When what we say lifts Jesus as God and acknowledges ourselves as servants then we have the keys of Kingdom. When speaking in independence we lose them. Spiritual authority is based on submission to Jesus, ‘Son of the living God.’
In Matthew 16 following Peter’s confession:
16 …, ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.’
19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.’
It seems Jesus gave Peter Carte Blanche; whatever he says goes. So, many believers pray believing they will get what is asked with an authoritative voice. However Peter immediately uses this authority and is rebuffed –
23 … ‘Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling-block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.’
Isaiah 33:5-6 coming from a different angle illuminates –
The Lord is exalted, for he dwells on high; … He will be the sure foundation for your times, a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge; the fear of theLordis the key to this treasure.
Isaiah lifts up the Lord, as Peter has, great things are promised on the basis of the fear of the Lord. If I put this thinking into Matthew 16 I see Jesus saying, while you acknowledge Me as God and take Me seriously, then you have the keys of the kingdom.
Why does the Lord take us through periods of spiritual emptiness? We long for intimacy in worship and the word, but encounter dryness.
This seems to be the experience of the Psalmist in Psalms 42&43 (combined as one).
Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me?
This seems blasphemy to a culture exalting intimacy with God. How could God distance Himself? Yet the Psalmist writes –
2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?
3 My tears have been my food day and night,while people say to me all day long, ‘Where is your God?’
When this spiritual emptiness is experienced there are consequences, a rawness to life. One is on edge and brought to the end of natural defences. One is tempted to fill up through satisfaction of physical senses that only scream louder.
In years gone by, the Psalmist may have believed in a ‘technique that worked.’ After gaining intimacy with God through such techniques and then losing it for no apparent reason one gains perspective that God is after more than experiences of wellbeing.
43:3 Send me your light and your faithful care, let them lead me;
let them bring me to your holy mountain, to the place where you dwell.
The break through comes not from our efforts but from the Lord. The Psalmist calls on the one who seems to have forgotten him, recognising that the Lord’s purpose is as much about character as the experience of His presence.
The Lord loves us but he does not entrust himself to us.
But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all people. John 2:24 (NIV)
We see this in Jesus’ relationship with his disciples. They were with him wherever they went, yet he did not entrust himself even to his closest disciples. Consider James and John, two of the closest. There is the time they want to call down fire on a village for not having received Jesus or the time they ask for a place on His left and right in heaven. Though they had asked,
We want you to do for us whatever we ask, Mark 10:35
Jesus had not entrusted himself to them. He was free to do what was right.
When people are being emotionally abusive we need to keep our emotional distance. This is hard when they are friends or family. When Jesus would not entrust himself he was protecting himself from those he was closest to, and yet could not trust to act honourably.
This principle extends to the Lord’s relationship with us. I too can be abusive in the way I relate to Him. I call myself His friend but then presume on him with demands that do not reflect His love. The Lord will of course be gracious to me, but will not entrust himself to me while he knows this is in me. I am challenged to relate to my Father in love, respecting and trusting Him, so that He can extend deeper friendship to me.
is a great phrase to help us keep perspective when things become complicated.
We need care, there are those for whom the words are a mere bumper sticker. They have heard some Christian leader say the phrase and are convinced this is the totality of the Christian life. Safe in this knowledge, they live life their own way while using the phrase ‘Simply Jesus’ to ward off teaching that might be getting close to their heart or demand any more of them.
One believes the one who proclaims ‘Simply Jesus’ to the extent they have allowed Jesus to penetrate their heart. So when a Christian, two weeks in the faith, gives out wrist bands saying ‘What would Jesus do?’ there is confidence that this person has met with Jesus, and this is a real expression of their journey. When this is the extent of life and witness for someone who has been twenty years in the faith, one suspects something is missing. On the other hand, when someone who has walked with Jesus for the last twenty years introduces this perspective into a discussion that is becoming complex or stratospheric then it can be a helpful reality check.
‘Simply Jesus’ can bring resolution. For example when Jesus said,
‘Give to God what belongs to God, and to Caesar what belongs to Caesar’
He shifted focus from money to the scope of claims for authority from God and man. When finding balance between extremes, shifting our view up to bring in Jesus often brings resolution.
We want to be associated with the rich, powerful and famous for through them we gain a foothold in their world and are elevated among our peers.
The ‘Great Banquet’ of Luke 14 expresses the betrayal felt by a host as each guest despises his invitation. Then, in a surprising turn, the host invites not the next best but those at the other end of the scale –
bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.
Perplexed, I re-read the chapter for clues. This parable was given in the context of a banquet.
12 Then Jesus said to his host, ‘When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbours; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. 13 But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 14 and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.’
There is the same phrase! Here, Jesus gives a reason for inviting outcasts – a reward in heaven. This reveals the Lord’s value system often declared by Jesus –
Indeed there are those who are last who will be first, and first who will be last. (Luke 13:30)
To surrender the race for the top, receiving those the Lord sends us is a sacrifice of love, doubly so to receive those who will disadvantage us before those we care about.
We live in a culture that is so bombarded by messages that none are listened to. How then can the gospel break out? Isaiah’s prophecy on Jesus in Isaiah 52&53 gives clues. Isaiah 53 shows the frustration.
Isaiah 53 Who has believed our message
and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
The Lord himself is blanked out!
…So will many nations be amazed at him
and kings will shut their mouths because of him.
The final outcome is clear: ‘The nations are amazed’. So the Lord breaks through. Who is the person the Lord uses?
Isaiah 52:14 Just as there were many who were appalled at him –
his appearance was so disfigured.
In the world of messages, the Lord’s servant doesn’t stand a chance. His appearance is all wrong. This is a message that brings us hope. God is not limited by our appearances.
Isaiah 52: 13 See, my servant will prosper (NIV Margin)
he will be raised and lifted up and highly exalted.
This person, who breaks through despite appearances, is identified as the Lord’s servant. He is living the faith in every area of life; walking with the Lord wherever He leads. Living this way, the Lord feels comfortable to exalt them.
For what they were not told, they will see,
and what they have not heard, they will understand.
We need to live the message so people can see in a culture where they will never hear. This takes time, but the lives affected are affected more solidly.
One of Jesus’ statements is brought into new light through His apostolic ministry.
“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother … yes, even his own life – he cannot be my disciple. And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:25)
Jesus is traveling from place to place. As He goes those who follow have a choice: They can -Either – Be consumers, experiencing what was on offer. OR – Be disciples, participating in His ministry. This choice became apparent when Jesus travelled beyond the scope of home as in –
Luke 9:59 He said to another man, ‘Follow me.’ But he replied, ‘Lord, first let me go and bury my father.’ 60 Jesus said to him, ‘Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.’ 61 Still another said, ‘I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.’ 62 Jesus replied, ‘No one who puts a hand to the plough and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.’
Deciding to be a disciple who followed Jesus wherever He went, meant leaving people behind who would feel betrayed – even hated! Jesus had no qualms in this and even now leaving all behind to be with Jesus gives freedom to follow Him with all of my heart, soul and mind. Further since He is love, His way, with hindsight be seen as the road of love.
Recently it has dawned on me that there are two approaches to discipleship in the Scriptures.
In the Navigators we use the apostolic form of Jesus. This approach focuses on someone willing to follow as an apprentice. In Jesus’ ministry this required leaving behind home comforts and responsibilities to follow. ‘Leaving’ creates space in life for learning.
Many churches use Ephesians 4, where the Lord gives gifts for building the Church. Gifts and people are brought into the Church for the sake of building it up. The focus is on developing the community.
These approaches come with strengths and weaknesses.
The Ephesians 4 approach gives opportunity for a range of gifts. The community stays together, looking after the weakest. It is naturally pastoral. Since it is building itself up it has difficulty releasing people to minister beyond its own scope. It has a hard time developing leadership since this focuses on individuals not the community.
Jesus’ apostolic approach goes to people so it is naturally outward looking. It takes ministry into the world beyond the community. It develops those willing to go with the apostle, valuing the apprentice who is faithful, available and teachable. This approach develops leaders but can leave people behind.
All groups apply a mix of these approaches. Pastoral ministries extend apostolically and apostolic ministries care pastorally. However, the opposite form is like a right handed person writing left handed. Most churches have to send people away for development, most Navigators struggle with care for the weakest.
Who is a disciple of Jesus? Jesus gave two key passages. The first –
34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35
Often discipleship is measured by fulfilling our leaders’ agenda; attendance at meetings and serving on rotas. Jesus’ indicator is love. Disciples of people, take on their attributes. Jesus’ attribute is love.
If we target love, we identify its characteristics– patience, kindness, … and try to display them. But love is the fruit of discipleship. When roots are watered and the tree healthy, fruit comes.
Jesus directs us to a discipleship where we will be watered and strengthened. The second passage.
Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.’ Luke 9:23
We follow Jesus who is love himself.
We can follow systems instead of Jesus. We become followers of a movement or church. Jesus challenges us to follow Him alone.
Jesus might present us with a cross. We believed Jesus was taking us one way when a crisis occurs requiring we are diverted from our ambitions and in love attend the crisis.
We are blocked by someone standing against Jesus’ leading. We have to choose to love Jesus over this person. Something dies inside giving space for love.
The complete Bible study on Who is a disciple of Jesus.