Today Pastor Choi expounds on the meaning of being Christ’s disciple. It is more than attending church services and claiming that we are the followers of Christ. Being Christ’s disciple requires us to put Christ first before anything or anybody else. Otherwise, Christ says, we cannot be His disciples. It also means to seek God’s kingdom and His righteousness, to deny self, to take up own cross and follow Him daily.
Following is a summary of his sermon today:
Put Christ First: Be Christ’s Disciple (1) Matthew 6:33, Luke 9:23
- Matthew 6:33
- New International Version (NIV)
- 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
- Luke 9:23
- New International Version (NIV)
- 23 Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.
- United Methodist mission statement: “making Disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.” –Not many of us fully understand what the word “disciple” means.
- Disciples of Jesus: What’s that mean to be Christ’s disciple? Simply put, it means to follow Jesus. Jesus is the Teacher and Master and we are His followers. To follow Jesus—what’s that mean? We no longer follow Him physically, do we? Does it just mean that I go to church every Sunday morning and present offerings to God? Is it good enough to allow me to claim that I am a disciple of Jesus?
- For the next six Sundays, we are going to think about what it means to be Christ’s disciple. In particular, we will focus on what makes a person follower of Jesus. We will also look into what distinguishes Christ’s disciple from a mere church goer. The six marks of Christ’s disciples are: 1) Christ first, 2) separation from the world, 3) steadfastness, 4) service for others, 5) generous giving, and 6) world vision.
- The first mark of Christ’s disciple is to put Christ first before anything or anybody else. Two verses demand our attention.
- First, Matthew 6:33: But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
- Context: In the preceding few verses (v. 25-v. 32), Jesus talks about daily cares and worries. Then, he concludes His lesson on cares and worries in life with verse 33: in the midst of life’s journey, you will struggle with cares. However, don’t get mixed up in your priorities. Keep God as your number one priority in life, then you will do well.
- Seek: Desire, Aim at, and Practice. Seek Continually (Greek grammar—present tense—not one time action but on-going). Day and night. All the time.
- The Bible says, “Seek and you shall find” (Matthew 7:7). Whatever you seek you shall find: you shall find material things if you seek them. You shall find God if you seek God. Before we seek anything, though, we need to know what exactly we are seeking. We are called to seek God’s Kingdom and His righteousness. So, what exactly are the Kingdom of God and His righteousness all about?
- God’s Kingdom: is the kingdom where God is King. It never ends. It lasts forever. It is from generation to generation. It is the kingdom where He rules and He reigns. He calls the shots. No one else does. No one can challenge Him what He has done. He is in charge. He is in control. To seek God’s kingdom in our life means to desire His reign, to aim at His reign, and to practice His reign in our life. It means to align our life and its goals with the divine will and work for the extension of God’s reign (p. 39, The Wesleyan Bible Commentary). It also means to “Overcome the evil of care by filling the mind and heart with the concerns of the Kingdom of God” (p. 967, Abingdon Bible Commentary). It is to pursue His reign as the ultimate goal of our daily activities (p. 646, the New Jerome Bible Commentary).
- Righteousness: Hebrew word: tzedakah– its root: speak the truth, straight, perfect, just, excellent. Tzedek: rightness of weights and measures. This is God’s attribute as sovereign.
- Therefore, I can safely say that God’s righteousness means whatever is right in the sight of God such as truth, justice, and mercy.
- Seek God’s righteousness: it means to desire, aim at, and practice what is right and just in the sight of God. It means to seek what pleases God and to do what God desires in our lives such as truth, peace, justice, mercy, humility, and divine strength. E.g. The Lord loves justice (Ps. 33:5). So should we. The Lord practices mercy. So should we. The Lord speaks the truth. So should we.
- E.g. Micah 6:8 8 He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God? King James Version (KJV)
- Self-righteousness: It is worth mentioning here what the opposite of God’s righteousness is: self-righteousness. Self-righteousness promotes/glorifies self before God and people. Self-righteousness seeks to please self and do what self is pleased to do. Seeking God’s righteousness makes one desire what pleases God and do His will. Pursuing self-righteousness makes one proud. Pursuing God’s righteousness makes one humble.
- All these things: things that we need, not necessarily what we desire. (Cf. Beware of health/wealth teachings. Jesus never promises us to be rich and healthy all the time). Rather, if God blesses us with material things, it is meant for us to share with others. When we do what pleases the Lord, He will add all the things that we need in life.
- E.g. King Solomon asked for God’s wisdom to rule God’s people (1 Kings 3:9-13). Pleased with the request, God added all other things that Solomon didn’t ask for such as wealth and power. When we pursue God’s righteousness, God will grant us with strength, peace, quietness in our souls, confidence, as well as all our needs.
- My Paraphrased translation: Don’t be bogged down with daily cares and anxiety, because you may lose the focus and forget what matters most in your life on earth. Here’s the remedy that will help you stay focused on your journey to Heaven: Continually and pro-actively speak God’s truth and love others as God has loved you. Continually (as long as you breathe and like you eat three meals a day) and pro-actively (don’t wait until you are overwhelmed and stressed by life’s cares that would force you to make unhealthy choices) speak God’s truth and love others as He has loved you. Then, peace, humility, confidence, wisdom, strength, and even life’s necessities will follow you. Do it all under His leadership. Ask for His wisdom every day and in every matter. Walk with Him humbly and you will do well.
- Next: Luke 9:23: Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.”
- Disciples in Jesus’ days: They lived together with Jesus, ate together, slept together, walked together, and went wherever the Master led. They saw all the miracles and healings that Jesus performed. They heard all the wonderful teachings of Jesus and learned from the Master through His daily examples, and memorized the teachings and passed them on to people. After Jesus ascended into Heaven, they boldly witnessed to the Way of Jesus to the world.
- Disciples today: Many of us have quite poor conviction of Jesus the Messiah. We suffer from a loose understanding of who we are. We are quick to claim that we are the followers of Jesus, yet in reality we deny His lordship: we live a life without Him most of the time. We only seek Him when we are up against crisis. We are still in charge of our own lives. We are still in control in our lives. We still call the shots, not He. We ask Jesus to bless what we do, rather than doing what He blesses. We are the kings/queens in our lives, not Jesus. Jesus is the servant for us to bring what we desire, not the other way around. That’s the modern day picture of Christ’s disciples.
- It wasn’t so when Jesus first extended His invitation to all (everyone, without restriction) to follow Him. He set out three conditions: self-denial, bearing the cross, and obedience (p. 170, the Interpreter’s Bible).
- Meaning of self-denial: Self-denial is more than giving up chocolate during Lent. It means a radical re-orientation of the center in your life. It means inviting God to the center of your life. It means stepping down from the throne of your heart and yielding the seat to the Lord. It means serving Him and His causes as servant. It means to put ourselves in the service of God, not the other way around. It means to put Him first and put ourselves last. E.g. J.O.Y. (Jesus – Others – You). It means to say “no” to our selfish desires and life-styles and say “yes” to God’s will. It means to declare that we’re dead but Christ lives in us (Galatians 2:20). “You can’t be a self-pleaser and a Christ-pleaser. It’s impossible” (p. 22, The Grace of Yielding, Derek Prince).
- Meaning of taking up your own cross: Your cross is not your wife/husband/sickness. Rather, it is the place “where your will and the will of God cross” (p. 23, Ibid.). That is where you lay down yourself. Some scholars put it this way: to bear the cross means to “Run the risk of being misunderstood as criminals” as Jesus did (p. 194, Jesus and the New Age, Danker). To some of us, it may mean literal martyrdom, but for most of us it means living sacrificially: not a death wish, but obedience to the reign of God (p. 130, Interpretation, Craddock). In the course of fulfilling God’s will, there will be “prices to be paid, pain and hurt to be accepted” (Ibid.). Are you ready to die for Christ? Are you willing to pay the price for the name you carry every day?
- E.g. Nabeel Qureshi’s (a Muslim convert) testimony: his family denounced him because he became a follower of Christ (Jan. 2014, Christianity Today).
- Daily: Taking up the cross is an ongoing process in our faith journey. It continues day in day out. It is a daily decision. We declare “a daily steadfast loyalty to the master and his way of life” (p. 700, the New Jerome Bible Commentary). We submit ourselves to God’s will daily (p. 262, The Wesleyan Bible Commentary).
- A disciple’s life is a life led by God and lived by kingdom priorities. Put God first. Pursue what God pursues. Do what God blesses. Live a life that is worthy of God’s name, willing to go through pain and suffering, then you will be a true follower of Christ.