Last week was a significant moment in the life of Hobart Baptist Church, but more importantly, it was significant for the 10 people baptised. It began their life of discipleship. God not only rescued them from their sin, but calls them to the greatest adventure of all – the adventure of being transformed to be more like Jesus and working with him in his work in the world.
Following Jesus is the most important decision we make in our lives. It far exceeds decisions such as who you will marry, your chosen career, or where you might live. But this decision is only the beginning of the life of discipleship.
A number of years ago Dietrich Bonhoeffer(1906-1945) famously wrote, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” These words challenged many over the past
60 years or so, and they still do so today. They remind us that our choice to follow Jesus is not just about being rescued, but it begins a lifestyle of learning to live according to his will rather than our own. We put aside our self interests and submit to his.
Many have taken the journey of discipleship before us and they are our examples. Throughout church history hundreds of thousands of Christians have put aside careers, families, hopes and dreams. For two of Jesus disciples, James and John, it meant leaving the family fishing business behind (Matt 4:21-22). For Abraham, centuries before, it meant leaving behind the middle-class comforts of Ur of the Chaldees (Gen 11:31) and not knowing where he was going, trusting God would look after him and make him a great nation – and God did.
Living fruitful lives
Discipleship is not reserved for a special few but is the norm for anyone who believes Jesus is their Saviour and the rightful King of the entire world. Yet, Jesus warns us there are some who begin following Jesus that never go on to live fruitful lives for him.
There are many reasons for this but one of them is that following Jesus is not necessarily easy. Just like James, John and Abraham we can expect following Jesus will bring changes in our lives in many ways. We can expect to be challenged in every aspect of our lives: our thinking, attitudes, commitments and behaviour. We can expect to grow, and growth is often uncomfortable and challenging. We can expect to be confronted with things in our lives that are difficult to face. Even though we try to avoid them, God will not forget us. He is gentle, and while he will not force us to change, he will continue to pursue us because he loves us.
Costly discipleship: We can expect to grow, and growth is often uncomfortable and challenging.
What it means to follow
Being a disciple of Jesus is an exciting life of adventure, but it is challenging adventure. It demands things of us that in our own strength seem impossible; yet with God “all things are possible.” (Mk 10:27) It is only as we willingly follow him and allow him to change us that we begin to know him better and then he meets us in intimate and life-transforming ways.
Let us pray for the new followers of Jesus, even as we pray for ourselves, asking God to help us be purposeful, intentional and motivated in our following of Jesus. And may He mature us all to be more and more like Jesus and pray with him that His Kingdom may come and His will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Stephen L Baxter