Reading: John 13:18-38
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35
They were possibly the most influential three years in the history of mankind – those years that Jesus spent with the twelve men he had gathered around him. It was a time full of surprises, an opportunity to live with God on earth and discover first hand exactly how he wanted them (and all the rest of us) to live together. And how was that? Like him. “As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”
Love was to define them. So much so that when others “looked in” and saw that love, they would automatically assume, “Oh yes, those people must be followers of Jesus.”
When it all boils down, to “Love God” and to “Love others” are the two ultimate purposes of my life. And how much do I have to love? For God, I am to love with all my heart and soul and mind and strength. For others, Jesus simply says, “As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” On a scale of one to ten, that's a ten on both counts.
It's clear to me that I fall woefully short of what Jesus has asked me to do. He must have known that would be the case. And yet, he asked me anyway…
I find myself suddenly taken surprise by the thought that my capacity to love both God and others, whilst still walking on this planet, may be enormously greater than I have previously dared to dream possible. Because ultimately, love is from God. There is no end to his love, but if it is to flow through me, I need to be a willing and open channel, like a wide open artery not blocked up with deposits of “gunk” but open and free.
It's really the work of the Holy Spirit in me and through me that will increase my capacity to love. What's required from me is simply the willingness to say, “Holy Spirit, let's go!”
Jesus, I confess that fear of what might be required of me makes me hesitate. And yet I love the thought of being an open channel for your love. I want to reach the potential that you see in me to love you, and to love others. Please will you deal with the obstructions in me and dismantle all my silly objections. I submit them to you, and offer you my whole self. Holy Spirit, let's go!
See also Perfecting Me
“Holy Spirit, let's go!” was a favourite prayer of the late Ray Edmonds who, I believe, prayed this every morning, and took every opportunity that came his way to share Jesus with those he met.
Reading: Joshua 15-20
In accordance with the Lord’s command to him, Joshua gave to Caleb son of Jephunneh a portion in Judah—Kiriath Arba, that is, Hebron. (Arba was the forefather of Anak.) From Hebron Caleb drove out the three Anakites—Sheshai, Ahiman and Talmai—descendants of Anak. Joshua 15:13-14 (NIV)
Joshua: Well, here's your promised inheritance Caleb – Kiriath Arba. The land is yours. Oh, and by the way, it comes with a few Anakites…
Caleb: No worries, Joshua, I'll sort them out.
And so he does. Caleb had been promised this forty five years earlier after spying out the land with eleven others. Only he and Joshua had believed that with God they could take the land. “So on that day Moses swore to me, ‘The land on which your feet have walked will be your inheritance and that of your children forever, because you have followed the Lord my God wholeheartedly.’” Joshua 14:9
Finally the time had arrived to claim that inheritance. “Now give me this hill country that the Lord promised me that day,” says Caleb to Joshua. “You yourself heard then that the Anakites were there and their cities were large and fortified, but, the Lord helping me, I will drive them out just as he said.” Joshua 14:12
Caleb sure had spirit, even at a young 85. As far as he was concerned, the promise had been made, the land was his, and nothing was going to stand in the way of him claiming it for his own.
It strikes me that the promises of God often seem to come with “Anakites”. I wish that wasn't the case – I don't like big gnarly inconvenient obstacles parked all over my driveway. When I read in Isaiah 61 (for example) of those things that Jesus won for me at the cross, and then look at my actual situation (and those of others), it's clear that there are still a few gnarly old Anakites out there. Some of what has been promised to me through Jesus I have yet to claim. And I see others weighed down with burdens that, with his life, Jesus paid to remove.
Caleb is my teacher today. First and foremost, he took God at his word. Secondly, having spied out the land years earlier, he knew what had been promised to him, and had a clear picture of this in his mind. I too need to become completely familiar with God's promises, and then set about claiming those promises with the same spirit that Caleb had – one of faith and determination.
Thirdly, it's clear that although Caleb didn't focus on the Anakites, he did deal with them. As I deal with the “Anakites” in my life, and help others to deal with theirs, prayer is so vital, along with worship and time in the Word. By myself, I actually can't use these things, but with the ever-present help and guidance of the Holy Spirit, they are powerful in my hands. “The Lord helping me, I will drive [the Anakites] out just as he said.”
God my Father, I pray for the faith and courage of Caleb. Help me Lord to truly be a man of prayer, and to take real action as I claim what you have promised me. As I spend time walking and talking with you, as I converse with you during the moments of my day, and as I talk and pray with others, may “your kingdom come, Lord; and your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
Reading: Matthew 28
Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20 (NIV)
Jesus had come to the end of three years with those who had followed him. He had taught them, discipled them, modelled behaviour for them, and brought about in them the gradual transformation of their hearts and minds. Now, Jesus reveals his master plan for all the people who were yet to come: Disciples who make disciples who make disciples.
We are the plan! But not just us standing alone. We go with and under the authority of Jesus, the highest authority of all. We go with the presence of Jesus through the Holy Spirit. We go in the power of the Holy Spirit who is with us and in us. We are to make disciples of every kind of person, from all walks of life. The word used in verse 19 for nations, ethnos, is also translated 'Gentiles'. Jesus is giving instructions that this new covenant is not just for the Jews, but for everyone.
“Go and make disciples“, from the Greek 'matheteuo': to become a pupil; to disciple; enrol as scholar; instruct, teach. Jesus instructs me not to “convert” people but to teach them and instruct them. Baptism may be an event, but to make disciples is a process that begins even before a conscious decision has been made to make Jesus lord.
As a teacher therefore, I can start teaching people who are not yet committed Christians. Discipleship is incremental; even small packets of “teaching”, in whatever form that comes, may help people to come closer to obeying everything Jesus has commanded us. No matter what my gifting, my life can provide opportunities for others to learn about what it means to obey the commands of Jesus. I can disciple people by the way I live.
Thank you Lord for calling me to yourself, for choosing me, and for those people who discipled me, especially my parents. Holy Spirit, please guide me into every opportunity to disciple others, whether by word or deed, whether formal or informal. Use me and my gifts to bring people closer in their everyday walk with you.