Tag Archive: discipleship


Following

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“Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me”. (‭Luke‬ ‭9‬:‭23‬ NKJV)

Taking up our cross is not always easy. But we have to remember it doesn’t just involve the negative act of denying our feelings and plans, but the positive action of picking up our cross and following Jesus.

How does this work in real life? It means realizing my plans aren’t my first priority; giving thanks for whatever comes as allowed by a sovereign God who works all things for our good and His glory.

It means taking the time and care to learn what the Bible teaches about living a life that pleases Him. It will often run against the conventional wisdom of the world.

It takes faith to do that; a determination to trust Him enough to follow and rejoice even when I don’t understand.

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There’s a Greek legend about a fellow names Procrustes, a rogue blacksmith from Attica. He had an iron bed, and he would force people to lie on it. If they were too short, he would stretch them until they fit; if too tall he would cut off their legs.

I wonder if we don’t sometimes do this with our own beliefs. People talk about finding a religion they like as if truth was something they could find at a supermarket; or if they already have a religion, of altering it until they are comfortable with it.

The problem is the nature of truth doesn’t allow this. If truth is really… well, true, it can’t be a matter of our own preferences. It has to be beyond opinion. It can be discovered, but not created.

We are told to be tolerant of other belief systems…
but what do you mean by tolerant? Accept all as equally true? That’s logically impossible, and quite useless if we want to discover anything real. By nature truth is exclusive; if one thing is true, its opposite must be false, just as it is possible to get a wrong answer in math.

But if tolerance means to allow others to believe differently and to put up with them in love – even when you are convinced they are wrong – that’s different; this kind of tolerance is the basis of a free and civil society.

But all belief systems – not just Christianity – must be open to examination and questioning; to prohibit this in the name of political correctness is to stifle free thought, to become less civilized and more totalitarian. And to try to convince by rational argument is not the same thing as to indoctrinate.

Christianity asserts reasoned freedom of choice, regardless of what its detractors may say; and even a casual reading of scripture makes this plain. It insists that those who come to Christ do so after considering the evidence for and consequences of discipleship. We are to “count the cost”.

This is why I don’t understand people who can look at what the Bible plainly says and then quibble about its interpretation. Are people honestly trying to figure out what the Bible is really saying, or is it a disingenuous attempt to twist it to fit how we have already decided to live? We want to be “spiritual” – but we want it on our terms. Whatever else you want to call it, it’s not discipleship.

And so we become Procrustes – but instead of lopping off an arm or a leg, we chop up the Bible to fit our own standard.

Emotions and Discipleship

Our conversions are more often than not emotional experiences as it is the heart that is spoken to; a meeting with the Creator of all things can certainly be emotional! But to deepen and grow, we need to learn and understand and meditate on God’s word, and this involves both the will and the intellect. The heart and the head work together to create one whole.

The trick is to move our faith from the abstract, from mental assent, to the world of the heart; to trust not in a principal or code but in a Person, with all the risk and reward inherent in any relationship. This is perhaps more difficult for those who (like myself) like to reason things out, and I think this is why meditating on the Bible is so important. It both sharpens the mind and trains the heart.

“The goal of meditation is to drive the mind into the heart” – Timothy Keller

There needs to be a revelation of sorts. We need God to speak to our hearts – and surely meditation on scripture is part of this.

…and going through life with Him. Life’s experiences, submitted to Him, draw one closer. You get to know God better when you’ve gone through some valleys with Him.

The heart is the will that directs our actions and intellect. Emotions are largely responses to events in our lives, and different people experience them at varying levels because of how they were raised, their inherited emotional tendencies and so on.

As such, they’re neither good or bad: it’s the action we take to manage our emotions that reveals where our heart really is. Part of the disciple’s work is to control the emotions by submitting them to God and His Word, and never letting them be the prime director of one’s actions.

Likewise the disciple submits his mind to God. In Romans 12 we read about the “renewing of our minds”. I think this means the conscious decision to learn and promote God’s perspective in our thinking, and I know of no other way than to read God’s word regularly and get together with other believers on a regular basis.

The desire (heart) to please God plus action directed by His Word brings balance and maturity to our own turbulent lives. Just like working on a marriage, if we choose not to act to promote and develop our relationship with Christ we must ask ourselves if He’s really our Lord or just a phase we’re going through.