Discipleship’s GPS

One of the benefits of GPS technology is the elimination of bulky road maps that, once unfolded, could never be returned to their original state. A cross-country trip required several of these maps.

Helpful as those maps were, they couldn’t tell you where you were on the map. Many marriages were threatened (including my own) when couples tried to negotiate unknown territory using a road map. Now, with GPS, a voice from the phone is the final arbitrator.

The GPS system has become as much a part of our lives as the toothbrush (don’t leave home without it). It is a system of satellites orbiting the earth 12,000 miles high. When a personal receiver connects with the system, it can lock onto three or more satellites, giving the three-dimensional coordinates: longitude, latitude, and altitude.

In addition to locating your own position, the GPS can identify the location of any place you want to go and give you a running commentary on how to get there. Once your destination is locked into the system, no matter how many wrong turns you make, it will continue to guide you to that destination.

When we lock in the coordinates for our spiritual journey to Christ and His Kingdom, God gives us a GPS system that will accurately direct us to that goal regardless of where we are or where we have drifted to. The direction is based on three positioning coordinates: knowing, reflecting, and sharing Christ.

Discipleship must include all three if we are to have a successful journey. Each coordinate is connected to the others and, although unique, cannot work alone. Our description of discipleship identifies each coordinate necessary for us to participate and follow the voice of our Guide:

Discipleship is the personal, persistent pursuit of knowing, reflecting, and sharing Christ by means of critical spiritual disciplines in the context of supporting relationships, resulting in the distinctive marks of an apprentice of Christ.

Knowing Christ Deeply

Most people find their identity in their accomplishments, titles, or positions. But what if our lives were based not on what we did but on who we know? Jesus said in John 17:3, “Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.”

Knowing Christ is both our greatest privilege and our greatest challenge. God has put within the heart of every person the desire to know Him. The desire may be masked by callous indifference, the cloud of sin, or the compulsion of busyness, but it is there.

Paul fanned that desire by letting go of the fickle facade of status and achievement and focusing on knowing Christ:

What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ. . . . I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death.—Philippians 3:8,10 

Knowing Christ is the heart of our journey of faith. Everything else flows from this one relationship. It is more than believing facts about Christ; it is the personal, progressive process of walking with Christ through all of life’s situations.

Knowing Him demands honest and consistent dialogue, which leads to the incredible privilege of a personal friendship with the living God. In John 15:15, Jesus told His disciples, “I no longer call you servants . . . instead I have called you friends.” As we learn, believe, and obey the will of God, He reveals more of His heart to us through His Spirit.

Reflecting Christ Authentically

Historically, church leaders have agreed that the primary purpose of our lives is to glorify God. We glorify God as we reflect His revealed nature through our everyday, ordinary lives. Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 3:18, “And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into His likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”

We reflect Christ as He transforms our character, values, beliefs, and behavior. We value what He values. We make His ways our ways. We make His truth our beliefs. This process requires a partnership in which God’s Spirit works in us and we in turn cooperate with Him. We respond to God’s Word with faith and obedience, and we become more and more like Christ.

As the moon reflects the light (glory) of the sun, so we are to reflect the light (glory) of God. We, like the moon, are dependent on an external source for light. As we grow to know Him our lives conform to His image and we become lights to those around us. “You are the light of the world,” Jesus said (Matthew 5:14). God wants to display His nature to the world by transforming the lives of men and women of faith.

Sharing Christ Intentionally

God’s plan for reaching the world with the Good News of Jesus Christ is for people to reach people. Each person is like a link in a chain connecting each spiritual generation to the next.

Jesus expressed it this way: “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last” (John 15:16). “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19). And just before ascending into heaven Jesus gave His disciples the final command to go and make disciples (Matthew 28:19-20).

Those few ordinary men turned their world upside down. Without the aid of technology, political clout, or social status, they launched a world-changing movement and they did it one person at a time. God’s strategy is the same today as it was then. We have the same commission to invest spiritually in the lives of the next generation and add new links to the spiritual chain.

On our journey through life, we encounter countless roads from which we could choose. It is all too easy to veer off course. But God in His mercy has given us a spiritual GPS that can keep us pointed toward Christ and His Kingdom. May we be faithful to consult it as we go.

Questions for Reflection:

  • What evidence is there in your life that reflects you have locked in the three coordinates of discipleship?
  • If you have drifted off course, what is your next move to get back on track?
  • How might you stay on course for the long haul?
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