Section Three: The Lifestyle Characteristics of a Godly Life.
Our current theme: Characteristic Four: Living Purposely.
Our reading for today: Acts 1: 12-14 (MsgB)
So they left the mountain called Olives and returned to Jerusalem. It was a little over half a mile. They went to the upper room they had been using as a meeting place: Peter, John, James, Andrew, Philip, Thomas, Bartholomew, Matthew, James, son of Alphaeus, Simon the Zealot, Judas, son of James. They agreed they were in this for good, completely together in prayer, the women included. Also Jesus’ mother, Mary, and His brothers.
The fine art of Christian discipleship.
After nine months of study on the subject, let me ask some of the same questions we began with over 100 blogs earlier…
Is it truly possible for men and women to follow in the footsteps of the historical, first-century Jesus?
Is it feasible that there can be a group of people who live out their faith in Christ in such a way that they make a real difference in their world?
And, if so, how does a church and its leadership team actually work alongside the Holy Spirit in making ‘disciples’ of Christ, followers of Jesus who are living lives that reflect the nature of God’s Son?
Some in the church world today wonder if that’s truly possible? Others assume it is already happening, yet as we’ve discussed last time, for many years I believed that I was successful at making disciples; but in truth, I was only measuring that ‘success’ by counting up the numbers of my 3-B’s: (B)uilding size, (B)ucks in the offering, and (B)utts in the seats! If the numbers were healthy and growing, I assumed that ‘discipleship’ in Christ was happening. But was it really?
Throughout my thirty-plus years in pastoral ministry, these burning questions have continued. And if you can get a group of pastors and church leaders to actually be honest about it, these questions are the ones that should keep us all up at night, wondering if we’re actually seeing ‘disciples’ raised up or are we just entertaining the flock, doing our best to not lose their attention?
As I see it, today’s passage from the first chapter of Acts is quite revealing when it comes to defining, from a New Testament perspective, what ‘Christian discipleship’ might actually look like. Luke tells us here that the earliest group of Christ-followers, those who were there right after Christ’s death, resurrection and ascension, held several things in common. First and foremost, these men and women all had the shared experience of being with the Master. Some, obviously, had been with Jesus from the beginning (approximately three years earlier), while others had joined up with Him at a later point. In this revealing passage, Luke also tells us that both Mary, the mother of Jesus, and his half-brothers were included in this early band of followers as well. Without a doubt, all of them had experienced, first-hand, the death and resurrection of Jesus that had occurred just forty days earlier. All, I’m sure, were deeply impacted by these amazing events and that shared experience was key to what comes next.
Secondly, and maybe most importantly, Luke tells us that these individual men and women, with their shared experience with the Master, decide to give themselves over to a handful of key components as they go forward; and, praise God, verse 14 reveals to us exactly what a couple of those key things are:
They agreed they were in this for good, completely together in prayer…
In other words, those who had experienced the radical life-changing message and ministry of Jesus decided they were all in this for good as they made it their highest priority to seek Communion with Christ, through prayer; as they also united themselves together in Community.
Hmm. Pretty revealing, don’t you think? Let me summarize it here for you:
All in…for good…for Him & for us!
As we come to the end of our blog series, Journey into Christian Discipleship, I’m wondering if these instructions found in verse 14 just might contain a big insight to holding onto everything we’ve experienced during our nine-month journey? Call me simplistic, but it seems to me that if we could become successful with just these simple elements found in today’s passage, we just might be well on our way to finding a lot of the answers to defining the fine art of Christian discipleship.
Around our church in Cedar Rapids, we call Communion (with Christ) and Community (with others) two of the three key disciplines found in the life of Jesus, His earliest disciples, and hopefully, found within us, His 21st century followers, yet today!
Join us next time as we address the third and final ‘C’: Commission (into our world).
My prayer: Jesus, I know the key to successful discipleship is never simplistic, but I do so appreciate the fact that God’s Word does contain amazingly clear explanations on how Your first-century followers seemed to do it. I take Your Word as true and ask that I will be a faithful follower in my time by simply agreeing with other believers that we’re in this thing together for good; making it our highest priority to seek Communion with You, while remaining united together in Community. For Your name’s sake. Amen.
My questions to ponder: So what changes do I need to make in my pursuit of Christ so that it can become defined more and more by these two simple principles (Communion & Community) as found in Acts 1: 14? What would it look like for me to live out a stronger commitment to an on-going communion with God in the context of a community of Christ-followers?
So what is God speaking to you today as we attempt to live the Christ-centered life?
Over a thirty-six week period, you and I will take a deeper look into twelve key characteristics of a godly life. In other words, we’ll take A Journey into Christian Discipleship. In order to keep all the blog sessions organized, we suggest you bookmark our Journey home page for ease of use. ENJOY!
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