Volume 15, Number 4 – APRIL , 2021
Greetings. A Blessed and Happy Easter to your family and you. We take time this week to remember what Jesus physically, mentally and spiritually when through on the cross for each one of us. What a gift we can never ever come close to repaying. It was all on Him. Then celebration came two days later on Sunday. Jesus overcame not just the penalty of sin and guilt but the power over sin by physically rising from the dead. Thank you Jesus for the unpayable gift of grace and mercy to us! Mike
What do people like Timothy, Tertius, Aquilla, Priscilla, Tychicus, Luke, Linus, Epaphras, Eubulus, Artemas, Aristarchus, and Mark have in common? They all are mentioned at the end of one of Paul’s letters. There are others, too, and this points out that Paul spent a considerable amount of time solidly developing people.
Many of these people played prominent roles in the early New Testament Church. He did not offer a seminar or offer his new and latest signed copied book he was writing for them to read. Rather Paul probably spent long periods of time with these individuals, living live (and for some, hanging with him in prison), talking and wrestling with the teachings of Jesus and the Old Testament with them and intentionally discipling these followers of Christ.
Paul was mature enough to tell people that if they wanted to correctly follow Jesus, they should follow in Paul’s example (1 Corinthians 11:1). That is lifestyle discipleship definition, if there was ever one. In our world we have relegated discipleship to a classroom style of teaching – a teacher, some students and the Bible. True, there is a portion of discipleship that involves formal teaching but there is so much more to this spiritual discipline.
Wherever Paul was, you get the impression he had people with him, living a godly life and telling all those he could about Jesus. Lifestyle discipleship is intentional in the fact that you are living your life as close to the example of Jesus gave and you are then living it in front of others, providing live examples of the words from the Scriptures. True discipling involves more than one classroom setting. There is no set time you spend with one disciple. Normally is it many months, perhaps a year or two, on a regular, consistent basis.
Paul had to do this as there were no Bible colleges he could send prospective disciples to. Just as Jesus did (from John 3:23, we are given the word picture that Jesus got under the skin of His apostles), Paul dug into the lives of his disciples to prepare them for works of service, equipping and empowering the next generation of laborers to do the work of Kingdom ministry.
Simply looking at the book of Titus, Paul prepared Titus, Artemas and Tychicus (and then Timothy in Ephesus), Paul spent a great deal of time with key disciples so they could carry on the work begun by Timothy. He knew them well enough that they would do quality work and be an extension of Paul, representing Jesus well in their ministry work.
His disciples took what they learned and built into their own disciples. This was not a two generation activity. Many spiritual generations resulted from Paul’s fruit. Actually you could say that Barnabas discipled Paul so we need to give credit to Barnabas too. This process was not accomplished through a weekend retreat or a couple sessions Bible study.
Just as in agriculture, planting one day does not result in a harvest (reaping) the very next day. Most agricultural pursuits take a minimum of two seasons to see fruit. Remember that as you dedicate yourself to a person or several people. Both the discipler and the disciple need to be in that relationship for the long haul.
Will everyone turn out as godly followers of Christ when you disciple? Probably not. Remember Demas who was mentioned at the end of two of Paul’s letters (Philemon and Colossians) as a ministry partner but in 2 Timothy 4:10, Demas had deserted Paul. Faithfully minister and provide guidance on what it means to be a growing, developing believer, but remind yourself everyone has a free will to choose.
A well-known Christian professor, Howard Hendricks, said that you can impress people from a distance but to impact a person, you bring them up close to you. Count the cost to be the person who impacts others.
LIFESTYLE OF ARETE’
Arete’ does not happen by accident. Arete’ is Greek meaning to aspire to excellence or virtue in every area of your life. Excellence is striving and developing to be the best you can be. It is not simply talent but a willingness, an attitude to keep becoming better.
The Roman army used a technique to make sure bridges and aqueducts were safe: The person who designed the arches had to stand under each arch while the scaffolding was being removed. If you knew you were the first one who would stand under the structure you had just built, would you not do your best to make sure it did not fall down on you as the scaffolding was being removed? Being average or mediocre would not cut it as that could very well allow the structure to topple down on you!
Let’s put it another way. Hopefully we know what Jesus did for us was the greatest gift ever offered and given to us. If Jesus would have said, “Well, I will give this sacrifice thing a good shot and would be willing to take all the insults and lashes the Roman army will give out but I will not get on that cross and actually die for people who will still hate Me after I completely sacrifice My life for them”, do you think our sins would have been forgiven? How much would He really have loved us?
But is that not what we do when we do not wholeheartedly do the best to our abilities what we have before us, what responsibilities we need to perform at that moment, whether it is school work, our job, our relationships with family, friends or whomever we make contact with and ultimately our relationship with Jesus Himself? Is not giving our best, an acceptable gift to Him?
Romans 12:1 (Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.) discusses we as believers in Jesus to be acceptable living sacrifices for Him. Here is the problem with a living sacrifice. We can get off the sacrifice altar when we do not like what we about to do. It takes moral courage, integrity and being others’ focused to stay on that sacrifice altar and be used in whatever way Jesus so chooses to use us. That is pursuing arete’.
If you would read the first eleven chapters of Romans, you would see how great, awesome and merciful God has been to everyone of us and it would be simple obedience to then offer ourselves up to Him as living sacrifices. If we allow the truths of what Jesus has done for us to sink deeply into our souls, into the fabric of our beings, we would say to God without hesitation that He could use me however He wanted and it would be the greatest honor I could do to serve Him. Our act of worshipful obedience is our thanks to how great Jesus is! That is excellence.
Where am I not giving my best? What areas of my life do I let slide and get away with simply getting the responsibility completed without my best effort? Is it in any of my relationships – home, friends, employer – areas of where I am gifted in and can slide by with “good enough” or ultimately in my relationship with Jesus? Self, honest introspection and then asking people who really know us and willing to be honest with us, in what areas can I do better and pursue excellence is having an attitude of arete’. Do I have the attitude of Philippian 2:3-4, “Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.”?
Do I want to have people see Jesus in every area of my life? Do I want them to focus on Jesus as a result of observing me or do I want them to have their focus on me because the attention is me? May Jesus shine through every area of our lives so that we can say to anyone and everyone, “Follow me and you will be following the example of Jesus” (1 Corinthians 11:1).