If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me… The Christian life is one of following Jesus. It is package deal. To be saved by Him means to get up and walk after Him as a disciple. Discipleship is a worthy buzzword among us but what does it mean? Well, it means a lot of things but not least it means that we don’t get to pick and choose how and when we will follow or which of His demands fall upon us.
Our lives can often be pretty self-serving. But Christian faith is not like a cafeteria line where we get to pick and choose buffet style. I’ll believe Jesus for eternal life when I die but don’t feel like letting Him do surgery on my life as it is right now. Or… I like what the Bible says about caring for the poor but I don’t like what it says about sexuality and marriage (or vice versa!). Or… I like the verses that make me feel good but not the ones that challenge my conscience. Or… This doctrine is okay but this one embarrasses me. All of us are prone to this kind of picking and choosing all the time.
Here’s the thing: Being a disciple is not like picking and choosing from a cafeteria line. It is like receiving a banquet. There is something that has been prepared ahead of time for us and we receive it. Following Jesus – with all His promises, demands, and commands – is such a banquet. The Christian faith – with its balancing act of many doctrines some of which may be less fashionable than others at any given cultural moment – is the same. We must receive all of it. The longer I study the Bible and theology the more I see how it all fits together as a whole. The more I try to follow Jesus, the more He comforts me and makes me uncomfortable within the same relationship.
I remember being a young atheist and rejecting Christianity for this very reason! I sensed that if I believed in the God of the Bible, I’d have to believe what the Bible said about homosexuality for instance. What it said about submitting to authority. What it said about giving up my own control over my life. I was an anarchistic, pro-gay leaning young guy! But a few years later the very reason I initially rejected Christianity was part of what compelled me to believe it. If it’s true, than it’s all true. And that made all the difference.
I’m not the first person to see this. C S Lewis famously noticed that “Christianity, which is what it is and was what it was long before I was born…” Lewis sensed that he couldn’t make up his own pastiche of beliefs. Christian faith – and the reality and call of Jesus – was an all or nothing deal. This was because Jesus was what He was long before we came around. And the traditional, historic, orthodox Faith is the same. He knew – as both convert and pre-convert – of the received nature of Christian revelation. It is a banquet and not a buffet. No cafeteria style selection of what we like and don’t like here.
John Wimber also saw this as part of his process of coming to Christ. When I became convinced the Bible was the Word of God and submitted to it, my life was changed. I knew I could no longer stand in judgment upon Scripture, discarding teaching I could not accept and submitting only to those ideas that conformed to my idea of truth. I realized the Bible was written in such a manner that to reject one part was to reject it all. This was a power point, a discovery that put me on the narrow path to salvation.* This is the essence of receiving Christ and becoming a disciple. The refusal to pick and choose – to stand in judgment as Wimber puts it – and to receive as a whole.
We’ll always want to pick and choose how we will obey. We will always be tempted to shy away from the unfashionable doctrines. But the path of discipleship is one of receiving a good deposit well prepared for us ahead of time. And one of always denying ourselves the right to pick and choose.
* from Wimber’s Dynamics of Spiritual Growth, page 29.