Monday, January 09, 2006

Believer vs. Disciple: Lessons from the Rich Young Man

Mark 10:17 ...

Now here's an impressive guy ... if he came to our church, we'd immediately mark him out as someone 'spiritual' cause as far as the lingo and the external behaviour, this dude's got it down pat. But does he? See, he claims to want eternal life, but he's still too in love with life on earth. He knows Jesus has the answer, but he doesn't like what he hears.

Here's a breakdown of the difference between believer and disciple. Note, this is our little definition of 'Believer' - someone who lives his/her life short of being a true follower of Christ. We're using it as a negative term to contrast with a disciple, though the Bible uses it positively as a name for the true Christians. Back then, believers were hardcore Christians, but today there are more varieties.

A believer is self-centred, seeking only to secure their eternal future. They ask, "What must I do to inherit eternal life?" (Mark 10:17)A disciple is Christ-centred, sparing nothing for Jesus' sake. The disciple says, "We've left all to follow you!" (10:28)

A believer thinks he's got it all together, that his 'good' deeds have done God a favour. He says, "All this I have done since my youth" (10:20)A disciple, however, knows his own frailty and unworthiness to enter God's kingdom and desperately gasps, "Who then can be saved?" (10:26). To this Jesus responds, "No one, except those whom God has chosen."

A believer says, "Jesus is my saviour! Now show me my crown!"A disciple says, "Jesus is my LORD! Now show me my CROSS!"A believer thinks that eternal life is a span of time spent in heaven in the future.
A disciple knows eternal life is a person experienced here and now.

Lastly ...

A believer respects Jesus and calls him "Good".
A disciple obeys Jesus and calls him "God".

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Pay-Back Time

How can a God who is loving inflict pain and suffering on anyone? Perhaps you haven't seen enough Korean and Japanese revenge movies. There's a Korean revenge flick called "Old Boy." It's a story of a man and his love for his sister that grew into a incestuous relationship that was discovered by the film's protagonist. The shame of the discovery caused her to take her own life and the rest of the movie was the brother's 14 year long plot to get back at the man who began to spread the rumour in the most painful way possible.
If you ever read the Prophets, you'll find two very prominent themes: The love of God for his people Israel, and the wrath of God on Israel's enemies (and to a lesser extent, on disobedient Israel herself).
Yes, God is a God of love - jealous, vengeful love. But struggling with the idea of a loving God who is capable of inflicting harm means basing your definition of love on the assumption that a lover can not possibly act in venegence or wrath. This is simply not true, even in human experience. A loving God does not mean a sissy-God, who is mild and spineless, who allows himself and his beloved to be trampled under foot by their enemies. I really do feel sorry for those who are not the people of God - cause it seems as though God is a pay-back God, a bully par excellence on those who dare scorn him and those in his 'gang'. The more I see the fiery wrath of God, the more I am convinced of his passionate love for his people. Just rejoice and be glad that this God is on our side, he is our warrior-lover.


We are overly concerned about the future. We always have meetings to talk about the strategy for next year,goals we want to see accomplished next year, or asking how much money we hope to make next year, who will I marry and when, where will I go or what ministry will I do and how will it be. We speak out of our fear and worry about what the future will bring for it is unknown to us, the undiscovered country, the final frontier to conquer.
What is it about horror movies that are so terrifying and spine tingling? Might I suggest that it is the element of uncertainty of what will happen next. That is why darkness is such a prominent aspect in horror flicks. Figures that are shrouded and doors half-open intimidate us to paralysing fear because uncertainty challenges our ability to evaluate our potential success or failure in the future.

Apparently the Bible condemns such concern for the future as arrogance and pride. James 4:13-17 says that we ought not say that tomorrow we will go to such and such a place and spend a year and make money, but we should have the attitude that if the Lord wishes we will live and do this or that. Sometimes we assume too much when we assume that by our own ability and wisdom we will successfully brave the dark and uncertain waters that is our future. We are simply ignorant beings having no assurance that our heart will lub dub another beat by the time we finish this sentence. Praise the Lord, it has!

I think the Bible here, and elsewhere is clear, that it is prideful to make plans without reference to God. He is the Lord of history and the future and in HIM we live and move and have our being. We ought not spend too much time concerning ourselves about the future because it only leads to covetousness of the things we want to possess and the successes we want to achieve. God knows what we need as he knows the needs of the sparrow and the lily of the field. We have his promises that all things will work out for our good and that he is working to complete that which he has started in us. Our lot is secure and future is certain if we will but trust in him. The worst that could happen is that we die at a young age, but when seen in a Christian light is not so terrible at all, but rather the most wonderful of all scenarios.

What we should be doing is asking more, how am I doing right NOW? Am I walking humbly and fearfully with the Lord, obeying his commands? How is my congregation NOW? What are the good traits and habits that I have now and should cultivate, and what are the sins I need to rid myself of right bleedin' NOW!