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Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Dare to be a Disciple: Introduction

Dare to be a Disciple Introduction
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
This course has been born out of a conviction that I have, in my 22 years as a preacher, teacher and pastor, concentrated too much on making converts and too little on making disciples. I have come to the realisation that the two are not the same. Jesus command is "Go and make disciples", so

But, "What does that mean"


Firstly, we'll discover that a disciple is someone who, plain and simply, wants to become like the teacher.

We'll discover that anything Jesus did, we can do (other than die on a cross for the salvation of the world ... but we don't need to do that because it was done once for all). A disciple of Christ is some one who seeks to become like Christ, which means doing the things He did, always remembering that we have the same Spirit (power) in us as was in Him.

We'll discover that all that Jesus did can be summed up in these 4 acts: compassionjusticeworship, and devotionwe'll discover accountable ways of doing acts of  compassion, justice, worship and devotion, which won't save us, but which will make us disciples, people who are becoming like our teacher, Jesus. These acts of compassion, justice, worship and devotion are the good works which God has prepared in advance for us to do.

My main sources for my material are:
Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Covenant Discipleship by David Lowes Watson
The Sermon on the Mount by Scot McKnight
The Sermon on the Mount by Cedric Poole

To start off however, I want to look at the well known parable of the Good Samaritan which is a good example of the compassion, and justice that ought to flow (but doesn't always) from people of worship, and devotion. In this parable we have one good example of what a disciple is, and two good examples of what a disciple isn't. Please read it carefully, because the danger (beautifully pointed out to me recently by Tom Wright in Lent for Everyone)  is that we think we know this story by heart.  Today, read it slowly, again and again, and allow yourself to stand by the side of the road and watch what’s happening.

Or imagine you were the one going down from Jerusalem to Jericho…The moment of fear as you go round that corner by the big rock, a long way away from towns or cities; the moment of panic as they come at you, the sharp, sickening pain as they beat you up; then the sense of being too weak either to resist or to pick yourself up from the ditch where they’ve left you…

Then, with your whole body screaming for help but without the breath to cry out, a moment of hope…Footsteps, coming up the hill.  Please, please help!  They’re coming closer…surely they must have seen me…and then they go on by, fainter and fainter, dying away.  Despair.

Then it happens again!  More footsteps.  Surely this time they’ll help me.  But they don’t.

Then another.  This time there’s a donkey as well.  You hear it snuffling.  Then a voice.  A strange accent.  A flowing of oil and wine into sharp, stinging wounds.  Strong, gentle arms.  The warmth of the donkey’s back.  Every step a wrench of pain, but at least you’re going somewhere.  Then, as you drift in and out of consciousness, voices.  The chink of a coin.  A bed.  A sigh of relief.

At one level (and this is the level many great Christian teachers have exploited) that’s what the story is about: you and me, wounded by sin, the world and the devil, and left for dead by the road, and Jesus as the stranger who comes to rescue us.  Yes, that’s fine as far as it goes.  But there is more.
Because the rescuer is one of those dreadful Samaritans.  In Jesus’ day, that meant (to a Jew), “the other lot”, “those people up there who hate us and whom we hate back.”  Keep well away, says the world.  We are different.

So, all of a sudden, I have to think again about who God’s Kingdom is really for and what I, as a disciple, am meant to do in it.  Is Jesus saying that God’s Kingdom has all sorts of people in it I never expected? Is Jesus saying that I'm called to reach out to "them" just as He did? That, certainly, is what the first Christians discovered very soon

The question, now as then, is whether we will use all that Jesus is telling us here about love and grace as a call to extend that love and grace to the whole world.  No church, no Christian, can remain content with living life in a way that allows us to watch most of the world lying half-dead in the road and pass by, and yet isn't that what so many "saved" people do.

When we Dare to be a Disciple, we ask Jesus to help us to see the people we are passing by on the other side and to ask of ourselves: What does it mean right now for me to 

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