The working definition of a disciple in our network is someone who hears and obeys God. In all transparency, I can tell you that coming to terms with this phrase is the most significant faith transition I have experienced in years.

Those two components—hear and obey—are simple statements, but they carry significant implications when it comes to practicing faith.

Hear

In order to hear you must first be willing to listen. If you aren’t, it doesn’t matter how powerful, revelatory or inspiring the message is; you’ll simply never hear it.

“He who has ears to hear,” Jesus said on a number of occasions…

Once listening, a disciple can now hear the promptings, instruction, direction, commands, invitations and truths spoken by God. This listening/hearing couplet is what’s behind Jesus’ illustration of himself as the good shepherd whose sheep “follow him because they know his voice.” Disciples know and listen for the voice of God, and follow when he calls them.

Obey

Some will recoil at the term “obey,” but please don’t. It doesn’t carry the heavy, authoritarian tone you might think. There were several words in the original Greek that are translated as “obey” in our modern Bible translations.

One of them has the meaning of keeping, maintaining, guarding or watching over as a guard would watch a prisoner. For this word, think “keep,” “observe” or “watch carefully.”

Another means to answer or respond to a call, as someone might open a door when hearing a knock. In this sense, think “perceive,” “take heed,” “be attentive to” or “respond.”

Disciples know and listen for the voice of God, and follow when he calls them.

What It Means for Us

The church in the West holds to a very high standard for biblical, doctrinal and theological knowledge—as we should. Christians in the West are arguably the most educated and knowledgeable segment in the entire history of the church.

But how well do we put that knowledge into practice?

Speaking for myself, for years I prioritized my knowledge over and above my willingness and discipline to first listen, then hear. Only after hearing consistently was I ready to observe / keep / watch carefully / perceive / take heed / be attentive to / respond. My knowledge has served me well, but it is no replacement for listening to, hearing and keeping the teachings of my Savior, who speaks to me as one of his beloved flock.

So, a question: If God were speaking to you today—right now—are you prepared and willing to listen, hear and observe what he’s saying to you?

Christians in the West are arguably the most educated and knowledgeable segment in the entire history of the church.

“Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” (Luke 6:46)