Thursday, December 14, 2006

# 179: Disciple: the Forgotten Word & House Church

Webster’s definition of disciple: “a pupil or follower of any teacher or school of religion, learning, art, etc.” Why don’t we who believe in Jesus Christ as Lord, call ourselves disciples of Jesus Christ instead of Christians, believers, brothers, etc. Disciple is mentioned over 300 time in the New Testament; the word believer/s is mentioned approximately 20 times; the word brothers/s, as brothers in Christ and not blood brothers, almost 300 times; the word sister about 6 or 7 times; the words ‘The Way” as used in Acts, 5 times; the word Christian/s 3 times.

Some will say, “That it’s all semantics.” And that is mostly correct. But more realistic, the word disciple has a negative connotation: to be disciplined in the ways of Lord. Who really want to be disciplined according to ALL He commands? It is a crying shame, from the looks of things, especially in the U.S., it doesn’t seem like many. The word Christian has various meanings to complex mortals: one born in a Christian family; one who goes to a Christian church; one who believes that Jesus Christ saves all who call themselves Christians, regardless what type of life they live, since no one is perfect; one who is not an atheist, Jew, Muslim, etc. therefore, must be a Christian. The reason those who call themselves Christians is because it is a good and holy name, making them feel holy, of sorts. In other words, the word ‘Christian’ becomes a catchall for those who want to put on a holy perception/heir about themselves. Here are a few definitions the dictionary gives for Christian: “a decent respectable person; humane and decent; having the qualities demonstrated and taught by Jesus Christ . . .” [But, I say, without the commitment needed to become a real Christian]”

Here is another reason why many Christians are in the “spiritual” condition they are in: It is being brutally blunt, but it must be said. Many American Christians and clergy are overweight, obese e.g.Pastor John Hagee, of Trinity Broadcasting Network--a disgrace to the profession--and physically out-of-shape. The reason: they lack the discipline to eat healthy foods, while overeating. No discipline to engage in a moderate amount of daily exercise/workout, which takes physical effort; one of the most avoided of all activities. But even just as destructive to a disciplined life is living with health sucking stress; in fact stress is the most unnatural and destructive attitude we can harbor.

That unhealthy type of living brings on a myriad of other degenerative and deadly diseases-–a great bonanza for the greedy pharmaceutical and doctors, who capitalize on our misfortunes. These physically lazy Christians reject discipline. Consequences: their non-disciplined living habits rub-off on their Christian life. They say “We’ll take it if you make it easy, sweet and fast.” It is easy say, “I believe in Jesus Christ,” but most difficult to be spiritually disciplined according to all that God commands--I am not talking about the 10 commands in the Old Testament. In fact, for some undisciplined believers, it may be impossible to admit it, or extremely difficult to change or even modify their lifestyle. That may be the core reason the word ‘disciple’ has been replaced with the word Christian.

This upcoming fact, most likely, is the main reason some/many Christians don’t want to be classified as disciples: Through the years, as I traveled through the religious circuit of churches, I would hear many church-goers . . . . say, “ I am a Christian but not a disciple.” Let me quote just one verse that explicitly says that belief is not true. Jesus speaking; Matthew 28:19. “Therefore go and make DISCIPLES of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them [disciples] to OBEY everything I have command YOU.” [emphasis added]. Even with the mountain of evidence in this verse and many like it, some believe when Jesus was giving those seemingly impossible commands, they were meant only for the 12 disciples. These Christian sluggers were taught they could become ‘believers’ in Christ without having the burden of being disciples. The only thing is, Jesus had many more than 12 that were following Him, and all that followed Him were called disciples. Like the 72 disciples He sent out ahead of himself to the towns and villages. Check Luke 10:1.

How did such a beautiful word like ‘Christianity’ get so corrupted? And how could such a descriptive word like ‘disciple’ get buried in the dark halls of mediocre religion? As early as the first century the clergy quickly learned that sweet honey draws more flies than vinegar. And the New Testament contains much that is not palatable for those who are fudging their way till graduation. The New Testament is a God-send--as difficult as it may seem--for all who are continually searching for more of God’s truth, so they can live it and bring much needed glory to the Father.

One of the problems is that most Christian books and those that read them (preachers) that espouse Christian protocol, were reared in the mediocrity of modern Christianity. Just propagating an easy does it, all smiles, half-baked, money making religion.

Here is one stark truth that tells all: if a person–regardless how esteemed he/she is in Christian circles, is not actually experiencing the Christianity truth (the life of Jesus) they can never in a million years, write or preach the complete truth of the gospel message, including all the hard-edged verses; and there are many. That is what this blog is all about, with no excuses. If you like only Christian honey, you will detest most of what is written hear-in. Some accuse me of having the easy job of just writing this blog while doing nothing else. That is a flat lie. I cannot boast of what my ministry consists of, or it would be worthless in the sight of God.

If you do any cooking, the next time you are making a salad, put your salad dressing to one side, instead, add vinegar and honey/sugar, mixed with a little olive oil, spicy Italian cheese, chili powder, a little onion, garlic, etc. You will have a healthy, scrumptious mouth watering salad. In other words, the mixture of sweet and tart of God’s Word makes an excellent combination.

The question I pose is this: are you a Christian and a disciple? If you truly believe you are a disciple of Jesus Christ, then this blog is just what the doctor ordered. The only problem is, living as Christ commands is not in vogue. Quickly, you will be look-on as an outsider, a religious nut, an eccentric, etc.

What is in style is to go to church dressed in one’s Sunday best, say a prayer, sing a song, listen to a ear-tickling sermon, shake a few hands and be on one’s way, believing one has done his/her weekly duty as a devout Christian. When home, get on with the daily routine which, most likely has nothing to do with promoting the cause of Jesus Christ to this lost world. That type of “Christian” life has been going on for so long, that most don’t know any better/different.

I, many times said to myself, don’t those church going naivete ever read the New Testament? What about obedience to God’s commands. There are so many, many verses that teach obedience to His commands is super imperative. Beyond faith in Jesus Christ, without obedience, discipleship, and genuine love for God, there is no Salvation. They, most likely, are the most redundant type of verses in the whole of the New Testament, and the most ignored.

As many of you have already figured out, the ignoring of what the New Testament commands, by the majority of professing Christians, inspired the genesis of this blog. And what bugs me is when confronted with the truth as recorded in the Good Book, there is very little, if any change in devotion by the vast majority of church goers. I am talking about intelligent, educated, honest, loving people. How can they be so ignorant of what God requires? If anyone has a good answer to that question, please send me the answer. If you are in that ignorant category, God says, “Shame on you.”

When it comes to Christ’s disciples--did you notice I didn’t say Christians--getting together to share each others experiences, good and bad news, and whatever else is new, is essential. As in the days of the New Testament, the groups should be small, as not to lose intimacy. In Hebrews 10:25 the disciples are encouraged to get together, so they can encourage each other in whatever ways are needed.

Large church buildings, as we see in every city in America, are not mentioned in the New Testament. It mentions only small groups meeting in various places, mostly in the homes of the disciples (house churches). Here are a few of small gatherings mentioned in the New Testament:

Acts 2:2. “Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole HOUSE where they were sitting.”

Acts 16:13. “On the Sabbath [Saturday the 7th day of the week] we went outside the city gate to the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer.” Click on # 137: Something to Remember.

Romans 16:5. “Greet the church that meets at their house.”

1 Corinthians 16:19. “Aquila and Priscilla greet you warmly in the Lord, and so does the brothers that meet at their HOUSE.”

Colossians 4:15. “Give my greetings to the brothers at Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church in her HOUSE.”

Acts 20:8. “There were many lamps in the upstairs ROOM where we were meeting.”

Philemon 2. “. . . to Archippus our fellow soldier and to the church that meets in your HOUSE.”

That is the way it should be. And the reason is because in a church gathering the disciples must be allowed to express themselves in many ways. Other than individual social interest, members must correct, encourage, show empathy, help any in need and admonish whatever members are out of line with Biblical commands. That is impossible in a large group. Every disciple must get to know each other in as many ways as possible. They are all members of one family, God’s family. As in a worldly family, everyone knows all other members weakness and strengths. For spiritual success, that also must be the case in our house churches. Disciples have a responsibility for each others spiritual and material welfare. That is the reasons all churches must be confined to small groups in house churches. For that reason, when it comes to churches, big is bad in the sight of God.

This loss of intimacy as a result of church buildings, large and small, most likely, is responsible for Christianity as it is today. Formalities tend to replace spontaneity. And without spontaneity, separation will be the result. Just to hear the same person preach a sermon each week, instead of different disciples giving their vantage point, weakness, strength, desires, needs, etc. whenever, is what makes family life what it is.

If a few disciples desire to start a house church, the disciple’s values must be fairly similar. Of course, just to bring big church rhetoric without obedience to God’s commands into a small group will give intimacy, but without Godly substance. There are not many disciples around that could/would leave the comfort and ways of organized religion, just to let the New Testament be their guide.

The problem is there aren’t many churches that don’t claim the Bible as their guide. And at the same time leaving out many verses that are difficult and seemingly impossible to implement. Instead they are content to preach holy-bull. That is their crime against God.

Only those disciple who truly love and obey God-–not those that merely say they love Him--are the ones who will have the desire and ability to obey ALL the teachings of Jesus Christ. One cannot love God without obedience and one cannot obey God without love for Him; they are inseparable. John chapter 14:24. “ He who does not love me will not obey my teaching.”

I will leave you with this Scriptural reminder in Acts 14:21, to prove that even new converts to Christianity are disciples. “They preached the good news in that city and won a large number of disciples.” We also must considered new converts as disciples. Anyone who belongs to Christ is a disciple. No ifs, ands, or buts. The song goes like this: “How do I know? The Bible tells me so.”

For more information on the house church, click on # 96.

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