For years I have heard the Great Commission from Matthew 28:18-19 explained from pulpits to emphasize that we should be making converts and disciples. Usually when I sense that the sermon is going to go in this direction, I have a certain amount of intrepidation because it usually means that we are about to launch a new program which will require me to step out in an uncomfortable and/or awkward way in evangelism, or in a time-consuming way to cover the latest fad in church discipleship which usually includes buying into a system which has suddenly appeared on the local church landscape, complete with co-leaders and classes and crowd control. Sometimes either of these will also mean buying a book, and listening to sermons which really came out of chapters from the book and don't contain a great deal of original thought, but it worked in someone else's mega church and by golly, we are going to force it to work at Church X, whether it actually does or not. Sometimes it seems that the local Christian bookstore profits more from Christian fadery in evangelism and discipleship than the local church does. I said sometimes. I am sure that there are some great programs out there. Somewhere.
At this point, I would like to point out that reading my blog is free, and I am too lazy to copyright what I am about to tell you about discipleship. Here it is: if you have a Bible, a small notebook, a pen, a church home and a life, you have everything that you need.
Actually, the ideal would be to have more than one Bible, but just one will work, if it is in a translation that you can understand. (Did I say a paraphrase? No, I did not say a paraphrase.)
The scary part is coming next. It is all based on the idea that God still speaks to people through the written words in the Bible.
Now it will get even scarier: God not only wrote the Bible, but He invites every member of the body of Christ to meet with Him personally every day to discuss it.
This is where even devoted Bible reading Christians tend to fall off of the map, and it is exactly where I want to begin.
Many times Christianity looks like a bad marriage where the husband and wife are simply not connecting with each other. At all.
6 a.m. Good morning, honey. It's good to see you. I have a lot to do today. I am a little worried about it, and I have a head ache, but I trust that it will go alright. Thanks for listening.
Noon. Thanks for the lunch, honey. I hope that you know I think you are great. I hope I don't get fat from eating all of this.
5 p.m. I'm home from work. Gosh it was a hard day. I feel stressed. I am taking the dog on a walk with my i Pod. I'll be back later.
11 p.m. I can't stay awake any longer. Good night, honey.
Can you see what's missing? There is no interaction or responsiveness to one another. It is just one person talking all the time. This person is not even taking the time to listen to what the other person may have to say in response. Isn't that how we pray? Isn't that how we read our Bibles? What if it could be different? Would you want it to be different, or would that be too threatening? To what extent are you open to the idea of spiritual intimacy with God? Does the very idea that God may want to speak to you personally sound heretical?
Jeremiah had something to say about this. Rather, God had something to say to Jeremiah about this practice in Jeremiah 2:13.
"My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water."
Augustine was correct when he said that there was a god shaped vacuum in the heart of every person. The problem is that if we neglect filling it with a living relationship with God, we will most definitely fill it with something else. If we are not listening to the the Lord speak to us by His word and in prayer, we will seek an alternative.
God states that His desire is that our relationship to Him would be as refreshing as a spiritual spring of living water, and informs us that any other choice will not hold life giving water at all, just like a broken cistern can't hold water. Broken cisterns are unsatisfactory to us, but they are abominable to God.
I want to challenge your thinking in this area, not to intimidate, coerce or condemn, but to point out that if you are unfulfilled in your current spiritual walk that maybe the Lord is less than thrilled with it as well. Maybe you are zealously clinging to the broken cistern of how you've always done it, while He is wanting to send you a txt and invite you to something you've only ever dreamed about...
(To be continued)