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Archive for September, 2012

The Authority of Christ in Discipleship

September 29th, 2012

After this, Jesus went out and saw a tax collector by the name of Levi sitting at his tax booth. “Follow me,” Jesus said to him, and Levi got up, left everything and followed him.

Luke 5:27-28

Christ never apologized for His authority or for His entrance into a life. He claimed the authority that He alone has as Lord. Bonhoeffer wrote:

It is Jesus who calls, and because it is Jesus, Levi follows at once. This encounter is a testimony to the absolute, direct, and unaccountable authority of Jesus … Because Jesus is the Christ, he has the authority to call and to demand obedience to his word. Jesus summons men to follow him not as a teacher or a pattern of the good life, but as the Christ, the Son of God.[1]

Today He calls people to follow Him in this same authority. We have so watered down the gospel with “cheap grace” that some now think they are doing Christ some kind of favor to let Him have some of their time. There is no point to worshipping a deity who has no authority, no ownership, and no ability to hold us accountable. But Christ precisely claims such power, and such power is not contradictory to love. Because He loves us He commands us to come under His authority so that He might express His love in us and through us to others.

Bonhoeffer coined the phrase “cheap grace” and he described it as:

Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession…. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.[2]

I have counseled many individuals who have lived compromised lives but still believe that they are just fine spiritually. They live in deception. They take false pride in their upbringing, or education, or past service, or something, and neglect to see their hearts for what they are. A pastor who was “let go” from his church due to being addicted to pornography said to me that he had prayed for God to deliver him but added that God never did. This is, of course, utter nonsense and deceptive talk. Would you say such things about breaking the civil law? No, of course not! We know that law-breakers are punished and out of fear of punishment we obey the law – we don’t wait for them to “give us victory” over the tendency to break the law. They will motivate us by punishment, by fines or imprisonment.

“But Christ has already paid my fine and bore my punishment,” someone might complain. This is the epitome of cheap grace thinking because there is no sense of a call to His Lordship and the result is a self-focused Christianity. Yes, He has paid the price but He still demands surrender. Recognizing Christ as Lord means to accept that we can and must bring these areas of our lives under His Lordship. “I am participating in things I do not believe in,” is the lament of some caught in a web of addiction. But on some level of our hearts, when we are enslaved to a certain sin, we are believing in our right to that sin, our right to our own lives, and denying Jesus Christ His right to our lives. Sin is simply denying Jesus Christ His authority in our lives.

In several of his writings Andrew Murray spends quite a bit of space stressing the importance of accepting that we can walk in the fullness of the Spirit. The first time I read these words from him I wondered why he thought they were so needed, but as I have continued in ministry for several decades now, I understand the importance of doing this – people just do not expect that they will ever get victory over their problems. I have seen the same dangerous thinking in my own heart. But the principle of Lordship means that we can and we must bring every thought in our heads under His Lordship; we can and must live in the fullness of His Spirit.

He continues to call to us today from His position of authority, and He demands obedience and surrender. We should expect nothing less from the Lord of Lords and the One to whom all authority in heaven and on earth is given. And when we surrender to Him we find Him to be the God of love and comfort. The best life imaginable is life lived in utter surrender to Him, bringing every thought captive to Him, and being filled with His Spirit – which is a command of our Lord (Eph. 5:18).

Bow your heart to Him, for our God is a consuming fire!

[1] Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship, “The Call to Discipleship”

[2] Ibid, “Costly Grace”

Evening Devotionals

Becoming a Disciple

September 28th, 2012

That evening, Joseph, a wealthy man from Arimathaea, who was himself a disciple of Jesus, went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus…

Matthew 27:57 (Phillips)

Here is a brief description of a true disciple of Christ. The first mentioned trait was that he was a wealthy man, but this also means that he had realized the inadequacies of material wealth. He needed something from beyond this world, some One who could save him and give meaning and purpose to his life. Many wealthy people do not realize how empty they are inside until Christ comes knocking at the door of their hearts and they hear the upward call of God in Him. Until Christ is Lord in our hearts money – the desire for it, the worship of it – will lord it over us. To be called a “disciple” especially emphasized that Joseph had accepted Christ as his Lord.

Second, we are told where he was from, a place called Arimathaea, whose exact location is still uncertain to scholars. But that was where he was from, not where he was going. In Christ our destinations in life and beyond change. Not only is heaven now our new nation, not only is our citizenship there, but the values of God’s kingdom must become our values. The kingdom of God is within us in this age, which means that we have a new home and a new identity. The old has passed away and such things as home towns, neighborhoods, even earthly family, do not form our true identity. We are new creations with a new hope and a new direction.

Where we go on this earth is not nearly as important to us as to whom we serve and what we will do when we arrive. Since we have lived most of our lives abroad – all in Christian service – sometimes people will ask us if we like living overseas, if it is pretty there, or nice there. I have to confess that these are not issues that we have ever considered. The only thing that matters is whether God says to go and when we arrive our focus is not on the beauty of the place but the ministry of the Lord. For believers in Christ where we are from is insignificant compared to where we are going – heaven eventually, but on earth we also follow the Lord’s leading to many people and places to share His love.

The third trait was that he was a disciple of Jesus, that this means that he had come under the influence of Christ and was learning from Him. Disciples were those whose lives were changed, turned upside down, by the Lord. Even in the days before the Spirit came to indwell believers, disciples of Christ were different in their thoughts, perspectives, values and actions. We are told that Joseph kept his faith in Christ quiet because he was afraid of the Jewish leaders (John 19:38), but nevertheless it was there, fixed within the recesses of his heart. This is the way it is for all who have the experience of trusting in Christ and becoming His disciple.

Like Joseph there will be weaknesses in our lives, matters which we need to surrender to the Lord. But the ownership of God, who draws us to Christ, is indelibly printed upon our hearts once faith in Christ is found. When it happened to Joseph, we are not told, but like with everyone else in the family of faith, there came a time and a place, a moment, when he had a divine encounter, when the Lord impressed his heart to believe, where Joseph stood at the crossroads between the broad way of the world that leads to destruction and the narrow way of Christ that leads to life. He had been walking on the broad road, like everyone else, and he needed to turn from that way and surrender to Christ as Lord.

One day the One he had known as a Teacher he embraced as his Lord. The One who worked miracles for others worked a miracle within his heart. The One who preached to the masses also called out to the individual. Like with Peter, this knowledge could only come from the Father, who gave an invisible witness within their hearts.

This is a disciple for every age: our hearts have turned from the world, even the aspects of this world we are so familiar with, that are even dear to our hearts, and they have turned to Christ. We have received Him as Lord and are now following Him. The weaknesses of our lives are surrendered to Him daily and by His Spirit we are being transformed into His image.

Has this happened to you? Have you personally had that miraculous moment of a divine encounter with God? Have you come to Christ as your Lord?

Evening Devotionals