Can you give us a summary of Sonship, the discipleship course you helped put together?
I designed the Sonship course over a period of ten years from ’83-’93, but the core of it was formed in the mid-80s. Half of the sixteen lectures was dad’s and the other half was split between my mom and myself. World Harvest continued to refine the course after I left in ’97.
The heart of the Sonship course is the gospel applied to my life. We begin to mature as Christians by realizing that we don’t have it all together. So the very thing that we avoid like the plague—our weakness and our sin—is the door to grace in our lives. The church has tended to drift into legalism because it tends to isolate the gospel to salvation and not see it as the foundation to the whole life.
The only thing I would add to the Sonship course is a simple slogan: we believe and become the gospel. Not that we literally become the gospel, but we tend to miss the grand Pauline theme of entering into Jesus. The gospel isn’t something simply abstract that you believe, it is something that you enter. (I mention this theme in chapter 25 of A Praying Life. That chapter is really the heart of the book.)
For instance, in Colossians 1:24 Paul writes, “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church.” What does Paul mean?
It isn’t that complicated. Jesus’ death for my wife Jill is finished. It is a once-for-all death. Now for Jill to understand and experience the gospel in her life, I need to live a dying life in relationship to her. Jesus can’t die again for her, but I can—in hundreds of big and small ways that range from a tender compassion that understands her world to a thoughtful honesty that risks her disapproval. The result is that my life is characterized by dying and resurrection (Philippians 2:1-11). The result? An obedient life that reflects the image of Jesus.