We are His subjects over whom He Rules
I recently completed a reading of Rev. Dr. John Stott’s “farewell” book The Radical Disciple (a highly recommended and easy book to read), and our beloved fellow pilgrim succinctly described what a Jesus disciple ought to be. The premise for his final book is this: “For genuine discipleship is wholehearted discipleship…we have no right to pick and choose the areas in which we will submit to (Jesus’) authority.” Here is my attempt at summarizing Uncle John’s listing of a radical Jesus disciple’s 8 characteristics that are often neglected, yet deserve our serious attention:
- Non-conformity: In the face of four contemporary threats (pluralism, materialism, ethical relativism and narcissism), the Christ disciple is reminded that both escapism and conformism are forbidden, and form one of the major themes of our Bible. We are in the world but not of the world, in that “we are neither to seek to preserve our holiness by escaping from the world nor to sacrifice our holiness by conforming to the world.” If we are to conform, then we are exhorted to be “conformed to the image of God’s Son” (Rom.8:29).
- Christlikeness: We who claim to be Christian must be like Christ. This is the purpose of God for His people. In our incarnation, service, love, patient endurance and mission, Christians are to be like their Lord. Afterall, before the Lord departed, He had sent us into the world. Though it will assuredly entail suffering (He is the Suffering Servant), our Christlikeness will authenticate our evangelism. All this is possible, not in our own strength, but through the enabling of the indwelling Holy Spirit given to everyone of His children.
- Maturity: Stott’s “growth without depth” concisely sums up the condition of many churches today. While statistically explosive, leaders like him bemoan the “superficiality of discipleship everywhere.” Biblical maturity is to “have a mature relationship with Christ in which we worship, trust, love and obey Him.” Accordingly, it boils to having a biblically clear, true vision of the authentic Lord Jesus, particularly in His absolute supremacy (Col. 1:15-20). A pygmy Christ can only result in pygmy Christians.
- Creation-Care: The promise of a new heaven and a new earth reflects the reconciliation to God not only the human race, but also the currently groaning creation as well. The psalmist often reminds us that “the earth is the Lord’s” and till the day of His return, still remains the Lord’s! As His stewards, we have the “responsibility to preserve and develop the earth of His behalf” by: a) avoiding the deification of nature, b) avoiding the exploitation of nature, and c) cooperating with God in relation to nature.
- Simplicity: One of the effects of modernization and development is the increasing wealth-poverty gap. The biblical understanding is that a new life in Christ should naturally imply a new lifestyle. This in turn would entail wise stewardship with integrity, both corporately as well as personally. There is a call to return to the bible’s teaching regarding the disciple’s role in relation to the unevangelized and/or oppressed others who are also objects of God’s love. “Servants of Christ must express His lordship in their political, social and economic commitments and their love for their neighbours.”
- Balance: The apostle Peter paints a composite and balanced portrait of the disciple (1 Peter 2:1-17) called as newborn babies to growth, living stones to fellowship, holy priests to worship, God’s own people to witness, aliens and strangers to holiness, and servants of God to citizenship.” There must be a balance between the individual discipleship and corporate fellowship, worship and work, and pilgrimage and citizenship. One must not be emphasized at the expense of the other.
- Dependence: God has designed in us the quality of dependence, beginning first with a dependence on Him for our life, and then, on others for living. To some people used to being independent, dependence is perceived as a humiliating vulnerability. However, Stott maintains that humiliation is “the road to humility”, and God can use these experiences of dependence to bring about in us a greater maturity. Afterall, Christ Himself constantly demonstrated His dependence on His Father (and others), and that did not deprive Him of His dignity nor His supreme worth!
- Death: Stott exhorts the disciple “to see death not as the termination of life but as the gateway to life.” That is why Christ had to die (for our sins), so that we, the sinners may live! In appropriate response to Him, the disciple is to count himself “dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 6:11). “For whoever want to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for [Jesus] and for the gospel will save it” (Mark 8:34 & 35). Death (of a seed) will only give rise to new life (and fruits). Disciples, therefore, need not fear death. Particularly since we all serve the risen Lord Jesus who will come and gather us to Himself again!
I strongly commend the reading of John Stott’s The Radical Disciple. My feeble attempt at highlighting his key points may be an injustice to his book, but I sincerely hope it will spur more brothers and sisters to delve into it as a result! I have been most blessed myself!