Tag Archives: discipleship

Defective Discipleship

Jesus was about to cross over to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. But two men delayed his departure. Each one came and offered to follow Jesus (See Matthew 8:18-22.).

The first man was a scribe, a group usually hostile to Jesus. He referred to Jesus as “Teacher,” and promised to follow him anywhere. Impressive! Surely Jesus will encourage a man who is taking such a big step of faith, right?

Surprisingly, Jesus questions this man’s devotion. He warns the scribe to count the cost. As a preacher on the move, Jesus has no place to lay his head. Is this man really willing to make the necessary sacrifices in order to be Jesus’ disciple?

This scribe is a teacher of the law, a religious leader, a man invested in the established way of thinking about God. But Jesus challenges many of the ideas of the religious leaders. He knows that this scribe’s religion is actually a barrier to discipleship.

Do we have established ideas about religion and discipleship that are out of step with Jesus?

Next, a man addresses Jesus as “Lord” and asks if he can go and bury his father before following Jesus. Now this man seems to have a better understanding of Jesus’ real identity, calling him “Lord” instead of “Teacher.” And he seems to be taking the commitment seriously, recognizing that discipleship may mean separation from his family, at least for a time.

Sounds as if the second man is making a perfectly reasonable offer. Surely Jesus will encourage him!

Jesus tells this man to come and follow now and let the dead bury their own dead. Wow! Isn’t that harsh? Does Jesus not care about the man’s family? It’s not that Jesus lacks compassion for the man’s family. But nothing is more important than God’s call.

The second man is using his family obligation as an excuse to delay following Jesus. By using his family as an excuse not to follow Jesus now, the man is making his family an idol.

Do we use good things in our lives, like family, as excuses to avoid following Jesus passionately?

So Jesus sees something lacking in both of these men. The scribe is a religious man but ironically his religion may be keeping him from understanding that Jesus deserves complete devotion. The second man loves his family, but he is trying to use something good (family) to avoid doing what is best (discipleship).

Jesus finally gets into the boat and crosses the Sea of Galilee (Matthew 8:23-34). His disciples follow. Little do they know what awaits them! On the water they witness Jesus rebuking a terrifying storm and bringing a great calm. As a result, they ask themselves what sort of man this is, that even the winds and the sea obey him.

Once on the eastern shore, they encounter a couple of frightening demon-possessed men, so dangerous that nobody risked passing by that way. Jesus, however, boldly commands the demons to leave. They do, in a rather dramatic fashion that strikes fear in the hearts of the local folks, prompting them to beg Jesus to leave their region.

And Jesus moves on. But those two men who stay behind miss the greatest opportunity of their lives. They remain on the shore where it is ‘safe.’ The ones who are willing to follow Jesus out onto the waters have some unsettling moments. But they also see the power of God firsthand.

May the Lord give us hearts that will follow Jesus without hesitation,

Brother Richard

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Tell Your Story!

You have story to tell! As a follower of the Lord Jesus, you have become a permanent part of Jesus’ story. And Jesus’ story will always be a vital part of your life story.

Your story includes the great change that Jesus has made in your life when you were saved. More than that, your story includes the changes that God’s Spirit is making in your life now as he grows you toward spiritual maturity.

In a sense, your story and mine each begins when Jesus willingly gave his life as a sacrifice so that we can be forgiven. Jesus’ sacrifice almost 2,000 years ago opened a door to God’s blessing that we walked through when we confessed Christ as Lord.

Jesus’ story did not end with his death. God raised him up from the grave, alive again and alive forever. More than that, Jesus ascended to heaven and poured out his Spirit on his followers, on us.

God’s Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Christ, dwells in the hearts of all believers, empowering us to worship and serve the Maker of heaven and earth. God’s Spirit is changing us from glory to glory into the image of Christ.

So, Jesus died for your sin, rose up to be your Savior and Lord, and he is working in your life now to do wonderful things that will continue into eternity.

All believers have much in common. We have the same Savior and we were all saved by our faith in the risen Lord Jesus Christ. But we are still unique.

The circumstances of each person’s salvation experience vary and so each of us has a unique experience. In addition, the details of what God is doing on a daily basis in each believer’s life are unique.

So your story affirms the great truths of Christianity, truth about Jesus Christ and his work of salvation. But your story also reveals a very personal account of how Christ’s salvation is unfolding in history.

Somebody needs to hear your story. They need to hear the ancient and unchanging truth about Jesus and his offer of salvation. They also need to see and hear a living example of how Jesus saves now.

When we open our spiritual eyes, we begin to see the opportunities that God places in our path to testify about his goodness. Someone nearby is reaching a point in life where he is ready to listen.

We need to be ready to speak, to testify about Jesus and his work in our lives. Sharing Christ with others is a sign that God’s Spirit is active in our lives. It is one way that we grow stronger in our faith.

Telling others about Jesus is an important part of discipleship. Remember, discipleship is not merely learning God’s word. True discipleship is doing what God’s word says.

Jesus said, “You will be my witnesses” (Acts 1:8). We bear witness to the world of what the Lord has done and is doing in our lives. As we do this, others are saved. What a great honor!

May the Spirit of God inspire us to proclaim his goodness among the nations,

Brother Richard Foster

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Our First Freedom

We exist on a very tiny island in the vast ocean of history. Surrounding us are hundreds of millions of people who face persecution for their personal religious convictions. Stretching back for millennia are the stories of untold billions of souls who lived in fear and persecution, denied the right of religious freedom.

For most of human history in most every culture or society, religious beliefs have been imposed by coercive measures. Those who dared to dissent endangered themselves and their families. Religious freedom was not even a consideration. Conformity was demanded. Any deviation from the accepted religious belief and practice was seen as a threat to order, a threat to society.

Then Jesus uttered revolutionary words, insisting that people should give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s. He surprised the powers of this world when he announced that his Kingdom is not from this world. Clearly he was introducing an innovative idea: the notion that two distinct kingdoms exist in the world, the church and the state.

Jesus also stunned his followers by defining his disciples not by nationality, or ethnicity, or ability, or geography, or politics, or wealth, or any other human status, but simply as those who are willing to accept the demands of discipleship. He invited social outcasts to be his followers and he allowed powerful and privileged people to reject his invitation and simply walk away.

So our Lord introduced two ground-breaking truths. First, church and state have distinct missions in this age. Second, people should be free to accept God’s truth without coercion and to reject God’s truth without persecution. Upon these two fundamental realities a new vision for religion in this age rests: individual God-given freedom of religion.

After centuries of political and religious oppression, the founding fathers of our country forged a new nation that incorporated and applied Jesus’ revolutionary ideas. In keeping with his revelation about two kingdoms, they adopted a Bill of Rights that prohibits government from establishing religion or from prohibiting the free exercise of religion.

America has experienced a season of religious freedom that is stunning in its contrast to the rest of world history. What people in Europe bled and died for, we have come to take for granted. And now our complacence seems to be resulting in a steady erosion of this precious first freedom, our freedom of religion.

Jesus warned his followers that they would be hated in the world on account of their loyalty to him. John’s Apocalypse foresees a time when God’s people will be universally ostracized and persecuted. These things must happen before the Lord comes and establishes his kingdom, a kingdom no longer divided into civil and religious realms.

When our Lord chooses to turn the page of history and remove the invisible hand of protection that keeps us from suffering the mistreatment of government, so be it. But until then, let us not give up our precious, hard-won first freedom simply because so many people are uninformed, uninvolved, and uninspired.

May the Lord of our salvation continue to bless us with freedom and with the wisdom to use it for his glory,

Brother Richard

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