15th June 2008 (Values 4: Life Long Learning)
This week we continue to look at our second value, making disciples. Disciples are followers who are learning to live like the master and take part in the master's mission in life. Our master is Jesus, of course, and we want to become as Christ-like as possible and to help others do the same.
Paul was not afraid to offer himself as an example to follow. This was not because he was proud of his achievements. Rather, he was proud of what God had done in his life, and he knew that the lessons he had learnt were for everyone.
What had God taught Paul? First, the importance of ‘righteousness from God’. This is the opposite of self righteousness, the kind of ‘holier than thou’ attitude that is so off-putting. Righteousness from God is not about morality so much as relationship: we are righteous when God says to us, ‘You’re all right.’ Paul had learnt the hard way that God could never say that to him as a result of him leading a good life – he’d tried that as a Pharisee, and knew that however hard he tried he would not come up to scratch. But on the Damascus road Jesus appeared to him and enlisted him into his service – and Paul realised that it was Jesus who made him all right with God, and that through Jesus he was completely forgiven and accepted.
Paul learnt through this that knowing Jesus is by far the greatest and most important thing in life, a privilege that puts everything else in the shade. He learnt that knowing him meant knowing him as ‘Lord’, and that a relationship with him could only be one of obedience, learning to become like him and to do God’s will. He learnt that that was also the way to true fulfilment in this life and the next – and that it involved suffering as well as power and success.
However, he knew that he too had a long way to go in learning to be like Jesus. Being a disciple is a life-long business - we will always have much to learn, and we press on in the race as fast as we can, because the prize God calls us to is worth more than anything else we could possible aim for. But if we are not growing spiritually we will shrink!
The parable of the sower is also all about being disciples. The word of God comes to us, and if we are to be fruitful we need to receive it, give it the attention it needs, and persevere in acting upon it. This is true of the good news of Jesus which we received at the start of our Christian life, and it is true of everything that God teaches us on the way. When we come across spiritual truth, we may ignore it, make it our next fad, let other things distract us, or make it part of our lives – which takes time and effort. But it is worth it if we want to live truly worthwhile lives.
1) Why do you think some people become so half-hearted about growing as Christians? What might help them?
2) What has encouraged you to ‘press on’ in God’s race?