We’ve previously discussed that the Modern Era, going back to the Age of Enlightenment, put much more emphasis on knowledge. Descartes’ dictum from that time period stated, “I think, therefore, I am.” Since then, head knowledge has become more valued in many circles. This way of thinking, which each of us in the Western part of the world is steeped in, runs counter to the spirit of discipleship in Jesus.
As you read the Scriptures, it becomes obvious quickly that God’s desire is soul change and people who reflect a certain way of living—in the footsteps of Jesus Christ. While knowledge is not a bad thing, even Paul pointed out to one young church that there was vulnerability; certain knowledge “puffs up, but love builds up” (1 Corinthians 8:1).
If we are to fulfill the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20) and join God in His Kingdom purposes in our time, we must know what we are aiming at. What are the characteristics we would hope to see in someone who identifies themselves as a follower of Jesus?
The apostle Paul used three words repetitively, words that describe his list of the characteristics of a disciple: faith, hope, and love. Those three words show up in three of Paul’s letters to young churches. Here’s what he says to the young church in Colossae:
“We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all the saints—the faith and love that spring from the hope that is stored up for you in heaven and that you have already heard about in the word of truth, the gospel that has come to you” (Colossians 1:3-6a).
One of the key principles of disciplemaking is “Like begets like.” We reproduce who and what we are. It’s important to know and trust God to build these three characteristics in our lives. Then, when we give ourselves to influencing and discipling someone else in their walk with God, we will teach out of who we are and what we do. Howard Hendricks (1924-2013), a long-time professor at Dallas Seminary, put it this way: “You cannot impart what you do not possess.”
Which of Paul’s three characteristics challenges you most as you live your daily life? How can you strengthen yourself and encourage others in living a faithful, loving, hopeful life?