Intentional discipleship is surrendering to the Father’s will and walking in Jesus’ presence.
Last week we looked at Jesus the Rabbi and how a first century disciple sat at the master’s feet longing to take on his character. In John 15:1-8 Jesus uses a vine and branches as a metaphor for what it means to be a disciple of Jesus.
I am the true vine, my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown in the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
Notice what Jesus is telling us to do. We are to remain in him, stay close to him. If we do that we will bear fruit, and if we are bearing fruit, we give glory to God and show ourselves to be his disciples. The mark of a disciple is the bearing of fruit. Bearing fruit comes only from abiding in Jesus. Therefore, a disciple must abide in him.
We may not be able to physically follow Jesus like the Apostles, but we can abide in his transforming presence through the Holy Spirit. This is the heart of intentional discipleship. It is not trying really hard or even doing a specific practice or set of practices. The heart of intentional discipleship is remaining constantly connected to the vine. We will need to try hard, and we will certainly engage in spiritual practices. But our effort and the spiritual practices we engage in are merely tools. Intentional discipleship is the connection, the stem connecting us to the vine. Let me say that again.
Doing spiritual practices is NOT the essence of intentional discipleship. The essence of intentional discipleship is remaining deeply connected to Jesus.