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Jonny Whisenant
Sunday, November 18 2018


Hello Brothers, Sisters, Family, and Friends,

Did you know that the first name for Christians was not "Christians" but “Disciples?”

The question above,” Are we Disciples?”, might also be posed,…are we personal in our relationship with the Lord, or are we …institutional? The people of God have always had to be wary of incorporating too much of the culture that they live into the practice of their faith lest they begin to lose the sacred difference between themselves and the world around them. As Jesus warned us, “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people's feet.” We are worthless to our culture if we do not maintain our healthy distinctions, and yet, we are to be in the world and not part of it. So, it should not be surprising that living in a materialistic, rationalistic, pragmatic, industrialized society, dependent on and surrounded by nonliving machines to do our work, impersonal corporations to work in, and government to manage some of almost all aspects of our lives, that our understanding of the church and our relationship with our Lord might begin to take on similar characteristics. Are we sometimes mechanical, institutional, detached, maybe even somewhat entitled?

Jesus came to do many things but at the heart of the question of what he came to do for each of us is the question of Discipleship. There is no doubt that He came to save us from our sins, restore us to right relationships to our Heavenly Father as His adopted sons and daughters, give us an inheritance for eternity in the New Heavens and New Earth, and so much more. But, until and unless each of us are willing to listen to Him, seek to learn from Him, and intentionally apply all He has for us to learn, we will be more like spectators to our professed Faith than actually players in it. And Disciples are players. You see, when Jesus told the Apostles that they were to carry His message to the world, they were not told to make followers, churches,…or even what we call  “Christians”, but they were told to make …….Disciples!

 “And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matt 28:18-20

Here is why this is such a big deal:

Being a “Disciple” is at the heart of what Jesus call’s us and all the members of the church to strive for.

But wait, aren’t followers, “Christians”, and Disciples all terms for the same thing?  Maybe, that is if what is meant mean by being a follower, or Christian, means doing the same thing as a Disciple. So what is a Disciple then? The term "disciple" comes from the Greek word mathetes, which means a pupil (of a teacher) or an apprentice (to a master craftsman), in English through the Latin word discipulus it means a learner but the more common English word is student. In the Jewish culture it referred to people committed to following a leader “Rabbi”, imitating his life and passing on his teachings. To them discipleship meant much more than just the gaining of new spiritual information, it referred to internalizing the teacher’s values, recreating the model of his life in their own, and reproducing and promoting his teachings.

A Disciple then is someone who is actively engaged in learning and applying their teacher’s instruction to their life.  

“A disciple is a learner, a student, an apprentice, --a practitioner…disciples of Jesus are people who do not just profess certain views as their own but apply their growing understanding of life in the Kingdom of the Heavens to every aspect of their life on earth…The disciple is one who, intent upon becoming Christ- like and so dwelling in his “faith and practice”, systematically and progressively rearranges his affairs to that end. By these decisions and actions, one enrolls in Christ’s training and becomes a pupil or disciple. There is no other way.” “The Great Omission” Dallas Willard

So, a Disciple then is someone who has entered into an active personal relationship with the Master Teacher in order to learn from, imitate, and apply his teacher’s wisdom and instruction to his own life and world.

The key is an active relationship, not merely following along as an observer, or holding an identity.

So, are “WE”... Disciples…of the One we claim to believe in and trust for our salvation? Our Lord Jesus? Are we what Jesus told his Apostles He wanted for His Church? Or are we what the world calls …”Christians”…”church” goers, who in reality are only going along with the program, doing the right things, saying, the right things, “believing” the right things, showing up at the right times, in order to “get into heaven”, ….institutional believers….depending on the program to save us, but with no regular relationship of learning/applying with our Lord? Have we as “Christians” just become members and supporters of “institutions” almost like movie goers, or are we instead trying to be engaged in a relationship with a “Person” and the “persons” that He is engaged with? We often hear that we need to have a “personal relationship’” with Christ for our salvation, but somewhere along the way  for many of us, that gets squeezed out in the grind of life and we begin coasting with the crowd, feeling assured we are Ok because we are in the ‘right crowd’. For some of us we have yet to understand the difference. And as blessed as the church might be, we should not substitute it for a learning relationship with the Lord Himself. Being a Disciple of our Lord, begins with our own personal, individual, response to His call to us to repent of our sins, to trust in Him for our salvation and life, to be with and learn from Him by His grace, every day of our life, for the rest of our lives. It is a call for us to prefer His company over all things and seek His company in all things.

Ouch,…. and yet we know in our hearts if we are honest that this is really something we cannot do! Without His enabling we are incapable of this kind of disciplined commitment. The good news is that it is only by His Grace day by day that we can do this, and this is only received as we seek daily to trust and place our faith in Him. “…Without Faith it is impossible to please God”. No,… having begun by the Spirit we are not now being perfected by the flesh, but He calls us to seek and trust, to have Faith in His Grace to accomplish this through us. Through His Grace He calls each of us to seek a vital learning, practicing relationship with Himself in our daily lives. To seek to “discipline” ourselves by in and through His Grace.  

So are we disciples? How shall we know? Who determines this? While we might list evidences seen outwardly, ultimately it is a matter between each of us and the Lord Himself, the Lord bearing witness with our spirit, giving us assurance of our relationship as we faithfully seek Him. As one of the great confessions of Faith says, “God alone is Lord of the conscience”, and “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil. 2 Cor 5:10. This is a personal matter between each of us and our Lord from the time we start out and each day afterward and ultimately it is a matter of our hearts. Do we have that spark of desire to be be all that he wants us to be or are we holding back, quietly deciding the terms of what our relationship with Him will be? Do our hearts cry out  “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” or are we  more like those whom "the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. Mk 4:19." Are we allowing the institution of the church with it's outward trappings to carry us in our dull relationship with the Lord, or are we getting on with really seeking to be His Disciples? What do you hear in your heart?

Wherever in your journey these comments may find you, may they encourage you to make the next positive step, to take the HighRoads with our Lord toward the Sunlit Uplands.


Posted by Sarah Bentley on 11/25/2018 - 09:29 PM
Thanks for sharing. It is easy to "fall asleep" in our relationship with Jesus. I know I need to be in his word, praying regularly, and spending focused time alone with him or I will just be going through the motions and producing very little if any fruit. I need Jesus to change my heart every day.
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