A Summons to Convenantal Discipleship - page 2

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What might be said in response to this state of affairs?

Certainly, since MTD is patently unbiblical, if there is to be any resurgence in Christian vitality, the church must recover a profoundly biblical understanding of discipleship. That is to say, if these popular perversions of Christianity are to be corrected, it will only come through hearing Jesus’ own voice as it is meditated to us through the Scriptures. But in order to hear him faithfully, we must also recover a big-picture understanding of God’s purposes as they come to their fullest expression in Jesus. For our discipleship will reflect what Jesus had in mind only if we hear his voice and experience the power of his ministry in the robust richness of first-century Judaism. Only then should we feel any confidence that we have gotten things right as his disciples in the twenty-first century. In other words, if Christians are to expect people to take Christianity seriously in our context, then Christians must begin taking Jesus seriously in his context.

This is what I have attempted to do in my recent publication, Following Jesus, the Servant King. To address the contemporary aberrations of Christian discipleship, I set out to answer three questions from the Scriptures. These are the “why,” the “what,” and the “how” questions:

  • Why should we be concerned to follow all of Jesus’ commands when we have been saved by grace?
  • What is it that Jesus commands us to do as his disciples?
  • How can we live out Jesus’ high demand of righteousness?

It didn’t take me very long to realize that the answers to these questions must be pursued in the context of the covenantal framework of the Scriptures. In fact, the loss of the biblical category of “covenant” in the church is likely one of the main reasons for the present impoverishment of Christian discipleship. My book is therefore a summons to return to “covenantal discipleship.” First, the “why” question.

The “Why” Question

Why should we be concerned to follow all of Jesus’ commands when we have been saved by grace?

The “why” question emerges from the difficulty of sorting out the reason for an all-consuming concern for righteousness, while at the same time affirming the New Testament’s declaration that we are saved entirely by the grace of God in Jesus. It is Christ alone who fulfilled the righteous requirements of the law on our behalf (Rom. 8:3), and it is he alone who bore the curse of the law in our stead (Gal. 3:13). Being counted righteous before God, therefore, turns not on our own concerted attempts to live righteous lives, but rather on receiving this verdict through faith in Jesus (Rom. 3:28; Eph. 2:8–9).

This is where the “why” question enters, encrusted with all sorts of related theological issues pertaining to grace and demand. Might we fall into a form of legalism if we actually strive to obey all of Jesus’ demands? Wouldn’t this transfer our confidence before God to ourselves and deny the sufficiency of Jesus’ finished work in the process? In fact, shouldn’t we rather view the extravagant demands of Jesus as persistent reminders of our inability to meet God’s standards, thereby nudging us back to his grace? Reducing the demands of Jesus to some realistic form of moralism might actually appear to be appropriate when viewed in this light.

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