Christians use many concepts in an attempt to determine the boundaries of God's concerns in our lives. Though discipleship is one of those concepts, it often is unpopular, modified, or rejected. Often other concepts are substituted for the concept of discipleship in attempts to evade discipleship's challenges. This statement is not a suggestion that those holding other concepts are insincere. It suggests that those holding these concepts may not consider the implications of those concepts. Many alternate concepts declare God is concerned about people placing only parts of life under Jesus' control. Many alternate concepts imply God is not concerned about a person's total life, just the "spiritual" portions of his or her life.
Separating "material concerns" from "spiritual concerns" is an alternate concept. In this concept, efforts are made to separate all things into two categories: the material and the spiritual. Commonly, those who hold this concept declare that God is interested in spiritual things, but not in material things. When this concept is taken to its ultimate conclusion, the person declares, "Church is church, and business is business." In this concept, anything classified as a church concern is spiritual. Anything classified as a business concern is not spiritual. Poorly informed Christians using this view may [and have] conclude that they can use ungodly behaviors in business as long as they use godly behaviors in matters pertaining to the church.
Technical correctness versus godly living is another alternate concept. In this view, this is God's primary concern: God's people must follow technically correct procedures in worship, must be technically correct in church organization, and must respect technicalities in determining church positions. Godliness is a matter of enforcing [or adopting] technicalities, not a matter of personal behavior. Stated in another way, the primary Christian concern must be doing right things in right ways in the church. For example, what occurs in worship procedures is essential. What happens all day Tuesday in personal behavior is not essential. Thus, if one's worship procedures are technically correct, one's lifestyle is unimportant. Godliness becomes a matter of procedures on essential occasions, not a matter of righteous living.
Maintaining traditions versus possessing a heart based faith is an alternate concept. In this concept it is critical to know and accept "how we always did things." "Spiritual acts" must be performed as they were performed in the past. The concern is not focused on the inner person's involvement in what occurs. How one feels or what one thinks is unimportant. For example, when one is immersed, the faith in his or her heart is immaterial. If the immersion occurs in the traditional manner using traditional phrases, it is effective. The feelings, the thoughts, the faith of the person being immersed are immaterial.
Discipleship concerns the inner person [emotions, attitudes, motives, faith, repentance] as well as the outer person [physical acts, behavior, habits]. Discipleship is dedicated to God's balance between the inner person's motivations and the outer person's obedience. Discipleship understands all of life is spiritual. Discipleship is dedicated to doing correct things in correct ways, but it is equally dedicated to right attitudes, emotions, and motives. The right motive and right attitude are just as important as the right act. Separating the internal motivations from the external behavior is spiritually deceptive and artificial.
Jesus' twelve disciples were frequently amazed by Jesus' acts. No matter what they witnessed in the past, often his present deeds astounded them. It was not merely his power. Many godly people in Israel's past had incredible power. It was who he was as a person. It was not merely that he did incredible things. It was: "What kind of man is this?"
Consider a specific example. In the Matthew 8:23-27 incident, the disciples witnessed Jesus commanding the wind to stop blowing and calm a stormy sea. If we appreciate the magnitude of this event and see its testimony to Jesus' identity, we must begin by reminding ourselves what the disciples already witnessed. They watched as Jesus healed every kind of disease and all kinds of sickness (Matthew 4:23). No form of disease, no type of sickness were too difficult for Jesus to heal. That definitely included their "impossible" forms of disease and sickness. Diseases, pains, demons, epileptics, and paralytics all responded to Jesus' healing orders. In healing, Jesus literally did the impossible, and his disciples saw him do the impossible.
Jesus restored a person in the grip of leprosy (Matthew 8:2,3). The disciples saw this. Jesus healed a suffering, paralyzed slave "long distance" without seeing or touching him (Matthew 8:5-13). The disciples saw this. Jesus ended a fever that put Peter's mother-in-law in bed. The disciples saw this. They knew Jesus had incredible powers to do things no one in that generation of Israelites ever had seen. I am confident they were astounded the first time, but became quite accustomed to Jesus' incredible healing powers over disease and sickness.
One day they are traveling across the Sea of Galilee when they were helplessly caught in a sudden storm. The storm was so severe that they thought death was certain. The waves swamped the boat. The rough water would soon sink the boat, and they certainly would drown.
The weary Jesus was asleep. The sight of the unconcerned Jesus sleeping was too much to witness! His lack of fear and anxiety were inappropriate! They woke him up and asked, "Are you unconcerned that we are about to die? Do something!" Ah, the old human insistence on "do something." From the disciples' reaction, either they concluded Jesus could not do something about their situation, or they did not expect him to do what he did.
What did Jesus do? He told the wind to stop blowing and the waves to calm. What happened? A perfect calm enveloped them. The danger stopped.
Consider these observations. First, it was their danger, not dangers confronting others. Their lives were at stake. Their death was imminent. They trusted Jesus to help others in life threatening situations. However, helping them in their life threatening situation was an entirely different consideration.
Second, the disciples were confident Jesus could help others with diseases and sickness. However, their need was different. They were not diseased or sick. They were about to be the victims of a drowning. It never occurred to them that if Jesus was superior to disease and sickness, he was superior to wind and waves.
Their question: "What kind of man is this?" The issue was not, "How much power does he have?" The issue was, "What kind of man is he?" The foundation of their astonishment was not focused on his power. They had seen his incredible power. The foundation of their astonishment focused on his identify.
Discussion Question: Often our Christian concern focuses on "can he" issues. What is the basic difference(s) between "can he" issues and the issue of "who is he?"
Link to Teacher's Guide Lesson 8
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