Discipleship, Extravagance, John 21, Jugementalism, Luke 9 and 10, Matthew 16

Making Disciples Jesus way. Part 1.

As I have been writing the last couple of blogs on discipleship realise that when I think I’ve nailed talking about it, I realise there is still more to write.

I was wondering about how Jesus made disciples?

I thought that primarily he took a risk on them, they knew they were chosen by him, he called them to come and follow him, and they left absolutely everything to come and follow him.

I wonder whether those we work with feel like they are called by Christ or whether they simply feel a bit guilty and are doing us a favour?

I was thinking how most roles in Church fee really devalued because most people end up doing them because “someone had too” rather than they were chosen, head-hunted to fulfil a role that was about the advance of God’s Kingdom, real people receiving real salvation. Jesus made it clear their calling was bigger and beyond what they might initially see (hanging out with an itinerant preacher) but instead “they were going to be fishers of men”.

Jesus shared his life with his disciples for the next three years, he only had 12, although others gathered around from time to time, and 3 of those he gave extra time and opportunities. I was wondering in our Churches as a Pastor we normally only see people when they are either in crisis or doing something exceptional, most people we only get to see a for a few moments each week. Perhaps we are too worried about quantity of numbers rather than quality of relationship? Jesus clearly really knew the 12 really well. Living with people show us what we are really like beyond the surface veneer of polite spiritual niceness.

Jesus also let people see what he did, before equipping them to go and do it themselves (Luke 9), he gave them real responsibility as he sent them out to proclaim the good news of his Kingdom with no safety net (they went out without coat or cash) and yet they came back rejoice because ‘even the demons fled at their command’. Jesus’ discipleship was not peripheral stuff, they were doing preaching, healing and deliverance not stuck on coffee duty! Yet his discipleship was much much more about who they were rather than what they did “don’t rejoice because the demons submit to you, but rejoice because your name is written in Heaven” (Luke 10:20).

How often in discipleship do we get confused between role and identity? -Something Jesus was keen to draw a distinction on.

Jesus didn’t lower his standards of discipleship, he was prepared to set the bar high and didn’t drop his standards no matter what… “let the dead buy their own dead…No one who puts his hand to the plough and keeps looking back is worthy to be my disciple” (Luke 9.62).

Jesus  looked at the Rich Young Ruler and loved him, and yet said this “one thing you lack, go and sell your possessions and give the money to the poor and then come and follow me” (Matthew 19.21), it is the same demand that he makes of the fishermen who leave their nets, their livelihood, their father, to come and follow Jesus (Matthew 4:20). If that was us in our Churches I wonder if we’d be chasing the rich young ruler down the road with a gift aid form?

I think we need a compelling vision, a challenge, no one wants to give their life for an easy goal, a wimpy small vision, a pathetic challenge, a mediocre cause and yet too often this is how we sell being a disciple of Jesus.

It is an on-going challenge, were we never reach the goal, a quote I read tonight really spoke to me “The Church is a Prayer-filled Missionary Movement, Continually discomforted by the consequences of its own gospel”…

Peter, the leader, one of the first disciples, still kept on messing it up and needing to keep on learning.  In the Galation Church still messed up as Paul’s rebuke shows (Galations 2:12). we are life long learners, and yet how many times do people think they have got there and act like they have got it all sorted?

Jesus gives praise when the disciples get it right, here is Jesus’ response to Peter realising that Christ is the Messiah:

Matthew 16.17 Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. 18 And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” 20 

Yet Jesus is also prepared to give back tough and hard feedback as Peter finds out to his cost, when Peter tried to talk Jesus out of dying on the cross  Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”

And whilst we are talking of Peter,  here is a guy who messed up spectacularly, blowing it when it mattered the most, denying Jesus three times before his execution, and yet Jesus re-instates him, asking him the one and only question that actually really matters when we think about discipleship “do you love me?” (John 21:17).

I wonder in our discipleship do we have the grace to pick up the broken and restore them even when it goes badly wrong and is really messy?

Jesus’ call is extravagant, the task is audacious, and the grace in Christ is incredibly.

I have never been discipled like this, not have I ever managed to disciple anyone like this, but I think this shows us Christ’s standard for discipleship being so so much greater than our own thinking around discipleship.

And I’ll close with this thought, these disciples were faithful to Christ, despite massive cost even to their lives, but in doing so they changed the history of the world through their faithful and courageous obidience.

Jugementalism, Luke 15

The Older Brother Syndrome.

The parable known as the prodigal son, I think is a story we often get wrong as Christians…

we focus so much on the son who went away and the Father who welcomes him back but spend very little time thinking about the older brother, yet I believe the older brother is actually the key person in this story.

Anyway, I’m running away with myself… The older Brother features at the end of Jesus’ lost trilogy in Luke 15.

The story starts with the Pharisees moaning about Jesus hanging out with ‘undesirables’  which prompts Jesus to tell this story.

The first story, the Lost Sheep which features the Good Shepherd -A Jesus image- leaving the 99 to seek the one that was lost, can you imagine how his ears must have burned, I bet the 99 we fuming, probably writing strongly worded letters to the Bishop about the appalling lack of pastoral care they felt they were entitled too, this Shepherd (word inter-changable with Pastor) really should be at their event eating quiche not wasting his time on people who we never see in Church.

Jesus talks about rejoicing in heaven not at the standard of their catering or their full programme of events, but rather over the sinner who repents.

Interestingly, Jesus talks about “99 righteous people who need no repentance” is being provocative, the Jews knew that they weren’t righteous, even though they tried hard, Jesus is challenging their superior attitude here!

Then we move on in the lost narrative, with the lost coin, here the lost item is portayed as something incredibly valuable, a comparable image now-a-days is ‘imagine a woman lost the diamond from her engagement ring”. This is telling, why? because the people at that time would have no time for sinners and think they were worthless and a waste of time, here they are likened to the most precious of possessions.

Jesus is saying “those people who do not even feature on your radar are incredibly precious and valuable to God”. Again, re-emphasising the point, we hear of Angels rejoicing in heaven over sinners repenting, showing the difference between peoples warped perspective and God’s perfect perspective.

Then we end up at the story known as the prodigal son story. The older brother only features at the very end of the story, returning from the field grumpy because his younger brother has returned and been welcomed home.

what do we know of this young man? we know he is a grumbler (grumbling doesn’t go down well with God it caused the Israelites to wander the desert for 40 years) and his is ‘self-righteous’.

I would also suggest that this young man is actually the more lost of the two brothers, the one who although with the Father more actually knew him -and his heart- less.

The older  brother thinks of the Fathers stuff as his own, “why are you killing the fatted calf?” How often in our Churches do we see the older brother type get possessive about things that don’t belong to them, but really belong to God? Sadly, too often in Churches people care more about things than people, and it is a tragedy that must make our Heavenly Father weep.

The Older Brother has been around grace and love all his life, and yet perverts this into some transactional deal “look at what I’ve done for you, I deserve…” Yet God’s love isn’t earned, or conditional on dutifully delivered work hours, actually the younger son clearly knew his dad better than his older brother.

The Older Brother refers to his brother as “your son” and which the Father corrects him and calls his “your brother”. The Older Brother’s way of thinking of “them and us” is at the heart of all division throughout the centuries.

The Older  Brother says “This Son of yours has wasted all your money on prostitutes” which is interesting, no where in the text does it say he went with prostitutes, yet the older brother types are normally gossips who dishonestly embellish the truth. It is funny how we get so judgemental about sexual sin but gossip and slander is sadly much too common place within our Churches.

The Brother is smug, he doesn’t think he’s a sinner, he doesn’t realise that he has no rights to his Fathers money either, his dad can do what he likes with his money, including leaving it to the “Cats protection league”. we somehow think we have a right to Salvation and God’s goodness, yet we don’t, although God is gracious, merciful and give us not what we deserve, but actually what we don’t deserve.

The writer Brennan Manning talks in his wonderful book “The Ragamuffin Gospel” about the choice we have at Easter time, “the choice is not between Jesus or Barabbas, no one would choose a bandit over Jesus, but rather it is between Jesus and Caiaphas (the High Priest).”

The choice between grace and law.

The choice between being admitting your a sinner and being smug.

The choice between religion and life in the spirit. (Religion is as helpful as throwing a drowning man both ends of the rope).

The choice between love or judgement.

The choice between risk or the status quo.

The choice between heaven and hell.

Jesus is challenging the people to see their own lostness, bursting the fake comfort of arrogance and self-righteousness to embrace truth and grace which enable us to experience the Fathers Embrace.

The older brother syndrome I believe has been there through out scripture of people thinking they know better than God and point scoring by running other people down, and here Jesus tackles it head on. Here those who think they are the ‘goodies’ in the story end up as ‘the bad guys’.

what of us, which brother are we? whichever it is, run to the Fathers embrace with humility and real not pseudo-repentance.

Here is what william Booth said about the fear of the Older Brother Syndrome getting a grip on our Churches, over a 100 years old, but scarily prophetic.

“The chief danger of the 20th century will be religion without the Holy Spirit, Christianity without Christ, forgiveness without repentance, salvation without regeneration, politics without God, and heaven without hell.”
William Booth