BY DAVE STEEL
So what exactly is Jesus, our Teacher and Master, trying to do with us, his disciples? What are the learning objectives in this school of discipleship? Jesus gives us a clue when he says that, “Everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher” (Luke 6:40). This is certainly true when we have Jesus as our teacher. Discipleship is intended to make us more like him—or, as the apostle Paul put it, for Christ to be “formed” in us (Gal. 4:19).
George MacDonald puts it this way: "To follow [Christ] is to be learning of him, to think his thoughts, to use his judgments, to see things as he sees them, to feel things as he feels them, to be of the same heart, soul, and mind, as he is—that we also may be of the same mind with his Father. . . . Nothing less is to be his disciple."
Imagine yourself thinking the way Jesus thinks, speaking the way he speaks, relating the way he relates, doing what he does. I don’t know about you, but that would be quite a transformation for me!
What are the chances of that actually happening? The apostle Paul often spoke not just of the possibility but of the necessity of this transformation. “Those God foreknew,” says Paul, “he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son” (Rom. 8:29, italics added). God’s declared intention is to make us like Christ. And as we already noted above, Christ’s intention in training us is that we become like him. This is not just something we wish for. It’s something we earnest seek and expect. It’s what we signed up for when we joined Christ in the school of discipleship. Dallas Willard puts it in the form of a “gut check,” when he says,
Examination of our ultimate desires and intentions, reflected in the specific responses and choices that make up our lives, can show whether there are things we hold more important than being like him. If there are, then we are not yet his disciples.
The apostle Paul made it clear that for Christ followers this transformation is already underway. We’re already “being transformed into [the Lord’s] glory” (2 Cor. 3:18). The process must continue until Christ takes us home to heaven. “What we will be,” says the apostle John, “has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2, italics added).
Only God knows all that will happen to us once we say yes to following Jesus, but this one thing we know for sure: we will become like him.
Oh to be like Thee! Oh to be like Thee!
Blessed Redeemer, pure as Thou art;
Come in Thy sweetness, come in Thy fullness;
Stamp Thine own image deep on my heart.
—Thomas O. Chisholm
George MacDonald, Knowing the Heart of God, 125-126.
Dallas Willard, The Spirit of the Disciplines (San Francisco: Harper Collins Publishers, 1988), 265.