Sunday, February 08, 2009

A Disciplined Disciple...

I remember as a child being disciplined by my parents. In those days, a spanking was common, and when I got out of line, I sometimes found myself receiving my just reward. It was painful, humiliating, and life altering. Back then, I did not like it. Now, I appreciate it. Wisdom comes with maturity and time.
Today, most folks still hate discipline, yet they want to be disciples. The two must go hand in hand. You cannot have one without the other. Discipline is the foundation of discipleship!
What is a disciple?
A disciple is one who chooses to follow another with a desire to learn from them. Jesus asked 12 men to follow him. Though one failed miserably, the remaining 11 turned the spiritual world upside down! Those men carried some distinctive qualities from which we should all learn, especially if we too want to be disciples.
A disciple must be a learner. He must be teachable. It is impossible for a ‘know-it-all’ to become a disciple. Pride fills the hearts and minds of those who think they have all the answers. A genuine disciple will be in continual search for truth, for answers to questions he does not understand. Each of us must search our own hearts to determine if we have a teachable spirit. How do we react when others try to point out something in the Word that we have taught differently? A disciple will go to the source of truth, the Holy Spirit...and seek an answer to doctrinal disagreements. A non-disciple will push it off, make excuses, pretend he understands what he does not. Many disciples today do not take the time to study. They do not read their Bibles until the pastor open his on Sunday morning...and then they read it with him from the overhead screen. That’s not study! In today’s busy world we often make excuses that we are too busy to study. Yet today we have the resources at our fingertips to make study easy and profitable like never in history. We have computers and their search engines and all the Bible resources on the internet. We can take the Word with us in our PDA’s or our MP3’s or our I-pods. We can play Bible tapes or CD’s on our car stereo systems or while working around the house. We can attend Bible studies and conferences, and hear the finest Bible study teachings. We can read stimulating books and articles that will cause us to dig deeper into the Word. There is no excuse for the Biblical ignorance that is rampant in our churches today. If you want to be a disciple—study!
A disciple is also a follower. He chooses to follow Christ in every area of his life. This requires great discipline. As Christ was a person of prayer, a disciple must also be a person of prayer. Prayer must be a ‘way of life’ for the man and woman of God. Disciples do not rely on the prayers of the one they follow. They learn to pray….as the disciples asked Jesus… “Teach us to pray…” Prayer is not reading the nice words someone else wrote. It is talking to God yourself, from your heart. It is learning to communicate with our ‘commander–in-chief’ as he speaks to us and we speak to him. It is a two way street.
As Christ was a man of priorities, we must also be a people of disciplined priorities. What matters most to you? What do you spend most of your time and/or money on? What you value most, you will invest in. I have met so many people in the church who allow themselves to be caught up in stuff that has robbed them of precious time, finances, relationships, and spiritual vitality. They had no time for God...except maybe an hour on Sunday morning. They never took the time to ask God what He wanted to do with their lives. A man with his own agenda cannot be a disciple. He is of a divided mind. He wants one thing but does another.  A double minded man is unstable in all his ways. James 1:8
A disciple is also disciplined in his attitude. He must have a control over his emotions, especially those negative emotions that tend to get us into trouble….our tempers….our self-righteousness… our pride...our criticalness...our argumentativeness and cynicism. When we hold tightly to these, making excuses such as ‘That’s just the way I am” or blaming it on our cultural heritage such as “I have a temper because I’m Irish”...then we fail to become disciples and follow Jesus. Discipleship demands change. Just as Jesus asked His disciples to follow Him… he asks the same of us… and that means we must forsake what we were and change. Jesus disciples were fishermen and tax collectors and the moment he called them, they chose to become something different—a disciple! Not everyone could make the transition. The rich young ruler whose name we never got to know, was also asked to come and follow Jesus. But when it came down to the cost of discipleship...selling all he owned and giving it to the was more than he could take. He went away sad, not because he was rejected, but because he knew he could not meet the requirements—he could not change. He liked his wealth...but he could have been even wealthier in riches that would never fade away. His priorities were wrong.
A disciple must have disciplined morality. The older I get, the more disappointed I get in this younger generation of potential disciples. So few are willing to discipline this area of their lives. They think nothing of frequenting the movie theatre and watching fictional portrayals of sexual explicitness on the huge screens. As believers, would you be willing to walk into a stranger’s bedroom and watch them make love in front of you and your family? Yet that is exactly what we do when we allow the filth of the world to enter our eye-gate via electronic gadgets. It lowers the standards of morality in our personal lives. Each succeeding generation lowers it a little more and a little more until there is no difference in morality between the ‘disciple’ and the world. While some would never think of darkening the door of a casino, they routinely buy lottery tickets. While they would not think of entertaining a prostitute, they sneak a peek at porn on the internet. They lie to themselves saying “It’s never hurt anyone…” and when they get caught it destroys their marriage, their relationships, their ministries and they wonder why folks just don’t trust them anymore. They are undisciplined in their morality. They have failed to put safeguards in place to protect both themselves and their families. How many spiritual leaders have lost it all due to a moment of undisciplined morality. Some are abusive with their spouse or children. Some give in to allowing their thoughts to dwell in the gutters of life. Some act nice and spiritual at church, but at home it is a different story. That double standard will destroy your family and drive them away. It must grieve the heart of God to see His ‘children’ buying into Satan’s lies, living lives with double standards, pretending to be righteous when they are really hypocrites. Pastor, will you preach on the destructiveness of secret sin? Teach your people the truth about the consequences of undisciplined morality! Jesus was not afraid to do it! He called the religious leaders of His day ‘whitewashed graves”! He had a standard to uphold and if we are disciples of His, we do too!
Disciples are disciplined in their personal lives. Jesus taught his followers who believed in Him: “If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” John 8:31,32 There were requirements to be a disciple and that meant staying true to his teachings...the words that came from His mouth. Those words were truth and led to freedom. Too often we think of discipleship as bondage. “I have to do this….” Disciples CHOOSE to do it because they recognize the fruit of their choices. If you want to be a genuine disciple of Jesus Christ, it means taking a long hard look at yourself….your daily habits….your personal choices….your long-range goals. A disciple never chooses what He wants, but what the Master wants. Women today still fall into the trap of women’s rights, wanting to take the lead and breaking through the glass ceiling on their way up the ladder of success. Freedom is not ‘women’s lib’! Freedom comes from letting the Master be in total charge of your life….your past, your present and your future. The Master knows the truth and the truths He controls can bring you the freedom you long for. Ultimate rest comes from putting someone else in charge of a matter. That’s the key to living a stress free life in your personal world. Up until now, if Jesus has been your co-pilot, you need to change seats. Put him in the ultimate control of everything. It may mean a time of seeking Him more, of repenting of things you have held on to for too long. The rich young ruler never learned this lesson. Who knows what kind of disciple he could have been? He past on an opportunity of a lifetime...and today no one knows his name.
Where are you today on your road to discipleship? Have you become a follower? A learner? Jesus taught that there was one mark of a true disciple. Have you discovered it?  A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another. John 13:34-35 A mark of a true disciple is how they love other people….not just church folk...not just family….not just those of the same race...everyone! A disciple does not discriminate who is loveable and who is not. They are all His children. We are to love them all. That love must be carried out to the same extreme that Jesus did. It means that husbands are to love wives and wives are to love husbands. It means we are to love our children, our neighbor and our enemy. It means there is not one we should not love. It means we must love the unlovable. We are to love all those who are victims of Satan’s lies….the liar, the cheat, the abuser, the murderer, the homosexual, the adulterer, the politician, the sinner. We are to love them as Jesus loves them...not because of what they have done, but in spite of it. We are to disciple them and love them to Jesus. Is that not what Jesus did for us? He loved us in spite of our sin. He loved us while we were yet sinners. He loved you enough to die for you. That is the ultimate end of a real disciple. Jesus called us all to take up our crosses and follow Him. Are you a genuine disciple? Are you learning and following? Are you disciplined? An old Jewish saying says to follow a rabbi was to be covered in the dust of his feet. Let’s walk close, eat a little dust and be disciplined disciples of our Lord! J. Johnson

No comments: