Example Discipleship (1)

The historical sections of the New Testament focus mostly on how people responded to the person and mission of Jesus Christ.   It is not that we bind as law the examples of their obedient responses to the law of God. If we would do this, then it would be justification for us doing the same in reference to binding our own example of obedience on others.   And if we did this, we would bring into bondage those who would admire our example. We would thus minimize obedience to the law of God. Those who followed our examples would be encouraged to ignore God’s law in order to keep our traditions, and thus, they would give up their own freedom in Christ (See Mk 7:1-9; Gl 5:1). It is the binding law of God that must be obeyed. The New Testament is filled with examples of how people obediently responded to the will of God.

In recording the obedient example of the early disciples, the Holy Spirit is trying to encourage and challenge us.   We read the examples of the first century heroes of faith as illustrations, or challenges to better our own discipleship. When we see the effect that Jesus had on their lives, we are challenged to be transformed into a better living sacrifice that is offered to God. If the early disciples responded in such a marvelous manner to the resurrected Son of God, then we also can do the same.

What is very encouraging is the extent, or extremity, to which the early saints committed themselves to live a totally sacrificed life in daily worship of the One who released them from the burden of their sins. Barnabas was one of these disciples. A definitive statement of his character and “spiritual worship” was written of him by the Holy Spirit:

Then news of these things came to the ears of the church that was in Jerusalem. And they sent Barnabas off to Antioch. Now when he came and saw the grace of God, he was glad. And he encouraged them all that with purpose of heart that they remain faithful to the Lord. For he was a good man, and full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And many people were added to the Lord (At 11:22-24).

Every disciple of Divinity would desire that such be said of them in their ministry for the Lord. Before the announcement that Jesus was the Christ and Son of God on the day of Pentecost in A.D. 30, and before he obeyed the gospel in response to this truth, Barnabas was an ordinary man just like the rest of us.   His original name was Joseph, but he was later named “Barnabas” by the apostles (At 4:36). He was the cousin of John Mark (Cl 4:10). He was a Levite from Cyprus, and a former owner of land (See At 4:36,37).

It was not that Barnabas was a unique person.   He simply responded uniquely to the person of Jesus in order to be a dedicated disciple. Because the Holy Spirit wanted all of us to recognize the totally committed response of Barnabas to the gospel, He recorded in Holy Scripture the example of his life.   Since we have a New Testament record of Barnabas’ living sacrifice, the Holy Spirit is asking us to be encouraged by what we see in Barnabas.

A.  Barnabas was an evangelistic disciple.

Barnabas “… having land, sold it and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet” (At 4:37). The historical context of this contribution is what made Barnabas’ action of giving so thrilling in reference to world evangelism.

Jewish and proselyte visitors came from throughout the world to be at one or more of the annual Pentecost celebrations in Jerusalem (See At 2:5-12). They came with money and supplies for the fifty-day celebration. But when the visitors arrived on the A.D. 30 Pentecost, God had a surprise for them.

On the A.D. 30 Pentecost, there were about 3,000 people baptized in response to the announcement of the resurrection and reigning Jesus, whom the apostles declared to be the Messiah (Christ) and Son of God (At 2:29-38,41). At the following Pentecost a year later in A.D. 31, we would expect that the crowd was even greater, for Isaiah, 600 years before, had prophesied that the word of God would go from Jerusalem (Is 2:1-4). Once the word (gospel) was initially announced at the A.D. 30 Pentecost, it motivated the first respondents to broadcast the good news to synagogues throughout the Roman Empire. One can only imagine the multitude of people who went forth into all the known world with the news of the resurrected Jesus in their hearts.   They went forth to announce to the world the good news that the apostles had declared in the streets of Jerusalem.

Through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the apostles were the “Bibles” who declared the fulfillment of prophecy concerning the Messiah, as well as God’s instructions for those who were now His new creation in Christ (See Jn 14:26; 16:13). The apostles thus stayed in Jerusalem for as long as fifteen years in order to greet Jews who continued annually to come to the Pentecost feasts. It was a “lectureship” for the returning Jewish saints, but an opportunity to evangelistically reach out to those Jews, who for the first time, would encounter Jesus through the apostles’ teaching.

The need for support for these visitors who came from all parts of the world, became critical for the local disciples.   The local disciples knew that the visitors needed to continue “steadfastly in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship” (At 2:42). Because everyone knew that the gospel must be preached to every creature of the world (Mk 16:15), the local Christians partnered financially with the visitors in order to keep the visitors at the apostles’ feet to be taught for as long as possible. When these disciples returned home throughout the world, they would preach Jesus in their synagogues and communities.

For this reason, the local Christians responded to the financial needs of the day. “Great grace was upon them all” (At 4:33). Therefore, there was no one “among them [the visitors], who lacked, for as many [local disciples] as were owners of land or houses sold them and brought the proceeds and the things that were sold” (At 4:34). And Barnabas was right in there among those who sold their possessions. “Barnabas … having land, sold it and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet” (At 4:36,37). Barnabas, too, believed the prophecies and mandate of Jesus that the gospel must be preached to all the world.

Since Jesus’ prophecy concerning the destruction of Jerusalem would in the near future take away all the possessions of the Judean Christians, and depopulate Judea of Jewish residents, the local disciples believed Jesus, and subsequently they disinvested in Palestine (See Mt 24).   Barnabas as well, believed Jesus and sold out. He joined with the other disciples in putting his money into world evangelism.

This is just a small window into the heart of a true disciple of Divinity. In reference to finances, Barnabas had his priorities in order concerning what was most important in reference to preaching the gospel to the world. The following words of Jesus continued to ring in his ears: “You cannot serve God and wealth” (Mt 6:24). Barnabas chose to serve God. He knew that it was better to die poor, than to leave an inheritance that could be wasted away by heirs who loved wealth.

Barnabas was a disciple who understood the continued work of the One of whom he claimed to be a disciple. Throughout his life as a disciple, he not only gave to support the preaching of the gospel, but he also personally did the work by going with Paul on Paul’s first mission journey (At 13, 14). True disciples of Divinity both support missions, and sometimes, they are missionaries themselves. If they cannot go to other fields, they make sure that someone does (See Rm 10:14,15; 3 Jn 5-8).

 B.  Barnabas was an exhorting disciple.

Because Joseph was gifted with the personality and ability to encourage people, the apostles changed his name. They changed it to “Barnabas,” which name means “The Son of Encouragement” (At 4:36). This makes one think. If we were in contact with the apostles, and they really knew who we were, then what name would they give us? Would our new name be “The Son of Joy.” Or possibly, it might be “The Son of Optimism,” Or maybe it would be, “The Son of Despair,” or, “The Son of Discouragement,” or even, “The Son of Lazy.” If our name were changed by our friends, then what name would they give us?

Barnabas had the gift of encouraging others because he was an encouraging personality. The room became brighter when he entered. Because Barnabas had the spirit of encouragement, God could use him for unique ministries. For example, when the disciples in Judea heard that there were new disciples in Antioch, they sent Barnabas off to Antioch (At 11:22). And when Barnabas arrived, he encouraged them all that with purpose of heart that they remain faithful to the Lord” (At 11:23).

When in a mission area where boldness was needed to preach the gospel to unbelievers, Barnabas was there. And when many believed what Barnabas and Paul taught, the two speakers “persuaded them to continue in the grace of God” (At 13:43). But when the opposition saw that the people were giving heed to what Barnabas and Paul were preaching, the two evangelists “grew bold (At 13:46). On their return to cities to which they had first preached the gospel, Barnabas and Paul “taught many … confirming the souls of the disciples and exhorting them to continue in the faith” (At 14:21,22).

Barnabas was one who certainly implemented in his life the mandate of the Hebrew writer: “But exhort one another daily, while it is called ‘Today,’ lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin” (Hb 3:13).   Barnabas was one with all those saints who were for encouraging one another, and so much the more as you see the day approaching” (Hb 10:25).

One of the tasks of a good evangelist is to encourage the disciples wherever they are encountered. When Paul and Silas left Philippi, “they encouraged” the brethren (At 16:40). Aquila and Priscilla encouraged Apollos to continue on in his personal mission to Corinth (At 18:27; see 1 Co 16:12). Even when Paul was in the midst of a storm at sea, he encouraged everyone who was on board the doomed vessel by revealing to them that they would all survive (At 27:33).

One of the signals of true discipleship is manifested in how we affect people in a positive manner. And there is no greater gift in human relationships than to be one who brings encouragement to the disheartened.

Christianity is about mutual encouragement. Paul wanted to visit the disciples in Rome, so that, he wrote, he might be “encouraged together with them (Rm 1:12; compare Rm 15:4,5; Ph 2:1). As a Christian, Barnabas realized his responsibility to always encourage those in whose company he was at any particular time.

[Next lecture in series: April 26]

 

 

 

The Tater Family (3)

E.  Medi Tater

 Medi Tater is the family member about whom Paul thought when he wrote the words, Awake you who sleep and arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light” (Ep 5:14).   Medi Tater spends a lot of time in meditating, but little time in getting the job done. He is inactive. He is slow. He is a dormant deadbeat in the work of the Lord. He is the member who must realize that we should make “the most of the time because the days are evil” (Ep 5:16). He is the one about whom also James wrote, “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves” (Js 1:22). Medi Tater will be there faithfully every Sunday. However, when the “closing prayer” is uttered, the rest of the members must not expect any work from him throughout the week.

Sometimes a group of members will convince themselves that a “Sunday Morning Christianity” is all that is needed to get one through the pearly gates. They have deceived themselves into believing that faith without works will enable one to slide through the judgment into what is God’s final rest. They have forgotten, however, that heaven is a rest (Hb 4). But in order to enjoy the rest of heaven, one must have worked diligently to deserve the rest.

The character of Medi Tater often shows up in his work, if indeed he is energized to leave the security of his own father and mother in order to work to support himself. Christianity is about “earning one’s keep.” Paul explained his behavior as a disciple when he was with the Thessalonians. “For you yourselves know how you ought to follow us, for we did not behave ourselves disorderly among you” (2 Th 3:7). The word “disorderly” is a military term. It was used in the military of the day in reference to one walking out of step with the rest of the soldiers.

In Paul’s use of the word, therefore, there is an “orderly” walk in reference to discipleship. And in the context of 2 Thessalonians 3, the orderly walk refers to working for one’s own sustenance. Paul continued, “… nor did we eat any man’s bread without paying for it” (2 Th 3:8). Paul did not freeload off the people. In this case, he felt no entitlement in reference to preaching the gospel to unbelievers. He reminded the Thessalonians, “But we worked with labor and hardship night and day so that we might not be a [financial] burden to any of you” (2 Th 3:8). (A lot of preachers need to read this statement again.)

Indeed, Paul did have the right to receive support from believers for teaching (1 Co 9:14; Gl 6:6). But he reminded the Thessalonians that when they were unbelievers, he preached the gospel to them without asking for a contribution. He did this in order to leave them an example of working with their own hands to support themselves. And when they were obedient to the gospel, and thus became members of the body, his mandate was that these disciples “with quietness they work and eat their own bread (2 Th 3:12). And if they did not work, then the working disciples must change their relation with all those who were friends of Medi Tater: “And if anyone does not obey our word in this letter, note that man and have no company with him so that he may be ashamed (2 Th 3:14).

Therefore, “if anyone is not willing to work, neither let him eat” (2 Th 3:10). Discipleship is about being busy in providing for one’s own needs. In providing for one’s own needs, and he then has the opportunity to help provide for the needs of others until they are trained to provide for their own needs (See At 20:34,35; Ep 4:28). The conclusion to New Testament instructions for Medi Tater is that if he does not get to work to provide for his own needs, then he is to be disfellowshipped from the body of disciples (2 Th 3:6). He is walking dysfunctionally in reference to discipleship.

F.  Hesa Tater:

Hesa Tater suffers from apprehension. His problem is that he is so afraid of making a mistake, he ends up doing nothing lest he make a mistake.   He has no dreams, for he allows all his fears of making a mistake to discourage him and others from launching out.   He is the one during the meeting of the saints to plan work who always says, “Let me play the devil’s advocate.”   And truly he does in reality function as the devil by posing all sorts of obstacles in the minds of others that certain things cannot be done. His negative attitude during work meetings is often that work never gets done.

After the resurrection of Jesus, and while the disciples were on the sea of Galilee, Jesus appeared to them on the beach (See Jn 21:1-14). They had fished all night and accomplished nothing. Then one of the disciples looked up in the early morning hours and recognized Jesus at a distance standing on the beach beside some fish He was cooking. The disciple yelled out, “It’s the Lord!”   Upon hearing these words, Peter threw himself into the water and headed for Jesus.

We would do well to repeat to ourselves the words “It’s the Lord” so many times that our ears ring with a desire to throw ourselves into His work. If we sit around apprehensive as Hesa Tater, opportunities will pass us by.

When we worked in the West Indies in the early 70s, one could freely walk down any mountain path and up to any house. He could ask if the occupants would like to study the Bible. The residents of nine out of ten houses in those days would cordially invite a stranger in to study the Bible. Those days are past. It is now that the occupants of nine out of ten houses will shut their doors to a study of the Bible. An opportunity passed by where there were few laborers to reap the receptivity of the day. There were too many Hesa Taters sitting on mission committees who hesitated to send laborers to those who were hungering and thirsting after the word of God.

G.  Speck Tater:

 The twin brother of Hesa Tater is Speck Tater. We all know the behavior of Speck Tater. He is willing to be a spectator of other people’s work, but he or she sits idly by, often taking glory for the work of other disciples. There were some Speck Tater members in Corinth, for Paul rebuked them with the words in reference to his own labors, “We are not boasting of things beyond our measure, that is, of other man’s labors” (2 Co 10:15).

Speck Tater is willing to allow others to build the church while he sits and watches. When the work is done, he will take credit for the work with the actual workers who accomplished the work.

One of the fatal theologies of Speck Tater is the erroneous belief that his discipleship is determined by his spectator attendance at the assemblies of the saints. Or, he may believe that he is someone important if he attends important meetings and lectureships of the leaders of the saints, but does nothing at home to build the body.

 Speck Tater fails to understand that attendance does not define discipleship. Attendance at meetings of the disciples reflects love, but it does not determine the participation in the work of all those who attend. There were many brothers of Speck Tater in the early church. They first developed a “faith only” theology in order to pacify their laziness.   James rebuked these spectators by revealing that their “faith only” was actually a dead faith (See Js 2:14-26).

The problem seemed to go beyond the theology of “faith only” to the point that Speck Tator did not show up at the assemblies of the saints. He did not because doing so meant that he would be intimidated into going to work.   So the Hebrew writer answered Speck Tater with the statement, “Let us consider one another to stir up love and good works (Hb 10:24). Speck Tater is not considerate of his brothers and sisters in Christ. He does not desire to be in any assembly wherein love and good works are encouraged. In such meetings, he would be the brother who would be encouraged to get to work. Because he developed the habit of not showing up, the Hebrew writer was more direct: “… not forsaking the assembly of ourselves together, as is the habit of some …” (Hb 10:25).

Because he is inconsiderate of other disciples, Speck Tater developed a bad habit. He would not show up at any assembly where love and good works were encouraged. He stayed away, and thus denied his discipleship of Divinity. No disciple can consider himself or herself a disciple of Divinity if he or she stays away from the family of disciples who would encourage them to love others, as well as become involved in the function of the body.

H.  Rot Tater:

 There is no English word on which we can make a play to describe Rot Tater. The character of Rot Tater simply comes from the old proverbial statement, “He is a rotten potato,” meaning that in the potato sack, one potato is rotten, and thus, should be discarded. And so should Rot Tater.

 Rot Tater could be the traditional disciple who seeks to legally bind behavior and beliefs where God has not bound (See Rm 16:17). Or, he could be the lazy disciple about whom Paul spoke in the context of 2 Thessalonians 3. And then, he could be following his sister Miss Fit. What we would say to Rot Tater are the words that Paul wrote to a few Rot Taters in Colossians 3:12,13:

… put on as the elect of God, holy and beloved, a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; forbearing one another and forgiving one another. If anyone has a complaint against any, even as Christ forgave you, so also should you.

After repeating these words many times in his mind, Rot Tator should pray, “And forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors” (Mt 6:12).

I.  Sweet Tater:

 Sister Sweet Tater is the example for us all.   She has followed the example of the early evangelists about whom Paul wrote to the Thessalonian disciples: “We were gentle among you, even as a nurse tenderly cares for her own children (1 Th 2:7). She is the sister who has “a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering” (Cl 3:12). Her character is as some poet once wrote:

Just a friendly word or two,

Or a sympathetic smile;

And glad courage comes anew,

Shortening the weary mile.

Just to know that others care,

If we fail or if we fall;

And the ills that brought despair,

Will soon matter nothing at all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Tater Family (2)

B.  Imi Tater:

 Now we must give credit to Imi Tater.   She can imitate that which is good.   Paul wrote, Be imitators of me even as I also am of Christ” (1 Co 11:1). The shepherds of the flock must leave an example for the sheep to imitate (1 Pt 5:3). By imitating that which is good, Imi Tater is giving heed to the instructions that Paul gave to Timothy: “But you, O man of God … follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness” (1 Tm 6:11).

Unfortunately, Imi Tater also has a tendency to follow the crowd. She likes to “get on the bandwagon” and enjoy the company of those who may be going in the wrong direction. The problem with “bandwagons” is that the people on these wagons are often out of tune with the instructions of God.

The crowd is allowed to determine what is culturally correct on the bandwagon, and thus what is supposedly religiously correct.   For this reason, the idiomatic expression “bandwagon” is used more in a negative sense than in a positive manner.   Imi Tater is on that wagon in order to follow the bad example of others simply because everyone is there, and she does not want to be left out.

 Imi Tater has a problem with standing alone upon God’s “bandwagon” of truth and integrity.   Because of her weak character, therefore, she yields her behavior to the social pressures that are contrary to the will of God.

C.  Common Tater:

 Common Tater has the problem of wanting to comment on everything. He thinks he knows it all. He is the friend of too many of the sisters who were mentioned in the previous chapter.

One might say that Common Tater is a walking radio broadcast about all the affairs of the body of Christ. He is like the crows that were once flying off the pump handle of a local farm water pump. As the farmer sat quietly, he noticed several crows perched on the handle of his well pump. As each crow launched into flight, he also noticed that a crow would give out a loud squawk. Common Tater squawks about everything. He has a comment to make about more things than he knows. He is as someone stated, “It is better to let people think you are a fool than to open your mouth and prove it.”

 Common Tater should heed the advice of Paul: “Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt” (Cl 4:6). And he should listen to James: “Therefore, my beloved brethren, let everyone be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath” (Js 1:19). So we ask when Common Tater should speak, and about what he should speak? Peter would reply,

But sanctify Christ as Lord God in your hearts and be ready always to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, yet with meekness and fear (1 Pt 3:15).

D.  Irra & Aggie Tater:

 These two sisters are twins. And in being twins, their dysfunctional behavior in the family continually causes stress among the members. They are constantly stirring up feelings. They do not speak with speech that is seasoned with salt, but with speech that is seasoned with pepper. Where there are no problems, they have a talent to generate problems and tension. They wander about “from house to house,” being “gossips and busybodies, speaking things which they ought not” (1 Tm 5:13).

Solomon warned about these two sisters: “He who goes about as a gossip reveals secrets, therefore do not associate with him who flatters with his lips” (Pv 20:19). Irra and Aggie have forgotten the exhortation of Solomon: “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit (Pv 18:21). They have forgotten that one will give account of every idle word they have spoken (Mt 12:36), “for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned (Mt 12:37).

James had Irra and Aggie Tater in mind when he wrote the context of James 3:2-12. In this context there were some stern warnings concerning one’s use of his or her mouth. Primarily, the exhortation of verse 8 is pertinent to the behavior of Irra and Aggie: “But no one can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil full of deadly poison.”   Those who do not realize this truth are the ones who often misuse their tongues.

[Next lectures of series: April 23]

 

 

The Tater Family (1)

Leaders of the Lord’s people have throughout the years been very positive about encouraging members of the body to function in a manner that benefits the whole body. Books abound around the world that focus on positive discipleship.   The books have flourished so abundantly, however, that we often forget that the epistles of the New Testament were written to correct dysfunctions in the body. Sometime “feel good” books are written with a total disregard for the Holy Spirit’s instructions on how to correct dysfunctional discipleship.

It is great to think positive about the whole of discipleship, but in order to so think, we must identify and correct dysfunctional behavior that hinders the growth of the body. One of the means by which preachers and Bible teachers have done this throughout the years is to use words of the English language on which a reminder can be tagged to illustrate good and bad characteristics of discipleship.

We preached almost a half century ago a lesson on the “Tater” family. If one would go to the Internet, he will discover many preachers who have used this play on words of the English language in order to identify and correct relational dysfunctions in discipleship. We have done the same.

God revealed to Isaiah in reference to the reconstruction of the Israel, “And one will say, ‘Built up! Build up! Prepare the way. Remove every obstacle out of the way of My people” (Is 57:14). In order to build again, every obstacle must be identified and removed from a building site. Our application of character obstacles that are presented here, therefore, are done so in order to build up the body of Christ. It is as Paul instructed in the context of Ephesians 4. Ministries of the word of God (apostles, prophets, evangelists and shepherd/teachers), were designated in the early church in order that the members not be as “children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of teaching” (Ep 4:11,14).

The body of Christ is about relationships, but we must never forget that these relationships are based first on a common belief in and obedience to the truth of the gospel (See Gl 2:5; 1 Jn 1:3).   Since the body of Christ is about relationships that are based on a common obedience to the truth of the gospel, then there are certain personality obstacles that must be corrected in order to construct healthy relationships that identify the loving nature of the disciples of Divinity (See Jn 13:34,35).

Belief in and obedience to a common truth is necessary. However, our initial obedience to the gospel does not iron out our behavioral dysfunctions that we often harbored while we struggle to live as a living sacrifice. Correcting behavioral dysfunctions is a lifetime project.   Therefore, we must be cautious not to allow such dysfunctions to remain unchallenged in the body of Christ, and thus hinder the growth of the body. So here, with a play on the word “potato,” we introduce to you the “Tater” family, using the colloquial word “tater” that is often used in America to refer to potatoes. These members are those who pose different challenges to the organic function of the body of Christ.

A.  Dick Tater:

Dick Tater is autocratic and controlling. He seeks to be the boss, and thus, enjoys telling everyone what to do instead of showing them through the example of his own behavior. In the early church, the behavior of Diotrephes illustrates the autocratic behavior of Dick Tater. Diotrephes loved to be first among the disciples (3 Jn 9). And because he loved to be preeminent, his behavior was contrary to Christian leadership principles. He went so far in this dysfunctional behavior, that when he could not get his way among the members, he threatened to excommunicate those who would not submit to his control (3 Jn 10).

 Dick Tater’s scheme to gain and maintain dictatorial control over the members must be clarified because some leaders are unaware of their autocratic behavior. Dick Tater accomplished his preeminent scheme through many means. He possibly announces to the members that “God told Him” through special means what to say or do. Or, he may have announced to the church, “I had a dream.” Or because of his position among the politicians of the land, he possibly felt that he should be held in high esteem among those of the church.   And then there is his smooth and fair speech by which he beguiles the hearts of the innocent (See Rm 16:18).   He is a good speaker, and thus, through charming words he holds captive those who succumb to his charismatic persuasion (See 2 Tm 4:3). Or, it may be through his success in the business world that he feels that he has a financial advantage over the whole of the members. He might use his money to determine the direction of the works of the church.

The behavior of Dick Tater is certainly contrary to one very specific mandate of Jesus concerning Christian leadership. It is a mandate that is crystal clear, but often so clearly violated by those who consider themselves leaders:

You know that those who are recognized as rulers over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them. And their great ones exercise authority over them. But it will not be so among you (Mk 10:42,43).

Dick Tater should have these words written on a piece of paper and tagged on his refrigerator. This is a mandate that should be engraved on his mind.   Dick Tater and all such leaders, should not be functioning among the disciples of Divinity.

[Next lectures of series: April 121]

Disturbing Disciples (3)

F.  Miss Conclusion:

 The problem with Miss Conclusion is that she does not get all the facts before she makes a decision. Or, she speaks before she understands all the events and facts that surround that about which she speaks. Then again, because she is too much a friend of Miss Disposition, she takes everything wrong.

This was the problem with some of the Christians in Rome. Some believed an erroneous doctrinal/behavioral theology concerning grace. Paul repeated in question what they had erroneously concluded: “Will we continue in sin so that grace may abound” (Rm 6:1).   Some had concluded that if we are saved by grace alone, then we can sin in order that grace may abound in our lives.   They came to the wrong conclusion.

Paul explained throughout the book of Romans that grace is not a license to sin. There were some in the early church who turned “the grace of God into licentiousness” by thinking, and thus behaving, contrary to the word of God (Jd 4). They concluded that since they could not fall from the grace of God, then they could sin without endangering their eternal destiny. Some today continue with this erroneous conclusion by teaching that if the Christian has been predestined to eternal life, then no sin can detour him from this destination.

But this was not the conclusion about which Peter wrote. He wrote that if we “escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord,” and we are “again entangled in them and overcome,” then we are as the dog who “returns to his own vomit” (2 Pt 2:20-22). The Hebrew writer was also specific: “For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift … if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance (Hb 6:4-6).

They were able to fall away because they were first “OK” through their obedience to the gospel. However, they were not once saved, and then in a state where it was impossible for them to lose their salvation. There is no teaching in the New Testament that teaches that once one is saved, he is always saved. If one believes such a doctrine, then he has listened to Miss Advise and fallen into the company of Miss Conclusion.

G.  Miss Fit:

 Paul identified Miss Fit among the disciples with whom Timothy was associated. These disciples, “having swerved, have turned aside to meaningless discussion, desiring to be teachers of the law, understanding neither what they say, nor what they affirm (1 Tm 1:6,7).

Dictionaries define a “misfit” to be a person who is not suited to the position in which he or she is. These teachers about whom Paul wrote were not fit to be teachers because they did not know the law of God.

In order to guard against “misfit” teachers, James cautioned, “My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we will receive the stricter judgment” (Js 3:1). Miss Fit should have listened to this advice.   She was not qualified for the position in which she desired to be.

 Miss Fit should heed the exhortation that Paul wrote to the Philippians: “Only let your behavior be worthy of the gospel of Christ” (Ph 1:27). If we say that we are disciples of Jesus, then our behavior should fit the identity of discipleship. This was the principle about which Jesus spoke in John 13:35: “By this will all men know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” Miss Fit will not fit in as a disciple if she does not learn to love the brotherhood (1 Pt 2:17). If one would seek to live the sacrificial life of a disciple, then he or she must read and follow the Rule Book on what is required to fit in as a disciple of Divinity.

H.  Miss Cellaneous:

Miss Cellaneous is a many-sided person. One might say that she is a little schizophrenic. We never know who she is going to be on any particular occasion. There is little consistency in her personality. She allows her environment to affect her personality.

Unfortunately, people usually do not put much trust in Miss Cellaneous. She is so moody that they never know when she will be in a mood for suggestions or help.

If Miss Cellaneous is to be a consistent disciple of Divinity, then she must pattern her behavior after the unchangeable God of whom she claims to be a disciple. The Hebrew writer addressed this point because there was a great deal of Miss Cellaneous’ influence among the disciples to whom he wrote.   His readers were thinking about returning to the Levitical priesthood of the Sinai law. But the writer reminded them of the God to whom they had given allegiance through Jesus Christ: “Therefore, God, desiring even more to show to the heirs of promise the unchangeableness of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath” (Hb 6:17).

If the God of our promises does not change in the promises He makes to us, then we have no right to be undependable in our commitment to Him. God does not change His promises, nor does He fall short in fulfilling His promises.   He does not because of “two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie” (Hb 6:18).   For this reason we “have a strong encouragement, who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us” (Hb 6:18).

We can trust in God because He does not change.   Spiritually stable people can be trusted. Because Miss Cellaneous lacks stability in her personality, people have a difficult time trusting what she says.

The personality problem of Miss Cellaneous is also that she often catches herself in a lie. She says she will do something, but contrary to the character of God, she changes her mind, or worse, she forgets that she made a commitment.

Our advice to Miss Cellaneous is to hold fast the pattern of sound words that you have heard” (2 Tm 1:13).   Hold consistently to the word of God, and in doing this, one will find consistency in his or her life.   Establishing one’s life on the unchanging word of God adds stability to one’s life.

I.  Miss Lead:

 Paul spoke of Miss Lead in a warning to Timothy: “For of these are those who creep into houses and lead captive gullible women weighed down with sins, led away with various lusts” (2 Tm 3:6).   This would be those of the Sea Beast in Revelation who led people away from the Lord. John also warned those who are of the work of the Sea Beast to lead people away from God. They must remember, “He who leads into captivity will go into captivity” (Rv 13:10). Every disciple, therefore, should utter the following plea in prayer to God, “And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil” (Mt 6:13).

 Miss Lead always represents the way that is broad “that leads to destruction” (Mt 7:13). Miss Lead is one of the “blind leaders of the blind” (Mt 15:14). If one would guard himself or herself against such blind leadership, then one must be on guard with the word of God lest one be “tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of teaching” (Ep 4:14). Miss Lead is a blind leader. “And if the blind lead the blind, both will fall into the ditch” (Mt 15:14).

If a religious leader is ignorant of the word of God, then he or she is a blind leader. If one is led by a blind leader, then he or she is a blind follower.   Both will end up in the ditch of destruction. It is for this reason that the disciples of Divinity are avid students of the One who has the words of life.   We therefore take seriously the following words of our Lord Jesus Christ that should be heeded by Miss Lead.

He who rejects Me and does not receive My words, has one who judges him. The word that I have spoken, the same will judge him in the last day (Jn 12:48).

[Next lectures of series: April 19]

 

Disturbing Disciples (2)

B.  Miss Alliance:

Miss Alliance seeks to compromise in order to avoid confrontation. She lacks a strong spirit in the faith in order to stand for that which is right. Miss Alliance was certainly in the mind of Jesus when He said,

 No man can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth (Mt 6:24).

Miss Alliance must decide whether she wants to be a totally sacrificed disciple, or if she wants to compromise Jesus for something that is of this world. Jesus would say to her, “He who is not with Me is against Me. And he who does not gather with Me, scatters” (Lk 11:23).

 Miss Alliance must make a choice whether to be totally committed to Jesus, or compromise Jesus in her life by being a friend of the world (See Js 4:4). She must decide whether to have godly friends with those who are a part of the body of Christ, or to be friends with those who would lead her to compromise her faith. She must determine whether to take a stand for the truth of the gospel, or compromise her faith, and thus, be led to her destruction. One important point about being the totally sacrificed offering to God is there can be no fences in one’s life that he or she would straddle.

C.  Miss Behavior:

 The Holy Spirit certainly had Miss Behavior in mind when He issued the following mandate:

In like manner also, that women dress themselves in modest clothing, with decency and sobriety, not with braided hair or gold or pearls of costly clothing, but rather that which manifests women professing godliness through good works (1 Tm 2:9,10).

Miss Behavior thinks that she can sow wild oats throughout the week, and then show up with the saints on Sunday and pray for a crop failure. When one becomes a disciple of Divinity, the old behavior must be put away.   The old man who was buried in the grave of baptism must be kept there (Rm 6:6). Paul reminded his readers of his own life, and also their former misbehavior in sin:

For we ourselves also were once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another (Ti 3:3).

This was the former life-style of Miss Behavior. However, she seems not to have buried the behavior of the old man. Things must change when one becomes a disciple. Paul explained, The older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior …(Ti 2:3). They are to be such because love “does not behave unbecomingly” (1 Co 13:5).   If one was known for misbehaving while living the old man (woman) before obedience to the gospel, then as a disciple one must be known for behaving as a new creature in Christ (2 Co 5:17).

We are fortunate to have the written word of God today because we can read how we ought to behave before God. Paul explained, “I write so that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God” (1 Tm 3:15). If one walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, and flies south every winter like a duck, then he is a duck.   If one walks like a disciple of Christ, speaks like a disciple, he will eventually fly away to his heavenly home because he is a disciple. Miss Behavior must be reminded of this.

D.  Miss Disposition:

Miss Disposition behaves as if she were baptized in vinegar. She seems to be married to a man with the same disposition. As her husband walked out of the house one day going to work, she yelled out, “Do you have everything? Your wallet? Your keys?   Your snarl?”

Jude may have had Miss Disposition in mind when he wrote,

 These are murmurers, complainers, walking after their own lusts. And their mouth speaks great swelling words, flattering people to gain advantage (Jd 16).

Someone once said, “Contentment sometimes depends on a person’s position, but more often on his disposition.” When one is not content in the state in which he or she lives, it is often manifested to others through bad attitudes. But Paul rebuked such attitudes, “Do all things without grumbling and disputing” (Ph 2:14). And in addition to this, “Be hospitable one to another without grumbling” (1 Pt 4:9). Therefore, we must “receive him who is weak in the faith, but not to judgments and disputable thoughts” (Rm 14:1). The poet was right:

‘Taint what we have, but what we give,

‘Taint what we are, but how we live;

‘Taint what we do, but how we do it,

That makes life worth going through it.

E.  Miss Advise:

Miss Advise lacks wisdom.   The result is that she often gives some bad advice. James had Miss Advise in mind when he encouraged such people, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God who gives to all liberally and without reproach.   And it will be given to them” (Js 1:5). It is true that, as someone said “there’s no fool like the fool who is always taking advice, except the fool who is always giving it.” In the religious world today, religionists spend millions on self-help books, when they should be going to the greatest self-help book that has been around for centuries. The self-helps of the Bible are just as relevant today as they were when the ink first dried on the original autographs.

If one seeks wisdom, the source for unquestionable wisdom is God. When we ask for advice, we must first ask from God. It is always wise to ask for advice from others, but it is wise to ask advice from the experienced. Paul was undoubtedly given the correct advice from God for some sailors not to continue on a particular voyage into dangerous weather. Nevertheless, the pilot and owner of the ship decided against his advice. And subsequently, it was not a good voyage (See At 27:9-12). Miss Advise may have been on board also giving advice.   Becuase of some bad advice, the voyage ended with all those on board being shipwrecked on the island of Malta.   When asking for advice from inexperienced people, one should be prepared for a shipwreck.

[Next lectures of series: April 17]

Disturbing Disciples (1)

The behavior of certain disciples that affect the organic function of the body of Christ was discussed in the previous chapter.   Herein we dig deeper into the character of the dysfunctional disciple. We again use a play on words in order to identify what the Holy Spirit would consider dysfunctional members who cause harm to the organic function of the body.

A.  Miss Quotation:

Paul identified this sister in 1 Timothy 5:13.   Miss Quotation and her sisters “learn to be idle, wandering about from house to house; and not only idle, but also gossips and busybodies, speaking things which they ought not.”

Someone called up the house of Miss Quotation, and her roommate answered the telephone: “Miss Quotation is not at home at this time. Would you care to leave a rumor?” Miss Quotation is known for majoring in rumors, being driven by gossip and assumptions to twist the character and beliefs of others.   She is the one who would say, “I won’t go into all the details. In fact, I’ve already told you more about it than I know.”

 Miss Quotation is invariably one who talks too much, and in her much talking, she speaks of things about which she knows little or nothing. Or, in order to dominate a conversation, she embellishes that which she does know, and thus makes a falsehood out of what she communicates to others.

When God instructed Israel concerning their function as individuals in a community of people, He commanded, “You will not go up and down as a talebearer among your people” (Lv 19:16). Doing so causes community tension. Talebearing separates one neighbor from another. Solomon was right: “He who goes about as a gossip reveals secrets, therefore do not associate with him who flatters with his lips” (Pv 20:19). “A perverse man sows strife, and a gossip separates best friends(Pv 16:28). This is true because the words of a gossip are as wounds, and they go down into the innermost parts of the body” (Pv 18:8). Miss Quotation takes pleasure in gossiping “about the pain of those” who have been wounded (Ps 69:26). She does so because there is a flaw in her character. Either she feels inferior to others because she has little self-esteem, or she is trying to exalt herself over others. In either case, she is the cause of much of the relational dysfunction among the members of the body of Christ.

[Next lectures of series: April 15]

Shoe Disciples (3)

F.  Sneaker Shoe Disciples:

 Sneaker shoes are quiet. They are used to quietly move around without the noise of a fully constructed shoe.

 Sneaker Shoe disciples have convinced themselves that they can sneak around without God’s notice. We laugh at what some Muslims in Afghanistan do in reference to drinking alcohol. They will build a small covering, under which they will sit and have a little sip of whiskey or beer. When asked why they do this, they reply that Allah cannot see them drinking under the covering.

 Sneaker Shoe disciples are no less deceived. When a Sneaker Shoe disciple is on vacation, he will involve himself in some behavior that is contrary to the moral principles of God. A traveling Sneaker Shoe disciple will watch pornographic movies and read pornographic magazines when he is outside the presence of his fellow disciples. He believes he is sneaking around the omnipresence of God.

What the Sneaker Shoe disciple has forgotten is that God knows the hearts of all men (Lk 16:15). The Sneaker Shoe disciple forgets how God looks on men: “For the Lord does not see as man sees. For man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart (1 Sm 16:7). And for this reason, Paul warned some Sneaker Shoe disciples in Achaia, “If anyone is confident in himself that he is Christ’s, let him consider this again in himself” (2 Co 10:7). If one thinks he is sneaking around God, and thus considers himself a disciple of Christ, then he should be honest with himself. It may be a time when one should confess his faults (See Js 5:16). If one feels sneaky in reference to his relationship with God, then he has no relationship with God.

G.  Sunday Shoe Disciples:

This is not a particular style of shoe.   However, most of us grew up with these special shoes that were reserved only for Sunday morning. They were reserved for an outward show of exquisite dress that was for Sunday morning assemblies. Sunday shoes were for dressing outwardly in order to give the appearance that one was respectful and proper for an assembly before God.   However, all of us knew that we were dressing for one another in order to give an appearance of holiness.

The Sunday Shoe disciple is focusing on the outward appearance. As the Sneaker Shoe disciple, he too forgets that God looks on the heart, not the outward appearance (1 Sm 16:7). He also forgets that discipleship is 24-7. The living sacrifice is not sacrificed on Sunday alone, and then off the altar after the “closing prayer.”

If one seeks to conceal himself with stylish dress on Sunday morning, then he has deceived himself into thinking that his behavior outside the “worship hour” is free time for possibly unrighteous behavior.   If one seeks to “dress up for God on Sunday,” then he has truly deceived himself into thinking that God cannot see his heart on Monday through Saturday. Fine dress on Sunday morning may conceal our hearts from our fellow members, but God can see right through fancy clothes.

Disciples who have given themselves to be a living sacrifice focus on dressing themselves with Christ. They are those who have been “baptized into Christ,” and thus have put on Christ (Gl 3:27). They are “clothed with humility” every day of the week (1 Pt 5:5). They take up their crosses daily (Lk 9:23). They study the word of God daily (At 17:11). They teach daily (At 5:42). And they sacrifice their lives for the Lord daily (1 Co 15:31). There are no special occasions for the disciples of Divinity to give the appearance that they are especially righteous on that occasion.

H.  Combat Boot Disciples:

 Boots need little description concerning their purpose. They are for rugged and productive living. And sometimes, they are meant to trudge through difficult terrain. Combat boots are designed strictly for battle. A soldier does not wear loafers, or sandals, or Sunday shoes into battle. He is assigned and given the best boots possible in order to engage the enemy.

 Combat Boot disciples get down to work. They set their mind to winning the war against Satan and his hosts They are prepared to walk right over the most difficult times of life, right into the heat of the battle. It is as the singer, Nancy Sinatra, who uttered the lyrics of the 1960 song, Boots. And as she sang the song in reference to being jilted by a lover, we would use the words to refer as a battle cry to Satan,

These boots are made for walkin’,

and that’s just what they’ll do.

One of these days

these boots are gonna walk all over you.

Combat Boot disciples would say to Satan, “These boots are going to walk right over you.”

 Combat Boot disciples are tough and strong. They are “steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord” (1 Co 15:58). They will be faithful unto death on the battle field (Rv 2:10). They are courageous and will take a stand for that which is right (Ja 1:7).   And they get to work doing that which must be done (Jn 9:4). When it comes to laboring in kingdom business, Combat Boot disciples are always ready for action (1 Pt 3:15). They engage the enemy of the gospel without wavering from the mission.   They are as Paul when he wrote, “I have fought the good fight. I have finished my course” (2 Tm 4:7).

As disciples of Divinity, we must always have our combat boots on and be engaged in the warfare of the Lord. As disciples of our Lord Jesus, we will sleep in our battle boots.

[Next lectures of series: April 13]

 

 

Shoe Disciples (2)

B.   High Heel Shoe Disciples:

High heel shoes are used strictly for presentation.   They are worn by those who seek to be above their stature, and thus parade themselves as sophisticated in the crowd. These shoes are not made for running, working tuff jobs, or climbing mountains. When it comes to doing physical work, high heel shoes are worthless.

There are High Heel disciples who like to strut their stuff. They pretend to be someone greater than they are. There were some High Heel disciples among the disciples in Rome.   Paul exhorted the entire group of disciples, “For I say … to everyone that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think …” (Rm 12:3).   The reason for this exhortation is simple. The Holy Spirit continued, “For if anyone thinks himself to be something when he is nothing, he deceives himself (Gl 6:3). High Heel disciples think they can spiritually stand above others. But they are disciples who are living a life of deception. If a disciple struts around on high heels, he must be careful. “Let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Co 10:12).

It is easy to fall from “high heel pride.”   Someone said, “The only thing which really hurts me is that which hurts my pride.” In the beginning when Adam dwelt in the garden of Eden, the first thing that overcame him was his pride. It will be the last thing all of us will overcome until God humbles all creation before Him in the end. Before that time, therefore, it would be wise to heed the words of Peter in 1 Peter 5:5,6:

Yes, all of you be submissive to one another and be clothed with humility, for God resists the proud and gives grace to the humble. Therefore, humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God so that He may exalt you at the proper time.

An ambitious young boy said to his mother, “I am as tall as Goliath!” The mother asked why. The boy replied, “I made a ruler and measured myself.” Such were some of the High Heel disciples in Corinth.   However, Paul judged their erroneous attitudes: “But they, measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise (2 Co 10:12).

We remember the prideful words of the Pharisee: “God, I thank You that I am not as other men … I fast twice a week. I give tithes …” (Lk 18:11,12). The high heel Pharisee forgot these precious words of Jesus: “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth” (Mt 5:5).

C.  Overshoe Disciples:

 Overshoes are slipped over existing shoes. They are made of rubber and have no structure of their own to stand alone. They maintain their structure because of the shoe over which are they slipped.   Overshoes are not stable when they stand alone.

The Overshoe disciple never develops any spiritual structure in order to stand alone. He is faithful because he trusts in the faithfulness of someone else.   This is the husband who may trust in the faithfulness of his godly wife. Because of his lack of knowledge of the word of God, this is the person who must always ask for the opinion of the “pastor” before discussing any Bible subjects. This is the attendee who is there on Sunday because he or she is infatuated with the personality of the preacher. The Overshoe disciple is usually following men and not Christ.

The Overshoe disciple is sometimes as the hunter who had a confrontation with a bear. The bear asked the hunter, “Why do you want to shoot me?”

The hunter replied, “I need a fur coat in order to keep warm.”

The bear replied, “Well then, all I need is breakfast.” So the two sat down and made a compromise. The bear eventually got up alone, having eaten his breakfast. And the hunter had his covering of a fur coat.

Contrary to the nature of Overshoe disciples, Paul exhorted, “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might” (Ep 6:10). In order to stand strong in the Lord, Paul continued to exhort, “Put on the whole armor of God so that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil” (Ep 6:11).

 Overshoe disciples are always limp when it comes to standing for truth. They are as children “tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of teaching” (Ep 4:14). Because they do “not receive the love of the truth so that they might be saved,” God allows them to be deluded with lies (2 Th 2:10,11).

The Overshoe disciple stands for nothing, and thus falls for everything. He or she is embarrassed to take a stand for what is right. It was about Overshoe disciples that Paul wrote 2 Timothy 4:3,4:

For the time will come when they will not endure sound teaching. But to suit their itching ears, they will surround themselves with teachers who will agree with their own desires. And they will turn away their ears from the truth and will be turned to fables.

D.  House Shoe Disciples:

 We slip on house shoes in order to walk around the house on carpets and cleaned floors. These are shoes we wear inside the house when we have finished our work for the day, and then want to lounge in the lounge. We put on our house shoes, lay back, and sit idly as the world goes by.

 House Shoe disciples could be identified with the word lackadaisical. This is not the disciple who has a mind to work, for he feels that he has completed his work. He is the part time disciple who has often grown “weary in doing good” (Ti 3:13).   In his “couch potato Christianity,” he has not seized the opportunities to do good to all men (Gl 6:9). The House Shoe disciple has not heeded the words of Paul: “Behold, now is the acceptable time. Behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Co 6:2).

 House Shoe disciples are certainly not like the disciples in Philippi. They had searched for an opportunity to help Paul on his journeys in order that they might preach the gospel to the world through him. When they eventually found him—he was in a Roman prison—they sent support to him through Epaphroditus (Ph 4:18). Paul then wrote to them the following words:

But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at last your concern for me has flourished again; though you were concerned, but you lacked opportunity to show it (Ph 4:10).

The Philippians never slipped on their house shoes and forgot about their responsibility to evangelize the world through Paul. As living sacrifices who were totally committed, they never slipped off their responsibility to accomplish the work of God. House Shoe disciples need to heed the exhortation of Amos: “Woe to those who are at ease in Zion” (Am 6:1).

E.  Sandal Shoe Disciples:

Sandal shoes are the skeleton of a shoe. They leave a major part of the foot exposed because they are only the remnants of a shoe. Sandals are composed of only the basics of a shoe, and yet are considered a shoe.

 Sandal Shoe disciples are not complete. They have not grown “in the grace and the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” in order to become a mature disciple (2 Pt 3:18). They do not want to “grow up into Him in all things, who is the head, even Christ” (Ep 4:15). The problem is their lack of desire to grow in order to be complete in Christ.

 Sandal Shoe disciples are satisfied to remain as incomplete disciples. Instead of being “strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might,” they are satisfied to remain as they are without putting “on the whole armor of God” in order to be considered a complete disciple (Ep 6:10,11).   They are simply satisfied with putting on partial armor, while at the same time, they claim to be disciples who are totally committed to being a living sacrifice.

Peter exhorted some Sandal Shoe disciples to grow from immaturity as children of faith, to that which would guard them against the onslaught of error by which every Christian is continually bombarded: “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word so that you may grow up to salvation (1 Pt 2:2). If there is no growth beyond the first principles of the faith (See Hb 6:1,2), then one will suffer what was happening to the Hebrew disciples, many of whom were Sandal Shoe disciples. The Hebrew writer rebuked these disciples with strong words:

For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need that one teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God. And you have come to need milk and not solid food (Hb 5:12).

The Hebrew writer was not addressing those who were novices in the faith. He was speaking to those who had been disciples for many years, and yet, were remaining novices in knowledge and faith. He was speaking to those who had previously undergone many hardships for their faith (See Hb 10:32,33). And yet, these disciples had not grown beyond questioning the deity of the Son of God (Hb 1,2), His high priesthood (Hb 4:14-16), and many other fundamental teachings concerning Christ and Christianity.

Their faith was not strong enough to endure the intimidation of the Jewish culture in which they lived. They were thus on the verge of falling back into spiritual destruction (See Hb 10:38,39). For this reason they needed the exhortation of the Hebrew writer: “For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise” (Hb 10:36).

 Sandal Shoe disciples must grow in order not to fall. They need to put some “meat teachings” on their spiritual skeleton in order to enjoy the fullness of the faith and inherit the promises.

[Next lectures of series: April 11]

 

Shoe Disciples (1)

 

 Every Christian often has their own definition of what a disciple must be and do. What determines our definition of discipleship is our knowledge of the Scriptures, especially our knowledge of the New Testament. If we would be a disciple of Jesus, then it is assumed that we would conduct our lives according to the instructions of Jesus. But if one has little knowledge of what Jesus said, and especially how Jesus enacted in His own behavior His teachings, then we can be assured that our behavior as a disciple of Jesus will be dysfunctional.

When we investigate the New Testament concerning the function of discipleship, we are not surprised to discover that the Holy Spirit knew there would be those who call themselves after Christ, but at the same time, they would have a flawed understanding of what discipleship really is. One of our first indications, or warnings, concerning this “fake discipleship” was voiced by Jesus when He said,

 Not every one who says to Me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter into the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven (Mt 7:21).

It is frightening to conclude from this statement that there are those who would claim to be disciples of Jesus, but would not be true disciples because they failed “to do the will of the Father in heaven.” We certainly would not want to be “fake disciples” who do not live according to the will of the Father in heaven. Therefore, in order to separate true discipleship for that which is false, it might be good to review what the New Testament defines as “fake disciples.” The following types of shoes might help illustrate some disciples who claim to be disciples, but are not following the will of the Father:

A.  Loafer Shoe Disciples:

Loafer shoes are made for light use. One does not climb a mountain in loafers, neither are these shoes used for construction work. One does not get up in the morning, put on loafers, and then go to work.   Loafers are not shoes that are used for hardy work.

 Loafer Shoe disciples are the same. They are like one of three turtles who went out for coffee at the local coffee shop. When the coffee was served, it started to rain outside. The two older turtles said to the younger turtle, “Could you go out and get the umbrella, so when we are finished with coffee, we can leave without walking in the rain?” The younger turtle replied, “I will if you don’t drink my coffee!”   The two older turtles complied.

So the young turtle went out the door in order to fetch the umbrella. The two turtles inside waited and waited. After several hours had passed, one of the turtles said to the other, “Well, since he is not coming back, we might as well drink his coffee.” At that moment, the younger turtle stuck his head back in the door and said, “If you drink my coffee, I won’t go fetch the umbrella.”

 Loafer Shoe disciples are like that. They are not determined to accomplish a task, sometimes even when they say they will. They have good intentions, but they loaf around, usually waiting for someone else to do the work. In the parable of the Talents, the master said to the “loafer” servant who had buried his talent in idleness, “You wicked and lazy bondservant …” (Mt 25:26). This loafer servant was as the one about whom Solomon wrote: “The desire of the slothful kills him, for his hands refuse to labor” (Pv 21:25). He is as the young turtle about whom Solomon would also say, “The soul of the sluggard desires and has nothing …” (Pv 13:4).

James wrote about some Loafer Shoe disciples who thought that they could trust in a simple inactive faith to get them to where they desired to go. But James revealed to them a surprise: “What does it profit, my [loafer] brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him?” (Js 2:14). Loafer Shoe disciples need to remember James’ exhortation: Even so faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead (Js 2:17).

[Next lecture of series: April 9]