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Be like Jesus: 7 Disciplines of a Christ-like Way of Life



The three identifiers of a Jesus follower, a disciple, are to be with Jesus, Belike Jesus and do what Jesus did. Previously I identified Three Ways To Be With Jesus (you can read it here); here, I want to explore how we can be like Jesus. The Way of Jesus is a way of life. Before the term Christian was used, the Jesus movement was referred to as “The Way”. Paul referred to himself as a follower os “The Way” in Acts 24:14–15:


“However, I admit that I worship the God of our ancestors as a follower of the Way, which they call a sect. I believe everything that is in accordance with the Law and that is written in the Prophets, and I have the same hope in God as these men themselves have, that there will be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked.” Following Jesus is more than just a decision at the end of a church meeting, it is a way of life. Jesus teaches us how to live.”

In the ’90s, there was the popular slogan W.W.J.D. — “What Would Jesus Do.” It is an excellent slogan in theory, but our actions can not always be the same as what Jesus would do. Jesus was a thirty-year-old, Jewish, First-century itinerate teacher with 12 close followers, funded by women (Luke 8:1–3) and had no permanent home (Matthew 8:20). Our lives are very different. Most of us are not Jewish; we don’t live in first-century Judea; we have to fund ourselves and have a permanent home. Jesus having fifteen close friends (the twelve plus the women) was a miracle in itself.

Instead of W.W.J.D.? we should ask, “what would Jesus do if he were me?” Often our situations are very different. I should mention that although the conditions are different, Jesus faced the same temptations that we do (Hebrews 4:15). However, the practices of Jesus, “The Way”, remain the same now as in the First Century. So what were these practices? How can we be like Jesus?

1. Walking (Slowing)

In his best selling book “The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry”, John Mark Comer notes. “Ultimately, nothing in this life, apart from God, can satisfy our desires. Tragically, we continue to chase after our desires ad infinitum. The result? A chronic state of restlessness or, worse, angst, anger, anxiety, disillusionment, depression — all of which lead to a life of Hurry, a life of busyness, overload, shopping, materialism, careerism, a life of more…which in turn makes us even more restless. And the cycle spirals out of control.” The title of Comer’s book comes from a conversation between John Ortberg and Dallas Willard. Ortberg asked, “What do I need to do to become the me I want to be?” After a long silence, Willard responded, you must ruthlessly eliminate Hurry from your life.” Willard continued, “Hurry is the great enemy of spiritual life in our day. You must ruthlessly eliminate Hurry from your life.”¹

Jesus lived a life of unhurry, which is evident in the gospels. He was unhurried in starting his ministry, making public who he was, and getting to different places. Throughout the gospels, there are many places where others tried to hurry him along, but he knew his purpose and what he had to do even though he had only three years to do it in. One account (Mark 5:21–43) of Jesus that comes to mind where Jesus was on his way to heal the daughter of Jarius, a synagogue leader. Jarius was an important man in the community, and his daughter was close to death. On his way to the house, Jesus stopped and asked, “who touched me?’ This question was quite perplexing to Peter as the crowd around him was pressing in. Still stopped where he was, Jesus said, “Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out from me.” We fid out that a woman who had been subject to bleeding for 12 years had touched him an was healed.

But why did Jesus stop? The woman was healed when she touched him. Jesus could have just kept on going on his way. Instead, he stopped and called out the woman in front of everyone. This woman had spent all she had on doctors to be healed. Instead of getting better, she got worse. Due to her bleeding, this woman was unclean and rejected by society. When Jesus — who was on an important mission — stopped, he gave the woman dignity and a new identity. This woman was now “daughter.”

When we live a life of unhurry, when we walk slowly and see people, God can use us in powerful ways. John Ortberg suggests, when we live an unhurried life, we are “cultivating patience by deliberately choosing to place ourselves in positions where we simply have to wait.”

Practical Ways of Slowing

  1. Walk slowly

  2. Pause throughout the day. I find the Pause app by author John Eldredge helpful. You can also

  3. Keep your phone in your pocket while waiting.

  4. Drive the speed limit.

  5. Get into the longest line at the checkout.

  6. Cut things out of your schedule — Bob Goff quits something every Thursday².


2. Simplicity

Scripture references: Deuteron­o­my 17:16–17, Eccle­si­astes 5:10, Daniel 5:17, Matthew 6:22–24, 2 Corinthi­ans 11:3, Philip­pi­ans 3:13, Philip­pi­ans 4:11–13 , Colos­sians 2:20–23, Colos­sians 3:1–2, 2 Tim­o­thy 2:4, Rev­e­la­tion 3:17

Minimalism has become all the rage in the last couple of decades. The philosophy of minimalism is essentially “less is more”. When we live with less stuff (clothes, entertainment, appointments etc.), it allows God to speak. If we are consumed by stuff, there is no margin. In The Spirit of The Disciplines, Dallas Willard uses the term frugality. He writes, “In frugality we abstain from using money or goods at our disposal in ways that merely gratify our desires or our hunger for status, glamour, or luxury. Practicing frugality means we stay within the bounds of what general good judgment would designate as necessary for the kind of life to which God has led us.”

Here Willard speaks of living “within the bounds of what general good judgment would designate as necessary for the kind of life to which God has led us.” Simplicity/frugality does not have a one size fits all approach. A lawyer, for example, may go out for expensive dinners with clients and colleagues but still be living simply and with frugality.

John Mark Comer reiterates in The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry, “To follow Jesus, especially in the Western world, is to live in that same tension between grateful, happy enjoyment of nice, beautiful things, and simplicity. And when in doubt, to err on the side of generous, simple living.”

Practical Ways of Simplicity

  1. Live on 70% (or less) of your income if you can.

  2. Keep out of debt.

  3. Gift, sell, donate or recycle items in your house that you don’t use.

  4. Live generously.

  5. Buy second hand (last month, I bought a like-new iPhone from nu-mobile. It had barely been used before the owner upgraded to the next one)

  6. Invest in high quality, ethical items.


3. Solitude

Scripture references: Gen­e­sis 32:24, Psalm 62:5, Isa­iah 35:1, Matthew 14:23, Mark 1:35, Mark 6:31, Mark 6:47, Mark 9:2, Luke 4:42, Luke 5:16, Luke 6:12, Luke 9:18, John 8:29, John 16:32, Gal 1:17–22, 1 Tim­o­thy 5:5

Jesus often went to places alone so he could think, pray and be with God. He often did this after speaking or doing miracles (Matthew 14:23, Mark 6:30–31, Luke 4:42, Luke 5:15–16, Luke 6:12). Silence is often associated with solitude, as you generally cannot have silence without solitude.

Dallas Willard defines solitude as “choosing to be alone and to dwell on our experience of isolation from other human beings.” He explains, “Solitude frees us, actually. This above all explains its primacy and priority among the disciplines. The normal course of day-today hu- man interactions locks us into patterns of feeling, thought, and action that are geared to a world set against God. Nothing but solitude can allow the development of a freedom from the ingrained behaviors that hinder our integration into God’s order.”

Silence goes beyond solitude.³ Solitude can be relatively easy for some. We can pray or meditate on a verse but to sit in silence can be scary. It is also hard to find silence. The closes we can usually get is quiet due to the hums of what is around us. Willard writes, “Hearing is said to be the last of our senses to go at death. Sound always strikes deeply and disturbingly into our souls.” We need to find moments of silence to still our souls.

Silence and solitude are counter-cultural. We live in a world of connection and distraction, making it challenging for a novice to practice. So we must, like physical exercise, ease our way into it. Starting with one minute of silence and solitude is advised. Over time, practice for more extended moments (3 mins, then 5, 10 etc.). Practical Ways of Silence and Solitude

  1. Find time during the day (it may be early in the morning or late at night) and have a time of silence and solitude. Put your phone on aeroplane mode and set a timer so you are not distracted by your phone. Start with 1 minute for a week (7 days). Once you have been able to do one minute for seven days, try 3 minutes, then 5, 10, 15, gradually working up to half an hour. Once you hit this mark, it will be easier to go for more extended periods.

  2. Book a float (I go here). Flotation therapy is where you lay in a pool of 400kg of Epsom salts in the water, in a dark room. You can choose to have ten minutes of music, silence for forty minutes, and then ten minutes of music. It is very much a cave-like experience with the total depravity of the senses.

  3. Schedule one or two personal retreats throughout the year. In July, I will be going for a three-day hike through the National parks near Maleney with a dumb phone. No distractions, just me, God and his creation.


4. Secrecy

Scripture references: Matthew 6:4, Matthew 6:6, Matthew 6:18, Luke 8:10, Romans 2:16

“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 3 But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 6 But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father,who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” Mathew 6:1–6 (New International Version).

Jesus often told the people he healed to tell no one. A lot of his miracles were done where there were no crowds present. If there were crowds, he would slip away quickly. Jesus calls us to do righteous things in secret. Willard explains, “In the discipline of secrecy — and here again, the word is not perfectly suited to our purposes — we abstain from causing our good deeds and qualities to be known. We may even take steps to prevent them from being known, if it doesn’t involve deceit. To help us lose or tame the hunger for fame, justification, or just the mere attention of others, we will often need the help of grace. But as we practice this discipline, we learn to love to be unknown and even to accept misunderstanding without the loss of our peace, joy, or purpose” (emphasis added).

Practical Ways of Secrecy

  1. do something for someone anonymously

  2. When you go for a holiday next, do not put anything on social media.


5. Submission

Scripture References: Gen­e­sis 13:8–18, Gen­e­sis 16:9, Proverbs 1:8–9, Proverbs 6:20–21, Matthew 6:10, Matthew 26:39, Luke 1:38, Luke 1:46–56, Romans 8:7, Eph­esians 5:21–6:9, Colos­sians 3:18–24 , 1 Tim­o­thy 3:4, Titus 2:9, Hebrews 5:7, Hebrews 13:17, James 4:7

“The highest level of fellowship — involving humility, complete hon- esty, transparency, and at times confession and restitution — is sus- tained by the discipline of submission,” writes Dallas Willard in The Spirit of The Disciplines.

Unfortunately, like many other disciplines, this has been widely abused as leaders beat followers into submission with verses taken out of context. However, we, as followers of Christ, are called to submit to and humble ourselves before God and those in authority, We should continuously submit our will to Gods — “not my will, but yours be done.”

Practical Ways of Submission

  1. Be accountable to someone. Often you will need to find a person to be accountable too, especially when in a leadership position.

  2. Fasting. Fasting is “the vol­un­tary absten­tion from an oth­er­wise nor­mal func­tion — most often eat­ing — for the sake of intense spir­i­tu­al activity.” As we fast, we bring the flesh into submission by not satisfying wants and instead focus on God.


6. Fellowship

Scripture References: Ps 133:1–3, Matt 18:20, Acts 2:42, Rom 12:4–17, Eph 4:15–16, Col 3:8–17, Heb 10:23–25, 1 John 1:3, 1 John 1:5–7

Fellowship is as essential as silence and solitude. As I have mentioned in a previous post, we need to have a balanced approach to the Spiritual disciplines. We are created to be in a relationship with God and with others. Fellowship is when we engage in an activity with other believers. Dallas Willard explains, “Because of this reciprocal nature within the corporate body of Christ, fellowship is required to allow realization of a joyous and sustained level of life in Christ that is normally impossible to attain by all our individual effort, no matter how vigorous and sustained. In it we receive the ministry of all the graces of the Spirit to the church.”

Practical Ways of Fellowship

  1. Be a neighbour to your actual neighbours (read: The Art of Neighboring: Building Genuine Relationships Right Outside your Door).

  2. Be an active member of a Church.

  3. Join a connect/homegroup

  4. Spend one meal a day with family at the dinner table (if you can’t make dinner one day, have breakfast together)

  5. Invite not yet/new/old friends over for a meal once a week.


7. Celebration

Scripture References: Exo­dus 5:1, Exo­dus 12:14, Leviti­cus 23:4, Leviticus 23:37, Num 10:10, Num­bers 29:12, Deuteron­o­my 14:22–29, Deuteron­o­my 16:15, 2 Samuel 6:14, Ezra 6:22, Nehemi­ah 12:27, Esther 9:22, Psalm 45:1–17, Psalm 126:2, Psalm 145:7, Song of Solomon 1:4, Isa­iah 51:11, Nahum 1:15, Luke 15:23–32, John 2:1–10, 1 Corinthi­ans 5:8, Philip­pi­ans 4:4–13, Rev­e­la­tion 19:9

Spiritual Disciplines are not just practices of abstinence but engagement. This practice is the most engaged of all the disciplines. For all the extroverts out there, this is invigoration; for the introverts (hi-ya!), it is exhausting! The opposite could be said for solitude. Both practices need each other.

I immensely enjoyed The Chosen T.V. Series primarily because it portrayed Jesus well as a human (remember he was 100% mand and 100% God) and gave the disciples personalities. There is a scene when he is at the wedding at Canna (John 2:1–11) and ‘The dance of Miriam’ begins. Peter invites Jesus to dance, and then they joke around about Andrew being a terrible dancer. The episode is all about the wedding; all about celebration (you can watch it here).

It may sound strange, but we Westerners don’t know how to celebrate. There is no need to celebrate in an age of instant gratification, and when we do — Easter, Christmas, weddings, birthdays and their anniversaries — they often look the same.

As a spiritual discipline, celebration is “the completion of worship, for it dwells on the greatness of God as shown in his goodness to us.” Willard continues, “We engage in celebration when we enjoy ourselves, our life, our world, in conjunction with our faith and confidence in God’s greatness, beauty, and goodness. We concentrate on our life and world as God’s work and as God’s gift to us. Typically this means that we come together with others who know God to eat and drink, to sing and dance, and to relate stories of God’s action for our lives and our people.”

God commanded the people of Israel to celebrate. In the book of Leviticus, the book of all the Levitical Law, it is commanded, “These are the appoint­ed fes­ti­vals of the Lord, the holy con­vo­ca­tions, which you shall cel­e­brate at the time appoint­ed for them (Leviti­cus 23:4,37 NRSV). Weekly the Jewish people celebrate Shabbat (Sabbath), starting with a big meal of roast lamb with family and friends.

Celebration is ingrained in Jewish tradition and was “also maintained by the church in its established feast days up to the Protestant era and is continued to today by the Roman Catholic and the Orthodox communions.”⁴ Fasting and Feasting (Celebration) go hand in hand. Generally, a fast precedes a celebration.

Practical Ways of Celebrating

  • Celebrate Sabbath weekly with family and friends. At sundown Friday evening, we light a candle, pray, then eat a dinner of roast lamb and vegetables with wine and bread. After dinner, we read a Psalm and have dessert. Sabbath “no usual work” continues until about 6 pm on Saturday.

  • Celebrate milestones. This could be within your family or friendship group. Moreover, church leaders should celebrate volunteers’ milestones (50th time serving, or two years of serving etc.).

  • Share and celebrate the good things God has done in your life.

  • Celebrate Facebook memories.


Final Thoughts

All of the disciplines are beneficial for spiritual development. However, like all things, they can be perverted. Look at church history, and you will see the disciplines grossly perverted. Celebration turned into drunkenness, Solitude into going into the desert and living on top of a tower, simplicity to asceticism. One must practice each discipline in accordance with the bible and moderation.

Additional Study

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I encourage all to read the following for a more in-depth study of the disciplines and how to use them in contemporary life.

  • Comer, John Mark. The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry, First Edition. Colorado Springs: WaterBrook, 2019.

  • Eldredge, John. Get Your Life Back. Nashville: Nelson Incorporated, Thomas, 2020.


To discover more about the spiritual Disciplines mentioned or other spiritual disciplines such as chasti­ty, con­fes­sion, fast­ing, guid­ance, med­i­ta­tion, prayer, sac­ri­fice, ser­vice, study, and wor­ship I recommend the following texts:

  • Foster, Richard J. Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth, Special Anniversary Edition. San Francisco: HarperOne, 2018.

  • J Foster, Richard and Beebe, Gayle D. The Life with God Bible: New Revised Standard Version. New York: HarperBible, 2009. *Sadly, this is out of print.

  • Willard, Dallas. The Spirit of the Disciplines: Understanding How God Changes Lives San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1990.


 

Footnotes

*As an Amazon Associate I earn, at no extra cost to you, some commission if you click through and make a purchase.


¹ John Mark Comer, The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry, First Edition. (Colorado Springs: WaterBrook, 2019).

² Bod Goff, Dream Big: Know What You Want, Why You Want It, and What You’re Going to Do About It (United States: Thomas Nelson, 2020)

³ Dallas Willard, The Spirit of the Disciplines: Understanding How God Changes Lives (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1990).

⁴ Dallas Willard, The Spirit of the Disciplines: Understanding How God Changes Lives (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1990).

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