The Essence of true Discipleship …
True Discipleship begins in Imitating Christ’s Humility
“If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death— even death on a cross …” (Phil.2: 1-8)
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Just as Jesus, the Christ, the Son of God, emptied Himself of His divinity to fulfill the Father’s purpose for Him (Phil.2:5-8) — So also we Christians, as His clay vessels that He created, need to empty ourselves, out of Loving response to His sacrifice (agape), so that in abandoning our self-centered and self-driven egocentric approach to living religiously, we may be filled and activated with the very Life of Jesus to bring forth His Kingdom in us for the Glory of the Father!
Paraphrasing this principle as John the Baptist expressed it: “ the “I” in me must decrease so that “His Life” in me may Increase …” (John 3: 30, my translation)
That, in brief, is the founding precept behind discipleship – releasing our very selves to be conformed to Jesus. Or, as St. Paul reiterated the goal for the true disciple: “ … I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ (who) lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” (Gal. 2:20)
Of course, this intrinsic principle and essence of discipleship stated above seems impossible for any human to achieve. And that is exactly the point. Only the Holy Spirit working in us and through us can conform us to this image of Christ. And any attempt by us to “be His disciples” through human effort or discipline alone will utterly fail. It is only when we willingly surrender the right to ourselves that the Spirit will begin His work of conformance in us, But it must be His Work in us, NOT our human zeal to “do something” for Christ. It is ONLY “Having the mind of Christ” that permits us to cooperate fully in Faith with the Spirit of God in His work of transformation in us.
All believers are called to be disciples but it is not a condition for our salvation. In order that our conformance to His image be a work of Love, the Lord has designated becoming a disciple as free choice made willingly with no consequences on our salvation. He specifically stated that “many are called but few are chosen” (Matt. 22:14). There is no condemnation, if we do not choose to enter into full discipleship, it is really just up to us if we wish, out of pure love, to offer our total self to Jesus or not. We can still be fully fulfilled believers as Lay people serving the Lord.
Yielding Ourselves to The Spirit to be “Disciples”
The Apostle Paul, whose own yielding to discipleship is well documented in the New Testament, exhorts us regarding yielding ourselves to our formation as disciples as follows:
“I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Rom12:1-2)
This work of transformation in us begins when we “intentionally” offer ourselves up as a “living sacrifice” to the Father so that so that His Holy Spirit will begin His work of transformation in us, beginning with the renewal of our mind so that we, indeed will have “the mind of Christ” throughout our spiritual formation.
We also begin to understand that this work of transformation is also the “Cross” that Jesus said we, that we “intentional disciples” must bear daily. Once we begin, it encompasses all the instances in our lives where we must divest ourselves of all our self-willed desires and thus be conformed to the Father’s very specific will in every aspect of our lives in Christ.
Now it is true, that as our transformation progresses, and we are more and more conformed to Christ, our own will and desires become more and more like His, then our main responsibility will be to carefully discern those areas in our life where our human will and desires still rule in our lives and where the weight of our cross still has its impact.
Discipleship is Sometimes Misunderstood
One of the things that saddens me most about we lay Catholics in our modern western culture is the extent to which we misinterpret our call to discipleship as merely using our human talents in complying with the demand for stewardship we all have in our Christian communities.
When we comply with the demand for stewardship that is placed upon us, not out of our love and dedication to Jesus, but out of our own self-will and need for recognition, zeal and ambition within the parish, then we are not acting out of true “agape” discipleship but rather out what might be considered as good human intent but lacking a surrender of our self will and yielding to the Holy Spirit so that what our efforts are directly due to God’s Grace working in us and through us.
If you sense this is happening to you, use this opportunity to repent and change your intent to give of yourself totally out of “agape” Love and truly make it a part of your commitment to discipleship.
Also, we tend to give ourselves to, piety and religious services, mainly where we feel more comfortable among our peers and neglecting God’s calling you to ministries where you feel out of place with respect to how others may view you. In fact, sometimes we go to extremes to avoid entering into a true and deep spirituality. A spirituality that results from being filled with the Holy Spirit and manifesting His Gifts in our communities. This is especially true of the Charismatic Ministries within the Parish.
That is why we need to continuously examine our walk with Christ to be sure we are being faithful to what He desires of us and NOT what we desire for ourselves.
If you fall into any of these categories, it may be that the Lord is testing your call to discipleship so that you may discern where He wants you to be. All you have to do is ask the Father in prayer as to where He wants you and, by responding, remain a faithful disciple. That is why having a personal relationship with the Shepherd is indispensable if you truly wish to be a disciple.
Yes, in our religious practice we have all the major doorways to let the Spirit of God enter into our hearts (ie., the Sacraments) but somehow we fail to release the Holy Spirit into our lives so that He will manifest himself in us and through us in everything we do! We just expect that the Holy Spirit will automatically work in us without any faith underlying our beliefs.
While it is true that through the sacraments the Holy Spirit works in our lives to forgive us our sins and maintain our fellowship with Christ through the circumstances of our lives, nonetheless, we do not seem to realize that without our yielding our very selves to His Spirit He will NOT enter the spiritual tabernacle of our spirit and the door of our will to do the works of Christ in us and through us as He desires!
The Spirit of God respects our personal FREE WILL to the ultimate,even to the degree that He will NOT force us to do anything IN US or THROUGH US without our FULL cooperation. He will work around us and through our circumstances and our labor but He will not force Himself on our will and our spirits because He desires that we yield ourselves to Him solely out of love and NOT from obligation..
The Father Desires that we Yield Ourselves Freely to His Spiritual Formation
The Father’s greatest desire for us, indeed, His predestined will for us, is that we, our of our own free will , offer ourselves to His Spirit (cf., Rom. 12:1,2) so that we may be conformed to the Spirit of His Son ( cf., Rom.8:28-29) and thus become His partners in manifesting His Kingdom in today’s world! . He will not do this unless we willingly open the door of our spirit man to Him so that He can carry out His deepest spiritual calling on our lives. Praised be His Holy name!
Now, I also do not want you feel any condemnation. For there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Rather it is my hope that through my message and the inspiration His Word and of His Holy Spirit you will turn to God in prayer, in Jesus’ Name, and ask for the understanding and wisdom you need to have Him activate your spirit so that you may hear His Voice and Understand His Word so that you may become aware of your need to enter into His “Spiritual Kingdom”.
For, without incurring any guilt, the problem with all of us humans is that our human senses are so overwhelmed by the world and cosmos around us that we are essentially blinded to the reality of the spiritual in which our existence is embedded. Only through by yielding ourselves to the Holy Spirit can He reactivate and empower our abilities to see and hear Jesus Voice as He speaks to us from the spirit realm.
It only natural to be cautious in seeking to enter into the realm of the spiritual, since satan is also a spiritual being and he relishes in beguiling us through false and deceptive experiences. This is also the reason that we should NOT attempt to enter into this realm unless we are truly dedicated in Faith to Christ through Baptism and filled with His Holy Spirit.
Then, and only then, when we have given ourselves to Christ and are truly His, the enemy cannot deceive us. For we are His Sheep and are Called to Hear His Voice — and ONLY His Voice. Jesus tells us that, when we are in Him and in His Flock we will not listen to the voice of a stranger.
So do not be afraid my brethren, go to Him in prayer so that He may confirm through His Word all that I am now telling you. And having the Spirit’s confirmation in your hearts surrender your very “Self” to Him and let Him baptize you in the Spirit so that you may truly begin to experience your relationship with Him and be able to worship Him in the Spirit and in Truth! praised be His Holy Name! (cf., Prayer of Commitment)
When your spiritual ears are opened as we’ll as your spiritual eyes, then the Lord will permit you to experience snapshots of His spiritual Kingdom – a reality that is beyond the natural realm in which we live. And indeed, it is the eternal reality that awaits us when we we are separated from our bodies to be with Him Forever!
In Conclusion …
By now Brethren, if you feel the Holy Spirit has nudged you regarding “discipleship”, I recommend that, after praying for the Holy Spirits advise, you look into reading Sherry Waddell’s book: “Forming Intentional Disciples – The Path to Knowing and Following Jesus” *
May the Lord Richly Bless you and Lead You Into The Kingdom!
Your Brother in Christ Jesus …. Bartimaeus
(© B.R.Timeo and Bartimaeus’ Quiet Place, [2008-2016])
[* Note: In her book “Forming Intentional Disciples – The Path to Knowing and Following Jesus” Sherry makes it clear that there are three concurrent spiritual journeys to what one might call “normative” Catholicism. She lists these as:
1. The personal interior journey of a relationship with Christ resulting in intentional discipleship.
2. The ecclesial journey into through the Church through the sacraments of initiation.
3. The journey of active practice (as evidenced by attending mass, receiving the sacraments and participating in the life and mission of the Christian community).
She also makes it clear that in a study conducted by her and a Catholic Cleric indicated that the majority of Lay Catholic Christians basically assume that all that is needed to be “Catholic” are to be involved in paths 2 and 3 (the ecclesial journey and the practice of the religious tenets of the faith). ]
Relevant Links for Those Interested in Continuing in this Topic…
Catherine of Sienna Institute
CDM Discipleship Resources
CDM Intentional Discipleship Ministry