Where have all the Disciples Gone?

I know it is not always proper to vent in a blog, particularly in a blog that is posted on our church website and Facebook page.  So if venting is a breech in web etiquette then let’s call this post what it truly is – a lament of a deep-seated grief in the heart of a pastor.  The last few weeks have posed tremendous difficulties for me on how to shepherd and lead God’s people.  The struggle I’m facing is not whether people like my shepherding or not.  It’s whether people love The Shepherd enough to actually trust his leadership and plans for their lives.  Bluntly stated, what is a pastor supposed to do when professing Christians look at God’s words, Christ’s commandments, expectations, and purposes for our lives and still have the audacity to say, “I stand by my opinion.”?  Really???  Where have all the disciples gone?

Sheep stray, mankind is tainted and weak, and disciples sit around fires and deny their own Lord.  So let me be clear, I do not think Christians can be perfect in their love and devotion to Christ.  1 John 1:8 says, “ If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”  According to John’s first letter then, it is inconsistent and ultimately false for any one of us to say we are without sin.  Moreover, the consequences are dire if we pretend we are flawless in and of ourselves – “the truth is not in us.”

So I can see one reality that emerges from Scripture that, if taken seriously, prevents me or any other Christian from riding a spiritual high-horse, looking down our Pharisaic noses at all the other poor sinners around us.  If you’ve experienced Jesus Christ and have been given the Holy Spirit then you simply don’t want to live that way.

Still, I’m afraid our current Christian culture has taken the idea of sinfulness and depravity in an even ungodlier direction (if that is even possible).  It’s almost as if we boast, exalt, or even get excited about our sinfulness and broken humanity (the Bible calls this “flesh”).  We are proud to say, “I’m a complete piece of work and screw up all the time and Christ loves me!”  However true the frequency of our moral failures and disobedience to Christ may be, let us understand our salvation correctly least we trample amazing grace and brag about the things that insult God and heap abuse on the cross of Christ!

Later in his letter John would say, “And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments.  Whoever says ‘I know him’ but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him (1 John 2:3, 4).”  The consequences for this attitude of “I know Christ but…” are equally dire.  Allow me to put it this way: if you claim to be Christ’s follower (a Christian) and are okay with choices he has plainly told you are rebellious and evil because, after all, “We’re all sinners anyway,” then you are fooling yourself!  Worse, you might not actually be a Christian to begin with!

That’s incredibly tough!  It’s tough for me – with the plank sticking out of my own eye – to confront those seeking pastoral counsel with this truth.  So if you’re reading this blog post, please hear the ache in my tone.  I want you to have assurance of your salvation – just as John did when he wrote.  Still, I must insist, that the salvation Christ gave does not merely stop at forgiveness.  In fact, it begins with forgiveness of you sins and then it turns into combat against your sins (Galatians 5).

Still, to compound the problem in our churches sin tolerance (and perhaps exaltation) has gone on so long, unholiness has become a norm among the professing.  And if you dare talk to another fellow Christian about how comfortable they are with blatantly ignoring God’s Word then that is tantamount to judging them and being legalistic (both completely inaccurate uses of the words).  But it is not I, Josh Hollis, who wishes to judge anyone and I certainly don’t think any of us are capable of earning God’s favor by our good deeds (true definition for legalism).  It is Christ who has given us such self-evaluating medicine.

If you called Him “Lord” when you made your confession and were baptized, then he is Lord.  You are subject.  His words to you are binding regardless of how you feel in the moment, how convenient your sin is, or how culture might reflect on your choices.  He is Lord, but if you read the last post then you know He is also worth it.  He is worth it brother and sister Christian!  To bend the knee and bow the heart means freedom from your sins and  freedom from ultimate self-destruction.  To declare, “Jesus is Lord,” is to declare war on your old ways that stand contrary to His new ones.  So if you find yourself indifferent to your sins and still claiming the name of Christ, then listen to what must take place next after reading this article: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us (Hebrews 12:1).”  Yes, push away from yourself and run toward the prize of knowing and having Christ Jesus as yours!