Holistic Discipleship

“Those who walk with the wise will themselves become wise.” Proverbs 13:20

“Let the one who desires take the water of life without price.” Revelation 22:17

“Let your light so shine before men that they see your good works and glorify your Father in Heaven.” Matthew 5:16

So often I think of discipleship only as the time that we are explicitly speaking about the things of the Lord together. Because this opportunity does not always present itself this can lead to a feeling of guilt that says “the time that you spend with others is not valuable because it was spent either discussing trivial matters or discussing nothing at all.”

This morning, as I prayed, I enjoyed the picture that comes from Revelation 22:17 (above) that presents a river of living water that we get to freely enjoy every time we come to God through Christ. It is through the enjoyment of this water that we are transformed into the image of Jesus himself. As we spend time with him the natural consequence is that we look more like him. You see couples who, after decades of marriage, begin to physically look like each other, share the same facial expressions, and carry themselves in similar ways. Maybe discipleship with Jesus is not so different.

What does this mean for discipleship with others? This question brings to mind Proverbs 13:20 (above). As a believer, quality time spent with other believers brings natural growth as we adopt the same Godly habits, delights, and mindsets as our brothers and sisters. This means that no moment is wasted when the Holy Spirit indwells two friends as they talk about football, pick up takeout, or move furniture. These things, when done to the glory of God, have a transformative effect that comes as a consequence of merely being together.

What about evangelism then? Does evangelism only happen when we tell others of the death, burial and resurrection of Christ? In no way do I want to detract from the importance of explicitly sharing the message of the gospel because, as so, I would be detracting from God’s very word (Romans 10:17). However, when we are simply living out the truth of the gospel and not shying away from the opportunities that God provides for such things I think that we are approaching evangelism in a more holistic fashion. In light of Matthew 5:16 I picture it like this…

If a man with a lantern were to walk through a dark cave there would be two effects. The moths would flock to the light and the cockroaches would flee (c.f. 2 Corinthians 2:16). If we direct our steps by the light of the lamp (as Psalm 119:105 instructs) it will change how we navigate work relationships, check out in the grocery line, drive our cars, wait in the drop-off line at our kids’ school, interact with our unbelieving neighbors, etc. As we do so, we wait patiently for the God-provided opportunities to tell the moths who lit the lamp that we hold in our hearts (1 Peter 3:15).

My hope is that a reminder of this perspective on discipleship and evangelism will help us to separate Satanic guilt from Godly conviction. For some of us, maybe we are hiding our lamp under a basket and denying our Lord because we are too sheepish to boldly live out the gospel and too afraid to give an account for the hope within us. When that is me, I need to hear the Holy Spirit tell me to repent. However, if we are daily setting our minds on Jesus, growing in his image in every area of our lives and not shrinking back from the opportunities he provides to share in word then I hope that this post can give us the confidence to cast off condemnation and press on in a holistic understanding of discipleship and evangelism.

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