Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24 ESV)
In The War for American Independence, the colonists rose up and fought against tyranny and for freedom. Their foe was the disciplined, well-equipped and experienced British military, yet the underdog, ragtag militia was victorious. America owes its liberty to the citizen soldier, those who left family and farm to answer the call to battle. It was then and is today: Self-denial and sacrifice are pre-requisites for living a blessed life.
In the previous post we went to the source. For disciple’s definition, we did not go to a dictionary, a commentary nor did we attend a conference, Instead, we consulted the Bible.
When reading Scripture in context, we discover that “disciple” is closely related in meaning to “soldier.” In the field, sacrifices have to be made by disciples and soldiers alike (ex. Luke 9:57-62). Endurance must be developed by rigorous training. Is this what we learned about discipleship?
Jesus called the disciples to lay down their nets and be fishers of men. Do we agree that discipleship implies “following the Lord” (into battle against his enemy) as well as “learning as we go?” Can a disciple be true to their purpose and remain separated from Jesus’ mission? (1 John 3:8) “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work.” (NIV)
Discipleship is a means to an end, so what is that end? For Jesus the goal is his glorification (cf. Psalm 110:1). For the disciple, it is knowing that Satan will soon be crushed under their feet (cf. Romans 16:20, Luke 10:18-19).
The seventy-two returned with joy and said, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.” (Luke 10:17 NIV)
The linkage between Jesus’ purpose and his disciples’ purpose is clear. So we again ask: “How could I not have heard this?” Power over demons, evil spirits in submission to the followers of Jesus, are all these things beyond our reach? Once power over Satan is exercised, who wants to go back to pew sitting?
We realize the good that “the traditional church” has accomplished over the centuries, but good is the enemy of the best. (My Utmost For His Highest, writer Oswald Chambers had a brilliant devotional on this subject.)
This leads to the Bible’s meaning for “church.” In Matthew 16:18, the term is introduced. Since the definition comes from the Son of God, it is as trustworthy as it gets.
Jesus replied,… “And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 16:17a, 18-19)
What is missing from the above? Does anything resemble a building used for worship? The absence of a physical building is highly significant. It fits with Jesus’ reply in John 4:19-26.
In Matthew 16:18, a liberating army makes up the church. The only structure belongs to the enemy. “The gates of Hades” cannot resist the onward push of the church militant.
Does Jesus’ “church” definition suggest an on-going conflict? If not, why the necessity for spiritual armor (Ephesians 6:10-18)? Why then authority to bind and loosen?
In Luke 10 Jesus’ disciples returned with joy (10:17). Since they obeyed, the results were transformational. Here we have the only place in the Bible where we read: Jesus was filled with joy in the Holy Spirit (10:21).
So why is Luke 10:1-21 rarely on the list of sermons? It is likely the teaching does not fit the narrative created to keep people “in church.” Also, Jesus is commanding his disciples to exit the building and enter the harvest field he has prepared (cf. Luke 10:9). For another reason, the Scriptural definition of discipleship and church may be unknown to our leaders.
Understanding discipleship in theoretical terms rather than real terms is like a tiger that never ventured from the zoo. It can still let out a roar, but what good is the roar or the claws or the sharp teeth unless they have on-the-job training?
Why haven’t we heard? Maybe it’s because we haven’t been listening. Now that we know what “disciple” and “church” are about according to Jesus, why not tell others? It could be the beginning of revolution that produces liberty for all.