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3: On Christian Discipleship

   

"Moving from sinful chaos to godly shalom through Christ"

 

 
 

Introduction

Discipleship: the Reformation Agenda

The biblical call to bear witness to Christ, preach the gospel to every creature and to make disciples of all nations, is a call to reformation of the nations in light of the requirements of our being made and of our being loved by God:

Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." [Matt 28: 18 – 20.]

For, such discipleship transforms our lives, and as such renewal spreads, the grace and blessing of Christ fills and transforms our communities and nations:

. . . the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say "No" to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope--the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good. [Titus 2:11 – 14; cf. Eph. 4:9 – 5:17.]

So, by looking at the discipling mandate of the church from the perspective of the nations, we can see that the church is a global reformation movement, one that calls the nations to walk in the way and blessings of Christ. As John put it: “This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.” [1 John 2:5b – 6.]

Discipleship and Hypocrisy

Caribbean people know this requirement all too well; that is why the cry “hypocrite” is so often raised when Christians fail to live up to our commitment to live out the ideal of discipleship marked by love, truth, power and purity. But then, so many of us take the next -- and fatal -- step: “Mi naw have nutten to do wid dem hypocrite!”

Thus, we come to the paradox of discipleship: by definition, Christians are called to live holy and godly lives, but at the same time we all struggle with sin – indeed, sometimes, we find ourselves simply unable to break out of the bondage of certain sinful habits, such as an angry spirit, or a cutting tongue, or a lustful mind, or gluttony, or greed, etc. [Cf. Rom. 7:14 – 8:17.]

Beyond that, despite the clear statement in Eph. 4:9 that “[Jesus] who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe,” we struggle even more to bring the gospel to bear on our family life, education, worldviews, workplace, entertainment, business practices, community affairs, politics . . .

How, then can we break through togodly reformation, transformation and blessing of the nations in the Caribbean, and beyond?

Breaking free to Reformation

First of all, we must deal with hypocrisy.

Let us therefore openly acknowledge that as disciples – students and followers – of Christ, we are “work in progress.” So, as the Elder John put it:

This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. [1 John 1:5 – 9; emphases added. Cf. John 3:17 - 21.]

So, spiritual honesty is the first step to progress: let us admit to the fact of struggle with sin, and seek God’s cleansing and ongoing renewal of our minds, hearts and lives by his Word and his Holy Spirit, in and though the church.

Logically, sound fellowship is the next step:

. . . let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another--and all the more as you see the Day approaching. [Heb. 10:22 – 25, Emphases added.]

Such sound fellowship will respect, commit itself to and make daily use of the Word of God:

. . . continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. [2 Tim. 3:14 – 17; cf. 2 Peter 1:2 - 4.]

Thus, our lives as disciples should mirror the life of the very first church:

Those who accepted [the gospel] were baptized . . . They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer . . . All the believers were together . . . they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. [Acts 2:41 – 47.]

Reformation in the Wider Community

Too often, we tend to think that such a transformation of life in the church is an essentially private affair. But in fact, as we saw above, Christ came, descending and ascending, “in order to fill panta [Greek: all things].”

In that light, he gave leaders to the church, to equip us to carry out works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up in all things, “attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” [Cf. Eph 4:9 – 13.]

So, when we see that “ it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God . . . For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” we should recognize that these works are clearly intended to fill all things in our lives with Christ’s grace, glory and blessing.

Consequently, in our families and churches, we should emphasise the fullness agenda: Christ came to fill all things. That means that we must seek to learn how to bring the transforming and blessing power of the gospel to bear on each aspect of our lives: Individuality Family Church School and campus Workplace/business and career Finances Arts, sports, entertainment Media General community and culture Politics and government Environment and development Etc.

To do so, we will need to develop and implement comprehensive, soundly biblical training programmes based in the home and church (but not neglecting other contexts: school, campus, media, public). Such programmes should work out how to pursue discipleship, perhaps in the three overlapping phases below:

  1. Consolidating commitment to Christ, his church and his mission.
  2. Living, serving and leading in families, and in service-oriented small groups/cells and ministry teams.
  3. Living, serving and leading in the wider community and world.

To that end, this web site is dedicated.

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