Posts Tagged disciple

Christ’s Disciple

John 13: 34 – 35

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.

This is a familiar bit of scripture. It is called the new commandment, the one commandment, or the love commandment. It is another thing too. It is the entire discipleship class. Or let us say it is the answer to the final exam. If you love one another, if you demonstrate the Jesus kind of love for one another, then you have passed the discipleship class. 

Much is written about discipleship and many churches even offer discipleship classes. It seems to me that Jesus offered a discipleship class too; it was the observance of his life, of course, but he sums up the whole thing with one little sentence. It all boils down to love. I sure wish he had said the evidence of a true disciple is faithfulness, diligence or perseverance in the faith, but he didn’t. The only way anyone will identify me as a disciple of Christ is if they see the love of God issuing from me. The apostle Paul said that without love, anything else, everything else is meaningless (1 Corinthians 13: 1-3). He got it. He understood Jesus’ message.

Stating it a different way would simply be to say that Christianity is: “loving one another as Jesus loves us.” That’s it. You can take every book on theology ever written and boil it down to that one sentence. There is your entire thesis in one sentence. I wish it was as easy to live it as to say it. 

The Apostle John said it this way, “Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen” (1 John 4: 20 NIV). In other words, if I do not love my brother, then I am not a disciple of Christ. To be more accurate though, Jesus said that we must love one another as he loves us. That is to say, if I do not love others as Jesus loves us then I am no disciple of his; not a follower of the way (Jesus); not even really a Christian which means one who follows Christ.

What kind of love is this then? “We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” (1 John 3: 16).  It is a sacrificial love. It is others centered, putting the needs of others above my wishes. That is a tall bill to fill and I cannot do it in my own strength. In fact, it is in the surrender of my strength that I can do all things. But guess what, Jesus couldn’t do it in his own strength either. That is why he sweated blood in the Garden of Gethsemane. None of us can do what God has called us to do in our own strength that is why God empowered us through His abiding presence living inside of us. We must live through the presence of God in our hearts. Jesus allowed the father’s compassion to flow through him. We don’t have to be super heroes. We just have to allow our abiding in Christ and his dwelling in us to be expressed. We learn to let go of our desperate grasp and to let God flow out of our inner being. It is a hard thing to do when we are still wedded to our flesh but as we learn to live out of our spirits we will find it increasingly easy and joyful. When Jesus told us to live this way it was because he had a revelation from God that we could. His early disciples did and we can too. As we are transformed through the renewing of our minds we discover a radical trust of God inside of us and that trust empowers us to let go and live beyond the means of mortal man. We will soar on wings as eagles and nothing, by any means, shall be impossible to us. It is the power of love.

My Kingdom for a Leader

Proverb 13: 10, 13, 14, 18, 20                        NIV

Pride only breeds quarrels, but wisdom is found in those who take advice. He who scorns instruction will pay for it, but he who respects a command is rewarded. The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life, turning a man from the snares of death. He who ignores discipline comes to poverty and shame, but whoever heeds correction is honored. He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm.

I prayed many years for a mentor and when one appeared I learned a quick lesson. This learned and wise man suggested that I participate in a conference call which occurs weekly. Even as I clicked on reply to affirm my acceptance I realized something very important, I had already eliminated the option to say “No.” When you ask someone to mentor you or you ask God to provide you with a mentor, then “No” is no longer an option. This is called discipline and obedience and although they are very alien concepts in our modern culture, they are part of the bedrock of the Judeo-Christian ethic. We talk about discipleship a lot in Christian circles but one of the things it seems that we fail to realize, much less underscore, is that discipline is at the root of discipleship.

What do you think about when you hear the word discipline? Many of us think of punishment. I do not. I think of athletic prowess. Athletic competition taught me much about discipline, for which I am, to this day, grateful. When I hear the word discipline I think of the well-honed athletes that we admire. They have had to discipline and deny their flesh. They have had to discipline their minds, overcoming every negative thought, fear and impulse that would constrain them. And they have submitted themselves to coaches and trainers in order to become excellent in their chosen field. This, I believe, is an ideal model for discipleship.

No one attains any great level of success on their own. You may hear people claim that they are self-made but it is not true. When you pull back the veneer of their success you will find that they had mothers drive them to practices at ridiculous times in the morning, dads pitching the ball with them into the twilight hours and wives who have taken care of every detail of their lives so that they could focus on their one central goal. Neither do we become spiritual giants of our own merit. We must always lean on those who have gone before and we are just foolish if we try to learn it all on our own. Why spend 80 years of your life learning what the guy who went before you learned. First learn what he can teach you and then take that wisdom on to the next level. This is how it was meant to be. This text says that whoever walks with the wise will be wise. Why? It is because they share their wisdom with you so that you may avoid the potholes which cause misalignment and also because you get to stand on their shoulders. I remember when I was a small child and we went swimming, I would stand on my dad’s shoulders. All of a sudden the water wasn’t over my head. Instead I was well above it.

I can only think of two reasons why we do not subject ourselves to authority more readily, perhaps you can think of others. The first reason, I suspect, is just ego. We do not want to bow to anyone. That is pride and you know that nothing good comes out of pride. 

The second reason is fear. Anytime there is a spiritual problem if you look behind the curtain you will often find fear lurking. Fear comes from not having a full realization of the love of God. In here is weak self-esteem, anger issues and about everything else but including not being able to submit oneself to authority. It is hard enough to submit ourselves to our bosses and pastors who have legitimate positional authority over us. How much more difficult is it to willingly submit yourself to the authority of someone who does not exercise any substantive power over you. Fear makes you feel that you will be made small when you submit yourself to another but that is a lie. Willful submission to a mentor or intentional discipleship will make you stronger and wiser. Is there ever an occasion for a rebuke? Well sure. If your mentor loves you, they will correct you and correction is okay. It helps us to grow and to make right choices.

So this is my suggestion, if you are the locomotive of your train, find someone who can be a leader and an advisor for you. The people following you need for you to be a good disciple to someone else so that you can be a good leader to them. Leadership always begins with followship (if you will allow me to coin that word). If you have never allowed yourself to be led, mentored or discipled today is a great day for you. Do not delay. First ask God for a mentor. Second, recognize that one may appear quickly and humble yourself. Do not let the fear that they may take advantage of you or “Lord” it over you prevent you from receiving that person and their wisdom. Just keep your mouth shut and learn everything they know. If you outgrow their knowledge, God will assign you a new mentor. Just remember, if he has not yet assigned you a new leader then there is still something that He wants you to get from the one you have. The person that God wants you to shadow may be in your life right now and in fact, probably is. They won’t be perfect so stop looking for the perfect but they have something you need.

Lastly, if you perceive yourself as the leader of your group I suggest this little exercise. Stop leading for a moment. Turn around and see who is behind you. Who is following you? If your following is not what you want it to be or expect it to be, then run quickly to find your mentor. Submit yourself to their direction. Never let yourself be a leader without a leader. Make sure that as you lead others there is someone leading you. Foremost that is Christ but God has also provided people to disciple and mentor us. If you do not have someone filling that role in your life, pray to the Father for your leader and make it your determined goal to receive that person. 

Wisdom, honor and success accompany discipline.