Martin Luther rejected both the medieval Roman Catholic approaches and the practices of the renewal movements initiated by the Protestant Reformers. Luther’s great insight about discipleship was based upon his discovery that God’s righteousness is a gift, not a demand. For some Christians discipleship training is all about acquiring spiritual techniques that will help them experience an emotional closeness to the Lord Jesus. However, The Seven Habits of Jesus approach is quite different.
Seven Habits offers an understanding of discipleship training as God/grace-centered rather than people/works-centered. A God/grace-centered approach to discipleship training is based upon the tradition of Isaiah and Jeremiah. In Isaiah (Ch 55), God freely offers the gift of abundant life. In Jeremiah (Ch 18), God is likened to a potter with clay. The work of faith formation is God’s work, not ours. Discipleship training is not about our ascent to God, but rather God’s descent to us. Luther describes this in his Galatians commentary (Gal 3:14), It is not our invitation of Christ that makes us sons; it is the Sonship of Christ that makes us imitators. Luther brought to light a new way to be a disciple with his understanding of salvation by grace. God’s grace keeps us from a two-tiered hierarchy associated with most discipleship training programs, which make a distinction between a nominal disciple and a spiritual disciple. We are disciples because we are dependent upon the wonder and power of God’s Word. Our discipleship is cross-centered, and trusts that Christ died not only for his followers, but for the whole world. Luther said, This life is not about being righteous, but growth in Christ’s righteousness. Luther brought the disciplines (habits) out of the prayer closet and into our everyday lives in the world. He taught: As you go throughout the day and discover the devil whispering in your ear, you only need to shout: I AM BAPTIZED! He also brought the Lord’s Prayer into our daily lives. As we go about each day, he instructed, Pray the Lord’s prayer all the way through, until it brings forth in your heart a prayer for what you need the most at that very moment. Luther has suggestions for bringing all seven habits/disciplines into our daily lives. The Seven Habits of Jesus also attempt to bring all seven habits/disciplines into our daily lives. To be a follower of Jesus is not about doing something, or practicing certain habits. Too many followers have stopped following because they thought they could force themselves into a certain lifestyle or daily discipline. No one can will themselves into being a follower of Jesus. Instead, we become followers of Jesus when we accept Christ’s present in our hearts, and welcome a relationship with him. It’s not a matter of what we do, it’s all a matter of being in a relationship with Christ Jesus and recognizing that he pursues a relationship with all the baptized. The Seven Habits of Jesus are intended to strengthen our heartfelt relationship with Christ Jesus so that our lifestyle may facilitate Christ’s Mission of Reconciliation in the world.