Thursday, March 21, 2013

Deeper in Discipleship

Today is day four of our eleventh week, reading the Bible through in a year.  Our scriptures today are:  Deuteronomy 1-3; Luke 5; Psalm 36.

Lately, a lot of people who have been following this Bible reading plan have been talking about the difficulty they've been having with the violence in the Old Testament.  Many are also watching the current History Channel's miniseries on the Bible and commenting on its violence.  Keep in mind that the Bible isn't Rated G.  It deals with the sinful and often brutal human condition, and as such it is full of sexual misconduct, bloodshed, and every other kind of sin imaginable.  I don't apologize for the Bible--I simply want to repeat what I said in a recent post, that all of this underscores our need for a Savior.

I have to admit that I have difficulty when I read about Israel's conquest of Canaan.  Rather than elaborating on that difficulty, I'll just refer you to a website that discusses the invasion: Click here for an excellent article entitled "The Invasion of Canaan"

In an obvious act of avoidance, I prefer to talk about the New Testament passage of Jesus calling His first disciples.  From Luke 5 (ESV):

Fishermen on the lake of Gennesaret
On one occasion, while the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, he was standing by the lake of Gennesaret, and he saw two boats by the lake, but the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. Getting into one of the boats, which was Simon's, he asked him to put out a little from the land. And he sat down and taught the people from the boat. And when he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.” And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking. They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus' knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish that they had taken, 10 and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.”11 And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him.

Through this story, Jesus teaches us something about discipleship.  Many Christians want to bring in a big catch for the Lord.  We want to be effective evangelists, powerful prayer warriors, and willing workers for God.  All these things are good.  But we need to put first things first.  When Jesus first called His disciples, He didn't give them a lot of missions to accomplish.  He simply asked them to do what they usually did--but now He asked them to do it according to His instructions.

These fishermen knew what they were doing.  They were fishermen and Jesus was a carpenter.  Yet they were willing to obey Jesus' word and do their business in His way.  So too the Lord wants you to grow in discipleship by continuing to do your business--in His way.  

Before the disciples were able to bring in a big catch for Jesus, they had to go deeper with Him.  Similarly, Christians need to learn how to go deeper in the spirit before they will be able to do great or powerful works.  Many Christians rush after a big project, get excited about something new, or commit themselves to some great task--all without being willing to go deeper with Jesus beforehand.  But discipleship is about going deeper.  The result of a deepening faith and relationship with God is that you will naturally haul in a big catch.  But if you go after tons of fish without first letting down your nets into the deep waters of God's spirit, you'll never land anything.  

Most folks don't want to go deeper with Jesus because in the process, He will point out your sins and failures.  He does this not to condemn you, but to help you turn away from these things and toward His redeeming grace.  Peter responded, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.”  So too we would often rather keep things light and surface-level with Jesus, because we don't want to face our own sin.  Or, if we do encounter our own sin, we avoid facing it as Peter did.

Going deeper in discipleship means saying "yes" to Jesus when He asks you to do your business in His way.  It involves facing your fears and failures, and finding His will to be better than your own.  Jesus tells us the same thing that He told Simon:  “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” Then He calls us to do as the first disciples did--to leave everything and follow Him.


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