Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Christian Believer: Week Twenty Four {Discipleship}

I've been putting off these (along with a bunch of other posts that are somewhat time consuming), but I got an email last week from a guy saying he was doing a Christian Believer group at his church and had found my posts interesting and wanted to point his group to them for additional insights.  I was flattered, of course, and it was a good reminder that I need to finish up these things.
O Master, let me walk with thee 
 in lowly paths of service free; 
 tell me thy secret; help me bear 
 the strain of toil, the fret of care. 

 Help me the slow of heart to move 
 by some clear, winning word of love; 
 teach me the wayward feet to stay, 
 and guide them in the homeward way. 

 Teach me thy patience; still with thee 
 in closer, dearer company, 
 in work that keeps faith sweet and strong, 
 in trust that triumphs over wrong; 

In hope that sends a shining ray 
 far down the future's broadening way, 
 in peace that only thou canst give, 
 with thee, O Master, let me live.
("O Master, Let Me Walk with Thee", Washington Gladden)

Lesson twenty four was "The Christian Life" (Leading the Christian Life)  and it was all about discipleship. 
 We started out with the video, per usual.  The presenter was Kyunglim Shin Lee, a Vice President at Wesley Theological Seminary [not our Wesley for those in the area :)].  
Lee started out by talking about two other doctrines closely related to discipleship- the Holy Spirit and   community.  I thought that was neat because in a way, the Holy Spirit and our faith community is what forms the basis of discipleship, largely.  She then said that, sadly, Christians often appear no different from non Christians.  This is so true and it's such a struggle for me to figure out how we are to be different and then, of course, doing it is a struggle in itself.  She said that we should not be separated from the world, but that we should live our lives "in the world, but not off the world".  How hard is that? She made the point that Jesus didn't ask his disciples to become better, stronger "wolves", but to be "lambs among wolves".  

She then discussed how we all want more...more money, more success, more power, more security, more victory, more knowledge, more status, and on and on. But Jesus told his disciples not to car a money bag or sac, or even sandals!

She discussed two different types of learning relationships.  The teacher/student relationship happens in the classroom by giving and receiving information.  The master/disciple model occurs in life settings by leading and following.  Living is different from knowing and following is more than just learning.  Jesus wants us to FOLLOW him!  However, it's not easy to follow him, because he lived an extraordinary life. People value life; he gave his.  People value power; he associated with the powerless.  People value security, he went against traditions. 
We must make sure we're attached to Christ and not anything else!  We maintain this connection through worship, prayer, devotion, meditation, compassion, and service to others.  But we also have to have the grace of God.  We shouldn't ever compromise for the sake of comfort or security.  She ended by telling a story of Christian would be martyrs in a communist country, being pressured to renounce their faith.  All but one did and he was the only one to live because the soldier said that "fake Christians cannot make good Communists".  It was powerful.  She closed by saying that one of the greatest temptations in life is to act like everyone else- but that creates confusion of identity and destruction of self.

The workbook was next and it had some interesting reading about Discipleship.  First, it said that several modern affirmations include statements about discipleship, for example, that our faith "should manifest itself in the service of love as set forth in the example of our blessed Lord, to the end that the kingdom of god may come upon the earth."  However, the absence of such sentiments in ancient creeds does not mean tell us that the early church had no doctrine of Christian living or that we are effective in these issues than they were. 

It then pointed out that this doctrine is essential if we consider doctrine to me more than "an intellectual curiosity" and possibly today we need it more than ever, as we are given more and more to undue emphasis on the rights of the individual. 

The earliest Christian based their standards on Old Testemant ethical standards, but then realized that Jesus came demanding more. This is clear in his Sermon on the Mount, when he says "You have heard that it was said...but I say to you..." and explained that anger and lust are wrong just as murder and sexual immorality are. While some say this is the rule for the "accomplished kingdom" many contend it's a standard for believers everywhere.  My vote is with the latter. As the book says, "No attitude is more inappropriate to a disciple than cutting the call to fit convenience.  A disciple may justifiably fall short of the calling, but a disciple is never allowed to revise the master's standards".

The book made the point that one quality needed of a disciple is "toughness".  Though Jesus promises his yoke to be easy (Mathew 11:28-30), he also tells a follower to "let the dead bury their own dead"  (Mathew 8:21-22) and says to his disciples that they will be hated because of him (Mathew 10:22). Also, Timothy is warned that that all who live a Godly life will be persecuted (2 Timothy 3:12).  The book states that while we see "an ebb and flow" in persecution, the expectation"Because we love something else more than this world, we love even this world more than those who know no other") and realize that I don't have to love them less to love Him more.

The next thing the book said is that a proper definition of the Christian life begins with a right relationship to God- "this is not say that spiritual life is more important than service or ethical conduct, but it is an acknowledgment that service and ethical conduct, as faith measures them, cannot long be maintained without substantial inner resources". While some people admire the ethical teachings of the Christian faith, they find communion with God to be mystical and impractical.  But we are committed to a person, not just a belief system.  Everything stems from this relationship.  A disciple prays, not because of trouble but because of a desire to be in communion with his Master.  The disciple recognizes the Bible's literary value but reads it out of love for the Lord from whom it has come.  The disciple looks upon attendance at church as being as least as inviolable as attendance at work.  This brings us to the question: if devotion is one of the requirements of discipleship, does this mean we are making "rules" about love? Love does make rules- in a marriage it requires fidelity and in a parent child relationship it demands the parent care for the child and the child respect the parent.  Rules don't limit love; they provide channels for greater effectiveness, the book states, and "Love will still burst forth with ecstatic moments, but it is far more likely to have those moments if it has been preserved by the disciplines of the journey".

The reading then discussed how we should be different from the culture but not go to the extreme and isolate ourselves. It ended by talking about what it meant to "take up our cross" and how it means taking another's burden.  We are to serve others not for our own benefit, or even because it feels good, but because Jesus commanded it and we are to follow his example.

Here are some my favorite excerpts from the textbook and Scripture:
"What does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God." -Micah 6:8

"For where your treasures are, there your heart will be also." -Matthew 6:21

"Therefor, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own." -Matthew 6:34

"And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love" -1 Corinthians 13:13

"...'You do right in grieving your sin.  However, I advise you to grieve moderately.  For you must always believe that God's power to forgive is greater than your power to sin." -Francis of Assisi

"Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace; where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; and where there is sadness, joy. O Divine Master, grant that I many not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood, as to understand; to be loved, as to love; for it is in giving that we receive, it it sin pardoning that we are pardoned, and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life." -Francis of Assisi

"He is to regard himself solely as a guest of earth, as one eating his morsel of bread or taking his lunch in an inn..." -Martin Luther

"...It is as much the duty of men in worldly business to live wholly unto God as 'tis the duty of those who are devoted to divine service." -William Law

"I put myself wholly into your hands: put me to what you will, rank me with whom you will; put me to doing, put me to suffering, let me be employed for you, or laid aside for you, exalted for or trodden under foot for you; let me be full, let me be empty, let me have all things, let me have nothing, I freely and heartily resign all to your pleasure and disposal." -John Wesley

"It is time that Christians were judged more by their likeness to Christ than their notions of Christ." -Lucretia Mott

"Being a Christian can be summed up in the following statements:
1. To be a Christian is to be awakened to the goodness and mercy of God through the proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
2. To be a Christian is to recognize that you are a sinner before God and need God's grace in order to be saved from the power of guilt of sin.
3. To be a Christian is to place your faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and to repent of sin.
4. To be a Christian is to intend to be Christ's faithful disciple, obeying his word and showing his love to your life's end.
5. To be a Christian is to belong to the church, Christ's Body, and to participate actively and responsibly in its worship and mission."
-Robert H. Ramey, Jr. and Ben Campbell Johnson

Because we the church believe a distinctive way of living is demanded of followers of Jesus Christ, I dedicate myself to being a disciple of whom my Lord may never need be ashamed.

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