A Call to Death

I have noticed that I share on the topic of discipleship a bit more than I thought. I wonder why that is, though. Maybe it is due to the lack of my own discipleship training. Maybe it is because of the lack discipleship training I see in popular Christianity. Maybe it is a part of a calling. I really don’t know but either way, I was thinking about discipleship.

The call of Christian discipleship is first and foremost a call to death and denial of oneself. Jesus says in Matthew 16:24 that we must carry our cross and deny ourselves daily. Luke records it in his Gospel by saying whoever does not carry their cross cannot be Jesus’ disciple (14:27). Paul further clarifies in Galatians 2:20 that we have died and now live in Christ. Paul’s point about death to self and life in Christ is found throughout his writings and give us the clearest picture of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus.

It is a hard road to be sure and there will be times of wrestling, fighting, and rejection. Times when wrestle with our decision to obey Jesus. Times when our flesh fights back and tries once again to lead our lives. Times when we reject the notion that death is required. These are to be expected and to be endured. James writes that the testing of our faith is necessary to produce maturity (1:3-4). This is to be expected, but in that we can also expect victory. If we are being tested, then it is because we are in Christ. Testing is not for those who are not disciples. Testing is for the elect. Simply put we are tested because we are His.

The call to be a disciple of Christ is a hard call. It is not for the faint of heart. It is hard because it requires all of us. It requires our total commitment. 1 Peter 3:8-9 says that we as disciples are to be like-minded, sympathetic, love believers, be compassionate and humble, not return evil for evil or insult for insult, but to give a blessing. The call to be a disciple is a call to live opposite of your natural self. It is a call to live counterculturally. It is a call to live in Christ so that He can live out through you. In that others, will see Him and then they, in turn, can die to self and live in Christ. It is not simply a call to live selflessly. Anyone can try and live selflessly. I can try and live for my family or friends but to what end? So, that they might love me? So, that they might respect me? What a short goal. No, the call to be a disciple of Christ is to live for Him so that others receive eternal life.

But even in that, there is a balance that must be maintained. We are to live for Christ yet in that He desires us to live abundantly. We are to live for Christ yet we are to take the time to rest and reflect on our lives. We are to live for Christ but we are also to enjoy the life we have. At times that feels like a contradiction. We are to be wholly dedicated to Jesus yet at the same time He is wholly dedicated to us. It is a symbiotic relationship where we live in Him and have our being and at the same time He dwells in us and says He will give us the desires of or hearts. It is in Jesus that we find our lives and that is the catch. Jesus says He is the vine and we are the branches. If we want to produce fruit, we must do it in Him. We must make the commitment to die to ourselves and live in Him.

Just a thought,

Mike

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Modalism? No thank you

I was listening to someone this week and he was talking about Jesus and the Holy Spirit. Specifically, he was arguing for a form of modalism that says that Jesus and the Holy Spirit are the same person. Modalism if you do not know is the belief that God is one but reveals Himself in three modes or forms (Yahweh, Jesus, Holy Spirit). He was arguing from a few texts in the New Testament and from the Shepherd of Hermas in an attempt to show that the early church including the Apostles ascribed to this belief system. I must say that his argument was pretty good. Well, that is until you actually read the Bible.

One place he argued from was Luke 1:25 where the angel Gabriel tells Mary that the Holy Spirit will come upon her and she will conceive the holy one. His point was that it was the Holy Spirit who entered Mary and became the Son of God. He was saying that the Son of God did not exist before the Holy Spirit became the Son. You can pick a few text and try to force this idea but when examined throughout Scripture it does not hold up.

One major problem with modalism is that the Bible does not support it. Conversely, it is my firm belief that the Bible teaches the Trinity. I have argued elsewhere for Jesus’ divinity and the idea of the Trinity but I thought I would offer up just a few short arguments from the Gospel of John as well.

First is from John 14:16-18 where Jesus famously promises the Holy Spirit. More importantly, we can see from this text that Jesus promises that He (Jesus) will ask the Father and He (the Father) will send the Counselor (Holy Spirit). We have the whole Trinity presented here. If Jesus and Holy Spirit are the same person (read homoousion), then I find this statement beyond confusing and just downright weird. Jesus will return to the Father and then ask the Father if He can go back in another form?

But still, maybe I am just reading it wrong however John 14:26 only serves to confuse me more. Jesus here continuing His dialog with the disciples says that the Father will send Him (Holy Spirt) in My name (Jesus) – [He] will teach you all things and remind you of everything I have told you. It would seem here that Jesus seems to think that the Father, Son, and Spirit are not the same person but three.

Again, maybe I am missing something. Jesus says in John 15:26 that the Counselor (Holy Spirit) will come from the Father at Jesus’ request. In 16:7-10 Jesus says more about the coming of the Holy Spirit and how He (Jesus) will return to the Father. It would seem then that Jesus was a pretty strong believer in the Trinity and an opponent of modalism.

There are things in the Bible that are confusing there is no doubt about that. The Trinity and the relationship between the Father, Son, and Spirit are at the top of the list of things that are confusing because the concept of an eternal divine being that is three in one is beyond what we can, at least currently, grasp but that does not change the fact that what is being taught is just that.

Paul says that we should be careful not to taken captive by philosophy or empty deceit (Colossians 2:8). We must be diligent that when we hear things that sound off or too fanciful that we consider them and search the Scriptures to see what is actually said. Even everything I just said I expect you to look it up that is why I provide links to verses. I expect you to look them up and read the verses before and after what I say. We must be faithful to search and read the Word of God learning to rightfully divide it. Also, if someone comes at you presenting a form of modalism maybe you are little more prepared now.

Just a thought,

Mike