Jesus Christ calls all peo­ples every­where to be his dis­ci­ples. And dis­ci­ples are those who intend to live their lives as Jesus would live them if Jesus were them.

Shroud­ed in the Mists of History

But the prac­ti­cal doing of this is obscured to us today for Jesus is shroud­ed in the mists of his­to­ry. By say­ing this I am not refer­ring to the prob­lem of the quest for the his­tor­i­cal Jesus. Quite the oppo­site. Our prob­lem is that the mod­ern reli­gious imag­i­na­tion is so stunt­ed that we have effec­tive­ly locked Jesus into first cen­tu­ry Pales­tine with its robes and san­dals and over­all agrar­i­an cul­ture. We can hard­ly imag­ine what it would look like for Jesus to func­tion as a com­put­er pro­gram­mer or lab tech­ni­cian or con­struc­tion work­er or grad­u­ate stu­dent, not to men­tion a moth­er or father, a hus­band or wife. Can you, for exam­ple, pic­ture Jesus attend­ing a NBA bas­ket­ball game or play­ing soft­ball with the local team or sit­ting in the break room with oth­er Wal-Mart employ­ees? Yet these are pre­cise­ly the kinds of things we need to imag­ine if we expect to live as his dis­ci­ples in the mod­ern world.

An Over­all Way of Life

In say­ing this, I am speak­ing of an over­all way of life, not just about times when we are on the spot or are try­ing to make a crit­i­cal deci­sion. If I am a mag­a­zine edi­tor and ask the ques­tion, How would Jesus live if he were me?” I am not pri­mar­i­ly ask­ing about what kind of arti­cles I will pub­lish in my mag­a­zine though that ques­tion will be asked and answered. But more to the heart of the issue I am ask­ing ques­tions about my leisure time, about recre­ation, about sleep, about prayer, about soli­tude, about read­ing and rela­tion­ships, and a host of oth­er things. Then as a dis­ci­ple I will order my life accord­ing to an over­all pat­tern that con­forms to the way of Christ.

But how will I know the right pat­tern?” you may ask. Well, first of all there is no right” pat­tern. Dif­fer­ent per­son­al­i­ties, sit­u­a­tions, and needs demand dif­fer­ent pat­terns. Besides, it is not near­ly as hard as you think. A sim­ple, unvar­nished read­ing of the Gospels will give you an over­all way of liv­ing that Jesus felt impor­tant while among us in the flesh. Of course, that was done in the con­text of first-cen­tu­ry Pales­tin­ian cul­ture, but with very lit­tle effort, you can eas­i­ly make the con­ver­sion to your sit­u­a­tion. Then, too, Jesus is tru­ly alive and teach­ing his peo­ple. If, with humil­i­ty of heart, you gen­uine­ly seek his way, he will guide you.

The Grace in Discipleship

And this is the great grace in dis­ci­ple­ship to Jesus. When we seek him with all our heart, we are found by him. From our human per­spec­tive it seems like we are fol­low­ing hard after God: seek­ing, striv­ing, pur­su­ing. In real­i­ty, we are pur­su­ing God only because he is first pur­su­ing us. As Fred­er­ick von Hugel says, God is always pre­vi­ous”. So our dis­ci­ple­ship is real­ly one of reflex action, of God seek­ing us, of pre­ve­nient grace.

This real­i­ty is a great encour­age­ment. Jesus is ever with us, our ever­liv­ing Sav­ior, Teacher, Lord, and Friend. His invi­ta­tion to be his dis­ci­ples is all grace and mer­cy for we are invit­ed to be yoked to him. And as we learn to fall in step with him, he will show us the way and give us the resources to live that way.

Orig­i­nal­ly pub­lished in Octo­ber 1995.

📚 The 2022 – 23 Ren­o­varé Book Club

This year’s nine-month, soul-shap­ing jour­ney fea­tures four books, old and new, prayer­ful­ly curat­ed by Ren­o­varé. Now under­way and there’s still time to join.

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