Showing posts with the label Discipleship

Disciples and Tribulation

The New Testament exhorts followers of Jesus to expect tribulation because of their faith. While it may not be an everyday experience in the life of the church, neither is tribulation for the kingdom unexpected. And the chief cause of tribulation and persecution in the life of the disciple is his or her faithful witness of the life and teachings of Christ.

The Neronian Dilemma

The Bible claims that God gives political power to whomever He pleases, “ even to the basest of men .” He “removes kings and installs kings,” including rulers of whom we may disapprove. Disciples of Jesus who assume certain politicians should hold power presume on God’s patience and prerogative, and this is especially problematic in democratic societies.

Jesus versus Caesar

In his letter to the Philippians, Paul points to the obedience of Jesus as the model for proper conduct by his disciples. His willing submission to death on the Roman cross sets the pattern for his followers. And his subsequent elevation to reign over all things is the result of that “ obedience to death ,” for exaltation did not precede death, but followed it.

The Choice

In Revelation , every man and woman is either “ tabernacling in heaven ” or included among the “ inhabitants of the earth .” These descriptions are NOT geographical or spatial. Instead, they reflect the allegiance of either group. A man or woman either belongs to “ heaven ” or to the “ earth .” Those who “ tabernacle in heaven ” elect to “ follow the Lamb wherever he goes ” no matter the cost.

Discipleship and Suffering

For disciples, retaliation and violence are NOT appropriate reactions when persecution does occur. Rather than respond in kind, they must meet threats with humility, mercy, and love. This is what it means to “ deny yourself ” and “ take up his cross .” And while praying for one’s “enemies” is contrary to the “ wisdom of this age ,” it epitomizes the paradigm of Christ crucified.

Blessed are the Merciful

The reality of persecution raises important questions. How should disciples react to hostility and opposition, especially when they are persecuted by the government? Should they resort to indignation, civil disobedience, and public protests, or ought disciples of Jesus emulate his example?

His Kingdom

When Jesus of Nazareth first appeared in Galilee, he proclaimed the “ Kingdom of God ” – “ Repent, for the kingdom is at hand .” In his ministry, God’s reign began to invade the earth. But his realm was and is of an entirely different nature than the political systems of the present age. And on more than one occasion, Jesus refused  THAT  kind of political power, especially when it was offered by Satan  in the wilderness  who offered him “ all the kingdoms of the world .”

Servant of the Kingdom

After predicting his death, two of Christ’s disciples began jockeying for positions of high status in his coming kingdom. Thinking according to the ways of this world and its concepts of political power, they did not yet comprehend what kind of Messiah Jesus was, and therefore, what it meant to be his disciple. But he would soon demonstrate graphically just how anyone achieves “greatness” in the kingdom of God.

Having the Mind of Christ

In his letter to the Philippians, Paul points to the obedience of Jesus as the model for proper conduct by his disciples. His willing submission to death on the Roman cross sets the pattern for his followers. And his subsequent elevation to reign over all things is the result of that “ obedience to death ,” for exaltation did not precede death, but followed it.

Love your Enemy!

Mercy and love are the defining characteristics of the disciple and reflect the true nature of his Father  – Matthew 5:43-48.  In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus exhorts his disciples to become “ perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect .” But how can anyone hope to achieve the perfect righteousness of God? His answer is clear - by performing acts of mercy for your enemy.

Spiritual Warfare

Disciples wage spiritual warfare through right conduct, acts of love, and proclaiming the gospel . “Spiritual warfare” is a common topic in popular preaching, an idea derived from Paul’s words to the church in Ephesus - “ Our wrestling is not against flesh and blood but against the principalities and powers… against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places .”

Meaning of Discipleship

To be his disciple means a life of self-sacrificial service to others, especially to the weak and insignificant .  On the way to Jerusalem, Jesus explains what it means to be the Messiah, and not for the first time. In the city of David, he will face his final confrontation with the Temple authorities and death at the hands of the Romans. Was not that city the appointed place where the prophets are killed, and where the Messiah himself must suffer rejection and death?

Following Jesus

Jesus admonished his disciples that if anyone wished to come after him, “ let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me .” This was more than metaphorical or hyperbolic language. It was said at the very time he was on his final journey to Jerusalem where he would demonstrate to the world just what it meant to “ deny oneself and take up the cross .”

Let Him Slay Me

“Though He slays me yet will I trust in him, and I will maintain my ways before him”  –  Job 13:15 .  Each of us has asked the question, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” Why, despite their faithfulness and supplications, do many Christians become ill and die from horrible diseases? Why do so many not experience the emotionally satisfying presence of God, see visions, or have angelic visitations?

Destiny and Purpose

Our “destiny” is to take up the Cross of Christ, deny ourselves, and follow HIM wherever he goes.  As a young man, I found life disturbing. Having developed an early interest in history, the more I read, the more inexplicable reality became. Human society, past and present, was characterized by inequality, injustice, corruption, and warfare. If existence meant a life of struggle followed by death, what was the point of it all?

True Power and Wisdom

Jesus performed miracles, exorcised demons, and taught with great authority. For a time, he attracted great crowds. Nevertheless, his contemporaries failed to recognize who he was despite his miracles and preaching. In the end, only the Roman centurion at Golgotha recognized him as the “ son of God ” when he breathed his last.

Afflicted Disciples

The godly disciple who faithfully bears witness to the gospel of Jesus will endure “tribulation” and persecution for his sake .  Our human tendency is to avoid trouble and conflict. Understandably, we prefer our daily lives to be characterized by peace, acceptance, and prosperity, a life devoid of difficulty, affliction, and certainly persecution. And the New Testament does promise believers peace now and everlasting life later. Yet it also exhorts us to expect and prepare for afflictions in this life.

Paradigm of Calvary

Christ crucified is the pattern disciple of Jesus are summoned to emulate, and the test of genuine faith in him .  The death of Jesus is the paradigm for discipleship, the benchmark against which Christian conduct is measured, and the criterion for discerning true followers of him from false ones. Whether examining spirituality, wisdom, or the miraculous, Golgotha is the red line that divides the true from the counterfeit, and God cannot be known apart from His crucified Messiah.

Sanctified Wholly

Considering the future arrival of Jesus, Paul summons the church to become sanctified completely by that day – 1 Thessalonians 5:23.  Paul concludes his first letter to the Thessalonians with a series of exhortations calling on disciples of Jesus to pursue righteous living in the interim between their conversion and his “ arrival ” from heaven, and he ends by summoning them to complete sanctification, an exhortation with verbal links to the preceding sections of the letter.

Suffering Servant

Jesus of Nazareth fulfilled the role of the Suffering Servant of  Isaiah . But unlike Adam, the “ Servant of Yahweh ” did not attempt to grasp the “ likeness of God .” Instead,  he humbled himself  and submitted to a shameful death on the cross. For this reason, God highly exalted him and made him “ Lord ” over all things. Exaltation did not precede his death - it followed it.