I was reading an excerpt from the writings of St Gregory of Nyssa, when the following phrase leapt out and captured my attention:
“…disciples of the Word.”
It was a different way of speaking than I am used to, but it spoke to my heart. To be a disciple of Jesus is of course to be a “disciple of the Word” because he is the Word Incarnate. But as I read further it was clear to me that that dear fourth century saint, theologian, and pastor understood things that were never taught to me when I began, intentionally, to follow Jesus. He literally meant that to follow Jesus as the Word of God incarnate meant to be a disciplined follower who obeyed his Word. To claim to be a disciple of Jesus and to not follow his Word was to claim what was not true. To not know, or to neglect, or to consciously disobey the Word of Jesus was to show that you were not “truly” a disciple of Jesus at all—or you were a pitifully “un-made” disciple. Jesus our Lord says explicitly: “If you abide in my word you are truly my disciple.” (John 8:31)
Do we not all want him to say that we are “truly” his?
Last Sunday I noticed how the set readings skipped over a central teaching that Jesus gave his followers—teaching that, if disobeyed, would mean exclusion from the Kingdom of God. This teaching was, in every century since the time of Christ, obeyed by those who were his followers. Until this century.
This level of disobedience in the current life of much of the church in the West makes me tremble.
On the day of my conversion, I believed the Lord Jesus was telling me that I was alive in a time in which he was renewing the church. Foolishly, I thought this meant the church being renewed “as she was” in my limited understanding. She needed “polishing up” here and there, with an emphasis on neglected things.
Some years later the Lord showed me that I was called also to lead in a time of reform. I embraced this, thinking I knew what it meant. But reform means change. I now know that reform can hurt. Reform will mean some things must stop being done. Reform will mean that some things, never done before, need to start being done. Reform will mean that some things long done, will now be done in a new way. But whatever else it means, reform will involve the destruction of idols, things we have put in the place of God. Reform will mean renewed obedience to the Word of God.
To be a disciple of the Word that is Jesus means that we are willing for all that we do to be brought under the scrutiny of the Word of God. Everything.
May God make you and me want to be only that kind of disciple: “Truly” a disciple of Jesus.
— Jon Shuler