Friday, February 29, 2008

Discipleship: “Following the Master: Discipleship in Action”

To use an overworked cliché, this is the “where the rubber meets the road” lesson. The word “Action” is emphasized in the title with bold, large type. This of course means, do something!

But what is it that we should be doing? What is the “action” here? And what motivates the “action”? We have been taught that we are to go and teach others to read their Bible, pray, and witness every day—all good things (even though we may miss a day or two ourselves). Does this fulfill our end of the bargain?

In Steps to Christ, the second paragraph in the chapter entitled, “The Test of Discipleship,” Ellen White writes: “ If the heart has been renewed by the Spirit of God, the life will bear witness to the fact.” Yes, we can “witness,” that is, testify to our religious beliefs, but to bear witness to a renewed heart is to “stand as proof of; and show by one’s behavior, attitude, or external attributes” (dictionary definition). Ellen White also states, “In the heart renewed by divine grace, love is the principle of action” (p. 59; emphasis mine in both statements).

So here’s our motive—love. But for the hardened human heart, where could a love so strong as to move us to unconditional action—where can it derive? Paul explains: “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live: yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2:20, KJV). When we learn to appreciate the “breadth, and length, and depth, and height” of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, that love will “constrain” (motivate) us to action (2 Cor. 5:14).

Tuesday’s lesson tells us, however, that “ the important point to remember is that following Jesus will cost us big, one way or another.” But isn’t it the other way around? “At what infinite cost to the Father and to the Son was the merciful, wondrous provision made for our redemption! Christ stepped down from His high estate as Commander in the heavenly courts; and laying aside His royal robe and kingly crown, clothed his divinity with humanity, and came to this earth, that He might dwell with us and give to men and women grace to overcome as He overcame.” “... we are the purchase of the blood of Christ. Think of it! The purchase of the blood of Christ! We cost His life. He was crucified for us ...” (Signs of the Times, Aug. 12, 1908; The Ellen G. White 1888 Materials, p. 1735; emphasis mine).

Back to the chapter in Steps to Christ where she “nails it”: “When, as erring, sinful beings, we come to Christ and become partakers of His pardoning grace, love springs up in the heart. Every burden is light, for the yoke that Christ imposes is easy. Duty becomes a delight, and sacrifice a pleasure” (p. 59; emphasis mine in quotations). Yes, some family members and friends (and even some church family members) may oppose us, but let Christ and the Holy Spirit bear the burden, while we bear witness through the lives we live.

Obedience is emphasized in the lesson, and rightly so. The statement in Thursday’s lesson, “...we follow Jesus ... by obeying Him ... not in order to be saved but because we already are saved, in Him,” is the “bottom line.” In harmony with the idea that our motive for discipleship is love, Ellen White says: “Obedience—the service and allegiance of love—is the true sign of discipleship” (p. 60). So, love is the motive, and obedience is the outward sign of discipleship. A burden is removed for those of us who have been steeped in “works programs” in order to achieve discipleship.

As time progresses, opposition may turn to full-fledged persecution. However, it’s impossible to imagine the “persecution” the Lord must have felt in 1888 when His “most precious message” that He “commanded” be given to the world, was “in a great degree” “rejected” and His “messengers ... despised” (see 1888 Materials, pp. 913, 914). The time of test is upon us, but we are not to fear. Jesus wants the “powerful” angel of Revelation 18 soon to lighten the earth with His glory, as proclaimed in that “most precious message.”

That we not lose sight of Jesus . . . is my prayer.

Carol Kawamoto

“... lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Jesus, Matt. 28:20).


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