“Being a Simple Disciple”
By Paul Robison

One 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 upon God!

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)!