Disciples - the call to follow Christ

Now great crowds accompanied him and he turned and said to them.. So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.
— Luke 14:25-33

Crowds pressed in from every side. News had spread through the entire region of this Jesus and people flocked from everywhere to see Him. Countless numbers testified to His healing power and the miraculous works they had seen. Some even said that He had raised the dead! Could this be the Messiah? The one whom they had prayed for, hoped for and longed for? One thing was clear, everyone wanted to be close enough to hear what Jesus had to stay. 

You might think that Jesus would seize this moment at the height of His ministry to appeal to the large crowds, pointing out all the benefits and advantages of following Him. Yet, rather than presenting the slick marketing campaign, with glossy promotional pictures and campaign sign up sheets, Jesus seizes the moment to talk about the hard call to be a disciple. One thing is very evident in this account; Jesus was not after large crowds, He was after disciples! Jesus was looking for a people who would follow regardless of the cost. Not a people of comfort but a people of character & commitment.

Recently I went on a bike ride with my two eldest daughters. From our house all paths are downhill meaning on the way back the path becomes steep and results in an often unpleasant return journey. In one such moment my eldest daughter turned to me exasperatedly and exclaimed, ‘Dad I’m fed up with all the uphill bits, why can we just do the easy bits, why can't it all just be downhill?’ I responded; ‘Darling there are two reasons: Firstly hills don't work that way (if you find one that only goes down let me know) secondly its the uphill journey that builds character, develops muscle and proves your ready to take on bigger challenges.’ 

The same is true in following Christ, we would much prefer all the easy bits without any of the hard work and often end up asking; shouldn't this be easier? Shouldn't this life following Christ be all downhill? Cant we just take the good bits and leave out the rest? Jesus specifically addresses this question. He doesn't promise followers a ‘gravy train ride’ or a silver platter full of instant gratification. Christ did not say, ‘If anyone will come after me, let him enjoy himself with indulgent pleasures, let him be lavishly adorned and drunk with delight’. Rather He says, ‘if anyone would come after me let me deny himself, take up his cross and follow me’. Christ repeatedly makes it clear that there must be a cross before the crown, suffering before glory, death before victory and sacrifice before reward. This is the heart of Christian discipleship.

It’s easy to enjoy the ride when it’s all downhill but are we ready to be disciples who are willing to discover this hard but glorious call of following Christ? Join us this month as we explore from scripture what this call to be disciples is all about!! 

Blessings

Andrew

What is the boast of your life?

But as for me, may I never boast, except in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ...
— Galatians 6:9

There are a series of internet memes that do the rounds from time to time along the following lines,

“I don't mean to boast but ...”. Some of my favourite examples include: 

  • ‘I don’t mean to boast but: I just finished my three week fast in less than 3 hours 14 minutes’
  • ‘I don’t mean to boast but: This in now the 5th end of the world I have now survived’ 
  • 'I don’t mean to boast but: I just ate my lunch without taking a picture of myself first’
  • ‘I don't mean to boast but: if it weren’t for my incredible will power I would be exercising right now’

If we’re honest most of us don't mind a little boasting from time to time. In Galatians, Paul lays down an incredible challenge to never boast except in the Cross of Jesus Christ. Question is, why the Cross? Why not Christ’s majesty, Christ’s love or Christ’s divinity to mention just a few alternatives? Why specifically should the Cross be the boast of our lives?

Here are three foundational reasons why the Cross is, and always should be, the boast of our lives. 

Firstly, the Cross reveals the depths of our sin. We desperately want to make the boast of life ourselves, who we are and what we can do. The problem is that at the very best our righteousness is as filthy rags. There is a foolishness to boasting in self and a futility of boasting in works. The gospel confronts our inability to save ourselves. The Cross tears away the false foundations of human effort and merit, stripping away their false hopes and plowing up the hardened ground calling for true repentance. Leaving us then building on the only foundation that will stand, the Cross of Jesus Christ.

Secondly, the Cross proclaims the power of God unto salvation. Paul tells the Corinthian church that the message of the Cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. How is the Cross, an instrument of death, the power of God? The Cross is the power of God because on it the greatest battle for the eternal destiny of all humanity was fought. On the Cross death was defeated, the power of sin was broken and the price for humanity was paid. Only the Cross can save, only the Cross can reconcile, only the Cross can raise us from the dead. The Cross is our victory.

Thirdly, the Cross forever focuses us on what Christ has done. Every other religion, philosophy and worldview points us to what we need to do. The Cross centres us on Christ declaring that the centre of our story is Him. It’s not about what you could ever do, it’s all about what He has already done. The Cross brings us back to that place where we realise we are so hopelessly and completely lost without Christ. So fully reliant and dependent upon His grace. And the only thing we can boast in is the incomparable love of a Saviour demonstrated on the Cross.

The reality is:  

I could boast of my righteousness, but I fall short daily OR I could boast in His perfect righteousness.

I could boast in my good works, but they fail continually OR I could boast of His continual goodness.  

I could boast of my devotion, but it can waver OR I could boast of His devotion to me that is un-shakeable.

I could boast of my love for God, but it’s fickle OR I can boast of His love for me that is stronger than death.

Will you make the boast of your life the Cross of Jesus Christ? 

Blessings, Andrew

For Christ's love compels us

For Christ’s love compels us...
— 2 Corinthians 5:14, NIV

Both Jesus and the Apostle Paul had deep insight into the nature of love. Two of the biblical highpoints that bring revelation about the nature of God’s love can be found in John 13:34-35 & 1 Corinthians 13.  

In the former, Jesus told his disciples that love must be the distinguishing mark of their lives. The ‘new command’ He gave them used the command of Moses, which teaches we are to love God with all our strength and our neighbour as ourself, as a springboard to deepen these commands. Jesus even taught we are to love our enemies…

The command to love one’s neighbour was not new; the newness was found in loving one another just as Jesus had loved His disciples, even if it meant giving one’s life for another! [John 15:13]

In the later, Paul teaches that love is a doing thing, something that is expressed in actions. However, he also teaches in an earlier passage in the same epistle that love cannot be measured by actions alone; motives must also be assessed to determine what is loving. In doing so, he points to the fact that Jesus will disclose the purposes of the heart when He returns to judge the living and the dead. [1 Corinthians 4:5]

When we do a kindness for someone, why we are doing it is as important, perhaps more so, as what we do. Of course, our motivation is helped when we truly live with a deep appreciation of the love God blesses us with. As Paul discovered, God’s love can compel us to do far more than we ever imagine. 

Peter Thompson

Where is your sufficiency found?

Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God.” 2 Corinthians 3:5

Here in the Southern hemisphere January often offers us an opportunity to slow down a little. Even for those with lives not driven by the school calendar there is an option for a slightly slower pace. Perhaps you have had the opportunity over January to consider the coming year, taken the opportunity to get away, or to spend more time with family and friends. At Vision we intentionally cultivate a quieter January for the purpose of rest. 

And now February….. back to school, resuming activities and groups, the ramping up of work commitments. I feel anticipation and excitement and I feel a little tentative.

Towards the end of last year the Lord allowed me to feel the weight of my fatigue. In His loving kindness He drew my attention to the connection between my physical and emotional exhaustion and some of the habits and patterns that had crept into my life management.

You know the ones…self reliance, self sufficiency, drawing on my own resources, too busy to rest… I’m sure you can add to your own list.

January has indeed been a time of reflection, and with it has come a recognition that there are things that need to change in me, a re-calibration and the calling out loud my need and utter dependence upon the Lord. My tentativeness comes from the knowledge that change is needed and if I rush into February I might fail to listen and respond. 

Can you relate?

So how are you approaching February?

Are you ready to hit the ground running? Are you filled with excitement and anticipation for the restarting of a fuller life, and the getting on with things? Or maybe you are a little tentative like me?

So how to manage this tension? A tightrope walker maintains their balance and poise not by stopping and looking at their feet but instead placing one foot in front of the other and keeping their eyes steady on their destination. As believers, our starting place, our here and now and our destination is all found in Jesus. Scripture makes it clear our sufficiency is found in Him. 

I read this phrase in my devotional…..“You “do” from life in ME, and you strive in life without Me”

So as we head into the fullness of the year with anticipation for what the Lord has for us let us fix our gaze on the all sufficient one, the founder and perfecter of our faith, Jesus.

Kathryn

Community

The place God has chosen to display His glory is always within a covenant He makes with a community of people.

It seems like such a strange paradox that we live in the most inter-connected generation in the history of humanity (you can fill the world in on your every move, every time you go to the bathroom, and take photos of the potato skins you ate for dinner) yet despite this, sociologists tell us we are now also the most dis-connected generation in human history.

How exactly has this happened? I would suggest that one contributing factor is the emphasis on self. My life, my rights, my choices ... isn't this all about me?

This stands in stark contrast to what Scripture proclaims. The Bible is all about community; from the Garden to the City. God is a community and the place God has chosen to display His glory is always within a covenant He makes with a community of people. When Jesus commissioned His disciples He gave them a blueprint for His Church so vast, so marvellous and innovative, a living breathing expanding community that would permeate and transform the whole world.

The New Testament uses a specific word to describe this unique relationship between believers;  ‘Koinonia’. Nineteen different times it is used and on each occasion it refers to this unique and special relationship. We don't have one word in English that fully encapsulates its meaning, but it could be translated: friendship, fellowship, community, partnership and much more. Koinonia is much deeper than pot-luck suppers, social activities, programs and services. It is a group of people deeply connected and committed to one another and partnering together to see the purposes of God released upon the Earth. The Lord’s desire is that we would become this unique company of people. We must return to Koinonia—but you can’t download it. There’s no app for it, and you can’t fake it.

Join us this month as we begin the year discovering from the Scriptures God’s heart for and the purpose of, true community.

Andrew  

 

 

Christmas

Christmas

I am sure many adults can look back to their childhood days and recall how exciting Christmas was for them. I know that I always approached Christmas with great anticipation, looking forward to any presents I may receive from “Santa” and family. Interestingly enough, the memory I most treasure was the annual Christmas Day cricket match amongst uncles and other family members, which usually followed the family lunch or evening meal. As I reflect, I can almost feel the same bloated condition that seems to accompany Christmas Day meals and usually resulted in a hasty retreat from the fray of battle on the backyard cricket pitch for a number of the adults.

Halloween

Over the past few decades, Australians have been increasingly influenced by American culture. The emergence of basketball, baseball and gridiron with their associated paraphernalia (ex. Caps, collectors’ cards) is a good example. The adoption of the baseball style cap by the traditional Aussie sport of cricket because of the attraction of its image for the youth of our country is a further illustration.

Forgetting has a double edge

Forgetting has a double edge

t is easy to forget things, especially as one gets older. The Bible is full of people who forgot things; some even forgot God! The disciples forgot to take provision (bread) on a journey across the lake to the region of Magadan. The chief cupbearer forgot Joseph after his release from prison. Job felt his friends had forgotten him in the midst of his misery. 

It's called creation for a reason

It's called creation for a reason

Standing on the wharf at Gerainger Fjord in Norway, a fellow traveller said to me, “Isn’t nature wonderful?” I replied straight away, “You mean Creation?” He was caught unawares, usually his repartee was quick, and in the moment of hesitancy I inquired, “Do you know the Bible calls it creation for a reason?” He, of course, didn’t know this, so I offered the reason: “The word creation points beyond itself to its Creator.”