As you can see by the title, I have stretched the bounds of the PBP series by including this paperback that fits into zero of my pockets yet is still a relatively quick and thoroughly enjoyable read. I must say, I have a bias in choosing this book because its author is a man who encouraged me when he had no idea that I was doubting and struggling with my faith. He told me one sentence which carried me through college and my early adult life, and that still echoes on my heart today, "I love you, and I am proud of you." That is the Rhodes way: plain and simple from a heart of compassion.
Kevin Rhodes is no stranger to the literary community. You would also enjoy some of his other works: Shadows of Good Things to Come, A Consequence of Legitimacy, and What God Hath Joined Together. He is the minister of the Granbury St. church of Christ in Cleburne, TX, and also has a great deal of experience in the academic community and in the personal working of discipleship in the home, work, and church. If you were to meet him at the store, in the worship assembly, or in the classroom, he is the same man, with the same commitment to serve one purpose - Following Christ.
The tone of the book is bold, simple, didactic, and passionate, like the gospel message it conveys. If I could distill the book into one sentence, it would be, Discipleship with the Lord Jesus is simple when you allow it be defined by Him.
Rhodes walks the reader through a series of challenges and exhortations to connect them to the fellowship of Christ that occurs when the denial of self is full and complete. The first several chapters focus on the obstacles to true discipleship: tradition, contemporary doctrine, selfish ambition, materialism, and excuse-making. Rhodes submits that discipleship occurs in a progression, and it is not solely based on performance but on the heart of a follower to submit because he longs to be disciplined by a Father who has an omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient perspective and Who knows what is best for His children.
Many many ask the question, "What is it with all this talk about 'authentic discipleship'...seems pretty simple to me." Discipleship is certainly simple, but to think it is easy is to vastly underestimate the potential cost of following Christ daily and the blessings that will follow. Restoration is an ever-present need for anyone seeking to emulate someone or something. If you're going to be something or do something, be it. Do it. There is no in between. If you're not it, become it again by following His pattern.
Life is a vacuum that we operate in that causes the following to be true: There is no standing still; God is either propelling you forward or you're being pulled forever backward by another, darker force. If you have not pursued the way of the Savior, you haven't followed him either. If you have not earnestly sought the heart of the Savior, you cannot see yourself in His image. If you cannot walk in faith behind the Savior, you're walking by human sight and operating from a short-term perspective that will land you on your behind right back where you started - or even further back.
The difference between being a Christian and a disciple, is much like the difference between a rectangle and a square. Not all rectangles are squares, but the best square out there cannot help but be an awesome rectangle. Being a true disciple would assume that a person would become a Christian through burial in baptism to become united with the blood of Christ (Romans 6:3f). Discipleship, however, begins in pursuit of Christ and exists in a progressive momentum that consumes all things in the life of a follower, beginning at salvation and continuing unto death (Rev 2:10). There are many who claim to be Christ-like whose time, money, effort, and mental capacity is spent for 6.5 days of the week on themselves. A disciple perceives his or her life as a daily opportunity to serve the Creator by giving Him glory through his values, priorities, judgments, spiritual works, disciplines, self-denial, relationships, and eternal longevity. So while all disciples cannot help but become Christians, not all Christians choose to be discipled.
Anything short of this "authentic discipleship" simply adds distance to the great gulf that exists between the Almighty God and His people (Isaiah 59:1-2). A disciple realizes that his citizenship, purpose, wealth, and health are all primarily spiritual and that the physical aspects of gain in this life flow out of the grace and mercy of the savior. Rhodes gives examples of people who have lost their way because of their pursuit of the dollar bill, status, a charismatic reputation, or leadership value. Never follow a man who is not himself being led by Christ (Matthew 15:14).
I really enjoyed the third chapter, "Leaving the Cares of the World Behind." Rhodes suggests that materialism is not just having a lot, but placing more value on what you have (idolatry) or do not have (covetousness) than on your spiritual worth. I know many people with almost no physical possessions whose primary goal is to have and to gain, yet they are faced with rejection at every turn because their spiritual depravity blocks God's blessings for them. I also know some very poor people whose every moment is spent in service to others and in blessing others to the measure that they have been blessed. The latter are rich in spirit and following Christ. They work hard only to give back because they know where their treasure lies. In stark contrast, you have the the executive big shot or the career woman who chases the dollar bill for 60-80 hours per week for a family and a home and a car that they never get to enjoy. Rhodes suggests that God's glory is not in the constant pursuit of fiscal wealth but in the pursuit of the riches of the glory of God (Matthew 13:11f).
I was speaking with a mentor of mine last night who talked about his desire to be so excited, even after the productivity of a full day, to come home and to spend some time with Jesus in the prayer closet and to internalize and to dispense the gleanings from the Spirit. This is the desire that the true disciple chases day and night: to be wrapped up in the thoughts of Christ and in His Holy Spirit.
Follow Me came to me at a crucial time, as good books always do, and it was a blessing to read and to review my notes, knowing that this work can bless others. I pray that you purchase a copy from iTunes or from Amazon and go through it one chapter a day, or even a chapter a week and to focus on one principle at a time, knowing that you'll only draw closer to a Savior who is calling you and who longs to have a relationship with you.
May God bless your reading and study of the scripture and this book be a beacon on your journey.