Disciples follow their master. They listen to what he says, take it to heart, and watch what he does. They imitate him. It is how children learn and also how disciples learn. Like artists who are taught to imitate the masters until their skills are sufficiently grown to develop a style of their own. So we must follow Christ, listen and imitate him if we would be his disciples.
Now, you might wonder how we can imitate him when he performed miracles. But really, we need to not worry about the doing part at first. I know In His Steps was a popular book in its day, and the revival of that thinking in the phrase, “What would Jesus do?” was also viewed as a popular form or method of disciple making. And to be sure, the question, “What would Jesus do?” is a valid and good one. But if you would really be his disciple, you need to go deeper than that. Ask instead, “What would Jesus think?” and “How would Jesus feel about this?” and the KEY, “Why don’t I think and feel the same way about it?”
God’s plan is to restructure us from the inside-out, and that strikes at the trembling heart, the most intimate and personal point of our lives. Yes it does. Our innermost, most protected, most defended being must be converted first.
I have stated that feelings are not sacrosanct, and it is true. Love is a decision. “I have decided to ask her to marry me. Her answer will be yes or no.” Respect is a decision. It may not be easy, but you can decide not to let it get to you, not to let them make you angry, not to be offended. Likewise, you can decide to be positive, encouraging, supportive. Again, you may not be very good at it, but feelings can be decided. They do not have to blow you about with every gust of wind.
This is also true of faith…well, faith is both a gift and a decision. God calls us and gives us the faith to apprehend the truth, lest any man boast, but now to be clear, the walk of a disciple is a walk of faith; and perhaps the most important thing about faith that a bunch of independent minded, freedom loving Americans need to understand is faith—your faith—is the most personal thing about you, but it must never be private. Personal, yes. Ultimately personal. But never private. True faith is always public.
Abraham tried to hide by calling Sarah his sister. He got in trouble for that. He gave his tithe to the Most High God through Melkizadek, the priest. It was not an attempt to draw attention to himself, but you can be sure he did not leave an unsigned envelope on the pastor’s desk.
Moses wanted to keep his face private, but in the end he got in Pharaoh’s face. David stood up to Goliath in faith on the open battlefield. The judges, the prophets all spoke openly and in public, even the ones who did not want to, like Amos and Jonah, and even the ones who knew their lives would be threatened like Elijah. Jeremiah, Daniel, Peter and Paul all spent time in prison because their faith was public. Supremely personal, yes, but never private.
There was a time when Christians got thrown to the lions. Sure, they met in catacombs and did not draw overt attention to themselves, but when confronted, they declared their faith in public for all to see. Missionaries certainly never hid in their faith. And yes, Christians have even gone to war over faith issues. We might look back and call that stupid or a shame, but the 30 years war or the 100 years war, or any number of wars were in many ways public (and extreme) expressions of faith. Many protestant sects such as the Pilgrims came to America to be able to practice their faith openly, publically without fear of reprisals. After all, it was not so long before the Pilgrims left the Old World that John Bunyon was in prison for being a “non-conformist.”
Right now, there are Christians throughout the Moslem world who make no secret that they are Christians. Right now there are reported to be as many as a hundred million Christians in China. Again, they do not necessarily draw attention to themselves, but when confronted, they are very up-front to confess, and sometimes go to jail.
Only in America, especially with the advent of multi-culturalism and diversity thinking, do we imagine faith is a private matter. The result has been the removal of God from nearly all public spaces. This is not a good thing, especially since it is predicated on a falsehood. The truth is, faith is always personal, but it is never private. But then the reason we get it all wrong in America is because our view of the world is taken from the world. Instead, if we would be his disciples, our worldview needs to be shaped and conformed to the worldview of God in Jesus Christ. Truly, that is where discipleship begins. Our deepest views, our most personal point of faith must be converted first.