Saturday, April 28, 2018

"What It Means to be a Faithful Disciple"

            At both services this Sunday, Christ United Methodist Church (UMC) will be receiving new church members, with the 11 am service being our Confirmation Service for boys and girls who have completed a nine-month learning process.  As Senior Pastor, this Sunday offers a special opportunity to address new members—both adults and confirmands—concerning what it means to be a faithful disciple of Jesus Christ.  But, what should I say to them?

            If you were in my place, what would you say to new members on what it means to be a faithful disciple of Christ?  After considering some inputs from the Worship Staff at Christ UMC, I have decided to base my reflections on a passage of scripture from 1 Timothy 4:7b-16. 

            The person, “Timothy,” is referenced throughout the New Testament, especially in the Acts of the Apostles and the two letters to Timothy.  Timothy grew up in the Christian faith; both his grandmother, Lois, and his mother, Eunice, were devout Christians (see 2 Timothy 1:5).  The Apostle Paul met Timothy during his second missionary journey.  Although there was a vast difference in their ages, a close relationship developed between the two men.  Timothy became a trusted assistant for Paul, frequently traveling with Paul on his missionary journeys.  In one of his letters, Paul writes of Timothy, “I have no one like him who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare.” (Philippians 2:20).  And, Paul became a mentor to Timothy. 

            In our passage of scripture, the Apostle Paul offers his young protégé three pieces of advice concerning what it means to be a faithful disciple of Christ:

1.      For Paul, Christian faith is not some static, stationary end-point that one achieves and then keeps forever.  No.  Instead, Christian faith is more of a process of growing in our faith and relationship with God.  The first Christians frequently referred to Christianity as “The Way,” meaning a distinctive lifestyle or a way of living which reflected Christ.  To convert to Christianity meant that the new disciple was willing to give up their old life and adopt this distinctive, new lifestyle.  This new lifestyle enabled the Christian to become a faithful disciple and to grow in their faith.  Just as an athlete must practice good self-discipline and train physically for his or her competition, so also faithful disciples must exercise good self-discipline and train in “godliness,” seeking to grow closer in their relationship with Christ.  In a literal sense, Christians are always a “work in progress;” we are always growing.  We do this because of God’s promise of abundant life, both in this life and in the resurrected life.

2.      Paul, encourages his young protégé, to “let no one despise your youth.”  For years, Paul has lifted himself up as a role-model of Christian discipleship.  At one point in his ministry, Paul actually sends Timothy to the church in Corinth to remind the Corinthians of how Paul models what it means to be a true follower of Christ.  Now, Paul turns the tables.  Instead of lifting himself up as a role-model of discipleship, Paul encourages Timothy to think of himself as a Christian role-model.  Timothy is to set the believers an example of how to live The Way, how to be a faithful disciple.  Timothy is to set an example in his “speech and conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.” 

3.      Finally, Paul claims that God has blessed Timothy with special gifts for ministry and spiritual leadership within the church.  Timothy’s gifts have been formally recognized by the members of the church through prophecy and the laying on of hands—or, consecration.  Paul encourages Timothy to pay close attention; to continue developing his special God-given gifts and to use them in ministry with the church and its members.  In so doing, Paul promises that Timothy “will save both yourself and [others]” (verse 16).  Many years later, in the Church we believe that God gives each of us special gifts and capabilities for ministry.  These gifts are unique to who we are, but each of us has been richly gifted by God for ministry in and for the Church.

As I noted earlier, this weekend at Christ United Methodist Church, we are welcoming new members—both confirmands and older adult members.  It seems to me that these three points offer great advice as they begin their journey of church membership. 

Come and join us this Sunday, April 29th, as we welcome new members into our church and reflect on what it means to be a faithful disciple of Christ.  Christ UMC is located at 4530 “A” Street in Lincoln, Nebraska.  Our two traditional Worship Services are at 8:30 and 11:00 on Sunday morning. 

Come, join us.  Everyone is welcome and accepted because God loves us all.

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