Who is a disciple of Jesus?

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.

Nice encounters Love

Being nice has become a core value of our age. It is hard to argue against what superficially seems so good. Nice however is rooted in selfishness, with its fear of what people will think and its desire to be liked and gain influence over others.

An example of the difference between nice and love is seen at Jesus’ trial (John 18&19). Pilate has a choice between what his inner being tells him is right or giving in to what the voices of the self-righteous demand. It is a choice between the aspirations of the heart and the fear of hurting the feelings of influential people with the consequent loss of influence.

The contrast with Jesus’ love exposes the shallowness of ‘Nice’. Jesus knows Pilate is being driven by the manipulative forces of the religious leaders, yet He does not try to out manipulate Pilate. Rather, Jesus challenges him with a question that helps Pilate gain perspective. He goes on in love to risk His life by explaining himself with truth that leaves Pilate a clear picture of what is right.  Tragically Pilate gives in to evil.

Only when I trust the Sovereign Lord can I entertain love. He takes me beyond the immediate circumstances. He takes a stand with love, truth and righteousness and invites me to stand with Him. I can do so because I know He has my back.

Let’s despise niceness, this shrivelled and poverty stricken imitation of love and stand with God in truth and love.

Read the Bible study that inspired this Blog.

Nice or Kind?

I have often been ‘Mr Nice Guy’, yet niceness is not godliness. I read up on the difference between nice and kind and was shocked by how different these two words are, when most would consider them synonymous.

My reading suggested that ‘Nice’ has its origin in conflict avoidance and is worked out through fear and selfishness. Since ‘Nice’ avoids conflict it is subject to manipulation from anyone who forcefully demands what they want. Nice tries to arbitrate between factions, while failing to ask, ‘What is or is not acceptable?’

Kindness has its origin in the love of God. The love of God looks for peoples’ development into godliness and love. It recognises a person’s condition with compassion, but is not so patronising as to accept that state for the long term. Those who know God, recognise the grace of God is sufficient to draw us out of crisis and develop godliness and love.

When ‘Nice’ meets an unacceptable situation it avoids the pain of dealing with core issues by smoothing things over, dealing with surface emotions and condemning all involved to repeat the situation. ‘Kind’, in looking for love explores the real issues at a personal cost. ‘Kind’ is willing to be the ‘Bad Guy’, confronting with God’s Truth while looking for His grace, holding people to the best. We see this consistently when Jesus encounters challenging people in the gospels –

For the son of man came, not to be served but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many. (Mark 10:45 NIV)

Meeting Fatigue

“Meetings for this, meetings for that. I hate them! You’ve worn me out!” There comes a time when we feel fed up with meetings and can’t bear one more. What surprises me is that the Lord can feel the same way! This quote, so commonly the unspoken but lived out sentiment of Christians, is actually the Lord speaking – Isaiah 1:13 Message.

It seems the only measure of passion for Christ is meeting attendance, yet there seems little grace from God for what is often an end in itself. Too often they are driven by a hope that through some form of spirituality we can stir our feelings and experience the presence of God.  If at heart we act in order to experience a reaction, then where is our love for God?

The antidote offered in Isaiah 1:13-17 is not more religious observance, but integrity. “… I’ll not be listening. And do you know why? Because you’ve been tearing people to pieces, and your hands are bloody. Go home and wash up … say no to wrong. Learn to do good. Work for justice. Help the down-and-out.”  So maybe I need to be asking God how I can show His love in my context? After all, ‘If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels but have not love I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.’ (1 Corinthians 13:1)