The Emergence of Evangelical Discipleship: Learning to Walk with Jesus - page 2


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Knowing & Doing

From the Spring 2017 issue of Knowing & Doing:  

The Emergence of Evangelical Discipleship:
Learning to Walk with Jesus

by Tom Schwanda, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Christian Formation
and Ministry at Wheaton College

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  Many eighteenth-century evangelicals stressed the critical nature of Luke 9:23, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me,”5 and similar passages. Francis Asbury, the leader of early Methodism in the American colonies and states, stressed this in his 1802 sermon: “The operations of grace upon believers, by which they live in self-denial of all evil; and bear the cross, enjoy the life of God, and exercise themselves in Christian temperance, justice, and holiness.”6 John Fletcher, John Wesley’s chief assistant in England, concluded his guidelines for self-examination—whether a person was a new creation in Christ—with these words:

Jesus, Lord of all, grant thy purest gifts to every waiting disciple. Enlighten us with the knowledge of thy will, and show us the mark of the prize of our high calling. Let us die to all thou art not; and seek thee with our whole heart.7

  Fletcher realistically understood that many could be followers of Jesus in name only. After affirming the importance of Luke 14:26, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple,” he proclaimed, “Christ evidently means, that whosoever does not love his Father, and his own life less than him, cannot be his sincere disciple.”8
  In 1757 John Newton wrote a series of letters to a fellow minister. He began one epistle with an admonition to his friend and also himself: “I would earnestly press you and myself to be followers of those who have been followers of Christ; to aim at a life of self-denial; to renounce self-will, and to guard against self-wisdom.” Soon thereafter, Newton wrote again to this minister, expanding his explanation of a follower of Jesus:

The two great points we are called to pursue in this sinful divided world, are peace and holiness … these are the peculiar characteristics of a disciple of Jesus, they are the richest part of the enjoyments of heaven; and so far as they are received into the heart, they bring down heaven upon earth.9


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