My Take on My Discipleship
Why is it that preachers have a hard time being disciples? During the Central Louisiana Conference Sunday School Convention, the pastors of the conference engaged in a study session on discipleship. One of the first things that came to my mind was the fact that I haven’t been the best disciple that I could be. As a matter of fact, I have all but denied Christ just as Peter did under scrutiny of the world. The interesting thing was listening to a very seasoned pastor state that he realized that his church would not grow until they became true disciples. He stated that for the past eight or nine months, he had been plagued with questions concerning the non-growth of the church and the decline in church membership. He said that after much prayer and time alone, he realized that he was not in Gods will and was not a true disciple of Christ, but was rather a determined disciple of the church, more specifically, he had been trained to not make disciples but to make members who could pay budget. He was grieved and publicly expressed that with his congregation. I was glad that he took the charge in admitting that he had a zeal for God’s church, but not for God after righteousness.
It is here that I find myself. I have a zeal for God. I love Him and will serve Him til the day I die, but honestly, I don’t have a zeal for God after knowledge. What I’m saying is that I have honestly gotten so distracted by my affairs, lusts and pride that I have lost my zeal. There is absolutely no way that I can possibly pastor a church effectively and authentically without a true zeal for the knowledge of God. I must want to be a disciple. I think about the passage where a follower of Jesus, Peter told him that they had left all that they had to follow him. That’s a very powerful statement when you really look at it. A true disciple leaves everything. There’s nothing between themselves and their savior. How awesome is that to know that men were willing to lay aside profitable occupations, wives and families to follow a teacher who amazed them on a regular basis. I can only imagine how they were all the more encouraged each and every time they saw someone get healed, a demon cast out, a miracle performed, or a parable revealed. It is this zeal for knowledge that I want. Even Jesus himself said “blessed are they that hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.”
The easy thing to do is to say that I hunger for God. The hard thing to do is to say, I am daily a disciple of Christ. I am in obedience to my master. I serve Him. I wait on Him. I live to please him in the newness of life. My problem is that I find it easier to say I am a follower of Christ. Following Christ is easy because it really doesn’t take much sacrifice. Think about all the followers who left Jesus in John 6. This is the same chapter where Jesus said He is the bread of life that came from heaven, and that his flesh is the true food and his blood is the true drink. It doesn’t say how many withdrew, but there apparently were quite a few. These people who left were called disciples and Jesus even sensed that some of the twelve he had chosen were tempted to go with them. The choice was there and I would imply that if Peter hadn’t alerted Jesus to the fact that not only had they left everything to follow him, but that He was the only one who had the words that gave eternal life, a few of those disciples would have left also.
The key thing is what Peter said to Jesus. You are the one with words of eternal life. That’s what a true disciple says. A disciple stays with the master because that disciple has been sold on the fact that he/she can only get wisdom, knowledge, and growth from that particular master. It’s the norm in martial arts and ancient schools of philosophy. The reality is that there should be no other person we should seek out wisdom or salvation from other than Christ. That is the way of a true Christian disciple. The way of a true, authentic Christian disciple is that no matter how hard, how enticing, or how intense the onslaught of the world may be, we must remain constant in our devotion to the one true living God and His Only Begotten Son our Savior. That’s true discipleship and that’s what I’m praying that I can rediscover in my own life and ministry.
I write this post in a state of mourning and humility. I just lost one of my favorite students to a fatal heart attack. Only 18 years old, he was full of wit, and charm. He was the kind of student that teachers both loved and hated at the same time. I had the privilege of having in my marching and concert bands for two years, but also having in my home, on field trips, and even church. The hardest thing that has been going through my head has been the question “Why?” He had a heart condition so I never tried to overwork him. He had a drive that had to be kick-started into gear mostly, and he was sincere and hardworking at all that he did. He was honestly a good kid and sometimes even a model student.
I couldn’t answer the question why him. As spiritual and as trained as I am, I couldn’t and cannot answer that question. Why do children die before their parents? Why do children have to suffer so much at such young ages? Why God why? I have searched scriptures and really haven’t found an answer. I read Job and got the answer: “the Lord gives, and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord. ( Job 1:21). I can’t begin to fathom what my student’s parents are experiencing emotionally and mentally. I couldn’t answer the question why for them either.
In all of this I have had a life altering experience. I have chosen to live life fully and abundantly. I have chosen to renounce the hidden things of darkness and selfishness. I have chosen to love and laugh. I have chosen to live with purpose. I know that sounds cheesy with all the Purpose Driven Life stuff, but its true that I have chosen to do so. Now please understand that this is not a New Year Resolution, but a mandatory change for the better. I say mandatory because it would be to easy to cop out during the process and blame someone else for my laziness, but the reality is that it both a necessity and a command from God that I do so.
So now what is my purpose? What should I do now? I know that I asked God in prayer a few years ago to allow me to write, teach and preach. I have been blessed to have done all but one since then. I’ve been lazy on the writing and somewhat lazy in the preaching and teaching part. My purpose is this then; since God has blessed me to have the opportunity to do all of these things, then I need to do them passionately and purposefully. Every message I preach, every lesson and student I teach, and everything I write will be more purposeful and passionate. I will live a better life, study my scriptures more effectively, and let everything that I do and say be a sermon that leads someone to a closer relationship with God. I have a long way to go towards perfection, but I know that as Paul the Apostle said ” Not as though I have already arrived or am already perfect, but I press forward to ascertain that for which I have been ascertained to. I press toward the mark for the prize of the higher calling in Christ.
Goodbye my student, my brother, my friend. Rest in Peace, Mr. Brandon Jackson, JSHS Band Student Extraordinaire.