If we pray, we will believe
If we believe, we will love
If we love, we will serve.
Many people aspire to leadership, fame, and success; but very few aspire to servanthood. Yet contrary to all wisdom of secular leadership, Jesus emphasised serving others as a hallmark of true greatness. Day in and day out the Gospels describe Jesus combing the countryside healing, teaching, preaching and serving. One act of service bumps into another in rapid succession. Here’s the condensed version of the theme of service in Jesus’ life that John never could forget: On the night he was betrayed, Jesus pulled out all the stops to illustrate the Christian life. He took a basin, tipped the big jar in the corner of the room and filled it with clean water. He took a clean towel and wrapped it around himself; then one disciple at a time got a much needed footbath. Then the memorable words came: “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” (John 13:14-15). That Jesus meant for us to imitate his attitude and actions is clear. A servant serves. The Christian truth is this: the greatest among you are those who serve in the way of Christ. This does not mean simply pulling out a basin and washing friends feet once a year a special commemorative service (or at least not only that), this is about serving others without expectation of reward, about service being part and parcel of becoming conformed to the image of Christ.
The kind of service that Jesus models for his disciples goes well beyond serving our fellow Christians in our local church (although this is part of it); by washing feet Jesus shows us that serving is not always glamorous, but it is the calling of every disciple. Following in his footsteps, Jesus’ disciples got their hands dirty by serving all those around them in need (friends and strangers); through the ministry of Jesus they had learned that disciples are servants, and servants simply serve.
Being a disciple is letting the mind of Christ become our mind. It’s participating in the work Christ among the poor, needy, prisoners, or widows. It is serving without expectation; it is getting our hands dirty. It is understanding that through our service (meeting the needs of those around us in the name of Jesus Christ), that we contribute to the present growth and unfolding future of the kingdom of God.
Grace to you,
Continuing with our theme of being disciples:
‘Every Christian is either a missionary or an impostor.’ (Charles Spurgeon)
We have talked previously about the importance of the disciple of Jesus being a committed learner; however the reality is, that God’s Word is never meant to be something we just know, are familiar with, or memorise. God’s word is alive and powerful; it is intended for change and transformation, for redemption and salvation, for justice, mercy and grace: These are words of action, not passivity!
We don’t graduate from discipleship and move on to mission, scripture says that they that do the will of God will know, not they that know, will do! (John 7:17). Mission, then, is not an optional extra, but an essential element of the life of the genuine disciple. As disciples of Christ we serve a God who first came to rescue us. Mission then, is our response to our justification, not our pathway to justification; mission is an outworking of a transformed heart. Discipleship and Mission is not an either/or scenario, but an and/both; it includes both knowing and doing, learning and serving.
True discipleship, then, is when we take up the mission of God as our own. Jesus coming to earth was God placing his purpose in action - making it tangible: our mission is to continue this work. Matthew 28:18-20 puts it very clearly; here, Jesus sends his disciples (including each of us) to share the gospel and to teach all that he has taught us. We are called to be actively involved; we are tasked to share the gospel, to encourage believers to grow in faith, and to baptise those who believe. Why? So that all people may come to know him and know the truth (1 Tim 2:4); and to bring glory to his name.
How can you get involved in God’s mission this week?
Grace to you,
Continuing with our theme of being disciples:
‘’Prayer is simply talking with God; it’s a two way process: speaking and listening. He speaks to us: we listen. We speak to him: he listens.’ (Mother Teresa)
What has talking to God got to do with being a disciple?
Martin Luther once wrote ‘To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing’. Prayer is quite simply the life blood of discipleship. For many people prayer is a last resort, for use in emergencies only! But according to Jesus, prayer is key to our lives. Prayer not only establishes a relationship with God, it is vital to maintaining our relationship with him. Prayer is a means of communicating with our loving Heavenly Father, and building the relationship for which we were created. Prayer is designed to allow us as disciples to have profound intimacy with God.
Throughout the Gospels we see Jesus modelling how prayer should work in the life of his disciples: Mornings, evenings, after preaching, before preaching, whenever possible - Jesus prayed. He prayed in gardens, on mountains, and in solitary places. Physically separated from the Father’s presence, Jesus united spiritually with the Father through prayer, seeking his will and glorifying his name. He publicly voiced praise and thanksgiving to the Father, as well as praying petitions on behalf of his disciples. Far from trying to manipulate a distant and whimsical God, Jesus modelled a life of personal relationship and trust, passionately seeking to know the will of his Father, and to be able to surrender to it fully. More than simply accessing God’s provision and power, prayer held Jesus in the very presence of God himself.
Similarly, Jesus calls us to abide in him. Through prayer, we delight in his presence, meditate on his word, and walk in his Spirit. In prayer we ask God to search the inner recesses of our hearts to make us truly clean. We strap on our spiritual armour. We trade in our tangled knots of anxiety for his peace ‘the peace which passes all understanding’. We receive whatever we ask of God when we ask according to his will and in Jesus’ name. When we pray, the results are simply astounding: he transforms us; we begin to absorb his priorities and passions; we start to see the world and people through his eyes; more and more we want to obey him. Over time, we even become more like him. Abiding in Christ through prayer marks us as his disciples: the watching world can tell when we’ve been in the presence of Jesus!
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18) .
Grace & peace,
Continuing with our theme of being disciples:
‘’Discipleship in an instant society requires long obedience in the same direction:’ (Eugene Peterson)
What does this mean? What has obedience got to do with being a disciple?
Simply put - Everything!
Yet, obedience is not a popular topic today; even among believers there are many that recoil at the suggestion that careful daily obedience either matters to God or ought to concern us. Yet according to Jesus himself, discipleship at its core involves listening to him and doing as he instructs (John 8:31). Discipleship begins with the simple command of Jesus: “Follow me”, and the first disciples did just that (Matt. 4:18-20). Like many since, they could have replied: “Yes, sir!” and then done nothing; but had they done that, they would not have been disciples at all (Matt 21:28-32).
Australia today is very much an instant society driven by a customer mindset. As a society we don’t like to work for, or wait for anything anymore; we are comfortable paying others to serve us; we eat instant food and drink instant coffee; we have convenience stores; and get cranky when the internet is slow. We make our own plans, and are masters of our own destiny; we have a generation who seek to be famous for being famous; we seek our own honour and glory in our daily activities; and the ‘selfie’ is the most common form of artistic expression. In our culture today church and faith is ‘slotted in’ between other important activities (or often not at all), and we accept as normal a form of spiritual flabbiness which requires no real dedication on our part from week to week.
The apostle Paul likens the obedience of discipleship to the training of an athlete, calling us to be fit, skilled and ready for service to the Lord (1 Cor 9:24-27); Our training consists of prayer, reading the Bible, fellowship with other believers, worship, serving and so on. As we obediently stick to our spiritual training routines, like a 'spiritual athlete', we strive to become more like Jesus everyday; with ‘long obedience in the same direction’ we become spiritually fit, enabling us to run the race in order to win the ‘prize’.
This is not works-righteousness. It is not salvation by merit. It is a transformed life that we are talking about. It is a changed character. It is genuine commitment. It is obedient discipleship. It is freedom and joy and peace. It is living the Jesus Lifestyle!
Paul writes: ’I’m giving it everything I’ve got. No sloppy living for me! I’m staying alert and in tip top condition. (1 Cor 9:26-27 Msg version)
Grace & peace,
‘To live a congruent and internally consistent life is difficult. This is integrity!’ (Parker Palmer)
‘When Jesus is Lord of our beliefs, opinions, ambitions, standards, values, and lifestyle, then we are integrated Christians. Then Integrity marks our life. Only when he is Lord do we become whole.” (John Stott)
One of the most important characteristics of Christian discipleship is consistency/integrity; putting into practice what we actually profess to believe; to both talk and walk in the way of Jesus.
Integrity in its simplest form simply means wholeness of person; a person who is undivided. It means that there is no separation between what is going on inside of me, and what I am expressing outside of me. There is no separation of my inner and outer life. A person of integrity is unshakeable; they stand by their principles regardless of external pressures or consequences. A person of integrity realises there are moral absolutes, even in a world of relative values.
A person of true integrity possesses a unity of life and character. It is important to recognise however that the Bible underscores the reality that no one (except Jesus Christ) is sinless, so integrity for the disciple does not mean sinlessness or perfection, but sincere striving, and single-hearted devotion to God. Integrity to the disciple means a life marked by love, compassion, mercy, justice, and honouring God's call above everything else. It means that we are the same on Sunday as we are throughout the week; that we practice what we preach!
So how can we live a life of integrity?
We must accept God's call to live in his will and to actively walk in the path of Christ: “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.”(James 1:22). We must strive to live the kind of life that Jesus lived, even if no one is watching. It is that simple, and it is that difficult.
So who are you when no one is looking?
Grace & peace,
‘I do not pray for success. I pray for faithfulness.” (Mother Theresa)
What does this mean?
It means following hard after God; having radical loyalty, and covenantal commitment to God, first, above all other relationships and commitments. It means remaining true to Gods word, our own word, and persevering in trials or storms. Christian faithfulness is, at its heart, about our commitment to accept, believe in and commit to the God of the Bible as the one true God, and attempt to live out his commandments (the Jesus Lifestyle).
It means pursuing His plan and purpose with intentionality, and investing our time, talents and resources to that journey. It means following his path with unshakable and unbreakable stick-to-it-iveness, even when it counter-cultural to do so.
Being faithful to God’s calling
Being faithful to God’s message
Being faithful to God’s leading in your life
And trusting that God is faithful in all things
Christianity itself is based first on faith that God is, and then, that through Christ Jesus we can be forgiven, made righteous, and redeemed. Faithfulness is essential to the Christian life, it is named as a fruit of the Spirt by Paul (Gal 5:22) and credited as righteousness to Abram (Gen15:6, Rom 4:22). Jesus puts faithfulness alongside justice and mercy and ‘the more important matters of the law’ (Matthew 23:23)
The whole of the Bible calls us to a radical lifestyle and a radical faithfulness which is totally counter-cultural. It changes our perspective of what success looks like, and shifts our vision and focus to one driven by Kingdom goals. Under our own strength the inner transformation is not possible; the lifestyle and the standards are impossible; but ‘what is impossible for mankind, is made possible with God’ (Luke 18:27).
So let’s be like Mother Theresa and ask God to grant us faithfulness; then radically pursue it!
Discipleship is not an occasional rendezvous with Deity; it is an actual dwelling with and dependence on God! (Billy Graham)
What does this mean?
It means that we trust in, or depend on God for our very existence (Acts 17:28, Colossians 1:16-17), for our salvation (Ephesians 2:8-9), for wisdom (James 1:5); it means that we depend on God for everything (Psalm 104:27) and in everything (Proverbs 3:5-6). In fact the Psalmist goes so far as describing God as "my rock, my fortress and my deliverer” (Psalm 18:2).
Depending on God however does not mean we act foolishly. Jesus did not need to jump off the pinnacle of the temple to “prove” that he depended on God (Matthew 4:5-7). There is a difference between trusting God and putting God to the test. As disciples we should seek wisdom and direction from God, and follow the path he has set; using the gifts that he gives us in God-honouring ways, knowing ultimately that any good thing ultimately has it source in God.
It means being constant in prayer and always yielding our thoughts, motives, needs and desires to the Lord. It means building understanding of his nature, and a deep personal relationship with him through daily reading of his word. It means trusting in his plans, and surrendering our plans to him. It means looking to him as our Heavenly Father, totally dependent on him for our well being.
Total submission and reliance on God is counter intuitive. However as we mature in relationship with God, as we mature as disciples, our vision and experience of God will become clearer, he will become bigger, and we will begin to realise that it is only through total dependence him that we can truly experience peace.
‘A Disciple is aware of and focussed on the Kingdom of God’ (Ryan Higginbottom)
There’s a difference between the church we attend and the kingdom of God.
Church is a great thing; it’s an important thing. But when Christians focus solely on the church we can forget about the bigger picture of kingdom of God.
As disciples of Jesus, we are reassured that the kingdom of God is within us (Luke 17:21). As a disciple spends time with, and learns from Jesus, we will then be motivated to serve him with a pure heart and a motive of love — not an obligation or a checklist. We then respond by coming to church to worship, serve, and fellowship with other believers.
Disciples recognise that they are ambassadors for the King in the world, and seek to spread the kingdom of God every day of the week wherever we are, not just in a particular building on Sundays. For some this can be a radical shift in thinking, but when the motivation shifts from generating church membership to growing the kingdom of God, the focus from ‘us’ to ‘Him’, and the expression of faith from Sunday to everyday, then we are truly set free!
Are you ready to be kingdom focussed?
‘A Disciple is a committed learner and imitator of Jesus Christ’ (T. Paige)
The goal of the disciple is to become like Christ. All of our efforts at discipleship must keep this goal in mind. If we want to grow as disciples, and if we want others to grow as disciples, we must have as our goal ‘Christlikeness’. Christlikeness cannot be accomplished merely by teaching or even understanding the principles of Christianity theoretically. Rather, to help believers grow as disciples, we must be willing to both tell them, and also to show them how to imitate Christ in the world. Now, we need to state clearly from the beginning that imitating Christ’ has nothing to do with trying to merit eternal life or ‘earn our salvation’. Salvation is by grace through faith. Living the life of a disciple (or imitating Christ) is to do with our sanctification (which is just a fancy name for the Holy Spirit’s work of making a disciple become more and more like Christ every day).
Children observe their parents and imitate them in behaviour and action. While that is true in our earthly families, it is equally true in our heavenly families; we imitate what we spend time observing and absorbing You can’t imitate a person if you don’t know anything about them, so we must learn all we can about Jesus from scripture and from spending time with him. Then we must put into practice everything we know about him.
Growing in Christlikeness means to completely submit to the authority and truth of Christ in all areas of our lives; we are to sacrifice our will to the will of God. In other words we are to do the things we see Jesus doing, and we are to avoid the things he avoids. We are to follow closely and learn from the master, then put what we learn into action.
Continuing with our theme of being a disciple of Christ (that is a person who subscribes to the message and teachings of Jesus Christ. and assists in spreading his teachings and his message of the gospel of the kingdom of God.)
One of the key teachings of Christ for his disciples is that of love - Agape love - love for the unlovely. Agape love, according to Jesus is the most important reflection of Christ-likeness and discipleship within the church. Jesus sets before us this amazing challenge: ‘As I have loved you, so you must love one another’ (John 13:34-35). Jesus loved each of us individually by laying down his life for us. He says that we are to follow his example and show self-sacrificial love.
Nothing is more of a hindrance to the message of Jesus than a lack of love between Christians. Love is more than a feeling or an emotion. It is a decision about how we treat one another. Jesus was the supreme example of love in the history of the world. He tells us to love God, to love one another, to love our neighbour as ourselves and even to love our enemies. He demonstrates all this in his own life through laying down his life for us in love.
When people see real love, agape love, they see God. If our community, our nation, and our world are to be changed, if people are going to turn back to following Jesus, we must start loving one another as Jesus has instructed. This means loving Christians of different churches, denominations, traditions and different views to ourselves. And It means loving one another in the local church: Disunity destroys, disunity repels, love unites, and love attracts others to the person of Jesus. This is why Agape love must be the foundation for everything that happens in the church. Because love is given to us as the ultimate sign and priority, it is to be a priority for us everyday both inside and outside the church. As disciples we must develop a mindset and pursue a life of love (Eph. 5:1-2).
It is only when love is our priority that the church will be distinctive as God intends. As Mother Theresa has said: In this life we cannot do great things. We can only do small things with great love. Agape love is the distinguishing trait of the true Disciple; and it is this kind of love that can change the world.