What is the truth of the matter in understanding what it means to be a true disciple of Jesus Christ? The scriptures are clear about the life of the true disciple. Exclusively clear. The following is not meant to be a statement of faith or a set of doctrinal positions. This is a summary of the teachings of Christ Himself on the nature of discipleship, and the echoes of these teachings found in the remainder of the New Testament.
Salvation – our God has saved us to restore us into union with Himself, a union that erases the mitigates the impacts of our old nature and replaces our self-managed, self-focused, self-derived living with His life lived in us by His indwelling Holy Spirit. This is the union with our God by His in-breathed life enjoyed by Adam and Eve before they chose to rebel against our God and put themselves in control of their daily living, thinking, and choosing. This is the Gethsemane union spoken of by Christ in John chapters 14 through 17, a union intended to consume us far beyond all other interests, fully transform us, and become the defining feature of our existence.
Relationship – our God desires that we have a deep, abiding, intimate, conversational communion with Him every single day, all throughout each the day. By this communion He intends to live His life in us in place of our own lives. By this union He will continually and completely feed, nurture, form, and fulfill us according to His image, His mind, His Spirit, His word, and His life in us.
Surrender – our God works in everyone based upon one’s commitment to the crucified life of daily absolute surrender to Him. We cannot come into the intended deep communion if we retain control over any of our daily living. Absolute surrender is the narrow gate that leads us on the path of life, a gate that few find but that all must enter to find the fulness of the God-life. For those who refuse to fully surrender, true spiritual growth will be rare and fleeting, replaced by human-derived religiosity, human-made doctrines and dogmas, and external efforts.
Love – our God intends that our lives of union, surrender, and communion with Him be lives filled to overflowing with a consummate love for Him. This love must exceed and excel all other loves, pursuits, and relationships. It must be reflected in our focus, our use of time, our speech, and our priorities every day. This love for our God must fill all our vision and become the single expression of our hopes and our passions.
Fellowship – the desires and purposes of our God in us, expressed in this union-communion relationship with His Holy Spirit of Life in us, are brought to deepest fulfillment in the communion of saints. I am not speaking of a “communion service.” This communion of saints is the deep fellowship we are to experience within the ekklesia, the communal called-out ones in a given location. This is a community of those who have surrendered all to Christ, individually and corporately. The leader of this community is Christ Himself, Who leads by His indwelling Holy Spirit. He is not a figurehead leader, but the practical, day-to-day operational leader, teacher, guide, and source of all individual and corporate living. Therefore, it is a “flat-hierarchy” organism without up-down “leadership” human relationships or an organization like any worldly models and structures. For those congregations that refuse to fully surrender to the leadership of the Spirit of Christ among them, true spiritual growth and communion will be replaced by human-derived religiosity, human-made doctrines and dogmas, up-down hierarchies, and external human efforts.
Growth – our God desires that our spiritual development be derived solely from the working of His Holy Spirit in us. Only by the Holy Spirit can we become people who individually and corporately live in daily union and communion with our God. The fulness of life in the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus comes only after the absolute surrender of all our living to our God, a commitment to a passionate love for our God, and joining into deep, daily communion and spiritual fellowship with our spiritual family. It is the Spirit Who guides us into truth, pours out love, bears spiritual fruit, and breathes His life into and through us. It is the Spirit of God, not our intellects, by which Jesus speaks to us, convicts us, and builds us up. The fulness of the Spirit comes only to those who are fully surrendered to Him daily. This fulness never comes to us by human teaching, fleshly effort, religiosity, religious forms and rituals, sacraments or observance of outward standards or restrictions. Human teachers and hierarchical structures cannot be the primary points of contact in spiritual development, for only the Spirit give life. These will invariably form a barrier of intermediacy and mediation between the people and their God and will run counter to the purposed of our God in us.
Witness – our God desires that all true disciples – a title that belongs only to those who have to their God in accordance with the descriptions above – live in love and communion with all other true disciples. It is by this mutual love that the love of Christ Jesus is made visible. Therefore, He desires that we love each other fervently and practically each day, share all things, live generously in the world, experience true fellowship (koinonia) daily, and love the lost and struggling as does our God. What the world will see in such a community of disciples will be image of Christ Himself – loving, kind, forgiving, generous to the point of self-denial, faithful, holy, Godly, truth-based, and other-worldly.
Whatever is thought to be of Christ that is not in conformity to these characteristics as delivered by Christ and His apostles is not of Him. Jesus Christ is the light and the life of God to us and in us. He is so by His Holy Spirit living in us in place of our own lives. Whatever is not of Christ is of darkness and death.