a Simple Disciple”
By Paul Robison
man gave this interesting story about an incident in his boyhood when he
was about seven years old: “I
had learned some things about God and Jesus, about heaven, and about
good and evil in church and Sunday school. Like most
children at that age, I was a bit confused and overwhelmed by it all,
especially by what this great being called God expected of me.
I felt a little insecure, I guess, about not knowing and a little
guilty about not doing everything that I was supposed to be doing.
Then all of a sudden, the sun shone through the fog.
I saw the one thing necessary that made sense and order out of
everything else. I checked out my insight with my
father, my most reliable authority. He was an elder
in the church and (much more important) a good and wise man. ‘Dad,
everything they teach us in church and Sunday school, all the stuff
we're supposed to learn from the Bible—it all comes down to only one
thing, doesn't it? I mean, if we only remember the
one most important thing all the time, then all the other things will be
O.K., right?’ He was rightly skeptical. ‘What one
thing? There are a lot of things that are important.’
‘I mean, I should just always ask what God wants me to do and
then do it. That's all, isn't it?’
Wise men know when they've lost an argument. ‘You
know, I think you're right, son. That's it.’ I had
perceived—via God's grace, not my own wit, surely—that since God is
love, we must therefore love God and love whatever God loves.
I now knew that if we turn to the divine conductor and follow his
wise and loving baton—which is his will, his Word—then the music of our
life will be a symphony” (Kreeft). Just one thing is
necessary. A German writer has called this supreme
objective the unam neccessarium or “the one necessity”, which he
also calls “true simplicity”. “By
this he means a sole orientation of one’s life toward God. … This true
simplicity is contrasted with a life devoted to one of many things,
where consideration of God’s will is but one consideration among many.
This kind of complex life is splintered because it is not solely
directed toward God. … When we try to serve God and [wealth], our lives
become split. Sin introduces disunity in the soul,
precisely because it takes our gaze from God. The
true simplicity that should accompany a Christian life is now disrupted.
Only when sin is removed from our lives, and this is accomplished
only through a transformation in Christ, does unity reign within our
soul as we direct our gaze toward God alone.” And
when we gaze at God alone, who is the Source of all that is, then the
way we look at people and material goods is very different from the
world’s godless evolutionistic perspective (Intellectural Faith
website). In our reading this morning, the apostle
Paul said to the brethren in Corinth : “For our boasting is this: the
testimony of our conscience that we conducted ourselves in the world in
simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom but by the grace
of God, and more abundantly toward you” (2 Cor. 1:12).
Paul had a holy continuity—focusing on God’s grace, and it
led him to conduct himself with simplicity and godly sincerity.
Paul also said to the brethren in Corinth : “Imitate me, just
as I imitate Christ” (1 Cor. 11:1). Who followed
the Divine Conductor’s baton and who solely orientated His life toward
God better than Jesus? If anyone lived His life with
true simplicity, it was He. If we would like to
possess the one necessary thing, here is an eight step process by which
we might be able to do it.
First of all, we should believe Christ’s faith. “From
his earliest days, Jesus must have watched His mother
prepare for the Sabbath and kindle the festival lights according to the
custom which was already some centuries old. Mary
would say the words every Friday evening: ‘Blessed are You, O Lord our
God, King of the universe, who has sanctified us by His commands and has
commanded us to kindle the Sabbath lights.’ … Perhaps from [Joseph]
Jesus learned the reason for the mezuzah on the doorpost and
copied him in touching it as He went in and out of His home.
A mezuzah is a small piece of parchment held in a
decorated container and inscribed with Deuteronomy 6:4-9 and 11:13-21.
It constantly reminded the people that they were to hold God’s
teaching in their heart, head, and home. … The Gospels record how all
Jesus’ family were known in the local synagogue, which they obviously
attended regularly each Sabbath” (Paton). At the age
of 12, Jesus already was manifesting a close relationship with God:
“Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be
about My Father’s business’ (Luke 2:49)? Now
listen, I am not advocating that we keep the Sabbath, or post a
mezuzah, or frequent the services of a synagogue, but what I am
advocating is that we believe in the God of Israel, the God who can
perform miracles, the God who provides commands for us in His New
Testament, the God who wants us to love Him with all our heart, soul,
and strength, the God who has some business for us that we need to be
actively doing! This God was Jesus’ God, but Jesus
reveals so much more about this God and what our relationship can be to
Him. ‘Whoever has seen Me,’ He told Philip,
‘has seen the Father’ (John 14:9). … “Jesus enjoyed an
unbroken sense of the presence and fellowship of God as His Father.
So intimate was this fellowship that He used the family word
‘Abba’ [or Father] when speaking to God or speaking about Him, and He
taught His disciples to do the same. He knew Himself
to be commissioned by His Father to fulfill a special work on earth, and
the consciousness of doing His Father’s will was his dearest delight”
(Bruce). “O righteous Father, the world has not
known You, but I have known You; and these have known that You sent Me.
And I have declared to them Your name, and will declare it, that
the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them” (John
17:25-26). “Father, into Your hands I commit My
spirit” (Luke 24:46)! “Do not cling to Me, for I have
not yet ascended to My Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I
am ascending to My Father and your Father, to My God and your God” (John
20:17). “Behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon
you, but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power
from on High” (Luke 24:49). Jesus’ faith was in a
righteous, loving, accepting, reigning Father, who could unite people,
punish evil, raise the dead, and keep all of His promises!!
Do we in trust in God like Jesus did? Let’s
simply believe Christ’s faith! One necessity, true
simplicity, holy continuity—always gazing upon God!
Secondly, we should follow Christ’s lifestyle. What a
challenge! Can we live as Jesus lived?
“Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son
of Man has no where to lay His head” (Matthew 8:20).
He survived with so few possessions—no house, no livestock, no
property. Someone else made this observation:
“Financially, it seems, [Jesus and His disciples] barely scraped by.
In order to scrounge up money for taxes, Jesus sent Peter
fishing. As His disciples walked through fields, they
pulled off heads of standing grain to eat the raw kernels, taking
advantage of the Mosaic laws that made allowances for the poor.
He borrowed a coin to make a point about Caesar and [borrowed] a
donkey the one time He opted against traveling by foot.
[All he owned at the cross was His robe, and He died with
nothing]” (Yancey). Once Jesus said to a rich, young
ruler: “You still lack one thing [Does that sound kind of
familiar?]. Sell all that you have and distribute
to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me”
(Luke 18:23). Sell all that you have?
What does that mean to us today? How is it
that we in the U.S. have only 5% of the world’s population, but enjoy
40% of the world’s income and consume, in some cases, as high as 40% of
the world’s resources? Brethren, our “bigger barns”
are called “walk in closets” and “storage sheds”.
When are we going to learn to scale way down and learn once again to
live on the low side? Isn’t Jesus still calling us to
be very careful with our wealth—our expensive clothes, our fancy cars,
our corporate or our status symbols, our new and improved gadgets, our
sure-fire investments? Now here’s a question on which
to meditate: “Do we make money or does our money make us?”
“How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom
of God ” (Luke 18:24)! Add to His poverty, His
teachings on non-violence over rebellion. As one
author puts it: “… He recommended the harder way of peace and
submission. His followers were not to retaliate
against injustice or oppression but rather to repay evil with good, to
go a second mile when their services were [commanded] for one mile
[Matthew 5:41]” (Bruce). Add to his passivity, His
teachings on service over power. “The kings of the
Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those who exercise authority
over them are called 'benefactors'. But not so among
you, on the contrary, he who is the greatest among you, let him be as
the younger, and he who governs as he who serves” (Luke 22:25-26).
Poverty, passivity, humility—can we truly live as Jesus
lived? Let's simply follow Christ's lifestyle!
One necessity, true simplicity, holy continuity—always gazing
Thirdly, we should gain Christ's perspective. Another
preacher gave this insight about being a simple disciple:
“... the words of Jesus in the Sermon on the
Mount [draw us into simplicity]. ‘Don’t worry so
much. Trust God. He feeds the
birds of the air and clothes the flowers of the fields.’
Can you hear the hush, the peace, the encouragement to slow down
and savor the important things? ‘Seek first the
Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all the other necessities of
life will take their rightful place’ (Matthew 6:33).
That gets at the center ... of simplicity—it starts with a unity
of focus. Seek first the Kingdom of God .
One reason we get so scattered and flustered is because we are
divided in our desires, multiplied in our purposes.
When we want to achieve 50 things, we likely will achieve very little.
When we aim for a single purpose, we stay on the right path.
I make a little speech at wedding rehearsals.
What is a wedding about? It is about a man and a
woman making a commitment to each other. All the rest
of us are here to witness and celebrate these two people and the love
and commitment they make to each other. That’s the
focus—not flowers or clothes or food or photographs or décor or any
number of other things, which can all add to the festivity, as long as
they aren’t the focus. This is true of life.
What is the one thing needful? What is the
right focus? From the teachings of Jesus, I conclude
that it is ... seeking first God's kingdom, following the Good Shepherd,
loving our neighbors, and excluding explicitly all the unnecessary
things that distract and divert us” (Hill).
“Godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Timothy 6:6)!
Let's simply gain Christ's perspective!
One necessity, true simplicity, holy continuity—always gazing upon God!
Fourthly, we should imitate Christ's obedience.
“Who, in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and
supplications, with vehement [or impassioned] cries and tears to Him who
was able to save Him from death, and was heard because of His godly
fear, though He were a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which
He suffered. And having been perfected, He became the
author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him” (Hebrews 5:7-9).
One brother wrote this good reflection on the cross: “His radical
affronting grace cries out from the cross. In your
place! With three simple words, He invites me to put
aside my own ill-defined and pretentious dignity. In
your place! With three simple words, He identifies
with me and bids me come lose my identity in His. 'In
your place, I cried, “Forsaken!”' He says. 'Now, in
My place, you may cry, “Father!”' I have taken your
sinfulness; now take My righteousness. I have paid
your penalty; now receive My reward. I have died your
death for sin; now come live My life of glory. What
was yours, I have taken as Mine. Now what is Mine,
come take as yours! ... I stand then, confronted by the cross.
Shall I turn away, insisting that I can somehow save myself?
Shall I stay, only to give a mock obedience, a pretense of
righteousness made up of compromise and self-determination?
Or will I find grace to fore-go my self-satisfaction, safety,
comfort, dignity, propriety? Can I simply kneel at
the cross and let the full force of its message pierce my heart?
Can I let Christ's cross crucify me, too?
Really, the cross offers me only one option. If I
want to be made whole, I must be broken. If I am to
be fully healed there, I must be mortally wounded there.
If I desire to live with Christ in His home, I must die with
Christ on His cross” (Hall). Let's simply imitate
Christ's obedience! One necessity, true simplicity,
holy continuity—always gazing upon God!
Next, we should implement Christ's forgiveness.
Perhaps this one isn't so simple, but hopefully we're becoming “quicker
forgivers” as we imitate our Lord. Why forgive?
“First [of all], forgiveness alone can break the cycle of blame
and pain, breaking the chain of [resentment]. ... “[Forgiveness] does
not settle all questions of blame and fairness—often it pointedly evades
those questions—but it does allow a relationship to start over, to begin
anew. In that way, ..., we differ from all the
animals. ... our capacity to repent and forgive makes us [very]
different. ... [Secondly], ... forgiveness can loosen the stranglehold
of guilt in the perpetrator. ... 'When you forgive
someone, you slice away the wrong from the person who did it.
You disengage that person from his hurtful act.
You recreate her. ... You think of him now not a person who hurt
you, but as a person who needs you. ... Once you branded her as a person
powerful in evil, but now you see her as a person weak in her needs.'
[Thirdly, the forgiver is placed] on the same side as the party
who did the wrong. ... [We can understand what the other person is going
through because we have been there. Didn't God do the
same for us?] Somehow God had to come to terms with
the creatures he desperately wanted to love—but how?
Experientially, God did not know what it was like to be tempted to sin,
to have a trying day. On earth, living among us, He
learned what it was like. He put Himself on our side”
(Yancey) Forgiveness breaks resentment, recreates
another, and puts the innocent party on the side of the guilty.
“Therefore, I say to you, her sins, which are many, are
forgiven for she loved much. But to whom little is
forgiven, the same loves little” (Luke 7:47). Let's
implement Christ's forgiveness! One necessity, true
simplicity, holy continuity—always gazing upon God!
Next, we should share Christ's love. “And the King
will answer and say to them, 'Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you
did it unto one of the least of these My brothers, you did it to Me’”
(Matthew 25:40). Another writer made this observation:
“Our happiness comes to us only when we do not seek for it.
It comes to us when we seek others' happiness instead. ... We
constantly try other ways, thinking that perhaps the happiness that did
not come to us the last time through selfishness will do so the next
time. It never does. The truth is blindingly clear,
but we are clearly blind. ... All who teach the opposite—that
selfishness is the way to happiness—are unhappy souls.
'By their fruits you shall know them,' as Jesus tells us.
Who are the happiest people on earth? People
... who have nothing, give everything, and 'rejoice in the Lord always’
(Philippians 4:4)” (Kreeft). Let's share Christ's
love! One necessity, true simplicity, holy
continuity—always gazing upon God!
Next, we should serve Christ's kingdom. We should be
servants among our brethren. Someone has observed
that Jesus was always putting the welfare of others before His own
needs: He healed the multitudes; He visited with Zacchaeus, Nicodemus,
and a Samaritan woman; He raised a widow's son and a ruler's daughter,
He taught the crowds and the twelve; He told the women not to mourn for
Him while bearing His cross; He remembered to care for His mother; He
assured a penitent thief. Jesus touched so many
others during His short lifetime, and He continues to touch multitudes
as the Risen Lord! His love for His disciples becomes
our love for one another. “You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say
well, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher
have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet.
For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have
done for you” (John 13:13-15). Someone has noted that
the central fact of the Gospels is “the work taken up by the Risen Lord
is the work of His earthly Ministry, strengthened, intensified,
enlarged, no doubt, but still, in all the essentials, the same tasks,
informed by the same spirit and directed to the same ends.
The Risen Christ still 'has compassion on the multitudes', is
still 'the friend of publicans and sinners', still comes ‘to give
service rather than to receive it', still 'seeks and saves the lost',
[still desires that we feed and care for His sheep].
And we are meant to understand that the doing of these things is the
supreme task and the highest honor in the world; and that doing them as
Christ does them is the true revelation of the glory of God” (Manson)!
Let's serve Christ's kingdom! One necessity,
true simplicity, holy continuity—always gazing upon God!
Lastly, we should desire Christ's return. “Then
they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great
glory. Now when these things begin to happen, look up
and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near” (Luke
21:27-28)! God's kingdom has come in stages.
“It is 'Now' but it is also 'Not Yet,' present and also future.
... For a period of time, the kingdom of God must exist alongside an
active rebellion against God. God's kingdom advances
slowly, humbly, [almost privately] like a secret invasion force
operating within the kingdoms ruled by Satan. [One
day God's Kingdom will be completed and hit with full force, but we just
don't know when. However, when the Author walks out
onto the stage, the play will be over.] God has put
his reputation on the line. The New Testament points
to a time when 'every knee shall bow ... and every tongue
shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord' (Philippians 2:9-11)!
Only at Christ's second coming will God's kingdom appear
in all its fullness” (Yancey). Let's desire Christ's
return! One necessity, true simplicity, holy
continuity—always gazing upon God!
Jesus lived a simple life and taught a simple Gospel.
He established a simple church with a simple worship.
He gave us simple guidelines to live by in 27 short books so that we
could live a simple yet blessed life. One necessity,
true simplicity, holy continuity—always gazing upon God!
Won't you be a simple disciple by simply accepting His invitation
and being immersed in His name? Imitate Him!
Follow His baton! Let the music of your life
be a symphony! It’s simple: “He who believes and
is baptized shall be saved” (Mark 16:16)!