Thursday, August 14, 2014

Normative Christian Living

"For if I preach the gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!" I Corinthians 9:16

The apostle Paul penned those words almost 2000 years ago in the infancy of the church amidst great persecution and opposition to the gospel. Preaching the gospel was not an easy and acceptable practice in his day. Many of the Jews and Jewish leaders opposed this teaching about Christ and actively sought to destroy it. Some of the Greeks just thought it was foolishness and many of the Roman leaders began seeing it as a threat. Yet, Paul continued to share the message of Jesus Christ the Son of God who became a man, died for the sins of humanity and rose on the third day. And despite the opposition and persecution he endured, he never saw this as doing something "above and beyond" his calling that deserved special recognition. Preaching the gospel wasn't perceived as something that he should boast about, but rather normative for him. If he didn't preach the gospel there was something wrong. We might relate this to a school teacher who doesn't teach, or a cook who doesn't cook. Paul was compelled as one sent by Christ to proclaim Christ. It didn't make sense for him to do otherwise.

Some believers might think, "But that was Paul. He was an apostle." I Corinthians 9 does deal with Paul's rights as an apostle. It would be tempting to exempt ourselves from such an evangelistic compulsion by noting that we are not apostles like Paul. Certainly there are people today specifically sent out and commissioned by a particular church with the express purpose of sharing the gospel (missionaries, traveling evangelists, etc.), but the majority of Christians wouldn't fall into that category. But before we excuse ourselves from this evangelistic compulsion, remember that every Christian has been commissioned by Christ (Matthew 28:18-20). He told us to "Go and make disciples..." That involves sharing the gospel.

Doesn't it make sense for someone who says they are following the great Disciplemaker to have making disciples a normative part of their life? Let's go back to the teaching illustration I mentioned earlier. We have a wonderful university in our town with a strong education program that turns out a number of solid teachers every year. Before those teachers can graduate they have to student teach under the supervision of an experienced teacher. They would have observed the teacher teach, but then those students must actively teach. It wouldn't make sense for a student teacher to never teach. It's expected that they teach having observed their mentor.

When Jesus left this world he left a group of disciples. He spent His earthly time investing in this group of men who would follow His example and make disciples themselves. And then those disciples made disciples. Those 11 remaining men after His ascension couldn't help but preach the gospel. Necessity was laid upon them as it was Paul. Thus Peter shares the gospel at Pentecost and to Cornelius, and Phillip with an Ethiopian Eunuch. They couldn't help but share the good news of Jesus. Somewhere down the line of disciple making this got lost and normative life for a follower of Jesus simply became believing some basic doctrinal truths and going to church semi-regularly.

I must confess that Paul's words don't fit me as they should. When I share the gospel, I can think that gives me something to boast about. I don't think of it as normative Christian living, but something "above and beyond" and can have this "look at me, Jesus" attitude. I want to get back to the understanding of Paul and those early followers of Jesus where sharing the gospel and making disciples was just a normative part of the Christian life. Something I'm compelled to do as a follower of the Great Disciplemaker. A teacher teaches. A cook cooks. And a follower of the Great Disciplemaker shares the Gospel and makes disciples. It should be the normative nature of a disciple of Jesus. Where do you think you're at in this area? Is sharing the gospel and making disciples a normative part of your Christian life?

"LORD, thank You for Your patience and grace in my life. Forgive me for seeing sharing the gospel as "above and beyond" the call of a disciple. Continue to work Christ's image in me by Your Holy Spirit and help me share Your gospel as a normal part of my everyday walk. Glorify Your name in my life! In Jesus Christ's precious name, Amen."

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