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Tag: Discipleship

Lenten Reflections 2021: Discipleship is a Matter of Responding to God’s Call

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 @johnvinod | March 26, 2021

Today let us read Mark 3: 13- 18. Note that this key passage about the twelve disciples of Jesus Christ is different from the calling of his disciples earlier. Soon after Jesus Christ came out of his wilderness experience, he called the disciples, as seen in Mark 1: 16-20. We are not informed how many Jesus had called to follow him, but I believe, there were dozens of people. However, today’s incident of Mark 3 occurred some time later, when he had already gained a steady following. In this event, Jesus does something absolutely crucial for the church he was beginning.

As was his practice, Jesus accomplished this on a retreat at a mountain away from the lakeside to withdraw from the crowds. Luke informs us that Jesus spent a whole night in prayer there (Luke 6: 12). And then Jesus called to himself only the twelve men whom he “desired” or “wanted.” The original has it as ‘whom he would’ or ‘whom he himself would.’ Thus, it rules out anyone offering themselves to be his apostles! And they came to him without delay. Mark is providing a contrast here between the general crowds that flocked to Jesus on their own and those whom Jesus wanted, selected, and called unto himself, before he “appointed” or ordained/commissioned them.

Then he appointed and named them the “apostles” (Mark 3:14). The word means the sent-out ones with a specific purpose who maintain with Jesus a close relationship. They also received personal hands-on training from him. They were not merely to pass on the teachings of Jesus, but they were to represent and extend the Kingdom he had inaugurated.

In the whole process, the initiative is that of Jesus from the beginning. It was his sovereign idea, in calling, in choosing from among those he had called to follow him, and then in appointing those whom he had chosen. Therefore, discipleship in the sense of belonging to Jesus and following him is a matter of God’s initiative and his work in our lives rather than our choice. The missions or ministry of the Kingdom is not something we can select ourselves as one would undertake a profession. That is why, these words of Jesus must have always rung in the mind of these apostles, which Jesus said just before he was betrayed and arrested:

You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you (John 15: 16 ESV)

The Lord has not changed his mind or the process about calling and appointing. It is still his way for us. As I reflect upon my life and calling, I am amazed to see the hand of God in every step of the way…. how God picked me up from a tiny unknown hamlet and orchestrated everything for me to be equipped for His ministry. In the same way, the Lord knows from the beginning about everyone of us. He not only calls, but equally prepares and shapes everything in us toward the fulfillment that he has planned through us for His Kingdom.

On the other hand, down through the centuries, much irreparable damage has been done in the mission fields or in the churches by those who chose to dub themselves into missions. They often did so because they wanted to accomplish something great for themselves using the name of God. May the Lord help us today to ascertain his calling and purpose in each one of our lives. Amen!

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Lenten Reflections 2021: When did Jesus and His Early Followers Encounter the Tempter?

@johnvinod  | March 9, 2021

The Lenten season reminds us that Jesus Christ faced the Tempter in the wilderness. Some wrongly assume that it was only the last day of his forty-day sojourn that the devil came to tempt Jesus. No, he was tempted throughout that period in the desert. And he continued to face temptations even after that forty-day period during his ministry and it culminated only when he cried out on the cross, “It is finished!” Like any one of us, Jesus daily faced hunger and thirst. He must have struggled with various thoughts in his mind and spirit. I think, Jesus may have also been tempted to give up fasting or later his ministry and return to an ordinary life with his family in Nazareth.

The disciples of Jesus Christ who later became the Apostles of the church, along with those who followed Jesus in the early churches, lived in the midst of daily suffering. They all encountered various temptations in everyday life. Unlike the modern Christian sects that preach and teach a false gospel of prosperity, word of faith, name it and claim it, and your best wealthy life now; often the questions on the lips of these early followers were:

“Why is it so difficult to be a follower of Jesus Christ when we have given up so much to be his disciples?”

“Why doesn’t God provide all of our physical needs?”

“Why doesn’t God protect us from plagues, diseases, and famines?

“Why doesn’t God prevent our sufferings and persecution and the execution of some of our fellow believers under the brutal Roman Empire?”

Besides these apparent temptations and sufferings, the early disciples had to deal with their inner battles to remain sexually pure and live a holy life of personal integrity in a society that was fraught with all types of perversion, idolatry, and evil. This is evident from what the Apostle Paul wrote to the early churches:

For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do (Galatians 5:17 ESV).

For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me (Romans 7: 15-20 ESV).

So, when the followers of Jesus were faced with these visible and invisible battles, I am pretty sure they turned to the Apostles, their writings, and the Gospels that had recorded the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. Through them, they discovered that Jesus had himself faced these temptations and challenges. They also learned that Jesus overcame not only these sufferings and impulses, but also the very death and the grave through his resurrection.

When they felt almost defeated and wished to give up, they recalled the events in Jesus’ life. His life worked as a soothing balm of encouragement to Jesus’ followers. To highlight just one example, they realized that as soon as Jesus was anointed by the Holy Spirit and publicly declared the Son of God with whom He was well pleased, he “was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil” (Matthew 4:1 ESV).

Like these early followers of Jesus, today, let us overcome one of our main temptations, that is, believing a false gospel, a gospel of our making, or a gospel created by our cultures and traditions. Instead of falsely believing that as soon as you “receive Jesus into your heart” all your problems will vanish, and you will be immensely blessed with health, wealth, and prosperity; let us learn from Jesus and the Apostles. And they would educate us that our external or innermost battles are not over when we commit our life to God and decide to live as He calls us to live. Jesus never called anyone to a life of easy discipleship. To follow Jesus is a life of costly discipleship. Our baptism or even anointing by the Holy Spirit do not guarantee freedom from suffering or persecution, and relief from our daily temptations. However, if we continue to heed Jesus’ call, “Follow Me,” we are promised eventual victory in and through him. Therefore, let us press on!

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