‘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.
On the 18th of May we go to the polls in what looks to be a very close election, yet many Christians seem ambivalent about it. The majority of us still think that Australia is a great place to live; but according to research the vast majority of us hold grave concerns for the future as we watch the fabric of society ‘move with the times’. Some Christians are wary of involvement in politics or government, either because they don’t like the way some other Christians have done it, or because they find politics in general to be corrupt. In Australia today only 41% of people are satisfied with the way that democracy is working in our nation; voting in our country is not optional so many in this election are considering spoiling their vote as there is no candidate or party which truly represents their views. So the question arises as Christians, should we get involved in politics and should we vote?
Christians in a democracy live under an authority that formally solicits our view of the 'earthly good life', as Christians our views are collected alongside nonbelievers and other faith adherents whose conception of what a good life looks like will overlap with ours in some ways, and sharply diverge in others. Voting can be described simply as judging what ‘good' should be promoted or preserved, and which public servants would most faithfully carry out that mandate. With that in mind we should probably see it as the duty and responsibility of every Christian to vote, and to vote for candidates and parties who promote Christian principles. Christians ought to resist the temptation to vote for the party they think will shave more off their tax bill or add a percentage point more to GDP, and instead seek to be ’salt and light’ in the world. A truly Christian vote is one sincerely motivated by a concern for others, especially the disadvantaged, the elderly and the very young, the poor and the powerless, the hungry and the homeless, the refugee, as well as our neighbour next door and down the street. As Christians we must also remember that there are many today who want to drive the name and message of Christ completely out of the public arena. Voting is an important opportunity to promote, protect, and preserve godly government. The government we elect can have great influence on our national culture; they can choose to protect our religious freedom and the right to share our faith, or they can restrict those rights; they can lead our nation toward righteousness or toward moral disaster. As Christians, we should pray for God’s leading in our voting, we should closely study both God’s word, and the personal position of the candidates presented on our voting slips, as well as the policies of the parties concerned.
As disciples of Christ I think it is our responsibility to cast our vote in a way which speaks to the prayer we recite each week in church ‘Your Kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven’.
If you want more information on where each party sits on Christians issues https://www.acl.org.au/2019_fedelect_policy https://www.christianvalues.org.au/index.php/checklists/current-electionso edit.
We have celebrated that Christ conquered sin and death for us and rose from the grave; we have sung and prayed and done our best to glorify God and inspire others. But, as we all return to our day to day responsibilities, the question arises, what will each of us do differently in light of all the assurance, hope, and inspiration we have received over Easter? As disciples of Christ can our lives remain unchanged?
The death and resurrection of Christ is the foundation of our faith, however the theological capstone if you like is that Jesus was raised to glory in order to take His place at the right hand of the Father. He has gone from being the despised, suffering servant, to being the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Jesus has been vindicated and is now ruling over his kingdom.
For us this means that we can have a life which overflows with confidence, joy and hope. It means that we can under take the mission of sharing the Gospel with friends, family and work colleagues and have no fear because He has promised to go with us; that He will never leave us and never forsake us. It means that we can have full assurance and ultimate confidence in His promise that he will indeed return and make all things new.
The resurrection of Christ marked a new beginning for those early believers, and that should be true for all Christians today, too. As disciples let’s all commit to walk forward together in a renewed sense of awe and wonder and celebrate the breathtaking truth of Easter with us into our every day! Let’s allow the knowledge that He is indeed reigning at the right hand of the Father, to constantly impact our decisions and actions; and let’s all commit to live each moment as an opportunity to worship and serve Him like never before!
Christ is risen! Hallelujah! Praise be to God!