I want to discuss briefly the concept of “Christless discipleship”, or “Christless Christianity.” The central point that I emphasize repeatedly is that salvation is realized in the presence of Christ. When the apostles preached the gospel in Acts, they did not preach, “You will go to heaven when you die.” Instead, they preached that “You will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). This message is consistent throughout all the epistles. For example, Galatians talks about how Jesus became a curse for us so that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles through faith, and that we might receive the promise of the Spirit (Galatians 3:13-14).
The Promise of the Spirit
God, through Christ as the Spirit, wants to reveal himself to you. John emphasizes that if you continue in his word, you will know the truth that will set you free, and you will become his disciples (John 8:31-32). In John 14, it is said that if you keep his word or treasure it, his Father will come to you, and he will come to you and reveal himself to you, and make his home with you (John 14:23).
This is not a promise for later. It’s a promise for now! The reality of the Christian life is the manifestation of Christ. Without the manifestation of Christ, there is no discipleship, no sanctification, and no reality. You have a Christless Christian. This doesn’t mean you’re not saved, but our goal is to pursue Christ and know him in the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of his sufferings, being conformed to his death. “Being conformed to his death” means growing in the knowledge of our position in his death and learning to forget everything that is behind and stretch forward to what’s ahead. We pursue the excellence of the knowledge of Christ. Paul talks about this in Philippians 3:8-11.
Salvation ultimately brings us into eternity as glorified children of God, but our present salvation is the manifestation of Christ. It’s Christ magnified in our bodies. Most people have a Christless view of discipleship, missing the manifestation of Christ. If we’re not interacting with the presence of Christ, it’s because of unbelief, according to Hebrews (Hebrews 3:12-13). Being a partaker of Christ is the goal of salvation. The heavenly calling is to continue relating to him in faith, acknowledging what he is in us. The mystery of the Christian life is Christ in us, the hope of glory (Colossians 1:27). The enemy blinds our minds and veils our hearts to this truth.
Viewing the Bible as a list of things to do in order to be a disciple is reading it according to the letter, according to 2nd Corinthians 3. There’s a veil on our hearts, keeping us from seeing the glory of God shining in the face of Jesus Christ in our hearts (2 Corinthians 3:14-16). The veil is removed only when we turn our hearts to the Lord Himself. I strongly recommend getting into the book of Hebrews for a better understanding of this. It’s been my focus this year, and it’s truly enlightening.
When reading the Bible intending to become a disciple of Jesus, it’s important to understand that you are not simply following the man who walked the earth. You are following Jesus, the Christ, who ascended to sit at the right hand of God after purifying your sins and becoming a life-giving spirit (Hebrews 1:3). He sent his spirit into your heart, joining your spirit to his so that you become one spirit with the Lord. With Christ living in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. When Christ moved into your spirit, something changed. He became the source of the Christian life, and without the supply of the Spirit, there is no Christian life.
It’s important to note that many people talk about discipleship without acknowledging Christ’s role in it. A Christless discipleship is not true discipleship. The gospel is the means for the whole Christian life because it presents the person and work of Christ for you to hear by faith and be supplied with him by the Spirit. The word is Christ, and it’s the power of God unto salvation: not just for initial regeneration, but for sustaining the Christian life. My channel focuses on growth truth, discipleship, sanctification, and holiness truth. God carries out these truths in reality, and I do not talk about practices, nor do I instruct people on what to do or warn them of judgment or discipline. The law is good if used lawfully, but it’s not for the righteous, rather for the ungodly and the sinner (1 Timothy 1:8-9).
One thing about the confusion over back-loaded works messages versus discipleship is that if you have a works and Christ-less, cross-less, spiritless definition of what discipleship is, then you won’t detect a backload of gospel easily because it sounds the same.
Concerning discipleship, we tend to think of this it in terms of the weay Jesus presented it in the three synoptic Gospels. These teachings were for His disciples before he went to the cross, and we try to apply those concepts today as if Christ never accomplished His Work. We think of discipleship as in “take up our cross” and follow the earthly Jesus. But Jesus said, where he went, we cannot follow. That was the whole point.
He kept trying to show his disciples, “Look, you want to be my disciple, but where I’m going, you can’t follow.” (John 13:36) Where is he going? Death and resurrection. “I’ve got to go and then come and receive you to myself.” (John 14:3) Incidentally, John 14 is not talking about the rapture and heaven. It’s talking about the manifestation of the Spirit at the time of his resurrection. “In that day, you will know that I’m in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.” (John 14:20) It is talking about the organic union that’s established at regeneration when he sends the Spirit, which is him coming and receiving us to himself, that where he is, we may also be. (John 14:3)
Where is he? In the Father. Where are you right now? If you are risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God (Colossians 3:1), not on the earth beneath. For you are dead (Colossians 3:3), and your life is hid with Christ in God (Colossians 3:3). When Christ is manifested (Colossians 3:4), then you will be manifested with him in glory (Colossians 3:4). Again, the Christian life is the manifestation of Christ (2 Corinthians 4:10-11), the mystery of godliness (1 Timothy 3:16). “Great is the mystery of godliness: He was manifested in the flesh.” It is a person. Godliness is a person. Discipleship is a person. The Christian life is a person who is the Spirit today in you! Christ is in you (Romans 8:10).
That’s what we focus on. That’s what we want to learn. What does it mean that Christ is in me? Don’t talk about discipleship and not talk about Christ in me. You don’t have discipleship; you just have religion. It doesn’t mean you’re not saved, but we’re not going to speak the same language. These truths are related to the mystery of Christ (Ephesians 1:9; Colossians 1:26-27), and they’re hidden from the natural mind (1 Corinthians 2:14). We’ve got to get out of our natural mind and open ourselves up to what the word tells us about who Christ is in us.
Keywords: Christ, discipleship, manifestation, salvation, Spirit.