An interesting fact was brought to my attention the other day, something perhaps I should have been aware of, but that is the wonder of the Word of God, we can be shown a new truth in it and through it each and every day. The word ‘Christian’ is only used three times in the New testament, yet the term ‘disciple’ is used over 250 times.
To be a Christian, if my studies of the Word of God are correct, means that an individual has accepted, or acknowledged might be a better expression, the Lord Jesus Christ into their life, has truly believed that He came to die and take the punishment of God not only for their own personal sins but for the sins of the entire world on the cross, and that He is the only way to the Father in Heaven. A disciple on the other hand, is not only a Christian, but a follower of the teachings and commandments of Christ, a “doer of the word, and not a hearer only.” (James 1:22)
A good example of this might be when Jesus came to visit Lazarus’ house; (Luke 10:38-42) while Martha busied herself with a quick cleaning of the house and a preparation of a meal, Mary sat at our Lord’s feet, “choosing that good part.” Christ did not denigrate Martha by His words, for in Love of her Lord and Master she knew that they would probably be hungry and thirsty, but He simply showed her that at this point in time what Mary was doing was more important, more noble, an act that would last in recorded history for all of time.
The church in our day, at least here in America, seems to be filled with a lot of Martha’s, not all of course, but the trend has been this way for quite some time. It seems to me that within the church building’s walls is about the only place where the ministry resides, discipleship has taken a back seat to churchianity, as it were. Churchianity does not demand any real sacrifice, showing up on Sunday morning, but not really listening, occasionally listening, but rarely applying, seldom applying, and then only for it’s own personal gain. Fewer and fewer pastors are teaching their congregations to be disciples, teaching only the most minor precepts of the Word of God, not wanting to offend anyone on Sunday morning by possibly convicting them to go and spread the Word, preach the Gospel, to be effectual witness’s for the Cross of Christ. It is sad to say, but many of the sermons seem to revolve around trying to make the children just feel better about themselves.
A ‘milk-toast’ version of the truth of God’s Word has infected the pulpits in some places, and those that are sitting in the pews seem to be doing just that the rest of the week, just sitting, not walking the path of confidence in Christ, not running the race, (2nd Tim. 4:7) not being convicted. There is little fight in the church of the civilized world anymore, a belief that it is the ‘responsibility of others’ has created an animosity, an aversion for many to be used by our Lord for the furthering of His Kingdom, a loss of love for the lost, except perhaps occasionally with the checkbook.
Just the other day I happened to notice a man I had not seen for quite some time, a man from his words of our past meetings gave the impression that he is saved, talking with several other men a short way apart from me. Within a very short period of time, I heard several curse words coming from him, not because he was angry or upset, but just as a part of his normal, everyday conversation that he was having with them. After a few minutes I was able to catch him alone, and after the normal greetings and pleasantries, I brought up Proverbs 8:13, wanting to be sure that he knew what I was going to bring up was done in love and according to the Word of God, hoping that he would be edified and grow in grace. He was polite and kind to the admonition and reproof, admitting myself that I too had dealt with this in my own life and by the grace and mercies of God these words were rare to me now, yet not unknown in times of frustration. But I was informed by him, as seems to happen so often anymore by those that are sent to me by the Spirt of God, that we are not to judge anyone, and I had no business “judging” him.
Brothers and sisters, we are to judge, we are to judge with righteous judgement, (John 7:24) if we do not have a log in our own eye we are to help the brother that has a speck in his, (Matt. 7:5) we are commanded to correct and reprove, (Prov. 19:25) do you not know that we will judge angels. (1st Cor. 6:3) I have even had a person tell me that I was like the Pharisee in Luke 18:11, and to this day I still feel sorry for him, for though the intent of my heart may have been misconstrued through no known fault of my own, these times of reproof have never been done on my part in a sanctimonious way, or with the intent to show a fellow believer their “faults’, but now he will possibly never know what it means to see a brother sinning, and the joy it brings not only to those whose desire it is to help them back on the path, but the love that it takes to step in and try to help, no matter the cost, for these things can only be done in love, with much soul searching first, and for an end result that God be glorified.
So many in the church seem to think that this is the pastors responsibility only, these have fallen into the worlds trap, Satan’s deceiving ploy that if they ‘see something, they should say something,’ yet only to the leader of the congregation or perhaps to an elder, instead of confronting their fellow believer with admonishing truth from the Word of God. They have decided to stay Christians, not to become disciples of our Lord. Too many today are deceived that their ministry, as it were, is only within the church buildings walls that they attend, never to the lost, leaving that to the hierarchy of the church, who has told them “Just bring them to church.”
Others still teach that the most important thing is to be a part of the congregation, that it is ‘here and here only’ that you can be fed and nurtured, rarely expounding on how we are to “abide in the vine” (John 15:4-9), and through Christ alone, the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit, and an in-depth, daily study of the Word of God can we be shown the way to discipleship and the path of obedience. While it is true that we “are not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together,” (Heb. 10:25) many now believe that this is the showing trait that they are devoted students of the Word of God, and have left the work outside of the walls of the church to those better trained, more schooled, to those with a framed degree on the wall of thier office. Although certain pastors and the hierarchy of these church’s cannot be blamed in full for this turning from discipleship training of the saints, a large part must rest on their shoulders. “We would not want to offend” seems to have taken the place of Proverbs 9:9-11, and an on-going, week-to-week ‘spiritual hospital’ seem to be the desired form of preaching.
The church is, of course, first and foremost where we are to go to glorify and lift up the name of Jesus, to be trained to “go into all the world,” (Mark 16:15) to lift up and assist wherever possible our brothers and sisters in Christ who truly are in need, to be shown how our Lord accepted us right where we were, but does not expect us to stay there, who desires us to become true doers of the word in love, no matter the cost. When you stand before Christ the Judge on that final day, he is not going to ask you what church you went to, you will not ride into the glory of the Kingdom of God on another’s coat-tails, there will be no excuses of “that’s what the pastor told me.” Those who are saved will be judged on their works, on what their hearts true desire was in the service to our Lord, and O how sad for those who will receive no rewards, those who will have absolutely nothing to cast at the feet of our Savior, the incredible shame they will experience for knowing, but not doing.
These are those that have sat on the laurels of their salvation, rarely if ever walking the path that the Lord has set before them, much less running with endurance and love the race. (Heb. 12:1) I have said this many times, and I pray that God will give me a thousand more opportunities to repeat it, count the cost with which you were purchased, for it cost our Lord everything. What He did on that cross, facing the wrath and fury of a Righteous and Holy God for your sins, He did not have to do, and if you were the only living soul created, He still would have done it just for you.
“Be not deceived, God is not mocked, for whatsoever a man sows, that shall he reap.” (Gal. 6:7-10) Is the life you are living today for God one that will allow you to walk the golden streets of heaven right beside Paul and Moses, one that will, when you see our Lord walking with some of His Apostles, allow you to stroll over and confidently join in with them. (I speak as one in great humility, for I will not be able to) But perhaps it can be, for our Lord said that “Greater works than these shall he do…” (John 14:12)
Begin today, ask God to make you an obedient, willing servant, a true disciple who is never ashamed, no matter the cost, ask Him to give you just a glimpse of what awaits for those who are willing to sacrifice all for His Name’s sake. If you do this, if you truly ask with all of your heart, you will walk through the valley of the shadow of death, and He will walk right beside you, to bring you into His Holy and glorious presence, and then will you hear, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”