WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE A TRUE DISCIPLE OF JESUS CHRIST- Part 2

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(Continuation from the previous blog)- So far we have seen that true disciples of Jesus are learners, they are submissive to Christ (and to authorities), and are bearing fruit. Being a disciple of Jesus also means:

  1. Loving God and his people

By sending the disciples out to preach, Jesus was giving them opportunity to share God’s love to people. The calling the disciples received was also a calling to herald the love of God. When Jesus saw the crowd he had compassion over them, they were like sheep without a shepherd. And he told His disciples that the harvest is plentiful but the workers are few and that the disciples should ask the Lord of the harvest to sent out workers into his harvest field. He then sends them out to preach the gospel.

Jesus had taught them what love is. A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another– Jn13:34-35.

Jesus taught his disciples what love is. The service of a disciple of Jesus was to be characterized by love. It is because of love and compassion that he told them to go and heal people of their sicknesses, casting out demons, raising the death, and cleansing the lepers. When a disciple leads he does not lord over others but serves like a servant. He serves by leading and leads by serving.

Small actions of love make a great difference.

  1. It means imitating Christ- the Master

Disciples are known for the imitation of their teachers. The call of every disciple of Jesus is also a call to follow after the Master- Jesus Christ. The calling of disciples by Jesus as recorded in Mark was twofold, he appointed the twelve that they  might be with him and that he might send them out to preach and to have authority to drive out demons-Mk 3:14-12. The time they spent with Jesus was a life-changing moment. It is in this close relationship that he revealed to them the secret things of God. Jesus modeled that disciples are servants.

The goal of being a disciple is to become like the teacher. A student is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher- Lk 6:40. John writes in his epistle, whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did- 1 Jn 2:6. To know the Father is to walk as Jesus did. Paul urged believers in Ephesus to imitate Christ, Eph 5:1. Paul said of himself: I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me– Gal 2:20.

The disciples were first called Christians in Antioch, outside Jerusalem. People saw Christ in them- Acts 11:26. As we behold on Christ, the author and perfector of our faith, we become transformed inward out and become like Him. In the words of John the Baptist, He must become greater, I must become less-Jn 3:30

  1. Counting the cost- Many people want to be associated with Christianity but are not ready to consider the cost. Following Christ comes with a cost. It means following one master and forsaking other masters. It means living in oppposition to world values. It involves carrying your own cross. This is not easy. One has to be ready to surrender all and laying down all at the feet of Jesus. The disciples of Jesus who were later referred to as apostles suffered persecution rejection, and suffering in obedience to the will of their Master. One must be ready to suffer, Mat 10:34-37; Lk 14:25-27. It is a life of denial.
  2. It means proclaiming the imminence of the kingdom of God-

The disciples of Jesus were told to go out and proclaim that the kingdom of God is near. It is not like the kingdom of this world. This kingdom was inaugurated during the incarnation of Jesus and at the Pentecost when the church was founded. The church is not the kingdom but a witness to the kingdom. The casting of demons, healing ministry of Jesus revealed that the kingdom of God has come. This kingdom has come in part and awaits final revelation during parousia (second coming of Jesus). It is a kingdom of righteousness, peace, and joy. It is a kingdom of power and glory. The disciples of Jesus proclaim the coming and the nearness of this kingdom. The church serves a central role. The ‘delay’ of the full manifestation of this kingdom means an opportunity for sinners to repent.

True disciples of Christ will seek first the kingdom of God and its righteousness. They make disciples of all nations.

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WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE A TRUE DISCIPLE OF JESUS CHRIST- Part 1

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It is important for us today to recapture what it means to be a disciple of Jesus because we live in a world where many people identify themselves as Christians yet they live a different life. The central question is who exactly is a disciple of Jesus? What does the Bible teach about becoming/being a disciple of Christ? What does it mean to follow Jesus?

For your knowledge, the Bible uses the word “disciple” 282 times, “believers” 26 times and “Christians” only 3 times. The number the word “disciple” is repeated shows us that there is more to learn on what it means to be a disciple. In the Great commission, Matt 28:19-20, Jesus commissions his followers to go into all the world and make disciples.

The passages (Matt 10:1-7; Lk 10:1-12) we have read details the call to be disciples of Jesus. We become disciples of Jesus by responding positively to his call. Jesus called his disciples and gave them authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness. He then sent them out into the world as apostles, (the purpose of their preparation) to preach.

It was a common phenomenon in the 1st century for a spiritual leader to have disciples. John the Baptist also had disciples. Matt 9:14. Pharisees had their own disciples, Matt 22:16. Jesus had many disciples other than the twelve disciples, Matt 10:1; Lk 22:11. Many of his followers were Jews, Jn 6:66; Lk 6:17. Some of Jesus’ disciples followed him secretly, Jn 19:38. Some were true and some were false dsiciples.

What Does it mean to become a disciple of Jesus?

  1. It means being a learner– The word “disciple” is from the Greek word “mathetes” meaning a “learner” or “student”. It is one who follows another person’s teaching.

Jesus’ disciples were called to a new and different life. In fact the life principles they were taught were upside down and a paradox of what they knew. The way up is down (humility); the first shall be last; to be filled we must empty ourselves; to live we must first die; to find we must first lose; and we gain not by adding more but by letting go. This needed learning.

The disciples of Jesus were fishermen, but they were called to be fishers of men. That also needed learning. No wonder they are sent for an internship in the Luke’s passage.

Therefore a true disciple of Jesus needs to embrace learning as a lifelong activity. Disciples of Jesus never arrive; instead they are in constant process of learning and becoming.

Disciples of Jesus learn to love unconditionally, they learn to forgive without taking inventory, they learn to discern the will of God; they are students of the word of God. They learn how to live the newfound life in Christ. They learn how they can please their Master.

Disciples also learn from valley of life and mountaintop experiences of life. They learn from successes and failures; from young and old. They will say, ”When I went through that circumstance…. God taught me this and that…”

Learners have a teachable Spirit, they have inquisitive minds and learners have a receptive heart for God’s word. It is because of learning attitude that the disciples implored on their Master, “Lord, teach us to pray” Lk 11:1. Learners are always growing and transforming.

The good news for disciples is that we have an invitation from Jesus to learn from him; Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light, Matt 11:28-30.

The problem with the know-it-all believers is that they are not teachable. Such people do not listen, even when warned of an impending danger. They can’t be corrected. The book of proverbs calls them fools. You warn them of a ditch ahead of them they will downplay it as a small pothole!

Therefore disciples of Jesus are learners all the time. If you are not growing then you have expired and if you are expired then you are not of use to the kingdom of God. If you have stopped learning you have stopped marveling at the greatness of God.

  1. It means being submissive to Christ (and to authorities)-

The disciples of Jesus found a new Master when they responded to his call. The Roman Empire had many lords and Caesar was one. Submission to Christ means following him no matter what. It means subjecting our will to his will. It means realigning our plans/mission to God’s plans.

Submission means obedience; and obedience to the words of Christ. Jesus instructed, “if you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free” Jn 8:31-32; The man who says “I know him” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But if anyone obeys his word, God’s love is truly made complete in him– 1 Jn 2:4-5. Christ wants the life of his disciples to be totally submitted to him in obedience to his word.

When a Christian says “I am born again and Christ is my Lord” he actually says two things. He is saved (in reference to the past activity of justification) and secondly, Christ is Lord (in the sense that he presently rules over my life). The point I want to make is that many Christians were saved but presently they do not have Christ as Lord over their lives. The lordship of Christ is something we choose every other moment; we choose to submit to Him or to follow our own will. Disciples of Christ live a life of submission to Christ. T

Submission also involves submission to the authorities instituted by the Lord-either at home, workplace, government, or in the church. Peter, a disciple of Jesus, later exhorted the church to be submissive: Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right-1 Pet 13-14.

In submission to the will of the Father, the disciples obeyed the Great Commission and preached the gospel from Jerusalem, to all Judea, all Samaria and to the ends of the earth.

  1. It means bearing fruit

After teaching them and showing them miraculous signs, Jesus sends out the disciples to share the gospel and heal people. Fruit here may represent new converts, or even fruit of the Holy Spirit. Whichever way you take, the point is clear, true disciples of Jesus bear fruit. They are like the tree planted by the river which yield its fruit in and out of season.

Jesus taught that: This is to my Father’s glory that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples Jn 15:8. What do you call people who claim to be Christians yet they are unproductive? I don’t know, what I know is that they are not disciples.

Beware of unfruitful Christian life. Unfruitful believers are like a clouds without rains, a well without water…a tree without fruit. We live in a world that we are very cautious about judging others; but the truth is that you will know the disciples by their fruit. Fruitfulness is a sign of true disciples.

9 Excuses of the lepers

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The story of the ten lepers in Lk 17:11-19, who were healed of leprosy by Jesus, is a story that has profound teaching on thanksgiving. Ten were miraculously healed but only one (not two… not three…) returned to say thanks. One can easy criticize the behavior of the nine without looking at how sometimes we react in a similar way! Yes, in a similar manner.  You see, each of the nine must have had a plausible excuse of its own kind or an explanation for not going back to give thanks.

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Here are nine possible excuses that they might have given:

  1. It is Jesus’ business to heal so why bother myself thanking him– ‘In fact he delayed, he should even have come earlier!’, they must have said. The garden of ingratitude is watered by pride. Underneath this excuse lies pride. A heart full of pride cannot bow down in humble appreciation  to a shown favor/grace, for a proud heart says ‘I deserve it all”. No wonder the one who went back to express his thankful heart s was a foreigner, a Samaritan; the Jews felt they deserved it.
  2. I will go later and convey my thanksPerhaps one of the healed lepers thought of giving thanks but later. One might have thought of first updating his friends, family, and acquaintances about the healing and later on give thanks. Procrastination in expressing gratitude shows that our priorities are attached on other (wrong) things.
  3. One of us has already gone to say thanks and he represents our views anywayOne of the healed lepers might have used the one thankful leper as a scapegoat. The truth is: no one can clearly express your thankful heart other than yourself. The lepers had a lot in common in their day-day struggles but each healing was a unique story.
  4. God already knows that my heart is grateful The fact is: unexpressed gratitude is ingratitude.
  5. What matters is that we are healed. –This attitude attaches no value or priority to the act of thanksgiving. It only makes one minimize the work of God and the former situation in which we were in. The healing was important but thanksgiving is also the main thing.
  6. Mine was only a disease, unlike the blind and lame– Some of the healed lepers might have been tempted to compare their miracle with “others” who were worse than “us”. Comparison will only lead us to complaining and not to giving thanks.
  7. Is it really true that we are healed? Let’s give it time– At the heart of this excuse lies unbelief; doubting the work of God. A doubting heart does not give glory to God but ascribes the work of God to prevailing circumstances. Doubters will always doubt irrespective of available facts and evidence.
  8. Ooh I forgot it!– One or some of the healed lepers might have simply forgot to go back to Jesus and express thanks. It sounds a serious joke to be said of someone who had just been healed of a deadly disease. But the truth is that there are some people who simply do not have the word “thanks” in their vocabulary. Waiting for that word to come out of their mouths is like waiting for the sun to rise from west.
  1. What difference will it make?- Thanks is something we give not take. The word is precisely “thanks-giving”. A heart that is full of ingratitude is a heart that is always at the receiving end. But a grateful heart is always at the giving end. Why is it that few people (perhaps a tenth) have a thankful spirit? It is because many people are only comfortable receiving than giving.

Cultivate a thankful heart, a heart that gives glory to God for what He does.

give thanks to the Lord