Growth and Reproduction
Discipleship and spiritual formation express slightly different aspects of the sanctification process, but they also reflect the common expectations that every Christian will grow and reproduce. Gordon Fee says, “In the long run, only disciples are converts” (Paul, the Spirit, and the People of God [Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1996], 75). What Fee means is that followers of Christ prove by their actions that they have been converted into a new way of life. Proof of authentic faith is not simply a creedal affirmation but living the life. As Jesus said, “Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter” (Matt. 7:21 NLT; See also Matt. 5:15–20; 1 Cor. 13:1–3).
Yet today, it is rare to find pastors or churches who expect much from their members. Even rarer are people who speak of God evaluating us on the basis of what we have done. Instead in our efforts to emphasize grace, we fail to talk about standards and expectations. Some feel that these things smack of rigidity or legalism, or they find them to be unfriendly to seekers or uncomfortable for regulars. Not many churches expect their members to be knowledgeable of the Scriptures, nor do they honestly expect members to witness, bring others to the Christian faith, and discipline new converts to reproduce as well. Again, we have set the bar quite low. We do not expect growth, and we certainly don’t expect reproduction.
More Than Only Two Aspects
These two aspects of sanctification are not the only important matters in the Christian life, but I mention them because they are commonly neglected. Again, much of this neglect is due to the effort to extend grace under the guise of love and acceptance. Yet it is not love to expect less of people because we don’t want to put them under any pressure to perform. It is not grace to set a low standard that anyone can meet if doing so leaves people trapped in their sin and unable to grow. Real love takes action for the benefit of another, and it is not loving to expect less of people than God does.
This excerpt has been adapted from Conversion and Discipleship.
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