Edward F. Lundwall Jr.As a frame of reference, one's self concept functions to measure progress. What one adopts as his self concept determines what he is and by anticipation what he is becoming as long as one holds that self concept. The nature of the choice of self concept whether of a doctor, lawyer, Indian chief, sinner or disciple is like the double choice of ship and voyage. The nature of the ship determines the capabilities of the voyage. Yet, the ship must go according to a route plotted on the map for the voyage to be made. By consciously embracing a self concept, a motivating and measuring meditation begins an ongoing inventory by continually asking:
"Am I progressing as the doctor, lawyer, etc, that I have chosen to picture myself?"
"Am I making grades according to the kind of student I consider acceptable for me?"
"Am I growing as the disciple that is acceptable to Christ?"
How do you answer the question "Who am I?" Your answer determines your role, how you live, how you relate to others, etc.
If I have the self concept of a doctor, I must perform the role of a doctor. For that is my frame of reference. The reality upon which spiritual self concepts are built are God's promises and commandments. So contrary to natural self concepts built upon visible things, spiritual life is built upon the realms of faith. The things that are not, begin their existence as faith reckons: "I am Christ’s disciple as the will of God. Therefore, I am oriented to act as His disciple."
Of first priority, the disciple's self concept affects one's moral life in the nature of one's world view. Christ’s disciple’s citizenship is in Heaven as a subject in God's Kingdom (Col 3:1–4). Satan controls the World system (Eph 2:1–3), so as Jesus disciple, he must consider himself to be an alien (1 Peter 2:11). God's purpose for Christians in the World is to be witnesses and missionaries in God's program of calling out a people for His Name. Since the committed disciple is saved and in the World, but must consider the world system to be a seducing enemy (1 John 2:15–17). As a spiritual Christian his self concept rejects the temptations of the World and the flesh. A spiritual self concept orients the disciple to seek for spiritual stimulation and to refuse to be occupied with sinful excitement (Rom 8:2–5; Ps 1:1–3). Further, this self concept also vitally affects the development of spiritual service. Similarly, a conservative Republican seeks resources to strengthen his orientation, and has no interest in the solicitations of Communist and liberal recruiters.
Further, an adopted self concepts remain healthy, if they are adopted with a view to being developed (answering the second question). Without understanding that a self concept has the purpose of motivating development, progress becomes frustrated. Sadly, many identify themselves with spiritual men and their ministries without distinguishing themselves from those with whom they identify. If these spiritual leaders have adopted discipling methods, they will help their followers to adopt self concepts to know their spiritual levels and condition.
Spiritual leaders need to know whether those, who look to them, need discipling as beginners, or are mature enough to learn in serving as Faithfuls or Timothies (Timothy 2:2). They also need to understand what their spiritual adjustment needs are. Both the discipler and the disciple need to understand whether their motivations are edifying or to compensate for maladjustment. For instance, some might want to become discipling workers because they are trying to compensate for poor self acceptance, or for a guilty conscience, or to gain "the right kind of friends," or for business contacts, etc.
The Corinthian Church furnishes many illustrations. They had arrogant carnality (1 Cor 3:1-8). This spiritual condition neglected basic orientations. For they became proud over, not so much their own accomplishments, but by identifying themselves with Paul, Apollos or Peter. They drew their sense of self worth by identification with these leaders and by discounting others. They were like children bragging about whose father was the best fighter. They stopped progressing themselves, if they made much perceived progress, they became embroiled in artificially generated conflicts. As a discipling teacher, the Apostle Paul led them to know themselves, i.e. what their spiritual condition was. Along with this, he pictured what their goals as believing disciples SHOULD BE.
If a self concept does not generate directional goals, much frustration, conflict, irrationality, failure and despair will result. Yet frustration can press one's self concept either to adjust itself or to adopt goals to relieve the pain or abandon that self concept. Therefore, a disciple's self concept motivates learning realism, goals and relationships with discipling teachers to find fulfillment and relieve or avoid frustration.
From the time of adopting a self concept, the individual asks himself: "What must I do to be as I contemplate myself?" This question works out of the first and defining question. This second question implements the demands of the first of "Who am I?" This question motivates the disciple to continually achieve more and greater fulfillment. Thereby, God's commands and resources become blessed helps of direction. They both answer and direct effort to effect answers to both questions. However, if I am just adopting the self concept of a doctor, I must look for a medical school or a if I have finished my schooling, I must look for a practice. As a disciple, I must look for a mentor to disciple me, and in this relationship I must learn as an apprentice (a synonym of disciple).
The believer saying to oneself: "I am a disciple!" continually must speak to himself, "As a disciple, I count it a privilege to do what God says disciples do." So then the disciple must meditate upon God's standards, promises and resources. For if a person doesn't have a mobilizing self concept as a disciple, God's standards and resources will not be used effectively. Then, they will be thorns of self reproach instead of blessed helps to find fulfillment in God's commands.
The second question really is asking: "What must I do to be as I count myself to be?" Therefore, this principle is at the very heart of discipling (Matt 28:18-20; Eph 4:1). For this creates the basic drive that motivates him to be faithful, available and teachable. These qualities give life to the teacher-disciple relationship. For the teacher's ministry becomes effective in those who accept it as a part of their disciple's frame of reference. Then he receives the full benefit of the teaching. For the discipling teacher can more efficiently add his greater knowledge and coaching to help his disciple apply the Word. By receiving teaching to observe all that Christ commanded, the disciple progresses in the disciple's calling of experiencing the new life (Luke 9:23, 24) and of reproducing disciples. He becomes the person which he aspired to become when he embraced the disciple's self concept.
Related reading: The Disciple's Self Concept, Part 1