Spiritual Discipleship by J. Oswald Sanders
There is true giftedness from God in being able to explain Scripture in a way that is easy to understand and easy to apply, and this is a gift that J. Oswald Sanders exemplified in his book Spiritual Discipleship, making it a book well worth the time to read. Thankfully J. Oswald chose to use his God-given giftedness so that readers could reap the benefits of his insight and knowledge. All of that insight comes through as he maneuvers his way through the book to accomplish his purpose of laying out biblical principles that are meant to be part of the lifestyle of a disciple.
From the beginning, the author defines a disciple as a lifestyle. This is furthered developed throughout the book and sets the basis for each point that he continues to make throughout. This lifestyle is emphasized by his continuous calls that one who is called to be a disciple of Jesus Christ must come to full submission of His authority. Using this as a basis, J. Oswald Sanders outlines three basic principles of a disciple.
1) The continuance principle in which one who is a true disciple will continue to follow the Lord. It is not a temporary ‘peak’ in which one is full of energy or excitement for the moment, but rather is characterized by one who follows the Lord even in the ‘valleys.’
2) The love principle, calling on the need for a disciple to be characterized by love.
3) The fruit principle, in which a true disciple of Jesus Christ will be evidenced by the fruit that he bears in his life.
These principles are useful evaluation tools for one to measure their own life and measure the life of another for the sake of mutual accountability and growth.
The book isn’t meant for one who is already a strong disciple, but is meant to make strong disciples. As such, it has something to offer for anyone, whether a new believer or one who has known Christ for many years. J. Oswald goes further to even offer hope to those who have fallen away urging them to return with a new lifestyle, that which is Jesus Christ.
The fact that this book is so biblically based, it becomes applicable to daily life for every believer, which tends to be the greatest strength of the book. J. Oswald Sanders does not substitute his word for God’s word, but uses God’s word as the authority, using his own words only to clarify the material for the readers. The second greatest strength of this book is that in the middle of teaching what, why, and how to be a disciple, with practical application, the author brings each of these back to one main theme, which is obedience of the believer for the purpose of glorifying God. He makes the point not about living a better life for just the sake of the person, but for the sake of God. As each point comes back to this point, the book flows together with each point building off of the other, therefore helping the reader to understand the concepts with clarity. As J. Oswald Sanders closes the book, he ends with chapters regarding the Holy Spirit and the Coming of Christ. While each of these is important, it would have been more helpful if the points of relationship between them and discipleship would have been developed more and made clearer. This however does not take away from the need to read this book.
Solid, biblical discipleship is lacking in the churches today. Spiritual Discipleship brings it back to the forefront of ministry, outlining the need to be not just converts, but disciples. It is a book that everyone should read so that they may grow as a Christian for the purpose of glorifying God.
J. Oswald Sanders was born in New Zealand in 1902. Before passing away at the age of 90, Dr. Sanders oversaw China Inland Mission from 1954 until 1969. Before that he served as an instructor at a Bible college and over the course of his lifetime authored over 40 various works related to the Christian life.