Saturday, September 11, 2010

Are You a Disciple?

Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me."
Mark 8:34

It's so easy to think that as Christians, we have no tasks greater than believing and repenting, praying and reading.  And to be sure, these are wonderful things--great starting points in the Christian walk.

But these things do not make us disciples of Jesus.  Nor do they give us an abundant life.

To be a disciple and to experience the abundant life here on earth, Jesus said a man must:

1.  deny himself - This does not refer to giving up a luxury.  It refers, instead, to giving up the ownership of ourselves.   To deny yourself means to sit in the passenger's seat, rather than the driver's seat--purposely giving up control over your life.

2.  take up his cross - This does not refer to a trial, a hardship, or a handicap.  To take up your cross means to be like Paul the Apostle--willing to suffer, willing to be persecuted, willing to be humbled, willing to die for the causes of Christ.  It doesn't mean you will die for Christ, literally--just that you are willing to.  

3.  follow me - To follow Jesus means to obey him.  We must do whatever he asks of us, relying on his power to do it.

"For whoever wants to save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it."
Mark 8:35

Can one be a Christian, but not a disciple?  Yes.  You will make it to heaven, but in choosing to remain in the driver seat, you lose the abundant life.  You will not know true fulfillment, true joy, here on earth.  Whatever fleeting joy you do come across, it will never compare to what a disciple experiences.  

"For what does it profit a man, to gain the whole world and forfeit his life (soul in the greek).  For what can a man give in return for his soul?"
Mark 8: 36-37

So, what is the question of the week?  The question I've been pondering so much these last couple months?  What was the catalyst for this post?

Just this:  Why is it that only ten percent of Christian readers click on a poverty-themed post?  

The first reason is a simple one.  Sometimes, people are battling something so big in the here and now, there's no room for more conflict.  

The other reason is tragic.  

The vast majority of Christians have said no to discipleship.  

The cost is too high, and like the crowd Jesus spoke to, they've walked away.  They've chosen to save--and therefore lose--their lives.

Taking up poverty as a cause is costly.  Messy.  You'll be shunned by family, friends, and fellow churchgoers.  Kristin, from We Are That Family, did a lot of posts about poverty after returning from Kenya as a Compassion Blogger.  She began getting comments from readers, complaining that she was trying to make people feel guilty.  In truth she was only describing how and why her heart had changed, and how difficult it was at times, living in the tension of that change.

Really, it's no wonder the shunning occurs!  For what does it look like to really care about poverty?

- You won't look like the Joneses anymore.  You're giving so much to charity that you can no longer afford luxuries, like a stop at Starbuck's, or a weekly dinner out, or weekends away, or the latest fashions.  

- People will stare.  They will talk about you.   "Why are they suddenly less well off?  Don't they have good jobs?  Aren't they successful, like us?"  

- You won't have as many friends.  Even if you don't flaunt your giving, people will probably find out anyway, and they'll be uncomfortable.  They'll avoid you.

- You will be inconvenienced.  Your life won't be as comfortable, and at times it might be downright uncomfortable, physically speaking.

Don't all these things happen anyway, though, when we choose discipleship?  Yes!  Discipleship looks just like this--messy, hard, lonely at times.  

But let's not forget the reward!  "...whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it."  This isn't referring merely to salvation, but to an abundant, fulfilling, worthwhile life.  

Few people in this life will choose to deny themselves, take up their cross, and follow Jesus.  

So what about you?  What about me?  Have we been "saving it to lose it"?  Or "losing it to save it"?  Can we call ourselves disciples?  

Here is Ann Voskamp's latest post about poverty in Guatemala.  If you can't give, can you bend your knees for the cause?

Even if your own heart is ready, husbands aren't always on the same page when it comes to helping the poor.  While this can be painful, we can't nag.  We submit.  We let Jesus do the heart work.  We pray, "Make me a disciple, Jesus."

These verses speak of the rewards for helping the poor:
Ps 41:1-3; 112, Proverbs 14:21; 19:17, 22:9, 14:31, 28:27,  Isaiah 58:6-10

These verses speak of the consequences for not helping the poor:
Ezek. 16:49, Is.10:1-3, Luke 1:52, Ezek. 22:29, 31, Jer. 5:28, James 5:1-6, Luke 6:24, Luke 16:19-25



Michelle said...

Ah, you have touched on so many powerful points! I found myself nodding emphatically as I read your post, agreeing with every word. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and some inspiration this morning!

Sandi said...

great post.

I find it so weird when people say issues of poverty is about a guilt trip. If you are feeling guilty maybe you should take that to God and talk to him about that eh?

I think we are SO entrenched in our world of little need, abundance and relative safety that we begin to see it as our right not a gift and blessing. Poverty challenges that idea.
We could easily be those women living in tin houses wondering if we will be washed down the side of a mountain when the rain comes....why are we not? I don't know but I pray that I never take for granted ALL that I have and pray that I will serve Him with it. My heart breaks for those women.

Thanks for putting truth out there and making us all think.