August 29, 2022
TODAY’S SCRIPTURE REFERENCE:
“God has raised this Jesus of Nazareth, whom He has made both Messiah and Lord, to life and we are all witnesses of it. Exalted to the very right hand of God, He has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear….When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, ‘Brothers, what shall we do?’ Peter replied, ‘Repent and be baptized, everyone of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you, too, will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2.32-33, 37-38)
Are we willing to be authentic in our discipleship? Being authentic is living the dual life of “being in Christ” and “Christ being in you.” It is the living out of the call of Jesus who said “Seek first that which is the Kingdom of God embracing the righteousness of it” and “trust that all that is needed will be provided.” Being authentic in our discipleship is not only putting “first things first” but keeping “first things first.” Is that impossible? The instruction of God’s Word declares what is impossible with human beings is never impossible with God. This is not an adventure challenge, a dare to walk that line between life and death, a seizing of sensationalization to draw all attention to yourself. I draw upon the two answers given from scripture in yesterday’s reflection.
The first was by Jesus responding to the disciples who asked, “What are we supposed to be doing to do the work God requires of us?” (John 6.28ff) The quest for the meaning and purpose of life expressed in our works is universal. Jesus answered, “What you are supposed to do is believe in the one He has sent and live out that belief.” People today believe a lot of things and certainly live them out. Is that what Jesus meant as He spoke directly to His disciples and because of them to those who desired to be followers? He was not speaking in such generalities so as to be misunderstood. He was not saying “whatever you want to believe is just fine as long as you live it out.” Jesus declared the work of God we are supposed to be doing is to believe He is the One sent by God to lead His people to the true promised land and to follow Him. Is this not “seek first the Kingdom of God, the true promised land, believing in the grasping of its righteousness, which is Jesus as the Christ?” How do we do that? Set your sights on the goal (the Kingdom of God) and know there is a means to attain that goal (Jesus the Christ) and what is needed to accomplish it will be provided (the Holy Spirit.) If we change the equation at any point, the answer is never the same and the achievement of the ultimate goal is impossible. Consider the following:
If your sights are on the kingdom of humanity in general, such as world peace, solving world hunger, reversing climate change, having great wealth, rising to the top of the popularity chart, etc., then believing in Jesus as the Christ will not help you and the Holy Spirit will become a stumbling block. Even Paul knew this was on the minds of those in the community of faith in Corinth and we can take our lead from that discussion. Paul said, “If I could speak with the tongues of angels and men but did not have authentic love, then I am just a sounding gong or a clanging cymbal.” What is “authentic love”? It is the presence of the Kingdom of God in the midst of us glorifying the Father of all creation. It is the sacrificial attitude of Jesus the Christ who laid down His life for the lives of the people on earth by becoming as one who was the chief sinner. It is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit who teaches us all the Jesus commanded and empowers us with the ability to live out the lessons that He taught. It is keeping our lives aligned with the most appropriate and power priority in the universe. To do less is to miss the goal and be enslaved to forever seeking your own way as if it is the only way.
The second was in Peter’s first Pentecost teaching found in Acts 2.37ff. After the people who had gathered in Jerusalem having congregated in the Temple square for the official Pentecost blessing of “first fruits” for the harvest in the fields heard the words from Peter in explanation of how the disciples were able to speak to everyone there in their own language, they asked “What then must we do?” Understand the power of the gospel which Peter declared. He was practicing the presence of the Kingdom of God in their midst. He was centering all attention to Jesus the Christ who existed beyond an empty cross and an empty tomb to be the evidence that God’s promise was true and authenticated by more than two witnesses. He invoked the indwelling of the Holy Spirit by speaking in faith and not by sight; he was truly “inspired.” Almost all eyes were focused on Peter and the disciples. A few wary and nervous eyes saw the Chief High Priest and his entourage as they maintained their “duty of the day.” It would be safe to say that if “looks could kill” Peter and the disciples would have been threatened. And indeed they were. But, the first act of the CHP was the poor lamb that was slain. If I were to help you image the scene, I would draw your attention to the violence of the sacrifice which ensued at the hands of the frustrated and disturbed CHP. It may not have been a simple slit of the throat of the lamb to bleed it out as ceremony dictated. Maybe the lamb’s head was nearly removed from its body and thus desecrated the offering being made for a successful harvest. Things were not going as they, the CHP and Associates, intended. Peter’s response was undeterred and without further regard to the “sacrifice du jour.” He said, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit which is promised to, your children and those who are far off.” This offer, of course, was extended by default to the CHP and Associates. I could see them at that point spin on their heels like whirling dervishes and exit into the safe confines of the offices. What Peter declared was the first foray into fulfilling the Great Commission which Jesus had given them just ten days before. In that, remember, He said, “make disciples of all nations.” It was true that in the temple court that day were representatives of all nations where the people of God in the lineage of Israel had been scattered. Their converted influence would be shared in their communities to “their people” and by extension to all who gave pause to listen. Peter and the disciples were making disciples who would make disciples. What was their working agenda and job description? It was nothing more and less than “believe in the One whom God has sent and live that belief in Him out in all the days of your lives.
In other words, “authentic discipleship.” The agenda, job description and work order has not changed. Neither has the benefit, blessing and promise. God is the same yesterday, today and forever! It would seem that until we fulfill the original it would seem foolishness to propose that there is another way, truth and life. So, my questions of reflection are “why are we doing so (trying to make another way)” and “why aren’t we doing so (following the only way, truth and life that leads through the valleys of the shadow of death in pursuit of dwelling in the house of the Lord forever)?”
You have spoken Your Word, Father, in spirit and in flesh and in truth. We feel it now upon us and within us. It is urging us to be authentic disciples practicing authentic discipleship. You have given us a story to tell and the means by which that story may bring glory and honor to Your Name and blessing and favor to ours. Hear us now as we commit ourselves to set our lives in proper priority by believing in the One whom You have sent. His name is Jesus the Christ, our Lord and Savior and by whom we now pray together. AMEN.