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Archive for July 30th, 2015

Assessing our Discipleship / Forming Disciples

“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.…” (Rom.8:28-30)

Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Are you being Conformed to Christ's Image?

Are you being Conformed to Christ’s Image?

All believers are called to be conformed to the image of Christ! That is God’s purpose for us, and it is to this end we should be living out the fulness of His purpose for us.

One of the main problems we lay people have in living out our faith to its fullness is that most of us have left out one of the main facets of entering into a truly and complete living faith journey, namely, our personal relationship with Jesus and subsequent yielding ourselves to the Holy Spirit so He may conform us into the image of Christ that is in us (Rom.8:29).  Without this facet of our faith life we cannot be “true disciples” or what may be called  “Intentional Disciples”.

Sherry A.Waddell in her book “Forming Intentional Disciples – The Path to Knowing and Following Jesus” makes it clear that there are three concurrent spiritual journeys to what one might call “normative” Catholicism.  She lists these as:

1. The personal interior journey of a relationship with Christ resulting in intentional discipleship.

2. The ecclesial journey into through the Church through the sacraments of initiation.

3. The journey of active practice (as evidenced by attending mass, receiving the sacraments and participating in the life and mission of the Christian community).

She also makes it clear that in a study conducted by her and a Catholic Cleric indicated that the majority of Lay Catholic Christians basically assume that all that is needed to be “Catholic” are to be involved in paths 2 and 3 (the ecclesial journey and the practice of the religious tenets of the faith).

To complicate matters, most of the Catholic participants in the study did not even know or understand that without the personal interior journey of “Intentional” Discipleship (#1) the other two paths become essentially a self-driven religious journey that leaves out what should be our most essential journey, that is, the personal yoking ourselves to Christ so that He and He alone may empower the Living of our Christian Life to its fulness.

Counter to this lack of understanding in our laity, leaders in the Church have reiterated time and time again that “normative” Catholicism must begin with…

“… the proclamation of the Good News that is directed to a conversion of heart and and life and clinging to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior; to disposing a person to receive Baptism and Eucharist and to strengthen a person in the prospect and realization of new life according to the Spirit”

(see on-line at:  http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/apost_exhortation/documents/hf_jp-11_exh_30121988_christifideles-laici_en.html as of May 8,2012)

Because of the lack of in-depth adequate faith formation teaching (catechesis) most Catholic Christians are not properly taught the scriptural foundations behind the essential need for all of us to participate in a personal spiritual relationship with Christ that directly leads us to commit ourselves as “intentional” disciples. Without our direct and intentional consent to becoming Jesus’ disciples the Holy Spirit will NOT force discipleship on us because He respects our free will. Thus unless we come to such a commitment in our lives we CANNOT consider ourselves as TRUE DISCIPLES of Christ no matter how well we practice our religion. Discipleship requires a commitment beyond believing in Jesus – it requires a decision to surrender our lives to the Father so that the Spirit of His Son may act in us and through us for the Glory of the Father.

Being FormedTrue Discipleship is the process the Holy Spirit uses to conform us to the image of Christ during our lives (Rom.8:29). Discipleship is not a process that we perform. It is a divine process of Grace in our inner being that molds us and forms us to become more and more like Christ each day that we live. It is a process that works in every aspect of our being, body, soul and spirit as long as we cooperate with the Holy Spirit in His work of Grace. It is a process that leads to what is called a state of Holiness. That is, a state  where every part of our being is set apart for God’s use and direction to accomplish His purposes, not ours.

In order to facilitate our meditation on assessing our discipleship. I will list below several scriptures and my commentaries so that my readers may pray over this theme and let the Holy Spirit guide them in discerning where they stand as disciples.

One of the first themes I propose we consider for meditation is that of the Good Shepherd. If we are to be truly His disciples then we must truly be one of His sheep.

<1>    Jesus spoke of the relationship between Himself and His Sheep: “I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me, even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep.…” (John 10:14-15)

Point:  Jesus is declaring that to be one of His Sheep you need to have a “knowing, living” relationship with Jesus that emulates His relationship to the Father. Are you in your inner spiritual life living out and experiencing such a relationship? If not. Why Not?

<2>    “The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.”  (John 10:2-5)

Point: Jesus leads His sheep through a personal interaction by speaking directly to them so they can recognize His Voice and not follow a stranger’s voice. Do you have a daily dialogue with Jesus in prayer so that you hear and know His Voice and thus are able to follow Him and learn from Him?  If not. Why Not?

<3>    Jesus answered [the Pharisees], “I did tell you, but you do not believe. The works I do in my Father’s name testify about me, but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all ; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” (John 10:34-38)

Point: Those who are called to be disciples “know” who Jesus is in their hearts and thus have spiritual ears to hear and listen to His Voice and follow Him. If you have heard His Voice, then all you have to do to enter into discipleship is decide to follow Him and act on your decision by making a commitment in faith to Him directly!

Comment: In the above discussion we may be faced with a dilemma. We have a strong desire to act on our desire to follow Jesus but we have never experienced a dialogue with Jesus or really understood what the Kingdom of God that He preaches is about.

Well you are not alone. Nicodemus, a ranking member of the Sanhedrin was in the same situation that you are. So what did He do? He went looking for Jesus to ask Him directly. Of course he came by night because, like you, because it was a little embarrassing. Here is what  happened:

<4> “Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.”  Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again ” (John 3:1-3)

Comment: Notice that Jesus equates the effects of God working through His ministry, that Nicodemus is referencing, as the evidence of the “Kingdom of Heaven” at work. Nicodemus, a cleric with standing, was shocked at Jesus’ response. How could this lay person say such a thing to a member of the Sanhedrin? And what is this thing about being “born again”?

Regarding the term “born again”, note how St. Peter comments on this in his first epistle: “ Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; for…

“All flesh is like grass
and all its glory like the flower of grass.
The grass withers,
and the flower falls,
but the word of the Lord remains forever.”

And this word is the good news that was preached to you.” (1 Peter 1:22-25)

<5> Nicodemus, in trying to understand this saying, asks Jesus: “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?”

Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:4-8)

Point: Jesus indicates that a person’s spirit must be “brought to life” or “activated” in order to be sensitive to the work of the Holy Spirit. Only the Holy Spirit can revive a person’s spirit by Grace, through The Word. Jesus refers to those who have received such sensitivity to the Spirit as having spiritual ears so they can her His Voice.

He also tells Nicodemus that although he has been granted the grace of this sensitivity and has responded to it by coming to Him,  yet in order to be a disciple and participate in His ministry (ie., enter the service of the Kingdom of Heaven) he must take a further step and make a commitment to Jesus to follow Him.

Jesus, is also telling Nicodemus the action he now needs to take to enter the Kingdom, that is become a disciple in His Ministry is two fold:

1) repent of his sins and accept Jesus for who He is (water Baptism),
and
2) yield himself to be empowered by the Holy Spirit (commissioned) to carry out the role he has been called to fill in the Kingdom.

Have you been moved by the Spirit to renounce yourself and your own goals and objectives, as noble as they may be, and turn towards God for the change of life He wants for you. And…, if you have done this, are you willing to freely and openly offer your self as living sacrifice (Rom. 12:1-2) so that the Spirit of Christ that is in you can work in you and through you to achieve the purpose for which the Father has called you?”

If your answer is “yes” to these latter two questions, then you should seriously consider making a declared commitment to follow Jesus. This is what being an “intentional” disciple is about.

Comment: Note that Nicodemus did not take up Jesus’ offer of full discipleship at the time of his encounter with the Master. He did continue as a “discreet” or “undeclared” disciple which is the role most of us lay Christians, in our passive ignorance, inadvertently choose.

Brethren in Christ …

I now implore you to meditate and pray on the themes and Scriptures I have presented to you andask the Holy Spirt to Guide you to discerning your calling.  Then…act on whatever He tells you!  Praised Be His Holy Name, Forever and Ever, Amen!

There are very few people
who realise what God would make of them
if they abandoned themselves into his hands,
and let themselves be formed by his grace. (Saint Ignatius of Loyola)

Your Brother in Christ Jesus … Bartimaeus

(© B.R.Timeo and Bartimaeus’ Quiet Place, [2008-2015])

Important Links Relevant to the Current Article

Hearing God’s Voice and Obeying It

Prayer to Receive the Holy Spirit

The Cost Of Discipleship

Cast Your Net On the Other Side

Blog Comments On Sherry Weddell’s Book

http://www.focus.org/blog/posts/forming-intentional-disciples.html

Contacts Regarding Discipleship

The Catherine of Siena Institute
PO Box 26440
Colorado Springs, CO 80936
Web Site: www,siena.org
(719) 219-0056
(888) 878-6789 (toll free US)
(719) 219-0097 (fax)

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