Links Daily Devotional

Discipleship Is Not an Individual Sport

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35, NIV)

Many people are attracted to golf because it is an individual sport. We enjoy playing with others and the fellowship to be had on the course, but we love that our results are solely dependent on our own execution of the shots we hit. We cannot blame our double bogeys on our playing partners when we are the one hitting the shots. We also understand that if we are going to get better at the game we are dependent on our own individual practice.

Jesus didn’t come just so you could invite him into your heart; he came to form a community of followers who would carry on his mission to the ends of the earth.For a long time, I thought this was the case for my walk with Jesus. I thought my faith was also an individual matter, and our culture often supports this. You have likely experienced the same thing. You listen to good teaching, possibly study the Bible on your own, and you feel like you are responsible for your own spiritual growth. You may even find that many people around you ask you to keep your faith to yourself and not force it upon them; frankly, many of us just find this to be a lot more comfortable.

Granted, there are aspects of our faith that we do have to work out in our minds and live out in our own behavior, but did you know that there are 59 “one another” commands in the New Testament? Fifty-nine! That is a lot of commands from the Lord that cannot be obeyed in isolation.

When Jesus called his disciples, he called them into a communal relationship. He didn’t come just so you could invite him into your heart; he came to form a community of followers who would carry on his mission to the ends of the earth. His mission was the Kingdom of God, and his means to pull it off is his collective body of believers—believers that follow his lead and obey his commands. He desires for us to grow together and love on one another along the way.

There is a significant difference in being an individual consumer of Christianity and a member of the body of Christ. Jesus prayed for all who would ever believe in him through his disciples’ message that we would all be one (John 17:20-21). The apostle Paul went to great lengths to explain this in several of his epistles by comparing being a part of Christ’s body with being a human body part. He wrote, “The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ” (1 Corinthians 12:12, NLT). He continued:

If the whole body were an eye, how would you hear? Or if your whole body were an ear, how would you smell anything? But our bodies have many parts, and God has put each part just where he wants it. How strange a body would be if it had only one part! Yes, there are many parts, but only one body. The eye can never say to the hand, “I don’t need you.” The head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you.” This makes for harmony among the members, so that all the members care for each other. All of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you is a part of it. (1 Corinthians 12:18-21, 25, 27)

Preston Sprinkle writes in his book Go: Returning Discipleship to the Front Lines of Faith, “To live out a Jesus-following faith—to be faithful disciples and be transformed into Christlikeness—we need other people. People to love, people to serve, people to relate to, argue with, forgive, enjoy, rebuke, and share our bread and wine with. We can’t do it by ourselves.”

According to the Bible, we cannot experience the fullness of God by ourselves. We need one another; we need authentic community and the collective gifts it possesses to grow.

Josh Nelson
March 20, 2017
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