I went to my cell phone carrier the other day to take care of some business. Before I could get out of the office they informed me about the new line of phones available, specials on phone accessories, referral gift cards available (if I could get friends to switch carriers), and that I was due for an upgrade on my phone. Sitting through this barrage of information I kept reminding myself that I was just there to take care of a simple business transaction. You see, all I want is a phone. I want to receive and make calls. It’s a phone. If I want to take pictures I’ll get my camera. If I want to surf the internet I’ll turn on my laptop. I would much rather talk with someone and hear his voice than to be typing on that micro-sized keyboard. My eye sight is changing with age and those keyboards are almost invisible. If I want to play a game, I would much rather shoot basketball with my son or play tennis with my daughter. If we can get everyone together, a nice family board game is a great way to spend the evening. High-tech and fast speed is helpful, but not very relational.
Our lives have become so fast, so informed, and so complex. We are overwhelmed with detail and change. No wonder we are stressed and left feeling inadequate. Every profession has continuing education classes to attend, with some being required for continued employment. It seems to never end. Our mindset has become to take the course, to pass the test, to get the certificate and it’s done. Check it off and …on to the next one.
The Christian church of America has blindly followed suit. We have made church so complex. Our ministry is often too involved for those wanting to serve. There are study courses for topics which seem to be made-up and that seem to take scripture out of context. Southern Baptists have the best resource supplies available. It’s good and helpful for those wishing to further their knowledge of God and the Bible, but there also are some drawbacks. These classes in discipleship are exactly that; they are classes. They are good for imparting knowledge and truth. Yet too many times people attend, pass the test, get the certificate and sign up for the next course. After awhile we just move from one class to the next, one seminar to the next, one conference to the next. Even a sponge can hold only so much liquid. Just one of our courses would cost the disciple $70 to attend the class, to work through five workbooks and it would take ten months to complete. Whew, what a commitment! There is something lacking in our process. It’s the realization that discipleship of a Christian’s life is relational. It’s a relationship with Jesus [2 Corinthians 13:5]. It’s a life with Him. It’s not part of our lives. IT IS OUR LIFE! [Colossians 3:3]. It’s everything we are, have, and it never ends [Philippians 3:8]. The Holy Spirit is constantly molding us into the image of Jesus Christ by use of the Word of God [John 17:17] and by His presence in our lives [1Corinthians 6:11]. I was once told by a godly young lady that she did not plan to attend another conference. I asked why and was told that it would take the rest of her life just to apply everything she had already learned in her life to obey God.
God did not make a life of faith so difficult. He has freely given us everything we need for sanctification of our lives to take place. First, He provided His Word, the Bible. In it He reveals Himself and His relationship with mankind. It reveals man’s need of reconciliation to Him because of our sin which separates us from Him. Second, He provided reconciliation and salvation through Jesus’ life, death, burial, and resurrection [Ephesians 2:8]. Third, He also provided the indwelling Holy Spirit which teaches and guides us through the sanctification process [1 John 3:24]. If sanctification is God’s will for a Christian’s life, and He has provided everything we need for it, then it should not cost us anything to obtain it. If it’s relational, passed on from believer to believer, then it’s the sharing of one disciple’s life with another disciple under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit’s work is teaching [John 14:26], reminding [John 14:26], guiding [John 16:13], exhorting, correcting [2 Timothy 3:16], convicting [John 16:8]. We, as disciplers and disciples, are His instruments in the work of reconciliation and sanctification [2 Corinthians 5:18]. It’s His work and we are involved as we allow Him to use us.
In order to understand the process of sanctification we need to understand its meaning. Basically it means to be made, to be conformed, into the image of Jesus [Romans 8:29]. If we want to be like Jesus, then we need to study His life as revealed by God in scripture. As we study, God will reveal two important things about Jesus’ character and life. Jesus was OBEDIENT to God the Father and Jesus gave Himself for OTHERS.
God tells us in the second chapter of Philippians that Jesus was obedient to God. We are told that Jesus fulfilled all the law of God [Matthew 5:17]. Scripture presents obedience as a result of and a sign of one’s love for God [John 14:15]. So by His obedience Jesus showed His love for His heavenly Father. Jesus’ love and obedience to God lead to His rejection [John 4:44], suffering [Luke 17:25], humiliation, and death [Philippians 2:8]. If we are Jesus’ disciples then our lives need to reflect His obedience to God. We say we love God, but our love is known by our obedience to God [Luke 6:45]. It’s our love for God that counts, not our love for ourselves [Matthew 22:37]. It’s our obedience to God that counts, not our serving of self [2 Corinthians 9:13]. We need to live a life of love and obedience for God and when rejection, suffering, humiliation, or even death come our way we need to welcome it humbly [James 1:2-4].
Jesus came not only to live and die to obey God, but He also came to serve others. He says He came to serve us, mankind [Mark 10:45]. That is so strange that the Creator [Colossians 1:15], Master, Sustainer [Colossians 1:17] of the universe came to live on earth and serve mankind. The Creator serving the creature. Yet not only serving, but serving through dying. Jesus’ work was spiritual and salvational. It culminated with His death and resurrection. So if we are disciples of Jesus then we need to give ourselves whole-heartily to others with nothing held back, We must die daily to our desires, wants, and dreams so that God can work through us and in us for the benefit of others [Galatians 2:20]. Boy, that goes against the flow of life. That’s right! To live God’s way in obedience and love for Him and others it goes against the grain of our sin nature. It rubs society and mankind the wrong way. It’s a blight against their way of life [John 15:19]. When we live the way of simple obedience and service Jesus says the rejection, suffering, humiliation and maybe even physical death will come [Matthew 10:24-25]. Yet what is physical death when we have been given eternal spiritual life [Philippians 1:21]? What is humiliation and rejection when we have gained honor and glory with Jesus [John 12:26]? The simple Christian’s life is a life of discipleship, obedience, and service. We find this in the life of Jesus as we study the Bible and pray. We are encouraged in this life by the Holy Spirit as we study and pray. We must commit ourselves to Jesus and follow the Holy Spirit’s promptings. Spend quality time with Him and become like Him - obedient to God and giving to others.
Hugh Folds, Minister of Education and Youth SPBC