A Learning Relationship

There are so many ideas in the world that compete for our allegiance–religiously, philosophically, and practically. But a relationship with Jesus depends upon casting all other teachers, all other religions, all other philosophies, and all other practices off to embrace Jesus and all that He commands. When Jesus healed a blind man, His enemies sought to discredit the man entirely, despite the evidence of the miracle staring them in the face. As they questioned the formerly blind man about Jesus, he asked them, “‘Do you also want to become His disciples?’ Then they reviled him and said, ‘You are His disciple, but we are Moses’ disciples'” (Jn. 9:27-28). Even Jesus’ enemies defined their discipleship by their allegiance–at least in theory–to the one who delivered the covenant.

Unfortunately, their allegiance failed because it had a worldly focus. They saw their role as submitting to the Law of Moses instead of as submitting to everything God said. Rather than accepting a learning relationship with Jesus, they wanted a relationship superior to Him–a problem at the core of so much of the religious division that plagues mankind. Disciples do not commit themselves to a spiritual tradition; they commit themselves to their Savior. And that means learning what He Himself died to give us: the new covenant in His blood (Lk. 22:20).  

Jesus is the Master Teacher, both in how He taught and what He taught. And one of the core principles Jesus emphasized throughout His ministry concentrated on learning to reject the words of men and instead trust fully in the word of God. The first major section of the Sermon on the Mount is replete with the phrases, “You have heard that is was said,” and, “But I say to you” (Mt. 5:21-22; etc.). In this, Jesus did not cast aside the written Word in favor of His opinion. To the contrary, he rejected the tradition that had developed in favor of the actual message inspired by the Spirit. Sadly, many people even today get in the way of people learning from Jesus rather than facilitating that relationship. They aspire to be mediators between Jesus and others instead of pointing to Jesus as the Mediator between God and man (1 Tim. 2:5).

This has produced two problems on opposite ends of the spectrum. Some feel inadequate to learn from Jesus and thus accept whatever they are told about Jesus and become pawns in the hands of Satan’s minions. Others, offended by such arrogance, reject any guidance at all and so form their own personal version of Jesus from their ignorance. Neither of these produce a true learning relationship because both essentially follow the Pharisees in wanting Jesus to conform to their own views. A disciple seeks out Jesus as He reveals Himself in Scripture, as the inspired eyewitnesses describe Him and speak on His behalf, removing all the clutter of worldly opinions to see the simplicity of discipleship described in the New Testament by Christianity’s first adherents. Such learning never ends, because Jesus always has more to teach us.

From Jesus we learn how to live from the One who lived perfectly and who can guide us perfectly in the faith. The apostle Paul wrote, “As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving” (Col. 2:6-7). Disciples welcome Jesus into their lives–not as an ornament but as the perfect Guide. Jesus’ own life provides the relationship with the Father we need, the boundaries for the life we should live, the foundation for the character we should cultivate, the doctrine for the faith we should follow, and the reason for joy in life—all through the instruction provided by the gospel.

With Jesus as your teacher, you not only leave behind sin but also “every false way.” You learn from Jesus the true meaning of grace and the true meaning of obedience. From God’s own Son, you can see what spiritual submission truly is. “For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: ‘Who committed no sin, Nor was deceit found in His mouth'” (1 Pet. 2:21-22).

Jesus teaches us not only about grace and salvation but about God Himself as well as the practical side of life. John closed the prologue of his account of the gospel with a summation of Jesus’ life that illustrates the extent of His instruction: “No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him” (Jn. 1:18). Jesus “declared” the Father by the way He lived, by the character He displayed in every aspect of life. Moreover, the word selected by the apostle (exegeomai) shows that this behavior serves not only as a declaration of His divine identity but also as a the basis for instruction for His disciples.

The apostle Paul later told Titus, “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age” (Tit. 2:11-12). Jesus, epitomizing God’s grace (Jn. 1:14-16), made salvation available to all (1 Tim. 2:4), but He did so by instructing us in righteous and godly behavior–not just in God’s gracious behavior. All of us must therefore decide whether we will live for Jesus or live for this world, whether we will follow Jesus or follow the crowd, whether we will listen to Jesus or listen to man. Life in the world will get you down; life in Christ will lift you up.

So many people today want some claim on Christ–for salvation and inspiration–but appear completely disinterested in learning what He actually requires of a relationship. They talk about a relationship with Jesus. They speak glowingly about Him as if he were a friend from school. But they want to take advantage of His name without accepting His instruction. Jesus is the Master Teacher, and that means we should master learning from Him. “And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him” (Col. 3:17).

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