2017-10-28 / Religion

The violence of discipleship

A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household. (Matthew 10:24-25 ESV)

Then departed Barnabas to Tarsus, for to seek Saul: And when he had found him, he brought him unto Antioch. And it came to pass, that a whole year they assembled themselves with the church, and taught much people. And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch. (Acts 11:25-16 KJV)

See it? “…the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.” The word “Christian” means “of Christ,” and it could be translated “little Christ.” In Antioch, where the word found its first use, it was a term of derision. Only as faith in Christ spread did the word “Christian” come to be a title of honor.

A Christian is a disciple of Jesus. A Christian is a follower of Jesus.

A Christian is not merely an information holder. A Christian is not merely someone who knows about God; a Christian lives in obedience to God.

In his excellent book, The Complete Book of Discipleship, Bill Hull identified five characteristics of rabbinical disciples in the time of Jesus’ earthly ministry. Hull said a disciple (1) decided to follow a teacher, (2) worked hard at memorizing their teacher’s words, (3) learned their teacher’s way of ministry, (4) imitated their teacher’s life and character, and (5) labored to raise up their own disciples to whom they could pass on their way of life, as learned from their teacher.

Hull said, “When [Jesus] called on [His disciples] to make disciples, He expected them to find others who would make the five commitments.

If Hull is right, and I believe he is, would you say the way you live a disciple matches what Hull says it should look? Do you really follow Jesus? Do you memorize His words? Do you mimic His life? Do you live Jesus’ way of ministry? Do you look to raise up other disciples?

Being a disciple of Jesus is hard, yet it’s also very good. The word “easy” rarely goes with the words “right” or “good.” Most things that are right or good are downright hard; difficult; strenuous, even.

Without a doubt, walking life out as a disciple of Jesus is hard, and maybe even violent, at least to our hearts.

Jesus says we are to deny ourselves and to take up our cross (ref. Luke 9:23). Denying one’s self alone sounds excruciatingly difficult. But, wait, there’s more; God calls us to take up our cross. And, yes, there’s even more…

Think about some of the words and images of discipleship used in Scripture:

• Pruning (John 15): that’s cutting!

• Refining (Zechariah 13:9): that’s smoldering hot!

• Sharpening (Proverbs 27:17): that’s a lot of friction!

• Running (Hebrews 13:1- 3): that’s endurance!

­• Discipline (1 Corinthians 9:27): that’s taking a beating!

• Sacrificial (Romans 12:1): all in!

There’s more, but you get the point. There’s nothing easy about being a disciple of Jesus! It’s violent and all-the-time-in-ourface and-space.

And, there’s more. In Romans 12:2, the Apostle Paul says we are to be “transformed.” That word means to be “changed into another form.” Can you imagine anything more invasive than discipleship?

But, that is what God is up to in the lives of the redeemed. Romans 8:28-29 tells us that God uses every situation and circumstance and tool in a believers life toward one awesome end, and that’s to shape up into the very image of His Son, Jesus. Everything does not always work out for good, but, for a disciple, God uses everything for the good of His purposes, His glory and to make us into what He has called us to be.

Embrace the reality. Following Jesus cannot be lip service alone. If our claims to be Christian are not matched with actual following of Jesus and working to raise up other disciples, we are counterfeit.

Follow Jesus. Embrace the difficulty. True, it’s not easy, but it is good.

TIM BOWES is executive director of My Life Matters. Questions and comments may be sent directly to Bowes at twbowes.lightsteps@gmail.com

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