DISCIPLES AND DISCIPLESHIP

Yesterday I bought a book in the BARGAIN BOOKS section at our local Christian bookstore; and having read the introduction and first chapter last night I’m pretty sure it was a good buy. (Mere Discipleship by Alister McGrath, Baker Books, 2018)

Usually when we use or hear the word disciple we think of those who are followers of Jesus. While the term most often does refer to a follower of Jesus, disciple is not limited to such usage. One definition of disciple is “a follower or student of a teacher, leader, or philosopher.”

Surprising to me, the word disciple is found in the New Testament only in the Gospels and the book of Acts. And it is the usage of the word in the Gospels that gives us the basic definition of a disciple as a follower. In the Gospels Jesus’ first disciples literally followed him.

Today a Christian is a disciple of Jesus, but obviously is not someone who physically follows him as his first disciples did. Nevertheless, even though we as Christians do not and cannot literally follow him, we are still his followers. To be a disciple of Jesus today means to follow him in ways that go beyond walking with and behind him.

Our following Jesus today as his disciples is where the word discipleship comes in. And I learned last night that the word discipleship is not used in the Bible. However, the way we use the word discipleship today is clearly a biblical concept.

My own definition of discipleship is that it is the process of becoming more and more the person Jesus has called us to be as his followers. It’s about growing as a Christian and it is a process that is never complete in this life. The teachings of Jesus in the Gospels, and the teachings in the letters in the New Testament, are about walking on the path of discipleship as a follower of Jesus.

I find that to be both challenging and exciting. And if you are like me, sometimes it’s three steps forward and two steps back – but the result is that we are making progress. Discipleship is about learning from the Bible how we are to live and putting what we learn into practice.

I conclude with a quote from McGrath’s opening paragraph about discipleship, “It is about a conscious and committed decision to be followers of Jesus Christ in every way possible, including the way we think, love, and act. It is about growing in our faith, as we quest for wisdom rather than the mere accumulation of information about Christianity” (p. iv).

It’s a journey worth taking.

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photo credit: Evan Courtney The Journey via photopin (license)

ME, SURRENDER?

During these weeks leading up to Easter the senior pastor of our church is preaching a message series about surrender. For many of us our first thought when we hear the word is that it is not an attractive idea. We think of surrender as something negative in which we lose or have to give up. For the most part we don’t want or like to surrender.

Since I have the opportunity to continue the series the next two weeks I’ve been thinking a lot about surrender.

To surrender is not always something bad; it is not always about losing or being defeated. Sometimes to surrender is a good thing. And while we may associate surrendering with weakness and losing, that is not always the case. There are times when to surrender calls for great strength; and in those times of surrender we don’t lose – we win.

If you’ve read this far I’m sure you know in this series we are talking about surrendering to the Lord. As I listened to the preaching a couple of weeks ago it occurred to me that while God wants us to surrender to  him, he does not want to beat us or defeat us; he wants what is best for us.

For example, God wants us to acknowledge him and worship him. God doesn’t need our worship – he is not insecure. But he does want us to worship him; and he wants us to worship him because he knows that when we worship him it does us good.

Perhaps the clearest teaching from Jesus about this matter is in Luke 9:23 and 24 where he says, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever want to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it.” Although I don’t completely understand it, to me that sounds like a pretty clear call to surrender.

To stimulate my thinking about surrender I looked up some definitions of the word. The first and primary definition was “to yield to power, control, or possession of another upon compulsion or demand.” When it comes to surrendering to the Lord that definition is only party correct. It is about yielding one’s life to him, but it is not upon compulsion. We may wish he would force us, but he doesn’t. He lets us decide whether or not we will surrender and how much we will surrender.

In my experience, when it comes to surrendering to God, it is not just a one-time thing. We surrender to him at the beginning of our Christian life, but living the Christian life is usually a series of surrenders. After over 55 years I am still making progress.

This weekend I’m preaching about “Some Roadblocks to Surrender.” I think the biggest one, and probably the most common one, is pride or ego. Sometimes we think we know more than we do. Sometimes we are prideful and our ego gets in the way of yielding. Sometimes our ego makes us just too stubborn to surrender.

Whether you agree or not with what I’ve suggested in this post, I do hope I have given you something to think about. Feel free to leave a comment below and/or share this article on Facebook or other social media.