Warner's TheoBlog

Thoughts from a disciple who writes


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Weird Family

It really is a good thing that the decision as to who can be a disciple and who cannot is not up to me. I think I would make decisions based upon my assumptions and prejudices. If it were up to me there would be no Bolton Wonderers supporters for a start. Jesus sees things in a very different way than I do.

We can choose our friends, but we cannot choose our family.

I thank God that I was not able to choose my family! There are some of them who I would never have spent the time to get to know, because they are very different to me. I am sure that they would say the same about me too. The simple matter that they are family, however, means that I have been very blessed to have had the opportunity to spend time with them and get to know them. I love them. They are a strange bunch, some more than others (you know who you are!) but they are pretty amazing people. I am far, far richer as a result of knowing them.

The community of disciples, those who call Jesus master and follow Him, is not just like a family. It is a family.

He replied to him, ‘Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?’ Pointing to his disciples, he said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.’ (Matt 12:48-50)

Jesus did not call people to follow him because they were similar to him or one another. He called them because they all had the same bloodline. The disciples of Jesus are unified…

  • By sin – All people, prior to knowing Jesus, are helpless sufferers from sin (Romans 3:23).
  • By call – All people are called by Jesus to follow (Rev 3:20). No one is refused, but all people have the free will to refuse.
  • By grace – All of those who accept the invitation to follow are saved as a gift. Not because they deserve it, but because Jesus loves us (Eph. 2:8-9).
  • By adoption – All who follow Jesus are adopted into the family of God. They are sons and daughters, children of the same Father (1 John 3:1).

Every disciple of Jesus is part of the family of God. It is made up of some weird and wonderful people (I am the weirdest and my wife is probably the most wonderful), but each and every one of them is a mother, brother, father, daughter, brother and sister. Both the New Testament and our daily experience tell us that we are exactly like a family. With the same disagreements and dramas, loves and likes. But united by belonging and blood.

We cannot choose our family… we can only choose to love them as the Father loves us.

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Caleb – Man of Action

40 years after the spies returned from their mission (Numbers 13), the people of Israel reentered the Promised Land. For 5 years, they battled the nations who lived there, until the land that God had promised them was theirs. Then Joshua gave the different tribes and clans their share of the land as their inheritance as God had directed.

By this time, Caleb was 85 years old, quite probably the oldest man in Israel, and still fighting with his sons in the front line of battle. His faith had led to a promise from God, that he would inherit the parts of the land that his feet had walked, and he had held on to that word from God for 45 years. This man of faith had remained faithful in his faith.

In Joshua 14:6-15:19, we see that Caleb’s faith comes to fruition. This 85-year-old man approaches Joshua, the leader of the people, who was the only other member of the tribes to have been an adult when they had spied out the land under Moses and a witness to God’s promise to Caleb, and asks for his inheritance.

‘Now then, just as the Lord promised, he has kept me alive for forty-five years since the time he said this to Moses, while Israel moved about in the wilderness. So here I am today, eighty-five years old! I am still as strong today as the day Moses sent me out; I’m just as vigorous to go out to battle now as I was then. Now give me this hill country that the Lord promised me that day. You yourself heard then that the Anakites were there and their cities were large and fortified, but, the Lord helping me, I will drive them out just as he said.’ (Josh. 14:10-12)

Such faith! Caleb reminds Joshua of the promise and testifies to the faithfulness that God has shown him. Caleb and Joshua are at least 28 years older than their nearest peers, yet Caleb is still as physically strong as he had been 45 years before. He is also just as strong in his faith as he had been 45 years before.

Caleb’s faith is not passive. He does not simply wait for things to happen, even though he has waited for 45 years. When the moment is right he stands up, steps forward and makes things happen.

When he talks to Joshua, Caleb…

  • Asserts the foundation of his faith – “The Lord promised, 45 years ago.”
  • Testifies to the truth of his faith – “Here I am, 45 years later, as the Lord promised I would be”
  • Seeks his inheritance by faith – “Now give me this hill country, that the Lord promised me that day… it is time”
  • States what will happen by faith – “The large people and cities cannot stand in the way of the Lord. With the Lord’s help I will drive them out”
  • Moves in faith – He went on from there to defeat his enemies and take the land that God had promised to him (Josh. 15:13-17)

Caleb was patient for 45 years, but when the moment came to act he did so with no hesitation and in total faith. His faith was a living, vital thing and his life and convictions were founded upon it. He waited for such a long time, but he did so actively by preparing himself and his family for the next stage. When they entered the Promised Land, he and his sons were not only ready to fight, but full of faith that God was on their side.

Caleb’s faith is an inspiration and I want a faith like Caleb’s.

It is a temptation, with matters of faith, to become passive.

  • Sometimes, we see what God says in faith and we fear that it might be too big for us to achieve. It can be tempting to withdraw or hide. Caleb understood that it was too big for him to achieve, and so trusted in God who was far bigger and more able.
  • At other times, we can become impatient with waiting for what God has promised to us and step forward too early. Caleb could have gone with the others, back into the promised land to try and take hold of it before God’s time (Number 14), but he trusted that when it was time God would tell him. He listened for the voice of God telling him to go.
  • We can become fed up with waiting and switch off, becoming overly familiar with what we have and coming to believe that it is all God has for us. Caleb never let go, even once, during his time in the wilderness. Even with his peers and friends’ deaths and the passing of the years, he showed awesome faithfulness to God’s word and patience with God’s timing.

Caleb teaches do much about faith. God’s word has its season and faith response to it. Faith should be in God’s word, in God’s time. Faith is never passive. Faith recognises the timing of God because it listens intently for the voice of God. Faith is eager to hear and even more eager to respond. Faith does not fear because in God there is nothing to fear.
Faith demands a response, but that response is not always the same for every situation. The key is to discern what God’s will is. Our faith response might be to wait, hold on, stand up, move, fight, or any number of other things. However, the key is to discern the will of God and move forward in faith.

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” (Matt. 7:7-8)


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Not converts… Disciples

There is a difference between a believer and a disciple.

A believer is a person who accepts that the Jesus is who he says he is. They believe that the message of Jesus has merit and that there is something of great value that is gained through faith in Jesus. They believe Jesus, when he says that he is “the way, the truth and the life” (John 14:6).

It is easy to believe.

A disciple is a person who believes all of the above AND lives their life according to the reality of these truths.

We see in the Gospels that thousands of people follow Jesus, believing that he is a man of miracles and a great teacher, but not all of them are disciples.

It is far more challenging to be a disciple than it is to be a believer.

In the New Testament there is a Rich Young Man who comes to Jesus (Matt 19:16-22). He speaks to Jesus, declaring his belief that Jesus is a good teacher and asks how he might be assured of eternal life (salvation). Jesus tells him that he must live a life in service of God, following the commandments. The young man seems to be pleased with himself; “I do all of that”, he declares.

Jesus sees to the heart of things. He tells this young man to give up his money, which Jesus knows is the real thing that rules his life, and become a disciple. This breaks the young man’s heart, because he REALLY loves his money and all that it gives him. He walks away from Jesus.

Compare this rich young man with Matthew.

Jesus is walking along the street and he sees a typical booth within which the tax collectors work and take money (Matt 9:9-13). Matthew is a tax collector. This means he is well off and hated by most of the people of the town because he takes their money and works for the despised Romans who occupy the land. We see in Luke’s gospel (Luke 5:27-32) that whilst Matthew (who was also called Levi) had few friends, his money allowed him to throw parties and have powerful friends.

Jesus walks up to the booth and says, “Follow me”. Matthew simply gets up, leaves everything and follows. He leaves his comfort for salvation. As a disciple, he was trained by Jesus, was one of the twelve, built the Church, wrote a book of the Bible and, it is believed, died as a martyr.

Both of these men believed in Jesus, but Matthew was a disciple. The rich young ruler believed in Jesus, but, because he was unwilling to live the true reality of his belief he left Jesus’ side to follow his own path. Matthew put Jesus before everything else in his life and knew the Son of God because of it. He walked and talked with Jesus, every day. He was present at Pentecost when the presence of God, the Holy Spirit, filled him and gave him power. He lived each day close to Jesus, knowing the voice and closeness of God.

“…go and make disciples of all nations…” (Matt 28:19)

Jesus’ mission for us is not to make believers who hold on to what they have already. It is to make disciples who gain what Jesus has for them by following and imitating.

People who see the changes in those who follow Jesus cannot help but believe that Jesus is something special. Our mission is to make is possible for them to turn their belief into life.

Making disciples is the goal of the Gospel lived and preached.

Disciples are so much more than converts.