Thursday, November 17, 2005

Are You A True Discipler of Christ?

How many of you can say with the humble confidence of your heart that you are a true discipler of Christ? How many of you can say with the humble confidence of your heart that you are a true Christian? These are the words that began a sermon I heard this past weekend at church from a lady that has inspired me by her journey with Christ. Miriam Charter was born in China to CIM (now known as OMF) missionaries. She comes from a rich spiritual heritage and for 12 years she was a missionary in Romania. Today she is a Christian educator that seeks to mobilize and challenge the next generation to be true disciples of Jesus Christ. Her message challenged me once again to examine whether I was a true discipler of Christ or a true Christian. As she said, most of us know that if we have invited Jesus into our hearts, we would be able to say with confidence that we are a true Christian. But what about a true discipler of Christ? For that she took us to a very famous scripture from Matthew 28:18-20 where Jesus says: 18Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in[a] the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. This was the last instruction of Jesus to the church and the word ‘go’ assumes already that we are going. The action that we the body of believers are commanded to do is to ‘make disciples (learners) of all nations. How are we to do this? By ‘baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of The Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey the commands that He has given us.

In answering the question what does it mean to be a ‘true discipler of Christ, Miriam reminded us that our relationship with God will grow more effectively in the context of a relationship with people where there is accountability. The goal of a discipleship relationship is that all parties are moving to maturity in Christ. So the question we were asked to ponder was this: Are we in an accountable or intentional ongoing relationship in which we are walking alongside someone else (over time with accountability) with the express purpose of moving both of us closer to a maturity in Christ? For some people this is not the case. There are some who are ‘Elephants’ in the church. Specifically Miriam highlighted that many among us fail to grow because we come as consumers or clients to church but never get involved in the church; we are not moving forward in our growth with maturity; we have no accountable relationships in which we are intentionally walking along side with.

How did Jesus do it? How did Jesus model for us true discipleship? The legacy Jesus left was transformed lives in a small group. He called a few from the crowds and invested his life in theirs. Discipleship is not a program. It is a relationship of accountability with other believers. It is a relationship that moves people to a growing relationship with Christ. In 2 Timothy 2:2, the Apostle Paul says to Timothy, 2And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others. This verse is not just for leaders but for all believers. Paul was doing with Timothy what Jesus did with the disciples. Paul was speaking here of reproducing ourselves. Reproduction speaks of maturity. Miriam gave an example of herself of how she was a spiritual mother to a group of women in Romania whom she discipled for many years and through that group, she became a grandmother of a new generation of believers that today continues to multiply. I believe right now there are 5 generation of believers that have come from one woman’s vision of following Jesus’ model. It is the process of multiplication, of investing ourselves in ‘reliable men; people who in turn will grow in their maturity in Christ and invest in others. Miriam challenged us as she challenged herself to keep asking the question, am I reproducing myself in reliable men, am I a true discipler of Christ? As I reflect on this question, I find myself asking who have I invested in, what kind of discipling relationships am I? Am I investing in the ‘investable’ ie. in reliable people who desire to grow together in maturity in Christ or am I investing in those who are simply elephants? People who consume and drain us.

Dear Jesus, You who have left us a model of discipleship and have demonstrated to us the effects of multiplication when you invest in a few, teach me O’Lord your ways, grant me your wisdom and discernment to know who to invest in and who I should be spending time with. Let me not be complacent but fill me each day with all the spiritual blessings that I will need to pour into those whom you have entrusted to my care. In Jesus name.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

My 'Young Brother" Davin

I first met Davin (middle in the photo) about 3 years ago when I went to Cambodia on a STM trip. I had a chance to get to know him a fair bit and he loved practising his English with us. I remember visiting the Military hospital in Cambodia and Davin was my translator as we went to different rooms praying for people who were sick with AIDS. He would translate my prayers but at the time he was not a believer and I often wondered what was going through his mind during that time. Over the years he was one of the few students that I managed to stay connected with via email. He has such a great sense of humor and was just fun to chat with. Never having a younger brother to pick on, often when I visited Cambodia it would be great to hang out with him. I started praying for him in 2002 after I returned home as I saw him as one of the future leaders in Cambodia.

He has so much potential, studying hard and taking many courses as he seeks a better life for himself. When I visited Cambodia in the summer of 2004, Davin used to drive me around all over the place in his motorcycle and was my translator when I went bargaining in the local markets in Phnom Penh. He also was open to wherever I went and so one afternoon, he along with two other students James and Lida, accompanied me to Place of Rescue. They had the opportunity to hear more about Jesus as I had omitted to tell Marie that they were not believers and so in her own humble way she was sharing the power of the gospel and planting more seeds in their life as she spoke in both English and Khmer. Before I left Cambodia in 2004, God opened the door for me to ask Davin about how he felt about Christianity. I remember vividly that conversation as he said he would like to be a Christian but he was concerned about being persecuted by his family if he became a believer.

Somewhere along this time, God was watering the seeds that were planted in Davin’s heart through his interactions with OMF workers and many of us who have crossed his path. It was so refreshing when I went back to Cambodia in August of this year and though I saw him only for a brief time, I was amazed and in awe of the work God had been doing in this young man’s life. He was now attending a vibrant Khmer church and was involved in ministry there. But more than that, he had given his life to Jesus. As I listen to this young man talk, his conversation was all about Jesus. He had been transformed. God had called him out of the darkness and into His wonderful light. I rejoice as the angels rejoice when on October 15th Davin got baptized. I wish I could have been there to witness this life changing event but I take heart in knowing that God truly hears our prayers. I have learned something new about persevering in prayer through this overseas friendship. Now that Davin is a believer, he is discovering first hand what it means to ‘share in the fellowship of Christ’ suffering’ as he encounters persecution among his relatives because of his beliefs and so now I find myself praying for his walk with the Lord that he will stand firm and put on the full armour of God each day; that the Lord will sustain him and give him a love for His word. These days he emails asking for guidance on family issues and requesting prayer for a cousin who is ill. Our emails have gone from light hearted discussions to more serious matters of the heart and I find myself ‘discipling’ him through email. What a privilege it is that God uses us frail and broken folks to be able to sow into other’s lives and to point them to Jesus. But more than anything, I am reminded that God never forgets where He plants His seed. He will tend the soil, water it and make it bear fruit in His time. Our role is to be faithful to the process of being His laborers in the harvest fields and leave the outcome to Him.