Last week, I ran across this video by noted evangelical, Francis Chan, entitled “How NOT to make disciples.”
The money quote is “When Jesus says something,you don’t have to do it, you just have to memorize it.” I instantly related to that line because of my days as an evangelical kid in Young Life. To be clear, I loved my days in YL. I credit Fletch and the gang for helping me become the disciple I am today. I’m not saying that my YL leaders didn’t want us to follow Jesus, but I do remember feeling like Bible memorization was pretty important. And maybe it is, but only as a beginning to discipleship.
Of the maybe four verses I actually memorized in high school, the first one was from Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians, which we will hear on Sunday. “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has gone, the new has come!” For a guy who isn’t good at memorizing things, I was pretty proud to have learned 2 Cor 5.17. I knew it forward and backward, inside and out, and yet, it made little, if any impact on my life. I spent most of my late teens, making plans for the future based solely on what I wanted to do, not asking for God’s help or opinion on anything. I graduated from high school after a serious case of senioritis, and headed off to the University of Pittsburgh to study civil and environmental engineering. I hated every. single. moment.
I knew that I had been made a new creation in Christ, but I wasn’t living it. I had memorized the words, but hadn’t internalized them. Discipleship may meaning learning, but it is much deeper than reading about Jesus. Discipleship is about allowing Jesus to change your life, and it starts by realizing that we are a new creation.