Monday, February 03, 2003

The Choosing and Training of the Twelve -- Kingdom Leadership Training

This is part 6 of a series covering the choosing and training of the 12 disciples. To start at the beginning, click here.

In the past five segments, I have pieced together information from the gospels about the calling of Peter, Andrew, James, John, and Matthew. I showed that the calling of Peter and company occurred in three stages. They got to know who Jesus was and what His ministry was about. They moved from interest to taking short trips with Him, to leaving everything and travelling full time. The only other disciple about whose calling we have information is Matthew. This is seemingly because his background is such that we might have excluded him from the group. Jesus did not.

After praying all night, Jesus chose twelve men to receive more intensive training. Among these was Judas Iscariot, who would betray Jesus. With Judas, we have another ironic twist. The entourage trusted him with the money box, whereas they may not have trusted Matthew. In the end, it was Judas who betrayed Jesus.

It may be the same for many of us. We will finally leave everything to follow Jesus after we have known Him long enough to recognize His great worth. For many of us, Jesus will choose us from shady pasts. All of us must choose Him as our highest good, lest we become as Judas and later betray Him. Salvation is open to all, but discipleship is a demanding road. For this reason, the next segments in this series will cover the training the twelve receive. I will be using a college metaphor. As such, I will discuss the tuition, the core curriculum, and the "Master's" program.

Tuition

Salvation is free. Along with salvation comes a plethora of continuing education courses that help us lead quiet and peaceful lives. These courses are also free. The Master's Discipleship program is different. The tuition, which requires payment on the installment plan, is quite steep as these passages show

Now large crowds were accompanying Jesus, and turning to them he said, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother, and wife and children, and brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not carry his own cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, wanting to build a tower, doesn’t sit down first and compute the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish the tower, all who see it will begin to make fun of him. They will say, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish!’ Or what king, going out to confront another king in battle, will not sit down first and determine whether he is able with ten thousand to face the one coming against him with twenty thousand? If he cannot succeed, he will send a representative while the other is still a long way off and ask for terms of peace. In the same way therefore not one of you can be my disciple if he does not renounce all his own possessions. (Luke 14:25-33, The Net Bible)

Then Peter said to him, “Look, we have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?” Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth: in the age when all things are renewed, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And whoever has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life. (Matthew 19:27-29)

The tuition for the Master's Discipleship program is your life. We are to take up our cross and we are to renounce our possessions. This does not, necessarily, mean that we must sell all and give to the poor, because the Old and New Testaments show godly and devoted men and women who retained great wealth. It does mean that such possessions as we have must not have our heart. This is best achieved by focusing on the Person and Ministry of Jesus.

Such a focus is important. I became aware of this twenty-three years ago when I attended an advanced motorcycle riding school. I have never been all that coordinated, being the subject of many team picking arguments ("You take him." - "No you."). But after two weeks, I was doing tight figure eights while riding a large bike. The key was to focus my eyes ahead of the bike to where I wanted it to go. The brain, I was told, knows how to take eye focus and translate it into what the bike needs to do now to get there then. Ten years after that, I bought my first softball glove ever and joined our church's softball team. I asked myself, what happens if I just watch the ball? A marvelous thing happened over and over again. I would watch the ball and my glove would be in the right place to catch it. The brain knows how to take eye focus and translate it into what the gloved hand needs to do now to get there then.

If we look at our sin, or the sins of others, we will tend to move in the direction of sin. At best, we will only be able to put on the brakes and say, "I am not going there." Looking in that direction will never lead us on the paths of righteousness. Let me illustrate this, "When is a thief not a thief?" I love asking this question. Every time I have asked this, I have heard this answer, "When he is not stealing." At best I get, "When he is not stealing?" The question mark comes from those who see a trap on the path. Here is my answer, "A thief who is not stealing is a thief out of work." Now consider these words from Paul, "The one who steals must steal no longer; rather he must labor, doing good with his own hands, so that he may share with the one who has need." (Ephesians 4:28) A thief is not a thief when he labors in order to have something to give. Spiritual eye focus on sin keeps you in the "not stealing" frame of mind and you fail to see the movement of soul needed to become generous.

If, however, we read the gospels and the scriptures and focus on who Jesus was, we will move toward Him. We will find Him to be of great worth. There is pain in even this simple step, because we will never be where He is in terms of character, Spirit, and power. But that is just the point. Our spirit, with our eyes on Him, powered and directed by His Spirit within, knows what we need to do now to get us closer then. As we find Him to be of increasing value, the value of our earthly things and endeavors shrinks. We learn to take up our cross and lay down our lives.

In this way, we pay our tuition each day for the rest of our lives. Of course, let us also remember the endowment that made opening this school possible. It cost Jesus everything He had too.

Tuesday: The Core Curriculum

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