Tag Archives: discipleship
Friends: I consider it a great privilege to work on my blog every day. And for the next few posts I’ll be examining one of my favorite passages, Matthew 11:28-30. This is a text worthy of memorization (which I’m very bad at). I want to slowly go through these verses with you and see as much as we can, with the Holy Spirit’s help. Let’s look at that famous text once again:
We’ve seen the context of this incredible invitation, noticing some of the Koiné Greek and its implications. We began to outline the passage, observing that Jesus’ invitation is a qualified one, inviting not all, but all who are weary and burdened.
I. The Great Invitation (v. 28): “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened . . .”
We then saw the second major truth in this text: Jesus’ promise!
II. The Great Promise (v. 28): “and I will give you rest.”
Christ’s great command is here in verse 29.
III. The Great Command (v. 29): “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me.”
A. We are to WORK!
B. We are to LEARN!
We are to study as believers — and our curriculum is CHRIST! He is gentle and humble. And such study produces a much sought-after result —
IV. A Second Great Promise — of Soul-Rest (v. 29)
Jesus promises to those who work with Him and learn from Him a commodity most pursued by human beings — soul-rest! What is meant by “soul-rest”? It is certainly deeper than mere physical rest. This is a spiritual benefit of being right with God — and being active in working and learning. We are not inanimate objects who simply allow God’s truths to passively wash over us. We pursue. We study. And we will be rewarded.
Today’s Challenge: What does someone who has Christ’s soul-rest look like? I’d very much like your reflection on this question! Please feel free to describe yourself or someone else you believe has (even momentary) soul-rest!
Of the many, many blessings in my life is my friend Frank. We’ve been friends for decades and even though he lives in the pagan land of New Jersey, he seeks to be a shining light in a dark place. [I live in the pagan land of South Carolina, but at least we talk slower, say nice things to strangers, and drink sweet tea]. Frank and I have been doing a kind of online Bible study with each other — and we’ve recently been going through the incredible letter to the Colossians.
There are a number of prominent themes in this four-chapter epistle. The next theme we want to notice is Paul’s commitment to spiritual maturation. We read in Chapter one:
28 He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ. 29 To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me. (Ch. 1)
Notice Paul’s goal in life: to present everyone fully mature in Christ! Please notice the key to spiritual maturation: the Person of the Lord Jesus! “He is the one we proclaim.” Notice Paul’s commitment to encouraging spiritual maturation in everyone: “To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me.” We are not to sit idly by and watch each other stagnate in spiritual infancy!
What efforts, my friend, are you taking to admonish and teach others to grow in God’s grace? Are you striving to present everyone over whom you have some influence fully mature in Christ? Do you see such a mission as a battle — a strenuous contention to allow Christ’s power to work through you?
A challenge: what younger believer comes to your mind who could greatly benefit from a kind of informal mentoring relationship with you?
“Yes, we can book you in to see the dentist in six months,” said the young lady on the phone. Dr. Molar was the most popular dentist in town. People purposely got cavities just to go see him. “Six months?!”, I said. “I only have six months. That’s too late!” “Michele” promised to call me if someone cancelled their appointment, but, she said, “That would be very unusual. We’ve never had anyone cancel an appointment with the Doc!”
We’re suggesting that there are several holy habits which ought to mark each of us if we are followers of Jesus. We must spend time in His Word; we must take prayer much more seriously than we do; and we must follow Jesus’ example and be a friend of sinners!
What else? I grew up as a young believer thinking that my most important duty as a believer was to make more . . . believers! To share the gospel with others so they would make a “decision” to trust Christ.
Don’t get me wrong! I’m firmly convinced that I should be looking for opportunities to share the gospel with others. But the Great Commission is the following: 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Mt. 28). Disciple-making (not merely creating converts) is the emphasis here.
But before one can become a disciple, one must be converted! Liberal churches miss this clear biblical point, teaching that we are all children of God and must learn to live as children of God.
What am I doing in the disciple-making business? I want to be open to mentoring, discipling, several young men before my six months are up! How about you? Are you open to meeting on a regular basis with a younger believer to encourage him or her in their Christian lives?
Here’s the script:
“To be nobody but yourself
In a world which is doing its best to make you everybody else
Means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight and never stop
Does this sound dismal?
It’s the most wonderful life on earth.”
Then the screen reads: FOLLOW NO ONE!
But Jesus said, “Follow me!”
The Lord Jesus was a man of prayer. The Son of God, the Second Member of the Trinity, needed to pray! He became fully human and humans need to pray! Some of His prayers were for the benefit of others. Just before He raised His friend Lazarus from the dead, we read, 41 “So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.” (Jn. 11). Allowing others to eavesdrop on His pray was important to the Lord Jesus — it was so “they may believe that you sent me.”
Here in John 17, Jesus is alone with His Father. And His prayer is rich and personal. But His requests are for His disciples. Let’s notice this section one more time —
6 “I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word. 7 Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you. 8 For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them. They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me. 9 I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours. 10 All I have is yours, and all you have is mine. And glory has come to me through them. 11 I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one. 12 While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me. None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled.
What does He pray for concerning His disciples? First of all, He gives thanks that His followers have obeyed God’s Word and have accepted the words Jesus gave them (vv. 6-7). Second, they believed that the Father sent the Son (v. 8). Third, Jesus states that “glory has come to me through them” (v. 10). Wow. Embarrassment, certainly. But glory? Fourth, He prays for His disciples who will remain in the world and continue His work (v. 11). We will look a bit at the believer in the world in our next post. Today? Bring glory to the Lord Jesus! (to be continued)
Can we talk? We who want to follow Jesus have our successes and our failures. We’re focusing in this series of posts on the fact that many Jesus-followers don’t imitate the Lord in His connection with sinners. Matthew 11 is clear that He was “a friend of sinners.” Can the same be said of us? Of me? Of you?
He spent time with the least, the lost, and the last. We suggested in our previous post that many of us need a refresher course on basic friendship. If one were to study every social occasion in which Jesus spent time with sinners, one would learn that —
1. He listened to them (Zacchaeus in Luke 19).
2. He ate and drank with them (the feeding of the 4000 and of the 5000 in Mark 8).
3. He was not afraid to meet with them publicly (the story of the man born blind in John 9).
Perhaps that third aspect of Jesus’ friendship with sinners merits some discussion. Are we Jesus-followers afraid of being a friend of sinners because we fear criticism — from the family of God?!
Jesus told the three stories of lostness (the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the prodigal son) in Luke 15 because of the criticism from the religious leaders. The text reads, “Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. 2 But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, ‘This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.’” Notice that there was something attractive in Jesus that drew the tax collectors and sinners to Him. And His response was to “welcome” them. And to eat with them!
But He also ate with the religious leaders! In Luke 7 Jesus was invited to have dinner with one of the Pharisees. A sinful woman in that town came into that Pharisee’s home and anointed His feet with perfume, wetting His feet with her tears (presumably, of repentance). The Pharisee who had invited Jesus said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner.” But the truth was He was already with a sinner — the Pharisee! And was eating with him!
Jesus was an equal-opportunity friend. He could dine with the religious and defend the repentant sinner. Criticism did not curtail His mission or harden His heart.
The movie director Mel Brooks was once asked by an interviewer what he thought of critics. He said, “Well, when you’re camping in the woods, they can be very noisy at night and will keep you from sleeping.” “No,” said the interview, “not crickets, CRITICS!” “Oh,” said Brooks. “They are even worse. They can’t even rub their back legs together to make music!” Don’t let the religious critics keep you from being more like your Lord! (to be continued)
We are investigating how we who profess to follow Jesus — often don’t. We don’t follow Him in being “a friend of sinners.” And, it must be said, we’re often rather poor at being a friend of fellow-saints! “I don’t have the time!” “Maybe later we’ll get together.” “Let’s do lunch sometime.” — are excuses we give for not pursuing deep, personal relationships with other members of the family of God.
I must admit: As an introvert, I’m perfectly okay with shallow connections, brief conversations, non-risky discussions. I like being alone. IF I can have my books, my dog, and occasional visits from my wife. We all — introverts and extroverts — come into this world broken — and we each have to lean against whatever brokenness keeps us from being a friend of sinners. And of each other.
I think we Jesus-followers need a primer on FRIENDSHIP! What’s involved in being a good friend? The philosopher Plutarch said, “I don’t need a friend who changes when I change and who nods when I nod; my shadow does that much better.” “One loyal friend is worth ten thousand relatives,” said Euripides.
How necessary are true friends? Orson Welles was pretty negative when he wrote, “We’re born alone, we live alone, we die alone. Only through our love and friendship can we create the illusion for the moment that we’re not alone.” My patron saint, C.S. Lewis, bluntly said, “Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art… It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things that give value to survival.”
The Bible has much to say about friendship. For example, the Apostle Paul often uses the expression “my dear friends” as he writes his epistles (see Rom. 16:8-9). He refers to Luke as “our dear friend” (Col. 4:14). The Lord Jesus frequently used the word “friends” when He addressed His followers and said, “I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you” (Jn. 15:15). “You are my friends,” Jesus said, “if you do what I command” (Jn. 15:14). Jesus declared, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (Jn. 15:13). After His resurrection, Jesus appears to His disciples (who had gone back to work) and He calls out, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?” (By the way, the question is asked in such a way in Greek as to imply a “no” answer. Jesus knew they hadn’t caught any fish! Jn. 21:5).
We read in James 2:23, “And the scripture was fulfilled that says, ‘Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,’ and he was called God’s friend.” Oscar Wilder once quipped, “True friends stab you in the front.” He really wasn’t all that wrong, for Proverbs 27:6 says, “Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.” There is a lot of wisdom in Octavia Butler’s statement that “Sometimes being a friend means mastering the art of timing. There is a time for silence. A time to let go and allow people to hurl themselves into their own destiny. And a time to prepare to pick up the pieces when it’s all over.” (to be continued)
We are talking about how we Jesus-followers have a great deal to learn — and to practice — about being a friend of sinners like Jesus was. Matthew 11 is clear that Jesus was such a friend. He was charged with three offenses by His contemporary culture: being a drunkard, being a glutton, and being a friend of sinners.
Because drunkenness and gluttony are sins, Jesus obviously did not drink or eat to excess. But being a friend of sinners was not a sin. Oh, sure in the minds of His critics hobnobbing with whores and hanging out with Herod’s tax agents was abominable. But Jesus defends His association with the sick and the lost, especially as He tells the story of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15 (a story told specifically because, as we read in the first two verses, “Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. 2 But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”)
But, wait a minute! Isn’t hanging out with “sinners” THE sin in many Christian circles? One study shows that a new convert will lose (= is expected to lose) all his non-Christian friends within the first year of his new life in Jesus. I wonder how such a thing happens?
The assumption is that a new believer will spend all of his social time with the family of God. He or she might be “discipled” in basic Bible study and prayer, but who helps that new convert learn to maintain his or her relationships with those not yet in God’s family? Who teaches that believer how to pray for their lost friends, to really listen hard to their problems, to be ready to share (even a little bit) of their “testimony”? If not proclaimed out loud, it seems to be a subtle expectation that those unsaved friends will be replaced by new relationships. (to be continued)