Dying to self & to sin: The moment of a disciple’s birth

“Disciple” signifies a follower, pupil or adherent to a teacher. In the Gospels it described those who followed John the Baptist as well as Jesus. Biblical authors also seem to have used this term to designate casual followers as well as those more fully committed (John 6:66; 8:31). The discipleship Jesus desires from us requires dying to ourselves (Mark 8:34-35). It also demands we abandon a sinful lifestyle, so that we might live for God (Romans 6:2,6,18,22).

While selfless living is commendable, it’s empty of eternal value and remains just a human-based spiritual activity, unless we are crucified with Christ. Paul knew that the life Jesus makes possible is not achieved by self-exertion. Continue reading “Dying to self & to sin: The moment of a disciple’s birth”

The disciple’s heart: its treasure, its focus, its master

In the Sermon on the Mount when Jesus identified earth and heaven as being two places where people might choose to store their treasures, he contrasted two different lifestyles (Matthew 6:19-20). We either look to the things of earth for our security and significance or we look to heaven. If self is in charge, we will seek some source of earthly security. Continue reading “The disciple’s heart: its treasure, its focus, its master”

Rest for your souls

Weekends, holidays, vacation time — we want rest! Today we have more time off than people of any age. But some still think that the time they have for rest is little for so much work and responsibility.

Our problem is that the rest we need is for the soul.

In the greater context of chapters 11-12 of Matthew’s gospel, Jesus condemns the Jews for not accepting God’s emissaries (John the Immerser and himself) and for creating and imposing upon others their religious rules. To those willing to accept it, Jesus offers rest for the soul, with these conditions: Continue reading “Rest for your souls”

Why aspiring for perfection matters

In many ways, ambition can be spiritually crippling because it leads us to destroy whoever gets in our way. Yet, the spiritual principle of aspiring for that which is better is certainly admirable.

Anyone who endeavors to succeed in any field can do so by studying the best. We should always strive to move upward, never being satisfied. Continue reading “Why aspiring for perfection matters”

The love & hate idiom

Many a student has felt confused, while many a teacher might prefer explaining a different text. “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother, wife and children, and brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26).

The explanation provided is often headed in the right direction. However, failure to explain the ancient idiom lying behind Jesus’ words robs the listeners of an “Ah Ha!” moment that can also unlock a number of other texts as well. Continue reading “The love & hate idiom”

The opportunities of life and time, and why we don’t pursue them

If God has still allowed me time on this earth, it is because he still has something for me to do. I do not presume to know all his thoughts, but that seems to be a safe statement to make. Others younger and more talented than I have entered eternity. There have been moments when I came close to the exit: car accident, surgery, my own foolishness, perhaps. (You may have your own moments to tell about.) But the Lord rescued me from them all (to borrow Paul’s language, if not his experience, in 2 Tim 3.11). Continue reading “The opportunities of life and time, and why we don’t pursue them”

Being a disciple

What does it mean to be a disciple?

Many people think following Jesus means simply accepting him into their hearts. A disciple, however, is a follower and a learner of Jesus, not simply one who accepts him.

Being a disciple of Christ means more than just agreeing with the evidence that Jesus is the son of God. It means doing what Jesus says. In John 8:31, the Lord said, “If you continue in my word, then you are truly disciples of mine” (John 8:31 NASB). The statement he makes is conditional. He says “IF you continue in my word…” We must learn to live and conduct ourselves the way Jesus commands. A true disciple is not just one who agrees with the Master and then says, “I’ll just do part of what he says.” A true disciple is one who surrenders his will to be Master and does what he says. Continue reading “Being a disciple”