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Have you ever been concerned about the state of the Church?

I have, especially in the last twenty years or so.

However, let’s consider the existence of an obedient, God-loving group of people, who, experiencing tremendous struggle at times, determinately remained faithful.

Below is a very abbreviated account of this reality.

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A Philadelphia Anabaptist Immersion during a Storm

Fighting to obtain peace sounds like an oxymoron. No, I’m not talking about conflicts between nations. I’m talking about conflicts between your head, heart, and soul, and the realities of life.

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It’s so fun, isn’t it, to discover how far we fall short of what God requires of us.

Be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect, Jesus said (Matthew 5:48). 1

Oh, my.

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Should Christians actively struggle and fight as they live out their lives with Jesus? Should they strive? If they did that, would they be falling into a legalistic trap? A destructive pietism that emphasizes law over grace?

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I sometimes ask people if Jesus were to walk into the room in which we were meeting and said, “There are those outside on the street who, if you walk outside with Me, will beat you with clubs and pipes. You will be severely injured and may possibly die. I’m asking you now: Will you follow Me through this door?”

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I’d like to take a brief break from the series, The God Who Is Low and Humble in Heart, and investigate a passage of Scripture that caught my attention the other day.

“On that day I swore to them that I would bring them out of the land of Egypt into a land that I had searched out for them, a land flowing with milk and honey, the most glorious of all lands. And I said to them, ‘Cast away the detestable things your eyes feast on, every one of you, and do not defile yourselves with the idols of Egypt; I am the LORD your God. But they rebelled against me and were not willing to listen to me. None of them cast away the detestable things their eyes feasted on, nor did they forsake the idols of Egypt. Then I said I would pour out my wrath upon them and spend my anger against them in the midst of the land of Egypt” (Ezekiel 20:6–8).

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I listened to a podcast a few days ago from Theology Refresh. It was an interview about discipleship with a man who has been with Navigators for sixty years. Unfortunately, I found myself at odds with what was being said. I found myself in this condition not because these two men aren’t men of faith, honor, and integrity. They are. It was that I continue to be bewildered by the absence of understanding in the Church concerning what discipleship is according to Jesus. This truth isn’t a patchwork of verses stitched together from various places in the gospels and letters. This is in plain sight, right out there for all of us to see, with no need of proof texting. We’ll look at this passage in a moment.

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As a follower of Jesus, I am challenged by what the Bible says. I mean extraordinarily challenged, to the core of who I think I am as a Western Christian man. The challenges are wonderful. Holy. Exciting. It isn’t a stretch to call them life threatening. A line from the song, Jeremiah, by Sarah Groves, comes to mind:

“At the slightest invitation, You came with total detonation. Now, that’s a fire.”

The “You” in that line refers to the Lord.

Have you ever had the Lord do that in your life? Lately, in my ongoing experience with the Lord, it is becoming more and more apparent that the Lord God, the Creator and Sustainer of everything that exists, is now choosing to blow up—in a spiritual way, of course—our casual Western Christian belief system and its attending organizational structures.

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Okay, a question.

Well, first a command from Jesus: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19–20).

Now, the question. If you were to “go and make disciples” as Jesus instructed (which very few Christians do, unfortunately), what would you teach these people?

I’ll wait.

(Cue Jeopardy jingle.)

Ready? What did you come up with?

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Jesus told us that we cannot be His disciples unless we are willing to take up our crosses and follow Him: “Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:27).

Elisabeth Elliot said, “To be a follower of the crucified Christ means, sooner or later, a personal encounter with the cross. And the cross always entails loss.” Elisabeth Elliot knows about loss. Her husband died a martyr in the jungles of Ecuador. However, this loss is not only about physical death. Mrs. Elliot also said, “If you want to be a Christian, see that your mind is made up as his was: be humble, be subject, be obedient—even to death. It will mean death. Be sure of that. Death to some of your desires and plans at least. Death to yourself. But never forget—Jesus’ death was what opened the way for his own exaltation and our everlasting Life. Our death to selfishness is the shining gateway into the glories of the palace of the King. Is it so hard to be his subject? Is the price too high?”

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