Total Pageviews

Monday, July 22, 2013

The God Dependent Life

The Kingdom Walk (Luke 10:1-11, 16-20)
Sunday, July 14, 2o13

            “One thing is sure,” writes Dallas Willard, “You are somebody’s disciple.  You learned how to live from somebody else.  There are no exceptions to this rule, for human beings are just the kind of creatures that have to learn and keep learning from others how to live” (Divine Conspiracy, p.271).
            Your mom or big brother, a teacher or a coach, a boss on your first job or a Sunday school teacher in the church where you grew up; someone has mentored you along the way and consciously or unconsciously, you do things the way you do because your life is patterned after those who have influenced you.  When I consider my own life, I don’t see myself as a disciple of my drill sergeants or of the pastors who mentored me.  But that is in essence what I was.
            In 2009, our church-wide emphasis was on discipleship.  When I became the pastor here in 2006, I was greeted with this mission statement: we make passionately devoted followers of Jesus.  Shortened, it means we are in the business of disciple-making.  Living as disciples of Jesus and the work of leading people outside the family of God to become His disciples, these comprise our primary work as Christ-followers and our reason for being.  Discipleship is always an important topic and now it is time to again emphasize this topic.  We will spend the couple of months in the middle portion of the Gospel of Luke. 
            Just as our series in Galatians was about grace and not just going through Galatians for the sake of Galatians, our series is about discipleship.  Jesus as we meet him Luke’s Gospel is our teacher.  And the first lesson comes in chapter 10.  Of course there is much to be said about Luke’s Gospel and there is much on discipleship we won’t get to in 8 messages.  Our focus is on living our lives as followers of Jesus and announcers of God’s kingdom in Chapel-Carrboro, Durham-Raleigh, Hillsboro-Pittsboro, and wherever we find ourselves. We learn from Him how to live in the Kingdom of God (Willard, 283).
            Right off the bat, there are problems.  Luke makes it clear there were many more than the 12 disciples normally associated with Jesus.  We think of the twelve, but at the beginning of Luke 8 he refers to female followers of Jesus.  And here at the beginning of chapter 10, there are 70 others whom Jesus gathers and sends out in pairs. 
            Jesus is the initiator.  He claims authority and he sends them out in his name.  This was long before the resurrection, before the community worshiped Jesus and recognized him as savior.  They knew he was special and they believed his coming signaled the end times coming of the Kingdom of God, but they did not know fully who Jesus was.  But they went because he sent them.  The 70 went ahead of Jesus to the towns he would visit.
            None of this is the problem.  The trouble starts with the instructions Jesus gave.  “I am sending you like lambs into the midst of wolves” (v.3).  It does not sound like he’s trying to make this attractive.  A popular book written by a pastor promises Your Best life Now.  Jesus promises if we follow Him we will save the wolves the normal work they have to do in finding food.  I am sending you as week, dumb creatures into the jaws of intelligent, bloodthirsty carnivores; lambs into the midst of wolves.
            How does Jesus prepare his disciples for such a mission?  “Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and greet no one on the road.”  Do wolves have a taste for those who are poor and rude with callouses on their feet?  Come on!            What in the world is Jesus telling us to do?  There is a strange statement about entering a house and extending peace to the house unless those in the house reject the offer and then the peace returns to you (v. 6).
            We should keep in mind that Jesus operated in a different economy and a different culture than us.  Some of what we find confusing can be attributed to cultural differences.  We will drive where we are going, not walk.  We will carry money, unless specifically instructed by God through the Holy Spirit to not carry money.  And that is part of the rub.  For an ancient to travel prepared, he would pack his sack, make sure his sandals were not going to fall apart, and carry any other necessary item he could carry.  Jesus sent the 70 others out and their only preparation was they had been following and listening to him.
            That period of time with Jesus made them ready to jump when he said “go.”  They went as he said.  The journey was not overly far, just to the towns south of Nazareth.  The journey was no overly long, and then they returned to report what had happened.  And the journey fell within a context of two important turns Luke points in chapter nine.
            First, in 9:51 it says, “He set his face to go to Jerusalem.”  Jesus knew crucifixion was on the horizon.  His work as God in the flesh began by teaching and demonstrating works of God’s power through healing and the authority to command demons and nature.  Phase two would come when he was arrested, tried, and executed, dying for the sins of the world.  In Luke 9:51, Jesus turns and the story turns from his example to the movement toward the cross.
            Second, with this turn, Jesus intensifies the call on any who would be his disciples.  At this point, one has to be all in.  A would-be follower asks leave for his father’s funeral.  Jesus responds, “Let the dead bury their dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”  Another applicant wants to delay his entrance into the program.  “I will follow you Lord; but first let me say farewell to those at my home.”  Jesus said to him, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62).
            These passages are misused if one reads them and abandons family claiming it is in the service of the Kingdom.  The point is not that we leave all we love behind or skip family funerals but rather that we commit to Jesus and His instruction 100%.  Willard writes, “It is not enough to ‘sorta’ believe in a ‘sorta’ God.  But with the great God of Jesus squarely in the picture, everything else takes on a different nature and appears in a different light” (Divine Conspiracy, p.383).  Our relationships are defined by our response to Jesus.  We constantly ask, if Jesus where in my shoes, how would he handle the situation I am in.  Following Jesus is not an activity in my life; doing things Jesus’ way is not a nice, helpful guideline.  Jesus and the Kingdom He brings is my life when I decide to be His disciple.
            Of course we go, but not in our own power.  We move in complete dependence upon God both for strength and for knowledge and guidance.  Jesus had more than just these 70 followers.  This specific group was who he sent out and thus these are the one who went.  Without a money bag or fresh clothes or sandals or provisions of any kind.  They were going into hostile environments because Jesus said to go.  They were going unprepared because he said take nothing with you.  And they went.
            One of the things Jesus anticipated was good hearted reception by people who were ready of the kingdom.  Remember, the fields are ready to be harvested.  “Remain in the same house, eating and drinking whatever they provide.”  He assumed it would be provided.  I remember Matthew Lawrence in Ethiopia throwing caution to the wind and eating the fresh vegetables offered to our team by our hosts at the Mesret Church even though there was legitimate concern that the vegetables had been washed in contaminated water.  I remember living in Arlington, Virginia and being invited as a guest to the home of refuges from Sudan.  The family of seven in a two-bedroom apartment barely had enough to pay the bills.  “Eat what they provide,” Jesus said. 
            In the God-dependent mission, we go when Jesus says to go.  We trust the provision he gives.  We go with the knowledge that he is also at work where we are headed.  If you go on mission trip, God is involved at your destination prior to your arrival.  Your act of discipleship, following Jesus, is to follow Him there.  Those who host you might also be his disciples, and there act of obedience to Him is to you love you when you come. 
            The willingness to go is not a case of the 70 others or you or me acting the part of super-disciples who far exceed our peers in the church in service and devotion to God.  Rather is it our focus on Jesus, being with him and carrying the message of his Kingdom and the salvation he brings.  Joel Green writes that this way of following Jesus and bearing the cross he gives, “must mean embracing and serving in a single-minded way the redemptive purpose of God” (New Testament Theology: The Theology of the Gospel of Luke, p. 109).
            How did things go?  Luke writes, “The seventy returned with joy, saying ‘Lord in your name, demons submit to us’ (10:17).  Jesus affirmed their spiritual victories and acknowledged that as they and we act in the power of God, it is a part of his battle with and victory over Satan.  However, as great as that might feel, Jesus said the greatest joy is that our names are written in Heaven (10:20).  These 70 disciples, without hesitation or complaint, charged into the fool hearted mission.  Filled with the power of God, they returned so happy they could not imagine anything could be better.  Jesus said, just wait.  Your names are written in Heaven.  You exorcised a few demons?  Great!  But you have not seen anything yet
            And it is with us.  The core message Jesus gave for his 70 to proclaim is this.  “The Kingdom of God has come near” (10:9).  That is our core message in our community.  In Jesus, the kingdom of God is so near, we can enter it today by receiving him into our lives and submitting to him as master.  We enter a live of servitude, commit to lives as disciples of Jesus, and we are in the Kingdom and we are charged to proclaim the Kingdom and proclaim the salvation of Jesus Christ.
            We do this in 1000 ways.  Maybe you have a friend you’ve wanted to help find Jesus and you’ve invested years in that friendship.  In our 21st century context, Jesus is at the heart of every blog, tweet, and text.  Each communication we make on social media may not specifically be about the Kingdom of God, but we make none without being influenced by our master, Jesus.  Maybe you are in a situation in a work group where your personal ethics and your morals are the initial way people around you realize you will do nothing that is unpleasing to Jesus.  That is the launching pad of your witness.  Examples abound, but two things are evident.
            We are not the 70, but Jesus did not give everyone around him the assignment that he gave the 70.  What he expected was the willingness and readiness that the 70 showed.  Those things are only in us when we surrender to God and depend on the power of His Spirit.
            God dependence is evident.  Secondly, the on-mission life is evident for one who will be a disciple.  The mission is to proclaim that in Jesus, the Kingdom of God has come.  We are to make this proclamation where we are, where we work and play, in Chapel Hill and surrounding areas. 

            Do you want to follow Jesus?  Do you want to abandon all and submit your life to his mastery?  Do you want to be His disciple?
            If the answer is no, then I challenge you this week to figure out who or what it is that you follow.  We are all someone’s disciple.  Whose disciple are you?  Who are you following?  Where are you being led?  And how is that working for you?
            If your answer is yes, I want to be Jesus’ disciple, you can be.  You can pray right now, asking the Holy Spirit to enter you so that you are filled with willingness and readiness that only come when we empty ourselves and live in complete dependence on God.  As a part of that prayer of commitment to discipleship, ask God to reveal where, how, and to whom you are to proclaim the gospel of salvation and the Kingdom of God this week.
            The seventy returned filled with joy from what appeared to be an impossible mission.  We will be filled with joy as we submit ourselves to Jesus and the God dependent life.


No comments:

Post a Comment