If sanctification is the active work of intentional and ongoing submission to God’s transformative power (as concluded in my previous post), then self-sufficiency is poisonous. In fact, it’s the antithesis of sanctification. But dependence is difficult, and I don’t think I need to convince you that a lifestyle of dependence is counterintuitive to us humans, particularly us Americans.
We need to be careful, then, because it’s very easy to accidentally teach disciples to be more self-sufficient rather than less. One of the ways we do that is encouraging the wrong kind of effort. Christians can feel incredible frustration when we misapply our efforts in trying to accomplish God’s role of transformation. It’s important that we steer other disciples’ efforts of sanctification toward the human role in sanctification: deeper surrender and openness to God’s power of transformation. Basically, I need to make sure that my encouragement to a fellow disciple aims their spiritual work properly. Accountability and growth strategies are excellent things as long as the big picture aims the hard work toward deeper surrender to and dependence on God’s work.
The second way we accidentally make self-sufficient disciples is by painting our own spiritual life as better or more victorious than it really is. One of the ways we do this is by never admitting our weaknesses and struggles, never asking other disciples to pray for us, and ultimately never allowing God to use them in our life. It’s easy to never show our dependence on God. Dependence demands a certain weakness, and it’s difficult to show weakness. Obviously there’s a line of appropriateness in what we share with those we disciple, but too often we unthinkingly project an image of a guru — to steal something Pastor Gary often says — rather than a farther-along-fellow-traveler. We default to claiming that everything is great because we think that showing weakness will undermine our credibility (forgetting that weakness is where God is strong and dependence on the Spirit is necessary precisely because of our weakness). It’s easy to hide our heart behind our knowledge, and the result is a disciple who learns to hide their heart behind their knowledge. Thus it’s crucial in our disciple making that we demonstrate a relationship with God that is honest with Him about struggles and in which we’re dependent on Him for ultimate change.
Human strategies, programs, and practices are helpful as long as they keep the end goal of deeper surrender in mind. Since, as Christ proclaimed, “Apart from Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5), our disciple making must cultivate and demonstrate a posture of surrender and dependence. It’s important that we steer our mentees’ efforts in a direction that intertwines knowledge with a continued surrender to God’s power. May our lives picture and prescribe the words from the great hymn:
Have Thine own way Lord Have Thine own way Thou art the potter I am the clay Mold me and make me after Thy will While I am waiting yielded and still
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Danny Nathan grew up at Grace participating in the music and worship ministry. He’s currently a worship leader at Grace, ushering people into God’s presence through song in a variety of venues, including our Sunday worship services and Grace Students gatherings. Danny is a graduate of The Ohio State University with a degree in English. In June 2016, Danny married his high school sweetheart, Alli.