“It seems to me,” I said to Stan one morning, “that you spend a lot of time doing things for God. Good things. That must make you feel really good.”
‘Yes and no,” he replied.
“How can it be both?” I asked.
“Depends on perspective and motivation, and I prefer to follow what Jesus said as set out in Luke’s gospel concerning service to and for God.”
“In essence,” Stan responded, “Jesus said that I am not to rejoice in successful service, but, rather, I am to rejoice in the fact that I am rightly related to Him.”
“In some ways,” I said, “that sounds a lot like a combination of salvation and discipleship.”
“A combination of the two,” Stan replied. “Interesting. Tell me what you’re thinking.”
“Well,” I said, “the part about not rejoicing in successful service sounds a lot like not trying to work my way into God’s favor and into heaven by what I do.”
“Okay,” Stan replied, “we both know that’s not possible. Salvation and redemption have to be accepted by faith, not earned by anything we do. However, I think it’s important to add that I do think that God wants and encourages my service to Him, but not from the standpoint of thinking I can earn my salvation by anything I do. How about the discipleship part in what you’re thinking?”
“As we’ve talked about,” I said, “Jesus was very specific about the three steps of discipleship. Seems to me that the first step of denying self will get me out of the way so I don’t rejoice in anything I may do on my own.”
“And what about the second step?” Stan asked.
“The part about taking up my cross, or taking up what God has for me to take up, that would be doing for God what He has for me to do, not doing what I want to do on my own apart from Him. So, again, the only thing to rejoice about is being rightly related to God in that I’m doing what He has for me to do.”
“I’ll fill in the blank for the third step of following Jesus whenever, wherever, and however He wants to lead,” Stan said. “It seems to me like that step can only happen with a person who is rightly related to God.”
“Rightly related through acceptance by faith of God’s free and gracious gift of salvation and redemption,” I responded. “Is that what you’re saying?”
“That’s it,” Stan said. “And once a person has the assurance of salvation and redemption, the second part of the combination, that of discipleship, is supposed to follow hand-in-hand.”
“Is that why Jesus said to go and make disciples, not go and make converts?” I asked.
“Good question!” Stan replied. “What do you think?”
Bible verses to consider:
Behold, I have given you authority to tread upon serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall harm you. Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are recorded in heaven. Luke 10:19-20.
Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you until the end of the age. Matthew 28:19-20.
And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. Luke 9:23.
So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure. Philippians 2:12-13.
Prayer: Thank you, Father, for your free and gracious gift of salvation and redemption that can be accepted by faith. Thank you for those who brought me to that truth so I can rejoice in the assurance of spending eternity in your presence when it’s time. Thank you, too, that you have things for me to do on this side of eternity while I wait for the train, things that flow out of my relationship with you, a relationship that you allow to grow ever-deeper—to grow before I go! Please help me in following every step of your lead into all you have for me to be and to do. Thank you I can and do bring these prayers before you in the name of Jesus. Amen.
Think on this: Discipleship is to follow salvation. Do you agree with that? Why or why not? Do you have the assurance of spending eternity in God’s presence because you have accepted His free and gracious gift? If no, why? If you have the assurance of salvation for when your time here is completed, how are you doing with the discipleship part? As well as you would like? As well as God would like? If you sense there’s something missing in your role as a disciple, what can be done about that? Is that something you would like to have happen in your life during the time you have remaining here? Why or why not?