Updated: Sep 14, 2021
For most Christians, if they have any summary or “picture” of a Mature Disciple at all, it is probably the one Jesus seemingly gives us. I say, “seemingly,” because I’m not certain if this is the answer Jesus would give if we could ask Him directly, “What is Your picture of a Mature Disciple?” Nevertheless, many Christians gravitate toward this picture because it contains the three commandments Jesus gave as being most important or greatest. For this reason, I call this the (GC)3 picture of spiritual maturity. The three “GC”s are:
Great Commandment = Love God – Matthew 22:37-38
And He said to him (the lawyer who asked which is the greatest commandment), "'YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.' This is the great and foremost commandment.”
Great Compassion = Love others – Matthew 22:39
"The second is like it, 'YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.'"
Great Commission = Make disciples – Matthew 28:18-20
And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age."
On the one hand, who can argue with this as a powerful, succinct picture of a Mature Disciple? For example, we can see in (GC)3 all five of the major functions or purposes we in the Church are to have, both individually and collectively. “Love God” includes Worship and walking with Him as a Mature Disciple in Discipleship. “Love Others” includes Fellowship with and Service to other Believers in the Body. This command also includes Service to and Evangelism of others who are in the World, not yet Believers. And “Make Disciples” involves helping other Believers, both new Believers, and Established Believers, grow to and walk as Mature Disciples in Discipleship.
Furthermore, (GC)3 gives us a three-dimensional set of coordinates from which to keep our lives oriented as followers of Jesus. “Love God” keeps us aligned vertically, looking to and dependent on God, growing our relationship with Him. "Love Others” keeps us engaged with those on either side of us, both inside and outside the Kingdom. “Make Disciples” is our mission as we move forward through life.
But as good as this picture of spiritual maturity may be in a broad, directional way, how useful is it as a practical everyday guide for assessing whether someone is a Mature Disciple, be it ourselves or someone we are discipling? Yes, we can know whether or not we are engaged in making disciples who go on to make disciples. That is relatively objective and tangible.
But how can we be sure if we love our “neighbor” as much as we love ourselves? And how about loving God with all our heart, soul, and mind? Don’t most of us assume we can never really attain this and therefore unconsciously settle into complacency wherever we presently are in our love for God -- at least until and unless God jars us with a “kairos moment”?
Also, might this picture of a Mature Disciple too easily be seen from the standpoint of the Law, inviting or commanding sheer obedience in one’s own strength, just looking at these three commands as tasks to be accomplished (the Law), without concern for our heart relationship with God and others (the Gospel)?
With all that said, can we agree this (GC)3 picture needs some unpacking if it is going to be of substantial practical use to us? How, then, might we unpack it?
In our next blog, we will unpack the r12 Picture of Spiritual Maturity.