Misconception #3: Disciples are a special class of believers

Misconception 3If you subscribe to misconceptions #1 and #2, this is how you will view disciples. You will consider mere believers as being inferior to disciples, as being lesser than those who have decided to follow Jesus. After all, these privileged ones received the call and have selflessly abandoned all to be with the Master. But not little ol’ me! Can you see what this is going?

Disciples are not a special class of believers! There is no one more special than another is God’s family! We were all undeserving of anything but have received everything by His grace. If we didn’t qualify to be saved, what qualifies us to be disciples? Nothing, except Jesus! If we understand this, we will not buy into the lie that some are more worthy than others to be disciples.

Of all the disciples, Jesus loved ALL the same. However, to prepare each for different assignments, He invested His time accordingly. As we have already noted, Jesus had more than 500 disciples, but He spent the most time with the 12 because these were chosen to be apostles, for specific assignments. Of the 12, His inner circle was three: Peter, James and John. Of the three, John was considered the beloved disciple, although Peter was de facto leader. In the early Church, disciples waited on tables and served the people. Others gave and shared their resources. Later, in the book of Ephesians, Paul clarified the roles of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers.

In the army, one may serve as a storeman or a clerk. But he is still considered a soldier. Everyone who dons the uniform is a soldier. Likewise, when we believed in Jesus, we put on the uniform when we were clothed with His righteousness. This is standard issue and every believer is a soldier in the Lord’s Army, equally equipped with the armour of God!

Disciples are not a special class of super-spiritual believers! Every believer is a disciple and each has a distinct role. We are a body of different parts and every part must do its share according to the measure of faith given by grace.

Misconception #2: Believers must be called to be disciples

Misconception 2We have all been told that we must first be called before we can be considered for discipleship. After all, that was what Jesus did.

Everyone presumes that Jesus called the 12. However, the gospels only record seven – Peter, Andrew, James, John, Matthew, Philip and Nathanael (Matt 4:18-22; Mark 1:16-20; Luke 5:1-11; John 1:35-51). The Bible is silent on the other five. And technically, Jesus didn’t call Nathanael; Philip did (John 1:48).

Another presumption is that Jesus had 12 and only 12 disciples (just like we presume there were three kings in the nativity story. It’s not in the Bible, by the way.). Quite obviously, Jesus had more than 12 disciples. Otherwise, there would have been no need to pray the entire night to choose 12 to be apostles (Luke 6:12-16). Luke 10:1 mentions 70 (or 72 NIV) others. After Jesus’ resurrection, He appeared to over 500 brethren at once. This means that there could have been a lot more before Jesus died but these stopped believing and following upon His death.

Numbers notwithstanding, Scriptures show us that Jesus invited (called) some and some invited themselves, as in Luke 9:57-62. When Jesus explained what it meant to follow Him, some stopped believing and thus did not follow. In Mark 10:17-22, Jesus told the rich young man that eternal life was found in Him. The call for him to follow was essentially an invitation for him to believe in that promise. The rich young man believed in his riches and good works and followed these instead of the One who could give him eternal life. Once again, discipleship is premised on faith in Jesus and what He promises. Discipleship is to put legs to our faith, to walk the talk.

From the above, we see that Jesus did not call each and every one of His disciples. As such, this notion of the call cannot be applied across the board. But that is what we have been taught! And this has resulted in too many waiting to be called, claiming they have not heard the call or rationalising that they are not called, that discipleship does not apply to them. Can this possibly be true? How can one say that they are followers of Jesus Christ yet be convinced that discipleship is not for them?

There is no need to wait for a call to be a disciple! Stop waiting to be called! If you truly know what you believe, you will follow!

Misconception #1: Discipleship is a separate decision/event from believership [Part One]

PART ONE: Is there a difference between believers and disciples?

Discipleship Title PixFirstly, we need to know what a disciple is. The Greek word matethes comes from the root verb manthano, meaning “to learn”. The English word disciple is derived from the Latin discipulus, which carries the same meaning of “pupil, learner or follower”. From this, we see that a disciple is one who follows another with the purpose to learn as his pupil. As such, a follower of Jesus Christ is thus a disciple of Jesus Christ.

This may look and sound obvious but is it? Ask a believer if he is a follower of Jesus Christ and he would very likely say ‘yes’ without any hesitation. But when asked if he is thus a disciple of Jesus Christ, and you might get a pause, a shrug or a vehement ‘no’. Why is this so? That’s because we have been told that we believe first and then decide later if we’d like to be disciples. We’ve accepted that believership is a separate and distinct event from discipleship.

As I pondered this, the Lord gave me an illustration: Imagine a stranger walks up to my 3 year old and says, “Uncle has ice-cream for you. You want? Come with me.” If my little girl believed that man, what would she do? She’d follow him! Immediately, the relationship between believing and following became clear to me — the one we believe, we follow.

We’ve heard countless sermons about Andrew, Peter, James and John, of how they dropped everything and followed Jesus. But have you stopped to think why they did that? Surely, they didn’t just jump at the words of Jesus because they were tired of their jobs. I believe it’s because they believed in who Jesus was and what He promised that they readily followed as His disciples. This must have been the same for Matthew. Otherwise, why would a tax collector leave everything to follow a Galilean carpenter? And as long as these kept believing, they kept following Jesus.

The one we believe, we follow. We cannot believe and not follow. Faith without works is dead. Conviction will always produce action. If I believe, I will follow.

When Jesus issued the Great Commission, the command was simple: Make disciples. He didn’t say to identify those who are willing and available, then call these and make them disciples. In other words, when anyone believes the good news of the Kingdom, make disciples of them! Put another way, the moment someone believes and becomes a subject of the Kingdom, he also becomes a disciple. Make no mistake: Jesus is both Saviour and Master!

This challenges the way we have been leading people to salvation. The sinner’s prayer is a great device but so many don’t even what they have prayed (repeat after me), much less what they have believed! What does “receive Jesus into your heart” mean anyway? And if one is told to believe in Jesus to go to heaven, where is the place of discipleship then?

Salvation is when we repent (turn from sin), believe in Jesus’ work on the Cross (forgiveness), be set free from sin’s dominion (redemption), and we now belong to Jesus (serve and follow Him). It scares me to discover how few Christians are able to talk about their own salvation! I am not advocating printing out a 500-page theological document for the prospect to peruse and sign on the dotted line. I am, however, convinced that there is an even more critical need for proper follow-up so that a new believer knows that believing Jesus means following Jesus. He is, after all, no longer his own, but one who belongs to Jesus.

This misconception weakens the Church because it gives us an excuse not to be disciples, or that we need a passage of time before we qualify to be disciples. How many do you know who have sat in church for 20-30 years and not budged at all? On the other hand, imagine a congregation who is fully convicted that they are disciples the moment they declare their faith in Jesus. I believe that’s how the church was in Acts, empowered by the Holy Spirit, and they literally turned their world upside down.

Seven Misconceptions of Discipleship

Seven MisconceptionsIn offering scholarships to encourage school leaving youths to consider a career in the military, the recruitment office did not opt for the guts ‘n’ glory angle. Instead, they found that the following points proved more attractive and effective:

  • Academic Pursuit: get the paper and qualification you desire
  • Financial Perks: get paid to study when others borrow to pay their fees
  • Material Benefits: while your peers are begging their parents for more pocket money, get a car before they can even dream of it
  • Adventure & Exposure: get to experience extreme sports and life
  • Prestige: get honour and glory in serving the nation, plus your girl (who can resist a man in uniform?)

Catching up with a friend who signed on as a regular, we asked him if he was having a great time with all these promises. He answered, “Nonsense, la!” After all, no one said anything about being a soldier, tough training, and the possibility of dying in battle!

Is it not the same with Christianity? Very likely so, I’m afraid. Do we not advertise the good news, calling out to all, “Be a Christian and get your [fill in the blank]!”? Hardly, if anything is said about being a disciple of Jesus Christ. Little wonder then, that the Church has discovered a great disconnect between being a Christian and being a disciple.

As if a knee-jerk reaction (prompted by the Holy Spirit, I’m sure), there is now, of late, a sudden attention turned to discipleship. In the bookshops are so many titles and programmes on discipleship. Contained in every church mission statement is the word disciple or discipleship. Every church wants to be an intentional disciple-making church (IDMC). With the new buzzword of discipleship, another problem has arisen. Discipleship has become hip and cool; and in that, we have missed the mark again!

For sure, so much has been taught and written about discipleship. But why all the confusion still? What is a disciple? Who is a disciple? How is discipleship done? Why is discipleship so difficult a concept to grasp in our days?

In preparing for a series on discipleship, I asked the Lord to show me afresh. I knew what I had been told and taught about discipleship. But my desire was to approach the Word without any presupposition or preconceived notions about discipleship. And the Lord gladly obliged. When He opened my eyes with a fresh revelation and understanding, it rocked whatever I had previously held on to. Oh my! What have I been teaching the people?

That’s what this series of articles will be about – the SEVEN misconceptions of discipleship that are prevalent in the Church, in the hearts and minds of God’s people.

  1. Discipleship is a separate decision/event from believership: Part One & Part Two
  2. Believers must be called to be disciples
  3. Disciples are a special class of believers
  4. Discipleship is an optional add-on to salvation
  5. Discipleship is a ministry or programme in the Church
  6. Discipleship is one aspect of the spiritual walk
  7. Discipleship is about me

Of the seven misconceptions, the first two are the most controversial. You may or may not agree with me, and that’s fine. Since sharing these, I’ve had different responses and it’s been interesting. I’ve also found that people like to remain in their comfort zones. And Christians presume many things without ever checking the Scriptures.

Therefore, if you disagree with anything, don’t disagree just because it doesn’t sound nice to you, goes against what you have been taught, or rocks your cushy Christian walk. Be like the Bereans who “searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so.” Finally, if we are still in disagreement, that is perfectly alright. My desire is not to win an argument about discipleship but that more would rise up to be faithful disciples of our Lord Jesus Christ! If this exercise provokes and spurs you towards this goal, I would have more than done my part.

What Defines You? Understanding Purpose, Platform & Performance

“Today, a teacher is no longer just a teacher,” I remember my instructor saying in a class on The Principles of Teaching.  “A teacher is also a coach, a mentor and a guide,“ she added emphatically.  “Interesting,” I thought to myself, and my mind began to wander as I reflected on that statement.  After all, if a teacher is not just a teacher, than why do we still call him a teacher?  Why don’t we call him coach?  Similarly, is a father still a father, or a husband still a husband?

Plasticine man and notes

Bringing this closer to home, how does this affect me personally as a father, a son, a husband, a friend, a teacher, a mentor, a counselor, a guide, a disciple, a leader and a servant?  When am I one and not the other?  Which hat do I put on and which do I take off?  Without doubt, I want to excel in each of these roles.  So I place expectations upon myself to function as adequately as I can and be the best that I can be.  Add to these, the expectations that others have of me and you can understand how that presents new and fresh challenges (and pressures) from all points.  As if not enough, we are further defined by society’s performance indicators of income, position, status and achievement.  Then we come to church and are further challenged to a life of denial, of discipleship and of service.  At the end of it all, who am I and what am I to be or do?  When did life become so complicated?  Why can’t a teacher remain a teacher?!  Who changed the rules along the way?

I assure you that I have no intention to split hairs or to make a mountain out of a molehill.  But if I am accurate, what I have just described is a phenomenon (and a dilemma) that many of us face in today’s varied and demanding society.  Unfortunately, it is not much different in the church as Christians struggle “to be all things to all men”, possibly making 1 Cor 9:22 one of the most misapplied verse of our time.

“In being defined, and constantly re-defined, by the world, we have lost our understanding of who we really are and what we were created for.”

Back to Original Intent and Design When I was first introduced to the word “etymology”, I had no idea what it meant at all.  All I knew was that it had something to do with words.  In the course of my study, I discovered that the full meaning of a word is to be found in the origin of that word.  This is needful because over time, words are used, abused and misused, resulting in its present meaning often quite different from when it was first used.  Etymology then is simply the study of the history and evolution of words, the process by which we understand the original definition of the word by the person who first coined the use of that word.

Similarly, we are products of society and the changes that have taken place over time.  Over time, we have lost the original intent and meaning for which we were created.  And yet, our present understanding of ourselves must not be limited to what the world tells us.  If so, we merely take on and act out the roles expected of us.  Is it any wonder then that so many are aimless and without purpose in life?

From a young age, I was told that I must study hard so I can do well in society.  As I interacted with others, I become a part of the socialisation process that makes society.  Then came my army and university years and I was raised to contribute to society.  When I went out to work, the norms and pressures of society impacted me even more.  I quickly learned that money was important, that position brought prestige, that material accumulation was desirable.  If society told me anything, I accepted it without question.  If there was a new buzzword in town, I had to learn it or else I’d fall out of sync with society.  Without realizing it, I had been shaped and defined by society.

Like the words which we use, and those we employ to label ourselves, we have been swept along by the tides of change.  In being defined, and constantly re-defined, by the world, we have lost our understanding of who we really are and what we were created for.  As in the etymology of words, we need to return to original intent, design and definition.  In this regard, although society may influence me, it is not society that gets to define me.  God remains the One who defines me, for it is He who made me and only He knows what is best for me.

“In our culture of integrated systems, we have also tried to integrate varied concepts into our roles and relationships, resulting in much confusion and distress.”

More recently, I have been considering a mobile device that would help me be more efficient and productive in the recording of my thoughts and ideas.  You would think that it is a simple process until you begin the research for such a product!  Should it be a PocketPC, a SmartPhone or a PDA?  With or without phone, camera or video?  However versatile these devices promise to be, I would still use it for its primary purpose to serve my primary need.  This is because it was designed with that primary purpose in mind with the necessary operating system to support it.  If this is not clear in my purchase decision, I will be influenced by what it offers rather than by what it does well.  And when I can’t get it to do something I expect it to do, the result is frustration.

In our culture of integrated systems, we have also tried to integrate varied concepts into our roles and relationships, resulting in much confusion and distress.  Teachers are expected to mentor.  Parents are expected to counsel.  Husbands are expected to help.  Wives are expected to lead.  Not that there is nothing positive to be derived from these but we have sadly missed the big picture and the primary purpose for which each of us has been created.

As we can see from our example above, every device is designed with a purpose in mind, equipped with a platform to achieve that purpose so that it will deliver a performance with more than satisfactory results!

“We are called to a purpose; not of ourselves but of the One who designed and made us for that very purpose!”

The Bible tells us that Man was made in the image and in the likeness of God.  In other words, the design of man was modeled after the very Person of God!  That is not just a good design; it is an awesome design!  As we have noted earlier, every design fulfils a purpose.  A watch is designed to tell time, a vehicle for transportation, a hammer to hammer, and a nail to be hammered!  Similarly, we have been designed for a specific purpose.  Although all of us bear the image of God, each is unique in personality, talents and gifting.  These variations show us that each has been called to a specific task.  We are not called to mere existence.  We are called to a purpose; not of ourselves but of the One who designed and made us for that very purpose!

When my eyes were opened to this fundamental truth, everything looked different.  For the very first time, my life had clear definition; not by how others wanted to see me, but by God who knew me even before I was formed in my mother’s womb.  Today, I make every effort to align my desires with God’s purpose.  After all, it is He who defines me and gives me purpose.  Without the Vine, what use is the branch?  Without the Potter, what use is the clay?  If there is no Master, there is no servant.

Once my relationship with God is settled, my relationship with myself is also settled.  I have a healthy self-image as a redeemed child of God and a new creation in Jesus Christ.  This in turn helps me in my relationship with my wife, my children and with others.  I don’t have to be who I am not supposed to be, or what others want me to be.  I know who I am, and I know what I am to do!

It doesn’t matter where you work or what you do.  Everything flows from this understanding and conviction.  You could be a big-time businessman, a district judge, a preschool teacher, or a whatever.  If God doesn’t define you, you will not walk in the purposes He has for you.

 “A godly purpose requires a godly platform”

When Windows VISTA was first launched, the entire market welcomed it with great expectation.  That quickly turned to disappointment when this new platform showed itself incompatible with how devices were originally designed to run.  In much the same way, God’s original operating system (OS) was to serve His original design and purpose.  However, sin came into the picture and corrupted that OS.  At the same time, the influences of the world promised an alternative OS that appeared better and more attractive, but totally incompatible with God’s purpose and call for us.

Thank God for the redemption we have in Jesus Christ!  Where I was once conformed to the patterns of this world, I can now be transformed by the renewing of my mind.  My OS can be fully restored!  My core values, my principles and my thinking can all be realigned to God’s original purpose for me.

When I allowed full access to the work of the Holy Spirit in my life, He effected a thorough clean-up in every area that was laid open and yielded to Him.  With the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God, my selfish and worldly desires and ambitions were promptly cut away.  It was certainly no walk in the park for it required the surrendering of many things I held dear in my heart.  But it was totally necessary as I had already determined to be defined by God and no one else.  This ongoing renewal of my mind radically changed the way I viewed my business, my goals, my desires and my relationships.  For sure, a godly purpose requires a godly platform.

“To maintain peak performance for God, I must be very mindful of the things that pull me away from God’s call and purpose.”

If there is one thing Christians know to do, it is to serve.  Whilst that appears noble and in line with biblical teaching, we have to discern if it is truly service or mere activity?  Are we performing to design and purpose, or merely performing for outward display?  Just as society can define us, so can the church with her demands and expectations.  This too is erroneous for performance is not determined by church norms, but by platform, and platform by purpose.  Like many, I used to serve because I thought that was what Christians did.  After all, faith without works is dead, they tell me.  It didn’t take me long to discover that the works for the sake of works is also dead.  No wonder so many Christians suffer burn out after dutifully serving in ministries.

The performance of a computer is compromised when it is bogged down by unnecessary programmes.  Likewise, we can’t be effective in what God wants us to do when we are tied down and distracted by other things.  Paul says in 2 Timothy 2:4 that “no one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier.”  Hebrews 12:1 reminds us to “lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us” so that we can run the race set before us.  To maintain peak performance for God, I must be very mindful of the things that pull me away from God’s call and purpose.

The trappings of this world are plenty.  Just how much is enough?  One of the best decisions I took was the giving up of business pursuits when the Lord called me into ministry.  In saying ‘yes’ to God, I consciously said ‘no’ to worldly treasures.  It has been liberating to say the least.  Day by day, I live the truth found in Matt 6:33.  True to God’s Word, when I seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, God has been more than faithful to meet my every need (and that includes one wife and seven children).

Material things are not the only distractions I face.  Ministry is extremely demanding, yet not every opportunity to minister is necessarily in God’s plan for me.  I am reminded that it didn’t matter how sought after Jesus was.  He always stayed true to His call and fulfilled what He was sent to do.  Jesus didn’t just perform miracles; He performed the Father’s will.

The expectations of others also add loads that we unconsciously bear.  In our bid to please people, we end up performing for them.  This is unwise.  Instead, seek to please God and in that serve others.  Be ready that some may take offence.  But it is far better to be in step with God than to dance to the tune of the world.

That said, it remains a daily challenge for me to stay lean and de-cluttered in my possessions and priorities.  Yet I must, that my eyes are fixed only on Jesus the Author and Perfecter of my faith and that my heart belongs to no other than the Lover of my soul.  My performance is premised on the partnership I have with Him and Him alone.  For apart from Him I can do nothing (John 15:5).

“The world may present new concepts as it evolves and shifts, but I stand unfazed by passing fads and trends.”

What do all these mean if I was that teacher mentioned at the start of this discourse?  Simple.  My concern is not to be every description or expectation thrown at me.  To be sure, I will learn what it means to coach, to guide and to mentor in today’s terms and situations.  But I will not conform to any image other than that of the Son of God, my Lord and Master Jesus Christ.  He alone is my model and my example.  Was He not a teacher?  Did He not coach?  He did!  In fact, Jesus did all that and more!  The religious system of His day, the crowds, and even His disciples had great expectations of Him and for Him but Jesus stayed true to His call and His mission.  He knew who He was and what He was sent to do.  In the same way, I would strive to teach as Jesus did; to impact and to touch lives.  Not just for the economy but for eternity.

So then, what or who defines you?  For sure, the permutations and possibilities are many.  As for me, I choose to identify myself with the One who made me.  God alone holds the master plan to my life and to who I am to be.  I stand secure and confident in the person I am in Christ and in the grace found in Him.  The world may present new concepts as it evolves and shifts, but I stand unfazed by passing fads and trends.  God has designed me for a purpose.  He has equipped me with the appropriate platform to accomplish that purpose.  When these are in correct alignment, my performance for the glory of His kingdom is a natural outcome.

The world says many things.  Be that as it may.  What does God say?

A Disciple and a Parent

Family Pix at Sushi Tei Christmas 2012

In my short stint as a father, I have had many opportunities to dialogue with Christian parents.  Although the conversations take different forms, the issues remain the same – time, money and children – more specifically, how to have more time, more money and preferably less children.  And when the discovery is made that I am in fulltime ministry, with seven young children, and a wife who homeschools and manages the entire household (without a maid!), I am instantly asked, “How do you and your wife manage?!” to which I reply, “We don’t … we rely on God.”

But this is not the answer they want.  What they really want to know is how we afford our larger-than-normal family, how we find the time and energy to do all we need to do, and how we manage, nurture and train all the children.  Yet, the answer is still the same … “We don’t … we rely on God.”

Like everyone else, we face the same challenges and struggles of parenting.  On our own, we don’t and can’t manage anything.  It is only in Christ that we can do all things through Him who strengthens us (Phil 4:13).

We don’t stop being disciples. At this point, you may be wondering what this has to do with discipleship.  Let me say that it has everything to do with discipleship.  When we decide to follow Jesus, it is a commitment that stands regardless our position in life, single or married, with two children or ten.  We don’t stop being disciples!  To stop means to stop following Jesus, to stop abiding in Christ, to cease drawing from the true Vine.

As such, it’s not about finding more energy to pray or more time to read the Word, but critically recognising the need to pray and to constantly abide in the Word.  Serene and I have experienced this time and again – the moment we take our eyes off Jesus, things go crazy around the house and everything falls apart.  We have learnt that, truly, apart from Him, we can do nothing (John 15:5).

All that we have is from God.  How else can we but manage these for His glory?  How else can we manage but with His strength and power?  How else can we have strength and power but to draw from Him daily?  Discipleship is not about knowing how to manage, but knowing who we are in Christ, our Master, out of which flow our call and our priorities.

Disciples know their Master. If I am a disciple, I have a Master.  The question is, “Who is my Master?”  Jesus said that no one can serve two masters.  We will love one and hate the other.  Anything and anyone can take the place of Jesus – my wife, my children, my career, my worldly pursuits, even my church.  When that happens, I only serve Jesus on Sunday mornings.  For the rest of the week, I serve my other masters.

I have come to acknowledge that I need Jesus desperately.  My source and strength is Jesus.  If I don’t spend time with Him, I have nothing.  It is only out of my relationship with Him that I can relate with others. In loving Jesus, I love my wife and my children.  In trusting Jesus, I know that my best can never match His best for my family.  In following Jesus, my family knows that we are headed in the right direction for the right destination.

My Master is Jesus and I am His disciple.

Disciples know their Purpose. Not everyone may be called to fulltime ministry, but every believer is to be a fulltime disciple. When Jesus says, “Follow Me,” He is inviting men and women to give up everything to be with Him and to learn from Him.  And everything includes our families.

To follow Jesus means to have my eyes fixed on Him.  Problems come when my eyes are fixed on myself, my wife, my children and our needs.  When I yield to the call of these needs, I invariably miss the call of Jesus to walk with Him.  In Matt 10:37, Jesus says, “… he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.”  So do I stop loving my family?  No, I don’t love them any less.  It just means that I love Jesus more.

We are disciples first before we are husbands, wives, or parents.  And disciples are very clear of the purpose of following Jesus – to become more and more like Him.  With this purpose and promise of transformation, a true disciple of Jesus makes for a better husband, wife and parent.

Disciples know their Priorities. So many Christians struggle with discipleship because of misplaced priorities.  An over focus on needs will lead to a focus on money, job, self-improvement, and career.  Soon, worry and anxiety set in, and they wonder, “Where is Jesus in all these?”  I believe the Master is still there, patiently waiting.  It’s the disciple who has gone missing.

A disciple’s priority must be to do what the Master has called him to do – to declare, establish and manifest the Kingdom of God (Matt 10:7,8).  When Jesus sent His disciples out, He told them not to worry about anything for they will be provided for.  Their priority was to do His will and to please the Master.  The same applies to us today.  Matt 6:33 reminds us that between our needs and God’s Kingdom, we are to seek the latter that the former will be taken care of.  How often have we got it upside-down?  To be sure, the question is not whether God will meet our needs, but if we are seeking His Kingdom and His righteousness.

A disciple’s priority is to look after the Master’s business.  The Master will look after the disciple’s needs.

So how do we manage? We don’t … we rely on God.  As you can see by now, discipleship, as with parenting, is not merely about methods and how to’s.  There’s something more fundamental – it’s relationship.

If you are struggling with being a disciple and a parent, it’s not more steps you need.  Instead, you have to determine what is it you find difficult to let go of, for it is that cost of discipleship with which you are struggling.  Don’t struggle to be a disciple.  Strive instead, to know the Master.  For when you know who your Master is, and how faithful He is, you will gladly follow Him wherever He leads.  When that happens, priorities become clear and everything falls in place.

Jesus be the Santa of My Life?

I guess it’s safe to assume that everyone is familiar with the hit worship song by Israel Houghton “Jesus At The Centre”, or the slightly older one, “Jesus Be the Centre” by Michael Frye.

We sing it with gusto, and at times, with tears too. But really, is Jesus the centre? Or do we just want Him to be a Santa to us? Hey, in this day of commercial and convenient Christianity, I can’t assume anything. Of anyone. And of myself.

Is Jesus the centre of your life? Don’t say “yes” too quickly if all you mean is that you desire Jesus to be the centre. That wasn’t the question at all. Once again, the question is, “Is Jesus the centre of your life?” In case this appears or sounds confusing, consider the following …

Take me, for example. I am one who serves in a full-time capacity. As a servant of God. I teach, preach and lead a ministry. By all counts, in the eyes of many, I have given my all to Jesus, so He must be the centre of my life. Accurate? Not necessarily. If I neglect the needs of my wife and not love her as Christ loved the church, if I do not parent my children in God’s ways, then Jesus is not the centre at all! Ouch!

How about the faithful volunteer each Sunday morning? He or she comes consistently to church and serves dutifully. Is Jesus the centre of his or her life? Well, we’d have to see more of his or her life to know, wouldn’t we? How does he conduct his business? How does she relate to her peers or relatives? What does he do in his private time when no one is watching? How does she respond in times of difficulties and challenges?

Then, there is the Sunday Christian who appears each week – 30mins into the service. He is perpetually tardy. But when a crisis hits, or a need arises, this dear brother is quick on the dial (smartphone keypad) to contact a pastor for prayer or counselling and – surprise! surprise! – comes perfectly on time for the appointment. Hmmmm … is Jesus really the centre?

Of course, what is the Christian walk without faith? So, there is the faith-filled believer who asks so he will receive – after all, that’s his entitlement. So, Lord, give me a job, give me a promotion, give me a baby, give me a husband, give me a house, car, an iPad, … How nice, when Jesus is the Santa of your life.

As with most blogposts, I have observed and so I write. But more than a post that gripes against what I have observed in others, it is one that provokes myself to evaluate if there might the presence of something larger in my eye than the speck I see in theirs.

Is Jesus really the centre of my life, my marriage, my family, my ministry as reflected through my thoughts, my words and my actions? Or have I too approached Him with a long list of gimmes based on a self-righteous view of myself having been good and faithful, and deserving of all I have asked for? If so, I have only made Jesus the Santa of my life. And however loud I sing and declare, Jesus is not the centre of my life at all … I am.

Related Post:
Santa? Or No Santa? Can We Please Make Up Our Minds?
Jesus be the Corner of My Life?