Thursday, May 15, 2008

Am I a Disciple of Jesus, Or Just a Christian?

This is just a hand-out that I use as a review with counselling clients part way into our sessions.

If you are a Christian who has a deep desire to follow Jesus, to be changed by Jesus, to possess the characteristics of Jesus, then what you now believe to be the major problem in your life is actually the answer to your problem.

Could that be true? Would you be willing to suspend your current beliefs for just a few moments and entertain that statement as a possibility? Let’s review where we have come thus far.

1st John 1:5 - “The main thing that we were taught by Jesus, and what we now pass on to you is, ‘God is light. In Him there isn’t any darkness. There is nothing wrong, or evil or deceitful, or mean or unjust in Him. He can be trusted absolutely’.”

God longs to bless us and it is only our refusal to follow His leading, it is only our fear of following His leading that blocks us from receiving those blessings.

Romans 8:28,29 - “In all things our loving Heavenly Father works for the good of those who love Him and who have been called according to His purposes. For those that He foreknew, like you brother or sister in Christ, He also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of His Son, Jesus the Christ.

While God may bring all kinds of good out of what satan has brought into our lives as a means to destroy us, the bottom line goodness, the main goodness, the goodness that at minimum you can count on God working towards, is making you into a person who bears the characteristics of Jesus. And what are those characteristics?

Galatians 5:22,23 “But the characteristics that come from becoming like Jesus are Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness (which means Long-suffering > think about that one) Gentleness, and Self-Control. Bearing this type of personality and this attitude toward others means that you are completely fulfilling the Law of God.”

We need to trust Jesus enough to heed His message, “Follow Me.” What does Jesus mean by that? Jesus, our example and character goal, came to earth knowing in advance that He would be abused, misunderstood, mistreated, rejected, insulted, betrayed and ultimately have humanity do our absolute worst to Him. Yet He entered into a covenant relationship with us anyway because He loves us. And then Jesus said, “Pick up your cross and follow Me (become like Me) in your covenant relationship with your spouse / children / extended family / co workers / neighbours etc.. This isn’t a suggestion, something to ponder for a few minutes, a debating point or simply a nice thought. This is a command to be followed as surely as the command - “Don’t Murder!”

So why don’t we trust Jesus enough to obey Him? Why do we think that following Jesus will be something awful? Why don’t we want to live our lives the way Jesus would live our lives if He had been born into our circumstances?

This may infuriate you, but it is my strong belief that Christians come for counselling because God is trying to take them to the next level of obedience and growth and they are refusing to go along with His plan. Refusing to obey God brings great internal dissonance, emotional pain, confusion, anxiety and depression. Our inner contradictions between what we say that we believe and how we act make it almost impossible for clients to communicate with God in a meaningful manner.

When people come to me, almost always it is because they are either living with “the enemy” or they are in too close contact with “the enemy.” Because of this, they are confronted with Jesus commands:

Romans 12:19-21 - “Do not take revenge, my friends. On the contrary: "If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” And Matthew 5:44 - Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you.

Counselling clients look at these commands and to a person -
1) It seems too hard. It seems too much to ask. And / or
2) They have forgotten that in every previous case of obedience and dying to self they have grown in character and they have been blessed beyond their wildest dreams.

What we fail to realise is that responding God’s way to what seems to be our biggest problem, our biggest challenge, God’s most “unreasonable request” is actually His answer to our prayers for release from our problem. There is a really good line, “The fastest way to get rid of your enemy is to make him your friend.” Well, as we know from Jesus’ own life, loving someone doesn’t always make someone your friend, but it is nevertheless, always the right thing to do. We cannot overcome evil with more evil, nor can we overcome evil by running away from it or refusing to love the person displaying evil. That is why obeying God, when confronted with an extremely difficult person is actually God’s answer to our prayers. It’s His ticket to the next level. It’s the door through which we must enter to achieve freedom from our current pain and difficulty. Remember! This has nothing to do with changing the other person. It has everything to do with changing ME.

So the questions remain:
Why don’t I trust Jesus enough to follow Him?
Why don’t I trust Jesus enough to obey Him?
Why do I claim to trust Jesus with my eternity but not my today?
Do I love Jesus enough to obey Him (John 14:23,24)? And if not, why not?

These are not rhetorical questions and I’m not being reckless or insensitive in asking them. You may have what seem to be very good reasons for not trusting Jesus with your today. Perhaps a child has died. Maybe you’ve lost your job, your health, your family. Natural disasters and unspeakable abuse are constant reminders of the dangers that surround us. The Bible makes it clear that the road of life is not for the faint of heart. That is why Jesus tells us to follow Him through life, to follow His leading, to follow His example, thereby guiding us into a character and personality that makes us more than conquerors. This I know, Running from where God is leading keeps us less than conquerors.

Am I a disciple of Jesus or just a Christian? Without you deciding on becoming the former, counselling can achieve little more than a third-rate recovery.

Good luck on your journey.

No comments: