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Are You Driven Or Called?


He called those who were drawn to Him and avoided those who were driven and wanted to use Him. – Gordon McDonald

McDonald goes on in the next several pages to describe the “driven” person. Some of the traits he describes we might find attractive. Yet, taken together, these traits describe a person who does not have Jesus living at the core of his own being. Continue reading

ONE THING I ASK


Drawing from Christart.com

One thing I ask of the LORD, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple….

I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord. – Psalm 27:4, 13-14

If you had one thing to ask of the LORD God Almighty, what would it be?

Solomon had that opportunity – to ask whatever his heart desired. Because he asked for wisdom instead of wealth or long-life, God gave him all three.

Solomon’s father asked for something better Continue reading

SERMON – Cross Bearing


He first met Jesus when he and others from Capernaum went down to Judea (possibly for the Feast of the Tabernacles?). John the Immerser’s preaching excited his brother and others. John was a fiery preacher, all right, & that appealed to his own no-nonsense approach to life. In fact, he had responded to John’s call to repent & be baptized for the forgiveness of sins. But he had to be practical, too, and he’d been away from his work long enough. It was time to get back home.

But where was his brother? That young scamp been away all night! Andy was so taken with John that he’d probably spent all night either listening to the prophet or rehashing his words with one of his friends. Then suddenly there he was – and before a word could be said about it being time to get going or where have you been, he almost shouted, “Come quick! We’ve found him!”

“What? Found who? What are you talking about?”

“We’ve found the Messiah! Come on! You‘ve got to see him!” And Andrew would not start for home until Simon had gone with him to see the new wonder man!

But wonder of wonders! When Andrew brought Simon to this new teacher, Jesus called him by name! And he gave him a new name – Cephas, the Rock. Simon sort of liked that. He thought of himself as being solid – but others thought he was too temperamental for a name like Cephas.

Anyway, from that moment it seemed as if Cephas’ life was intertwined with that of Jesus. Jesus would not leave him alone. Even when he went back to fishing, Jesus came along and said, “Follow me — and I will make you a fisher of men.”

And the power that Jesus displayed! Turning water into wine at that wedding feast? He’d never seen or even dreamed of seeing anything like that! And he never would forget the time Jesus was preaching by Galilee and stood in Simon’s own boat. His words were certainly different and his message seemed clear enough, though sometimes his parables were mystifying. But when he finished, he said go out where the water is deep – and catch some fish! Simon knew better because he’d fished all night and caught nothing. (That’s the way it is in fishing. Sometimes you catch ‘em – and sometimes you don’t! But, might as well humor the guy.) So what happened? One cast of the net and it was so full of fish Simon had to call for help! Boy, that really got to him! Scared him too! He cried out, “Leave me, Lord! I’m a sinful man!” But Jesus just said, “Don’t be afraid. From now on you will catch men.

Then there was the night after they’d gone out to a lonely place to get some rest. Lonely? That was a joke! Thousands of people were waiting for them when they got to shore – and of course, Jesus went to work healing and teaching until late in the day. Then Simon and the other “regulars” got Jesus aside and tried to get him to send them away – but he said, “You give them something to eat!” Andrew found some kid with a little bit of food and brought it to Jesus. He prayed over it – and started handing it to the Twelve. Simon and the others passed it on to the people – and all of the thousands of people ate and had all they wanted!

THAT got the crowd going. They wanted to make Jesus their king, and that would’ve been ok with Simon – but Jesus just didn’t seem to understand what he could do with all his power. Maybe he just figured the time wasn’t ripe yet. (He was pretty smart after all.) He sent the Twelve away in the boat – and went off alone to pray (as he did so frequently).

Anyway, while they were rowing across the lake, a big storm came up. It was late in the night – and all of a sudden, there was someone – it looked like a ghost – walking across the water! That was scary too! Until it spoke and said, “It’s me. Don’t be afraid!” Then Simon said, “If its really you, Lord, tell me to come to you on the water!” Jesus said, “Come” – and he started walking to Jesus. That lasted a few steps – until he realized where he was – out on the stormy sea away from the boat! Then fear overcame faith and he sank into the water! He cried out, “Lord, save me!” – and Jesus did.

Then one day Jesus asked the Twelve, “Who do people say I am?” They said, “John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.” Then Jesus asked, “But who do you say I am?” Simon spoke first. Did all of these things he had seen Jesus do flash through his mind before he answered? I do not know. But he said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God!”

Jesus blessed Simon and said that on this rock he would build his church. Then for the first time Jesus began to tell his disciples he must go to Jerusalem – and there be killed, but that he would rise again on the third day.

This was more than Simon could take. He took Jesus aside and rebuked him: “Lord, this can never happen to you!” Jesus turned to Simon and said, “Get behind me, Satan! You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.” He had earlier said that flesh and blood had not shown Simon that Jesus was the Christ; this knowledge came from God. But now Peter has left the things of God and is thinking as Man thinks.

Then Jesus called all of the disciples and the entire crowd to him and said, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.”  In other words, “Simon, not only are you out of order to try to talk me out of my cross, but cross bearing is so much a part of my kingdom that you cannot belong to me unless you take up your own cross, denying yourself to follow me.”

What do these familiar words mean? What did they mean for Simon Peter – and what do they mean for us? Is it possible that the familiarity of these words has bred contempt for them in our thinking? Are these words so radical in their meaning that we tend to discount them? Do we rationalize them away so that they are stripped of meaning?

Let me begin by saying that these words do not refer to accepting the normal pains and difficulties of life. Are there any diseases that Christians suffer – that are not common to others as well? In fact, as a normal thing, Christians suffer less from the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” than other people do. The reason for this is that people bring much of their suffering on themselves by their own sinful lifestyle.

Someone who is obedient to God will not get drunk and smash himself up in a car wreck. Now, someone else who is drunk might hit him, but it is not as likely anyway that he will do it to himself. The same is true of many of the other misfortunes of life. Being a Christian does not exempt us from the troubles of life. But these troubles also come to those who are not Christian. Bearing these troubles is not the same as taking up our cross.

The meaning of “take up your cross” is found in the significance of the next two clauses: deny yourself and come follow me. When we understand these, we will understand take up your cross. But, these must be linked together.

It is not enough to deny yourself. You must deny yourself in order to follow Jesus. People may deny themselves for many reasons that have nothing to do with following Jesus.

Someone asked Leon Trotsky, “What is a Communist?” The reply was simple: “A Communist is a dead man walking.” What did he mean? Simply that a true, dedicated & committed Communist was one who had given up himself for his Cause.

We have seen this illustrated in our time, not with Communists, but with Radical Fundamentalist Islamic people who are willing to become human “smart bombs” that target themselves on various things: a market place in Israel or the World Trade Center towers in America. These people give up their own lives for a Cause they think is greater. They are willing to die for what they believe in – and they are even willing to kill themselves if this will advance their Cause. But, this is not taking up the cross to follow Jesus.

Why has the Cross become the symbol of Christianity? Certainly it goes to the Cross of the Savior – but it goes beyond that. His cross is important as the means of our salvation – but it is also important as an example for us in how we are to live as walking dead men. Taking up our cross is denying ourselves to follow him. In the Cross, he sets an example for us to follow – and His path is the road to Golgatha.

Consider, the matter of forgiveness. On the Cross, Jesus poured out his blood for many for the forgiveness of sins. We talk about this and remember this each Lord’s Day. In fact, this is right at the heart of the gospel message – that we are bought with the blood of the lamb. Listen to Paul’s words to the Corinthians: “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.” This, he said, is “the gospel I preached to you.” This is the gospel they received and on which they had taken their stand –  and this is the gospel by which they (and we) have been saved and forgiven of our sins.

We understand that we have forgiveness through Jesus’ death on the cross. But let me help you look at forgiveness from a different perspective. Have you ever struggled to forgive someone? You see, there are two sides of forgiveness: forgiving and being forgiven. As those who are forgiven, we can appreciate the Cross of Jesus. He took up his Cross and bore it to Calvary. There he died so that we can have forgiveness of our sins.

Why did he die? Why not just forgive us and save himself all of that pain and suffering?

As those who are forgiven we are thankful that he died for us. But try to ask yourself why he had to die? Wasn’t there another way? There must not have been another way, for he prayed in Gethsemane, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”

That was the first prayer in the Garden. He prayed that prayer for an hour! Then, after waking the three whom he had asked to keep watch with him in prayer, he went back and prayed another hour. This time he prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.”

Did you notice the difference in these prayers? The first time he prayed for the cup to be taken from him – and added, “Yet not as I will, but as you will.” The second time what was the prayer? The second prayer was “may your will be done.” He no longer asked for the cup to be taken from him. In fact, the form of the statement in the Greek assumes that it is not possible for the cup to pass without Jesus drinking it. Thus, the second prayer is acceptance of the fact he will drink the cup – and a prayer for God’s will to be done. What does all this mean? Just that there was absolutely no other way for us to be forgiven except for Jesus to go to the Cross. Jesus wrestled with this – but he accepted God’s will and even prayed that God’s will be done.

Now, if it is true that for God to forgive us through Jesus the cross is necessary, what do you think it takes for us to be able to forgive one another?

Is it easy to forgive another? Or is it (at least some of the time) a real struggle? Have you ever had someone who had hurt you – and hurt you bad? And you knew you needed to forgive him or her – but you just could not do it! You kept reliving that hurt. You kept focusing on the pain you suffered – and still suffer. You just could not get beyond the injustice of it – and even if you didn’t want to do something yourself to hurt that person, you would still rejoice greatly if God somehow brought him low! You would see justice was served and the sin against you punished.

But, you know God wants you to forgive. Even in the Lord’s Prayer, we are taught to pray, “Forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors.” In other words, we can’t even rightfully pray for forgiveness unless we forgive. “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”

But you cry out, “Father, I just can’t! I can’t forgive. The hurt is too great! That person walked all over me! He is too calloused. I just can’t do it!”

How can you forgive? Listen to Paul in his letter to the Ephesians: “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” We are to forgive in the same way God forgave us in Christ. Now how did God forgive us in Christ? It was by Jesus going to the Cross.

Is he saying, then, that for us to forgive that impossible person that we also must go to the Cross – and there be crucified? That is exactly what he is saying.

We deny self, deny our “rights” – give them up voluntarily because we love the person who has offended us. We love him because God has first loved us. And because God’s love is in us, we yield our “right” to resent the wrong, to wallow in it, to demand justice, to exalt self and our hurt over all things related to this other person – we give all of that self-centeredness up. We do that just as God gave up self-centeredness when he forgave us in Christ.

We follow Jesus to the Cross – and there we die with him. We suffer in that death. It’s hard to give up selfishness to do what’s right. Grudges are sweet. Deadly, but sweet. They poison us, but they are sweet. And they are hard to give up.

Why? Because we are proud. By nursing a grudge, we feed our pride – because grudges grow in the same soil as pride and from the same root. Until we kill pride, the grudge will keep growing larger and larger. Let pride be crucified and grudges vanish in a moment. What fills them will be gone.

Does this idea of dying with Jesus at the Cross seem strange to you? It shouldn’t, if you are a Christian. That is what is at the root of becoming a Christian in the first place! If you are not a Christian it seems strange.

I remember a man I studied with and attempted to teach the gospel to while I was in New Zealand. By education, he was a Psychotherapist. As such, he had been taught to look at the human psyche in a certain way. We read Romans 6 together:

Don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin – because anyone who has died has been freed from sin.

As he struggled to understand this, we talked about the “old self” being crucified with Jesus. I commented that this old self, the old “I” is Ego.

Ego was a word that had a special meaning to him as a psychotherapist. To him it meant the inner-core of who a person is. If there is no ego, to him, the person had nothing at all at the core of his being. For the ego to die, in his thinking, the personhood of the person was dead. He could not conceive of such a thing.

But his dilemma gave me new understanding – for as Paul also wrote in Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.” My Ego is dead – but Jesus takes its place. And with Him at the inner-core of who I am, I am truly raised to walk in a new life.

So, in becoming a Christian – and in living as a Christian – taking up my cross, denying self, and following Jesus is at the root of it. My convenience, my pride, my pleasures, my interests are all crucified – so that I may let Jesus live in me.

If I refuse to die with him, he cannot live in me – and I cannot be his disciple. My crucifixion is just as essential as his crucifixion. It was not possible for the cup to pass without his suffering it. It is not possible for our cup to pass and for us to be or remain his disciple.

He told two of his disciples, “You will drink the cup I drink and be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with.” What was true of them is true of us all. He said to all of us, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”

Will you come after him? Then you, too, must take up your cross, drink his cup, and be baptized with his baptism. That begins as we turn from sin and, in faith, are baptized in his name. But it continues as we walk with him from then on.

Note: if you should use this sermon please come back and post a comment letting me know how you adapted it and how people received it. Thank you.

SERMON: “Here Am I, Lord, Send Me!” – Christ


Note: this is the sketch of a sermon, not a complete sermon. I first delivered it in February 2008 at the Sojourner’s Workshop at Central Florida Bible Camp. They must have liked it, for they invited me back for two messages in 2009. I am indebted to Jim Woodroof for some of the thoughts, particularly my treatment of 2 Corinthians 5:19-20. You can see these in his book, The Aroma of Christ.

INTRODUCTION:

  • Isaiah 5:1-4.
    • I will sing for the one I love a song about his vineyard: My loved one had a vineyard on a fertile hillside. He dug it up and cleared it of stones and planted it with the choicest vines. He built a watchtower in it and cut out a winepress as well. Then he looked for a crop of good grapes, but it yielded only bad fruit. “Now you dwellers in Jerusalem and men of Judah, judge between me and my vineyard. What more could have been done for my vineyard than I have done for it? When I looked for good grapes, why did it yield only bad?”
  • God had blessed Israel more than words can tell.
    1. He called Abraham & gave him a three-fold covenant: A Land, A Nation, & A Seed to Bless all nations.
    2. He delivered them from Egypt, but they murmured in the wilderness.
    3. He gave them the promised land, but they wandered from him.
    4. When they wandered from God, he sent his servants, the judges & prophets.
    5. NEVERTHELESS, they continued to wander – and God cried, “What more could have been done for my vineyard than I have done for it?
  • There was an awesome quiet in Heaven as the Lamb of God replied, “Here am I, LORD! Send me!”
  • Hebrews 10:5-7.
    • Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said “Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me; with burnt offerings and sin offerings you were not pleased. Then I said, ‘Here I am – it is written about me in the scroll – I have come to do your will, O God.” – Jesus Came To Do God’s Will.

BODY:

WHAT IS GOD’S WILL?

  • 2 Peter 3:9God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.
  • 1 Tim 2:1-6 – I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercessions and thanksgiving be made for everyone – for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men – the testimony given in its proper time. And for this purpose I was appointed a herald and an apostle – I am telling the truth, I am not lying – and a teacher of the true faith to the Gentiles.
  • John 3:16 – For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
  • God’s Will Is the Salvation of All!

HOW DID JESUS DO THE FATHER’S WILL?

  • IN YOUTH: – “I must be about my Father’s business.”
  • IN MANHOOD: – “It behooves us to fulfill all righteousness.”
  • IN LIFE: – “My Father works, and I work.” Let us do his work while it is day, for the night comes when no man can work.
  • IN DEATH: – Not my will, but thine be done.

AS THE FATHER HAS SENT ME, I AM SENDING YOU! (John 20:21)

  • The Father Sent the Son to Die.
    1. So, we also are sent to die
    2. Deny Yourself
    3. Take Up Your Cross
    4. Follow Me!
    5. Let This Mind Be in You That Was Also in Christ Jesus….
  • The Father Sent the Son to Reconcile the World to Himself.
    1. He preached peace.
    2. He was also a peacemaker.
    3. We must receive the ministry of reconciliation first – 2 Corinthians 5:18. That is, we must become peacemakers – and be called children of God (Matthew 5:9).
    4. Then our message of reconciliation will become credible! – 2 Corinthians 5:19.
    5. But to be a reconciler, I must die – even as Jesus had to die to reconcile us to God.

CONCLUSION:

  • Jesus is the perfect model for us to follow. He sets the standard.
  • His teachings, His life and His death provide a clarion call for us to live in all godliness and holiness.
  • However, he was not a conventionally religious person – and he does not call us to be conventional.
  • He calls us to be cross-bearing peacemakers, not to be belligerent, cocky judges of all who differ from us.
  • Above all, he calls us to love one another as he loves us – and he loves us as the Father loves him! (John 13:34; cf. 15:9)
  • He calls us to respond to God’s call as he himself did: Here am I, LORD. Send me! Send me into the sin-fractured world to heal and make whole! Let me go, realizing that this will demand my death to self, death to this world, and death to sin – but that it will also mean abundant life from above as I walk in the steps of Jesus.

If you should use these thoughts as the base for a sermon of your own, please leave a comment about how you developed it – and how people received it. Thanks – JS

LEADERSHIP (3): Paul’s Example


Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ” – Paul, 1 Corinthians 11:1, KJV

Paul - Christian Leader

Paul - Christian Leader

Many credit Paul with being the greatest Christian leader except Jesus Himself. Of course, this is not the way he viewed himself. He said, “I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle” (1 Corinthians 15:9). This humility is one of the keys to his success as a leader for Christ.

Paul was always a leader, even before he became a Christian. Looking back to his life as a young Jewish Rabbi, Paul wrote, “I was advancing in Judaism beyond many Jews of my own age and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers” (Galatians 1:14). There is evidence he was very close to the inner circles of the Sanhedrin, if not actually a part of it. This was amazing in view of his youth plus the fact that the Sanhedrin was primarily controlled by the Sadducees while Saul of Tarsus was a devout Pharisee.

Thus, it appears he possessed natural leadership ability. But his Christian leadership was more than natural ability. Some who have great talent are poor Christian leaders. They exalt self, not Jesus. Paul always promoted Jesus, not himself. Hence, his leadership was a demonstration of a talented man under the control of the Spirit of God.

Saul of Tarsus was an inquisitional leader. His zeal for the Pharisaic traditions led him to eagerly persecute the church that challenged those traditions. When he became a disciple of Jesus his whole attitude changed, and he demonstrated a different spirit. As a Christian leader he powerfully displayed the attitudes and priorities of Jesus. The contrast between the Jewish Saul of Tarsus and the Christian Apostle Paul vividly illustrates the difference between carnal, worldly leadership and Christ like, spiritual leadership.

What was Paul like as a leader? There are two aspects of his leadership we need to consider. First, there was his authority as an apostle of Christ. Second, there was the way he exercised his authority. When his enemies challenged his authority, he went to great lengths to establish his right to command his hearers in the name of the Lord. Yet he used this right with great gentleness.

HIS AUTHORITY

When people were in rebellion against the Lord, Paul could be a fearful and commanding figure. Think, for example, of how he rebuked Elymas, the sorcerer, in the presence of Sergius Paulus (Acts 13:6-12). Paul bluntly said to this man who opposed the preaching of Jesus, “You are a child of the devil and an enemy of everything that is right! You are full of all kinds of deceit and trickery. Will you never stop perverting the right ways of the Lord?” (v. 10). He then pronounced a curse of blindness on Elymas, who began groping about for a guide. This incident contributed to the conversion of the Proconsul of the Island of Cyprus.

He also pronounced an eternal curse on anyone preaching a different gospel than that which he preached (Galatians 1:8-9). He threatened the rebellious element of the church at Corinth that, if need be, he would come to them with a heavy rod (1 Corinthians 4:21; 2 Corinthians 10:10-11). In these things he reminds us of Jesus when he drove the money-changers from the temple or when he pronounced his “woes” on the hypocritical Pharisees and teachers of the law (Matthew 22:12-13; 23:1ff).

HIS HUMILITY

In spite, however, of Paul’s right to exercise power over the churches, the impressive thing is his extreme reluctance to use this right. He preferred to appeal rather than to command. “By the meekness and gentleness of Christ, I appeal to you” (2 Corinthians 10:1). “I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 1:10).

He did not use his authority to exalt himself, but always pointed to Christ as his own master. He said, “We do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake”(2 Corinthians 4:5). His God-given authority, he said, was given “for building you up rather than pulling you down” (2 Corinthians 10:8).

In fact, “authority” played a very minor role in Paul’s leadership. He was not a commanding figure in person. His enemies said he was unimpressive and timid. He would probably have agreed with them, for he denied any of the special eloquence or wisdom usually associated with leadership. He admitted his weakness and fear, but claimed the power of God (1 Corinthians 2:1-5). Rather than depend of “authority” and impressive display, Paul sought to point men to Jesus and to be an example of how to follow him.

HIS SECRET

Paul revealed his secret of leadership in Philippians 3:10-17. In this passionate text, he does not discuss his philosophy of leadership – but he demonstrates it. His purpose in these verses is to inspire the beloved Philippian church to even greater heights of service to God. He did this by exposing his own heart in the following eloquent words:

I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. Only let us live up to what we have already attained.

Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you.

These words reveal three great elements of Paul’s leadership.

1. His Purpose

First, he had a great purpose: to know Christ, to be like him, and to share in the power of his resurrection. No one can lead effectively unless he has a clear vision of where he is going and can establish significant priorities to get there.

Leadership which does not select worthwhile goals is not worthy of the name. It is not enough merely to have a goal. The goal must be worthy of the effort needed to reach it. Many goals are small and unworthy of God’s people. Such goals are too anemic to be able to inspire us to soar with eagles’ wings. The true leader aims at targets deserving of his best efforts – and of the best efforts of his people.

Give people a challenging goal, and they will respond. Paul had his own purposes set on something so exalted it could – and did – command a life-time of effort. We need to select objectives that excite and inspire us to our best efforts. This means the church needs to have greater purposes than to pave the parking lot. Parents need to inspire children with more than getting good grades so they can get a good job and get by in life. Our goals need to reach into eternity – and be focused on Heaven’s king.

Leaders with high aspirations for themselves are able to inspire others to seek the very best as well. This was Paul’s genius: the ability to aim high and to point us in that direction!

2. His Progress

Second, Paul did not consider that he had arrived, but was pressing on toward the goal. He avoided the trap of self-satisfaction and complacency that destroys many leaders. He was not content merely to “keep house for the Lord.” Leadership, for Paul, always involved progress toward a goal. It was not static, but dynamic. He was going somewhere!

A leader who is not going somewhere is not leading: he is vegetating. Many leaders, in name only, think their function is to maintain the status quo. In Christ, the status quo is never sufficient. There is growth to be achieved and a world to be won! These things are not realized by just holding on to present levels of accomplishment.

True leaders are the throttle, not the brakes. They do not see their function as merely “stopping” wrong or misguided action. Rather, they encourage to good works by their words and deeds. They inspire good because they love and promote good – not merely because they condemn evil. They stimulate action because they themselves are acting with purpose and enthusiasm. Even when good intentions result in misguided action, a true leader would rather provide a course correction than to bring all movement to a screeching halt. He knows you cannot lead someone who is not moving.

3. His Positive Example

Third, Paul challenged others to follow his example. In this, though, he did not point to himself as the standard. Rather, he invited others to follow him in following Christ.

This is a supreme test of a leader: Will anyone follow? This is a question that will be answered with a resounding, “Yes” – when the leader has a clear vision of where he is going and is energetic in moving toward that mark. Men of purpose and energy will always attract followers, even if they are leading the followers to destruction.

Paul demonstrated the essence of Christian leadership: focus on Jesus, move closer to him, and invite others to come along. Jesus rebuked the Pharisees because they did not practice what they preached (Matthew 23:3). In contrast, Paul could say that his way of life agreed with what he taught everywhere in every church (1 Corinthians 4:17). Paul not only invited people to come closer to Jesus; he showed them the way.

CONCLUDING OBSERVATIONS

Christian leadership is not first of all a matter of authority or of doctrine. It is primarily a matter of being and doing. A Christian leader must be like Jesus and act like Jesus. Then the leader will be able to teach, not by word only but also by example. Luke summarized his account of the gospel as being “all that Jesus began to do and to teach (Acts 1:1). Such teaching and leadership will possess power because it is backed by a credible life. Both believers and unbelievers will sit up and take notice of such a life.

His leadership came from his passion for Christ – and from living true to that passion. It came more from who and what he was than from the particular things he did and how he did them. His leadership was not a “method.” It was a way of life.

This is the example of leadership Paul set and which he encourages us to follow. It is this kind of leadership that is needed in today’s families, schools, businesses and churches. Have worthy goals and a passion to reach them. Live by the things you passionately value, and others will follow. Let’s say with Paul, “Follow me as I follow Christ.”

QUESTIONS FOR CONSIDERATION

  1. Contrast Paul’s leadership in Judaism with his leadership in Christ.
  2. Under what circumstances did Paul exercise “authority” as a Christian leader?
  3. How was example crucial to Paul’s leadership?
  4. How did Paul teach his students to lead? See 1 Timothy 4:12 & Titus 2:6-8.
  5. What key elements of Paul’s leadership are seen in 1 Thessalonians 2:1-12?
  6. Why must leaders establish worthwhile priorities? How do you go about setting priorities?
  7. Why is satisfaction with the status quo the death knell for effective leadership? Someone said “status quo” is Latin for “the mess we are in.” Please comment.
  8. How can leaders inspire people to follow them? What is the difference between leading and driving? Comment on the expression, “You can’t push a string.”
  9. Why is leadership a matter of “being” before it is a matter of “doing.” Can one be a leader without being a “doer”? Can you be a Christian leader without first being a follower of Jesus?

What was the most important element in Paul’s leadership? Defend your answer.

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PREVIOUS – (2) Christ, Our Glorious Leader

DISCIPLESHIP (5): The Disciple and His Master


Jesus, Though He is LORD, Still Serves His Disciples

Jesus, Though He is LORD, Still Serves His Disciples

The relationship between Jesus and His disciples is more than the normal teacher-student relationship, even when the student commits himself to the philosophies of the teacher. Jesus’ disciples look at Him as their LORD.

This is a major difference in the relationship between Jesus and His disciples and other teachers and their pupils. Among the Jews, a great Rabbi might have those who followed him or sat at his feet – as Saul of Tarsus sat at the feet of Gamaliel (Acts 23:3). Though these would learn from their Rabbi, they did not consider the Rabbi as LORD. Jesus’ disciples did – and still do. (I put the word LORD in all capitals because this is the convention followed by most translations to identify the Old Testament word transliterated as Jehovah or Yahweh in a few others. Several Old Testament prophecies that use that word LORD are applied to Jesus in the New Testament.)

Jesus Is LORD

Since they looked to Jesus as LORD, their attitude toward Him was very different from the normal student-teacher relationship. When they considered themselves in relation to Him, they were servants or even slaves. This is the way He taught them to think. As LORD, He did not “lord it over” them – but He taught them to acknowledge Him as LORD just the same.

For example, when He washed their feet (John 13:1-16), He used the fact they accepted Him as LORD to teach the lesson that they should follow His example – and wash one another’s feet. They also called Him “Master” and “Rabbi.” As their Master, He was their LORD; as their Rabbi, He was their teacher and guide. But because He was LORD, He was much more than a mere teacher.

The Jewish Rabbi had students; Jesus had disciples. The Rabbi’s students may respect and revere him; they did not worship him. Jesus’ disciples did. The Rabbi’s protégé might aspire to become like the Rabbi – in that he would have students of his own who would look to him in the same way he looked to his Rabbi. The disciple of Jesus, though his goal is to be like his Master, knows that he can never reach that pinnacle because Jesus is much more than mere man; He is LORD.

As LORD, Jesus Is To Be Obeyed

There was never any question of who was LORD and who were the disciples. Nor was there any question of what that meant. Jesus’ words were not to be debated or questioned; His words were to be believed and obeyed. Why do you call me ‘LORD, LORD,’ and do not do what I say? was Jesus’ question to His listeners early in His ministry (Luke 6:46; cf. Matthew 7:21). It was important to do what He said because He was giving the very words of the Father – but He gave them as one who spoke with the full authority of the Author, not as one repeating what He had heard from another.

Thus, hearing and obeying His words is a matter of eternal consequence. Mere hearing is insufficient. The man who hears without obeying is like the foolish man who builds his house on the sand; the man who hears and obeys is like the man who digs deep to build his house on solid rock.

What Made the Difference?

But Jesus expects even more than full obedience. He expects full acceptance of Himself as LORD. Faith without obedience is dead – but obedience without faith is deadening. Some, who might have accepted Him as a mere teacher, were unwilling to go the full distance to accept him as the true Bread that came down from heaven.

Until someone accepts who Jesus is, he is always likely to argue with what Jesus says. Thus, in John 6:41, the Jews began to grumble about Him because he said “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” Because they would not accept His LORDSHIP (the one who came down from heaven), they would not accept what He said they should do (eat His flesh and drink His blood). Therefore, they left Him (v. 66).

But the Twelve were different. When Jesus asked if they would also go away, Peter asked, Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. Then followed his confession: We believe and know that You are the Holy One of God. This is roughly equivalent to his confession recorded in Matthew 16:18ff where Peter confessed Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God.

It was this faith that made them willing to accept what Jesus said they should do. In contrast, the rich young ruler would not accept what Jesus said do because he could not bring himself to confess Jesus’ true relationship with God (see Mark 10:17-22). Jesus gave him the opportunity to turn his request for what to do to inherit eternal life into a confession of the source of eternal life. But the young man would not confess Jesus as being “good” after Jesus said only God is good. That is, he declined to confess Jesus as being God – but that is what would be necessary to find the eternal life he sought. Instead, he went away because he valued his wealth more than a relationship with Jesus. Had he believed Jesus to be God, would he have turned away?

It is recognition of Jesus as LORD that is at the root of what John calls “the doctrine of Christ” in 2 John 9. Though there is debate over whether this refers to doctrine about Christ or the teaching of Christ Himself, the context is fairly clear. Verse 3 calls Jesus the Father’s Son. Verse 7 speaks of deceivers, who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. Contextually, the doctrine of Christ is the doctrine concerning who Christ is.

Linguistically, either interpretation of 2 John 9-10 is possible. If you take it to be the teaching Christ brings, however, the context also identifies that teaching. Verse 5 speaks of the new command that we have had from the beginning. What is that command? That we love one another. Then verse 6 reiterates, As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love.

It is a real stretch to make 2 John refer to any obscure teaching that one can torturously read into something that Jesus or His apostles said or wrote. Yet, this is how some use this text to condemn any who do not agree with them on just about any issue.

When we simply believe Jesus is LORD, we will obey Him by walking in love. We will recognize that this is how He lived; we will want to live as He did.

Do We Ever Obey Men?

In wanting to grow as disciples, it is tempting for us to turn to men to get a definition of what it really means to be a disciple. The “Discipling Movement,”* popular in many congregations and in various evangelical fellowships a few years ago, was strict and definite in prescribing what it takes to be a disciple. Many became emotional wrecks because they could not meet the requirements imposed by their human leaders. [*This movement is known in churches of Christ as “The Boston Movement.”]

On the other hand, human leaders can also rationalize the radical demands of Jesus so much that His call for genuine discipleship loses its force and power.

For example, take Jesus’ statement, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God (Mark 10:25). Many destroy the force of what Jesus is saying here by fanciful explanations. Some talk about a smaller gate in the city gate for pedestrians, which a camel could go through only by removing its load and going through on its knees. This is a pretty picture of humility – but there is no evidence such a pedestrian gate is ever called “a needle’s eye.” Others talk about the similarity between the Greek word camel and the word for cable – and say Jesus is talking about a ship’s cable, not a camel with four legs and a hump.

Jesus explained Himself when the disciples asked, Who then can be saved? What was His explanation? With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God. What happens is that by rationalizing, we try to make it possible for man to save himself – but that is impossible for us. Salvation is a work of God.

Each of these is an extreme to be avoided. Men are likely to impose human rules. This adds to the Word of the LORD. Men are also likely to relax the force of what our LORD says to us. This takes away from His Word. Both are wrong; we need to recognize that Jesus is LORD, and we are His disciples.

This is one reason the apostles warned against lining up behind men. In 1 Corinthians 1:10-13 more than the oneness of the body is in view. To turn from being a disciple of Jesus to be a follower of Paul, Peter or Apollos was to turn from the one who died for you and in whose name you were baptized. In other words, it was to turn from a relationship with Jesus as LORD to follow mere men.

Whether the Corinthians were actually naming these great Christian leaders as the ones they were “of” is open to question. In 1 Corinthians 4:6, Paul suggests he used himself and Apollos as examples to show how futile it is to follow any man. The apostles always presented themselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake (1 Corinthians 4:5). Notice that his relationship to Jesus as LORD took priority with Paul in all of this.

Is there ever a time to listen to men? Of course. But only when they are pointing us to Jesus. The eunuch asked Philip for help to understand the Scripture – and Philip began with that very passage and preached Christ (Acts 8:34f). Paul said, follow my example – but only as I follow Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1). We are to imitate the faith of our leaders (Hebrews 13:7), for these spoke the word of God to us. They point us to Jesus – whom the author hastens to add is the same yesterday, today and forever.

We obey men only when they lead us closer to Jesus. If they obscure him or make him more distant, avoid them like the plague! These are those whose god is their stomach (Philippians 3:19).

Disciples of Jesus avoid such men because disciples want to serve and follow none but Jesus because He is LORD.


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– (6) The Disciple And His Fellows


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– (4) The Cross In The Life Of The Disciple

DISCIPLESHIP (4) – The Cross in the Life of the Disciple


One of my earliest memories is of waking from my nap on the front pew of the little white church building where my family worshipped in Central Florida. An older brother was leading the congregation in singing Kneel at the Cross. I have always loved that old song, though I seldom hear it any more.

Christian Soldier from ChristArt.com

Christian Soldier from ChristArt.com

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Kneel at the cross. Christ will meet you there. He interceeds for you.

Lift up your voice. Leave with Him your care, and begin life anew.

Kneel at the cross; leave ev’ry care.

Kneel at the cross; Jesus will meet you there.

One basic principle of the gospel is that the disciple will share the Master’s suffering. The cross is not limited to the hill outside Jerusalem; each disciple must carry his own cross as he follows in the steps of the Savior. Each must come to know the pain of emptying himself of himself so that he may be filled with Christ. Just as our Lord gave up His glory to take up His cross, we must give up the “glory” we claim for ourselves and take up our cross. Then the Father will glorify us because we will be following in the steps of His Son.

I Am Crucified with Christ

In Galatians 2:19-20 Paul made a stunning announcement: I died to the law. I am crucified with Christ. Now Christ lives in me. Is it possible we have become so “glib” in talking about Christ living in us we fail to marvel at how radical this concept really is? This is even more amazing than the fact the Son of God left the glory of heaven to become a babe in Mary’s womb. In his own human form, he remained sinless. But if he lives in me, in my body, he lives in a body where sin is still active.

How can the holy Son of God live with me in my sin? The cross is the only answer. He died for me that I might be forgiven. I die with him that I might be sanctified (or become holy). The ego or self dies so that Christ might live in me. This death is a crucifixion with him.

Paul did not claim a unique experience. He reminded the Romans (6:1ff) that they, too, had died. The old self was crucified. They died to sin. They were united with him in his death. But crucifixion is not the end; it is but a beginning. The end is resurrection to a new life, a life in which we are being freed from sin.

Paul clearly relates this sequence of events to one’s baptism into Christ. It is, he says, as we are baptized into Christ that we are baptized into his death, buried with him, and resurrected with him. Because of all this, he says you are to count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.

Note, though, that Paul does not claim immunity to sin. He does say do not let sin reign and do not offer your members to sin. And, he adds, offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life. By God’s grace, sin is no longer your master (Romans 6:1-14). Your new Master is Christ.

But, Christ will be Master only as we raise our sights from earth to heaven (Colossians 3:1ff). We elevate our view because we died and have been raised with Christ. We look to him so we may be transformed “from one degree of glory to another” (2 Corinthians 3:17-18).

But there is still some more dying to do while we are on earth! We still have to put to death whatever belongs to our earthly nature – and the list of things to put to death is grim. Read it for yourself in Colossians 3:5-11. But do you notice what comes as we put these things to death (dare we say “crucify them”!)? When these are crucified, Christ is all and is in all (v. 11).

To Know Christ We Share His Suffering

Remember that the definition of a disciple is one who seeks to know and follow his Master. Paul shows a passionate desire to know Christ in Philippians 3:7-11. Everything he previously valued is nothing when compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus. He said, for his sake I have lost all things and consider them rubbish that I may gain Christ. He listed three things he wanted to know: 1) Christ Himself. 2) The Power of His Resurrection. 3) Fellowship in His Sufferings. Through these, Paul said, he wanted to become like Him in his death and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.

In the paragraph after this passionately expressed hunger for Christ, Paul went on to say:

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

It is in this single-minded pursuit of the heavenward call that Paul’s hunger to know the power of Christ’s resurrection finds satisfaction.

Crucifixion of Self Allows Resurrection with Christ

There can be no resurrection with Christ without a prior crucifixion with Him. You cannot live with res­ur­rection power unless you first are crucified with Christ. This is another way of saying we cannot be glorified with the Lord unless we first humble ourselves in the same way He humbled Himself. Jesus humbled Himself to be a servant and to be obedient – even to death on the cross (Philippians 2:8). When we humble ourselves to be obedient, even to death on the cross, we will be exalted with Him to glory. This is what it means to be a disciple.

In the beatitude, Jesus pronounced the blessing of being filled on those who hunger and thirst for righteousness (Matthew 5:6). This is the hunger Paul expressed in Philippians 3 – and he was being filled so he could say, it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me (Galatians 2:20).

Our Crucifixion with Him Is Not a One-Time Event

While the Christian’s life with Christ begins with a once-for-all event in baptism, the dying with Christ that begins there continues. In Luke 9:23-24 he said to all his disciples: If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. Each day as we walk with him, we take up our cross to follow him. If we shun this, if we seek to “save” our lives, Jesus said we would lose them. It is only by losing our lives (as we are crucified with him) that we save them.

The idea of losing what we try to save but saving what we are willing to lose links this text with another in which Jesus revealed his own distress at his approaching death. In Jesus’ final week on earth, some Greeks wanted to meet Jesus. Andrew and Philip brought them to Jesus. In his comments, Jesus seemed to ignore these visitors – but he revealed the essence of his mission and how it connects with his death:

Jesus replied, the hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it pro­duces many seeds. The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me. — John 12:23-26.

Without death, Jesus would remain alone; by dying, He would be fruitful. Then He repeated what He had earlier said to us. The man who loves his life will lose it. But here, He is focused on His own coming death. He went on to ask, what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour?’ No! It was for this very reason I came to this hour’ (v. 27). Again He says, whoever serves me must follow me. But, in following Him into death, we are promised honor and glory from the Father in eternity.

When we give up our glory, we gain His glory. Die to self and live with Christ; live for self and die to Christ. The choice is to be or not to be disciples of Christ.

Note: The art above is from ChristArt.com, and is used with permission.


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– (5) The Disciple And His Master


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– (3) The Call To Discipleship

DISCIPLESHIP (3) – The Call to Discipleship


Jesus has not called us to be dabblers in religion. He gives a radical call – a call repeated by his apostles. He wants our complete, full allegiance. There are no “half-measures” in being a disciple-follower of Jesus. Consider these statements and the demands implicit in them:

«      He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters. –Matthew 12:30

«      Therefore, come out from them and be separate. –2 Corinthians 6:17

«      Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs – he wants to please his commanding officer. –2 Timothy 2:3-4

«      Why do you call me, “Lord, Lord” and do not do what I say? –Luke 6:46

«      But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. –Matthew 6:33

All of this leaves a flavor of “get with it – or don’t bother!” We are assured of God’s love and mercy; we are also reminded that God’s goodness is to lead us to repentance (see Romans 2:4). In other words, being a Christian is a serious matter. Jesus told one whole church, I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one of the other! So, because you are lukewarm – neither hot nor cold – I am about to spit you out of my mouth (Revelation 3:15f). He went on to call this church to repentance, for he had not given up on them. Yet it is clear he was not happy with their “neither in nor out” stance.

His Characteristic Invitation: “Come Follow Me!”

When anyone came to him, Jesus always gave a challenge: Come after me. Follow me and let the dead bury their dead. Sell all you have and give to the poor and come follow me.

He Led the Way

He Led the Way

He promised much, but he did not offer cheap grace. In following him, we follow one who left the glory of heaven for the hardship of a poor family in an oppressed country – and for death on a cross. When he calls us to follow him, he does not call us to idyllic days in green pastures with no dangers in sight. Rather, he calls us to walk in the way of the cross, for it is this way that leads to the land that is fairer than day!

Cross Bearing: At the Heart of Being a Disciple

If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me (Mark 8:34). We simply cannot follow Jesus without bearing our own personal cross. The above words were not directed to the apostles alone, but to the whole crowd. Cross bearing is not an option for the disciple of Jesus. It is a requirement.

Of course, he led the way. In one sense, his entire life was a life of bearing his cross. He always put his life on the line for those who needed him most. We are called to do the same for those who need us. This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers (1 John 3:16). (The next verse tells how we are to do this.) In another place husbands are instructed, Love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her (Ephesians 5:25).

The common factor in statements like these is that self is put to death for a greater good. The early disciples declared that they would die for Jesus. He challenges us to do just that. In most cases, this is not a literal death. However, in all cases it is a death to self that we might walk with Jesus in his concern for others and for God. My pleasures, my possessions, and my pride: these are all to die on the cross so that I might be cleansed to serve him. The death of self-will is always painful. But, it must happen. “The Glory Land Way” is “The Way of the Cross” – and this road to Golgotha leads through Gethsemane. It is at Gethsemane that we learn to pray genuinely “Not my will, but yours be done!” The Garden of Gethsemane reverses the Garden of Eden. In Eden, Mother Eve wanted to do it her way, thinking she could be wise like God to determine good and evil by her own will. In Gethsemane Jesus subjugated his will to God’s will. And he came there bearing a cross (though it was not visible for another few hours). When we bear our cross, we will meet him there.

We Are Called to Become Before We Are Called to Do

When Jesus called the Galilean fishermen to follow him he said, Come follow me, and I will make you fishers of men (Mark 1:17). He did not call them to fish for men. He called them to follow him; as they followed him, he changed them into fishers of men. Note that he made them fishers of men before they went out to catch men. They were called to become and to be those who could catch men. But it was Jesus who made them what they needed to be.

This is the way God works with us. He calls us to follow him as disciples. When we do, he makes us into new creatures who are able to do what he needs us to do. If we choose not to follow him, he leaves us to our own devices – and to our own success or failure. This is the source of much of the frustration many find in trying to live the Christian life and fulfill his commandments. We try to live and to obey without first putting ourselves under his tutelage as disciples. The result is that we try to do God’s work in our own strength – and we become frustrated. It is only as he makes us to become what we need to be that our weakness will become his strength.

What We Are Determines What We Do

Jesus once said of the devil, He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies (John 8:44b). Why does the devil lie? Because he is a liar. Change what you are if you want to change what you do. You can no more keep a sinner from sinning than you can keep the devil from lying. If you want to keep from sinning, become something other than a sinner. Jesus works on what we are; he does not just give us some commandments about what to do. He starts with the heart, for it is the heart that makes a man unclean (see Mark 7:20-23). Jesus works on our hearts when we become his disciples.

What We Become Is Determined By Whom We Follow & To Whom We Entrust/Commit Ourselves

Being a disciple means trusting and following our Master. In following Jesus, we become like him. When the unbelieving Jews realized the apostles were unschooled men, but observed their courage, they took note that these men had been with Jesus (Acts 4:13). Being with Jesus as his disciples made them different. In following him, they became changed men. Unschooled men were supposed to be awed by the high Jewish court; these men spoke up with boldness born in their walk with Jesus and his Spirit.

This same Spirit will change us from ordinary people into people of glory. And we…are being transformed into his likeness with every-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:18). How does this transformation take place? It is as we behold his face, looking to him, watching him, learning of him, following him – as a disciple. This is why he calls us to be disciples. He wants to transform us into his own image, into the very likeness of God!


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– (4) The Cross In The Life Of The Disciple


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– (2) What Is A Disciple?

Discipleship (2) – What Is A Disciple?


Scriptural use of the word disciple is virtually limited to the Gospels and Acts. Except for two passages in Isaiah (8:16 & 19:11), all 295 times the various forms of disciple appear in the NIV Bible are in the four Gospels and Acts.

Discipleship is not an Old Testament concept. The close, personal relationship and commitment to a person the word disciple implies is simply not there. Though the Jews once in John 9:29 called themselves “Moses’ disciples” it was only in contrast to the formerly blind man whom they styled “this fellow’s disciple.” The Old Testament expected Israel to live in Covenant with God, but not as disciples of God.

Jesus and The Twelve

Jesus and The Twelve

On the other hand, the New Testament uses the term disciple from the earliest days of Jesus’ personal ministry to refer to those who gathered around him to follow him.

What Does the Word Mean?

In the Greek world of Jesus’ day, a disciple was one learning information or conduct from an “authority” (or personal teacher) on whom the disciple depended. This teacher, superior in knowledge to the disciple, would always be the student’s superior (cf. Matthew 10:24f where student is from the word usually translated disciple.)

The greatest ambition of the disciple is that he be like his teacher. A disciple always has a teacher, but more than instruction is involved. The disciple depends on the teacher for all of his thinking. The true disciple is committed to the teacher and will go to no other. (Cf. John 6:66-68 where some left Jesus, but the Twelve refused, saying, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”)

In the New Testament the word finds its highest use in the relationship of Jesus’ followers to their Master. They left all to follow him (Mark 10:28). He called some of these to be with him that he might teach them and send them out as apostles (Mark 3:13ff).

Jesus expected much from these. He talked about hating father, mother and even one’s own life. In a characteristic statement, He said, “Anyone who does not bear his cross and come after me cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26-27). They were sure they could give him their all. Peter was especially confident that he would endure, even if others fell away (Mark 14:27-31). Their performance, however, fell far short of His demands and their expectations.

Yet, in all this you can see their commitment to the person of Jesus, not merely to his teachings. It is this complete trust in him in all things that marks them as disciples, not mere pupils or learners.

Relationship to Other Words:

A number of other words are similar to disciple. It will be helpfulfor us to consider how these are alike and different from disciple.

An apostle of Christ is a disciple, but not all His disciples are apostles. An apostle is literally “one sent.” Most times in the New Testament, this refers to one of The Twelve (or Eleven, after the fall of Judas), who were called by Jesus to be his witnesses in a special way.

Believer came to be almost synonymous with disciple, though some believe without following (see John 12:42f). This would not be the case for a disciple. A disciple does not have a dead faith (see James 2:13-14).

Christian is used much as disciple (see Acts 11:26) but seems to be a derogatory name used by enemies (cf. Acts 26:28 & 1 Peter 4:15-16). The Christian gloried in this name as one by which he suffered.

A disciple is more than a pupil; he is a follower. Learning without following is foolish (see Matthew 7:24-27). One cannot follow without learning; however, you can learn without following. For example, Dr. James D. Bales, former professor at Harding University, was a student of Marxism. He was not, however, a disciple of Marx. He studied Marxism academically in order to refute it. On the other hand, the disciple learns in order to follow.

What Does This Mean to Us?

Are we Church Members or disciples? What is the difference? Ideally, there is none. As a practical, prag­matic matter there is a difference. The 20/80 rule says 20% of the people in the church do 80% of the work and give 80% of the money. It might cause us to cry out, “Where are the 80?” (Instead of “Where are the nine?”) If the 80% can become active, serving disciples the church will experience a true revival.

The question in this series, then, is “Can the Sunday Morning Only Church Member become a true disciple? A second question is like the first: “If so, how?” The answer to this question is not found in cajolery but in deeper knowledge of and commitment to Jesus, our Master.

In this series, we hope to examine ourselves with respect to our commitment to Jesus. Do we qualify as disciples? We need to consider our priorities. Are we more committed to becoming like Jesus or to preserving the structures of the Church? Do we seek Him or do we seek doctrine about Him? Have we become like the Jews who dilligently searched the Scriptures (John 5:39), but did not come to the One of Whom the Scriptures testified?

But we need to do more than examine ourselves: we must give ourselves to greater levels of service and personal commitment to the person of Jesus.

We want him to be our mentor, teacher, guide and Master. We want to become his apprentices, protégés, pupils, followers and servants. He is willing to take us under his wing – if we are willing (cf. Matthew 23:37).

If we are unwilling, the alternative to discipleship is too frightful to contemplate. It will mean “your house is left to you desolate” (Matthew 23:38).


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– (3) The Call to Discipleship


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– (1) Who Is Your Mentor?

DISCIPLESHIP (1) – WHO IS YOUR MENTOR


In beginning a study of Christian discipleship, we appropriately begin with two questions. The first is about mentoring; the second (see next post) is about following. You simply cannot understand discipleship until you understand the relationship between a mentor and the one he has taken under his wing.

It is significant that the Biblical model for the development of Christian character is that of a mentor and mentoree (to coin a word). God did not just send prophets to preach to us about the ways of righteousness; he sent his “one and only Son” to show us the way. One of His favorite sayings was, “Come, follow me.”

“Book Learning” Is Not Enough

He did this because simply giving us a set of instructions about how to live is just not enough. We need more than that; we need an example of how to live.

All of us learn more by observation than we do by instruction. While instruction is important, and we cannot do without it, instruction alone will not give the results we need. A simple illustration will show that this is true, especially when performance is important.

batterCan you become a baseball player just by reading the rulebook? The immediate and obvious answer is, Of course not! How could you expect anyone to become a player just by reading the rules of the game?” Yet, one illustration of the nature of the restoration of New Testament Christianity is that should the game of baseball be lost to the knowledge of man, the game could be restored if someone found the rulebook and started laying out a field to play the game. In my youth I heard this and similar illustrations many times.

Now, it is true that we would be able to play something that looked a little like baseball if that were to happen, I think you would agree that it would be but a poor caricature of baseball as serious players at all levels play it today. Baseball requires much more than having a diamond with three bases in the right places with home plate and pitchers mound constructed according to the rules. It needs more than having an umpire who knows all the rules, the difference between “balls and strikes” and when a base runner is safe or out.

Baseball play demands players with certain skills. Players need to know how to throw and catch the ball from different positions and in different ways. Throwing from the outfield is different from throwing someone out from third base! Throwing to catch someone stealing second is different from throwing to complete a double play. Pitching is different from all of these – and a good pitcher has many different types of pitches in his repertoire. Hitting the ball and running the bases also require skills that are very different, as do stopping a hard ground-ball and running down a deep fly to center field.

But even skills alone are not enough. Good play also requires good strategy. A player may be able to throw well – but if he throws to the wrong base, his play is not up to the demands of the game! And, depending on the circumstances in the game, every base is the right base to receive a throw at some point. The player with the ball must be able to judge instantly when those times are.

How Do You Learn These Skills & Strategies?

A new player learns in three ways: observation, coaching and practice. Seeing skillful players play helps the youthful player see what can be done, as well as something about how to do it. But just watching others play will not make you a player. You must get into the game – at first with simple practice in throwing, catching and hitting the ball. In this practice, you will receive your first coaching. Watch a father teaching his son or daughter to play the game to see what I mean. In these early stages of learning to play baseball, the rules don’t mean much to us. That’s not to say the rules are unimportant; it’s just that learning baseball skills are more important at that stage.

Of course, to progress enough to actually get into a game and play, even at the “T-Ball” level, some rudimentary knowledge of the rules is necessary. Otherwise, you might hit the ball and run to third base! But that knowledge of the rules is picked up almost casually. I dare say there are many very competent players at the high school (maybe even the professional) level who have never read the baseball rulebook. They have a functional knowledge of the rules that they have acquired through observation and coaching.

What Does This Have To Do With Christian Discipleship?

This is an illustration of the fact that merely learning the details of the “Biblical Rules” for our Christian life is not enough. We may have externals down right – the organization of the church, the facts about how to worship, how to become a member of the team and the “do’s and don’ts” we should follow as members of the Lord’s team. But if we do not go beyond that to the reformation of heart that Jesus calls for, we will come short of what we are called to be.

In one of his dramatic dialogues with the Jews, Jesus told them that, though they searched the Scriptures, this was not enough without coming to him so that they could have life (John 5:39). They knew the book (though they distorted much of what it said); they did not have life because they did not have Jesus.

Jesus came to give us abundant life (John 10:10). The NIV translates this “that they may have life, and have it to the full.” The Message, a “free” paraphrase, has it, “I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of.” As we read the New Testament, we realize that the life Jesus came to bring is not just that we get to go to heaven someday. It is a new way of living in the here and now that prepares us for entry into the heavenly palaces.

Yet, many Christians live their entire lives without any intention of becoming what Jesus has called us to be. What is even more tragic is that the church is content to have it so – as long as people will attend worship, not become involved in some of the “grosser” forms of sin, and not be disruptive of the programs of the church. We have difficulty imagining life beyond gossip, envy, malice, lust, selfishness, resentment, and hurt feelings. True, none of these things are put away easily or quickly. We need to have patience with those who are still struggling with these in their lives. But we can all tell of church members in “good standing” who habitually practice all of these – and more – without any censure or correction. Is it any wonder then that the state of the church is as bleak as it is in so many places?

What happens is that when we look at the Bible merely as a rule book for what we are to do in worship, how we are to organize the church, how we can spend the congregation’s money, etc., etc., we neglect to have a relationship with Jesus as our mentor. It is when Jesus becomes our teacher and guide that we really begin to grow in His likeness – and we truly “get in the game” as players. As long as we just argue over the rule book, we are not developing as players.

We need to be able to observe people with good “skills for living” as God would have us live so we can lift our expectations for ourselves. We need coaches who will help us to learn the skills needed to live as a Christian should live. We need practice in developing and applying the skills and strategies required for living the Christian life successfully. We need to train ourselves to be godly (1 Timothy 4:7-8) and to train our senses as we exercise them to be able to discern good and evil (Hebrews 5:12-14).

Jesus himself is the “chief mentor” (cf. 1 Peter 5:4 where he is called the Chief Shepherd). We also can see the example of the early church as they followed Jesus. But we also need to be able to see living examples in the living church of how we also should live as Jesus’ disciples.

Without these and without a definite plan to follow in acquiring the skills and strategies we need, we will likely continue to live much as we have lived. We will still be in the world and very much of the world.

In Psalm 1:1-3, two sources of mentoring are contrasted. The first leads us in the advice of the wicked and the way of sinners to the seat of mockers. The other, through the law of the Lord leads us to the streams of living water that flow from the throne of God. The first of these is thrust at us constantly by the world around us; we find the second as we look to Jesus and to those who would help us to walk in his steps. We do not have to adopt the excesses of the “discipling movement” to accept our need for mentoring relationships, with emphasis on Jesus as the chief mentor.

Who is your mentor?


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– (2) What Is A Disciple?

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