Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Demands of Discipleship

Discovering what Characterizes those who follow Chirst

Most of us have sat with other Christians and sang that well known hymn, "When I Survey the Wonderous Cross." This is a tremendous hymn of commitment and dedication. I wonder how many times we have sung it without really comprehinding the statement we were making. Look at the words below:

When I survey the wondrous cross on which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss, and pour contempt on all my pride.

Forbid it Lord, that I should boast, save in the cross of Christ my God:
All the vain things that charm me most, I sacrifice them to His blood.

See from His head, His hands, His feet, sorrow and love flow mingled down:
Did e'er such love and sorrow meet, or throwns compose so rich a crown?

Were the whole realm of nature mine, that were an offering far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.


Focus your attention again on the last line of the hymn, "Love so amazing so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all." This is the theme of this series of studies, what are the demands of discipleship, meaning what does it really mean to follow after Christ?

It is probally well to mention here in the introduction that there are six names given in the Word of God to describe the people of God. People who have accepted Christ as their Lord and Savior are called Christians, Believers, brethren, sons or children of God, saints, and disciples. These names are common to all believers and are not sectarian in anyway. But what is interesting is that outside of the four gospels and the book of Acts, the word "disciple" is not found. When we analyze the other five terms used we can understand why the word "disciple" is not found. But the concept of discipleship is found throughout the New Testament.

Christians
The word Christian occurs three times in the New Testament (Acts 11:26, 26:28, and 1 Peter 4:16). It has certaintly lost much of its meaning today, because many people who are not Muslims, Buddhists, Jews or athesists call themselves "Christian." But the word actually has the thought of "a little Christ" or "Christlike." Many groups of believers have adopted the name of their leader and founder as a means of identifying their beliefs and teachings. But as Christians we really do not need to take any other name than the all sufficient name of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Saints
This name is often used by the apostle Paul. It simply means, "those that are set apart." It is used to denote God's holiness and how we, as those who have believed on Jesus Christ have been justified (Romans 5:1) are now to live lives that are in keeping with the position that He has brought us into (1 Peter 1:15-16).

Believers
This is the term used for those that have put their personal trust in the finished work of Christ for their eternal salvation (John 3:16, 36, 5:24).



Sons or Children of God
Christians are often called, "children of God" and "sons of God." These terms are not synonmous, they are very distinct. There are actually five different greek words used to illustrate the various stages of growth of the members of God's family. Together these words depict the whole story of our spiritual life: birth, infancy, childhood, young adulthood, and maturity.But while that is true on the one hand, it is also important to understand that while we might be seen at "spiritual birth" as a child of God, we are also seen to be a "son of God." As a child we are introduce into the family of God. But the status of sonship implies dignity, heirship and spiritual blessing. Both are true of every born again Christian (Romans 8:12-17, Galatians 4:4-7).

Brethren
In the New Testament, believers are also called "brethren." In fact this is the most common term used for those who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. In a world of hate and disuntiy it is a term that speaks of oneness and family.

Disciple
A disciple is a learner, a follower, or a student. Throughout scripture we read of disciples of John the baptist, disciples of Moses, even disciples of the Law. There are many who followed prominent men of the day and they were called there disciples.

In the light of these other five terms and what they mean for us, we have been brought into so more than simply followers or students. I believe that is why the actual word "disciple" isn't used in the rest of the New Testament. But we have to say, that as long as we are left here in this world we are in the school of God and are still to be learners at the feet of our Master. The early followers of Christ were called to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19). The principle of discipleship is still very valid. Paul told Timothy, "the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, committ these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also" (2 Timothy 2:2). It has often been pointed out that in this one verse there are four generations of Christians. Paul discipled Timothy, Timothy was to disciple others, who would turn around and disciple others. This teaching ought to apply to every one of us who follow after the Lord Jesus Christ. Who around us can we help grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ?

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