Month: January 2018

One – Understanding Discipleship – pg. 30

January 31

RYR

We draw two very important truths from the account of the rich young ruler:

One) For any of us to be truly fulfilled we must be disciples of Jesus. He alone is God’s provision for true happiness in life. When Jesus declared that He is “the way, the truth and the life” (John 14:6) He means that He is the only way, the only Source of absolute truth, and the only hope for living life to its fullest. The magnificence of this truth must sink deeply into our hearts and become the one great answer to our life’s concerns, passions, and pursuits.

Those who are truly intent on finding the fullness of life must yield their hearts and minds to the One True Master – and must pledge to walk, surrendered to Him, the rest of their days on this earth.

Two) In order to be a true disciple of Jesus, we must empty ourselves of every nuance of a self-sufficient mindset. Jesus taught us that the Kingdom of God is the possession of those who are “poor in spirit.” (Matthew 5:3) The primary emphasis of this thought is the notion that only those who have emptied themselves of all “riches” (i.e. whatever is trusted as a means of self-support and self-sufficiency) are able to receive the Kingdom of God.

This means that the God of all truth and glory only places the infinite riches of His Kingdom into empty hands. Our first act of loyalty to our new Master is an act of complete and utter surrender – a willing and single-minded devotion. Whatever might exist as an obstacle to keep us from living in the perpetual Presence of the Master must be laid aside. Jesus must become the sole Source of all that we need in life, and when He does, our lives take on an amazing fullness that cannot be known in any other way.

surrendered

One – Understanding Discipleship – pg. 29

January 30

Lessons from a Rich Ruler

Christ_and_the_Rich Ruler

A striking illustration of the truth of the value of commitment is found in the account of the “rich young ruler” (Matthew 19:16-23; Mark 10:17-23; Luke 18:18-25). Taking a composite of all these accounts we see that a young man of high position and enormous wealth, is deeply troubled by a sense of deep lack in his life.

We observe that this young man appears to have everything that most people would consider to be essential to happiness and fulfillment. He has wealth, status, an important job, and an impeccable moral character – and all this as a young man! Most of us would be surprised to discover that he would have any sense of lack in his life. Yet he is acutely aware of his own situation and is face to face with the glaring issue of a gnawing need within him. Something is sorely missing… and he is intelligent enough to know that the Great Teacher just may have the answer he seeks.

In his conversation with Jesus, all starts well as the rich young man is affirmed in his practice of living according to the Ten Commandments. But then comes the confrontation of the real issue that prevents him from finding the fulfillment that his heart desires. Jesus, in great love and admiration for this man (see Mark 10:21), drops “the bombshell:” “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow Me.” Simple. Lose everything that you are… to gain all that you truly need!

The Scriptures record the young man’s reaction in vivid detail: “At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.” (Mark 10:22) This was certainly not what the young man was expecting. He was seeking some small detail to add to his existing life – something minor that he might have missed, or ignorantly neglected along the way. But Jesus’ words were like a dagger to his heart. The young man went away with exceeding grief and sorrow (the literal meaning of the Greek word used).

hard-decision-richyoungruler

It is interesting that Scripture records no sharp argument or pithy debate on the matter. The young man was simply overwhelmed by the words of Jesus… and just walked away. It was as if he inwardly knew the stark reality of the truth with which he had just been confronted – and the truth was more than he could bear. His life was formed on the foundation of his wealth, and his resulting status in society. Though, inwardly, he knew they were not enough to satisfy his inner longing, he could not bear to imagine his life without them. For this reason, he rejected the counsel of The Christ and walked away from the One True Hope Who could supply him with true eternal wealth beyond his comprehension.

This brings us to the real issue at hand for each of us. The issue for the rich young man was not really his great wealth, but the self-sufficiency his wealth provided. The real barrier to becoming a disciple of Jesus for any of us is the all-too-human, stubborn independence of wanting to do for our selves. The stark truth is that whenever we rely upon anything or anyone other than The Christ to be our Source of supply, then we are establishing our own self-sufficient ways of doing things. Jesus cannot be our sole Source (our Vine) if we are counting on any other sources to meet our needs – especially our selves.

In the case of the rich young man, his great wealth was the source he relied upon to meet his needs and to bring fulfillment to his life. To his way of reasoning, life without his wealth was a life inconceivable.

What are WE trusting in?

timothy-keller-RYR

One – Understanding Discipleship – pg. 28

January 29

A Radical Commitment

Some might object that such an “in-depth commitment” to Jesus just seems to be too radical of an interpretation of the true Christian life. “All this talk of being a disciple of Jesus is fine, but let’s not take things to extremes. After all, it should be enough for people to simply believe in Jesus, and attempt to live the best life they possibly can. That’s all God really wants from us, right?”

Simply stated, No.

The Bible tells us that what God offers us in the true Christian life is a treasure.

The apostle tells us, “we have this treasure in jars of clay…” (2 Corinthians 4:7) and our Lord Himself tells us, treasure in a field“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.” (Matthew 13:44-46)

Treasure is cherished, coveted, acquired at great personal expense, and merits the greatest concern and commitment of our lives.

Any attempt to diminish the call of commitment to Jesus lessens the value of the “treasure.” Or to put it another way: when we begin to truly recognize the incomprehensible value of the Almighty God, and what He offers to us through The Christ, it is then that we begin to understand that there is no cost too great to obtain what God is offering.

We can so easily look at the call to discipleship from the perspective of what we have to give up or what we might lose in the process. We tend to view discipleship as loss, not gain. We can fail to realize that the call to discipleship is not a call to devastating loss, but a call to immeasurable gain. Every argument we contrive against the depth, breadth, and height of commitment required from us leads us back to the unmistakable fact that we have not yet discovered the immense value of God and His Kingdom. We have not yet detected the “treasure in the field,” or discovered the “pearl of great price.”

pearl of great price

We see no sense in selling everything we have to obtain a treasureless field or a less than impressive pearl. God’s amazing truth is that the Kingdom of God is a priceless treasure and an invaluable pearl to those who can recognize its immense and incomparable value.

Those who perceive the “treasure” also see the inescapable truth of the fact that everything must be sacrificed to gain what is now uncovered. In truth, some things are worth any sacrifice so that we might gain that which we have sought to find our entire lives. There is no cost too great for the infinite and priceless value of truly knowing God and personally experiencing the full measure of the power and glory of His Kingdom.

True disciples have discovered this immense treasure and have willingly surrendered all that they are… to possess it.

One – Understanding Discipleship – pg. 27

January 28

how-to-glorify-god

What did Jesus mean when He speaks of “fruit” being to “My Father’s glory?” Or, more simply, what did Jesus mean when He spoke of glorifying God? The simplest answer is found in the fact that God is “glorified” when He is seen for Who He really is. When God does something that only He can do, the result is that those who witness His actions catch a glimpse of His goodness and His character in all their magnificence.

This is why only God’s actions can accomplish this purpose. Human effort, no matter how well intended, can only magnify (or glorify) humanity. Our “good” works, through human will and effort, can only achieve the recognition of human “goodness.” Jesus’ stance on our human efforts at doing good works is very clear: they are not “to My Father’s glory.” What does glorify the Father is when human beings become grafted into the One True Vine and God produces an abundance of fruit through these branches? This is at the very heart of the Great Gardener’s purpose. Human beings connected to God, through the Eternal Son, and becoming fruit-bearing dynamos – allowing God to be clearly seen as magnificent and glorious through each of them.

True Christianity is never about simply believing in Jesus. It is about abiding in Jesus, dwelling and remaining in Jesus, and constantly drawing our very life from His eternal Source of supply. True disciples are like branches that draw their life from The Vine. This Vine lives to supply everything that the branches will ever need so that every connected branch might bear an abundance of God-glorifying fruit.

grape vine 2

Clearly, the commitment to abide, dwell, and remain in Jesus is the choice at the forefront of every person who would seek to experience the fullness of God’s glorious salvation. Jesus places this responsibility at the center of every human heart… “If a man remains in Me and I in him, he will bear much fruit…” Remaining in Jesus, naturally allows for fruit to be produced. Removed from Jesus, there is no possible way for true fruit to be produced – and, as John 15: 2 and 6 remind us, the lack of fruit production carries some ominous consequences for the barren branch!

This is why it is so essential that we understand what it is to become, and be, true disciples of Jesus. According to Jesus, only true disciples are able to produce “fruit that glorifies the Father” and this fruit is the third aspect of the proof that they are truly His disciples.

glorify

One – Understanding Discipleship – pg. 26

January 27

The Proofs of Discipleship

3) Bearing fruit. “This is to My Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be My disciples.” (John 15:8) According to Jesus, the objective of being His disciple is to “bear fruit.” Jesus speaks of bearing “much fruit to My Father’s glory.” So what does Jesus mean when He speaks of “bearing fruit” and glorifying the Father?

To answer this question we begin by looking more closely at John’s account of Jesus’ words in chapter 15: 

John 15

In simplest terms, “fruit” in the Scriptures is God’s activity, or work, producing the result that He desires. Fruit is produced when God does what only God can do. Fruit is literally God at work producing things of His Own quality and nature. By design, fruit is merely the essence of God’s goodness for all to “taste and see that the Lord is good.” (Psalm 34:8)

It is essential that we realize that, by God’s design, “fruit” must come through the branches. The branches are the human vessels through which God does what He desires to do. Scripturally speaking, fruit is never the result of human will, intention or effort. Fruit is not the “good” that human beings might seek to do. Fruit is only the good that God does. Fruit is produced when God wills and works through human workers who are in connection and relationship with Him. God’s fruit is borne through those who abide in Him. This is exactly what the apostle Paul was inspired to tell us in his letter to the Philippians: “Continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose.” (Phil. 2:12b-13)

A wonderful principle emerges: God does His work in us so that He can do His work through us! His work of salvation is to prepare the vessel (or in this case, the branch) for the work that He desires to do. The real purpose of salvation is one of preparation so that human beings can be useful in the plans and purposes of Almighty God! When God works through human beings, to do what only He can do, fruit is the result. This is why Jesus is so adamant about the importance of bearing fruit. Without fruit (which is the real purpose of a plant in the first place) there is no real, observable evidence of the Presence or the working of God. The real proof that God has done His work in us is the fact that God is doing His work through us!

God works thru O C

One – Understanding Discipleship – pg. 25

January 26

After Jesus had, so vividly, demonstrated this principle (of love in serving others, by washing the disciples’ feet) He explained His purpose to His disciples: “Do you understand what I have done for you?” He asked them. “You call Me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.”” (John 13:12-17)

Footwashing

Jesus’ example, and explanation, strike at the heart of the matter. Jesus’ demonstration of love, in the task of washing feet, is a living picture of how God’s love really is. God’s love is intent on actively serving and meeting the needs of those who are the objects of His love. It is unconcerned with societal status or social mores. Its only concern is meeting the needs of, or doing something extraordinary for, those who are the objects of love’s attention. It requires that the greater become the lesser so that the one served is the recipient of something of superlative spiritual, physical, or emotional value.

This is the type of love that taps into the very Heart of God and captures the very essence of His Own nature and character. It becomes the very manifestation of God’s Own Heart, demonstrated for the active benefit of those who are the objects of this love. Agape love, or God’s type of love, is literally God reaching out to touch humanity Face-to-face and Heart-to-heart. This was Jesus’ standard… and the standard by which He expects His disciples to live – especially in regard to each other.

Jesus’ goal in washing the disciples’ feet was to help them understand their calling and purpose as disciples. Love is best found in the willingness to serve those whom you love. Love, expressed in a deep willingness of service to others, is the living demonstration of God’s Own love. It must be the motivation behind every action and word. First, among the disciples themselves, to be observed and recognized among themselves; and secondly, to be observed by “all men.”

This second aspect should not escape our attention. When God’s type of love is truly demonstrated among disciples, those who are outside of a relationship with Jesus notice it as well. When Christians “bite and devour” one another, the living picture of the love of God is lost – not only within The Church, but also, and perhaps more importantly, with those who need to know Jesus as Savior, Lord, and Master. When disciples of Jesus truly live, and love, as Jesus did, a world caught in utter darkness takes notice and is drawn to the magnificent light of God’s Own Heart.

serve-one-another

God’s love, expressed so often without words, speaks louder and more clearly than a plethora of human words. Jesus tells us that it blesses others, and it blesses us, when we live our lives in this calling to love as God loves. It is this lifestyle of true love that is the second proof of being Jesus’ disciple.

One – Understanding Discipleship – pg. 24

January 25

The Proofs of Discipleship

2) Love for one another. The second essential proof of discipleship is revealed in the Upper Room conversation of Jesus with His disciples… 

upper-room

The second proof of discipleship is found in a disciple’s capacity to truly love other disciples. It would be easy to simply accept this fact and gloss right over the depth of its capacity. When Jesus speaks of love He is speaking of a type of love that is found only within the very heart and character of Almighty God. By its very nature, it is unconditional, unrelenting, and unlimited in its breadth and scope. In the Greek, it is “agape” and is the type and manner of love that is described so adeptly by the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 13. It is the exact same love by which God loves us. It is the quality of love that Jesus exhibited in every action and motivation. It is the very same love that He so vividly demonstrated while on the cross, dying for those who vehemently mocked and ridiculed Him.

This is the same manner of love that He requires from those who would fully commit to following Him. Disciples must love each other as Jesus Himself demonstrated love to them. This is not just an order of a king to his subjects (an order which the king himself has no intention of following!). It is an expectation from a Master Teacher as consistently demonstrated to His students. Disciples of Jesus are defined by modeling the same love that Jesus Himself displayed so vividly.

So how would we define this love? God’s type of love is consumed with the benefit of the object of that love. In other words, it seeks to serve the needs of others. It is others-centered. It is a love that abandons the ordinary and the expected, to exhibit a willingness to go beyond self-interest and to do something special, unexpected, and beneficial for the object of that love.

As we recall the setting with which Jesus’ command is recorded, a stunning visual picture impacts us. Jesus planned this demonstration to indelibly impress His disciples’ hearts and minds. It is an act so stunning that the disciples are unnerved by the awkward nature of their Master’s lesson. But Jesus has something to prove and an example to leave and, at the appropriate moment, He does the unthinkable: “Jesus… got up from the meal, took off His outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around His waist. After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash His disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around Him.” (John 13:4-5)

washing feet

The disciples were stunned. John records that Peter is incredulous. Here was their Master, the One Whom they have pledged their lives to follow. The One who has done miracles in their presence. The One Who speaks as if heaven itself is speaking. The One Who deserves to be exalted as the Messiah, the very Savior of all Israel. The One Whose incomparable greatness they have now recognized and accepted. This Master and Lord has just now performed the lowliest of acts. He has donned the servant’s role and performed the mundane and demeaning task of washing their feet.

Jesus has done this for one reason and one reason only: to demonstrate His love for them – and the depth to which true love must go. His words from another occasion must now echo in their souls, “If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.” (Mark 9:35) True love, God’s kind of love, is found in a servant’s heart producing a servant’s actions. True love is found in one who knows his own personal status but is always willing to set that status aside to meet the needs of the object of that love.