When I reviewed DFD 3: Walking With Christ last month, I wrote that each chapter built on its predecessors in a grand process of maturing in Christ. Design for Discipleship 4: The Character of a Follower of Jesus again points out that process, in chapters at either end of the book, and then covers three somewhat separate and very practical applications of Christ’s teaching to the life of a man.
Chapter one summarizes the path of learning to truly follow God’s will as a Christian using II Peter 1:5-7. Through dilligence, faith leads to moral excellence, which leads to knowledge, which leads to self-control, which leads to godliness, which leads to kindness, which leads to love. I think that chapter five, which covers suffering, belongs with that same idea. Our love for others springs from the same confident joy that allows us to endure suffering. We are so amazed and shocked that Christ would sacrifice Himself for us that we emulate Him to others. Christ endured, so we should endure. Christ never complained, never took out His hurts on others, so we shouldn’t either. Christ loved, so we must love as well.
Chapter two covers the application of that love to daily life. My old pastor says that the opposite of love is not hate, it’s self. God’s love is revealed in that He put our good before His own Son; Christ truly died to Himself when He consented to be hung on the cross. I John 3:16-18 tells us that love is active, that it does not sit by. What opportunities to activate love am I missing each day?
Chapter three covers purity, and chapter four integrity, two character issues which even our worldly culture condemns to some extent. Shakespeare wrote that to be an honest man is to be one man picked out of ten thousand, and the epidemic of sexual immorality in our culture is widely recognized. These two chapters account for 39 pages in an 86 page study - they’re far longer than the other chapters, likely because the two issues they cover are so prevalent and so important to life with Christ. I Corinthians 6:9-10 makes it clear that love is not compatible with sexual immorality or with dishonesty. Christ calls us to a higher life, not living for ourselves but living for His glory by our love for others.
If we are to be men, we must follow Christ’s example. We must actively love others and endure whatever suffering comes in this world. We have the joy of our resurrection in Christ to strengthen us. In that joy and strength is found the character of a follower of Jesus.