The Downside to Discipleship

Good news. Discipleship works. God just let out a heavenly sigh of relief at that announcement because it’s the only plan He initiated to bring his Kingdom to earth and spread the good news.

Bad news. Discipleship works. That means that my life is a lesson, a primer in person, to the people God has put in front of me. The whole thing. I don’t simply get to disciple people when I willingly open the windows of my life in short Bible studies or retreats or lunches. Discipleship, especially with one’s own children, is less like people looking through an occasional window and more like a house made of wall-to-wall glass. Scary, right?

The upside of discipleship is that more is caught than taught, which means that people learn more from our presence and manner of life than from our talks or prepared lessons. The disciples probably couldn’t recite the Sermon on the Mount verbatim, but I am fairly certain they after three years of doing life with Him, they not only adopted many of His mannerisms but had also begun to imitate His way of relating to people and the world. In fact, His disciples were most likely not of the intellectual bent; however, Jesus’ manner of life, His ways and His Words, had left a strong enough residue on their lives to cause a deep resemblance. The Jewish leaders “observed the confidence of Peter and John and understood that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were amazed, and began to recognize them as having been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13).

The downside of discipleship is the exact same truth. My bad habits, the idols I chase after and the places of my life that don’t line up with the standard of Christ are also caught. After a long of day of practicing patience, using gentle tones and seizing teachable moments to speak to the hearts of my children, when I finally snap and raise my voice or make an audible groan of annoyance and frustration, discipleship works. When, instead of looking them in the eye, I am distracted by my phone, discipleship works. When they hear a hint of frustration or annoyance at my husband or a dear friend, discipleship works.

I tend toward paralysis when I think not only about the huge gospel gaps in my way of life but also about the way those are being passed down to the physical and spiritual children entrusted to my care. Who is adequate for these things?

However, the great news of discipleship far outweighs even the heavy reality of the downside of discipleship.  In our complete inadequacy, we have the opportunity to model repentance and faith in the fully adequate One.

Such confidence we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God, who also made us adequate as servants of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit, for the letter kills but the Spirit gives life. 2 Corinthians 3:4-5.

Now, that is a game-changer. My failures become the greatest opportunities I have to model repentance and faith in Christ before my disciples. After I have borderline gossiped to the girls I am mentoring, I have the beautiful chance to model the heart of discipleship before them in the form of a humbling confession. After I have gone an unnecessarily tirade over misplaced shoes, I have the chance to point them to the One who would never respond that way to carelessness or childishness.

At the end of my life, I pray that my children and the women I have led over the years would be able to look at my life and say, “She was a hot mess, but she sure did point us to Jesus and God’s Word.”

In the midst of discipleship that leaves much to be desired, which all discipleship will be to some degree this side of Glory, we have the opportunity to model the most important aspect of discipleship: repenting and returning.

If you have been sitting on the sidelines, convinced that discipleship isn’t for someone flawed like you, it is high time to hop onto the field. We are flopping and failing all over the place out here, but there is nothing like a life lived in messy, failing discipleship to messy, failing people. We have an unfathomably gracious Father and friend who seems to be enjoying our every attempt at pointing to Him.

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