One of the most serious misconceptions in Christianity today goes like this: Because those who followed Jesus of Nazareth were called disciples (a name commonly used for those who followed a rabbi in those days) and we Christians see ourselves as disciples today too, then a major focus of our spiritual growth has been to become disciplined ones so as to walk with God well. The word disciple comes from the word discipline of course. Mostly it is applied today with the meaning that we are to learn to discipline ourselves to walk without sin, to do the devotional and worship practises of the way our cultural Christianity (whichever culture we are in) is formulated and to obey the Word of God in all of the principles, commands and inferences we read or are taught us from there. Believe me we all interpret Biblical texts according to the culturally focussed glasses we read it through. But there is a problem with ‘seeing’ that disciplining ourselves rightly is the way to spiritual maturity and Christian perfection.
Jesus never taught his disciples discipline!
And He said “I no longer call you servants”, thereby discounting the Old Testament way of living to fulfil that Covenant. The way of living that was based on, “Obey all of these commands”.
The discipline of the disciples was to leave their old life and be where Jesus was but what was it that Jesus taught his disciples? Well he taught His disciples how to walk with YHWH as a loving and to be loved Father. Everything Jesus did were lessons on how to be a son to God. This is a major part of what it means to become like Jesus. He showed them that YHWH so loved the human race that He suffered the loss of everything most dear to Himself. Jesus did the same; like His Father He gave up everything most dear to Himself because He loved the human race so intensely. He taught His disciples by example to be one with His Father as He was and is. He was teaching them to walk in the new way of living that the new covenant would require. The Love of God fully saturating us.
Oh, you say Jesus did teach His disciples to be disciplined. He gave them commands to obey! Well, that’s right and the ruling commands Jesus gave to His disciples were:
- Love the Lord your God with all of your being.
- Love your neighbour as you love yourself.
- Love each other as Jesus loves you.
Every other command pales in significance in the face of these. In fact if you do these alone you will fulfil all the law of Moses (Rom 13:8 and Gal 5:14) and have total confidence and be blameless before the Lord on the day of judgement. (1 John 4:17) The reason is because Love cannot sin! But you are going to need to have the Love of God poured into your heart (Rom 5:5) to be able to fulfil these commands. Human love simply can’t do it.
This is what Jesus taught His disciples by example every day of His time with them from first meeting them until He hung lifeless on the cross.
He said one day, “I no longer call you servants, I call you friends” (Jn 15:15). Then after He had risen from the dead He instituted a new status, He called His disciples ‘brothers’ (Jn 20:17).
In doing this He was announcing that the day of servants of God was over. It was perfected in Mary the ‘handmaid of the Lord’ and that perfect servant brought forth the Son of God who set us free from living the disciplined, obedient servant of God life to immersion into the Love of God and oneness with the Son, with the Holy Spirit and with the Father. This is the New Covenant; this is the New Testament way of life that eclipses the Old Testament way, this is Christianity!
– M. James Jordan