Thursday, December 20, 2018

Chapter 4: Reality Check -- Disciple

It can be argued pretty convincingly that the terms "Christian" and "disciple" are synonymous. This is almost true. While it is accurate to say that "every Christian is a disciple" and "every disciple is a Christian," the words themselves like facets of a diamond are different angles to our radiant position of being in Christ. The Christian belongs to Christ and when we do (belong to Christ), the LORD leads His Christians to become hearers of His Word (disciples). In fact, the only way a Christian becomes a Christian is through the Word of Christ ("faith comes by hearing the Word of Christ," Ro 10:17), and to remain a Christian, one must constantly be in the Word of Christ.

Abiding in the Word (constantly learning it, praying it, and living it out) is not religion for the sake of religion, but lively interaction with the LORD of the Church who guides and directs His people through His Word that serves as a lamp to our feet and a light to our path (Psalm 119:105).

We hear of the best of the best in various fields, and they will testify one after another that they must be about staying in the fundamentals, the basic principles of what makes them successful. Great athletes for example must also practice their foundational routines. Christians who are serious about their faith do the same thing: they are constantly in the Word of Christ. This is not merely intellectual review, memory stimulation, etc., but it is engagement with the Word of God which is living and active to create, preserve, and nurture faith in Christ. It is not magic, but it is a Word that is God's and when God speaks to us, He creates the faith spoken.

The Word of Christ (and Sacraments) are to the spirit, what water and food are to the body.

Disciples understand this and therefore are constantly hearing the Word and inwardly taking it in. The spirit of the Christian is kept strong and healthy through the Word of Christ.

It might, therefore, be clearer as to why a chapter on being a disciple might contribute to knowing essential foundations in a book about living in the culture. In my book Faith that Sees Through the Culture, I view chapter 4 as integral for the ability to successfully live as a Christian in the culture.

Too many people go out into the culture and essentially permit the culture itself to form their identities. We start to behave as if the goal in life is cultural acceptance to the extent that cultural accomodation is the end-game in order to thrive in the culture. In this thought-line, then we live to please the culture. We want to match the popular trends, but these are often vacuous and merely sensual. They are certainly not lasting nor are they eternally helpful.

Rather, we should be formed first and then go into the culture so as to make a positive impact for God and other people that they too might know the God of grace incarnate in Jesus. So, we must be disciples if we are to be Christians who are salt and light for the world.

From page 69 of the book:

This doesn't mean that the disciple lives a carefree life, nor does it mean that the disciple does not battle sin or live in the spiritual battle between the sinful nature and the born-again spirit. This doesn't mean that the disciple does not bear a cross or suffer. It does mean, however, that there is one identifiable steady experience, as long as saving faith in Christ remains: the Word of Christ is always a part of the disciple's life, the Law of God is always leading to the confession of sins, and the Gospel of God is constantly leading to the forgiveness of sins in Christ. Such forgiveness gives another life, countering the old -- a life that produces the virtues supplied by the Holy Spirit, like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). These flow from the faith produced by God's Word.

And now I ask: How important are these virtues to our culture struggling in hatred, strife, and division; how much does our culture -- drowning in self-centeredness and hostility -- need these virtues of Christ? How much does a culture of death need life? How much does a culture steeped in darkness need light? 

Yes, it matters Christian, that you be a disciple. Jesus said, "If you abide in My word, you are truly My disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." (Jn 8:31-32)

Blessed Advent as you prepare for Christ's coming while abiding in Christ's Word,

Dr. Espinosa

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