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Archive for October, 2015

§ The Transforming Work of the Cross

The Way of True Discipleship

The Way of True Discipleship

“Therefore I urge you, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service. Don’t be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what is the good, well-pleasing, and perfect will of God.” (Rom. 12:1-2)

Dear Pilgrims in Christ Jesus,

One of the problems we Christians have in growing spiritually as “disciples” of Christ is that we take discipleship for granted and lack an awareness that discipleship is the work of the Holy Spirit in us – not something we do of ourselves for God. And, what we also have trouble realizing is that this work of God’s Spirit in us and through us has to begin with a conscious, free,  and willing decision to offer ourselves up to the Father as a “living Sacrifice” (Rom. 12:1-2) , a sacrifice which entails the surrender of the right to our “self” to the Divine, so that He can enter our inner selves and conform us to the image of his Son.

This decision is separate from our decision to accept Jesus as Messiah and our Savior. However what sometimes  is undetermined is our decision to submit ourselves fully to Him as our “Lord”.  In our conversion we receive freely the Father’s gift of salvation that was won for us by Christ’s Sacrifice on the Cross. But then , It is only as “freemen” that we can then, out of “agape” love, freely give our “self” to God – not out of obligation or compulsion but totally as a free gift of ourselves to permit God to set us apart for His service to humanity.

Denying our self, then, is the free and conscious commitment we make as redeemed children of God to yield ourselves to Him so that He can separate us to Himself as His instruments of Love to the world. In carrying out this commitment on a daily basis. we  crucify our flesh so that God’s Spirit may truly have full reign over us. That, my brothers and sisters, is, the cross we must carry daily. A cost we must clearly assess if we intend entering into “true” and “intentional” discipleship.

Self-esteem vs. Dying to Self

Once I was discussing “self-denial” or “dying to self”,  as a principle of Christian discipleship, with a friend who had academic training in psychology.. His first take on this concept was that it went against the humanistic principle of “self-assurance” or “self-esteem” that is widely held as the founding principle for good mental health.

I took me several discussions to convince him of the difference between the two.

First of all  let’s begin with the principle of “self-denial” that Jesus was asking of His disciples.

Luke 14: 26“If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple. 27“Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. 28“For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it? 29“Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who observe it begin to ridicule him, 30saying, `This man began to build and was not able to finish.’

In the above citation, the scripture author uses the term “his own life” to indicate “his own self”, a term which is alternatively used in another citation, also from Luke,

Where I am -there my dsicple wil be also ...

Where I am -there my dsicple wil be also …

Luke 9: 23And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.24For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it.  25For what is a man advantaged, if he gain the whole world, and lose himself, or be cast away?

From this comparison we derive our understanding that what Jesus was saying is that in order to fully be His Disciple a person must make a clear decision to deny (go against) his own self-driven desires and follow the directions that Jesus is giving  him through the Holy Spirit!

Also we note that this decision by the disciples to renounce their own desires in order to follow Jesus is also termed by the Master as “carrying their own personal cross” daily. If our personal desires are based on the self-esteem derived from what others think of us, then, yes, we must die to those desires because they are humanly derived and keep us from the path to true discipleship. Severing our need for human self-esteem is the foundation for true humility.

It must also be said  that our desire to be a disciple of Jesus indicates that we have come got a point in our lives where our personal relationship with Jesus has brought us to the point where whatever self-esteem we have is now being derived from the LOVE He has poured out on us through His Sacrifice on the Cross. Our understanding of that immense gift of Salvation and the Love of the Father manifested through it, for us sinners who deserve NOTHING from God, has so changed our inner man that ALL our self-esteem is now entirely and positively derived from our relationship with Him!

Now, one of the drivers of our human desires,is self-esteem.  And if we let ourselves be controlled by how others esteem us, then it will be one of the determinants of our actions derived from our humanness. This is what the Apostle Paul terms the “old Man” in some of his letters. Our reaction to how others view us can range from the negative to the positive.. We normally react negatively to criticism and positively to praise. If we are too sensitive to the negative we fall into what is termed “depression”, whereas if we derive pleasure from praise we may be driven to narcissism. These are all traits of the “old Man”, the Old Man that we must crucify daily!

What Jesus is exhorting His followers is to bring us to completely put away the “old Man” in us, by severing our need to base our actions on our regard for human self-esteem and, instead,  to base them only on following Jesus out of faith in Him and selfless, agape. Love! This is how we “crucify the Old man”.

Putting on the “New Man” …

From Colossians Chapter 3:
1If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3For you have died, and your life is hid with Christ in God. 4When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. 5Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.
6On account of these the wrath of God is coming. 7In these you once walked, when you lived in them.

8But now put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and foul talk from your mouth. 9Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old nature with its practices 10and have put on the new nature, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. 11Here there cannot be Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free man, but Christ is all, and in all.

12 [Instead] Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness, and patience, 13forbearing one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.14And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.

15And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. 16Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teach and admonish one another in all wisdom, and sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs with thankfulness in your hearts to God.17And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

When we do this, we free ourselves from our self-centered controlled life and enter into a God-centered living existence. This is what Jesus referred to as the “Kingdom of God”, where we surrender the right to our selves and let the Lord truly RULE in our lives.

That is why becoming a disciple comes at a cost. And that is why it is a “cross” that we must carry daily! That is also why the Lord tell his followers that to be truly be committed as a disciple you must first asses the strength of your faith and willingness to follow Him as a disciple through  the sacrifice of your right to your “self” to the Holy Spirit so He can work God’s Divine will in you and through you.

Many of think that just because we are true believers that we are also true disciples. No, although our belief in Jesus assures us of Salvation in Him, we cannot enter into a full state of discipleship unless we make the additional commitment to surrender the right to ourselves and  give God full control over our lives so the Holy Spirit can conform us into the image of Christ that is in us!
Note how Jesus presented this choice to Nicodemus (cf., Jn 3). Jesus told him that although his awareness of the Kingdom working in Jesus’ ministry was a step in the right direction. Yet in order to enter the Kingdom Anointing that was over Jesus and take part in His ministry, he ,”Nikky” had to give up all that he was doing and become a follower of Jesus literally, in order to enter into that Anointing. And he could only do this through repentance, conversion and giving himself totally to the Holy Spirit so that the transformation could begin.

Yes, Nicodemus was a hidden disciple but he did not enter into the fulness of that discipleship until later. So it is, unfortunately,  with many of us!

If you feel the Holy Spirit has nudged you regarding “discipleship”, I recommend that, after praying for the Holy Spirits advise, you look into reading Sherry Waddell’s book: “Forming Intentional Disciples – The Path to Knowing and Following Jesus” *

May the Lord Richly Bless you,
Your Brother in Christ Jesus …. Bartimaeus
(© B.R.Timeo and Bartimaeus’ Quiet Place, [2008-2014])

[* Note:  In her book “Forming Intentional Disciples – The Path to Knowing and Following Jesus” Sherry 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).  ]

For related comments and links see:

http://marriagepreparation.com/page/?pg=117

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

http://www.amazon.com/Forming-Intentional-Disciples-Knowing-Following/dp/1612785905
Catherine of Sienna Institute
http://www.siena.org/Article/who-we-are

CDM Discipleship Resources
http://www.navigators.org/us/ministries/cdm/about/

CDM Intentional Discipleship Ministry
http://www.navigators.org/us/ministries/cdm/idc/

Prayer to Receive the Holy Spirit

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