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Archive for November, 2013

Being a disciple

Discipleship is the term used to describe becoming a follower, or a disciple of Jesus. We tend to think disciples in terms of the twelve, but actually the term is used of any follower of Jesus. In Matthew 28 Jesus says to the initial eleven (Judas had by this stage betrayed Jesus and committed suicide) “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations”. It might come as a surprise, but Jesus does not call anyone to become a Christian. I don’t think that He is particularly interested if we want to get involved in church, regard ourselves as ‘Christian’ or want to be good people. What he is actually offering is the chance to be one of His disciples here and now in our generation. To see this in action, see Luke chapter nine (verses 23-24 ESV) where He says: “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it”. The reason for this statement is that being a disciple isn’t the same as being a fan. The offer isn’t to respect, admire or even follow some of His advice; it is to be a disciple. That requires complete dedication, as with the initial twelve. Just to be sure, Jesus makes that statement to us about taking up our cross. It is not referring to having hardships in our lives. It is not related to whether we are enjoying life with things generally going well, or whether we are having a really hard time with things going wrong. The cross was a method of execution, of death. Jesus is saying that to be His disciple means we give up our own will. It is dying to self, to selfishness and taking up self-less living instead. I’ll explain this in more detail with an example from my own life.

A few weeks ago I heard a few thoughts on the radio that really challenged me. God asked me if I had really given control of my entire life to Him. As I thought it through over the coming days I could only conclude that I had. There was nothing I could specifically think of, no area in which I was holding anything back. As far as I was aware my life was His to do as He wished with. So I asked Him what it was I was holding back. Years before I had read a book on discipleship and the implications of giving control over every aspect of life to God. I was pretty sure that I had been doing that. The thing is that often with God, we are following Him, but only to the best of our ability. As we grow, we go back to an old lesson to learn it again, but this time to a much deeper level.

After a couple of weeks I was reading in Romans and this familiar verse stood out to me (Chapter 12): “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect”. Obeying God is more than just avoiding sin. It is actively wanting what He wants. If we love God, we will obey Him. The reason for that is that we actually want what others want when we love them, even if it’s not exactly what we would want! We see that in our human relationships also. God showed me that in actual fact I had been holding back on many areas of life. It wasn’t even necessarily that I was doing something that He didn’t want, rather it was a wrong attitude. Instead of regarding, for example, my time as His, I was thinking ‘what will I do with my weekend’. It is not mine when I become a disciple. Nether is my choice of work location, house, friends, use of money or what I listen to on the radio.

Now I realise many will object to this. God doesn’t care what shirt we wear today I hear you say! Yes, that is correct. There are so many decisions for which God gives us free will. In fact many would argue that God isn’t even bothered over the big decisions, such as choice of house or partner. I can’t give you an answer to that because I don’t know, you may well be right. But I heard something very wise from a pastor I enjoy: “God gives us freewill, but a wise disciple hands it back”. Yes, I do believe that I can do anything I like with this evening. But the thing is that I love God enough that I’d rather do what He wants. It’s all about love. If you have ever really loved another person, you’ll know your greatest satisfaction is seeing them happy. I think that is how I’d like to end this, by saying that doing what God wants brings so much contentment and satisfaction! The more I hand over the less worry I have and the more I enjoy each day. The worry thing is understandable. If God is running my life completely I know He has everything under control. And the aspect of joy is down to love, the more we love God the greater the joy we find in following Him. So today, I set you a challenge, take some area of your life that you have ‘settled’ or decided upon, hand it over to God and see what direction He takes you in!

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