I recently began a series on the question, What is a disciple? Based on 1 John 2:6 we have stated that a disciple is someone who is abiding in Christ and doing what Jesus did. This definition raises many questions for the would-be disciple. One of those questions, naturally, is, “What, then, did Jesus do?” Jesus did many things in His earthly ministry, but a strong case can be made that His primary focus may be seen in just three behaviors. These three dimensions of the life of Jesus are in fact the three primary dimensions of discipleship. In observing Jesus in the Gospels we can see that Jesus worshiped the Father, served people, and invited others to join Him. Consequently, the three dimensions of discipleship are worship, mission, and community.
At the heart of discipleship is worship. Jesus worshiped the Father. The focus of our Lord’s life was glorifying the Father. The Gospel that makes this clearest is John. The overriding purpose for Jesus in John’s gospel, as Andreas Köstenberger observes in A Theology of John’s Gospel and Letters, is to bring glory to God the Father. In John 17:1, Jesus said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you” (ESV). Köstenberger continues to note, based on John 17:5, that glory characterized Jesus’ eternal relationship with God. Jesus, though God Himself, sought out worship and submission to the Father’s will for the Father’s glory.
The premise of being a disciple is to follow the example of someone. So, as Jesus worshiped so also should His disciples. Literally, worship means to ascribe worth to someone or something. Logic follows that we become disciples of what we worship. Such is the premise of Greg Beale’s book, We Become What We Worship: A Biblical Theology of Idolatry. Beale’s thesis, based primarily on Isaiah 6 yet observed throughout Scripture, is that idolatry is the main sin throughout Scripture and that “we resemble what we revere, either for ruin or restoration” (49). In Isaiah 6 — a passage noted for its poignancy for God’s glory and His missionary call, “Whom shall I send?” (Is. 6:8) — God passes judgment on the nation of Israel for its idolatry, sentencing them to a life of spiritual insensitivity just like the idols they worship. In the Old Testament the idols were made of wood and stone. In the New Testament the idols were non-literal things like tradition (still an idol of today’s church) and materialism. Today’s idols would include some of the same things but most of all self and consumerism. Today’s Christian, I fear, is not as much a disciple of Jesus as a disciple of consumerism and narcissism. We have indeed become what we worship. We are consumers of a worldview dominated by image and pleasure. We have become spiritually insensitive and materially insatiable seeking pleasure for self in the trappings of this world.
The true disciple of Jesus worships the Father alone. There is no room in the disciple for other gods–idols. This is why the Great Commandment, found in Matthew 22:37-40, is so critical to understanding discipleship. The first and great command is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind. Worship of God is exclusive worship. Worship of God leaves no room for worship of idols. The command in the New Testament is an echo of the shema in Deuteronomy 6. In the Old Testament passage, the command to love God exclusively followed the foundational declaration of Israel: The LORD our God is one. The uniqueness of Israel was the singularity of their God. There is only one God (monotheism) and this one God deserves exclusive love and worship. So it is today, that their is only one God, manifested in Jesus Christ. Therefore, the heart cry for the disciple is, “Jesus is LORD.” Jesus deserves our exclusive worship. He is the one true God and there is no other. The disciple must surrender his or her life in allegiance to one Lord, Jesus Christ.
So, who are you worshiping? Is your focus on glorifying God in all you say and do? The rest of your life as a disciple will be off if your worship is off.