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Discipleship

Discipleship

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Published by Ben
A rough draft of a sermon I gave on July 26/27, 2008.
A rough draft of a sermon I gave on July 26/27, 2008.

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Published by: Ben on Jul 27, 2008
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06/14/2009

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Discipleship
God has been teaching me a lot recently. First off, let me give you a picture of myspiritual life so far. So often in my Christian walk, I've prayed that God would make me a better follower, make me grow closer to Him, and make me a more mature Christian. AndI would wonder why I seemed to stay in the same place spiritually most of the time. Ididn't experience growth. I would go to church camp, or some other great worship timeand experience that spiritual high, but then go right back into living life as usual.Continuing to screw up, continuing to fall short, continuing in this seemingly never ending cycle of ups and downs. Yeah, God was always there to forgive me when I messedup, but I couldn't help but wonder, "where's the growth?"So recently I've been realizing that the Christian life isn't lived on the high mountaintopexperiences with the valleys in between, just waiting for the next mountain. The Christianlife isn't about not trying to become better because God's grace is always there for uswhen we screw up. This is what Dietrich Bonhoeffer called "cheap grace." This is theidea where grace fixes everything, so nothing needs to change on our part. We cancontinue to live our lives the way we want to, because grace has taken the consequenceupon itself for us. Sounds like a pretty good deal, right? We get to live life how it'scomfortable to us, and we get a free ticket to heaven. This is cheap grace.One of the most profound things that I've learned recently is that grace is proactive, not just reactive. It's not merely there as our safety net to catch us when we mess up and putus back on our feet. Grace is not merely to erase our record of sin. It does this, but I reallydon't think that's the main purpose of it. It is proactive. It seeks us out and seeks tochange us. Jesus did not die on the cross purely to cancel our debt of sin. He did it tochange us, to allow us to become something other than what we've known before. Hisgrace is proactive. His grace is about transforming us to be like Himself. Jesus has calledus to be more than forgiven people. He has called us to be a transformed people. He hascalled us to be his disciples.We throw around that term, "disciple," a lot, don't we? It's even a part of the missionstatement of this church--to attract, build, and utilize disciples. I like that. But it wasn'tuntil recently that I think I really understood fully what a disciple is.Back in biblical times, there were these highly respected teachers called rabbis. Thesewere men who knew the Scriptures backwards and forwards, who specialized ininterpreting the Word of God to teach His people how they should live. These rabbiswould go around and try to spread their teaching to the people of Israel. They wouldgather up bands of followers who wanted to learn from the rabbi and be just like him.These followers were the rabbi's disciples. A disciple was one who desired to learn fromthe rabbi and become just like him, in every way. I'd like to use this biblical cultureexample and look at the disciples of Jesus to inform us of how we need to live asdisciples.First off, a disciple was a follower of the rabbi. Someone who goes with the Teacher wherever he goes. Usually, back in the day, the student would pick the rabbi they wanted
 
to follow, and after close examination, the rabbi would either accept the disciple or not.The weird thing about Jesus is, he
 picks
his disciples. In the gospels we see a few storiesillustrating this. One of my favorites is in Mark, chapter one starting at verse 16: "AsJesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting anet into the lake, for they were fishermen. 'Come, follow me,' Jesus said, 'and I will makeyou fishers of men.' At once they left their nets and followed him." There are severalevents like this that occur in the gospels that show Jesus handpicking his disciples. Isn'tthat cool to think that--if you are here right now, in church, listening to this--God hashandpicked you? He has extended that invitation to you--"Come, follow me." I think it'salso interesting to note how Mark words the new disciples' reactions: "At once they lefttheir nets and followed him." Simon and Andrew were fishermen. They lived off their  business of catching fish. But at the call of this new rabbi they left their nets, their  business, their old lives "at once." To leave all else behind in order to become a discipleof this Rabbi--that's a crazy thought. And scary. It wouldn't have been the same if Simonand Andrew had taken their nets along with them, dragging them behind them as theyfollowed Jesus. They left everything behind. Now, to us--have we given up all of our oldlives to follow Jesus, or have we chosen to merely integrate Jesus into our old lives? Now, I don't think this is a call for everyone to leave their jobs and their families behindto follow Jesus now, but it is a call for us to give up our way of living to follow Jesus'way of living. Jesus said in Luke 9:23, "If anyone would come after me, he must denyhimself and take up his cross daily and follow me." To deny ourselves, lay down our nets,only to pick up a cross. That's a heck of a call. But if we remember that we arehandpicked by this rabbi, we know that he believes in us that we can do this. Next, a disciple is a student. The word "disciple" literally means "learner" or "student." Adisciple is one that wants to learn everything that the rabbi knows. A disciple carefullystudies the rabbi's teaching and applies what he learns to how he lives. As disciples of Jesus, we are full time students. And as students, we have to place ourselves in a positionto be taught. Let me explain this: As a college student, I'm pretty familiar with what beinga student and a learner entails. In order to learn, I have to take several steps: I have toregister for classes, pay tuition, buy my books, go to class, pay attention to the lecture, dothe reading and homework assignments, study for the tests, etc. All of these things I do to put myself in a position to learn. The main point is that I can't learn just by doing nothing.That's what I didn't get for so long. As Christians, we have to do the work necessary to place ourselves in the position for Jesus to teach us and transform us. That's wheregrowth happens. How do we do this? How do we put ourselves in this position? This is part of what I'm still learning, but a large part of it is in spiritual disciplines such as prayer, study, fasting, service, etc. There's a great book I just finished reading on thiscalled "Celebration of Discipline" by Richard Foster. He goes through many spiritualdisciplines and explains how they are merely the things that place us before God so hecan transform us. But all of this is unique to every person. We need to find out what besthelps to put us in a position before God to be transformed.Another aspect to being a learner is to study the Rabbi. To study what Jesus taught. Iwould encourage all of us to really study the gospels and the words of Jesus. Don't justassume you know. Because let me tell you, the "American" Jesus who hates gays, wears

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