The Attitude of Discipleship

Where do our attitudes come from?

It seems like a basic question, but I think it’s more complex than we might think. Let me explain.

Attitudes are, roughly defined, our states of thoughts and emotions. Humans like to believe that we oversee our own destinies, including who we are and who we will be. God’s Word reveals to us that, before God, this is certainly not true.

We are all born in sin and need forgiveness for those sins. As God’s enemies, according to our sinful nature, we do not have free will in our relationship to God in regard to our attitudes or anything else. At the same time Christians rejoice in Christ, who has come to earth to forgive us our sins. Our God-given faith clings to this promise, and we are fed by the Holy Spirit, who continually forms our faith through the Word and Sacrament. As God’s adopted children, sinners and saints who are fueled by His Word and promises, He gives us the right attitudes toward Him and our salvation.

Outside of our salvation, however, we do have some stake in our attitudes. In relationship to this world, we can choose (to a certain extent) if we are going to face any given challenge with our chins up or down. We have some responsibility in how we will respond in our thoughts and emotions to difficult situations. The Spirit works through God’s Word to transform our attitudes in life, but as long as the world is broken, and we are sinners, our attitudes will never be perfect. Steering one’s attitudes in a positive direction is such a challenge because there’s so much unseen that goes on behind the scenes. We all have different experiences, pressures, pet sins, and temperaments. We are all driven by different needs and interests in life, and God alone knows what those are.

Like I said before, where our attitudes come from in our relationship to this world is complicated.

Attitude of Discipleship

A working definition of mature discipleship, or life as baptized believers in Christ, is that: mature disciples of Christ actively cultivate the attitudes, understandings, and habits of abiding in God’s Word in a variety of ways throughout life. Previous entries in this series describe the essence of this definition, but what do we mean by the attitudes of abiding in God’s Word?

What is your state of feeling and thinking about God’s Word, the Holy Scriptures? When you’re not in the Divine Service, it’s likely that you’re not too often in a state of mind or an emotional state that is meditating on God’s Word. You have other things going on, like responsibilities with family and work, and distractions constantly assaulting your senses.

God would have us cultivate an attitude of growth-mindedness around His Word. The Psalmist, inspired by the Holy Spirit, wrote the that the blessed man is one whose:

“. . . delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree
 planted by streams of water
 that yields its fruit in its season,
 and its leaf does not wither” (Psalm 1:2-3).
Did you catch that? Our attitude toward abiding in God’s Word should be as a delight, day and night. Why? Because by it we are constantly fed, like one of those “happy little trees” Bob Ross used to paint— a tree that is nourished and sustained at all times and who yields fruit in due season. Jesus is the vine; we are the branches. Connected to Him and nourished by His Word, we produce fruit of good works of love toward our neighbors that abide.

Attitude Adjustment

Many of us need an attitude adjustment in how we think about God’s Word as we go about our lives in this world. When considering discipleship, we can focus so much on cultivating the understandings of abiding in God’s Word or the habits of discipleship that we can lose sight of the delight of being connected to the Vine.

God commands us to abide in His Word as His people. But we do not have to think of it as a painful obligation. It’s a gift! Through hearing, reading, recalling, remembering, speaking, and sharing the sacred Scriptures, our faith and life is being fed by God Himself. Yes, we have so many distractions in life. We have so many responsibilities. And yes, taking time to read or listen to God’s Word every day may not always be forefront on our minds, but it should not be thought of as a chore. 

It’s God speaking to us and working in His called and chosen people, through Law and Gospel, in supernatural ways to grow us. Let us delight in this! Let us embrace this. Let us pray that the Spirit would incline our thoughts and emotions in our daily lives to incline to God’s Word. Let us look forward to spending time in God’s Word and listening to what God will say to us. And in so doing, our thoughts and emotions will shift towards seeking and delighting in God’s Word, day and night. Let us all look to Jesus, “the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:2). And in so doing, delight in the Lord!

Practice a Christ-centered attitude with The Spirituality of the Cross.

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Written by

Pete Jurchen

Rev. Dr. Pete Jurchen is an editor of Bible resources at Concordia Publishing House. In addition to his MDiv, he holds a BSEd in secondary education, an MSEd in curriculum leadership, and an EdD in instructional leadership with a focus on adult learning. He works to cultivate lifelong learners of God’s Word so that the ordinary is transformed into epic. He lives in Imperial, MO, with his wonderful wife, Deb, and his five children.

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