Can you imagine being given a thousand-piece jigsaw puzzle to put together without having a picture of what the finished product is supposed to look like? I would guess you could start by figuring out what the border pieces are and then fitting them together and start the process of filling in the puzzle. It is not impossible to finish a puzzle without the picture, but it is more difficult to do so.
I believe many a Christian is frustrated by trying to put the pieces together in their spiritual life, but don’t know the end goal. I have adopted Dallas Willard’s use of the word vim to describe three crucial pieces of spiritual formation. Vim is a noun meaning robust energy and enthusiasm. The “V” stands for vision. The “I” stands for intention. The “M” stands for means. The means speaks of knowing the spiritual disciplines (i.e., studying and applying Scripture, prayer, service…). Intention addresses someone’s desire to grow. Vision speaks of having a picture of kingdom living. We need to invest time in the Bible and with godly people to begin to imprint such a picture in our mind’s eye.
Crosswinds have five measures or life-marks that we use to help us draft that picture of a fully devoted follower of Christ. We believe a vibrant disciple of Christ (1) reflects Christ character, engages in (2) sacrificial kingdom service, is (3) dependent on God’s Spirit, (4) sustained by God’s Word and prayer, and is (5) multiplying Christ followers. Although it is difficult to develop specific metrics to define when someone is consistently living within these realities, the list does provide a gauge of sorts that is helpful in determining whether or not a believer is heading in the right direction on their spiritual journey.
Jesus proclaimed: “A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher” (Lk 6:40). John writes in his first epistle: “Whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked” (1 John 2:6). Obviously, neither Christ or John are challenging believers to repeat Christ’s unique salvific work on the cross but to mirror His faith, love, obedience, and self-sacrifice. Followers of Christ are to reflect His character.
Jesus calls His followers to sacrificial kingdom service with these words: “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Mk 8:34). Christ explains that following Him entails self-denial by letting go of self-determination and replacing it with obedience to and dependence on the Lord as one, in partnership with Him, continues the ministry of Christ by sharing His love and message with others.
Jesus makes it clear in John 15 that union with Him is essential to being His follower. He declares: “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” (Jn 15:5). Christ is not saying that apart from Him you cannot accomplish anything at all. After all, those who do not follow Christ carry on their ordinary activities, but we cannot produce spiritual fruit without being in union with Him. Disciples are dependent God’s Spirit.
The Scriptures clearly teach that we are to walk in the truth of God’s Word. Jesus explained: “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples” (Jn 8:31). They also teach that we are to: “pray without ceasing” (1 Thess 5:17). As we seek to master God’s Word, we discover that His Word begins to master us. As we pray, we discover that through prayer we release the resources of heaven on our lives so that we can live the victorious Christian life, a life of trusting God in all circumstances. A disciple is sustained by God’s Word and prayer.
The Great Commission makes it clear that disciples make disciples. Jesus proclaimed: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matt 28:19). Christ followers are committed to multiplying Christ followers.
These measures or life-marks help us draft a picture of a fully devoted follower of Christ. They help us know what we are shooting for as disciples as well as for those we invest in as growing disciples. As we continue to partner with Christ as Crosswinds, I pray we will see the fruit of many becoming followers of Christ and bearing these life-marks.