“Take my yoke upon you and learn from me.” Matt 11:29
These words here and elsewhere in Scripture direct us into the core mission of the people of God and what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. Choosing to walk the way of Jesus means moving to a very different rhythm than what our surroundings typically values, building at time a completely new framework for life with Christ as the foundation, and taking deliberate steps that bring a peace, rest and wholeness we can not create on our own. Discipleship is not about teaching truths so we can hold the right doctrine and answer questions correctly, but do not know our neighbours. Discipleship is learning ourselves and teaching people how to recognize and respond to God's grace in each moment so that the image of God's perfect love is being restored in us so that we may be able to be part of the work of restoring and reconciliation work here and now. Learning from Jesus is less about learning certain information as it is about transformation and participation. Though information can lead to certain changes in behaviour and thinking, transformation goes deeper and makes you a new person.
Every book in the New Testament, and perhaps we can go so far as to claim every sentence was written to help people like you and I to understand who Jesus is and the consequences of that truth. In short, the New Testament is an invitation to trust and follow Jesus Christ (a.k.a. discipleship) with an emphasis of transformation of the reader rather than information about Jesus.
As disciples we abide in the love of Jesus. We walk the way of Jesus, getting ques from His life and words rather than the life and teaching that surrounds us. As disciples we are going out into the world in the name of Jesus because we too are being sent.
As we will not only look at the life of Jesus, but actually trying to emulate its principles, obedience and love, we will see the Way of Jesus in various ways. As we grow in our faith we will become more familiar with the effects of Christ’s life for our lives. We will learn how to apply obedience and love I the ever changing circumstances of our lives. We will learn to lean into certain practices such as prayer and listening. We will learn when to switch gears, and what to persevere through.
Finally, “… and teach them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.”
These closing words to the Great Commission remain as important and challenging for us today as they were when Christ first issued them some 2,000 years ago. What does it mean to observe all things that Christ commanded? Lets’ find out together.
This and the pages following will be updated continually with tools to help you to come to terms with blind spots in our lives we all have day-by-day and with God’s help to come closer to Christ and his friends. For now it is a little sparse but we’ll add more content as we are able. Stay tuned.
As we follow the way of Jesus through reading the Gospels and Acts, we notice that Jesus and consequently his disciples found regular spaces and places to spent time with God the Father. In a central way, we too retreat from the demands of life to stay connected with God, to speak to him, to hear from him, and to learn through the help of the Holy Spirit about the next step in our walk with Jesus. Through prayer, speaking and listening, we open ourselves up to the healing, hope, and peace that our souls crave. Through prayer, we consent and become empowered to be the hand, feet and lips of Christ in this world.
Practicing Rhythm: It is very helpful to carve out a daily rhythm for prayer – listening and speaking. Find space and a place where you can retreat for a time each day to reflect on what God has done for you in Christ and for what purpose. Begin by asking the Holy Spirit to teach everything you need for the day.
Practicing Silence; try to set aside a few minutes each day (preferably in the morning) to simply sit and listen what God may have to say to you. Try not to have a list or agenda other than to say; “Speak. I’m your servant, ready to listen.” 1 Sam 1:10
Practicing Belonging; Identify practical steps you will take to live out Jesus’ invitation to “learn from him, to abide in him, to love others. Who are the ‘others’ with whom you can enter into a relationship of belonging, eg. neighbour, colleagues or a small group? (see below)
Practicing Hospitality; Identify people who are in your natural circle of influence, people who you meet unintentional simply because of life. Is there a way you can invite that person to a barbeque, a sub, or a coffee? Pray that God gives you opportunities you take to make deliberate efforts to share life with that person.
Practicing Obedience; (see below)
Do life with others in community
Not only does Jesus invites us to follow him, in fact he invites us into life with him, He invites us into a new community of sibling and friends of God. Sharing and doing intentionally life together means we are committed to connecting with other people on the way of Jesus for mutual support, encouragement and growth. Practise the highest value on relationships! Not on money, but on relationships -- first with God and then with others. Not on time, but on relationship -- first with God and also with others. Not on things, but on relationship -- first with God and also with others. Not on your work, but on relationship -- first with God and also with others.
There is a difference between what we think we value or should value for that matter and what we actually value. Here are five questions to jump-start you in an honest direction;
What's the first thing you think about in the morning?
What does you schedule tell you about your priorities?
As you look at your credit card bill, what do you invest your resources in?
What are you finding yourself talking about the most?
What is the last thing you think about when you turn the light out?
As we consider our priorities we will notice the strange thing that the lesser value almost always overwhelms the greater. Lesser values take less faith and less effort. The lesser value is easier achieved and more quickly so we are drawn to it. The other striking thing about lesser values is that the more of them we achieve, the more time consuming they become as they do not provide fulfillment.
If we have faith/trust that our Father in Heaven will care for us, it frees us to live with a certain set of priorities; if instead we feel that it is up to us to take care of ourselves, our priorities will go in a completely different direction.
When we boil it all down, questions about priorities are questions about faith and how we view God and people.
Share meals together, not just after church in a restaurant but in the park, the garden at each other’s home. If you don’t like to cook, takeout will do.
Share your life with others. As you build connection share more of who you are, your story with God or without Him, share your wins and your losses
Become part of a small group that is committed to growth, a rhythm of faith and life with Jesus and each other.
Built into your life a small circle of friends, whom you can call on anytime to share, to connect, to pray with.
Find a person with whom you can be truly honest and authentic.
Ask yourself daily – How can I live more fully in the kind of community Jesus invites me into?
Practicing hospitality, something that is increasingly difficult in a culture that values individualism over accountability is vital for your and other people growth. Invite Jesus and others into your life for fellowship, serving together, having meals or just a good cup of coffee.
God’s word to reflect on
1 John 1:3-4
For further reading
Messages related to “belonging”
-- forthcoming --
“All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. 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, and teaching them to observe all things, whatever I have commanded you. And I will be with you always, even until the end of the world.” Matt 28:18-20
A commandment with several facets.
1st; it is placed between the authority of Jesus, and his promise to us that we will not be alone in that.
2nd; Go, be active, be on the move, don’t wait for the people to come.
3rd; All nations, that includes your neighbour, the refugee, your colleague and your family.
4th; Baptize them, initiate them into the family of God by affirming their death and their resurrection to a new life, affirm them as your brother and sister.
5th; Teach them to observe; overserving is more than just the passing on of information but talks about transformation.
6th; all; we tend to have likes and dislikes, things that are easy for us to do and to learn, other take time and effort, much of what Jesus taught simply by the way of his life is countercultural and challenging.
Perhaps the encounter between Phillip, a disciple of Jesus (2nd generation?) and an Ethiopian might be helpful, cf. Acts 8:26-39 to make these points clearer.
We hear a question; “Do you understand what you are reading?” Perhaps a hint that simply reading the word might not be enough. And so the response may make the point even clearer; “How can I understand unless someone helps me?” Reading and understanding, in other words fully practicing is not possible unless being in relationship.
These are the ‘purpose’ of the church, we are being sent with the objective of making disciples, of helping people to understand who Jesus is and what that means. It is not meant to be entertaining or diverting. It is not even meant to be particularly uplifting but rather challenging at time. We are here to make disciples. That is to make students of Jesus out of people who tend to life for different purposes.
How does someone become a disciple of Jesus? Or better yet, how does a disciple of Jesus live?
Being a disciple of Jesus is not a matter of special “religious” activities, but an orientation and quality of once entire existence. This is what is meant by Jesus when he says that those who do not forsake all cannot be his disciple. (Luke 14:26 & 33) The emphasis is once again upon the all. There must be nothing held of greater value than Jesus and his kingdom.
How much should we teach?
“All things” that Jesus has taught and commanded Himself. There is no minimum satisfactory requirement (like the Sunday school curriculum or the Statement of Faith, or one of the Creeds), beyond which all other teaching is optional. We are first to teach what Jesus taught and to teach it all as all teaching has practical consequences.
When the orientation of the whole life has come upon one and is being practiced, the grace that brought it in the first place begin to move us further into this new life, eventually throughout every aspect of what we are and do. Grace and Mercy is God acting in our lives and to bring about what we do not deserve and cannot accomplish on our own. But we are not passive in this process. We are commanded to put off the old person and put on the new. (Col. 3:9-10; Eph. 4:22-24) We are told to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” (II Peter 3:18) This is something for us to do, and, although we cannot do it on our own, it will not be done for us. Further, all this is not being done in isolation although our individualistic society tells us otherwise Discipleship, grow, being saved is always relational. Being alive in Christ means that we are more than the individual and we can do whatever it is we need to do to increasingly take on his character and live in his power.
That somewhat leads to asked questions around the W,
What? When? and Where?
What must we teach to help others to become disciples of Christ?
One key word in Jesus’ commandment is found in the carefully placed word ‘observe.’ To observe is not simply an intellectual affirmation of a teaching but it is about conforming one’s own action to that teaching. The word is directly linked with the concept of faithfulness, and here more about the faithfulness to a person, Jesus, and the principle rather than a particular set of words.
Again, discipleship is not about holding to certain believes and answer questions correctly while we do not know our neighbours. After all, for God, the gospel is not about personal fire insurance for an individual but salvation for God is about redeeming, restoring and reconciling all things to himself.
Perhaps one of the most important truth to grasp is the fact that in God's kingdom there is no scarcity of anything good. We need to grasp the optimism of the vast abundance of God's love, his grace and goodness. Take the last Supper (Luke 22:7:23) for example. Jesus did not judge and withhold his love and sacrifice from the very people that would betray him, deny him, and run away from him that very night. Jesus' love, grace goodness and obedience to what he saw the Father was doing was so abundant that he even willingly washed the feet of those people (Jh 13:1-17).