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Friday, August 11, 2017

"Spiritual Discipleship" (J. Oswald Sanders)

TITLE: Spiritual Discipleship: Principles of Following Christ for Every Believer (Sanders Spiritual Growth Series)
AUTHOR: J. Oswald Sanders
PUBLISHER: Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2017, (240 pages).

In the New Testament, the word "Christian" occurs three times; "believers" only twice; but the word "disciple" appears 269 times. Shouldn't that make us sit up about the importance of discipleship? The Greek word for disciple is also called "learner." It is both about the learner and how he is following after Jesus. For author J Oswald Sanders, famous for his book "Spiritual Leadership," he raises the bar to go beyond mechanics of discipleship toward the standards of discipleship. This is what makes this book shine as a needed bar to determine what is discipleship and what it looks like. Sanders uses the beatitudes to describe the ideal disciple. Calling it the "four passive personal qualities" and the "four active social qualities," the ideal disciple must manifest all eight of them. In a no-holds-barred exhortation on courage and conviction, he lissts the three main conditions of discipleship:

  1. Unrivaled love for God (the heart)
  2. Unceasing Cross-bearing for Christ (the conduct)
  3. Unreserved Surrender to God (the personal possession).
This is powerful indeed. I appreciate the way Sanders frames the call to discipleship. He goes into the motivations for our learner attitude: that we must learn in order to want to put into practice what we learn. This is something so alien to people living in a self-serving and individualistic culture, where people learn or want to learn only for things that benefit the self. Who would want to learn of anything that would cost us everything? True disciples will continue in the pursuit of Christ and the cross. They will do their utmost in loving one another. They will be fruitful in what they do. These three principles form the evidences of discipleship. The rest of the book centers on the practices and lives of disciples. Chapter Four is a remarkable reflection on the three types of people who failed to meet the mark of discipleship. the first is the "impulsive volunteer" who committed without counting the cost. The second is the "reluctant conscript" who prefer convenience over commitment. the third is the "halfhearted volunteer" who is very much conflicted over what he really want. Not sure whether we belong to any of these three? Read on the rest of the book. It would probably leave some readers gutted with regard to their own spiritual conditions. We get examined about who our true authority is; where our true obedience lies; how much are we depending on the Holy Spirit; and many more. Some probing questions include:
  • Are we serving Christ or serving self?
  • What is our spiritual ambition?
  • Do we love God enough to surrender our possessions?
  • Have we stopped growing into maturity?
  • Are we belittling the spiritual olympics?
  • How are we imitating Christ compassion?
  • What about our prayer life?
  • Are we willing to lay down our rights for the sake of Christ?
  • What does it take to be a positive model for Christ?
  • Will the disciple be able to grow beyond loneliness toward solitude in Christ?
  • God gives us a second chance. Are we willing to take it?
  • ....
This is perhaps one of the most powerful and complete books on discipleship. Sanders raises the standards of discipleship and nails it at the cross for all to see. Every step of the way, he cross-examines our hearts. He shows us the true cost of discipleship. He does not mince words but states it plainly for us to see. He uses simple language to drive home the toughest calls for commitment. With lots of Bible references and practical examples, readers will be left wondering what hit them after a humbling point by point description of the ideal disciple and how far we are off the mark. That is precisely the power of this book. By exposing the typical Christian behavior of comfort and self-reliant spirituality, he expounds the teachings of Christ to remind us that we are still works in progress. If there is any book that helps battle complacency and pride, or if you only have time to read one book on discipleship, this is it! The study guide at the end of the book is an added bonus for group study.

J. Oswald Sanders was a general director of the Overseas Missionary Fellowship organization. He has written many books that are widely read and referred to in the Christian community.

Rating: 5 stars of 5.


This book has been provided courtesy of Moody Publishers and NetGalley without requiring a positive review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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