Sunday, May 8, 2016

New Hope in Jesus Christ - Ongoing Discipleship / Evangelism

Matthew 28:18-20 "And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

Luke 5:27-28 And after these things he went forth, and saw a publican, named Levi, sitting at the receipt of custom: and he said unto him, Follow me. 28 And he left all, rose up, and followed him.

The above picture takes me back to my Bible College days when we learned about the Christian life. The professor was with the Navigators - a discipleship ministry that stressed Bible verse memorization, spiritual disciplines and evangelism. Such instruction was life- changing. We considered yesterday what is entailed in our new found hope in Jesus Christ. We considered ramifications of this "new hope" as revealed in Romans 5:1-5. We explored how hungering to love God and people is essential to growing in this hope. Loving God includes and assumes knowing God. 

We could say that loving God means lovingly knowing God. As we lovingly know God, we will in turn want to lovingly know other people. We finally proposed a glimpse of what hungering for God looked like in the individual Christian life and the corporate church life. 

Today's post once again considers this theme of new hope in Jesus Christ. By considering this word "hope" as an acrostic for exploring this theme, we saw already the need to hunger to love God and people. Today we want to see the importance of ongoing discipleship and evangelism as the means for reinforcing our hope.

What is discipleship?
What is a suggested definition of discipleship? Discipleship, by definition, refers to the process by which a person by grace through faith believes on Christ as Savior and Lord while forsaking himself to become like the Master.  Such a process begins as a point of entry at conversion or the New Birth and continues on as a process in the post-conversion Christian life or what is also called sanctification. Jesus brings forth the nuts and bolts of what it means to be a disciple throughout the Gospel accounts.  

Discipleship begins with the Call of Christ
Luke records the conversion of one of the twelve original disciples - Levi (or more commonly known as Matthew).  Matthew (Levi) would 30 years after this event write the first Gospel in our New Testament - the Gospel of Matthew.  But before Matthew became "Saint Matthew", he was sinner Matthew.  He took advantage, extorted and did whatever it took to make that next dollar.  As a tax-collector for Rome, he not only made it his business to get the necessary taxes from his fellow Jews, he also charged "hidden" fees over and above the tax to line his own pockets.  Jews hated tax-collectors - and tax collectors loved money.  The last thing that Matthew was thinking of doing was turning His entire life over to Christ to follow Him. 

The Call of Discipleship identifies the claim of Christ on your life
Matthew was into his career, his life.  He was making money.  Then came that voice - that voice which cut through the air and into his heart.  Suddenly the clinking of coinage and the rustling of bills were over-powered by the voice of the One who was now laying claim on Matthew.  

This was a voice that was unlike any voice he had ever heard.  Two words: "Follow Me".  What follows is as shocking as it is unexpected.  Matthew, the man of means, the man of money, was touched by Divine Grace.  The same voice which created all life and through whom came the entire universe was now through human vocal cords penetrating the dark heart of Matthew.  

The Call of Discipleship makes following Christ a foregone conclusion 

Grace made following Jesus a foregone conclusion.  He left all, rose up and followed Him. This is how life with Jesus Christ begins: with a call issued forth from Him, through His word, into your heart.  To be a disciple means to forsake all that you used to define yourself in favor of following the One who is unlike yourself.  By faith, as you follow the One calling your name, you will grow in your desire to be so much like Him that you too we see that what Matthew did was the only thing that makes sense - Go and Follow the Master. 

Discipleship leads to multiplication
In the Great Commission passage of Matthew 28:18-20, we find the disciples being commanded to go into all the world and make other disciples. It has always puzzled me why churches separate discipleship and evangelism. The two are two sides of the same coin. One cannot complete the discipleship process without multiplying themselves, and yet whenever we consider that less than 10% of local church membership actively shares the Gospel may indicate lack of understanding about discipleship. 

Whenever churches desire to get their members involved in missions and evangelism, they will coerce, bring in a revivalist or tell them to simply do it. Undoubtedly, such measures are good, but no adequate. I truly wonder what would happen if local churches had a well-defined method of discipleship making? Books such as "The Simple Church" and "The Gospel According to Jesus" have emphasized how much we need to re-connect evangelism to discipleship and thus to the mission of the local church. In a recent book by Rice Broocks entitled: "Man, Myth, Messiah", Brooks closes out his apologetic book with two chapters devoted to tying together evangelism, apologetics and discipleship.  

It would seem that whenever Christians are actively involved in an ongoing process of discipleship/evangelism, new hope is rekindled in Jesus Christ. Certainly we could expand further on these thoughts. But for now, we will let these ideas simmer in our hearts, pray and then ask God to prompt us to action. May we kindle the flame of new hope in Jesus Christ by way of ongoing discipleship that leads to evangelism.

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