During the course of the year we are thinking about what it means to be a fully committed disciple or follower of Jesus, and so today the title of our talk is 24/7 discipleship.
We talk a lot now about living in a 24/7 culture, for example many shops are now open 24 hours a day, and even if the shops are closed, there is always the internet, which is always open for business. Opening soon in Walsall there is going to be a 24 hour gym, so if you fancy going for a work out after shopping in Asda or Tesco’s at 3 o’clock in the morning, that will be no problem at all! The development of modern technology, particularly the internet, and living in an increasingly globalised economy, has driven the development of this 24/7 culture. I will leave it to you to decide whether living in a 24/7 culture is a good thing or not.
The 24/7 society may be a relatively recent thing, but Jesus has been calling people to be 24/7 disciples for over 2000 years. Because being a Christian, is not just about being baptised, or coming to church on a Sunday, or something to be treated as a hobby, it is something that shape and influence our lives 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
But how many of us truly do this? I came across this quote the other day, it said: ‘With most of us Christianity is just a hobby. It merely occupies the fringe area of our spare time. We will not let our Christianity interfere with our life! We practice Christianity on Sunday morning but make it marginal the rest of the week. We use church like a religious country club. It is fun to be there once in awhile.’
When you get married, you don’t say, “I am only a husband when I’m with my wife, but as soon as I go out to work, or to the shop or pub, and I’m not with my wife, then I cease to be married, and can therefore behave as if I was a single person.” No, you remain married whether you are with your wife or not. Or if you become a parent, you don’t cease to be a parent when you drop you children off at school, and then become a parent again when you pick them up in the afternoon, no you are a parent 24 hours a day 7 days a week.
Likewise when you become a Christian, you are not just a Christian when you walk through the doors of a church building, and then cease to be a Christian when you leave the building, no you are called to be a Christian 24 hours a day 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Therefore being a follower of Jesus should influence every single aspect of our lives. It should affect our values, attitudes & morals, how we use our time and money, how we relate to others, how we conduct our business, what we do in public and in private. It should influence also how we view the work we do, we should see it as part of our Christian ministry. For example, there was a man standing on the platform waiting for the train that would take him to work, when someone came up to him and starting asking him “what do you do for a living.” To which he replied “I am a Christian, thinly disguised as an accountant.” He realised that what he does as an accountant matters just as much to God, as to what he does whilst in church.
A few weeks ago we talked about discipleship as lifestyle, and saw how Jesus calls us to be salt and light in the world. The point about salt and light is that you should taste and see the difference it makes. Light helps us to see, and salt adds flavour, and that is what we as followers of Jesus are called to be like.
To be a 24/7 Christian, means to live out our faith day by day in a truly authentic manner. A number of years ago, bracelets with the letters WWJD – What Would Jesus Do, were extremely popular. It helps us to think about how we live out our Christian lives. So when I’m late for a meeting, and stuck behind someone crawling along the road at 30mph in a 60mph zone, do I start flashing my lights, beeping my horn, and swearing at them to move out of the way, or do I try to be patient and calm. Or when you are at work, and someone starts spreading malicious gossip about someone you know, do you join in with that gossip, or do you say, “I don’t want anything to do with this.”
24/7 discipleship is about learning to follow Jesus, and through the work and power of the Holy Spirit, becoming more and more like Christ. It is about learning to live in the power and presence of God in our daily lives.
It also means having a willingness to trust God completely in all aspects of life. It means learning to live life God’s way, putting Him first, and doing that means that true discipleship is going to be costly, true commitment will cost you something. It is not going to be easy. You cannot just say you love the Lord. You must show it through your words and actions.
Discipleship is costly because Jesus must have priority over our will, ideas and plans. Discipleship is also dynamic, not static. Being a Christian is not just about sitting in a pew or saying a prayer. It is about a life committed, a life changed, a heart and will surrendered, and a new direction as we follow God. Discipleship is not a one-time act. It is a change of heart, a change of direction for a lifetime. When we are committed to living this sort of discipleship, then it has the power to change the world around us. Just imagine what the impact could be, if we take up seriously the commitment to follow Jesus 24/7.
A disciple is willing to grow in Christ; are you!? Are you willing to GO? Are you willing to become a fully committed follower of Jesus? Are you prepared to carry God’s love from this place, to your homes, you families, your work places, our schools, and shops, and places of leisure? Are you prepared to go and serve the broken and lost, are you prepared to stand on the side of the marginalised? Are you prepared to follow where Christ leads you? Are you also prepared for the cost of being a disciple of Jesus? Because if we are serious about following Jesus, there will be a cost involved, it is not always easy – BUT the cost is of no comparison to what we gain. Because, if we are serious about following Jesus, putting him at the centre of our lives, then we are entering on a life of adventure, a life with purpose and meaning, a life which will be centred and rooted on the God of love, and there can be nothing greater, or more wonderful that that.