This Ain’t Easy…

I grew up in the age of easy Christianity. What I mean by that is twofold:
 
1. It was socially acceptable to be a Christian.
 
And not just any Christian; but a theologically conservative, Evangelical Christian. That means that it was socially acceptable to believe what the Bible said was right and wrong. There was zero social pressure to believe anything otherwise.
 
2. It was also socially acceptable to have one foot in the church and one foot in the world.
 
As long as you verbally agreed with the teachings of the church and were there on Sunday, it was an open secret that you were going to sow your wild oats while you were young. You were going to go where the world went, watch what the world watched, listen to what the world listened to, and do what the world did. The unspoken expectation was that you would calm down when you got married and had kids.
 
The big problem arose when the vast majority of the people who grew up around the same time didn’t calm down, changed their beliefs, and/or left the church and never looked back.
 
As a result, we are now beginning to realize that we were making Christians who simply verbally agreed that Jesus died for their sins instead of making disciples of Jesus who imitate and obey Him (Matthew 28:19-20, 1 John 2:3-6).
 
But attempting to make the shift from easy cultural Christianity to being and making disciples of Jesus creates a whole new problem; …it’s difficult.
 
In other words, in our churches we want being and making disciples of Jesus to be just as easy as being and making Christians who have one foot in the church and one foot in the world. But it just doesn’t work like that.
 
So here are a few truths about disciple-making that are hard to accept…
 
 
1. Being a disciple of Jesus is hard.
 
While it is true that following Jesus as His disciple is accompanied by a rest from the despair and burden of sin, fallenness, and the Law (Matthew 11:28-30); making the shift from easy cultural Christianity to truly being a disciple of Jesus is painstakingly hard.
 
Jesus and Scripture compare it to death by crucifixion; which was a long, drawn out, excruciatingly painful death. A disciple of Jesus must completely sacrifice their old fallen selves so that the new man may be resurrected within them into the image of Jesus (the image of God that man was created to be).
 
There can be no resurrection into the new man without first enduring the painful crucifixion of the old man.
 
And unlike being a cultural Christian, being a disciple of Jesus is not socially acceptable in the world. Moreover, often being a disciple of Jesus is not even socially acceptable within the Evangelical church.
 
As a disciple of Jesus, you will be persecuted by the world, and possibly even by the church. This is part of the crucifixion of the old self that you must endure in order to be resurrected as the new man which is being recreated in the image of God (2 Corinthians 3:18, Ephesians 4:22-24, 5:1, Colossians 3:10).
 
 
2. Being a member of a church that makes disciples of Jesus is hard.
 
First, let me acknowledge that if you understand what it means to be a disciple of Jesus it can be extremely difficult to be a member of a church that doesn’t understand what it means to be and make disciples of Jesus. Trust me, I understand that. But that doesn’t mean that being a part of a disciple-making church is easy either.
 
Because, even if your church has committed to making disciples of Jesus who imitate and obey Him, there will undoubtedly be members of the church who want to stick with easy cultural Christianity. And even among those who are willing to make the shift to true disciple-making, many will still want it to be as easy as cultural Christianity.
 
This is one of the main problems with attempting to make the shift to true disciple-making in American churches. We have had it so easy for so long that we have a hard time comprehending that it should be difficult. We have the false belief that we just need to make the initial commitment to making disciples of Jesus and then God will just show up and magically bless us and make it easy. Again, it just doesn’t work that way.
 
Moreover, because we have not been making disciples of Jesus for so long, we have an abundance of immature believers (and even unbelievers) who believe themselves to be mature believers. So, in order to shift a church, you will have to lead them into maturity. And if they are in leadership positions, you will have to lead them to realize their own immaturity; and/or get them to step down from their position in order to make the shift.
 
In my own personal experience, dealing with immature believers who believe that they are mature because they have been Christians for a long time is one of the hardest things you will ever do.
 
Adding to that difficulty is the fact that in our culture and context, you are surrounded by churches who are not making disciples of Jesus, but instead, are still teaching easy cultural Christianity. And as a result, some of the members of your church will always be pointing at those churches and wondering why you can’t just be like them.
 
 
3. Being the pastor of a church that makes disciples of Jesus is even harder.
 
Take everything in the previous section and multiply it by the number of members you have.
 
To make matters worse, you will be surrounded by other pastors who aren’t leading their churches to make disciples of Jesus and who will be wondering what in the world you are doing (especially if you start to make them look bad).
 
And then, you will have members who will ask why you can’t be more like those pastors…
 
 
But Jesus said:
 
If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. […] In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples (Luke 14:26-33).
 
That sounds hard…
 
Jesus also commanded:
 
Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, […] teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you (Matthew 28:19-20).
 
That is an explicit command to make disciples who and know and keep all of His commands.
 
And John said about keeping Jesus’ commands:
 
We know that we have come to know [Jesus} if we keep his commands. Whoever says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person. […] This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did (1 John 2:3-6).
 
If Jesus came back right now and asked if you have been keeping His commands to make disciples who imitate Him and who know and keep all of His commands, what would you say?
 
Would you say that it was too hard? That it cost too much?
 
Jesus said:
 
Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?” Then I will tell them plainly, “I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!” Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash (Matthew 7:21-27).
 
If you are reading this, then you have heard Jesus’ words about making disciples who imitate Him and keep all of His commands.
 
Have you put those words into practice?
 
On the day of the final storm, will your house stand or will it fall with a great crash?
 
 
 
If you would like to learn more about what it means to imitate and obey Jesus as His disciple, and to be conformed to His image, start here and follow the link at the end of each article to the next one: The Four Principles of Discipleship…
 

 

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