Acts 11:26 – and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they met with the church and taught a great many people. And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians.
- not all disciples were known as Christians, but all Christians were disciples
Nominal Christianity (Christianity in name only) is dead.
1. This is true in at least three senses: Christians in name only are really not Christians at all, and so are spiritually dead
2. Our culture has lost patience and respect with this kind of “casual” Christianity, which is betrayed by the shallowness of its beliefs and commitments, and by the absence of life change.
3. It is dead in that it has no spiritual power associated with it. It has institutions and patterns which have created a kind of Christian sub-culture, but it is dead and dying, and such churches are drying up and closing down.
Discipleship Christianity is alive and well
1. These Christians are related primarily to Christ, and secondarily to a local church.
a. It is Christianity; not church-ianity
b. Their Christianity is personal, a real relationship with a living person.
2. These followers of Jesus are consistently seeking how to live Jesus’ life in every arena of their lives.
a. It is not Sabbath or Sunday Christianity; it is everyday
b. Their Christianity is universal, pervasive
3. These disciples accept responsibility for representing Jesus to their families, friends and associates; and they accept the consequences
a. They do not rely on pastors, missionaries, or churches to take care of their Christ-representation
b. Their Christianity is missional, persecutional
The Shape of New Covenant Discipleship
Old Covenant righteousness was law-oriented. Doubtless, there were some, perhaps many, who lived under the OC who had God-given faith and a measure of the Spirit. But righteousness was measured by full compliance with all the Law’s demands. Even Moses, the initial leader under the OC, failed to fully comply.
The blessing of a long, full and fruitful life in the land of promise was tied to compliance. While some complied in part, and were blessed in part, no one fully complied with the detail of the law. No one under the Old Covenant was perfectly faithful. The followers were no better than their leaders.
New Covenant righteousness is not less law-oriented, but goes deeper, and includes full compliance not only with the letter of the Law, but also the thoughts and intents of the heart. Jesus is the Righteous One, the Faithful One, the Only One to fulfill the demands of God’s righteousness.
New Covenant discipleship is not an effort to behave better, but to follow Jesus as fully as possible, to have his character stamped on our hearts, so that we resemble him. NC discipleship is not primarily performance-oriented, and it certainly is not a superficial conformity to a set of rules for appeance’ sake. It is transformational, as the Spirit of promise establishes ownership and control in our lives, including our minds, our affections, and our will.
New Covenant discipleship is representative. As I am fully and completely represented before God by Christ, I in turn seek to fully and completely represent Christ in the world.
New Covenant disciples have:
· A new Captain under a gracious administration
· A new identity and a blood-bought fellowship
· A new mission that cannot be measured in dollars, or numbers, or status
· A new worldview that drastically changes the definitions