If convenience, accessibility, and immediate gratification are our criteria, we’ll be left with fast food, cheap wine, and shallow lives. When we bring this lazy approach to life into church with us, we can never rise above the level of consumers to disciples. Like the crowd that followed Jesus as long as they had a free lunch, we will abandon Jesus when he breaks out the tough stuff.
Horton, Michael (2011). Gospel Commission, The (p. 148).
When Jesus said, “eat my flesh and drink my blood” to the crowd in John 6, you could call that the “tough stuff”. This is where a fork is encountered in the road and the true disciples follow while the consumers go the other way. That was Jesus’ strategy for finding true followers, throwing down a fork in the road with harsh truths.
Discipleship is messy – I’ve said before that it’s like a well-oiled train wreck – but that’s what makes it beautiful.
Disciples are students who are sent out into the field in order to learn the trade. Call it a lifetime of on-the-job-training. It’s a never ending process of encountering forks in the road yet choosing to restore, redeem, rebirth, and recreate with Godly effort fueled by Godly power. It is the process of working out our salvation with fear and trembling (Phil 2:12) all while living in a world bent on the exact opposite. Disciples in today’s culture live in the same tension as the twelve disciples who dropped everything to follow the Rabbi Jesus. We must negotiate the waters of culture with untamed abandon for the things of God just like they did. Jesus didn’t come to improve the life we once had or to entertain us, that’s what disciples of consumerism seek. Jesus didn’t entertain the twelve into becoming disciples and you can’t consume your way into discipleship either.
To be a disciple is to believe what Jesus said about himself and refusing to dilute it down to a morning devotional. This means we don’t simply go out with the charge of social justice or the gospel of love. Even non-Christians do the work of social justice, saving the poor and hungry, and practice “spiritual” exercises. Those activities alone aren’t the true indicators of discipleship. The true indicator is based on what we say and believe about the person of Jesus. The Jewish authorities didn’t tell the early church to stop feeding the hungry or clothing the poor. That wasn’t what bothered them. What they demanded of the discipes, and what ultimately brought persecution, was that they stop preaching the name of Jesus Christ.
Do you believe Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life? On a scale of 1 to 10, do you believe that at a 10? Do you believe and call on his name for salvation? Do you practice godliness (social justice, activism, love) but deny its power (Christ himself)?
When the “tough stuff” comes out - when the messy, confrontational, scandalous message of the gospel comes out, how do you respond? Disciples respond to the tough stuff by rejecting convenience, accessibility, and immediate gratification. Consumers respond by being “lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power.” (2 Tim. 3:4–5).
Have you ever encountered a fork in the road?
photo credit: rdj9