What’s the most important ingredient needed for Christian discipleship?
Is it discipline? Time? How about effort or accountability?
Nope. Try again.
Grace and More Grace
In his latest book, The Imperfect Disciple, Jared Wilson writes that what we need most is God’s grace. We need grace because discipleship isn’t a destination—it’s a messy, faltering process.
I want to, by God’s grace, give you the freedom to own up to your not having your act together. I wrote this book for all who are tired of being tired. I wrote this book for all who read the typical discipleship manuals and wonder who they could possibly be written for, the ones that make us feel overly burdened and overly tasked and, because of all that, overly shamed. (The Imperfect Disciple, p.230)
Wilson was frustrated by the shiny, ever-victorious way discipleship was portrayed, and wanted to write for those who only took discouragement from these descriptions.
I tend to think that a lot of the ways the evangelical church teaches discipleship seem designed for people who don’t appear to really need it. (The Imperfect Disciple, p.13)
You see, grace is for everyone. It’s certainly for those who don’t yet know Jesus, who need to run to him for forgiveness, love, and righteousness.
But grace is for Christians, too. Put more strongly, grace is not just available for believers, it’s essential. How could we begin following Jesus by grace and continue on without it?
Romans 7 and 8
One of the highlights of the book is Wilson’s chapter on Romans 7 and 8.
He writes about waking up every day in Romans 7. You might know the passage. Paul is in agony as he realizes the power of his indwelling sin. “For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.” (Romans 7:19) Those who follow Christ and know the standard of God’s word often find themselves in the same place.
Wilson reminds us that Romans doesn’t end with chapter 7! Chapter 8 is there to refresh and delight us when we get bogged down in sin.
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. (Romans 8:1–2)
This is a helpful example of preaching the gospel to yourself. From the bog of Romans 7, reach for the life boat of Romans 8. Real, honest discipleship acknowledges this must be an ongoing pattern in your life.
This is how I like to think about discipleship, then—not just following Jesus, but refollowing Jesus every day. We go off track so easily. (The Imperfect Disciple, p.28)
This is a valuable book, with several strong chapters. Let me highlight just a few.
In chapter 4, Wilson writes about Bible reading primarily as listening. He also describes this practice as feeling Scripture.
Chapter 6 is on the church. This is a very helpful note on the community of God’s people extending grace to one another. It also has a top-notch title: “The Revolution Will Not Be Instagrammed.”
I also loved chapter 8 on The Real You. Wilson reminded me of this beautiful, amazing truth: God loves the sinful me. Not just the me I aspire to, the real me.
But here’s the good news. That real you, the you inside that you hide, the you that you try to protect, the you that you hope nobody sees or knows—that’s the you that God loves. (The Imperfect Disciple, p.188)
It’s good news, isn’t it?!
Wilson writes as a fellow pilgrim in need of God’s grace. He knows what it’s like to fall down and be picked up—again and again. I recommend this book without any reservation. It’s terrific.
You don’t need a hyper-tanned guru, bouncing around on stage to get you fired up for Jesus. You need someone to remind you what following Jesus is really like. You don’t need the varnished, photoshopped version of discipleship that doesn’t work for anybody. You need grace.
And God gives you this grace in abundance.
Thanks to Baker Books for providing me with a review copy of this book.
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