Renewing Our Commitment to DiscipleshipBy Scott Hamilton
January 7, 2021
I have a slight confession, to begin with. I have lived through 2020 with the vague suspicion that I am in some way culpable for the mayhem that has ensued. This past March, I preached on Hebrews 10:24-25: “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” In God’s providence, that was the final Sunday we were able as a whole church to, well, meet together. Pandemics have a way of proving problematic, it turns out.
I have been in prayer that the time where we have been apart or where our rhythm of gathering together has been disrupted will build not just anticipation of being together again but an enduring appreciation for what it means to be the church. As I heard someone say recently: if the church is what we believe God’s Word says it is then it should not surprise us that this has been a spiritually dry and difficult year for many. What joy then when dry and difficult is replaced by discipleship that trains us to live for God’s glory! What impact when a love for God deepened by a year of having most other things stripped away is paired with a love for our church family gathering afresh around the truths that stick us together! How do we prepare our churches to be ready to seek those things fully? Hebrews 10 tells us.
Be intentional: When Hebrews 10 says ‘Let us consider’ it is telling us that discipleship is a deliberate thing. It is about the values and choices of the individual Christian and the vision and culture of the local church. If the Christian or the church do not make an intentional investment in making and growing disciples it won’t happen. ‘Consider’ is something of your capacity for serving being allied to your capacity for seeing. It describes giving attention to the lives of those around you so that you might see how best to point them to Jesus. It is noticing the small things so you won’t neglect the chance to nudge people towards godliness. It is observing the lives of those around you such as allows you the opportunity to serve the areas they struggle with, are sinning in or need support through.
Incite Others: At many times this year, the world has felt like a powder keg. But supposing we were to reclaim the powder keg from politics and pandemics and apply it to the spiritual realm. Imagine our churches as a powder keg of discipleship and fruitful godliness. We get to incite one another towards Jesus. We are instructed here to stir one another’s souls up towards sanctification. We are called to be righteous rabble-rousers. That is the ‘love and good deeds’ bit. Are those things that we see the church most zealous for in those days? Could it be that a review of our social media and conversations over 2020 reveals that we are more about our electoral influence than our eternal influence? Could it be that we have become so dominated by discussing the rights and wrongs of the pandemic responses that we have missed the opportunity to direct one another towards deeper progress in love and holiness? It is provoking one another in a good way. “Come on, get up, let’s go!” I’m stirred up just thinking about it. There is nothing better to give your life to than living for God’s glory and grabbing whoever you can to press in together to know Him.
Be invested: Don’t be neglectful. It is a matter of neglect when we take ourselves out of places that are designed to have a sanctifying effect. Don’t distance yourself from where discipleship happens. This passage tells us to go to and stay close to places that are going to prove fuel to our walk with Jesus. The word for neglect means to forsake. We are to be watchful about not turning our backs on things that turn up the temperature of our love for Jesus. You and I are called to be committed to a community of God’s people. If we are not invested we remove the capacity for intention and incitement and immediately reduce our capacity to invite and influence people to love and live for Jesus.
Invite others: Rather than going it alone or isolating ourselves, we get to have the kind of demeanor and way of living that invites others in and along as we encourage them in their discipleship. That is the sense of the word encourage, which includes in it the possibility of a range of different approaches and urgency. It entails calling alongside, as well as pleading, urging, persuading, or even begging. It seeks to impress on those we are called to life with that we are in this with them and walking beside them in pursuit of the best and most glorious thing. Our encouragement is designed to remind those around us that there is nothing better or greater or higher to give your life to than Jesus Christ. It is an overflow that comes from understanding that the most loving thing you can do is inspire and invite someone to live for Jesus.
There is an immediate need for it: Our urgency about discipleship is to flow from understanding that the day of Jesus’s return is drawing near. Are we asking the question often enough as to whether the people around me ready to meet Jesus? We get to help one another prepare for Christ’s appearance. Discipleship is living in the direction of the destiny that Jesus died and rose to secure for you. This is a great question to ponder: When Christ returns, what do you want your life to be invested in?
Discipleship is everyday living that is shaped by eternity. It is devoting ourselves to daily living out the things that Jesus has declared to be eternally true about us. Discipleship is the work of God’s people devoting themselves against drift in pursuit of something that draws attention to how glorious God is and how deserving Jesus is of every part of us. Discipleship is the development of a deep trust in the reality that there is nothing greater to give our lives to and train other lives for than living for God’s glory.
So let’s get after it in 2021. It is what the church is called to do.