True Discipleship Is As Good As It Gets
True discipleship is not a burden any more so than true friendship is a burden. In fact that is perhaps the best definition for Christian discipleship, “friendship with Jesus.”
Have you ever been friends with someone who just by knowing them made you a better person? There is a romantic comedy movie from a few years back entitled As Good as it Gets. It stars Jack Nicholson as a man struggling with an obsessive compulsive disorder who meets a woman played by Helen Hunt and he becomes love-struck with her. In one scene Jack is attempting to woo Helen Hunt. Jack’s character attempts to compliment Hunt by revealing that after meeting her for the first time he got on medication to help him deal with his disorder. She is confused how him taking needed medication is a compliment. In perhaps the most memorable line of the movie, Jack says, “You make me wanna be a better man.” The idea being the possibility of having a relationship with this woman has a transforming effect on Nicholson. He wants to create a better version of himself so he might be worthy of her affections. This is one of the greatest examples of Hollywood actually getting a bit of the Gospel right.
Jack Nicholson’s character isn’t looking to earn by his own efforts the hand of Helen Hunt, rather Helen’s allure has a transforming power in and of itself; true beauty causes change. The attractiveness of Jesus has this same effect. The transformative power of seeing something or someone beautiful convicts us of our own unworthiness, it reveals our desperate state and at the same time it moves us to make real life, sometimes costly, even unpleasant changes. When you see true beauty or true purity or true goodness or true holiness you cannot remain as you were before that experience. Interaction with perfection changes an individual. Those who have truly met Jesus the Christ in the same way cannot live as they did before. They have seen something, someone, greater than themselves and they will never be the same, they are motivated to be better people. In the As Good As It Gets scene Jack Nicholson says the possibility of loving Helen Hunt is enough to get him to take the medication which will treat his ailment and “make him a better man.” If you have met the real Jesus, knowing Him is enough to compel us take our “medicine” and embark on a lifelong commitment to discipleship. Jesus’ love makes us want to be better people.
When love enters the scene in both movies and in real life we have a more powerful motivation than simply being told to do what is good for us. Jack’s character already knew he had a problem, and he already had the medication which would treat the problem, but he had no real motivation to change. Simply identifying a problem and providing a solution isn’t the strongest motivation to get people to change. This is the problem with so many self-help books and motivational talks, information doesn’t change people, it provides no motivation; but love can. Loving Jesus is the most powerful tool for changing your life, more powerful than being told all the truths of the Bible. You can become very religious by following the Bible’s moral laws, but it won’t necessarily mean you love God. You may only be attempting to earn your own salvation, or you may be feeding your selfish pride which makes you want to look good in people’s eyes, or you may be afraid of failure or rejection. Control, pride and fear control people without actually freeing people to live as Christ intends us to. You can be a slave to doing good works just as surely as you can be in bondage to sin. God has shown us love, and He wants us to learn to receive and give away the love He has shown us.
The one major difference between the “As Good as it Gets” scene and real life is Jesus is not just our motivation to change, but He also gives us His presence and power to cause that change.
23 Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. 24Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me.25“These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. 26But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. John 14:23-29 (ESV)
Meeting Jesus for the first time is the preliminary step in Christian conversion; we meet Jesus and then we are forced to choose a life with Him or to continue a self centered existence apart from Him. We grow as His disciples as we daily meet with Him and invite Him to live more deeply in us, to illuminate our understanding and to force out those areas of sinful compromise. This is all accomplished by the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit who delights in glorifying God by maturing the saved. True disciples are friends of Jesus who continue to meet with their master and have learned the transformative joy of living life lead by their wonderful Lord.