Active Discipleship- Question

My default state is to live as a passive disciple. This means to not do anything that might stretch or improve myself. It means to not live by faith, rather to only take steps that I feel I am totally capable of fulfilling without any outside help. It means knowing that God is important and all, but to not wanting to need Him. It means wanting to reach heaven by checking items off a list, with no messy life-altering transformations along the way.

Until recently I did nothing to challenge this default state of mine, but then, about three years ago, I took some steps to push against it and began to live with intentionality. Things have been much improved since then…but it would be dishonest if I said that I’ve never looked back since.

Even now I still find complacency to be a very comfortable robe, one that is all too easy to slip back into. I have to continually agitate myself to continually live as a more active follower of Christ. While some days are more successful than others, I have noticed some abiding changes in me that are invaluable. One of them is that I sharply recognize when I am falling back into my old cadence, and I remain restless until I get up and start moving again.

Living the life of an active disciple is hard by its very nature. Thus I am certain that I am not the only one entangled in this never-ending dance with my old ways, and not the only one that would benefit from a study on this topic. In my following research, I will be exploring how the scriptures advocate for a more active discipleship, and what wisdom they offer for how to maintain it.

In the meantime, I would love to hear from you how you have kept yourself on task. Does it always have to feel like a grind, or is there a point where it becomes a joy? How do you tell when you’ve slipped back to complacency? How do you rouse yourself once you realize that you have?

The Family of God- Summary

While there many wonderful lessons in this study, there was one particular message that spoke to me most of all. While reviewing the scriptural verses on the Family of God, I found myself constantly drawn back to our tendency to put up barriers between ourselves and others, and the need to break them down. I guess this was the message that I needed most, and I am glad to have found it.

I don’t think any of us would deny that there is a lot of division in this world right now, and that it is holding us back as a society. We each have a vision of a united people, but we can’t seem to agree what that unity should look like. Different ideologies each come with different pros and cons, and none of them leave everyone entirely satisfied.

But this endeavor to fashion a new family structure is just us reinventing the wheel. We do not need to solve an already-answered question, the original answer is still the best. Our role as children in a divine family was chosen before we were ever born. The unity we need is God’s unity, and the path we need to follow is His.

Our Fates Are Tied Together

I do not know why we try to make reaching heaven such an isolated effort. We seem to have this idea that I am to get myself to heaven, and you are to get yourself there. We might expand it a little bit to say Jesus and I will get me to heaven, and Jesus and you will get you to heaven, but there is still no overlap between you and I.
If this was truly the model God intended for our salvation, why not just create a few billion individual worlds where He could work with us in isolation? Each of us in our own little bubble, getting saved separately one at a time.
But that isn’t the environment God chose for us. Because in the end, none of us was meant to come to heaven alone. Our very existence here mandates that we are directly tied to at least two separate human beings, and then by extension to all others. God tied us together because we are supposed to be tied together. Our salvation is not mine and yours, but ours.
Matthew 18:20- For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.
Malachi 2:10- Have we not all one father? hath not one God created us?

There Is No Place for Contention

Because of our dependence on each other, all that is necessary for us to to fail is to see our friends as our foes. No wonder, then, that Satan prioritizes sowing discord. Once we are unable to work together it doesn’t matter how much good we try to do in isolation. He has cut us off upstream, and there is nothing to work with down below.
In his ingenuity he has taught us to be self-righteous about it, too. We tell ourselves that we cannot work with that person because they are bad. If we had some real Christians to work with that would be something else, but to associate with these would be compromising our standards!
And so we undo the ties we were literally born with, and divide the one world we were meant to share into those billions of isolated ones I mentioned above. And then, separated and alone, we are far more easily overpowered by the adversary.
Luke 22:24- And there was also a strife among them, which of them should be accounted the greatest.
3 Nephi 11:29- For verily, verily I say unto you, he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another.

Rely on One Another’s Strengths

Now to be clear, there are certain things that we brothers and sisters can simply never do for one another. I can never atone for your sins. You cannot cleanse me from past mistakes. No brother or sister can teach us all the mysteries of heaven and earth. There are needs of ours that will only ever be answered by God, the Savior, and the Holy Ghost.
But on the other hand, there are also things that we are only going to get from each other. Not because God couldn’t directly give these things to us if He wanted, but because He doesn’t want to. Anyone who has prayed and asked for answers knows that often God insists on sending us the answer through another person.
Think of it another way. What are your personal strengths? What God-given gifts do you hold? Okay…now what are you supposed to do with them? Surely it is to help other people in some way, to do something essential for them. To fill a role in their life that only you could fill. Alright, now if you have strengths that God gave you for the express purpose of helping others, doesn’t it only stand to reason that He also gave gifts to your brothers and sisters for the express purpose of having them help you? To do something essential for you? Something that only they can?
By myself I have many weakness and many flaws. But with my brothers and sisters, I start to approach the perfection God meant for me.
Romans 12:4-6- For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another. Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us.

Service to Others- Summary

This study has been extremely beneficial for me, I do hope that it has been helpful for you as well. I very much enjoyed this approach of both researching and practicing, it is something I think I would like to incorporate more in future studies.
There is a principle of the gospel that I think needs stressing at this point: understanding the reasons behind what we are taught is important, but doing the things we are taught is more so. By reading the scriptures I found things I had never considered before. By trying to act on their instructions I found even more.
I am always amazed at just how much there is to learn. You think I would be used to finding so much depth to the gospel, yet I continue to be caught by surprise. I honestly feel I could linger on this topic for twice as long and still not be finished.

We All Need to Serve

Many of us feel a twinge of guilt when we hear lessons about serving others. The fact we feel guilty, though, means we really do know in our hearts that it is a true principle. At our cores we are made to serve, it is baked into our human DNA. Most commonly we think of basic needs in the form of things that we need to receive: food, and rest, and love. But we also have a need to give, and we do not feel complete until we embrace it.
And so we want to serve, but simultaneously we do not want to. We are mixed beings, composed of both the spirit and the flesh. To ever serve, then, requires that the spiritual part overcome the carnal. If you find yourself hesitating to give freely, don’t feel ashamed, it is an entirely normal way to be. But also know that you can grow past this common weakness, and give full expression to the generosity that your spirit yearns for.
Moses 7:32- And unto thy brethren have I said, and also given commandment, that they should love one another.
Galatians 5:13- For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.

We All Need to be Served

Service is a beautiful principle in how it meets two needs at once. For we not only need to care, we also need to be cared for. Our modern culture pressures us to be independent, to need no one. A message which can easily lead to a state of perpetual emptiness.
Now, to be fair, it is of course possible to leech off of others or become a helpless codependent. These are not the same as receiving service. To receive service is to receive that which you truly cannot give to yourself. Things like knowing you are a priority to another person, receiving their attention, their care, to have them listen to what you say. These are food for the soul.
John 13:6, 8-
Then cometh he to Simon Peter: and Peter saith unto him, Lord, dost thou wash my feet? Thou shalt never wash my feet.
Jesus answered him, If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me.

Service is a Divine Act that Binds Together

The need to serve and also be served connects us to one another. It makes us form societies rather than spread out as individual hermits. It pushes us towards the better part of our natures, giving freely, acting kindly, helping our fellow man.
But the divine binding does not end here. For some of our needs to serve and be served cannot be answered in any mortal. We need to serve God, and we need to be shown tender mercies by Him. Perhaps some things were made to stand alone, but neither a man nor all mankind were. As individuals, and as a composite body we need our Father. And there is nothing shameful in that, it empowers us to be more than ourselves.
Romans 12:5- So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.
Galatians 6:2- Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.


Faith vs Fear- Summary

I have enjoyed each of the studies that I’ve done for this blog, but frankly this one might have been my favorite. It seemed as if each day was bringing up realizations and questions I had never considered before.
Having completed this study I definitely feel all the more firmly that fear is truly the antithesis of faith. Obviously “doubt” also comes to mind as an opposite to faith, but I feel that fear is the more active principle that serves the same function to exercise evil that faith serves to exercise good. If faith is the currency of God, fear is undoubtedly the currency of Satan.
I particularly enjoyed learning how faith does not represent just any belief or action, but only the ones that are based upon truth and performed in collaboration with God. Having realized that, I now see how much more faith I have left to exercise! I do try to do good things, but usually I’m trying to do them all by myself. That’s putting my trust in my own strength and not in God’s.
I will try to overcome that failing by implementing the lessons we have reviewed this past week. Let’s take a look at what some of the key points were.

Fear is a Tool to Cripple Others

The first step to making any change in our lives is to first realize that there is a problem that needs correcting. Because most of us live in a state of fear by default, it may take some eye-opening to realize what a crippling influence it has been in us.
Fear is a primary instinct used by the body to promote self-preservation. It has a healthy purpose in compelling us away from dangerous situations, and we even speak of the “fear of God” as a positive quality of respect for our Maker.
But to be effective, fear by necessity must be quite powerful. And being so powerful, it becomes an obvious tool for misuse and abuse. Very easily fear can be inappropriately amplified until it defines our entire decision-making process. At that point others can use targeted fears to steer us into actions that we are morally opposed to.
We might experience this abuse of fear from a person that has a position of influence in our lives. Also Satan certainly uses fear when he pressures us to sin. We even put fear on our own selves when we try to force a change of behavior through negative self-talk.
2 Corinthians 7:5- But we were troubled on every side; without were fightings, within were fears.
Jeremiah 17:5- And Saul said unto Samuel, I have sinned: for I have transgressed the commandment of the Lord, and thy words: because I feared the people, and obeyed their voice.

Fear Can Be Overcome Only By Deliverance

Freedom from our toxic fears is something we cannot give to ourselves. Seeing that we are mortals, all that we have power to assuage our fears with are mortal things. We therefore try to shore up against our fears by obtaining worldly powers, things like money, beauty, and influence. The problem is that each of these assurances from the world are still inseparably connected with…fear. Each of them is finite, lost in time, or taken by force. In gaining them we fear the inevitable losing of them.
To ever truly be free we need to depend on something that is not based in this corruptible world. We need to depend on a power that mortality can have no influence over. By necessity, then, our deliverance has to come from God.
1 Corinthians 2:5- That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.
Psalm 34:4- I sought the Lord, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears.

Faith is the Essence that Replaces Our Fear

This dependence on the power of God takes the form of faith. In order to increase our reliance upon our Creator we have to exercise it. He has assured us that it does not burden Him for us to rely on His power, rather it is something that He wants us to do. By exercising our faith and inviting His miracles into our lives our assurance of His reality, His kindness, and His power grows day-by-day.
Not only will our foundation shift from one of fear to faith, but our own identities will reform as well. We will be become better, happier, and more fulfilled individuals while in this life, and fully perfected souls in the next.
Malachi 3:10- Prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of Hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing that there shall not be room enough to receive it.
Psalm 56:4- In God I will praise his word, in God I have put my trust; I will not fear what flesh can do unto me.

Faith Accomplishes the Impossible

Our faith grows firm as we see God accomplish in us the things that were impossible by any worldly process. The miracle I have personally seen, of which I am the most amazed, is the quiet change of heart within me. I have experienced healing and restoration that I frankly deemed impossible. I deemed it impossible, because then I lived more in the fear of the world, and the world could do nothing for me.
Often an action of faith is one that takes me outside of my comfort zone, that sees me approaching those I would not approach, saying things I would not say, doing things I would not do. Thus I become the person I would not be, the miracle occurs that would not occur, and the world becomes a bit more His.
Isaiah 41:13 (NIV)- For I am the LORD your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you
Mark 9:23- Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.

The Differences Between Knowing, Doing, and Becoming- Jeremiah 24:7, Ezekiel 11:19, Psalm 51:10


And I will give them an heart to know me, that I am the Lord: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God: for they shall return unto me with their whole heart.

And I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you; and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them an heart of flesh:

Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.

COMMENTARY

Thus far we’ve studied examples that illustrate how God wants us to become a good person, more than He wants us to merely know or do good things. As we recognize and accept that divine identity within us, goodness naturally flows from us without coercion.
But the idea that God wants us to become something presents a difficult quandary and it invites all manner of anxious questions. How exactly do I change myself into something new? What if I can’t make myself better? What if I haven’t figured out how to change my heart with the flip of a switch?
Well, I won’t leave you in suspense, you can’t and you won’t. You need to be changed at your core, and that frankly is not within your power.

And I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you
It is God who changes the heart and God alone. If ever we are to experience a real transformation it is purely by an act of grace from Him.
Certainly it is within our power to do good works which invite God to change us, but make no mistake that it is still God who does the actual changing. We get ourselves to the right place, then He does the miracle.

But that might bring up other anxious questions. What if God just doesn’t show up for me? What if I do my part and then He never makes that change in my heart?
It really goes against our grain to depend on someone else like that. Our human natures balk at the idea of giving up direct control to trust in someone else. We would much rather that God just give us a to-do list and send us on our way.
If I knew that I needed to utter so many hours of prayer, attend church for so many weeks, and read so many verse of scripture, then that would mean it was entirely up to me whether I made it into heaven or not. That is how I would prefer it.
But that is not how it works, is it? You simply cannot earn your way into heaven. God knows that this is uncomfortable for us, and frankly He designed it to be so. God requires us to be humble, to rely on faith, and to depend on Him. You’re right that if He didn’t show up for you it would be very bad, but He promises that He will.
As you submit to that you’ll probably feel something hard and heavy breaking and falling away from you in the process. That would be your pride.