Willard says the key to understanding Paul's intense devotion to Christ is to know that with all his weaknesses and failures, "he gave himself solely to being like his Lord. He lived and practiced daily the things his Lord taught and practiced." In other words, Paul was a disciple by Jesus definition in Luke 9:23. We tend to define a disciple very differently. I want to be clear here. A disciple is a learner, a follower of Jesus, and person who no matter how new to the faith, sincerely and truly desires to follow Christ. Being a disciple doesn't mean you have to be like Paul, but it does mean like Paul, you have to give yourself to the Lord and practice the things the Lord is teaching you daily. Its in the following, the continuing in Christ, in his practices, and in His Word that you are a disciple.
The problem occurs when we attempt to redefine what it means to be a disciple because we don't like Jesus definition. We've built entire denominations and faith communities around self-serving definitions of discipleship. Referring to Paul's all in approach to following Christ, Willard astutely states that "today we are insulated from such thinking." He says "Our modern religious context assures us that such drastic action as we see in Jesus and Paul is not necessary for our Christianity." Spiritual disciplines compel us to face our own tendencies to protect self in this manner. We must un-insulate self and allow our heart to be exposed to the examination of the Holy Spirit. Spiritual disciplines place us in different context, bring us into an environment conducive to change, and open our spirit to learning from the Lord.
This is a daily choice. I fear change, I don't want to deny self, I want to feel good and remain insulated, but I chose to say yes to Jesus. I chose to follow him!!