Becoming More Like Christ: Disciplines of Discipleship
Since the word Christian may be defined as meaning “like Christ,” one way of summarizing the challenge of the Christian life is to say we must “become like Christ.” If a Christian is defined as one who is like Christ, the goal of every serious Christian is to become like Jesus. The disciple becomes like the Teacher. Jesus said that it is enough for the disciple to become like the master (Luke 6:40). What does it mean that we are being transformed into his image? (2 Cor. 3:16-18) What does it mean to be conformed to the image of Christ? (Rom. 8:29) What do we look like when Christ is formed in us? (Gal. 4:19) Many explanations have been given, but one of the simplest responses is that we imitate him.
Carrying a cross requires discipline. Jesus taught his disciples about the necessity of counting the cost and taking up their crosses. By example, Jesus taught us the necessity of discipline in his forty days in the desert, in his commitment of the early morning hours to prayer, and ultimately by fulfilling the will of the Father on the cross. Fasting and prayer focused his life on God. In temptation, he found strength in the word of God. Fasting was not so much the source of temptation (a conclusion we may tend to draw in our contemporary world) as it was the strength for overcoming temptation. Extended nights and early mornings of prayer and solitude powered his marketplace ministry as he sought to serve and not to be served. The fortitude to face the cross was fashioned in Gethsemane prayer.
Many who have confessed Christ want to take up their cross and follow him, but do not know the first thing about the practical disciplines of discipleship. The center of discipleship is Christ-likeness. Disciples become like Jesus. Spiritual disciplines understood and incorporated into the life a Christian will help move the new Christian, and the tired Christian, back to a life centered on Christ. Typical lists of spiritual disciplines can be quite long, but let me encourage you to begin by identifying a limited number of projects, activities, and exercises that you can incorporate into your Christian walk. Incorporate those spiritual disciplines that have life-changing power into the rhythms of your daily life.
As the New Year begins, a short list of spiritual disciplines might include a weekly (at a minimum) time of Bible reading, prayer, solitary meditation, shared discussion with a spouse, family or other Christians, private worship, and a service project. One might develop a spiritual rhythm wherein these six areas are rotated Monday through Saturday, with Sunday devoted to assembly and worship with the faith community.
Let us make one of our 2017 goals that we will become more like Jesus!