Being a Disciple of Jesus

This is a poem written by Jefferson Bethke to highlight the difference between Jesus and false religion. In the Bible, Jesus received the most opposition from the most religious people of his day. At it’s core Jesus’ gospel and the good news of the Cross is in pure opposition to self-righteousness/self-justification.

Religion is man centered, Jesus is God-centered. This poem highlights his journey to discover this truth. Religion either ends in pride or despair. Pride because you make a list and can do it and act better than everyone, or despair because you can’t do your own list of rules and feel “not good enough” for God.

With Jesus though you have humble confident joy because He represents you; you don’t represent yourself. His sacrifice is perfect, putting us in perfect standing with God!

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Jesus Had an Interesting Entourage

I am intrigued at Jesus’ command that we are to be in the world but not of the world (John 17:16, 18). It forces us to determine where our loyalty lies; and not to run from the lost in favor of our own holy huddle with other believers. Our primary fellowship is changed from old friends to new believing friends, but we cannot forsake our old friends. Our relationship changes from one of fellowship to one of evangelism. While going alone to reach out to old unbelieving friends may cause one to revert back to old patterns of behavior, going with a strong fellow believer may provide the strength and security needed to reach out to lost friends. After all, Jesus sent the first missionaries out in teams of two (Luke 10:1, 2-3).

But before he sent out the 70 (or 72) take a look at those who were closest to Jesus:

Soon afterward, Jesus began a tour of the nearby towns and villages, preaching and announcing the Good News about the Kingdom of God. He took his twelve disciples with him, along with some women he had healed and from whom he had cast out evil spirits. Among them were Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons; Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s business manager; Susanna; and many others who were contributing their own resources to support Jesus and his disciples. (Luke 8:1-3).

This is one of those passages from the Gospels that receives relatively little attention, but when you read it carefully, you may be surprised by what you learn.

The passage begins by describing Jesus’ kingdom ministry, which is no surprise. We know that Jesus preached the good news of the kingdom of God in the region of Galilee, and that he took his twelve disciples with him (Luke 8:1). But then Luke describes an interesting group of Jesus followers, people who were essential to his ministry but are rarely remembered: some women he had healed and from whom he had cast out evil spirits like Mary Magdalene (from whom he had cast out seven demons), Joanna (the wife of Chuza, Herod’s business manager), Susanna, and many others who were contributing their own resources to support Jesus and his disciples. (Luke 8:2-3).

There are several surprises here:

1. The first is that Jesus’ traveling entourage included many women. Not only did most rabbis in the time of Jesus exclude women from their teaching, but associating with women would have led to suspicion and criticism.

Why did these women follow Jesus? Luke says that Jesus had healed them and cast out evil spirits from them. This implies that they followed Jesus out of gratitude and love, an implication that is supported by the passage in Luke that precedes this one (Luke 7:36-50).

Among those who followed Jesus were Mary Magadalene, who is mentioned for the first time in Luke. Another follower was a woman named Joanna, who was the wife of Chuza, Herod’s business manager (Luke 8:3). To me, this comes as a bit of a shock! We would not expect such a woman to follow Jesus, both because of her connection to Herod Antipas, who was no fan of Jesus, and because she was surely a person of financial means. Her experience of God’s love through Jesus was powerful enough for her to leave her comfortable and safe life in order to support Jesus.

2. Luke notes that Joanna was one of those who were contributing their own resources to support Jesus and his disciples (Luke 8:3). But using their own savings, and perhaps by earning money along the way, the female followers of Jesus provided the financial base for him and his followers to focus on proclaiming the kingdom of God.

The presence of these women among the close followers of Jesus serves as an encouragement to women today, who can sometimes feel like second-class Christians in our male-leadership dominated church culture. It emphasizes the fact that all Christians have a valuable and necessary role to play in the ministry of the kingdom. Some, those who are gifted for preaching, should preach. Others, who are gifted for making money, should provide financial support for the mission of Christ. The church of Jesus Christ will be what God intends it to be only if each and every person, male and female, faithfully utilizes the gifts and opportunities God has given.

Application: When you picture the traveling entourage of Jesus, do you include the women who traveled with him? Why or why not? How does the presence of these women who supported Jesus and the twelve encourage you in your discipleship and Christian service?What are some things that you have given up to follow Jesus? What may be keeping you from following Jesus and you sense God may be asking you to give up. In what ways has God called you to support the mission of Christ? Tithing? Giving to missions? Serving in missions? Impacting your community, school or office? Have you ever taken a spiritual gifts inventory to discover the areas of ministry that would best suit your wiring, talent and personality? [ Take a free online inventory here ]

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Paul and the Inconvenient Gospel

Paul is now under arrest, Ananias is the High Priest who brought a lawyer named Tertullus to bring the charges against Paul (Acts 24:1, 2). What we have here is a disgusting political spiel that has no resemblance to the truth; after all, the commander who had Paul under his protection wrote to Felix mentioning Paul had done nothing to deserve death or imprisonment (Acts 23:29, 30).

The first thing Tertullus does is to flatter Felix, the governor (Acts 24:2, 3). When you research Felix, you will find that he was a vile and incompetent leader; Nero had him recalled only two years earlier. According to the Bible Knowledge Commentary, “Felix was known for his violent use of repressive force and corrupt self-aggrandizement.” The lawyer was undoubtedly flattering Felix.

He then said that Paul was a troublemaker who stirred up riots and he tried to desecrate the temple (Acts 24:3-5). Paul responds by recounting his adventure and journey to Jerusalem. Luke adds an interesting detail, that Felix was well acquainted with the Way (Acts 24:22). He was in a no win situation, with a large Jewish population and Paul a Roman citizen, he basically did nothing but leave Paul in jail (Acts 24:22, 23, 27).

God sent the imprisoned preacher to an audience of two, Felix and his wife Drusilla (Acts 24:24). Drusilla was the third wife of Felix, each had left a former spouse to marry. Luke mentions Paul “discoursed” with them, meaning they had discussions back and forth, a conversation rather than a sermon (Acts 24:25, 26). The core of the message was faith in Christ (Acts 24:24).

The discussion was on righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come (Acts 24:25). Felix heard “enough for now” and told Paul he could leave; go away for now, I will call for you when I need you. Felix was afraid. I suspect that was the work of the Holy Spirit. I think it is never convenient to discuss personal sin. Human nature will often resist what is best for us, but if we dare to hear and accept the truth, we can be set free.

It only mentions that Felix was afraid, perhaps Drusilla simply did not humble herself enough to become afraid. Her past indicates a history of pride. Herod Agrippa I (Acts 12:19-23) was her father. He claimed glory that only God deserved. Remember his fate? He was eaten by worms and died (the Bible mentions these two in this order, what a horrible way to go – Acts 12:23). She led an adulterous life in spite of all she knew about morality and reverence for God. She apparently resisted Paul’s message.

Application: Have you heard the message and repeatedly resist submitting to Christ? It’s probably the most unnoticed plague on America, we are inoculated just enough with the gospel to be happy with our beliefs but we are far from what the Bible calls a disciple of Christ. We often tell Jesus to go away until a more convenient time, and we will call for him later when we want him or when we need him. The gospel can often be inconvenient when we are not serious about life change and authentic discipleship. When the topic is righteousness, sin, self-control, or judgment, we get uncomfortable more than we get convicted. Don’t allow the world to squeeze you into its mold (Romans 12:1, 2). Don’t be conformed to this world, but be transformed into the new creation that God desires for you to be.

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