This past week I heard a sermon by one of the pastors that I listen to and he said something I find extremely profound. He said, regardless of your intentions or inactivity, you are being discipled. What he meant was no matter our hearts or minds we are being impacted either for the Gospel or for culture and against the Gospel.
A great example of this, metaphorically, can be found in CrossFit and weightlifting gyms around the world. For instance, let's say you've been doing CrossFit and the basic movements for two months and all of a sudden you decide you want to learn the Olympic lifts. The snatch and the clean and jerk. You decide to forgo the training and expertise of your coaches at your gym and instead buy a bar and some weights and some rubber mats and begin teaching yourself how to lift in your garage. Certainly you are learning how to snatch and you're learning how to clean and jerk. Even after three months of work with no coaching, you will have practiced and “learned “how to do the lifts. The problem is that without any other influence on your lifting you've probably developed a multitude of bad habits, possibly put yourself at risk for severe injury, and not grown anywhere near your potential.
Now think about what would've happened had you stayed in your gym and decided to learn and be subject to the expertise and knowledge of the coaches. Likely after, three months later, you would still have learned to snatch and still would've learned to clean and jerk but having the impact and influence of someone else watching your lfft would've made a huge difference on the numbers you were able to lift and how you were able to lift it. This doesn't blow our minds. This concept doesn't seem ridiculous or out of place when we consider our own fitness. The reality is however is that we don't take the same concept and apply it to our growth in the Lord.
We attend church on Sunday morning, we may even go back on Wednesday night for a Bible study, read our Bible every morning and pray every morning as best we can and we hope we're getting it right. While at the same time, culture is teaching and leading us as well.
Romans 12:2 says, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” The reality of what Paul says here is that he recognizes the power of the world and it's culture to transform who we are to its standards and he calls us to something higher. Because we are amidst culture, we are discipled by it.
The sermon I listened to likened the impact of culture to a raging river pulling us downstream. Our optimistic and naive eyes like to believe our lives are much more like a slow stream drifting towards the Lord. The reality is that we are swimming in white water rapids trying to head upstream against a culture that would like nothing more than to drown us and pull us downstream by our sin, rebellion, and man-centered hedonism.
Just like my example with the Olympic lifts, we are better served and become better at the lifts when we sit underneath someone with a little more knowledge, a little more experience, and an unbiased view point. When we try to coach ourselves not only could it end terribly, but we certainly do not get better at lifting at the rate that we could. Certainly getting better at Olympic lifting takes work. It takes effort, consistent workouts, application of time over months and months of practice. However, all of these things are best when aided and directed by a coach. The same is true for our relationship with Christ.
The disciplines of prayer, reading our Bible, and journaling are all necessary and good requirements for our growth in holiness. Yet, most of us don't see the necessity and importance for one-on-one discipleship. Paul leads by example in his missionary journeys leading and disciplining Timothy, Silvanus, and in some sense John Mark. The same mentality that might persuade someone to try to learn the lifts by themselves pervades our outlook for our relationship to Christ. Why do I need someone else involved in my spiritual growth? I have the Almighty God right? Why do I need to confess and be accountable to anybody else besides him?
Last week I wrote about being teachable and referenced Psalm 19:12. This psalm is a confession that often we can't see or discern our own sin. It takes an outsider looking into our lives to help us see where we fall short. Also consider Hebrews 10:24-25 where the writer encourages us to be meeting together constantly for the purpose of encouragement and building up toward the Gospel. Our growth and sanctification cannot be done alone. It can't be done outside of the church and it can't be done outside of one-on-one personal discipleship.
What many of us don't realize is that culture is discipling us. The images and the songs and the environments that we find ourselves in are having an impact on our heart. This is why we have to be intentional about putting ourselves in situations where we can counteract culture's pull with the Gospel's pull.
If left to my own devices and my own justifications I would wander around in the dark and walk in blindness to many of my own failures for the rest of my life. In the same way that an athlete can snatch and clean and jerk poorly and have no idea what they're messing up without a coach, without a man or a woman intimately involved in your spiritual development, you will walk blind to many of the ways that culture is drawing you from the Gospel.
This concept of sitting underneath someone older, wiser and more experienced is not one we run from, or pushback against, in the professional world, or in our fitness pursuits. Why do we not seek it out in our Christian lives, which carries so much more weight? If you want to be really good at something, you find someone to develop and help you do that. Take that same ideology and apply it to your growth in the Gospel.
Why do we hide and keep hidden details of our lives from men and women who can help refine us into the likeness of Christ? Find someone who can be that “coach” for you spiritually. what's more, don't hide from them, be honest with them, put yourself under their authority, and ultimately allow them to see you for who you really are. We are being discipled, regardless of our blindness to it. Counteract culture's constant pull with a man or woman who will hold you accountable to the pull of the Gospel.