What is the goal of discipleship? As Jesus calls Simon and Andrew and James and John and others what is his aim? What is it he most wants to see formed in them?
And what about for you? When God called you and you by the Spirit responded to that calling and acted on the good news of the gospel turning from sin to Jesus, what is God’s goal for you? What does he want to see formed in you?
There’s a danger that we see discipleship as being all about doing and learning. As practical and logical. But following Jesus is also about our emotions, our affections. Jesus invites the disciples to follow him, to learn from and about him, yes. But that learning is designed to lead them to love Jesus.
Turn to John 21v15-17. What’s the question that Jesus asks Peter? It isn’t Peter can you answer these 10 questions about me? It’s not Peter what is penal substitutionary atonement? It’s not Peter what is my greatest desire? It’s not even Peter are you following me?
But Peter “do you love me more than these.” Three times he asks Peter if he loves him. Because discipleship isn’t about learning about Jesus as an end in itself. It’s about learning from him, spending time with him, beholding his holiness, glory, truth and grace so that we love him more in response to a growing awareness of his great love for us. That is what the disciples have seen every day for the last 3 years.
Jesus has poured out his love for Peter at the cross, he has died to secure his forgiveness for his denial and every other failure in a staggering act of love. Willingly bearing the wrath Peter deserved, to enable him to know forgiveness and be transformed as he follows Jesus. The goal of following Jesus, of learning from him, of spending time with him, is that we love him because we see who he is and that he has loved us even though there was nothing attractive in us to call out that love. We were not worth it, but he was love!
Jesus wants our devotion. Christian discipleship is what happens when we meet Jesus, hear his teaching, see the beauty of his character, see his love poured out for us on the cross, and love trust and follow him, and keep growing in love and trust for him. That love is what fuels life long discipleship, it is what enables us to leave other things behind, to deny self because there is no love like Jesus’ love. It’s our love for him that means we’ll trust him wherever he calls us to follow, that means we choose his words to live by rather than the worlds words, that means we will trust that even his ‘no’s’ to our prayers are for our good because we love him who is love.
To be a disciple is to love Jesus. We grow in that love as we explore the depths of his love for us, as we understand more of the depths of our sin that he forgives us, and find grace and compassion for our failures, and see that he has made us acceptable to God, so that as children of God he delights in us in Christ.
Let me ask you, do you love Jesus? Are you growing in your love of Jesus? Does it fuel devoted discipleship? Or has it cooled?
How do we fuel love for Jesus, by spending time with him, seeing his glory and holiness and love and grace? How? By intentionally pursuing Jesus. By deliberately spending time with him in his word, with his people, singing his praise, listening to his voice, following the Spirit’s leading who shows us more of Jesus.
Over the coming weeks we’re going to explore more of what discipleship involves. But don’t skip these foundations.
Do you believe the gospel, have you responded by repentance and faith?
Are you learning from Jesus and leaving other things for Jesus? Becoming who he has called you to be?
Are you loving Jesus more and more? And how are you feeding and fuelling that love in yourself in in others?
Don’t rush away without answering those questions. Jesus wants disciples who know his love, and serve out of a heart filled with his grace and compassion who are devoted to him in love.