Take up the Cross Part III
This is for understanding the preeminence of our Lord for radical discipleship for effectual spiritual growth, drawing mostly from Hebrews chapter 11 !
'Radical' means to get to the root of an issue, to look to the fundamentals and to be willing to be challenged and changed, influencing others to change to or back to that core. It is an extreme--stretching beyond one's self to reorient oneself to the core beliefs and meaning of a said philosophy or teaching. Of course, the ' discipleship' part is to be a learner for Christ, to know more about Him through His Word and to increase our spiritual growth in Him. 'Radical discipleship' is a term that means to be committed beyond what is accepted or what is going on in and around you. It is being committed beyond our feelings, hurts, past failings, fears, or what may lie ahead; it is commitment in the face of what others do or do not, those who do not "get it", are weak in faith, or hostile toward the message of Christianity. It is holding fast to the core of Christianity as taught by Christ, revealed in the Bible, beyond the Christianity culture or 'Churchanity' sub-culture. For authentic Christianity, radical discipleship is being committed to the real Truths of God's Word and called with strong faith; a calling with a conviction unwavering in the face of fear or frustration, not hidden behind meaningless intentions and false pride. Radical discipleship is lived out by your transformed faith, being Fruitful inside and out, and living as example for those around you who "just don't get it".
Radical discipleship means to commitment to the core of Christ, to the core of who and what we are for His glory! So, what does it take to be a r adical disciple?
What does it take to venture into radical discipleship? Trust! Trust is a response from our faith that pleases God! This is our prime purpose as a Christian: to glorify our Lord and enjoy our relationship in Him! We do this by being in Him with our full trust. It is a pivotal aspect of our growth in Christ, and the intention of sincere due diligence in acting out our faith--no matter what. However, many of us Christians today may sing about it and preach about it; yet, the actual exercise of it is abysmal. We forget that a uthentic faith in Christ as Lord is where our assurance and confidence comes from; that faith is what builds our Trust. Trust comes from our full conviction; the result is the confidence that what we hope for will, indeed, happen. Trust and faith come from Christ; the assurance and the approval that He gives us are graciously given and are synergized from the passion, faith, and conviction that Jesus Christ is real. Even when we cannot see Him or what He has for us, so we can be committed ( Heb. 11:1-16).
We come to the realization that the experience of our lives, that knowledge we have and the practice of our Christianity is impacting. Who we are in Christ, the hope and assurance He gives us is abundant beyond what we are called to do. We shall not live life as an esoteric or academic idea. It is real and for keeps! Christ is real for us, both in our daily lives and in eternity. W have trust because we also have authentic hope-the response of our faith, evidenced as we live out our lives. We also have the confirmation of God's approval through real, effectual faith. God did this for the people of old as exhibited in Hebrews 11-12, as well as for us-you and me. The movers and shakers of Christianity were no better than we are except that they saw God and trusted in Him. They were mocked and tormented; they made mistakes. However, they persevered because of their convictions and confidence of faith. We, too, can live out our Christian lives with eyes upon and trust in Christ, not on circumstances.
We can be radical! As we move to understanding the incomprehensible i.e. the universe, we know the One who made it and gave command to it; what is unseen can be seen by seeing Him-we have trust and faith for living. God is in command and is Creator of all that is--seen and unseen. Even though we did not see Him create the universe, we have the obvious evidence and testimony to His power and provision. Therefore, He is worthy to be trusted and feared. We have confirmation of things not seen, real substance by which to have faith and apply it (Gen. 1; Psalm 33:6-9; Prov. 3:19-20; 8:22-31).
Throughout redemptive history, regular people stepped up; the faith they possessed, we can have, too. You can have it, too! This should motivate us to examine our attitudes, to see if there is room (and there should be lots of it) for improvement in our relationships with both God and those around us! Our endurance will communicate encouragement for our staying power; it is contagious and points to our Lord--you can do it, too! When God seems far away and no one seems to care about your personal concerns or general injustice, God is still there caring! He will vindicate and care for you, turning your suffering into His glory and a benefit to others (Ex. 33:11-23; 34:30-35; Ecc. 44-50; Acts. 7; 13:14, 42; 16:13; 20:7; Heb. 10:32-39; 11:1-16).
We have to see faith for what it is and for what it is not. It is not simply a reward; faith is a response and duty for us to embark on--here and now. Our faith is based on the knowledge given by God through His Word and evidenced in His creation and people's testimonies. This is not blind faith; rather, it is a complete confidence in God because He is trustworthy. All of this is paramount in showing obedient faith even when-especially when--things are not evident. Because of his faith and obedience, God declared him righteous and made him the quintessential representative for faith and righteousness. Faith is not simple trust; faith is not blind trust either--we know the One who is leading! We can and must trust Him! We, as people of faith, must live by faith and move by trust as this is the way to show others that Christ is real and concrete (Gen. 11: 31-32; 12:1-3; 16:1-4; 17:17-18; Rom. 4:1-22; 1 Cor. 1:22-30; Gal. 3:7, 9, 29).
How do I make this work? The call in Scripture is to be living by faith . For our trust to be working, our faith must be lived out, practiced, embarked upon and moved. We must be attached firmly to our faith; our faith must have an object, or it is useless and meaningless. Christ is our object, and our call is to pursue Him. We are sojourners of faith in daily life, just as the Hebrews were drifting among the nations before they reached the Promised Land. The point is this: we do not belong to humanity and culture. We belong to God! We are made for heaven and not for this world; our life here is just where we learn to practice faith (Gen. 23:4; Lev. 25:23; Jer. 29:13; Heb. 11).
What does it take to succeed in radical discipleship? Obedience! Discipleship is our response to His love--being passionate, submissive, and obedient to our Lord. Radical discipleship is stepping up, centering our hearts and minds, aligning with Christ and His precepts so our hands and feet are led by our faith. As a committed follower of Christ, I must attest that I belong completely and entirely to Christ. He purchased me, restored me, and renewed me; He,now, empowers me. We have this comfort and assurance; thus, obedience is not oppressive or unfair--it is joy. As we surrender and serve, we gain a greater reality and purpose; we gain a contentment that surpasses our desires and wants. The contentment becomes joy-true joy that helps us understand God's perspective and gives us the confidence and patience to endure anything (Psalm 34:1-8; John 3:29; 16:20-22, 24; 17:13; Rom. 12:1-2; 1 Thess. 5:18).
We must see ourselves for what we are--as servants to our Lord. In this servanthood, our lives and ministry is not for or about us-it is all for Him. We are His agents, doing what the Master lovingly orders, demonstrating the mark of extreme, poured out, surrendered devotion and submission regardless of any fear, mocking or ridicule we may feel. The Greek word in Hebrews for servant is doulos, meaning to "bind" a person to another as a slave as we are bound to Christ as our LORD (Psalm 101; Matt. 15:15; 16:18; John 6:68; 12:26; ; 13:13; 16:12; 21:15-19; Gal. 1:19; Eph. 6: 5-9; Phil. 1:1; Col. 1:7; Heb. 2:10-11; James 1:1-4; 1 Peter 1:1; 2 Peter 1:1).
Have you ever considered Jesus' qualifications to be our Savior to Whom we trust and obey sacrificially? Consider that He is our sole Mediator, God, and Friend. Jesus, as eternal Lord Creator, makes Him our Leader. His life on earth was His preparation and ordination to be our Priest. He lived on this earth as a substitute for us--in perfection--by knowing us even more intimately and undergoing trials on His journey for our redemption. He faced what we face; he experienced what we experience. He had all things effectual to being human. Our Lord underwent, endured and persevered when we were and are not able to do so. Jesus Christ is the only One who is called and qualified to be our Mediator! Because He was born as a human from the Tribe of Judah, His ordination was extraordinary and, yet, not unprecedented, as Melchizedek paved the way of an outsider of Judaism, serving God and man as priest. Our eternal, loving God is Sovereign, Savior, and Server to us. Make no mistake: He is fully God and deserves our utmost reverence, respect, and obedience. This may not be demanded; instead, this is our proper and only response to being a true follower of Jesus is to trust and obey, just as He demonstrated (Heb. 5:1-10).
Jesus was tempted and suffered on our behalf. Jesus' temptation in the desert modeled radical obedience for us; the suffering in His ordeal on the cross saved us. Jesus was free from sin and still paid our debt of sin. He did not have to, but He did; this was the only way we could be forgiven and receive His grace and salvation. His suffering at Gethsemane and the road to the cross, as well as His life on earth, allowed him to identify as one of us. This also is about His sacrificial work on our behalf. Jesus did not waver from or avoid His call; he did not avoid His physical suffering and death, even though He sought another way. He remained obedient to Our Father in His unspeakable anguish of taking humanity's sins upon Himself (Matt. 26:36-46; 27:46; Luke 2:52; Rom. 5:19; Phil. 2:8; Heb. 2:10, 17-18; 10:7).
What did Jesus do to earn our respect and obedience beyond creating us and giving us life? He laid down His life. He sacrificed his life. Christ demonstrated His true obedience to the Father and His true love for we who are sinners, undeserving of His grace and love. In Greek culture, heroic sacrifice was one of the greatest virtues and pointed to a true hero, while Jews emphasized dying for God's law as supreme. Here, Jesus died in our place-heroic-and God's law, satisfying both. We sacrifice by our surrender to die to ourselves so we can live for Christ with unmerited forgiveness and effectual love (Isa. 7:9; Acts 1:14; 2:42; 6:4; Rom. 5:7-8; 6:4-8; 12:12; 1 Cor.11:1; Gal. 2:20-21; Eph. 6:18; Phil. 1:21-23; Col. 1:3-12; 2:2-9; 3:2).
If we realize and take hold that God is the Builder of our lives, who works our faith and future for us, we can cut through our culture, both in society and in our own weak churches, to be strong for Him. If the Bible is being marginalized in your school or even your church, you will not let it sway you. God's reward for the faithful is His guidance now and the rest to come (Psalm 137: 5-6; 147:2; Isa 62:5; Gal. 6:24; Heb. 12:22; Rev. 21: 2-4, 9-27).
If we realize our hope is in Christ, we will have confidence in God; our future is in His hands. We can precede with our faith, regardless of circumstances, as the heroes of the faith did in Hebrews chapter eleven. Faith sees what is ahead when our eyes and thinking cannot. If we see what He has done in the past, we have hope for the future--a future time when we are with God, for eternity. Hope is a Jewish metaphor for heaven; it also means an unshakable conviction in what must be--such as the North Star that guides ships. Without it, a ship would be lost; but, we know the Star will not go away. This is where we get the assurance of faith. Faith is not mere belief; it is real--genuine and authentic. We are sure in Whom we trust and to whom we go to live for righteousness.
How do I make this work? The answer is: conviction. Conviction m eans we can take hold of God's promises because they are real and tangible, even when we do not see it. This means that our faith is valid and true, because it is based on historical evidence, logical reasoning, and legitimate testimonies. Our conviction of faith comes in what is eternal-heaven-and for what is to come; this applies to those original heirs of Hebrews, as well as to us today--confidence in Christ. Thus, what we have in Christ has a real basis and foundation. In contrast, a lack of faith will lead one to hopelessness and despair, which leads to bad choices because of our sin and our refusal to place God first in our lives (Rom. 1:16-17; 5:1-11; 10:14-17; Gal. 3:1-4; Eph. 2:8-9; James 2:14-26).
What gets in the way of Radical Discipleship
The problem, as I have been hinting at for most of my thirty years in ministry, is weak faith and prideful Christians-shallowness, selfishness, and haughtiness are the biggest obstacles to the Church and to the Kingdom because they stagnate the Church, suffocate its growth, and destroy, inside and out. Too many of us are so wrapped up in our own needs, hurts, desires, and wants that we fail to see our Lord or respond to His call. We hide in our pride or become lazy and feeble. Our churches, instead of stables of majestic stallions, are empty stables with dried excrement and old hay; the horses are starved and loose, the saddles are hard and cracked. We have to get our acts together, clean up our messes, and fix our stable; we must repair, oil, and mount our saddles, caring for our horses of faith by feeding and crafting our relationship to Christ.
We need a call out for the radical, cross-cultural steps of trusting and committing to Christ; we must follow through with our Christian faith. This call to radical discipleship is not simply a matter of overcoming liberal politics or the growing hostility many of us face in our secular community. We do need to do that; more so, we must overcome our own church culture filled with empty trends and prideful leaders, puffed up with empty platitudes and nonsense. We must surrender our will and plans to His Lordship; we must be radical for Christ. We need to give up ourselves, our desires, look away from trends; instead, we must seek to learn and grow in Him, to be the people He called us to be. Only then will we see our society change for the better. It is a matter of serving selflessly and not wondering what the church will give you. It is a matter of being a giver, not a taker; it is a matter of setting aside complaints and boldly go forth to do as Jesus Christ has gifted and called to do.
Why Radical Discipleship?
God's love authorizes Christianity; Christianity exhibits God's love. Love and obedience go together; neither can be separated from the other, just as we cannot separate faith and knowledge from practice in order to be real, mature Christians or a capable church. We must live this and promote this wholeheartedly! This is fact: real Love is that Christ died in our place. The love that flows from us is not from us, but from God through His Spirit. We cannot prove love; we can only respond to it and obey it. Once we fully realize that the love of Christ has been poured out in us, we can then identify ourselves in Him with our trust and obedience by our faith. We will be able to identify Christ's interests in others, over and against our own interests (John 15:3; Rom. 9:3; 1 Cor. 9:22; 13:13).
All Jesus asks of us is to receive Him and His love so that we can pay it forward to others, to show His love by our displays of love so we might do His will. Jesus' love is the sap that flows; it is what causes us to know Him and to have His love working in and out of us. It causes us to make Him known to others even more diligently. We were sinners; now, because of His love, we are His people--united in Him, reconciled to God, and filled with the Spirit. This love becomes the process of continued blessings for us and for others. All it takes is our dedication to Christ, so that we might respond by faith, worship, and spiritual formation to carry on His love. Growing in Christ is what the Christian life is all about. It is the life-long process of discipleship and spiritual growth that builds our faith and knowledge in Him, so that we can take hold of His love and produce more, giving it back to Him and unto others. This helps us with our assurance, maturity, character, and spiritual formation. We become changed, because we have received Christ; we can keep on loving. If this is not so, there is something fundamentally wrong in our Christian operating system; love helps us to have more hope and reassurance of faith. Why is this radical? Because few do it, and more fight against it, even those who say they are His (Rom. 12; 1 Cor. 1:2; Gal. 5; Heb. 10: 26-39; 12:14; 2 Pet. 1: 5-11).
Because God is our dwelling place, we are dependent on Him for both life and salvation; to think otherwise is foolish. This is a prime fulfillment of a promise of God from the Old Testament, and it refers to those who are already saved. This is a call to synergy to stand for and abide, to be unwavering and sure of the supremacy of Christ that gives and builds our lives and intimacy in Him. The purpose is that we have a binding and effectual relationship with Christ that transcends our comprehension; we have a relationship with God that we do not deserve by means we cannot fully understand. What we have in Christ; He gives totally to us (Ex. 25:8; 29:45; Lev. 26:11-12; Ezek. 37:27-28; 43:9; Psalm 96:10; Isa. 42:9; 48:6; 51:15-16; 65:17-25; 66:22; John 2:21; 6:54-56; 8:31; 14:1-23; 15:1-8; Rom. 8:24-25; 1 Cor. 2:9; 4:5; 15:35-57; Gal. 2:20-21; Eph. 1:3-14; Col. 1:23; 3:18-4-1; Heb. 2:7; 3:6-19; 1 John 2:19-24; Rev. 7:9; 21:1-8; 22:3-5, 12).
Take the Initiative in Radical Discipleship
Keep in mind this very important point in all that you are and do: Christ takes the initiative in your relationship. He comes to us by first loving us; then, we are free to exercise our free will and are enabled to know and receive Him. If He did not choose us, we would not have the desire, will, or ability to receive Him; this is by His work on the cross. In Jesus' time, a committed learner would seek out a rabbi to teach him; here, Jesus picks us to learn and, then teach. Did you know that as growing and mature Christians, we belong exclusively to Christ (Eph. 1:4-11; John 2:23; 14:13)?
God is sovereign but does not violate our right of decision; He first enables us for salvation--something we can't do by ourselves. In the Hebrews context, joy and servant mean to change our mindsets and focus from self to Christ, realizing the sovereignty of God and that He is in control, even when life may say otherwise! At some point in our spiritual development, we have to comprehend the magnitude of who Christ is and who we are in and to Him. We have to reach a point and say, I, body and soul, completely and totally belong to Christ as His pupil and His property! He is my LORD and Master, and there is no better place for me to be!
How do I make this work? Go and bear fruit--fruit that will last . "Go" is an aspect of our "Great Commission"; "fruit" is what characterizes our Christian service and points others to Christ. When we indentify ourselves in Christ, we will obey, and we will be effective in loving and strengthening each other for His service--something so few of us actually do! A proper witness to Christ will be identified by the distinction between good and false teaching and/or good versus bad love, Fruit, character, and/or a good or a failing church (Psalm 66:18; Matt. 22:1-14; 25:1-13; 28:19; Acts 1:8; Rom. 1:13; Gal. 5:22-23; Eph. 4:15-16; 1 John 4:1-6; Rev. 1: 2; 2:20; 6:9; 22:9).
What does R adical Discipleship Look Like?
What this Hebrews passage tells us--over and over--by one simple phrase is this: by faith! Christian living is about our lives being centered in Christ and trusting Him for our provision and purpose, yet not waiting around, doing nothing. The radical discipleship aspect is for us to mount up and to do it, taking His call and precepts and following, embracing, and exercising them unto ourselves, to others around us, and most of all, back to God so He is glorified. It is being trusting and obeying, so that we are faithful, fruitful, and impacting--being real and authentic with our faith. This should not be difficult or unusual.
Radical discipleship is just the exercise of our faith without concern to circumstances. Real faith calls us to action, not to complacency or foolishness. Real, effectual faith is our conviction of trust and confidence that we do not merely believe ( for even the demons do that), but that we have assurance beyond doubt. It is the object of our faith that is paramount, and that is Jesus Christ. He is the substance that gives us hope. We do not have blind faith because what we seek and place first is evidenced and supported. As Christians, we do not have fables and myths; we have reality. The evidence is the reality of history, archeology, and personal, life-changing testimonies of countless people, as evidenced in this passage, throughout history, and today; we can be centered in Jesus Christ. Even science points to a Creator who is perfect in character, possessing the fullness all the Omni attributes--Omniscience, Omnipotence, Omnipresence... We can; yes, we can live our lives by faith!
Yes, we can! In addition, God is not only righteousness-He is personal and involved in our lives, and He calls us to be righteous in our thinking and living so we can take His lead and live a life that is all about trusting and obeying God. This does not mean perfection; it means we strive to do our best for His glory. Yes, we can; with our eyes and ears, we can see and feel His presence just as we can see what the wind does even when we do not see the wind itself. God leaves a visible wake that ripples through all times and peoples, which we can ride on by faith for our betterment and His glory. What He has for us is better than what we think we want (Psalm 119:142119:151; John 6:64 ; 7:5; Rom. 1:16-17; 5:1-11; 8; 10: 14-17; Gal. 3:1-14; Eph. 2:8-9; 2 Timothy 1:5 ; 2:18; James 2:14-26; 2 Pet. 1:16; Jude 3).
The sad fact is r adical discipleship should not be here with us at all. We should not need it, as it should not be an idea or a call. A real Christian, by definition, is a follower; a Disciple is learner of Christ. If we truly love, obey, follow, and learn from our Lord and Savior, we are not radical; we are simply doing as we are called and empowered to do. Yes, we live in a world that hates and fights against us. As Christians, we are living behind enemy lines in where we live and work, but it should not be so in our own faith community. However, to make matters worse, the Church has become hostile, for the most part, to real effectual faith, and the practice of love and fruit is rare; to be a real Christian is to be r adical, and to make other real Christians, we must embrace r adical discipleship! Change your mindsets and actions as to how you will follow, with confidence, to comply with Christ, so that the change is transmitted to your church and to your neighbors and world. Be the change; be the example of extreme, r adical discipleship to yourself, to your church, and to your community--all to glorify our Lord!
With what shall I come before the LORD and bow down before the exalted God? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of olive oil? Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:6-10
© 2011, R.J. Krejcir Ph.D., Into Thy Word Ministries www.intothyword.org