I am writing this from Jakarta Indonesia at the conclusion of the WEA General Assembly. 800 delegates from 92 nations, 3 from Australia, gathered to launch a decade of Intentional Holistic Intergenerational Discipleship Making. What a mouthful, but with a conference saturated with doctorates what else would you expect? The Lord however has been speaking to me about a much simpler, more profound and penetrating mode in which to understand what it means to deliberately help one another to become more like Jesus in every part of our lives. Discipleship is helping someone else to become more beautiful in the eyes of their heavenly Husband, Christ.
Anyone who doesn’t see there’s a crisis in discipleship right across the Australian churches is blind in the eyes of their Lord (Revelation chapter 3 verse 17). Genuine disciples love the spiritual disciplines: they love to pray, read scripture, receive the sacraments, fellowship regularly with other Christians etc. More than that, in being like Jesus they will be found serving everyone wherever they are, not just in the Church, but at work too. Sacrificial service is what it means to have “the mind of Christ” (Philippians chapter 2 verses 4-7). Sadly, this pattern of life is increasingly rare amongst us.
The beauty I am speaking of isn’t like the oozy “You’re all so beautiful” characteristic of many women’s conferences. Nor is it like the self-admiration of those Christians, Evangelical or Pentecostal, who seem only to associate with those of their own kind. They are in fact spiritual narcissists intoxicated with their own “beautiful” image. I am talking about “the beauty of holiness” (Psalm 29 verse 2), a holiness which can never be formed without submitting to the discipline of submission to Christ through a more mature brother or sister.
The fact that I find my wife of 44 years wildly attractive is a deeply spiritual thing. In is a share in how Christ sees his Bride, the Church. “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, 26 that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, 27 that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.” (Ephesians chapter 5 verses 25 to 27). Just how Christ glamourises his people is made clear in the pinnacle passage about the marriage of Jesus in scripture, Revelation chapter 19 verses 7 and 8. “Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; 8 it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure””
The mystery of helping others to become more like Jesus, i.e. discipleship, is that this is something the Lord has given us to do for one another. Through prayer, godly conversation and every other means the Church beautifies herself. In discipleship we help another Christian become eternally splendid as a Bride fit for the Lord. There is nothing boring, tedious, dull or routine about such a great vocation. Let’s repent for all our lower views of disciple making.
We need to have a radical change of mindset about it means to be the Church (Romans chapter 12 verses one and two). In the Spirit (Revelation chapter 1 verse 10), we must see pastors as beauty consultants, Christian counsellors as beauty therapists and everyone who disciples as a beautician. By definition, beauty attracts us. Why then aren’t people, especially younger people, queuing up to be mentored and taught to obey Jesus so as to be more like him? Since the pure white garments of the beautiful Church are the dazzling righteousness that comes through washing in the blood of the Lamb (Revelation chapter 7 verse 14), we must confess that we are not living in the power of the cross.
Evangelical Christians of all persuasions trumpet that they are people of the cross. It is only when we look around us at the shabby, defiled state of most of our churches and repent of their lack of manifest glory of the beauty of the Lord, can there be a revival in disciple making amongst us. please pray about what I am saying.
The Rev. Dr John Yates is an Anglican minister in Perth and has 5 children and 7 grandchildren. He spends time in praying, mentoring and writing.
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