Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Ultimate Goal of Discipleship

The search for a model of what it means to be truly human leads us to define the ultimate goal of discipleship, for the model is Jesus and the goal is to be like him. Where Maslow’s goal and all other attempts fail because of the selfishness that lies at the center of our human experience, Jesus provides the model of a completely fulfilled individual whose central focus was on laying down his life for the sake of others. To be a Christian is to become like Jesus. To be a disciple is to walk in his footsteps, to follow his example, to strive to live with his kind of unselfish love.

The clearest statement of this ultimate goal is found in Philippians 2:1-11. Paul sets Jesus’ example in the context of the human struggle with “selfish ambition,” “conceit,” and looking out for “your own interests.” Until that brokenness at the center of the human experience is healed, none of us can find the full and abundant life that God intends for us. So we strive to have “the same mind … that was in Christ Jesus” (v. 5).

We miss some of the force of Philippians 2:5 in English. “Let this mind be” (KJV), “let the same mind be” (NRSV), or “have this attitude” (NASB) all lose the strong force of the imperative in the Greek verb “think.” “Hey you, think this way” is a command; and “think” carries the ideas of being mentally disposed in an earnest way, holding a sentiment or opinion, and setting one’s affections on something. “In you” and “in Christ Jesus” are parallel expressions with “which also [was] in Christ Jesus” pointing to the mind, attitude, and sentiment of Jesus explained in verses 6-8.

The ultimate goal of discipleship is to be like Jesus, to be Christian; and the effort in making disciples is to begin where each of us starts in our journey and to guide all disciples in becoming Christlike and truly Christian.

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