Hello Church Devotion Aug 4, 2013
D is for "Disciple"
And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, Jesus said to them, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel's will save it.” (Mark8:34-35 ESV)
I grew up the son of New Englanders transplanted to New Jersey. Many of their traditions came across the Hudson River with them. One of my favorites (especially since we vacationed in Vermont) was REAL maple syrup on pancakes and waffles. In fact, I had a sweet tooth even then - because I could easily eat enough maple sugar candy to make me sick. What in the world does that have to do with being a disciple? Well...
Think of the process of refining maple syrup. Maple trees are tapped with buckets hung under the taps, and out drips a sap which is thin and clear, like water. On a good day, 50 trees will yield 30-40 gallons of sap, but it is essentially useless at this point - with only a hint of sweetness. You see, at this point, the sap contains only 1-2 percent sugar.
As the buckets fill, they are emptied into large bins that sit over an open fire. The sap comes to a slow boil; and as it boils, its water content is reduced and its sugars are concentrated. Hours, or even days, later it has developed a rich flavor and golden-brown color, but still must be strained several times to remove impurities before being reheated, bottled, and graded for quality. In the end, those 30-40 gallons of sap are reduced to one gallon of pure, delicious maple syrup, somewhere around 66% sugar content, which is far better than the cheap, imitation, colored sugar-water that passes for “maple syrup” in the grocery store.
So it is when we come to faith in Christ. We start like raw, unfinished sap, which could have been tossed aside as worthless. But God knew what he could make of us. He sought and found us, and his skillful hands are transforming us into something precious, sweet and useful. The long and often painful refining process brings forth a pure, genuine disciple easily distinguished from cheap imitations.
That’s what being a disciple is all about - except that, this side of eternity, we’re never a finished product. We’re constantly being challenged to learn, and to life out the things we have learned. And, as we grow, we need to be “strained” (Jesus used the picture of pruning a grape vine in John 15) time after time, so that, ultimately, we are ready to be presented to our God and Father. Paul said it this way:
And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister. (Colossians 1:21-23 ESV)
In a nutshell, being a disciple of Jesus, the Christ, isn’t for wimps. And that’s why we pray...
Heavenly Father, you have called me by the Gospel to follow Jesus, my Teacher and my Lord. By the power of your Spirit, may I not only say “Yes” to your call each day, but may I trust you to work in my heart and life those things which are pleasing in your sight, so that I may be, in your time, presented before you holy and blameless and above reproach. Hear me, for I ask it in the strong name of your Son, my Savior, Jesus. Amen.
FOR FURTHER THOUGHT:
1. Read Jesus’ words in Luke 14:26-35. What do you think he’s saying about priorities? And what are your priorities ?
2. St. John’s favorite word for himself is “disciple” and quite often he called himself “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” (He never uses his own name in the Gospel). Might he be inviting you to think of yourself in the same way?
3. Contrast Matthew 8:18-23 with Matthew 9:9. Which passage better describes you today?
4. Being a disciple isn’t only about learning - it’s also about doing (see Matthew 15:32-38)
5. Being a disciple involves following a teacher, but it also involves discipline (see Hebrews 12:1-14)
6. How might these devotions help you as a disciple during the course of these two months?
Karl J. Dunker, Pastor Emeritus