Archives For Discipleship

Matthew 25:1-13 tells the parable of the ten virgins. The story details how ten virgins were waiting for the bridegroom. Five of them were prepared to stick it out until the groom showed up, bringing extra oil to keep their lamps lit throughout the dark night. The other five didn’t come prepared. They brought their lamps, but no oil. When the groom didn’t show as early as they expected, they all fell asleep.

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When the groom arrived at midnight unexpectedly, the ones who were prepared lit their lamps so the groom could see them. These were invited into the wedding banquet, but the unprepared were left outside, alone and in the dark. The moral of the story is to be prepared in case the Lord delays and doesn’t show up until midnight. My friends, midnight is coming.

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In her wonderful Lenten devotional, “40 Days of Decrease”, author Alicia Britt Chole writes, “We are duly thankful, challenged, and inspired by Jesus’ forty-day fast from food in the Judean wilderness. Perhaps we should likewise be grateful, awed, and humbled by His thirty-year fast from praise, power, and potential in Nazareth.” We don’t often consider everything Jesus gave up during the thirty years before we read much of Him in the Bible. We know a little about His first two years of life, and then get another brief glimpse when he was around twelve years of age.

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After that, it’s pretty much silent until He steps onto the scene eighteen years later. Through it all, this man was at the same time the almighty Creator of the Universe. He chose to set aside all His power, all His potential, all His right to be praised and lived in the poor and dusty town of Nazareth. This was the ultimate fast. He gave up everything, and He did it for you and me.

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Dag Hammarskjold, the Formal Secretary-General of the United Nations, once said, “In our era, the road to holiness necessarily passes through the world of action.” I believe holiness will always pass through the world of action. Holiness is proven both by what we do and what we choose not to do. But always, holiness demands action. Only God is Holy, but in our quest to be like Him, we must pursue holiness.

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While it is not something we will obtain in this life, seeking after it provides great training for the next. Peter reminds us God said to be holy because He Himself is holy (I Peter 1:15-16). Since we know we are not holy, it seems obvious we must do something to become holy. In other words, holiness demands action.

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Regular readers know I love the teachings of A.W. Tozer. I love the way he pulled no punches and possessed deep insight into the character of God. It’s uncanny how often his writing seems so relevant for today, but in truth was mostly written fifty or more years ago. Here’s something from him which I read recently: “There is something better than being comfortable, and the followers of Christ ought to find it out-the poor, soft, overstuffed Christians of our time ought to find it out!

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There is something better than being comfortable! We… have forgotten altogether that there is such a thing as discipline and suffering.” Along the same lines, he also wrote,” We do not want the cross. We are more interested in the crown.” To put it in simple terms, one could say Christians are “all crown, no cross”.

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In a recent sermon, Pastor Craig Groeschel made the comment, “Easy never changed the world.” The life of a disciple has not ever been, nor will it ever be, easy. Following Jesus is difficult. It’s unpopular and brings little glory. But eleven men, disciples of Jesus, changed the entire world. Their impact is still being felt 2,000 years later. Their life wasn’t easy.

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They were mocked and seen as insurgents and fools. They were constantly pursued, jailed, beaten, and in almost every case, they were killed. It wasn’t easy to follow Jesus in the first century, and it isn’t easy to follow Him now. But easy never changed the world.

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I recently heard David Platt share a quote that requires a lot of contemplation. He asked the question, “Is Jesus living in me or through me?” The difference between the two is huge. We live in a culture of casual Christianity, led to believe all we have to do is say a magical prayer and Jesus will come to live within us.

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Even if such teaching were true (and I believe there are compelling arguments to be made it is not), inviting Jesus into your heart is not the point. Unless and until we allow Jesus to live through us, we will be missing out on all the power and peace He intends for us.

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We as a people spend an inordinate time thinking about the past. Some even spend their days living in the past, desperate to recapture elements from their youth. For disciples of Jesus, I have a word of admonition: forget the past. Forget everything you’ve done. Instead, I want you to focus on what you will do both at this moment, and from this moment. It’s a lesson I am still learning but desperately want to master.

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What we’ve done up until this moment matters little to our life going forward. Sure, we may have laid the groundwork for future work. There’s definite value in this. But with the knowledge every second may be our last, I submit focusing on what we will do from this moment forward is far more valuable than what we’ve done before.

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In his groundbreaking book “Cross Vision”, Greg Boyd writes, “The way you imagine God largely determines the quality of your relationship with God. The intensity of your love for God will never outrun the beauty of the God you envision… the depth of your transformation into the likeness of Christ will never outrun the Christlikeness of your mental representation of God.” Jesus is the perfect representation of the Father.

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He is at once both the flawless depiction of God and is God Himself. If we have seen Christ, we have seen the Father (John 14:9). Our eyes have looked on the face of God. If we want to know what God is like, we need only look at the person of Jesus. He alone perfectly reflected and manifested the Father. If we have an imperfect mental image of Christ, we will have an imperfect picture of God.

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Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, “Every new morning is a new beginning of our life. Every day is a completed whole. The present day should be the boundary of our care and striving (Matthew 6:34; James 4:14). It is long enough for us to find or lose God, to keep the faith or fall into sin and shame.” I find his words to be at once both inspiring and motivating.

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In the American culture in which I live, there is much emphasis on long-term planning. We plan for retirement and financial independence. We make 5, 10, even 20-year plans for our lives, all the while knowing Jesus called it foolishness as none of us has a guarantee of even tomorrow (Luke 12:13-21). It leads me to believe we as disciples of Jesus are getting it all wrong.

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How do you begin your day? Starting your day in prayer and studying Scripture is rocket fuel for your day and for your life. If you want to know Jesus better, there is no better way than to spend time with Him. If you want Jesus to be first in your life, there is no better way to demonstrate this than meeting with Him first thing every day. Forget your cell phone, forget your email; how you begin your day says much about what is most important to you.

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So many teachers say to make certain you spend time with God each day, but let people off the hook by saying it doesn’t matter when this occurs, so long as it does.  I think this is ridiculous. Being a Jesus person doesn’t depend on you being a morning or night person; it depends on you saying, “I will give Jesus the first of my time, every day.”

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