Saturday, June 27, 2009
Don’t confuse this process with a destination. Disciples of Jesus will constantly and repeatedly work through the elements of association, consecration, impartation, demonstration, delegation, supervision, and reproduction. These elements will ebb and flow with the direction of the Holy Spirit and sometimes with our own drifting away from the safe mooring of Jesus. Through this process, apprenticing with Jesus and learning to be like Him.
How do we become disciples? In The Divine Conspiracy, Dallas Willard says it requires a certain condition of the soul illustrated by two of Jesus’ parables. First, “The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid again; and from joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” Second, “the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking fine pearls, and upon finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.” In both instances, the actors recognize an opportunity that they must not miss – treasure and pearls, theirs for the taking. Love of the value of the find compelled them to action, selling all they had to secure the prize. Exuberance and joy covered the process of discovery, actions, and possession from start to finish. When we open our eyes and see the opportunity, what Jesus can do with us in apprenticeship under His lead, when love for Him begins to impel us forward, then we have positioned ourselves to become disciples. We might not start with “sell all I have” intensity, but we need a least a glimmer, a slight flutter of excitement at the prospect of becoming like Jesus. Now, we’re ready.
How do I get from ready to running the race? I must decide to do so. All the preparation and training that best coaches and facilities can offer will mean nothing if when the starting gun sounds I do not choose to run. In preparing to become Jesus’ apprentice, I recommend several steps. First pray. Ask Him to open your eyes so that you might gaze on the treasure. Ask Him to reveal the treasure’s glory, to allow it to steal your breath in amazement. Ask Him to stir love and joy as the response of your heart. Then, ask Him for the will to decide, to choose the path of the apprentice. At the end of the day, Jesus leaves that choice to you and only you can decide.
 Matthew 13:44
 Matthew 13:45-46
Saturday, June 20, 2009
After selecting His disciples, Jesus used a combination of association, consecration, impartation, and demonstration to prepare them for delegation, supervision, and reproduction. In this picture, delegation, supervision, and reproduction comprise the goal – we ultimately do the kingdom work of Jesus and help others do the same – and the balance consists of preparation.
In order to prepare ourselves for the Jesus’ work, we need to associate with Him, be with Him. Being with Him will give us something much bigger than knowledge about God. “With Him” will impart experience that begins to mold our hearts. “With Him” will allow us to understand how He thinks about every facet of life we encounter. “With Him” will help us understand where we’ve come from, what ails the world, and how to apply Jesus’ healing touch.
Next, we must consecrate ourselves to Jesus. At the start, Jesus seemed to have only one rule for His disciples – follow, obey. The church had not come and no creed had been penned. They had only the obligation of loyalty. Parables, sermons, journeys, and encounters became the places of Jesus’ yoke from whence they learned. Nine times in the gospels, Jesus uttered a rather emphatic “follow me.” On one occasion, He says “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.” Crosses had one and only one purpose at the time, to make someone dead. And, we can count on it. If a cross comes into play, the executioner will extract a cost and someone will die. I may pay with my fear, my pride, my self-directed decisions, my comfort, or my time, but if I want to follow Jesus, I will pay. I must, as Paul says, be willing to put to death the deeds of the body. We must clearly understand the details of our agreement with Jesus if we expect to become His disciples.
For Jesus to impart Himself to us, we must want to receive Him. He wants to give Himself to us, but never barges in. He waits for the invitation, something I find a mystery. The Creator God who imagined the cosmos and spoke it into existence waits for our nod. Preparing ourselves by being with Him and setting ourselves aside for Him will indicate our willingness to receive Him. Then, Jesus will proceed to interact with our spirits through His Spirit – confirming our relationship, interceding to the Father, and loving us, actually giving Himself to us.
 disciple. Dictionary.com. Dictionary.com Unabridged (v 1.1). Random House, Inc. http://dictionary.classic.reference.com/browse/disciple (accessed: June 07, 2009).
 Matthew 28:19-20a.
 Mark 9:23
 Romans 8:13
 2 Corinthians 1:22; Galatians 4:6; Romans 8:15
 Romans 8:26
 Romans 5:5
Saturday, June 13, 2009
In the previous post, we discussed the process of transforming discipleship based on the five pillars of ministry in Ephesian 4:11. What does life look like if I engage this process? Well, Paul continues in Ephesians chapter 4 to paint the picture. Not just any picture, but one of those masterpieces that you’ll come back to over and over because the depth, nuance, and detail of the artist continue to communicate enlarged meaning. Listen to how Paul describes the results of the five pillars of ministry in our lives. The transformed disciple will:
- Stand prepared for the great privilege and work of service (Eph. 4:12)
- Contribute to the potential of the body of Christ to build itself up (Eph. 4:12)
- Press forward toward unity of faith with other believers (Eph. 4:13)
- Reach maturity in the knowledge of the Son of God (Eph. 4:13)
- Attain to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ (Eph. 4:13)
- Grow up intellectually, refusing to remain undeveloped in thought (Eph. 4:14)
- Gain confidence in Christianity as a worldview and withstand the strong wind and heavy waves of false worldviews (Eph. 4:14)
- Speak the truth in love (and as a prerequisite, know the truth) (Eph. 4:15)
- Grow up into Jesus in every aspect of life (Eph. 4:15)
- Find her place in the body of Christ and participate in its growth, in building it up (Eph. 4:16)
- Engage a mode of thinking that banishes futility and results in prosperous living (Eph. 4:17)
- Acquire an enlightened understanding of how the world works (Eph. 4:18)
- Become literate in the ways of Jesus (Eph. 4:18)
- Obtain a softened heart that is attuned to the word and touch of God (Eph. 4:18)
- Put off the old self, the former way of life (Eph. 4:22)
- Experience newness in the attitudes of his mind, in his heart (Eph. 4:23)
- Put on the new self that God created to be like Himself, full of true righteousness and holiness (Eph. 4:24)
- Become an imitator of God in the way a small child puts on his father’s hat and shoes (Eph. 5:1)
- Live a life of love, an imitation of Jesus, becoming a fragrant sacrifice to God (Eph. 5:2)
Does this sound enticing? Did you feel a flutter of excitement as you read it?
If you desire such a transformed life, I urge you to participate with two or three others in a long-term covenant discipleship group. Certainly, you can work growth in your relationship with Jesus on your own. But, if you intend walk away from the frustration of Romans chapter 7 (“I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do”) to the full life of Romans chapter 8 (“through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death”), you need to engage engage Jesus in the context of several transparent relationships. Only then will the deep transformation we long for become ours.
Saturday, June 6, 2009
Ephesians 4:11-12 (The Message)
Over a decade ago, I listened to a series of sermons on Ephesians 4:11-12 which characterized the “gifts” described as the five pillars of ministry in the church: apostolic, prophetic, evangelistic, pastoral, and teaching. Jesus certainly gives these discrete gifts to specific individuals, but they also describe a full pallet of activity Jesus intends for each of us.
We should share in the creative activity of establishing beachheads for kingdom work (apostles). We must tirelessly speak the Truth into our spheres of influence (prophets). Our lives ought to be characterized by relationships which provide natural opportunities for gospel conversation (evangelists). Loving others as ourselves requires that we care for each other and tend to our collective needs (pastors). We can’t know Jesus the living Word without encountering the written Word (teachers).
I have gifts that differ from yours and God calls each of us to various ministry activities. However, not having the gift of evangelism does not allow me to ignore developing relationships with those in my sphere of influence, praying for those folks, and having gospel colored conversations. In this sense, Jesus calls each of us to apostolic, prophetic, evangelistic, pastoral, and teaching work.
Discipleship efforts that combine these five pillars of ministry will create a solid, stable, secure foundation on which the ministry of the entire Body can rest. Doing so will renew our minds, transform our hearts, and result in sincere lives. We’ll “put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:24). When the fruit of this type of transforming discipleship fills the Body, apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers will abound. The ministry of the Body will explode beyond the church walls and begin taking new ground, expanding the boundaries of the Kingdom of God among us. Discipling as we go in this manner fulfills Jesus’ commission to the church.
Transforming discipleship requires that we know about God, but knowledge about Him differs from knowing Him. Knowing more about who God is will expose our hearts to that knowledge through the gate of the mind. However, only renewing our minds will result in transformation. We must do more than know Truth. We must use it to renew our thinking, to begin thinking Christianly. This will allow us the shift gears and begin experiencing heart transformation. That change will drive a new way of living, in “true righteousness and holiness.”
Can we find a fast lane to transformation? Not really, change takes time. But, God has made us a certain way and only methods that recognize how He put us together will flourish. Created in His image, He created us for relationship – relationship with Him and with the people around us. Embarking on the journey towards transformation with two or three others in a covenantal and transparent relationship agrees with the DNA of our souls. Engaging Truth in the right context will have lasting, transformational effects.