This year our ministry theme at New Beginnings BFC is The Church: A Gospel-Centered Community. Last month, in January, we spent some time focusing on the church of Jesus Christ and prayer. We considered questions like: What does it mean to have a ‘gospel-centered prayer life’? We thought about the intended impact that the good news of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ has upon both how we pray and what we pray about. Clearly, prayer—both in terms of personal, private devotion and communion with the Father, as well as corporate, public petition and thanksgiving to God—is foundational for all profess faith in the Lord Jesus. As the great English minister and “father of modern missions”, William Carey, once said, “Prayer—secret, fervent, believing prayer—lies at the root of all personal godliness.” A truly gospel-centered Christian community is one that lives from a pattern of utter dependence upon God in prayer. As the Apostle Paul said to the Corinthians, “For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18).
If prayer is about our fellowship with our heavenly Father, then our next significant topic is about following His Son. Discipleship also lies at the heart of Christian living. What is Christian discipleship? What is ‘gospel-centered’ discipleship? What is the real aim of discipleship? These are just some of the questions we will be considering around our community this month.
I want to just briefly set the context for what I believe Jesus wants for us as His followers to think of in terms of discipleship. Discipleship is really quite simply about following Jesus. It is about joining Jesus on His mission to please God the Father and rescue a dying world. Discipleship is about fulfilling the essence of the law—love for God and love for one’s neighbor (see Matthew 22:37-40). Discipleship is about forsaking one’s identity apart from Christ and discovering one’s ultimate identity exclusively in the Lord Jesus. It is not only about learning at the feet of Jesus, but it equally about following in the footsteps of the Savior. I think of 1 John 2:6 which tells us, “…the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.”
For many years, we were taught that discipleship was about our brains; that is, it was about learning God’s word and knowing the “facts” of one’s faith. But, discipleship is much more than mere head-knowledge about Jesus. In fact, I believe that Jesus emphasized the reality again and again that being His follower was supremely about loving Him and doing what He commands (see John 15:10). Following Jesus is really all about losing our worldly identity in order to discover a brand new, life changing, eternity altering renewed identity made in the likeness of God’s own Son, Jesus. Discipleship is about having our minds renewed by the Word of Christ as well as having our hearts repaired by the love of Christ so that we can obey and share with others the commands of Christ. Discipleship is not simply about doing the right things, it is about obedience to God’s will based on love for God. I hope you’ll join us this month!