JoshPerhaps you are not interested in all this. Perhaps you think you will settle for going to church, getting your ticket to Heaven, trying to live a decent life and leaving the John 10.10 living to the super-saints.

I have some bad news. If you take this approach, you set yourself on a collision course with the Almighty. Consider these verses:

  • Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:6 (NIV2011)
  • For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. Romans 8:29 (NIV2011)

All who are God’s children are predestined to be conformed to the image of Christ. God will carry His work on to completion. God will get his way. Your arms are too short to box with God.

When my children were young, they sometimes did not want to follow my leadership. I knew we needed to take a trip as a family, but they refused to get in the car. What happened? I got them in the car. They got in the car kicking and screaming, but they God in the car. I am the dad, and I will get my way.

God is God and He will get His way. He can get you there kicking and screaming, or He can get you there the easy way, with the easy yoke, but either way He can get you there.

The hard way involves lots of pruning. It involves lots of discipline. It involves more pain than you want to imagine.

The easy way is much more joyful. The easy way requires willing obedience. The easy way is, well, easy.

The easy way does require self-discipline. It requires our cooperation with God. It requires us to start our day with our Bible on our lap. It requires that we memorize Scripture so that our minds are transformed. It requires that we confess our sins, one to another. It requires that we serve. It requires that we spend time in worship.

Sound like too much trouble? Does obedience sound too hard? Try disobedience. Try inviting the disciplining hand of God. That is the hard life.

C. S. Lewis was once interviewed by an American Christian journalist who was writing about well-known characters who had converted to Christianity during adult life. The theme was ‘decision’. He wanted to get Lewis to say how he had ‘made his decision’.

Unfortunately for his project, Lewis refused to put it in those terms. He hadn’t ‘made a decision’, he said. God had closed in on him and he couldn’t escape (though at the time he had badly wanted to). The closest he would get to using the language the reporter was interested in was to say, ‘I was decided upon.’ In his autobiography, Surprised by Joy, he describes it in a more evocative phrase: ‘His compulsion is our liberation.’

Lewis was decided up in his conversion. You may feel that way about your discipleship at times.

How He hammers him and hurts him,
And with mighty blows converts him
Into trial shapes of clay which
Only God understands;

Has God hammered you and hurt you? Don’t be surprised. This is discipleship. “In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” 1 Peter 1:6–7 (NIV2011)

While his tortured heart is crying
And he lifts beseeching hands!

Have you been there? Have you felt tortured by the almighty? This is discipleship, or part of it. It will not all be this way, but one course in the school of discipleship is most assuredly suffering.

How He bends but never breaks
When his good He undertakes;
How He uses whom He chooses,
And which every purpose fuses him;
By every act induces him
To try His splendor out-
God knows what He’s about.

God knows what He’s about. That is the great hope in suffering. You can suffer with Christ, or you can suffer without Christ. Either way there is suffering. There are tortured nights crying out to God.

Tom Wright, John for Everyone, Part 1: Chapters 1-10 (London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 2004), 82.

I have just released a series of 13 lessons that go in depth into each of these principles. (One introductory lesson, and one lesson on each of the 12 principles.) If you are a member of Good Questions Lesson Subscription Service, you already have access to these lessons. If not, they will be available on Amazon soon.

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