I have been reading the book of Acts again this week. I am consistently inspired by the Acts Church. The Early Church. Those first Christians. Every single time I read the book of the Acts of the Apostles, I am motivated by the people’s love for God and each other.
But during THIS particular reading of Acts, I am struck by what Peter and Paul were doing to inform the Jews of the Good News of Jesus Christ as Messiah. The Risen Savior. The One Who had been so recently slain for the redemption of the House of Israel. So many believed in the teachings and explanations of Peter and Paul and were subsequently saved. But a lot of the Jews in the synagogues didn’t respond favorably to those Sabbath teachings. And those are the folks on whom I wish to concentrate in this writing.
Why focus on the seemingly negative, you ask? Because Friend, it is the same today. There are so many people who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as Savior of all who will call upon Him, believe on Him, repent of their sins, and follow Him. He is, after all, the only Lord and King that ever mattered or will ever matter. People absolutely need reconciliation with the God Who created all. Through Jesus Christ, His Son.
I am currently reading a comprehensive book on the subject of discipleship. That is, perhaps, also why I am focusing on those persons who chose not to believe in the apostles’ teachings. The author of the book I am reading (Bill Hull, The Complete Book of Discipleship: On Being and Making Followers of Christ) quotes Dietrich Bonhoeffer: “Christianity without discipleship is always Christianity without Christ.” The author then asserts that “With the Great Commission, transformation became mission.” Whoa. Did you catch that? “...Transformation became mission.” That means that at the very moment you became a follower of Jesus Christ and transformed into His very own, you became a disciple. Making disciples became your immediate mission.
I think I just heard a mic drop. For real.
Bill Hull continues with something I underlined and annotated in the margin: “...through Him, imperfect disciples could go and make other imperfect disciples...the Great Commission launches a rescue mission...discipleship involves saving people from themselves and eternal oblivion.”
Whew. Now, THAT’S a serious mission. Saving people from themselves and oblivion? Where do I sign up?!
Oops. I already did. The moment I believed on Him and made Him my Savior for always. The moment I decided to follow Him. To obey Him. To read, understand, and execute His precepts. Yep. That’s when. But I didn’t truly know it. Believe it. Want to heed the call. Until now. Yes, I’ve long since heard and read Jesus’ words in Matthew 28:19, “Go and make disciples of all nations,...” yada, yada, yada. And believe me, I do preach the Gospel out of necessity quite often. But I never realized the gravity of the situation of my truly following Jesus Christ and veritably becoming His disciple. To make MORE disciples. Oh, Lord, forgive me -- yet again -- for not taking seriously that which I should have for these many, many years. Who else hates, like me, being late to the party?
WHEN. Will I. EVER. Get. This. RIGHT?
Let’s get back to the book of Acts, shall we? Peter, in Acts 2, testifies to a multitude of the story of Jesus Christ on the day of Pentecost. Many believe and repent of their sins. But later, in Acts 3, when Peter visits the temple and is at Solomon’s Portico, though many believe, there are those who do not believe and who seek to bind Peter and imprison him. Then in Acts 10, we learn of Cornelius, a Gentile whose giving and prayers are noticed by God. Peter is directed by the Holy Spirit to visit Cornelius and preach the Gospel to him and his gathered family and friends. It is, therefore, at that time when Peter acknowledges that God can do what He wants to do and even include Gentiles among His faithful. Skipping ahead a few chapters to Acts 13, we find Paul attempting to teach salvation through Jesus but finding that the Jews would not believe that Jesus Christ was the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets. In Acts 13:46-48, Paul turns to the Gentiles with his Good News when he realizes that the Jews are not convinced of his teaching.
Friend, those Jews who would not believe? There’s a name for that. It’s called hard of heart. We have people of that caliber in our present day. It’s the hard of heart who neither listen nor believe. Then AND now. They choose not to listen. They choose not to turn from their sin. They choose not to study God’s word to find out for themselves that the earth is the Lord’s and that everything and everyone in it is, in fact, His (Psalm 24:1).
But you and I know. And we are commissioned to lead them to Christ.
St. Francis of Assisi is widely credited with having said “Preach the Gospel at all times, and if necessary, use words.” Friend, we need to let our light shine before men. We need to BE Jesus Christ to the lost. We need to love. And yes, if we need to, we need to straight-up TELL the Good News that Jesus Christ came to earth, not to be served, but to serve. That He came not for the well, but for the sick. That He came not for the righteous, but for the sinful. That He came that we may have life, and life more abundantly. That He came to save us so we may have eternal life with Him, His saints, and His Father in heaven. Friend, even though --I-- am sick and --I-- am sinful, it is YET my responsibility to reach people with the love of Jesus. Jew or Gentile. Slave or Free. Man or woman. Because I chose Jesus Christ on that day long ago. Because He transformed me. And because I immediately became His disciple.
Remember that earlier Bill Hull quote? The one about imperfect disciples going and making other imperfect disciples? Friend, that’s me to a T. I am so far from perfect. I am sinful. I am fallen. I am a wretch. But by the grace of our Lord, Jesus Christ, I am saved.
Hence, this Christian MUST be a Christian who disciples. In every aspect of her life. Every day of her life. Seizing opportunities where they present themselves. Seeking opportunities that may not be so convenient or conspicuous. Being ready all the while to explain the hope she has in the resurrection. The joy of her salvation. The eternity she will spend with Him.
Let’s pray together that God would humble and soften our hearts. Draw us unto Himself. Humble, soften, and prepare the hearts of those we WILL come across and who NEED a word of love, grace, and salvation. Draw them unto Himself. Help us in our discipleship role. And cause those we imperfectly disciple to become imperfect disciples themselves.
In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth.
Can I get an “Amen” up in this place?!
That’s all for now. See you next time.
Kimberly S. Lancaster
June 23, 2017