N.T Wright on the five senses of how the term “history”works

When attempting to examine the evidence for a figure in antiquity such as Jesus or events such as his resurrection, what do historians look for? Since there were no video cameras, cell phones, internet, Facebook, or Twitter in the first century, we can’t place modern day expectations on an ancient figure such as Jesus.

Sometimes critics complain that the story of Jesus the Messiah is based on hearsay evidence. Thus, since those that wrote about Jesus can’t be cross-examined and since they’ve been dead for many centuries, this means the entire story of Jesus  is illegitimate. But this accusation fails to differentiate between direct and circumstantial evidence. The demand for direct evidence is misguided from the start, because when it comes to antiquity, no one can interview or cross-examine eyewitnesses. Keep in mind that this happens all the time with cold-case investigations. Also, modern science studies events that are in the past and are not observable nor repeatable.

In his book, The Resurrection of the Son of God, N.T Wright succinctly summarizes how the five senses of the term “history” works. These are summarized in Rene Lopez’s book,  Killing Jesus.

Wright says:

First, there is history as event. If we say something is “historical” in this sense, it happened, whether or not we can know or prove that it happened.

Second, there is history as significant event. Not all events are significant; history, it is often assumed, consists of the ones that are. The adjective that tends to go with this is “historic”; “a historic event” is not simply an event that took place, but one whose occurrence carried momentous consequences.

Third, there is history as provable event. To say that something is “historical” in this sense is to say not only that it happened but that we can demonstrate that it happened, on the analogy of mathematics or the so-called hard sciences.

Fourth, and quite different from the previous three, there is history as writing-about-events-in-the-past. To say that something is “historical” in this sense is to say that it was written about, or perhaps could in principle have been written about. (This might even include “historical” novels).

Fifth and finally, a combination of (3) and (4) is often found precisely in discussions of Jesus: history as what modern historians can say about a topic. By “modern” I mean “post-Enlightenment,” the period in which people have imagined some kind of analogy, even correlation, between history and the hard sciences. In this sense, “historical” means not only that which can be demonstrated and written, but that which can be demonstrated and written within the post-Enlightenment worldview.

What then is the sense of the word “history” that we ought to understand when the early witnesses claimed to have seen Jesus or when Paul wrote, “He was buried, and … He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Cor. 15:4)? Were they recording a historical event or writing metaphorically? All the early first-century witnesses spoke of Jesus’ resurrection as a historical event that actually occurred according to Wright’s first point: “history as event.”-Rene Lopez, Killing Jesus, pgs, 61-62.

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Would You Believe the First Apologists Were Messianic Jews?

jesus-washes-feet-of-disciples-07

Who were the first apologists? Believe it or not, the first apologists were all Messianic Jews. You may say “Well, what are Messianic Jews?”  Messianic Judaism is not new at all. All the authors of the New Testament were Jewish (with the possible exception of Luke). For many years the early faith in Jesus was strictly Jewish in both orientation and practice. Hence, the early Church was 100% percent Jewish! We see the growth of Messianic Judaism in The Book of Acts: (Acts 2:41) 3000 Jewish people come to faith at Pentecost  after Peter’s Sermon (goes up to 5000 in Acts 4:4);(Acts 6:7) “The number of disciples increased rapidly and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith”; (Acts 21:20) Within twenty years the Jewish congregation said to Paul- “You see how many thousands (in Greek, it is literally “myriads” or “ten thousands” or “countless thousands.”                                Hence, we see at least 100,000 Jewish believers in Jesus. The apostles approach to spreading the message of the Good News is characterized by such terms as “apologeomai/apologia”  (Acts 26:2; 2 Tim. 4:16; 1 Pet 3:15), which means “to give reasons, make a legal defense” “dialegomai” which means “to reason, speak boldly” (Acts 17:2; 17; 18:4; 19:8), “peíthō” which means to persuade, argue persuasively” (Acts 18:4; 19:8),  and “bebaioō” which means “to confirm, establish (Phil 1:7; Heb. 2:3).

Obviously, we see our first Gentile convert in Acts 10 (Cornelius).  It was only over a long period where the Church become a predominately Gentile based phenomena. To read more about this, see The Ways That Never Parted: Jews and Christians in Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages by Adam H. Becker and Annette Yoshiko Reed.  Isn’t it nice that we as Gentiles are no longer “excluded from the commonwealth of Israel” (Eph .2:11-13), and “without hope.” May we thank God for allowing us to participate in His redemptive plan for the entire world. To see the historical basis and background of Messianic Judaism, Introduction to Messianic Judaism: Its Ecclesial Context and Biblical Foundations by David J. Rudolph.

Today, there are thousands of Messianic Jewish  believers in the United States alone and across the world. Of course, the Apostle Paul (a Pharisee and a Jewish Believer himself) showed he had a tremendous burden for the Jewish people (Rom. 9:1-5; Rom. 10:1), and calls upon the Church to provoke Israel to jealousy (Rom. 11:11). Paul understood that since Gentiles (I am one of them), have received the blessing of knowing the Jewish Messiah, they have the responsibility to take the message of salvation back to Israel. Therefore, Christians of all denominational backgrounds should show interest in learning about how to share the good news of the Messiah with the Jewish people.

Messianic Judaism pertains to those who are Jewish and have come to faith in the promised Messiah of Israel. Yeshua is the Hebrew name for Jesus, and means “Salvation.” Jesus was actually called Yeshua, a Jewish man living in the land of Israel among Jewish people.

But with acceptance of Jesus as the Messiah comes much opposition and objections from within the Jewish community. Also, it should not be surprising that the Jewish community has formed its own set of objections to Jesus and the claims of His followers. Many Jewish people who come to faith in Jesus can be ostracized by their own communities. I even know some who have been disowned by their own families.

Dr. Michael Brown

The most well-known Messianic apologist at the present time is Dr.Michael Brown. Dr. Brown has a Ph.D. in Near Eastern Languages and Literatures from New York University. He has debated many rabbis on shows such as Phil Donahue, and Faith Under Fire. Dr. Brown is a Jewish believer in Jesus and is visiting professor at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and Fuller Theological Seminary. His website is at http://askdrbrown.org. You can see him walking down the streets of New York discussing the Messiah issue here:

Dr. Brown has written a five set volume called Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus:
Vol 1 is called General Objections/Historical Objections
Vol 2 is called Theological Objections
Vol 3 is called Messianic Prophecy Objections
Vol 4 is called New Testament Objections
Vol 5 is called Traditional Jewish Objections

What was the Message of the first Messianic Jewish Apologists?

1. The promises by God made in the Hebrew Bible/The Old Testament have now been revealed with the coming of Jesus the Messiah (Acts 2:30;3;19;24,10:43; 26:6-7;22).

2. Jesus was anointed by God at his baptism (Acts 10:38).

3. Jesus began his ministry at Galilee after his baptism (Acts 10:37).

4. Jesus conducted a beneficent ministry, doing good and performing mighty works by the power of God ( Acts 2:22; 10:38).

5. The Messiah was crucified according to the plan of God (Acts 2:23).

6. He was raised from the dead and appeared to his disciples (Acts 2:24; 31-32; 3:15-26;10:40-41;17:31;26:23).

7. Jesus was exalted and given the name “Lord” (Acts 2:25-29;33-36;3:13;10:36).

8. He gave the Holy Spirit to form the new community of God (Acts 1:8;2;14-18;33,38-39;10:44-47).

9. He will come again for judgment and the restoration of all things (Acts 3:20-21;10:42; 17:31).

10. All who hear the message should repent and be baptized because of the finished work of Jesus (Acts 2:21;38;3:19;10:43, 17-48; 17:30, 26:20).

After reading this, we can see that there wasn’t much appeal to personal testimony nor “Accept Jesus into your heart and he will make your life better.”

Perhaps we can conclude with the words of J.P. Moreland:

“Today, we share the gospel as a means of addressing felt needs. We give testimonies of changed lives and say to people if they want to become better parents or overcome depression or loneliness, that the Jesus is their answer. This approach to evangelism is inadequate for two reasons. First, it does not reach people who may be out of touch with their feelings. Second, it invites the response, “Sorry, I do not have a need.” Have you noticed how no one responded to Paul in this manner? In Acts 17-20, he based his preaching on the fact that the gospel is true and reasonable to believe. He reasoned and tried to persuade people to intelligently accept Jesus.”–J.P Moreland, Love Your God With All Your Mind. Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress. 1997, pg 30

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 Handling a Rabbi’s Objection to the Resurrection of Jesus

Dan Cohn-Sherbock, a well-known rabbi of Reform Judaism and Jewish theologian provides his own reasons for rejecting the resurrection of Jesus. He says:

As a Jew and a rabbi, I could be convinced of Jesus’ resurrection, but I would set very high standards of what is required. It would not be enough to have a   subjective experience of Jesus. If I heard voices or had a visionary experience of Jesus, this would not be enough. Let me sketch the kind of experience that would be necessary. If Jesus appeared by hosts of angels trailing clouds of glory and   announcing all for His Messiah ship to see, this would be compelling. But it would have to take place in public domain. video cameras, shown on television, and announced in newspapers and magazines worldwide. Jesus appearance would have to be a global event, televised on CNN, and other forms of the world’s media. Further, if as a consequence of his arrival, all the prophecies   recorded in scripture were fulfilled; the ingathering of the exiles, the rebuilding of the Temple, the resurrection of all those who died, the advent of the days of the Messiah, final judgment-I would without a doubt embrace the Christian message and become a follower of the risen Christ. [1]

The comments by Rabbi Cohn-Sherbock demonstrate the attitude among many in the modern world today. He also raises some objections based on another traditional role of the Messiah in Judaism.  However, there isn’t one messianic expectation in Judaism. Also, whether certain passages are about the coming of the Messiah in the Jewish Scriptures will depend upon what the preconceived idea of the reader. What do they believe the Messiah is supposed to do? If a traditional Jewish person says the Messiah cannot suffer and die and rise from the dead, how would we expect them to interpret the Messianic passages?  It is also obvious that Rabbi Cohn-Sherbock has unrealistic explications for the evidence for the resurrection. If we were to apply the same criteria that to the giving of the Torah at Mt. Sinai, we could never know that happened as well. After all, the giving of the Torah was not witnessed by multitudes (they saw Moses after he received it), photographed, recorded on video cameras, shown on television, and announced in newspapers and magazines worldwide.

Thus, while Jewish people like to boast of the thousands of witnesses that were at the Sinai event, both Christians and Messianic Jews can discuss the witnesses to the resurrection. However, in both cases, the testimony of the witnesses is imbedded in a written text. This means we must differentiate between direct and circumstantial evidence. The demand for direct evidence is misguided from the start, because when it comes to antiquity, no one can interview or cross-examine eyewitnesses. We have no access to the witnesses of the event. Keep in mind that this happens all the time with cold-case investigations. Jurors may accept both direct and circumstantial evidence, and many criminals are convicted based on circumstantial evidence.  Since we can’t obtain direct evidence about the resurrection of Jesus nor for the giving of the Torah, we must build a circumstantial case for both events. Therefore, both Judaism and Christianity/Messianic Judaism are supported by circumstantial evidence.

1. G. D’ Costa, Resurrection Reconsidered (London: Oneworld. 1996), 198-199.

 

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Book Review: Consider Your Calling: Six Questions for Discerning Your Vocation By Gordon T. Smith

Consider Your Calling: Six Questions for Discerning Your Vocation by [Smith, Gordon T.]

Consider Your Calling: Six Questions for Discerning Your Vocation, By Gordon T. Smith, 2016, 129 pp.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you may have noticed there have been more than enough books on God’s will that have flooded the Christian market. Some of them deal with a variety of questions such as vocation, marriage, calling, giftedness, etc. In this book, Gordon Smith has chosen to focus on the topic of vocation.  The good news is this book is helpful for those of us that aren’t entering into the marketplace right out of college. There are plenty of gems in this book for those of us who have made transitions into other careers or find ourselves asking, “Now what?”  I found this book to be packed with a tremendous amount of wisdom and practical insight. With that said, here are some of my favorite quotes from the book.

God’s Calling and Us

“What I am saying is that God’s call on our lives will fit reasonably—and I use the word reasonably intentionally— within a considered assessment of who we are. Vocation is not found through some great spark of light, not typically, at least. We will not likely have an angel come and visit us as Mary did. Rather, for most of us it will come through the diligence of asking questions, thinking clearly and carefully, weighing possibilities and coming to what is, as my colleague at Ambrose University, Jonathan Goosen, has put it, a “rationally satisfying” way of seeing ourselves. How can I be a steward of this life, and how has God uniquely cultivated in my heart a vision for what matters and the capacity to do something about it? What is the best way I can live my life for Christ and for others in a way that is consistent with how God has created me? Self-knowledge is not, then, an act of selfishness or self-centeredness, but an act of stewardship, of seeing ourselves in truth so that we can live in truth for Christ and for others. However, we do need to be alert to how the focus on self can easily lead to self-absorption.”- pgs 47-48.

Idealism

“There is a gracious movement from idealism—thinking we can be anything and will be heroes fixing the world’s problems—to a naming of the actual life that is before us. By letting go of idealism I do not mean we let go of dreams and ambition. Not at all. But now, these dreams—the aspiration of our hearts—fit who we are and fit our world, our context, our lives. Now our sense of purpose fits us and we begin to invest time and energy to live out of that reality. As noted, this will require courage. Saying yes to our lives will mean saying no to that which is not us. But if we manage this transition—essentially a spiritual crisis—with wisdom and grace, it will be one of the most significant growth points of our lives. It requires a profound level of honesty—we stop living with illusions about who we are or wish we were—and accept the life that has been given to us. We embrace it, we choose it, we walk with it.”- pg 63.

Focus

“If we are going to thrive vocationally in our mid-adult years, focus is imperative. Foundational. But there are two other things that are very close seconds, almost as critical as focus in our vocational development. First, we have to master our craft. It is now or never. Well, okay, maybe that is an overstatement. But if so, barely so. Now it is the time to drill down and pursue the way of excellence. For example, I think of the young faculty member at a university: mid-thirties, doctoral studies completed, now in a position where she has the possibility to grow and develop professionally. Bear down, I say, and learn the craft to which you are called: master the art of teaching and classroom instruction; get about your research and writing and learn to do it well. Learn, early on, how to be a participant—a good and winsome player—in faculty governance and contribute in a What Is Your Life Stage?  way that fosters institutional vitality.” – pgs. 64-65.

Naming our Reality

“ It is essential that we name reality and learn to live within our situation as it actually is and not as we wish it to be, but we must not be so resigned to the social order that we fail to accept and embrace the call to make a difference. Sometimes, our social location may be one in which, as a woman, we feel we cannot accept or embrace a role because of how the social context “constrains” us. Perhaps we live with this. Or perhaps not. Perhaps we instead resolve that we will press against those limits. This is, of course, a matter of discernment: to know where God is calling us to live within constraints and when we are called to push against the status quo. In other words, we speak of constraints, but this does not mean there is never a time to challenge what are perceived to be our limits with a gracious courage, creativity and conviction. There will be opportunities when we sense the divine initiative in this situation, for this time and place. I wonder if, in some way, every calling is meant to challenge the status quo.

Every calling is a “new thing” by which we are grace to these very real circumstances and constraints. We engage our circumstances with deliberation, choice and responsibility, and ask: How can I be intentional, doing the right thing to which I am called, rather than It is essential that we name reality and learn to live within our situation as it actually is and not as we wish it to be.  We choose to do what needs to be done in this time and place. And yet, while we live with a holy discontent in our circumstances, there is also a necessary call for each of us to live graciously within our circumstances. Similarly, just as nothing is gained by constantly comparing ourselves to others—their gifts, opportunities—nothing is gained by wishing you had a different set of circumstances. Rather, wisdom calls us to we see ourselves as placed in this situation, providentially by the hand of God, and we give ourselves wholeheartedly to what is before us.”- pgs 83-84.

Constraints and Opportunities

“One way to think about our context—our location in time— is to see both the constraints and opportunities that mark our situation. When we do a read of our circumstances we will always come up against constraints, the limits that we inevitably bump up against, and opportunities of potential ways forward from within and moving beyond our situation. Since our situation will always be marked by both constraints and opportunities, we can engage with a hopeful realism. In both cases, we need to be clear: Are these real opportunities and are these real constraints? When the door is closed, the door is closed. If the train has left the station then we missed the train. Nothing is gained by wishing it otherwise and nothing is gained by harping about it or bemoaning our fate. Now we have to step back and consider our situation. Without despair, we name our reality and consider our options What Are Your Life Circumstances?  With all the creativity that God has given us. No illusions. No wishful thinking it was otherwise. No blaming others or ourselves. It is critical that we see things clearly, so we can and must ask: What opportunities and options are truly before us— real, live possibilities that arise out of our current situation? Yes, we respond with creativity and hopefulness, but it is a hopeful realism, not wishful thinking or misguided optimism.”- pgs 80-81

Fears

“Worry is useless and inconsistent with our knowledge of God as the One who is providentially present to each one of us.  Some fear financial loss or insecurity. We live in a culture that preaches the gospel of economic security—which may well be an oxymoron—and that a life well-lived is a life of growing assets and a secure retirement, so much so that it would seem that the only reason for living and working is to guarantee that our senior years are “safe.” But even young people will often hesitate to wade out into the waters of life because they fear the vulnerability when they no longer have the backstop of their parents’ financial resources. Or those in midlife cannot do the right thing because all they see are the economic implications of their decisions. For others, there is the fear of criticism or failure, the lack of validation, or the disappointment of parents or others who matter to us. Perhaps as a child it was virtually impossible to please your parents or to know the affirmation that every child must know to be able to take risks, knowing that failure is only a bump in the road and an opportunity for new learning. A perfectionist parent almost inevitably results in a young person who is hesitant to step out and try something new.”-pgs 107-108.

Obviously, Smith has thought long and hard about these issues. I assume he has counseled others on this topic. This book ministered to me on numerous levels. I think it can be a great source of wisdom and encouragement for those who read it.

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“What Does it Mean to Affirm Jesus is the ‘Christ’?”

There is no doubt that the major identity marker for a committed Christian is to say they follow Jesus Christ. But for the average Jewish person, the name “Jesus Christ” has no relationship to Judaism. And for the average Christian, there is little a very limited understanding as to what it means to even say Jesus is “The Christ.”  In my personal experience, many of my Christian friends are fully convinced Yeshua (the Jewish name for Jesus) is the Savior of the world. Millions of sermons as well as evangelistic appeals are given each year to people to accept Jesus as their personal Savior. But when it comes to thinking about whether Jesus is actually the promised Messiah of Israel and the nations, many Christians know every little about what it means to affirm Jesus is actually the Messiah. Michael Bird says it so well:

The statement that “Jesus is the Messiah” presupposes a certain way of reading Israel’s Scriptures and assumes a certain hermeneutical approach that finds in Yeshua the unifying thread and the supreme goal of Israel’s sacred literature. A messiah can only be a messiah from Israel and for Israel. The story of the Messiah can only be understood as part of the story of Israel. Paul arguably says as much to a largely Gentile audience in Rome: “For I tell you that Christ [Messiah] has become a servant of the circumcised on behalf of the truth of God in order that he might confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy” (Rom. 15:8–9), Michael Bird , Michael F. Bird, Are You the One Who Is to Come? The Historical Jesus and the Messianic Question (Grand Rapids, Baker, 2009), 163.

But if we probe deeper, the Greek word Christos, from which we get the English word “Christ” carries the same connotations as the Hebrew word — “the Anointed One” which is where the word “messiah” comes from. The word “messiah” means “anointed one” and is derived from verbs that have the general meaning of “to rub something” or, more specifically, “to anoint someone.” The Jewish Scriptures records the history of those who were anointed for a specific purpose such as priests (Exod. 28:41; 29:7, 29; 30:30; Lev. 7:36; 8:12; 16:32;), kings (Jdg. 9:8; 9:15; 1 Sam. 9:16; 10:1; 15:1, 17; 16:3, 12, 13; 2 Sam. 2:4, 7; 3:39; 5:3; 1 Chron. 11:3; 5:17; 127; 2 Sam. 19:11; 1 Kgs. 1:34, 39, 45; 5:15;19:15,16; 2 Kgs 9:3, 6,12;11:12; 23:30; 2 Chron. 22:7; 23:11; 29:22; Ps 89:21), and even prophets (1Kgs.19:16; 1 Chron.16:22; Ps.105:15)

After teaching on this topic for several years, Dr. Brant Pitre summarizes the challenge that lays before us:

“Regarding Jesus, according to the testimony of the four Gospels, who did he claim to be? Who did his first followers believe him to be? And, even more important, why did they believe in him? As soon as we ask this question, we run into a bit of a problem—a paradox of sorts. I’ve noticed this paradox over the last ten years that I’ve been teaching the Bible as a professor in the classroom. On the one hand, if I ask my students what kind of Messiah the Jewish people were waiting for in the first century AD, they all seem to be very clear about the answer. Usually, their standard response goes “At the time of Jesus, the Jewish people were waiting for an earthly, political Messiah to come and set them free from the Roman Empire.” On the other hand, if I ask students which prophecies led to this ancient Jewish hope for an earthly, political Messiah, they are often at a complete loss. The classroom quickly falls silent. They often get even quieter when I ask, “Which prophecies of the Messiah did Jesus actually fulfill?” or “What prophecies did the first Jewish Christians think he fulfilled?” Every time I pose these questions, the vast majority of the students (who are usually all Christians) can’t answer them. They often can’t name a single prophecy that Jesus fulfilled that would show that he was in fact the Messiah. Every now and then, one or two students may bring up the oracle of the virgin who bears a child (Isaiah 7) or the passage about the Suffering Servant (Isaiah 52–53). However, that’s usually as far as it goes. If my experiences are any indication, many contemporary Christians believe that Jesus was the Messiah, but they don’t necessarily know why they believe he was the Messiah, much less why his first followers thought he was the long-awaited king of Israel.”—B. Pitre, The Case for Jesus: The Biblical and Historical Evidence for Christ (New York: Crown Publishing. 2016), 102-103.

My experience is similar to Pitre’s. So how do we respond to the question as to what it means to say Jesus is the Messiah? See our post, Six Messianic Expectations and One Messiah. Or, see our post “Are There Actually 300 Messianic Prophecies?” 

 

 

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“If the Gospel is True, Why Don’t We See More Transformation in the Lives of Christians?”

Do you ever ask yourself the following questions: “If the Gospel is true and I have come into a relationship with God, why do I still struggle with the same sins?” or, “Why do I struggle with the same attitudes and addictions?” I have asked myself this question and many people have asked me about it as well. Ravi Zacharias says the following:

“I really think that today, as Christian apologists, that the biggest challenge to the faith is not an intellectual question. In fact, I have not heard an intellectual question to the faith that has disturbed me. I am more convinced than ever of the message of the Gospel. But the biggest challenge to the Christian faith is this: If the message that we have lays claim to a supernatural regeneration, then why is it that we do not see that regeneration more often? No other religion claims a supernatural regeneration. They may claim ethics and morality. Hinduism does. But we are the only ones who claim a new birth. Born of the Holy Spirit, our hungers have changed, our disciplines have changed, our behavior has changed. If it is a supernaturally engendered thing, why do we not see it more often? And if that is true of the common person in conversion, how much more true it must be of ones in leadership. So I believe character is essential, and without that, you cannot serve.” -Ravi Zacharias

I am sure Ravi knows the amazing contributions that Christians have made to the world. I know he must know the results from his own ministry offers us plenty of signs of “real” supernatural regeneration. So I don’t want to paint the picture as if there is little or no evidence of supernatural regeneration to be seen. Perhaps you don’t agree with Ravi’s comments. Maybe you think supernatural regeneration is not a rarity at all. Maybe you see it all around you. But his comments do lead to some thoughtful introspection. Sometimes I find myself wondering why we tend to not see as much transformation As expected in the lives of professing Christians.  Here are a few thoughts:

Discipleship 

In all the evangelism that I have done, I have noticed that I come across plenty of people who profess to be Christians but are not going forward in their faith. If I meet an individual who says they are a professed believer, I always ask them where they are in the discipleship process. Many times when I ask, “Are you becoming a disciple?” I usually get the response, “What’s a disciple?”

Many are oblivious to the importance of discipleship. Therefore, I find myself exhorting hundreds of people to get rooted in congregational/community life—get back to the basics (e.g., read the Bible, prayer). I always give these individuals contact information of local churches that they can attend. It saddens me to see what is happening in the transition from the point when someone makes a professed/salvation decision for Jesus and the overall discipleship/commitment aspect to our faith.

The Hebrew word for disciple is “talmid.” A talmid is a student of one of the sages of Israel. A disciple is a learner, or pupil. When we decide to repent and turn to our Lord for the forgiveness of sins, we have to realize we are now on a new journey. The Gospel is a message for the here and now- not just the future. We have to learn how to live out our faith in the world around us. A disciple (in the New Testament sense) is someone who is striving (by God’s grace) to be consistent follower of Jesus. The goal of the Christian is to imitate our Master.

Discipleship is not getting any easier in the world we live in. In an overly sensate culture, people need to be constantly stimulated and have a hard time focusing on something such as discipleship. And in a world that wants instant results, self- sacrifice is a tough sell. Part of the problem is that churches preach a Gospel that promises that Jesus will fix all our problems. And when things get tough, many people bail out.

Discipleship takes a commitment between the discipler and the one being discipled. And for those that say they don’t need discipleship I can only respond with the following:  I pity you. Sorry to be so blunt. But without discipleship, you are destined for failure. There is no such thing as a Long Ranger Christian. Also, discipleship involves a teachable spirit.  Discipleship is a life-long process. Who are you discipling? And who is discipling you?

 Forgetting Sanctification and Glorification 

Sometimes we forget that if we have come to know the Lord, we are now in the process of sanctification. That means we are not in a glorified state where we are free from sin and all the challenges of this world. Honestly, we sometimes treat Christians as if they should act as if they are in a glorified state. That means no sin, and perfect holiness. But the question is, how does God sanctify and transform us? I believe this chart is helpful.

God does transform us. But it involves our cooperation. If we are willing to yield to God, through his Word, and allow others to be involved in the process, we will change. Also, suffering and circumstances can be used to change us as well. The question is “How do we respond to God in this specific circumstance?” Note the chart mentions truth is what changes us. Truth comes though the Bible, others speaking truth to us, prayer, service, etc. But I truly believe the reason we don’t always see the transformation we want isn’t because of God. It is on us. He has given us His Spirit, the Word, community, plenty of resources (lectures, books, online resources), etc. In most cases, it is our stubborn will won’t budge. Now keep in mind, this isn’t about a formula. It is about us cooperating with God so that we might experience the change he wants for us so we can bring honor and glory to Him.  I have to be the one who prioritizes reading the Bible, being in community, praying, and doing all I can to cooperate with God. Also, remember, even if you don’t see the transformation in your own life or in others, it doesn’t mean the Gospel is false. Jesus could still have died and risen 2,000 years ago. Our actions don’t determine the facts of history. So remember, we can be transformed. But we have to do our part.

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