Showing posts with the label Discipleship

Afflicted Disciples

Our natural tendency is to avoid conflict. Understandably, we prefer our daily lives to be characterized by peace, acceptance, and prosperity, a life devoid of difficulties and afflictions. Moreover, the New Testament does promise believers peace now and everlasting life later. Nevertheless, it also exhorts the assembly of God to expect afflictions and even persecution in this life on account of its witness in a sin-darkened world.

The Neronian Problem

The Bible claims that God gives political power to whomever He pleases, “ even to the basest of men .” He “ removes kings and installs kings ” to accomplish His purposes, including rulers of whom many church leaders and members may disapprove. Disciples of Jesus who assume that certain politicians should hold governmental power presume on God’s patience and prerogative, and this is especially problematic in Western-style democratic societies.

The Mind of Christ

In his  Letter to the Philippians , the Apostle Paul points to the obedience of Jesus “ unto death ” as the model for proper conduct by his disciples. His willing submission to death on the Roman cross sets the pattern for his followers, both for their conduct and mindset. And his subsequent elevation to reign over all things is the result of his submission to “ death upon a cross ,” for exaltation does not precede death, it follows it.

Mercy and Enemies

The reality of persecution raises important questions. How should disciples react, especially when persecuted by the State? Is resorting to expressions of anger or acts of civil disobedience appropriate? Or should they instead emulate Jesus of Nazareth? In his teachings, he warns that all men who decide to follow him will experience “ tribulation ,” and he summons his disciple to follow the same path that he did (“ If they persecuted me, so they will persecute you ”).

Day of Visitation

Peter exhorts Christians to persevere in trials and live holy lives in the knowledge of the coming day of visitation .  Peter writes to Christians under pressure to conform to the expectations of the surrounding society. Their situation is not unique - they were members of a worldwide suffering community.

Warfare in the Spirit

Disciples wage spiritual warfare through right conduct, acts of love, and proclaiming the gospel . “Spiritual warfare” is a common topic in popular preaching, an idea derived from Paul’s words to the church in Ephesus - “ Our wrestling is not against flesh and blood but against the principalities and powers… against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places .”

Suffering Servant

Jesus of Nazareth fulfilled the role of the Suffering Servant described in the  Book of Isaiah . Unlike Adam, he did not attempt to grasp the “ likeness of God .” Instead, he humbled himself and submitted to a shameful death on the Roman cross. For this reason, God highly exalted him and made him “ Lord ” over all things. Exaltation did not precede his death – his elevation to the throne  FOLLOWED IT .

Governing Authorities

Paul instructed believers living in the Roman Empire not to resist the government since its existence and authority were arranged by God .  Writing to the churches of Rome, Paul presents principles for Christian conduct in relation to the State. Believers must “ subordinate themselves to governing powers, for there is no authority except by God .” His statement was written when Nero ruled the Roman Empire, the same man who became the first emperor to persecute the church.

Sanctified Wholly

Considering the future arrival of Jesus, Paul summons the church to become sanctified completely by that day – 1 Thessalonians 5:23.  Paul concludes his first letter with a series of exhortations calling on believers to pursue righteous living in the interim between their conversion and Christ's “ arrival ” from heaven.