these summer weeks, seize the opportunity to wrestle through the tough questions as you seek to be an authentic follower of Jesus. Look up from that cup of coffee. It's about one thing. Are you saved? Serving? And truly following Jesus?
Colonel Floyd Tidd is the chief secretary of the Canada and Bermuda Territory.