Monday, September 23, 2013

Monday, September 23 - by Pamela

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is 2 Thessalonians 3, Proverbs 19, Isaiah 47-48
Today's scripture focus is Luke 14:25-35

Discipleship Tested

25 Now [a]large crowds were going along with Him; and He turned and said to them, 26 If anyone comes to Me, and does not [b]hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple. 27 Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. 28 For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it? 29 Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who observe it begin to ridicule him, 30 saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ 31 Or what king, when he sets out to meet another king in battle, will not first sit down and consider whether he is strong enough with ten thousand men to encounter the one coming against him with twenty thousand? 32 Or else, while the other is still far away, he sends [c]a delegation and asks for terms of peace. 33 So then, none of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions.
34 “Therefore, salt is good; but if even salt has become tasteless, with what will it be seasoned? 35 It is useless either for the soil or for the manure pile; it is thrown out. He who has ears to hear, [d]let him hear.”

The first thing that stood out for me from this passage was the very first line:

25 Now [a]large crowds were going along with Him; and He turned and said to them,

I teach grade 1 and September is both the most exciting (new students, new strategies, new things to try, new supplies, new start) and the most tiring (teaching new routines, training a new bunch of kids, over planning because a full day is the best way to avoid chaos).  Undoubtably, Jesus had both of these, excitement and tiredness, at this point in His life too. Excitement at doing what He came to do and yet the daily physical human exhaustion that comes with a long to-do list and a short deadline.

On Friday night, I had the whole evening to myself. My husband and son had gone to a football game and my girls were at their youth group. Ahhhh...alone time. After a busy second week of school and the tiredness of September there was no other thing I felt like doing except being by myself and vegging out. It was not my desire to be in a large crowd and I pursued my needs.

Yet, Jesus did not turn the people away. Sure He often sought out time alone with God but his desire to reach people, to heal them, to lead them, to guide them overrode all else. Putting our own needs second is not easy. In fact, it is nearly impossible. Such is the cost of discipleship....

MacArthur says:

The extreme character of discipleship. The language is unmistakably absolute, definitive, severe, you might say. But this is not anyone speaking other than God Himself, God incarnate, the Lord Jesus Christ. He establishes the standards of discipleship. He determines the character of true repentance and saving faith. And it seems, when you study the words of Jesus, that instead of making it easy, He always seemed to make it hard. In fact, by most human assessments He makes it virtually impossible. We're good in our culture at making things easy. Simplify, simplify we're told. Make it as easy as possible. And this even finds its way into the church where we want to devise a gospel or a message that is easy to receive and easy to accept and easy to believe. This is not what Jesus did.

We live in a society that wants easy--fast--convenient--and something that requires minimal effort on our part. Our modern conveniences are supposed to make things easier and yet all these things seem to do is to convince us that we can do even more things in less time. The church can be also influence by society and led to give "consumers" what they want.

This is important to consider:

"The first role of successful merchandising is to give consumers what they want. If they want bigger burgers, make their burgers bigger. Designer bottled water in six fruit flavors? Done. Mini-vans with ten cup holders? Give 'em 20. You've got to keep the customer satisfied. You've got to modify your product and your message to meet their needs if you want to build a market and get ahead of the competition. Today, this same consumer mindset has invaded Christianity. The church service is too long you say. We'll shorten it. One pastor guarantees his sermons will never last more than seven minutes."...that's sick (laughter)..."Too formal? Wear your sweat suit. Too boring? Wait till you hear our band. If the message is too confrontational or too judgmental or too exclusive, scary, unbelievable, hard to understand or too much anything else for your tastes, churches everywhere are eager to adjust the message to make you more comfortable. This new version of Christianity makes you a partner on the team, a design consultant on church life and does away with old-fashioned authority, guilt trips, accountability and moral absolutes. One suburban church sent out a mailer recently promising an informal, relaxed, casual atmosphere. Great music from our band and believe it or not, you'll even have fun. That's all great if you're a coffeehouse. It's Christianity for consumers, Christianity light, the redirection, watering down and misinterpretation of the Biblical gospel in an attempt to make it more palatable and popular. It tastes great going down. It settles light. It seems to salve your feelings and scratch your itch. It's custom tailored to your preferences. But that lightness will never fill you up with the true saving gospel of Jesus Christ because it's designed by men not God and it's hollow and worthless. In fact, it's worse than worthless because people who hear the message of Christianity light think they're hearing the gospel, think they're being rescued from eternal judgment when, in fact, they're being tragically misled."
I hear this quote on the radio quite often as I drove to and from school (but can't seem to find it online) and it said that "the biggest obstacle Christians face is ...Christians." If we are not an example to others about what it means to to truly be a disciple of Christ we do not lead other to Him. Of course, none of us can be that perfect example. Romans 3:23 says

"For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." 

All. Not some. Not most. All. We ALL fall short and get in the way of being an example. I love the line in this song

"The world is on their way to You
But they’re tripping over me"
We can't be a perfect example of a disciple of Christ. We can't.

MacArthur closes with this prayer:

Father, we come to you at the end of this great section of Scripture grateful for the truth that it conveys to us with such clarity and power. We know that this comes from You because this is a holy standard. It is above us and beyond us. It is impossible. The only way we could ever abandon the past, the only way we could ever experience the power to see this through, the only way we could ever be sustained in faithful, privileged service, loyal for a lifetime is by Your power. It is in the day of Your power that we become willing and able. Help us to know that only when the Spirit of God, through the Word of God, works in us the resolve and the will and the conviction and the repentance and the faith to follow the Lord Jesus Christ in this way can it ever happen. It is not according to us but it's according to Your power. Lord, we have experienced the power of the Spirit of God working in us causing us to rejoice in an abandonment, in an assessment, in an allegiance to the future, causing us to rejoice that You have done a work in us which is beyond our ability. We thank You for that work that You've done in us. We pray, O God, that You would work this work in the lives of others, that You would produce a true repentance and a true faith and a true devotion to Christ that will powerfully surge across all barriers, that we'll consider everything as loss, waste, manure, as Paul called it, compared to knowing Christ and receiving eternal life. We know You're not asking us to crank this up in our human flesh, but we know we must be willing as Your Spirit overpowers us in the direction of Christ. We pray, God, that You would do that in the hearts of those who are here today who have not come to Christ and maybe some who think they have come because they made some superficial commitment. May there be a true work, mighty work of Your Holy Spirit so that people are born of the Spirit. And we thank You in Your Son's Name. Amen.

Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: 1 Timothy 1, Proverbs 20, Isaiah 49-50


Roxie said...

The quote you included reminded me of dctalk (I know, I know...I can't help it, I still think they are great!!!). They begin their song "What If I Stumble" with a quote from Brennan Manning that says something so similar:

"The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today are Christians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips and then walk out the door and deny him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable."

Is this me? Sometimes I wonder. I am not the most vocal person and many of the unbelievers that I know far outdo any "good works" I may do in an effort to serve God.

At church this week, the preacher who was visiting from Africa (Zimbabwe? Zambia? I am reading too many Africa oriented books right now to remember), spoke about how we need to "lift Jesus up" (imagine it being said with a fanastically deep voice and an even better African accent!!!); we need to give the glory to Jesus ALL THE TIME. I had to smile when he talked about how it was ok to cry or be sad when hard times come, but when the good things come...o when the good things come, we need to give all the glory to Jesus.all.the.time.

I may not be able to out do, but I can learn to let go of my inhibitions and I can certainly be better at giving credit where the credit is due: LIFT JESUS UP ALL THE TIME!!!!!

tammi said...

Funny, I immediately thought of that dctalk song and the quote that opens it, too!

Tammy said...

I loved Matt Chandler's sermon on this passage.

He talks about our temptation to make our family God (which is what Jesus is talking about when He says we must hate our family. He means we must love God more, we cannot make them ultimate). We cannot look for a man to complete us (Jerry Maguire!) because they can't, only God can. We can't move on to our kids and turn parenting into a competition and teach them that succeeding in sports or academics is a higher priority than pursuing God.

The other temptation is to pursue happiness instead of pursuing joy.

That we need to count the cost and lay our "yes" down - for our answer to be "yes" to whatever Jesus asks of us, no matter our circumstances (ie excuses).