Jesus’ test of a true disciple was the fruit that emanated from their life. He encountered numerous people who talked a good game (such as the Pharisees), but He was only enthusiastic about those who lived what they claimed to believe. Today there are many people who like to think – and make others think – that they are revolutionaries and thus part of the new movement in the Kingdom; true believers and disciples of Jesus. But their lives betray that deception.
How can you tell if someone is a revolutionary? As Jesus taught, you look for the fruit. But what are the relevant behaviours that support the verbal intimations? Again the Bible is the best source of such measures. I believe that not only was Paul the apostle a stellar revolutionary, but his letters to the churches he mentored provide tremendous insight into the distinguishing attributes of genuine revolutionaries.
Paul’s letter the the church in Rome stands out as perhaps the most forthright commentary on what such change agents look like. This is not surprising, since it would have taken robust faith to flourish as a Christian in the nucleus of the Roman Empire. There are great similarities between the context of the early Roman Church and the contemporary church in many nations today. The apostle to the gentiles offers guidance in seven areas of life: spiritual practices, personal faith, perspective on life, attitude, character, relationships, and behaviour.
1> Spiritual practices
Paul’s view of a true disciple and thus revolutionary is that they are connected: they have formed a deep bond with God and relate to people intimately because of that bond.
Paul highlights several specific practices for the early believers. Early in his letter, he underscores the importance of constant prayer and worship. Later on he reminds the Christians to pull out all the stops to get the Good News a fair hearing by everyone and to use supernatural abilities God gave them for acts of service.
Recognizing that no one can anticipate everything that will come their way, Paul entreats Christ’s devotees to remain sensitive to the Holy Spirit. His final exhortation regarding their spiritual practices is to do whatever they can to build up others’ faith.
One of the lessons from this letter that is most impressive was that Paul, like Jesus, was less concerned about religious ceremonies and completing a checklist of activities and events than he was about people being tuned in to God. Not once did he rant about being present at church every week or completing specific amounts of activity. His message was profoundly simple: stay in touch with God and follow your instructions as provided by God. It is all about deepening your relationship with God, not about consistently engaging in your routines.
2> Personal faith
While Paul’s key message on spiritual practices was to be connected to God, the overarching message Paul had for believers regarding the development of their personal faith was simply to be available. Available for what? Available to do whatever it takes to grow your faith stronger. Available to hear and respond to the Spirit of God. Available to see Him work through you because of your trust in Him.
Paul describes this accessibility another way by prompting believers to “give themselves completely to God” (Romans 6:13). He called disciples to surrender every dimension of their lives to God. Nothing shows your faith more irrefutably than your willingness to give away control and follow any directive given by your leader (Jesus). Surrender is proof of conviction in the life of a true disciple (revolutionary).