Disciples' Practices (2)
Various Passages
By Paul Robison

What was the last thing the disciples saw concerning Christ?  “The last thing the disciples saw as Jesus ascended were the scars on His feet.   

Thirty-three years earlier those feet had toddled their first visible prints on earth, a young mother's footprints chasing close behind. His feet grew strong as He walked the rugged roads of Palestine.  Now God incarnate stepped off this planet with bruised feet.  The ancient serpent had struck His heel, but now as He ascended, all things were under His feet!  Christ walked the way of humanity so that humanity could walk the way of God. 

How beautiful are those wounded feet that brought the good news!  None of his disciples was sorry that He had come their way.  Sure, there had been many losses: most of their old friends, many relatives, a lot of income and comfort.  And now they were losing the Leader Himself as they watched those battered feet, His scarred hands, and His unforgettable smile disappear out of their sight.  They left the mountain to come back into life's valley with great joy, continually praising God, for their ordinary lives had been interrupted by [heavenly] glory.  The sufferings of this world could not be compared with the glory He had revealed to them!  They had seen His glory, 'the glory of the Only Begotten, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.'  That glory and His promise to be with them until His return sustained them long after the visible had become invisible” (Adapted from Moore).

Yes, we're continuing our study on discipleship, that word that's found around 260 times in the New Testament.  Have we kind of mistakenly  thought of discipleship as sort of a Sunday stroll with Jesus?   We're also reflecting on a simple principle concerning discipleship:
“To be a genuine disciple, we need to rearrange our lives around the practices of Jesus' life.”  Isn't that what the apostle Paul did?  “Imitate me, just as I imitate Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1).  “We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed—always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body” (2 Corinthians 4:8-10). “I have been crucified with Christ, it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:20).  “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21).  So the principle again is: “To be a genuine disciple, we need to rearrange our lives around the practices of Jesus' life.”  Well, what all does that entail?  Last week, we saw how it entailed three practices: listening as Jesus listened, thinking as Jesus thought, believing as Jesus believed.  You see, the disciple's mind has been transformed to be like Jesus' mind.  Today, we want to focus on three more practices. 

The first practice is living as Jesus lived.  That's certainly a broad topic and could be developed in many directions.  Let's break it down into three more practices.  Jesus lived lightly, He lived godly, and He lived positively.  Now let's look at each of those practices more closely.  Jesus lived lightly; this means He lived simply and generously.  Because He lived simply, Jesus didn't let materials goods weigh Him down.  Did you catch what Jesus said in our reading this morning: “Foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head” (Luke 9:58)?  Someone else made this observation: “Jesus borrowed a coin to make a point about Caesar and had to borrow a donkey the one time He opted against traveling on foot.  As His disciples walked through fields, they pulled off the heads of standing grain to eat the raw kernels, taking advantage of Mosaic laws that made allowances for the poor.  When Jesus met with influential people like Nicodemus and the rich young ruler, it never seemed to occur to Him that a person with money and influence could be of potential use” (Yancey).  In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus told us to pray only for our daily food, not to worship money, and not to be overly worried about material things (Matthew 6:11, 24, 28-33).  He told us that if we would make God's kingdom our top priority, then God would provide for our essential material needs.  Jesus was born into a culture of vast poverty and into a poor family; only the inherited tools from Joseph were probably anything He ever owned that had some value, and He was buried in a donated grave.  But listen to what He tells those who wish to be His disciples in Luke 14:33: “So likewise, whosoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple.”  Notice that expression again: “ALL that we have!”  That's traveling very lightly.  Too many of us are probably like the young professional who prayed: “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord, my stocks to keep.  I pray my cell phone always works, and that my career will never lose its perks.  I pray my health club doesn't close, and that my money market grows and grows.  And if I go broke before I wake, I pray my Volvo they won't take” (Swindoll).  Does Jesus own us or do our possessions own us?  Can we learn to live on less, much, much less, not for the sake of the economy, but for the sake of God's kingdom and our own spiritual enrichment? 

esus not only lived lightly by living simply but also lived lightly by living generously.  One of Jesus' teachings was: “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).  There's a fascinating passage in John 13:27ff where Jesus tells Judas to do what he's going to do quickly.  The text says: “But no one knew for what reason He said this to him.  For some thought, because Judas had the money box, that Jesus said had said to him, 'Buy those things we need for the feast,' or that he should give something to the poor.”  This shows that Jesus was so in the habit of helping the poor that His disciples thought this action was the motive behind what Jesus had told Judas.  Not only did Jesus give money to others, He also gave them: God's truths, miraculous healings, the casting out of demons, the resurrection of three who were dead, a new dignity for women, and special blessings for children!  Someone made this interesting observation about our giving: “Jesus was not fund-raiser.  He dealt with money matter, however, because money matters.  It's a surprise to many people, Christians included, that the New Testament has so much to say about the subject.  God has given us three ways on this earth to invest in eternity.  Two of them we approach with open-mindedness, but the third seems to be nobody else's business.  'Give of your time!' says the preacher.  'Amen, that's right, we need to evaluate to see how well we are giving of our time to serve God and bless others.' 

'Give of your talents!' says the preacher.  'Amen, that's right, we need to evaluate our personal talents and see if we are using them to serve God and bless others.'  'Give of your treasure!' says the preacher.  'Uh oh, now he's trying to hit my pocketbook again!  He's putting his nose into a private matter where he has no business!'” (Swindoll).  Jesus lived generously.  Will we rearrange our lives around the practices of Jesus?   

Jesus lived lightly by living simply and generously.  Let's live as Jesus lived!

Next we see that Jesus lived godly, and this means He lived spiritually and devotedly.  Jesus put His emphasis on the spiritual, and not on the political.  You recall how Satan once tempted Jesus by saying that if Jesus would bow down to him, He would be given all the kingdoms of the world.  Jesus refused to settle for earthly kingdoms (Matthew 4:8-10).  Jesus explicitly told Pilate in John 18:36: “My kingdom is not of this world.  If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here.”   Someone made this good observation: “'My kingdom is not of this world'--that signed the death warrant to Jewish nationalism, but it also signed Jesus' death warrant too.  But Christ's rule, which is God's rule, is in the heart.  It is in the secret places of a man's moral life. 

The Kingdom, according to Jesus, is moral, not nationalistic” (Stewart). 

Jesus not only lived godly by living spiritually but also he lived godly by living devotedly.  Jesus' cousin once said: “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world!”  Under the law, the lamb that was sacrificed for sin had to an animal without blemish.  So, this means that if Jesus was going to be a sacrifice for mankind, then He would have to be without blemish, or without any sin.  And this is exactly how the apostle Peter describes Him in 1 Peter 1:19 where he says that we have not been bought back “not with corruptible things, like silver and gold, from our aimless conduct received by our traditions from our ancestors, but with the precious blood of of Christ, as a lamb without spot or blemish.” 

Jesus lived so devotedly to God that He never once sinned or did anything that was contrary to the commandments found in the Law of Moses! 

The writer of Hebrews puts it this way in 4:15: “For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weakness, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.”  So when Hollywood or the press tells you that Jesus was a homosexual or an adulterer, just realize that these sources are false!  Jesus lived a godly life because He lived both spiritually and devotedly.  Let's live as Jesus lived! 

Jesus also lived positively which means that He lived courageously and hopefully.  We know that Jesus lived courageously from Luke's gospel. 

Look at what 9:51 tells us: “Now it came to pass, when the time had come for Jesus to be received up, that He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem ...”  Yes, Jesus knew early in His ministry that His life would eventually be terminated in Jerusalem where He would literally become that Lamb of God to take away the world's sins.  Notice that He did not flinch from this divinely appointed mission.  John's gospel also notes Jesus' courage in his description of Jesus' arrest in 18:4:“Jesus therefore, knowing all things that would come upon Him [you see, in spite of the fact that Jesus knew exactly that His death by crucifixion would be His fate in Jerusalem, notice how He confronts His opposition], He went forward and said to them, 'Whom are you seeking?'”  Isn't that amazing? Jesus so courageously confronts His oppressors that they draw back from Him, and Jesus Himself tells Peter not to fight them!  In Mark's gospel in 14:51-52 there's a certain young man who fled away from the scene of the arrest naked for fear of being caught.  Most scholars think that this “certain young man” was John Mark himself, the author of the Gospel.  One writer has noted the stark contrast between Mark and Jesus' behavior with these words: “Mark was ashamed of his fear.  He felt he had let Jesus down.  He had failed to warn Him in time, and then he had run away at the first threat to his own well-being.  Jesus, by contrast, had been so fearless and confident.  Mark wished desperately that he could be more like Jesus” (Smith).  Jesus lived positively because He lived courageously. 

In addition to courage, Jesus also displayed great hope.  On the night that the disciples should have been strengthening Jesus, He spends time strengthening them!  Remember His hopeful words in John 16:33: “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace.  In the world you will have tribulation [that's a realistic assessment]; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world [now that's real hope which He offers, isn't it?]!  Notice also what Jesus prays in John 17:24 before His death: “Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world.”  Death wasn't going to defeat Jesus!  His resurrection would only be a foretaste of His heavenly glory, a glory that He had shared with God before the world was created.  No wonder, the apostle Paul could write to the brethren in Colossians 1:27: “Christ in you all, the hope of glory!”  Jesus lived positively because Jesus lived hopefully.  Jesus lived lightly (simply and generously), He lived godly (spiritually and devotedly), and He lived positively (courageously and hopefully)!  So let's live as Jesus live!

Let's also pray as Jesus prayed.  Jesus prayed regularly, specifically, and diversely.  Let's look briefly at each of these ideas. Jesus prayed regularly. 

One author has noted: “Prayer was the habitual atmosphere of Jesus' daily life. ... When the crowds surged around Him and broke in upon His privacy and clamored greedily for His help, [it sent] His heart and thoughts heavenward to clutch a moment at His Father's hand (Mark 6:46).  It is there on page after page of the Gospels.  And when to all that there is added the fact that the largest part of Jesus' prayer life must have been in secret, ... we begin to realize that prayer was not only an important part of His life; it WAS his life, the very breath of His being” (Stewart).  In the Gospels, we see that “No part of the day is set apart as being more sanctified than another.  Jesus prayed in the morning, during the day, and sometimes all night” (Sproul).  Someone has observed this with regards to our lives: “Prayer is to the Christian what breath is to life, yet this action is probably the most neglected” (Sproul).  Let's follow our Master and learn to pray regularly.  Let's pray like Jesus prayed.

Next, Jesus prayed specifically.  This means that Jesus prayed in all circumstances with specific ideas.  At His baptism, He prayed for His ministry ahead (Luke 3:21).  When He selected His disciples, He prayed all night (Luke 6:12).  Even while dying, He prayed for his oppressors to be forgiven and God to accept His spirit (Luke 22:34 & 46).  One Christian used to pray that God would be with him when he talked to a customer on the phone, when He was with others on his lunch break, when he had to confront his manager during evaluations (Matkins).  This disciple was letting Jesus walk with him in his real world by being specific, wasn't he?

Let's not pray with vague generalities.  Let's pray specifically!  Let's pray like Jesus prayed. 

Lastly, Jesus prayed diversely.  He prayed for others', and especially for their spiritual welfare (Luke 21:31-32; John 17).  He prayed prayers of thanksgiving (Luke 10:21-22).  He prayed prayers asking for guidance (Matthew 14:23).  He prayed prayers of submission (Luke 22:42).  Jesus prayed diversely.  Let's imitate Him!  Someone said that we should pray with our COATS on: C=confessing our sins, O=others that we need to pray for, A=adoration and praise to God, Christ, and the Spirit, T=thanksgiving for all our blessings, and S=supplication or our requests for help.  “Prayer is action, not neutrality; prayer is passion, not indifference” (Sproul). 

Just as we asked our earthly fathers for many different things, let's also ask our Heavenly Father for many different things!  Let's pray regularly, specifically, and diversely!  Let's pray like Jesus prayed!

Another practice is this: Let's obey as Jesus obeyed!  Three aspects of His obedience were His determination to submit, His wisdom to follow, and His suffering to mature and to bless.  Let's consider each of these.  His determination to submit came early on.  Remember after Jesus had stayed in Jerusalem at the age of 12 debating with the religious leaders, Luke writes this 2:51: “Then He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was subject to them, but His mother kept all these things in her heart.”  He determined to submit to his parents' authority, and we never find again anything in His upbringing that caused His parents more grief.  This determination to submit is seen again when Jesus pays the temple tax (Matthew 17:27).  And it is also seen again as Jesus prays: “Nevertheless, not My will, but Yours be done” (Luke 22:42).  

Someone has rightly noted that saying “nevertheless” is the first step towards submission: “I may not like it, nevertheless, I will do as You have said” (Bruce).  Let's show our determination to submit to those in  authority and to God.  Let's obey as Jesus obeyed!

Next we see that Jesus displayed His wisdom to follow.  Jesus put into practice the admonitions of the wisdom books in the Old Testament where they counsel if one would be wise, he or she must learn to follow good instructions.  Jesus always followed the instructions of God.  Note what He says in John 8:28-29: “When you lift up the Son of Man [a reference to His crucifixion], then you will know that I am He [actually that “I am” where Jesus is using God's divine name given to Moses in the past], and that I do nothing of Myself; but as My Father taught Me, I speak these things.  And He who sent Me is with Me.  The Father has not left Me alone, for I always do those things that please Him.”  In essence, Jesus claims that He says what God has told Him to say, and He does what God has told Him to do.  Now, that's a faithful follower!  And that's what He calls us to be as His disciples too!  With the same wisdom that Jesus showed in following God, let's act similarly towards following Him!  Let's show our wisdom to follow!  Let's obey as Jesus obeyed! 

Another aspect of Jesus' obedience was His suffering to mature and to bless.  “Though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered.  And having been perfected [or matured by this process], He become the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him” (Hebrews 5:8-9).  To follow Jesus means that we are going to be rejected by some people, and this hurts.  But Jesus understands that pain because He Himself was rejected, and He has the scars to prove it!  Even in His suffering, He was blessing.  May that be our practice as well: “Do not return evil for evil, or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, you return blessing, knowing that you were called to this [called by Christ to such suffering], that you might inherit a blessing” (1 Peter 3:9).  As Jesus suffered in order to mature and to bless, let us bear our cross in the same way!  Let's show His determination to submit, His wisdom to follow, and His suffering to mature and to bless.  Let's obey as Jesus obeyed!

They left the mountain to come back into life's valley with great joy, continually praising God, for their ordinary lives had been interrupted by [heavenly] glory!  Have you experienced a taste of heavenly glory as we considered living as Jesus lived, praying as Jesus prayed, and obeying as Jesus obeyed?  Jesus' disciples were to follow only Him, and they were committed to His person and His community (Wilkins).  Won't you commit yourself to Jesus, the King of Kings, who reigns and serves with battered feet, scarred hands, and an unforgettable smile?  He has overcome the world and offers you glory and victory for your life in this real world as well.  Let's rearrange our lives around His practices!  Christ walked the way of humanity so that humanity could walk the way of God.  Let Him not only transform your mind but also your character as well!  If you've only been a half-hearted disciple following from afar, why not confess that weakness right now and recover again the joy that you once had when you followed Christ fully each day?  Then one day, we can all cast the crowns that He has given us before those precious wounded feet and enjoy eternity forever with Him!