What Kind of Disciple Are You?- Summary

A wonderful, if difficult, aspect of writing this blog has been examining my own spiritual nature. I have written about principles that I feel strongly about, only to realize that I am not living them as fully as I could. There are many things I know well enough in my head, but that I am still awkwardly trying to follow with my feet.

Many of these disconnects I was happily ignorant of before starting this blog, but that is the nature of spiritual study: it illuminates your areas for improvement. As has been said many times before, the gospel comforts the afflicted, but afflicts the comfortable!

As awkward and frustrating as this self-realization has been, I do not regret it in the least. If you will allow me a moment of personal pride, I believe that I am a better person now than when I started this blog, and a good portion of the credit goes to this self-awakening. Throughout this study I have expressed some of the self-delusions I was suffering from, and hopefully you have felt encouraged to honestly examine your own soul as well.

You Are a Mystery to Yourself

It is commonly accepted that those we are closest to can surprise us with who they really are. We think that we know a person for years, and then one day they defy every assumption we had made for them.
What is more of a surprise, though, is that this person whom we have known for years and still surprises us, might be our very own selves. We are immortal beings, with traits and tendencies that we do not fully comprehend. We have weaknesses we did not know were there until tested. We have strengths we did not know were there until tested, too.
Beyond these hidden traits, there is also the self-delusion that so many of us employ. As part of our instinct, we observe the behaviors of those around us, and identify ourselves as having the same distinctions. But imitation does not reveal identity. Because this imitation is so natural to us, we play it very effectively, so much so that even we are fooled…at least until we take a closer look.
Matthew 26:33, 74: Peter answered and said unto him, Though all men shall be offended because of thee, yet will I never be offended.
Then began he to curse and to swear, saying, I know not the man. And immediately the cock crew.

It is Okay Not to Know Some Things

When one realizes that they have been wearing a spiritual mask, they may start to recognize that many around them are doing the same. However one should not make the mistake of assuming that all people are being insincere. There truly are spiritual giants in the world today. Individuals whose conviction is not pretend, ones who have truly witnessed the things that they bear testimony of. I have met some of them, and in their eyes the Savior is reflected.
This is not all, I have heard spiritual giants testify that once they were as second-guessing and weak as me! Never forget that Peter was not always Peter, once he was only Simon. And Paul was not always Paul, once he was only Saul. These men were weak once, and then afterwards they were strong. If we are still weak, then it is alright. All of us are born weak, and there is no shame in having to be refined. What matters is that we are seeking that refinement!
Also, there is no shame in feeling that the refinement is hard. It simply is, and is so for everyone. Never forget that even Jesus, the Son of God, had to grow into the role he was meant to fill.
Luke 2:52- And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.
Isaiah 28:10- For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little.

There is No Progress Until You Are Honest

So long as you maintain that you have no growing to do, well…you will have no growing to do! I know this firsthand. For a long while I was unteachable because I already knew everything. Then I experienced a miserable failure, and finally admitted that there was still a thing or two I needed to learn.
When Peter affirmed that he would follow Jesus to the death, Jesus prophesied that this was not actually true. Peter stressed that no, he really was totally committed to the cause. Like me, Peter had to fail miserably to see things honestly.
There is a term for these sorts of miserable failures: they are humbling. Or at least, they are if we allow them to make us be humble. And then, if we are humble, we are teachable. And then, if we are teachable, we are growable. Will those closest to us be disappointed to learn that we aren’t so magnificent as we pretended? Honestly, yeah, they might be. But now you are finally on track to authentic magnificence.
Luke 22:61-62- And the Lord turned, and looked upon Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. And Peter went out, and wept bitterly.

Ether 12:27- And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.

What Sort of Disciple Are You?- Matthew 26:33-34, 16:18

Peter answered and said unto him, Though all men shall be offended because of thee, yet will I never be offended.
Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, That this night, before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice.

And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

COMMENTARY

Jesus said unto him, This night, before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice
Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it
Previously I shared how Peter thought he was ready to die for Jesus, but when his moment to prove it came, he was found lacking. Clearly he had misjudged himself. Today I reflected back on that story, and I realized that there was another lesson to be found within it.
Yes, Peter misjudged himself in that moment, but Jesus saw him rightly. After his failure, Peter became understandably discouraged, and following Jesus’s burial he returned to his old lifestyle as a fisherman. Perhaps that was all he felt he was cut out for anymore. But if so, then once again he was misjudging himself. For even before Jesus had rightly predicted Peter’s failure, he had also rightly predicted his eventual triumph. In fact, it was Jesus who gave him the name Peter, which means “rock,” and testified that this disciple would become the foundation of strength for the gospel moving forward. And Jesus was right.
I suspect that many of us, like Peter, are both weaker and stronger than we think. Our Heavenly Father and our Elder Brother truly know us better than we know ourselves. Jesus revealed Peter’s true nature to him, and he is ready to also reveal yourself to you. You only have to be ready to receive it.

What Sort of Disciple Are You?- 2 Kings 5:10-13

And Elisha sent a messenger unto him, saying, Go and wash in Jordan seven times, and thy flesh shall come again to thee, and thou shalt be clean.
But Naaman was wroth, and went away, and said, Behold, I thought, He will surely come out to me, and stand, and call on the name of the Lord his God, and strike his hand over the place, and recover the leper.
Are not Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? may I not wash in them, and be clean? So he turned and went away in a rage.
And his servants came near, and spake unto him, and said, My father, if the prophet had bid thee do some great thing, wouldest thou not have done it? how much rather then, when he saith to thee, Wash, and be clean?

COMMENTARY

My father, if the prophet had bid thee do some great thing, wouldest thou not have done it?
Yesterday we examined Peter, who felt he was ready to lay down his life for Jesus, but stumbled when the actual danger arose. Peter had something in common with Naaman: both believed that they were ready to undertake some “great thing,” and openly invited a test of their resolve. Where their paths diverge is that Peter was actually invited to risk his life, whereas Naaman was only asked to do something small and basic.
Peter fell short of the great sacrifice, but even Naaman almost failed to do the small and simple thing! The fact that he was almost tripped up by the little thing makes me suspect that he, like Peter, may not have been as ready for the greater sacrifice that he thought he was. I once had a missionary who firmly avowed that he would gladly die for Christ’s gospel. At the time I couldn’t help thinking “but you and I are struggling with even the basic missionary rules right now, so why would either of us be ready for a sacrifice like that?”
I love the scene from the Karate Kid, where Daniel expresses his frustration at his teacher. He came to him to learn martial arts, but instead he has been assigned many menial chores. He does not yet realize that it is in the small, repetitive tasks that the reflexes of a warrior are being developed within him.
It is easy to view scripture study, prayer, acts of service, and obedience to the commandments as meaningless chores, things which have no bearing on one’s ability to undertake great spiritual causes. But in truth these practices are absolutely essential and fundamental, the little things that make all the difference.

What Sort of Disciple Are You?- Matthew 26:33-35, 73-75

Peter answered and said unto him, Though all men shall be offended because of thee, yet will I never be offended.
Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, That this night, before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice.
Peter said unto him, Though I should die with thee, yet will I not deny thee. Likewise also said all the disciples.

And after a while came unto him they that stood by, and said to Peter, Surely thou also art one of them; for thy speech bewrayeth thee.
Then began he to curse and to swear, saying, I know not the man. And immediately the cock crew.
And Peter remembered the word of Jesus, which said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. And he went out, and wept bitterly.

COMMENTARY

Though I should die with thee, yet will I not deny thee
Then began he to curse and to swear, saying, I know not the man
My general assumption is that Peter was not lying when he avowed he would follow Jesus to death. I think it is perfectly believable that he really thought he would be faithful to the end. But as he learned, the imagination of martyrdom is far different from actually being faced with it. It is easy to be a hero in one’s imagination.
Not all things in life are worth dying for, but some are. Liberty, truth, and the lives of others to name a few. It is good to be willing to sacrifice anything for these virtues, and those that can do so are extremely noble.
But when we say that an action is commendable, it does not necessarily mean that the inability to perform that action is condemnable. We should not be too hard on Peter for shirking when his great test came. Yes, he was lacking, but he was not bad. He was simply a work in progress.
Being willing to do all things for God’s cause only comes after years of exercising our faith. If we are not there yet, if we are still lacking in any way, if there are commitments we are not yet ready to make, then we can attest that we are still a work in progress, too. And yes, hopefully we are authentically working to make that progress, but if so, then it is alright to not be perfect just yet!

Finding Our Purpose- Acts 9:15, John 15:16

But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel.

Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.

COMMENTARY

For he is a chosen vessel unto me
Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you
Saul set out for Damascus with the express purpose of imprisoning the Saints. Who could have believed that he would instead be called to carry the Lord’s gospel to the Gentiles? Clearly neither Ananias nor Saul did, to them that notion seemed ridiculous. Yet that was exactly the purpose for which Saul was chosen.
Who could have assumed that a lowly fisherman would become the head of Christ’s church? And yet that was who was chosen.
The key factor in both of these examples is who was doing the choosing. Not Saul, not Ananias, not Peter, and not any other man. Only God.
If you are concerned because you do not know what purpose God has for you, do not worry. It isn’t some puzzle that you have to solve, and it isn’t a revelation that you have to disclose to yourself. Our purposes are given to us, they are something that only God can reveal. All you have to do is make yourself a willing receptacle for that.

The Family of God- Matthew 18:20-22

For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.
Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times?
Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.

COMMENTARY

For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them
Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times?

Before today I was already quite familiar with both of these accounts: the one where Jesus promises to be in the midst of a group gathered in his name, and the other where Peter wonders how many times he is expected to forgive another. But until now I had never contemplated that these moments are placed one immediately after the another.
It makes for a fascinating contrast, one where Christ is calling for unity, and then we have Peter trying to find out when he is allowed to create a division. It is as if Peter is asking “at what point can I not be expected to gather with a particular other?”
And Jesus’s answer is, essentially, never. We must not forget that Christ made his own company among sinners. Not only repentant sinners either, remember that he did some of his most beautiful work shoulder-to-shoulder with the man that would ultimately betray him. The world around him was rotten at times, but he still stayed a part of it.
In the end, we are all we have. God isn’t giving you a backup planet with new brothers and sisters if you can’t work things out with the current set. As such, we should stop looking for opportunities to write off a particular brother or sister as a lost cause, and instead start gathering together.

The Differences Between Knowing, Doing, and Becoming- Summary

I really enjoyed doing this study. It really felt like delving into the heart of the gospel, and coming to really understand God’s purposes for me. Not only that, but I also came to better understand my own obstacles to achieving those purposes. I don’t blame myself for having obstacles, the ones I have are common to all mankind: pride, a desire for control, a lack of faith. But now that I know what they are I know what to work on. Let’s take a look at some of the things we’ve observed.

having a testimony and Doing Good Works are Important

The last thing I would want anyone to assume from this study is that I am saying learning the gospel and keeping the commandments are somehow unnecessary. Conversion is the culmination of these two, and doesn’t happen without them. We need to increase our testimony and we need to do good deeds. We need to do these even when they don’t come naturally to us, and Jesus has called “blessed” those that do.
Matthew 16:17- And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.
Matthew 19:17- If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.

We Increase Our testimony and Do Good So That We Might Be Changed

While still valuing our testimony and righteousness for their own sake, we can still ask for a conversion to be added to them. As I mentioned above, sometimes exercising faith and keeping the commandments may come unnaturally to us. That’s alright, but the hope is that one day we’ll be changed so that they become much more a part of us.
God wants children who do good because they love the good, not because they are afraid of being punished otherwise. As anyone who has tried to follow God’s plan can attest to, it is in the doing that the love enters the heart.
Ezekiel 11:19- 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.
Psalm 51:10- Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.

the change that comes is a miracle

All of us want to feel that we are in control of our own growth. We want to be assigned specific homework that we know if we complete will garner us a specific grade. Peter was looking for this when he asked the Lord how many times exactly he had to forgive another.
The fact is for our hearts to be changed is outside of our power. It’s going to literally take an act of God for anyone to truly transform into someone else. That means handing our hearts over to God and trusting that He will work a miracle to change it for us.
Matthew 6:27- Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?
Jeremiah 24:7- 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.

change follows A TRIAL

The Savior taught us that new wine cannot be put into old bottles. Often we try to ask God for that new of heart, while still trying to hold onto our old one. It’s understandable to be afraid and to want to stay where we feel familiar and safe…but we simply can’t have it both ways.
What holds us back is fear, and that fear is not of God. As he did to Jesus and Peter, Satan comes to us all and says “no, you are your old and sinful self, you cannot be anything different.” He casts doubt on God’s ability to change us, tries to convince us we will never be anything more than our basest selves.
I held myself back from God for a long while because I was afraid He would take from me all the parts I loved best. It took a lot of love and care from Him before I started to see that I could trust Him. Bit by bit He convinced me that He would be careful with my heart. I’m so very glad that He did.
Matthew 19:21-22- Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me. But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions.
Luke 22:32- But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.