Reaching Forward

What is the goal of discipleship?

The Christian’s Calling (1)

…one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3.13, 14

Then Peter, turning around, saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following, who also had leaned on His breast at the supper, and said, “Lord, who is the one who betrays You?” Peter, seeing him, said to Jesus, “But Lord, what about this man?” Jesus said to him, “If I will that he remain till I come, what is thatto you? You follow Me.” John 21.20-22

Mind your own business!
In many ways we’re all a bit like Peter, easily distracted from the one thing that matters most in life – knowing, loving, and following Jesus Christ, reaching forward to what the Lord has in store for us as His disciples, and pressing toward the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

Having been reinstated in his love for Jesus, and given clear instructions to shepherd the Lord’s flock, Peter simply could not be content to get on with the Lord’s personal call. John reports that, as Peter and Jesus walked along the shore of the Sea of Galilee on that wondrous morning, Peter noticed John trailing along behind them. He could not resist asking Jesus for some insight into what He had in store for the beloved apostle. But Jesus answered Peter’s inquiry pointedly: “If I will that he remain till I come, what is that to you? You follow Me.”

This is the great challenge, the gauntlet thrown at the feet of every believer: Follow Jesus. Disciples are those who follow a master, and Jesus is the Master above all masters, Whom we must follow. Not merely confess, but follow. We are disciples of Jesus when we are following Him, walking the path He walked, embodying and proclaiming the Kingdom of God, making disciples as we are going (Matt. 28.18-20).

Jesus is the journey and destination of God’s call on our lives. He is with us always, His Spirit dwells within us, and we are seated with Him in heavenly places (Matt. 28.20; Jn. 14.16, 17; Eph. 2.6). Jesus leads us up and above the worldly fray and ways, into the realm of Kingdom righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit (Matt. 6.33; Rom. 14.17, 18). Our lives have been hidden with Christ in God, and He is the great prize toward which we press, as we are daily transformed into His image, toward that day in glory when we shall see Him face to face and be like Him (Col. 3.3; 2 Cor. 3.12-18; 1 Jn. 3.1-3). 

And yet we often seem more concerned about other things, lesser things, than about the great business of following Jesus for which we have been redeemed and called – the business of being disciples and making disciples.

The upward calling
We become distracted from this calling for two reasons: First, it may be that we have never really understood how great is the privilege and how wonderful are the blessings of being a disciple of Jesus. We have tasted of the Lord, and we know that taste to be good. But unless we are partaking of Him with the kind of intimacy and consistency that leads to righteousness, peace, and joy in every situation, we will never know His power that makes all things new.

And second, it’s possible that many of us are not entirely clear on what being a disciple of Jesus involves. Perhaps we have not truly considered the implications of His call to follow Him, so that we have no real sense of the adventure to which we have been called, the challenges we must be ready to surmount, or the progress in Christ’s life we may expect to realize. We’ve heard the word disciple, and maybe even used it to describe ourselves; but perhaps we’ve never fully considered the implications of that calling.

If we really saw discipleship as Paul did, as the upward calling worthy of our exclusive devotion and constant attention, we might be less likely to be distracted by the concerns and diversions of this world. Jesus is not just some gold star to be pinned on the résumé of our lives – like a diploma or certificate of achievement. Jesus is not merely a prize among many other prizes in our lives. He is the prize, the great attainment, the sine qua non of all of life, the prize without Whom all of life falls into a heap and turns to ashes. Whatever we’re striving for in life, whatever we hope to attain, for those who understand following Jesus as Paul did, these are all subsumed under and defined by the journey of gaining Jesus Christ in glory.

Further, being a disciple of Jesus is an upward calling. It lifts our eyes, fuels our hopes, and raises our aspirations in life beyond the fleeting pleasures and troubling trials of mere earthly existence into the unchanging realm of saints and angels, where Christ is seated at the Father’s right hand, building His Church, and advancing His Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.

Being a disciple of Jesus means pursuing an upward trajectory in life, one that lifts us daily above the gravity and grovel of space and time, enabling us to live the then and there of the glory of God in the here and now of everyday life. Focused on Jesus, and drawing ever closer to Him, we discover direction, wisdom, joy, pleasure, hope, and power. Thus we bring the transforming reality of eternal life into the everyday activities and events of our earthly experience, making the most of all our time and opportunities, and beaming the hope of glory through all our words and deeds (Eph. 5.15-17; 1 Pet. 3.15).

It also means helping others along that road of discipleship by our prayer, example, encouragement, and instruction.

Learning and leading
J. I. Packer wrote that every believer, no matter our age, always has something to learn and someone to lead (Finishing Our Course with Joy). Learning Jesus – that’s the work of being a disciple. Leading others – that’s the work of making disciples. Each of these is the calling of everyone who follows Jesus.

“You follow Me!” Jesus insisted. You – Peter, former fisherman, shepherd of the Church, chief of the apostles, husband, pastor, evangelist – “You follow Me!” Jesus issues that same calling to every one of His followers. Each of us, given our unique personalities, endowments, roles, and opportunities, is called to follow Jesus, to be a disciple and make disciples as we are going about our daily lives. Each of us as disciples must hone in on a common vision – Christ and His Kingdom – and attend to common areas of endeavor – growing in grace and making disciples.

And we must, like that first band of disciples, bring others along with us as we daily reach forward to Jesus. Learning and leading. Disciples making disciples: That’s the Christian life to which we are called.

Jesus is calling us to follow Him. To follow Him as we are, where we are, and as we are going. Jesus intends to equip and empower us for our unique and special calling as His disciples, as He leads us along the glorious, upward path of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Spirit into Himself. Jesus is the great prize of our upward calling. Reach forward to Jesus, and reach out to your fellow believers, to bring them along with you.

For reflection
1. What image or vision comes to your mind as you think about Jesus as the prize of your calling in life?

2. What are some of the primary distractions that keep you from seeing this vision more clearly and following Jesus more consistently?

3. Watch the video about your Personal Mission Field (click here). Then download the worksheet (click here) and map out the field in which the Lord calls you to follow Him. Where has God sent you to be a disciple of Jesus? What other disciples has He put into your life to lead more fully unto Jesus?

Next steps – Conversation: How would you explain to someone thinking about becoming a Christian what it means to “follow Jesus”?

T. M. Moore

Disciples of the King
Jesus is our King, and we are His servants. Our book, The Kingdom Turn, can help you establish a Kingdom framework for following Jesus. Order your free copy by clicking here.

The Celtic Christian Vision
Every Tuesday and Thursday our teaching letter, Crosfigell, provides insights to discipleship from Scriptrue and the writings of ancient Celtic Christians. Click here to check out a few of the latest issues, then use the pop-up to add Crosfigell to your subscriptions. Like all our teaching letters, it’s free.

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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT.
Books by T. M. Moore