Foundations: Made or Born?

“Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.””‭(‭Matthew‬ ‭28:18-20‬ ‭NIV)‬‬

We often ask if leaders, for example, are made or born. Are athletes, musicians, teachers, architects, you-name-it, made or born? Is this ability we recognize innate or is it cultivated over time? Perhaps a combination? 

When it comes to disciples, perhaps it is useful to ask the same question, even if only to review and lodge the answer clearly in our minds? 

Jesus says it plainly: “go and make disciples.” No one is born a disciple of Jesus. If you’re going to be a disciple, you’ve got to be made one. Constructed. Built. 

How are disciples made? Seems like 2 basic steps. (Is this too simple?) First, baptize. Include. Be brought into the life of God through the life of the Church. Baptism is God’s gift, after all, offered and received through the Church. Second, teach. Instruct. But there is a particular curriculum: “to obey everything I have commanded you.” 

Again (as we said yesterday), learning Jesus’ commands is not for the sake of knowledge of them but obedience to him. Yes, teaching and learning are critical to the Christian life. But they serve a greater purpose: Producing lives that resemble Jesus’ life. 

Harrowing? Yes. Humbling? Yes. Impossible? Hmm. Jesus seems to say this is a journey all of us can embark upon. After all, no one is born a disciple. Every last authentic disciple of Jesus that has walked the earth has been made into one (more on how tomorrow). 

Dallas Willard said that this made-versus-born argument that Jesus has settled is difficult to dislodge from our minds. He says that we often think true saints need less grace. We think it comes naturally. If it does come naturally to the saints, then when discipleship feels hard to us, we’re off the hook. To the contrary, Willard reminds us that they became saints because they consumed more grace! Learning to take Jesus at his word, that is, to go on the journey of discipleship (by whatever name… Christian formation, “training in righteousness,” etc.), then we will need to drink in more grace. 

Prayer: Jesus, thank you for having sufficient grace to sustain me in your call to discipleship. Help me lay aside any reluctance to let you have your way with my life. Amen. 

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