Tuesday, June 23, 2009


God wants to take you through a process that will brand the image of Jesus Christ right in your innermost being (Rom 8:29). Through His fiery dealings, God wants to make you a strong Christian disciple because it’s His desire to forge His character in your very life, making you into a man/woman fully mature and equipped for His purposes.
God is completely committed to this end and He is looking for those who are just as committed—believers who are wholly devoted to Him. Essentially, if that level of dedication is beating in your heart, then you are marked as a true disciple of Jesus Christ.

So what does ‘disciple’ really mean? To begin answering this question, let’s examine Matthew 10:1-2a:
“And when He had called His twelve disciples to Him, He gave them power over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease.
Now the names of the twelve apostles are these . . .” (emphasis mine)

First of all, we see that in verse 1, the twelve were called ‘disciples,’ but in verse 2, ‘apostles.’ Which is it? Are they disciples or apostles? There is a distinction here: it’s important to note that when Jesus called the twelve disciples to Himself, the Bible says, ‘He gave them power … and then they were called apostles.
This power was given over a period of time in testing and proven faithfulness, before they became apostles. But these days there appears to be a lot of confusion about this.
Look at Mathew 28:19:
“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” (emphasis mine)

Jesus didn’t say to go and earn brownie points, or get people to say your version of the sinner’s prayer; definitely not to get another notch in your new converts’ belt! He didn’t call us to make converts with head-knowledge formulas—“Yeah, I said the sinner’s prayer once,” or “I spoke in tongues once.” He said, “Go and make disciples...”
The Greek word for ‘disciple’ is ‘matheetes’ which means ‘follower, student, learner.’
Jesus called us to be disciples who make disciples who will make disciples!
Sometimes Christians have a mentality expressed like this: “I got saved ten years ago and five years ago I made Him Lord.”
I’m amazed! ... You got saved 10 years ago, but you only made Him Lord 5 years ago?!
If I read my Bible correctly, He’s already Lord. It just took you 5 years to catch on and catch up! Disciples are called as whole-hearted followers of Christ from the start, from ‘the very get-go’!

After Jesus gave the disciples power, He called them ‘apostles’, or in the Greek: ‘apostolos’ – ‘sent ones, someone who is sent.’ Now you cannot send yourself.
In other words, you can get in the envelope, but you can’t lick it!
You must be sent from somebody by somebody to somebody. Someone else has to send you! That’s where many miss the mark. They are trying to be an apostle in their own eyes, raising their own self-called ‘apostolic’ ministry. You do not tell others you are an apostle. If you are sent by God to them, He will let them know. Either they recognize you and receive you as an apostle, or you are not an apostle to them. People somehow think that if they just call themselves ‘apostle’ they actually are one. We really are too position-oriented sometimes! You cannot get your personal or ministerial value, worth and measure from whatever labels you try to wear. You cannot tack apples on an orange tree and call it an apple tree. Too many people confusingly chase positions to find their identity within the church and not in Christ.

There is one particular denomination in which my wife grew up that does not let women speak or do anything because they take ‘women keep silent in the churches’ (1Cor 14:34) literally. This is an amazing misinterpretation and twisting of Scripture!
Philip the evangelist had four daughters who prophesied (Acts 21:9).
Where do you think they prophesied? Out in the field? In the outhouse?
They prophesied in church, in the assembly of the saints!
The Early Church had no problem like some denominations do today.

One day we went back to my wife’s former church and I just happened to pick up a brochure that listed all the missionaries sent out into the field from that denomination. They were out in the jungles of Ecuador, New Guinea, etc. and 75% of these ‘missionaries’ were…women!
I began to question: “I think I smell hypocrisy here. These women can’t speak in their churches here in Canada . . . but they send them out among the head-hunters, to the uncomfortable, uncivilized areas of the earth where no man would go. It is acceptable for them to speak, preach and establish churches there, but they can’t speak in church here?!”
Aha! here lies blatant hypocrisy! They were ‘sent out’ by churches here; that is, they fulfilled the ‘aspostolos’ calling, but their church called them ‘missionaries’, not‘apostles’.

‘Behold!’ (The Bible uses this attention-getter, in other words: “Look at this!.. closely!) ‘Missionary’ is simply the Latin form of the Greek ‘apostolos’: ‘one sent on a mission’. Both words have identical meanings, only in different languages. It’s like pro-abortionists arguing that a ‘fetus’ does not become a real person until it’s born and only then it’s a real baby. But they’re ignorant of this fact: ‘fetus’ is Latin for the English ‘baby’. Either in or out of the womb, a ‘fetus’ is a ‘baby’, with all the parts and rights of life. Legalistic semantics only confuse when proper distinctions are not made. Often they are no more than lies hiding behind obscure terms.
We also have hypocritical, double standards in church because we are often locked into forms.
In that particular denomination’s history, authorities at one time defined ‘leader’ in a certain way that excluded women. Isn’t it ironic that women can be called ‘missionaries’ (Latin), but not ‘apostles’ (Greek), when the terms essentially mean the same things?
Some think women can’t be sent, but God sends them anyways.
He sent Mary Magdalene to tell his ‘apostles' (?). The ones who should have been sent were hiding in fear and unbelief. The first one who was in all practical terms ‘sent’ (apostolos) by the risen Christ was a woman.
God has already broken down walls by the gospel, but many traditional mindsets and limiting perceptions need yet to fall! So here’s a word of encouragement to women. You’re not second class! We are all one in the body of Christ!

What’s more, this is not just about women; these roots touch all sorts of other issues too. We have wrong concepts because we often have a wrong view of the body of Christ. Jesus Christ is the One who has broken down every wall! We are all His disciples, regardless of our background or natural position. We all share in the same call. In Christ Jesus, there is neither Jew nor Gentile, male nor female, slave nor free. That equality was a revolutionary revelation in Early Church context (Gal. 3:28).
Actually, do you know which social group most readily received the gospel first preached by the apostles? Slaves! 75% of the population in Athens then were slaves. What a revolutionary message for them! Think about life back then and relationships between slaves and masters. If you were a Christian slave-owner, you might one day suddenly discover one of your slaves worshipping beside you in church! Put yourself in Philemon’s shoes! His slave, Onesimus, ran away from him, but Paul appealed to Philemon (on Onesimus’ behalf) to take him back —
“For perhaps he departed for a while for this purpose, that you might receive him forever,
no longer as a slave but more than a slave--a beloved brother, especially to me but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord.” (Philemon 15-16)
Don’t you think we need some adjustments on how we look at ourselves and one another?
When Jesus calls ‘disciples’, there is no hierarchy based on rank or status.

Eventually, through this process of maturity, disciples of Jesus reach a point of release when you are actually sent. But you must be ready and not race off prematurely. You can probably think of examples of those who have run to do great exploits with great haste, but were not truly ready. Let’s learn how not to run by studying the lesson in 2 Samuel 18:19-32.
The context of this passage is: King David is fighting to save his kingdom in the face of his son Absalom’s rebellion. During the climactic battle, an accurate message about the battle’s outcome needs to be conveyed to the king. Ahimaaz, (the son of the high priest, Zadok) approaches Joab (David’s army commander) pleading,
“I am a runner, I want to run. (ie. I am an apostle. Can’t you recognize it?)
I need to be sent; send me! I just really want to go into my apostolic ministry right now.”
But Joab said, “No, not now. Step aside. You haven’t got any message.” (my paraphrase)
Next, Joab called a Cushite. He charged him to go tell David what he had seen on the battlefield. So that messenger started running; he had the message!
But Ahimaaz appealed to Joab again, even begging, “Let me run!”
Still, Joab did not permit him.
However, Ahimaaz didn’t know how to take ‘No!’ for an answer and he pressed Joab further: “But I’m a runner. Pleaasse! I want to run! I have to run! Let me run!” (again my paraphrase). So Joab finally relented and off he ran, running and running, even outrunning the Cushite, and reached the king first.
“Is Absalom safe?” David asked.
Ahimaaz answered, “When Joab sent the king’s servant and me your servant, I saw a great tumult, but I did not know what it was about.” What an empty answer! Unfortunately, that's the picture of a lot of so-called ministry today.
David could only say: “Turn aside and stand here.” He had no message! He was only sent by his own vanity and so he was ultimately turned aside and the one with the message was heard!

Disciples need to grow and mature into apostles. That doesn’t mean you can’t do anything till then, but you come to the place where you clearly hear the Father’s voice and obey. You hear the Master’s voice, but you don’t just run and chase after anything. It’s like a dog owner who throws a stick and calls out “Go, fetch!” to his dog. At his master’s voice, the dog runs and retrieves the stick. Likewise, we must know and hear our Master’s voice and at His call, go and do what He says. ‘The other guy’ is out there throwing sticks at random and we could well end up running after any old stick if we chase every stick that’s thrown.
Furthermore, an ability to run fast doesn’t mean you’re called and chosen. We need to be sure we are in God’s right timing and under His direction! Otherwise, all our super-gifted speed only serves to take us further away from our true destination all the more quickly. That’s a sobering thought. So we must get the message and timing so clear in our heart that we know the Father’s voice releasing us, “Go for it! Now! I send you! You’re on my mission! I’ve sent you with my message to these people. Don’t be afraid. I am with you. Be strong and courageous!”

Not only does God want to give you the message, He also wants to make you the message. For example, Old Testament prophets themselves and their children became the very signs of their ministries. They even named their children prophetically. The prophets became their message. Isaiah and Ezekiel not only spoke, but lived out their prophecies. Hosea not only reproved Israel for its idolatry, but married a faithless prostitute to show Israel’s unfaithfulness to her Lord. Francis of Assisi proclaimed, “By all means preach the gospel. If necessary, use words.”

Do you want to become His message? I ask you this directly because God clearly wants to make you His message—the message becomes you. He’s seen the desire and the intent of your heart and He wants you to know your true identity in Christ. He is calling you and you are still wrestling with what this means and what it will look like. But when Christ calls, He also takes responsibility Himself to make this effective: “Okay, I am going to do something in and through you, that’s going to be revolutionary! I will make you fishers of men!”

Take John the Baptist for example. He was revolutionary! He was a prophet and an apostle, one of the first apostles, in the true sense of the word. But after he baptized Jesus, there came a testing time when his disciples reported more people going to Jesus than John to be baptized. “Aren’t you upset that the new kid on the block seems to be upstaging you?”
“Not at all,” John replied.
“A man can receive nothing unless it has been given to him from heaven. You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ,’ but, I have been sent before Him.” (John 3:26–28)
John knew he was God’s forerunner. He knew both his identity and destiny: who he was and what his mission was. He wasn’t jealous of Jesus; he knew his mission was complete when he pointed others to The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. He did not have to have his own following. His ministry had been fulfilled: it had all been to point others to Jesus and now He had come. This is the heart of a true disciple, a true messenger who becomes an apostle.
Then John goes on to say: “He must increase, but I must decrease” (v 30). The order here is crucial: 1st, He (Jesus) must increase; 2nd, I (John) must decrease. Get filled with more of Jesus and your selfish ambitions will fade and fall away. John not only embodied his message, but faithfully ran and communicated it to its end fulfillment. As he stepped from the world stage, he added this testimony to their intimate relationship.
“The Father loves the Son, and has given all things into His hand. He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” (vv. 35, 36)
He glorified the Lord. He gave the glory to his Master and did not keep it for himself. Isn’t that what being a disciple is all about? Knowing Christ intimately and glorifying Him. But it’s a process, a uniquely personal process for each one and God is completely committed to this process because He knows and loves us so deeply. Ponder this love and let His heavenly dew drench you today. Step in close to God and completely surrender yourself to Him.
I urge you: Today, hear and answer Jesus’ call, “Follow me!”

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