Be A Disciple
“So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, ‘If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.’” (John 8:31, 32)
Don’t try to be conservative. Be a disciple.
Don’t try to be anti-conservative. Abide in the word of Jesus.
Don’t even try to be a leader, or a preacher, or an elder, or a teacher. Strive to know the truth of Jesus.
Someone will say: “Doesn’t Paul say that it is a good thing to desire the office of a bishop?” (1 Timothy 3:1). Yes, but this doesn’t necessarily mean that one should try to be a bishop. One may desire the work in the sense of recognizing the need for the work and being willing to do that work when called upon by the local church. Someone could also desire the work for personal recognition or influence in the local church, and this would not be good.
Based on what Paul says, it is probably not wrong to think about how one might be prepared to serve as a bishop when the time comes, but this would not strictly be a matter of desiring the work. It would be a matter of being a disciple, or a follower of Jesus. Such a person would be trying to follow the path to spiritual growth that God has revealed. Bishop or preacher are just specific kinds of work that can be done by disciples who have that ability and opportunity.
There are a lot of different religious labels in the world today. We need some labels to be specific in our discussions so that we can abide in the word of Jesus, but we also need an attitude that is always willing to come back to the word of Jesus to clarify and define the terms that we use. However, the existence of so many religious labels points to a pretty big problem. Where did these labels come from if we’re all just trying to abide in the word of Jesus?
Many times our labels are a reaction to beliefs and practices that we disagree with. The Pharisees were a reaction to the growing acceptance of Greek culture among the Jews that came to be known as the Sadducees. Many religious groups such as Calvinists or the Puritans sprung up as reactions to Catholicism. Freewill Baptists were a rejection of the Puritan movement, and all of these dissenters from Catholicism could be grouped under the heading of Protestantism.
We’ve said that we need some labels to be specific in our discussions, but the persistence of labels which often prove to be divisive indicate that religious people can lose sight of the objective of just being disciples and abiding in the word of Jesus. We should not be identified by our reactions to ideas that we disagree with. As disciples, we should be identified by our submission to Jesus and His word.
Even some of the labels that we may feel more comfortable using like conservative should be used very carefully and avoided when possible. “Conservatism” is often a reaction to perceived “liberalism”. Generically, conservative just means that one is averse to change or innovation. This fits the idea of abiding in the word of Jesus, but if being conservative is the same thing as being a disciple, one of those terms is unnecessary. Unnecessary labels may confuse us and the people that we try to talk to about Jesus.
So, how can we rediscover the simple faith of disciples who abide in the word of Jesus?
First, we must commit as individuals to just being disciples. Labels can be used to understand one another, but our loyalty cannot belong to any label. Our loyalty belongs to Jesus and we must strive to abide in His word.
Second, we must always be ready to examine our use of Biblical terms. It is not enough to use a Biblical term. We want to use it in the same way that the Bible uses it. If we’re not sure what a term means in the Bible or how it is being used, we must admit this and reserve judgment until we can speak with conviction.
Third, we must talk to others about the simple faith of disciples who abide in the word of Jesus. With the Lord’s help, we will be able to understand what it means to be a disciple together - one person at a time, one day at a time.
Be a disciple. Abide in the word of Jesus. This is the path to freedom - freedom from sin, freedom from the burden of trying to be saved by perfectly keeping the law, and freedom from the destructive division of trying to be anything more or less than a disciple.