I have been meditating upon the concept of discipleship lately. This past Sunday, we studied Luke 5 in Sunday School (Jesus’ calling of Peter, James and John [5:1-11] and Levi [5:27] Ray Vander Laan (see link below) has a great video on the subject. Two books come to mind when I think about this issue–The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Holiness by J.C. Ryle. For your edification, I include quotes from both authors. First, allow me to share a passage from the Bible:
“There went great multitudes with Him: and He turned and said unto them, ‘If any come to Me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after Me, cannot be My disciple” (Luke 14:25-27).
From Holiness by J.C. Ryle (1816-1900):
[Regarding the passage quoted above] “I must plainly say that I cannot reconcile this passage with the proceedings of many modern religious teachers. And yet, to my mind, the doctrine of it is as clear as the sun at noonday. It shows us that we ought not to hurry men into professing discipleship, without warning them plainly to ‘count the cost.'”
“For another thing, it will cost a man his love of ease. He must take pains and trouble, if he means to run a successful race towards heaven. He must daily watch and stand on his guard, like a soldier on enemy’s ground. He must take heed to his behaviour every hour of the day, in every company, and in every place, in public as well as in private, among strangers as well as at home. He must be careful over his time, his tongue, his temper, his thoughts, his imagination, his motives, his conduct in every relation of life. He must be diligent about his prayers, Bible-reading, and his use of Sundays, with all their means of grace. In attending to these things he may come far short of perfection; but there is none of them that he can safely neglect. ‘The soul of the sluggard desireth, and hath nothing: but the soul of the diligent shall be made fat'” (Prov. 13:4).
From The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer (18-1945):
“Beside Jesus nothing has any significance. He alone matters. When we are called to follow Christ, we are summoned to an exclusive attachment to His person.”
“The life of discipleship is not the hero-worship we would pay to a good master, but obedience to the Son of God.”
I close with a simple question: Are you a disciple of Jesus Christ?
PS–Flip over to the Quick Takes pages for a list of discipleship questions.
Only a handful of books are worth rereading. R.C. Sproul’s book The Holiness of God is such a book. Have you read it?
I received a phone call today from Ligonier Ministries. The very kind woman I conversed with informed me that you can take The Holiness of God course online through their website AT NO COST.
God is BIG. Man is small.
I do not recall how many times I have stated that over the years. However, I do know what the Lord used to help me come that that biblically correct conclusion. Better put, I remember the individuals God used to guide me into deeper revelations of His character and works. R.C. Sproul is high on that list. Although I was able to take a class taught by Dr. Sproul while at RTS-Orlando, it was through his writings that I was able to discern that God is much bigger than I could have ever imagined. I hope you have come to the same realization.
You will find the link to the Ligonier website below. I would encourage you to visit them online and learn more about their resources, including The Holiness of God course mentioned above.
“The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases, His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness” (Lam. 3:22,23; ESV).
God has been exceedingly kind to me. This weekend is another example. You won’t guess what happened. Absolutely nothing out of the ordinary. Seriously. But it was the accumulation of “little blessings” which cause me to overflow with gratitute on a Sunday evening. If you are interested, here’s the list:
Friday PM—Breakfast supper with the family; Friday PM—Watched several students win a BB game; Saturday AM—Slept in! (though CLOSE lightning woke us); Saturday AM—Devotions and Sunday School prep; Saturday AM & PM—RCA teaching prep for Monday; Saturday PM—Sweet Basil Thai lunch (yum!)—Sam’s—haircuts; Saturday PM—Little House episode w/family; Sunday AM—Sunday School and Church (encouraging!); Sunday PM—Great food and service at Olive Garden; Sunday PM—Listening to Cascade sing on the way home; Sunday PM—REST (even included a twenty minute nap!); Sunday PM—Interesting NFL games (miss The Pack!); Sunday PM—Early bedtime (helpful at my advanced age)
Like I said…nothing extraordinary. No event to remember. But the older I get the more I am appreciating the ordinary; the more grateful I am that God does not treat me as my sins deserve.
Can you say the same?
I think you can!
Might I encourage you to think back over the past several days and create your own list of the “little blessings” God has sent your way? Then, click the link below. Prior to doing so, meditate upon the quote from Jonathan Edwards’ sermon “God is a Being of Transcendent Mercy.” Have a great week!
“Let this exhort us to love and praise God. If God is a Being of such transcendent mercy, then He is a Being transcently amiable. He is worthy that our hearts should ascend to Him in the most ardent flame of love, and that we should exalt Him in our praises. In God infinite greatness, infinite goodness, and infinite mercy are joined together. The mercy of God is like a sea or like a deluge. Noah’s flood was so great that it was above the tops of the mountains; but the mercy that is in the heart of God is greater: it is above the heavens and overtops our sins that are like great mountains that are grown up to heaven” (Jonathan Edwards: The Puritan Pulpit–The American Puritans, Don Kistler, ed., Soli Deo Gloria, 2004).
I saw it again today. The “Frog” car. As you might expect, the car is green. But it is also colorful because it is covered in large frog stickers. When I paused to take a closer look, I learned what the owner meant by the use of the FROG acronym: Fully Rely On God.
I appreciate the exhortation.
Do you “fully rely upon God”? I know that I don’t. I also know that I very much want to do so. Jodi and I are reading a proverb a day for the month of January. Consider the following verses from Proverbs 16 (our Monday reading) in light of the FROG car (seen again on Monday):
“Commit your works to the LORD And your plans will be established” (16:3).
“The mind of man plans his way, But the LORD directs his steps” (16:9).
“He who gives attention to the word will find good, And blessed is he who trusts in the LORD” (16:20).
Do you see FROG in those words? I do! God is absolutely sovereign (defined as His inherent right to rule which He chooses to exercise). He is completely in control of His creation, even to the determination of the dice (“lot…cast into the lap” [16:33]). Isn’t He worthy of my trust?
Isn’t He worthy of your trust?
A friend of mine has been forwarding emails from the mother of a little boy who is dying of cancer. Her grieving words also exhibited a deeply rooted trust in an all-wise and all-good God. I have both prayed for the healing of her child and thanked God for her mature faith in Christ. She is accepting the good and adversity which flow from the throne (Ps. 115:1-3; Job 2:10; Dan. 4:35).
What challenges are you facing today? Last weekend a “friend” posted on Facebook that she was taking a big “step of faith.” What about you? In what particular situation are you lacking the necessary faith to either “step” or wait? Remember the FROG car! Trust in the LORD with all your heart (fully rely upon God [Prov. 3:5,6])!
I was only three years old when James Earl Ray assassinated Martin Luther King, Jr. in Memphis, Tennessee. The first five years of my life were spent in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, a literal melting pot of color and ethnicity. I was only a generation removed from European immigrants. As a result, you would think that my family would have risen above closed-minded prejudice.
The story isn’t pretty, but I am not afraid to tell it. Every closet has skeletons. Every family tree has rotten fruit. I was probably five years old. Living in a large apartment complex (I distinctly remember four large apartment buildings, all facing each other), I played with the children who were outside at the time. One day I was playing with a friend when my mother informed me that I had been invited to my grandparents’ home (they lived in an apartment nearby). Grandma Wehse had made cookies! I was excited! My grandmother made awesome cookies! I wanted some and I wanted my friend to have some, too. That’s when I first learned about the ugly truth of prejudice. As delicately as she could, my mom told me that I could not invite my friend to accompany me to Grandpa and Grandma’s because she was black. I remember shooting back with the “Huh?!” face. Mom agreed with me. I was confused: “What does the color of her skin have to do with cookies?” It did not make a difference in our play!
Adults must be a lot smarter than kids.
“I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”
You know those words. They are taken from Martin Luther King, Jr.’s famous I Have a Dream speech. The speech began with these words, “I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.” If that particular rally on the mall in Washington was not “the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation,” it is surely on the list of transformational events. Dr. King’s speech was used by the God of history to further fuel the passive-resistance movement gaining great momentum in our country.
Today I celebrate that social movement which radically changed our nation, whose vibrations would eventually reach apartheid-ravaged South Africa. Martin Luther King, Jr. was an imperfect man–a sinner like the rest of us. But today is not the appropriate context to highlight his failings. Rather, allow me to echo his desire that we all be judged by “the content of our character.” In other words, who we are should trump what we look like. My friend in Milwaukee was my friend because she was my friend. It was that simple. I knew she was black. I wasn’t blind. But I didn’t care. She didn’t care I was white.
Isn’t that how it should be?
Sometimes adults are not a lot smarter than kids.
As I prepare to teach about the baptism of Jesus this Sunday, I am causing myself to ask several questions. One such question is: Is God the Father well pleased with me? We know that He was well pleased with Jesus. He says it plainly–with a loud voice from heaven (Mt. 3:17). Does He think the same of me?
I found a great website tonight dedicated to the life and ministry of Bishop J.C. Ryle (1816-1900). Each day’s entry includes a quote from Ryle. Here is the quote from January 2, 2012 :
“God approves and honors heart-religion in the present life. He looks down from Heaven, and reads the hearts of all people. Wherever He sees . . .
heart-repentance for sin,
heart-faith in Christ,
heart-holiness of life,
heart-love to His Son, His law, His will, and His word
. . . wherever God sees these things, He is well pleased.”
Check out the website where I found that quote: http://jcrylequotes.com/
WOW–that’s some list! Does God see any of those characteristics in my life? When He “reads” me, what words and illustrations appear on my pages? Can my faith in Christ accurately be entitled “heart-religion”? I hope so! I deeply desire for my relationship with God to be much more than an intellectual exercise. The life described by Ryle is one which illustrates genuine love for what the Lord loves and hatred for what the Lord hates. Those are the natural results of our sanctification, our growing more and more into the likeness of Christ. That’s why I remain committed to my time with God each and every day. I need to spend time with Him. I want to spend time with Him. And I hope the same is true for each of you!
Let me ask you–now that we are almost two weeks into this New Year: How faithful have you been in your seeking of God’s face? Have you been reading His Word? Have you been praying? Then, has your faithfulness fleshed itself out through fruit? Is “heart-religion” evident in your life in 2012? Think about it. Continue forward if you began this year as you ought. Use this as a gentle nudge if you haven’t.
“To seek your presence earnestly, and I have found you” (Prov. 7:15).
We should earnestly seek God’s presence. When we do so, we will surely “find” Him (1 Chr. 16:11; Ps. 27:8; Ps. 119:2; Heb. 11:6).
I need to make a confession. I seriously yanked a verse out of context to make my point. Proverbs 7:15 has absolutely nothing to do with seeking the face of God. Rather they are the words of an adulterous woman who is seeking to seduce a young man. Here’s the context:
“So she seizes him and kisses him And with a brazen face she says to him: ‘I was due to offer peace offerings; Today I have paid my vows. Therefore I have come out to meet you, To seek your presence earnestly, and I have found you” (7:13-15).
In verse nineteen, she admits that her husband is away on a trip. Without a doubt, this woman is evil. However, she is also religious. She mentioned peace offerings and vows. In other words, she was able to go through the motions to ease her conscience before rushing into her sin. Gross, isn’t it?! Evil woman!
Religiousness doesn’t always translate into godliness.
Would you mind if we did a little self-examination before we navigate to another web page? Most of you regularly participate in religious duties. You pray. You read the Bible. You attend church–all important activities in your spiritual life. But beware of thinking that you have earned enough credits to allow you to sin without consequences. Have you ever heard the term antinomianism? It literally means “against the law.” It describes the understanding and practice of individuals who believe they have complete freedom to live any way they (i.e. their flesh) desire since God is gracious and Jesus paid for the penalty of their sins. Honestly, I’ve never met someone who actually believes this is an acceptable method to live to the glory of God. It’s ridiculous. The words of the adulterous woman are ridiculous as well. So is our behavior! The way in which we rush to sin contradicts our confession. Sometimes our actions and reactions cause others to doubt the sincerity of our commitment. Sometimes I am caused to doubt the sincerity of my own commitment! Other than Jesus, I have yet to meet someone perfect. I have met mature believers–individuals whose lives consistently illustrate what the Apostle Paul called “the obedience of faith” (Rom. 16:26). I want that consistency to be seen in my life as well! I am thankful that God is indeed gracious, and I praise Jesus for dealing with the penalty of my sins. Now I deeply desire to live to the glory of my triune God! I want my religious duties to translate into godliness.
Are you with me?!
PS–Men, be on alert. The adulteress is trying to present herself as legitimate. She is–in fact–a fake. She never lives up to her promises. Click to the next website with caution!
I saw my barber’s eyes light up for the first time in five years. Every topic we discussed thus far in our relationship earned the expected nonchalant response. That changed on Friday afternoon. As I was paying him for buzzin’ my head, I noticed a paper weight with the Masonic “G” (short for GAUTO [Grand Architect of the Universe]). When I inquired as to whether he was a Mason, Mr. “H” finally showed some emotion. He was excited to talk about his involvement and was eager to answer the one question that I had. His unexpected response “got me to a thinkin’.”
When do people see me excited? What causes me to light up?
I know how our third grade teacher would answer my questions. Jodi! She’s mentioned it before. Jodi positively affects me–still! I’m not ashamed to admit it! I’m glad it shows! I wonder, however, if my relationship with Christ also affects my countenance. Can others tell when I have been with Jesus?
Next Sunday I am going to begin a three-month survey of the life of Christ at church. My intense hope is that our study will do far more than affect our minds. As necessary as that is, I deeply desire to see our emotions altered as well. Rather than knowing more about Christ, I want to know Christ more.
I’ve always loved this passage:
“Now as they observed the confidence of Peter and John, and understood that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were marveling, and began to recognize them as having been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13; NASB).
What did the Jewish leaders notice? Confidence in “uneducated and untrained” Peter and John because they had “been with Jesus”! The difference that the Lord had made was visible! May that be said of me!
And there is a very practical reason for my daily pursuit of Christ in 2012!