Dynamics of Discipleship

The Special Sauce in Christian Discipleship


"Two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions, on a sesame-seed bun." This classic jingle detailing the ingredients of the McDonald's Big Mac has been lodged in my memory since I was a boy. Four decades later, it still makes me hungry.  

You don't have to be a fan of the Big Mac to know that it's the special sauce that made this a culinary classic. Perhaps you've seen the McDonald's signs boasting "over a bazillion served," or something like that. How did that happen? Special sauce, that's how.   

In fact, the term "special sauce" or "secret sauce" is becoming the common shorthand for "the thing that helps someone or something flourish."1

So I'd like to suggest that there's a "special sauce" when it comes to following Christ.  

Spiritual disciplines may help us get a grip on things, a bit like the Big Mac's sesame-seed bun. But without the special sauce I'm referring to, there can be no flourishing.   

The special sauce in discipleship is something the Bible calls God's grace. Whenever we hear this term, we often think of God's forgiveness. And it's true that God's grace is the basis for our forgiveness. But the grace of God is much more than that. Think of his grace as the source of every blessing we ever receive, the enabling power behind every positive step we ever take on our journey with Christ.  

When the apostle Paul was at the end of his rope, Christ told him, “My grace is sufficient for you” (2 Cor. 12:9). And when the apostle Peter wanted to offer a parting blessing to the believers he loved, he said, “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18).   

God's grace is always a gift, always sufficient, always necessary.  

Charles Spurgeon put it this way:  

Every good thing that is in a Christian not merely begins but progresses and is consummated by the fostering grace of God, through Jesus Christ. If my finger were on the golden latch of paradise, and my foot were on its jasper threshold, I should not take the last step so as to enter heaven unless the grace which brought me so far should enable me fully and fairly to complete my pilgrimage.2

So thank God for his grace. Savor it. Rely on it. It's the special sauce that makes following Jesus so satisfying. Without it, there can be no flourishing. 


1. http://www.merriam-webster.com/words-at-play/words-we're-watching-secret-sauce.

2. Charles H. Spurgeon, The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit: Sermons Preached and Revised by C. H. Spurgeon, vol. 15 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1908), 291. 

A Dozen Reasons to Meditate on the Scriptures Often


From time to time, we all need to be reminded just how crucial it is to read and reflect on the Scriptures as disciples of Jesus. In case it’s been a while since you’ve thought about it, here are a dozen reasons to meditate often on the Word of God. Let these thoughts stoke your desire to live for Christ.

1.  To meditate on the Scriptures is to listen to the voice of God.

All Scripture is God-breathed . . . (2 Tim. 3:16)
Prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. (2 Pet. 1:21)

The Bible is no ordinary book. If you’re fortunate enough to have a copy, you can read the words of God himself!

2.  To meditate on the Scriptures is to embrace what is right and true.

For the word of the Lord is right and true; he is faithful in all he does. (Ps. 33:4)
Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. (John 17:17)

What is truth? Only by squarely facing this question can we live well. Jesus said that the Bible is truth.

3.  To meditate on the Scriptures is to reveal the true state of your heart.

The word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. (Heb. 4:12)

Don’t be surprised if you start becoming more honest with yourself when you take time to reflect on Scripture. That’s what it’s supposed to do.  

4.  To meditate on the Scriptures is to invite God’s blessing into your life. 

Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. (Josh. 1:8)

For a Christ follower, the obedient life and the successful life our bound together. Meditating on the Scriptures in order to obey what it says is a formula for true success.  

5.  To meditate on the Scriptures is to equip yourself to resist sin.

How can a young person stay on the path of purity? By living according to your word. (Ps. 119:9)
I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. (Ps. 119:11)

How will you keep your heart from being stained by the evil of this world and by your own sinful desires? Scripture keeps us on the right path.

6.  To meditate on the Scriptures is to build your life on bedrock.

Everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. (Matt. 7:24-25)

How will you prepare for the storms of life? Meditate on the Scriptures and you’ll be shoring up your foundation to withstand whatever comes your way.

7.  To meditate on the Scriptures is to anchor your life in what’s reliable and enduring.

Your word, Lord, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens. (Ps. 119:89)
Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away. (Matt. 24:35)

Want to leave an enduring legacy? Scripture will teach you how to live for what lasts.

8.  To meditate on the Scriptures is to feed your spiritual growth.

Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation (1 Pet. 2:2)

When an infant’s growth is stunted due to lack of nutrition, doctors call it “failure to thrive.” Tragically, this also happens in the spiritual realm when we neglect God’s Word.

9.  To meditate on the Scriptures is to shine a light on where you’re going.

Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path. (Ps. 119:105)

Have you ever felt like you were in a dark cave, confused and unable to see the way forward? That’s when the Bible becomes a headlamp.

10.  To meditate on the Scriptures is to be trained to serve God well.

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Tim. 3:16-17)

Meditating on Scripture forges our character and trains us in the ways of God.

11.  To meditate on the Scriptures is to fight the good fight.

Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. (Eph. 6:17)

The Bible is the one offensive weapon God gave us to fight off those unseen forces that would discourage and destroy us. We must learn to wield it skillfully.  

12.  To meditate on the Scriptures is to be a faithful conduit of God’s truth.

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. (2 Tim. 2:15)

Being a faithful disciple of Jesus includes sharing with others what he’s teaching us. This requires careful listening and learning on our part, which is another reason we meditate on God’s Word.

There are a dozen reasons to meditate on the Scriptures often. Can you think of some others?

Ten Reasons We Can't Do Without the Holy Spirit


In some Christian circles he may not be talked about as much as the other two members of the Trinity, but the Holy Spirit is active in and around us, being mentioned several hundred times throughout the Bible. Jesus once told his disciples not to go anywhere without the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:4-5). Here are ten reasons we can’t do without him.

1.       The Spirit gives us life.

The Bible says it was the Holy Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead. He’s the source of our life too.

If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you (Rom. 8:11).

2.       The Spirit reassures us of God’s love.

. . . because sometimes you just need to be reminded that God’s got you.

The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children (Rom. 8:16).

3.       The Spirit helps us in our weakness.

Have you ever felt so confused or powerless that you didn’t even know what to pray?

The Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans (Rom. 8:26).

4.       The Spirit gives us wisdom and guidance.

It’s good to know where to go for wisdom anytime you need it.

We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives (Col. 1:9).

5.       The Spirit makes us better.

In light of what’s going on in your life right now, what character trait do you most need today? Chances are it’s on the list of what the Spirit wants to produce in you.   

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Gal. 5:22-23). 

6.       The Spirit transforms us.

What do you want to be when you “grow up”? What if you could be just like Jesus? That’s what the Spirit intends to do with you and me.

We all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit (2 Cor. 3:18).

7.       The Spirit qualifies us for ministry.

When it comes to who gets picked for certain ministry opportunities, it’s about who you know. Only those who are full of the Spirit qualify for certain jobs.   

Brothers and sisters, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them (Acts 6:3).

8.       The Spirit equips us for ministry.

The Spirit not only qualifies us for ministry. He also equips us for ministry by endowing each believer with a special spiritual gift for serving the body of Christ.

There are different kinds of gifts but the same Spirit distributes them. . . . To each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good (1 Cor. 12:4, 7). 

9.       The Spirit empowers us to witness for Christ.

Even after spending three years with Jesus and seeing him after his resurrection, the original disciples still lacked the one thing they needed to effectively share the good news about their Savior. Jesus told them,

Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. . . . You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses (Acts 1:4, 8; cf. 4:31).

10.   The Spirit gives us courage.

What would you do with more courage? The Spirit is ready to provide it.

The Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power (1 Tim. 1:7).

This list of reasons why we can’t do without the Holy Spirit is far from exhaustive. But it reminds us of the Spirit’s essential role in enabling us to live the supernatural life Jesus is calling us into.

Of these ten reasons we can’t do without the Holy Spirit, which one speaks most urgently to you right now? Turn it into a prayer for the Spirit’s work to be done in you today.

Why We Need Spiritual Disciplines

I’m a runner, though I wouldn’t have self-identified as such before last year. A recent physical exam revealed that my cholesterol was high, and having just turned fifty without a regular exercise regimen, I figured it was time to get the lead out. Tipping the scales at 138 pounds, I concluded that my physique was better suited to running than body building. (What I lack in bulk I make up for in common sense.)

So, last spring I bought some shoes and went for a run. The last time I had tried something like this was in college. Any conditioning I had achieved then did nothing for me these thirty years later. My goal was to run a 5k race someday, but after a mile and a half I started wheezing like a cat coughing up a fur ball. It wasn’t pretty. I knew it wouldn’t be.

However, after several months of training, I ran a 5k in September in which I turned in a fifth place finish for my age bracket. I even shaved a couple more minutes off my time before winter. I’m learning to appreciate the difference that consistent training can make.

It works the same way in the spiritual realm. What regular morning runs do for my stamina and speed, regular disciplines like prayer, Bible meditation, and journaling do for my spiritual health.

So what are spiritual disciplines exactly?

According to Dallas Willard, “Spiritual disciplines are activities in our power that we engage in to enable us to do what we cannot do by direct effort.”[1]

Imagine what might have happened if I had relied on sheer willpower to run that 5k. What if I would have showed up on race day ready to try my hardest without having trained? And what if, after being carried off on a stretcher, I came back next year determined to try even harder without having trained? At that point you’d probably say. “Forget the stethoscope. This dude needs to have his head examined.”  

I learned something years ago from John Ortberg that has stuck with me. He said, “There is an immense difference between training to do something and trying to do something.”[2]

This is why we need spiritual disciplines. You wouldn’t show up on race day without prior training. So why would we think we could forgive someone who hurt us deeply, love our enemies, resist temptation, or accomplish any other spiritual feat Christ calls us to if we haven’t trained for it. Spiritual disciplines are that training.

By saying this, I’m not diminishing in any way our utter dependence on the grace of God for spiritual progress. I’m suggesting that when we consistently pray, worship, read our Bible, give, serve, and fellowship with other believers, we make use of God-given means for expanding our capacity for Christ-likeness. By practicing such spiritual disciplines, we actually equip ourselves to respond to situations with spiritual maturity and Christian obedience.

So “Train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come” (1 Tim. 4:8).


[1]Dallas Willard, The Great Omission: Rediscovering Jesus's Essential Teachings on Discipleship (New York, NY: HarperCollins, 2006), 52.

[2]John Ortberg, The Life You’ve Always Wanted: Spiritual Disciplines for Ordinary People (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2002), 43.