Thursday, June 11, 2009

What it takes to be a Disciple.

In Luke 14:26-27, Jesus, who taught of love for one another, said this;
"Anyone who comes to me must hate his father and mother. He must hate his wife and children. He must hate his brothers and sisters. And he must hate even his own life. Unless he does, he can't be my disciple. Anyone who doesn't carry his cross and follow me can't be my disciple."
Sandra brought this verse up recently. She asked how it can be reconciled with the command to love. Are we being sent into two different directions by Christ? Is this a message for all who hope to be saved? What's going on here? To find an answer, first we should try to figure out what it means to be a disciple of Jesus.

As far as I can tell, being a disciple means to be in the type of relationship with Jesus where he is the master, and we are his apprentices, learning the skills of his own trade, and preparing to follow in his footsteps. That was the role of the twelve named disciples in Jesus' day, and of all 72 disciples that he sent out to preach the gospel in pairs (Luke 10:1-9). That can be the role of any of us, so long as we are up to the challenge.

Immediately following the "hate" passage of Luke 14:26-27, Jesus explains the level of commitment that it takes to be his disciple. He removes all of the sugar coating, perhaps because many people in the crowd that was following him around fancied themselves to be his disciples, simply because they were there. Jesus was a very perceptive son of God. He wanted them to make no mistake about what it took to be his disciple. There was and still is no such thing as a half-hearted commitment. Luke 14:28-35

"Suppose someone wants to build a tower. Won't he sit down first and figure out how much it will cost? Then he will see whether he has enough money to finish it.

Suppose he starts building and is not able to finish. Then everyone who sees what he has done will laugh at him. They will say, 'This fellow started to build. But he wasn't able to finish.'

"Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. And suppose he has 10,000 men, while the other has 20,000 coming against him. Won't he first sit down and think about whether he can win?

"And suppose he decides he can't win. Then he will send some men to ask how peace can be made. He will do this while the other king is still far away.

"In the same way, you must give up everything you have. If you don't, you can't be my disciple...

"Those who have ears should listen."

I have felt for a long time that Jesus knew, before he was crucified, exactly what would happen in the future, in his name, through the church. He saw with great clarity into his future. However, he went to the cross anyway because he was commanded to, and because he saw what is still ahead of us, the great Feast of the Kingdom of God.

There are plenty of halfhearted Christians out there, and there have been plenty throughout history. They believe there is no distinction between any John-Doe born-again Believer and the Apostle Paul, in the eyes of the Lord (because God doesn't show favoritism). However, what is missed by that simplified perception of grace is the principal that you get out of anything just as much as you are willing to put into it. Their religion is a spice that is added to their lives, not a whole new life.

What separates disciples (spiritual adults) from the millions of believers (spiritual babes) is a sense of determination and commitment to the ultimate goal of seeing this Kingdom become manifest in the earth, obeying and serving God for that purpose. Those that don't actively live with this priority may survive the refiners fire with their souls in tact, but they will certainly not have any heavenly rewards. In the process of making Christianity more palatable for the masses, the evangelical version of Christianity dismisses the fact that we are not our own but were bought with a price, and that we have each been given work to do, as servants of Christ...neglecting that work means forfeiting our heavenly treasure (1 Cor 3:10-15)

Jesus drew a line in the sand with his words in Luke 14. On the left were those who enjoyed their lives on this earth yet also enjoyed the teachings of Jesus. Those who followed him on foot only a few dozen miles away from their own village, before they turned back around and went home. These sort of people are like a field of wheat waiting to be harvested, or sheep in need of a shepherd.

On his right side were actual disciples. They were completely dedicated to Jesus. They gave up their lives, their jobs, their families to wander around from town to town with him. They chose homelessness so that they could hang on to every word Jesus said about his Father's Kingdom, they were taught by him to preach about it too, to perform miracles as he did. Theirs was a higher calling; to assist him in his purpose, and find their own new purpose through him. These are the laborers Jesus meant when he said, "The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few". And these are the people that Jesus referred to when he said, "Much will be required of those that are given much".

The disciples of Jesus come to see the world from his point of view as they grow in the spirit. The vision of God's fair and wonderful kingdom grows stronger in their minds as they meditate on it, and the inferiority of this current system becomes more and more obvious, until it becomes almost intolerable.

Many, many people are so charmed and/or tangled in this world system that they simply cannot imagine anything else. They are content in their stations in life, not looking to rock the boat, just trying to take care of their own needs and their families. They will actively resist radical change to the status quo while they are in this state. These people are the wives, husbands, children, parents, aunts, and uncles of the disciples of Christ. What Christ has given to us is a gospel of a completely different world order. There is always a choice given to the called when they try to respond to God, and only disciples would choose God over family, and they would do it without much of a second thought, because disciples are given eyes to see the ugliness of this current world system compared to the glory of the coming Kingdom of God. They recognize it's poisonous nature. They know that unless God is obeyed by those he calls, the world will continue down it's path to destruction.

Christ clearly said over and over again that we must leave everything to follow him. He also said that through him was life, and that he had the ability to cause springs of living water to flow through us. Therefore we must offer up what limited life we have without him (when we are called), in order to claim the eternal life that comes from him. In Christ we are no longer living for ourselves, or our families, but for Christ. Once we have access to the eternal life he gives us, we can return to our families and share it with them by our demonstration of Christ's love.

Whatever "hate" disciples have for their families is not lasting, but is an emotional part of the first step into new life. Our responsibility is to be true to our spiritual father first and foremost. Everything else will follow suit as long as we are faithful with that responsibility.

I believe that Jesus was very uncomfortable in the world, he constantly went to the mountains, or other secluded spots by himself to "get away from it all" and pray. He had a discontentment in his spirit that was given to him by God. He also wasn't very nice to his own mother and brothers when they came to visit him on one occassion, choosing to continue addressing the crowd, rather than step aside quietly for a little family time. He said, "Those that do the will of my Father are my mother and brothers" (Mark 3:31-35). Jesus seemed to be interested in destroying the family ties we have in our minds, and in our lives; in order that we might love all equally. Ironically, he seemed determined to take the Focus OFF of the Family, saying instead that family ties are more lasting on a spiritual level. Some famlies are spiritual, and do serve and follow Christ before the potential disciple is called. These families offer encouragement, support, and the example that we need to see how real this faith is.

The real issue is whether we will be willing to give up everything we have in this world for the sake of responding to God's invitation. The test before us is to keep God as God of our lives, and not as a separate, distant ruler figure (that might be ignored). Nothing and no one should ever come between us and God.

Luke 14: 16-24

"A certain man was preparing a big dinner. He invited many guests. Then the day of the dinner arrived. He sent his servant to those who had been invited. The servant told them, 'Come. Everything is ready now.'

"But they all had the same idea. They began to make excuses. The first one said, 'I have just bought a field. I have to go and see it. Please excuse me.'

"Another said, 'I have just bought five pairs of oxen. I'm on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.'

"Still another said, 'I just got married, so I can't come.'

"The servant came back and reported this to his master.

"Then the owner of the house became angry. He ordered his servant, 'Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the town. Bring in those who are poor. Also bring those who can't walk, the blind and the disabled.'

" 'Sir,' the servant said, 'what you ordered has been done. But there is still room.'

"Then the master told his servant, 'Go out to the roads. Go out to the country lanes. Make the people come in. I want my house to be full. I tell you, not one of those men who were invited will get a taste of my dinner.' "

Tuesday, June 2, 2009


For your pleasure and/or preference, here are three versions of The Third Commandment, which is the topic of my discussion:

King James Version
Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.

New International Version
You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.

New Living Translation
Do not misuse the name of the Lord your God. The Lord will not let you go unpunished if you misuse his name.

Often when we think of using the Lord's name in vain we first think of swearing his name 'Jesus Christ' while angered or upset usually for added emphasis. This is bad enough. But I believe there is no depth to evil, how low it can really go, and killing in His name is misusing His name in an extremely detrimental and dangerous way, and as He tells us, it WILL NOT go unpunished. Killing in His name is dishonoring the Lord and using His name in vain for any reason and cannot be justified in any way. To do so would be to say the Lord contradicts Himself and that is an utter impossibility for He is perfect in every way.

People that try and say that the Lord used to sanctify killing of His peoples' enemies is true enough but not anymore. Many battles were waged to protect His people once upon a time. That was also the Old Testament times...before the sacrifice of our Savior. His death changed everything and there is no righteous killing being ordained. Vengence is His and His alone and we were supposed to learn to love our neighbors as ourselves. Many still fail at this plain and simple directive from Jesus and His teaching.

Abortion activists are hailing the shooter/killer of the late-term abortion doctor as a hero and (falsely) believing that it glorifies God. I believe nothing could be further from the truth. They are misguided and wandering after the beast and the beast's system and the do not have a clue because they do not know God. They are blinded by their hatred and hatred is never, never of God.

In wars enemies are created as well. Soldiers justify their perceived righteous killing(s) because of vengence in honor to their country. This does not glorify the Lord in any way whatsoever either no matter what anyone may say. There are no holy nations, not one.

We are never to repay evil with evil. We are to love our enemies and be kind to them for He tells us this is like heaping coals upon their heads. He is the righteous judge, not us or any nation. War is of the antichrist system as any killing is and shedding blood in the name of the Lord will bring His vengence upon those who do it.

Our Lord the Almighty Jesus Christ, is patient and longsuffering. Through Him we will endure and my prayers are for all to lift His holy name in love and praise which truly glorifies the Lord which can never be done by the shedding of blood since He shed His blood for us.