It’s easy for our Christian faith to grow stale. We can say the right words, go through the right motions … and still possess a cold heart toward God. One thing that causes our faith to fizzle is that we often forget what Christianity is all about. It is not just a set of ideas. It is about a real person—the most important person in all of human history: Jesus Christ. He came from heaven not only to provide a way of escape from hell after we die—He came to also show us a better way of living right now: the way of discipleship.
No book of the Bible highlights what it means to be a disciple of Jesus more than the Gospel of Luke. Luke was a Gentile physician who worked closely with the Apostle Paul. Luke focuses on the humanity of Jesus and gives us an in-depth look at how Jesus—how God in the flesh—lived His life. By carefully observing Christ’s example as recorded in Luke—and by mimicking His actions, attitudes, and affections—we can reignite the passion God wants us to have. Let’s spend some time with Dr. Luke.
Hopefully, you go to the doctor for a physical checkup of your body every now and then. You should do the same for your soul. If Dr. Luke were to place his stethoscope against your spiritual heart—up to the real you—what would he discover? How is your relationship with God? And what standard would He use?
We find the measuring stick in Ephesians 4:15: “Speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ.” The most important question you must answer is: “How closely do you resemble Jesus?” It is not how many Bible verses you know or whether you can explain the difference between a pre-millennialist and an amillennialist. The proof is how much you obey and follow Jesus Christ.
Sometimes we think discipleship involves imagining how we should have lived 2,000 years ago if we had walked in dusty Palestine beside Jesus. But we have it backwards. Instead, we should ask: “If Jesus were living my life, right now, in my place, how would He interact with my family members? How would He perform my job? How would he drive down the highway?” (That last one is too convicting, but you get the picture.) Living your life as Jesus would—if He were in your place—puts “skin and bones” on your Christian faith.
The greatest heresy that has entered the church of Jesus Christ today is the idea that you can become a Christian—you can know that you are going to go to Heaven when you die—and yet not have one single thing change in your life as a result.
The greatest heresy that has entered the church of Jesus Christ today is the idea that you can become a Christian—you can know that you are going to go to heaven when you die—and yet not have one single thing change in your life as a result. James calls that a dead, non-existent faith (James 2:17).
Dallas Willard calls it a “Bar-Code Faith.”1 What he means is that some have the idea that as long as you wear the barcode that says “Christian,” it doesn’t matter what is inside the package. You just show up at the Pearly Gates one day, and God scans you in. Now, when you or I trust in Jesus as our Savior, God actually does declare us justified: not guilty—saved. It is all by grace and has nothing to do with works. I am not diminishing that truth in any way. But it is absolutely wrong to say all God cares about is the label and not about what is inside, beneath the label. Willard goes on to say:
Can we seriously believe that God would establish a plan for us that essentially bypasses the awesome needs of present human life and leaves human character untouched? … Can we believe that the essence of Christian faith and salvation covers nothing but death and after? Can we believe that being saved really has nothing whatever to do with the kinds of persons we are?2
Unfortunately, many people today have that type of faith. No wonder the church is so weak and anemic. It is not in spite of what we are teaching; it is because of our teaching. No wonder the rate of adultery and divorce is exactly the same among Christians as it is among non-Christians. We are teaching that salvation is essential—discipleship is optional.
In Matthew 7:21–23, Jesus said many will be shocked when God denies them entrance into His Kingdom. Jesus will say to them, “Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” (Luke 6:46). Saving faith always reveals itself in discipleship. First John 2:6 describes what it means to be a Christian: “The one who says he abides in Him [Jesus] ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.”
Discipleship is not optional—it is essential. How do you pull that off? How do you live every day in submission to God’s will? How do you have a peace of mind regardless of what is happening around you?
We must examine carefully the only person who has ever done it. So let’s begin our journey together through the book of Luke studying the only person who has ever pulled it off: Jesus Christ.
- Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy, (New York City: HarperCollins Publishers, 1998), 36.
- Ibid., 38.