2. Of Christ-Followers.
When Jesus called his first disciples, it was not just about community. He was calling them to leave what they were doing and to follow him, and eventually to become like him. His goal was to change them from the inside out. This involved a full surrender of their lives to his leadership. Throughout his time with them, Jesus was re-shaping their values, their priorities, their way of interacting with people and the world around them. He then told them to go and do the same – to ‘make disciples’, or to call people to follow Jesus and pattern their life after him.
As the church began, thousands of people joined the disciples not just to be part of their community but to begin living their lives as Jesus would in the world. This new community devoted themselves to a number of things, including the apostles teaching, which was everything that Jesus had commanded them (Matthew 28:18-20).
Becoming a Christian places you in a new family but it also puts your life under new leadership – under King Jesus. We enter and become a citizen of a new kingdom. The goal of every true disciple is to be like their Master so the goal of every Christian is to be like Jesus. Our very calling and destiny is to be conformed to the image or likeness of Christ.
Spiritual growth is a process and it is also a partnership between God and us (Philippians 2:12-13). We are to ‘work out’ our salvation as God ‘works in’ us by His Spirit. Spiritual growth or godliness is a result of spiritual ‘training’ not of merely ‘trying’ hard to be like Jesus (see 1 Timothy 4:7-8). We have to be intentionally serious about learning from Jesus how to live our lives. It really is possible to be “like Jesus” ... IF we are willing to engage in the kinds of activities that Jesus did to draw upon the power of His Father. We need to develop “spiritual practices” that help us be positioned to receive God’s transforming grace on a regular basis.
Spiritual practices includes activities such as: celebration, prayer, the Bible, fellowship, serving, solitude, silence, fasting, sacrifice, and secrecy. These practices are not a way to earn favour with God. They exist for our sake, not God’s. They have value only as they help us to change and grow. They are a “means of grace”. They are activities that we engage in to open ourselves up to God’s transforming power. Also, these practices are not a measure of spirituality. The true indicator of spiritual maturity is growth in the ability to love God and people. The real issue is what kind of people we are becoming NOT the exercises or spiritual practices we may be engaging in. Practices such as reading the Bible and praying are important – not because they prove how spiritual we are – but because God can use them to lead us into life.