Life is complicated and the Christian life can be even more byzantine at times. The tug of sinful desires versus righteous behavior can be exhausting and exasperating. It helps when we remember there are 3 specific aspects of discipleship given to us through Sacred Scripture that will keep us focused on the Lord. In the New Testament, we see discipleship and obedience to the Lord consists of repentance, renewal, and restoration.
“In those days John the Baptist appeared, preaching in the desert of Judea, and saying, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!’ It was of him that the prophet Isaiah had spoken when he said: A voice of one crying out in the desert, Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.’” (Matthew 3:1-3)
1.) Repentance: The essential ingredient in discipleship is repentance of sin. Jesus Christ was crucified on the cross because of our sins. He gave His blood and His life to provide us a way to eternal life. It is not a license to do whatever we choose to do on earth and yet claim to be under the forgiveness and mercy of Christ. Discipleship requires repentance. John the Baptist urged everyone to repent because the coming of the kingdom of God was at hand. Our repentance must not be just words, however, but actions. John the Baptist, once again, tells us that repentance must come with evidence in our life. “Produce good fruit as evidence of your repentance.” (Matthew 3:8)
2.) Renewal: True disciples have their life changed when they encounter Jesus. It is impossible for us to continue living a life of sin without repentance when we fall in love with Jesus. “So, whoever is in Christ is a new creation: the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17) If our life does not reflect a change from old ways to new ways then we must evaluate if we are disciples of Christ or of the world. We are disciples of something or someone. It is our choice. We cannot choose to stand in the middle with one foot with Christ and one foot with the world. Jesus warns that, “whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.” (Matthew 12:30)
3.) Restoration: Sin separates us from God. It breaks our relationship with the Holy God and causes us to forfeit our eternal inheritance. “After this Jesus found him in the temple area and said to him, ‘Look, you are well; do not sin anymore, so that nothing worse may happen to you.’” (John 5:8) This is the first of two times Jesus tells someone to go and “sin no more.” This is the lesser known of the two stories where Jesus tells someone to “sin no more.” The man had been lame and encountered Jesus. When he met Jesus, the Lord healed him physically (vs. 6-9). After healing him, Jesus sees the man in the temple. The man would have been in the temple worshipping God. He had received physical healing and received the blessings from the Lord. Jesus tells the man to “sin no more” in recognition of what Christ had done for him. The second time Jesus urges “sin no more” is in John 8:11 when the adulterous woman is on the verge of being executed for her sins. She was not in need of physical healing. She needed spiritual healing. “She replied, ‘No one, sir,’ Then Jesus said, ‘Neither do I condemn you. Go and from now on do not sin anymore.” (John 8:11)
True discipleship requires sacrifice and humility. Jesus gave His life for us, and, in return, He only asks that we repent of our sins so that we can experience renewal and restoration. When we allow the 3 Ds of discipleship to guide our thoughts and actions, then we ensure our life is one of true obedience and discipleship. It helps us to live a life of righteousness.