Discipleship By the Ancients

Posted: July 1, 2012 in Uncategorized

To whom can I speak and give warning? Who will listen to me?… This is what the Lord says: ‘Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.’ But you said, ‘We will not walk in it.’ ~ Jeremiah 6:10, 16

I love the prophets! I suppose someone has to because it’s not as if they are always the bearers of good tidings. God makes His prophets aware of the spiritual and moral decay of their culture and of God’s people. A prophet’s passion and zeal can be irritating and wearisome to others, especially to those convicted by the prophet’s message. Jeremiah was one of those prophets whose message was dismissed and ignored by an adulterous, immoral, and rebellious people. Jeremiah’s unceasing rants about God’s ways contradicted the ways that they wanted to do life. Over the generations that have followed, many Jeremiahs have come and gone proclaiming a similar message. So, what’s our excuse for not listening?

Sports stars, political figures, Hollywood entertainers, musicians—anyone who has TV, radio, or Internet is undoubtedly well-versed in the lives of many such figures. I don’t think I’m way off in saying that the majority of these spotlight performers do not have an intimate walk with our Lord Jesus Christ, and yet Christians know them, and know them well. In fact, we make it a point to know about their lives over and above the godly voices of yesterday. Compare how well you know todays “stars” over the likes of the apostle Paul, or St. Augustine, or Teresa of Avila, or John Wesley, or E.M. Bounds, or A.W. Tozer. This should not be! What makes matters worse, we choose to allow our minds and lives to be consumed with our culturally popular influences—and our lifestyles mirror theirs.

The prophet Jeremiah tried to warn a morally declining culture of God’s displeasure with their adaptation to immoral, unholy cultural practices and lifestyles. The people would not listen. They believed they conformed the Almighty God to their pursuits, and it didn’t matter how they lived because God was on their side—they were chosen, after all. Repeatedly throughout the Bible God commands His people to remember the ways of those who have gone before them. How God was faithful. What He required of His people. To learn of His ways through the chosen saints who had gone before them. But the people would not forsake their adulterous ways and walk God’s path. And so, they were exiled.

Fellow disciples, we are coasting down the same path as the disobedient Israelites. Only, the punishment we incur based on the choices we make will be an exile in Hell for eternity. Why do we risk it? I’ve been reading and studying the spiritual saints of 50-plus years ago and I’m dispirited over how lax Christianity has become, and we deem this acceptable. How can we continue to justify and be satisfied with complacency and being “lukewarm?” (See Revelation 3:14-22) How much and how long are we willing to tolerate and even engage in sinful lifestyles while still claiming to follow Christ? Such a claim is a cultural one, not a spiritual one.

The Holy Spirit will not contradict Himself. If the Holy Spirit dwells inside of a believer, sin will bother him/her. It will bother them so much that, like Jeremiah and the other prophets, they will not be able to keep silent about it. Tolerance of sin will become unacceptable. That which bothers God will bother the true disciple of Jesus Christ!

A true disciple chooses the person they want to be like, and they study that person with wholehearted devotion and abandon. Notice how Joshua studied Moses—he was with him 24/7, learning his ways. Consider how the 12 apostles studied Jesus—they were with him 24/7, learning his ways. Timothy studied under Paul to become a biblical great. All throughout history, the spiritual greats in contemporary times have studied the saints of the previous generations—those whose lives were captured, surrendered, and wholeheartedly devoted to God. This discipleship process is desperately needed. We’ve become disciples of our own wants and desires, of ourselves. We believe we know a right way based on how it feels, how well it entertains us, or how much money it can earn us, or how happy it will make us, or how safe it’ll keep us. We mirror the culture that consumes us with its ever-present influences via media and lifestyles.

I’ve been studying the multiple works of A.W. Tozer (who was said to have written The Pursuit of God on his knees) and E.M. Bounds (The Necessity of Prayer). These men, and a variety of other saints like them, were men of prayer. It’s been said that they spent, not a few minutes throughout the day, but hours devoted to quiet time of prayer, biblical reflection, and communion with God. I’m curious as to how to much time the average Christian spends in such communion with God? We will always, always, make time for what is most important to us. If we are truly surrendered and abandoned to God, hours each day with God will be what we crave. Nothing will be more important than giving our Savior our undivided attention in holy communion with Him.

As I continue to study and be discipled by the Holy Spirit and by the saints of previous generations, I’m going to develop my writings around their ideas and insights, and how these could be implemented in contemporary times. God worked powerfully in their lives, and I’ve witnessed their life’s work account for little. I aim to do my part in continuing the Spirit-filled work of those who’ve gone before us. My next post will be on prayer—could there be a prayer that God refuses to hear?

Challenge: Pray and ask God to reveal a saint of over 50 years ago for you to study in depth. Read their writings, their biography, learn of their devotion to God and then, mirror their life so that you can be a similar example to the next generation.

 

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