CALL TO . . .

[PART 1]

[ Ed. Note: In this wonderful core teaching series on discipleship, brother Earls touches occasionally on theological tenets in which we differ. We specifically differ in our applications of "election" and "salvation." Brother Earls restricts the idea of divine "election" to discipleship after conversion where I apply election two-dimensionally to both initial salvation and discipleship. Conversely, Brother Earls restricts his concept of "salvation" to new birth before discipleship where I apply salvation two-dimensionally to both initial conversion (new birth) and to discipleship (soul salvation). Where prudent, I note our differences to avoid any confusion between his and my teaching in these regards. ]


This may be one of the most important articles you will ever read. Most of the material is not new. Most Christians have been exposed to such teaching. However, I want to present what I believe to be a "fresh perspective," which I hope will be helpful to you.   

As we take a Scriptural look at this subject, the following outline will be followed:

1. The Perspective of Discipleship .

2. The Position of Discipleship.

3. The Purposes of Discipleship.

4. The Priorities of Discipleship.

5. The Proofs of Discipleship

6. The Prize of Discipleship

7. The Placement of Discipleship   [Ed note: Bro. Earls omitted this topic from the final series]

8. The Posture of Discipleship


The Perspective of Discipleship


First, we want to view discipleship from the perspective of the importance that Jesus placed on it, in relation to other truths that He taught. Jesus began his ministry in the flesh by calling disciples (Mt. 4:17-24), and ended His ministry by commanding these disciples to "go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." (Mt. 28:19-20.) Notice, that He did not tell them to just make converts — to get people saved, but rather to "make disciples," and to teach them all He had commanded. The Greek word for disciple means a "learner" or "pupil;" one who has placed himself under another to be taught and disciplined by him in a WAY OF LIFE. I will say more about this later, but let me make it clear right now,  that there is no Scriptural grounds for being a disciple of anyone except Jesus Christ. We are not to be disciples of men.


In Mark’s account of the great commission, Jesus is simply quoted as saying, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.” (Mark 15). Tragically, this "gospel" word, which in the original Greek means "good news" or "glad tidings," has been limited by the traditions of the churches to just the message of initial salvation. But what "gospel" did Jesus preach? It is repeatedly stated that He preached the "good news" of the KINGDOM of God (and / or "heaven"). (Mt. 4:17,23, Mark 1:14, Luke 4:43). Surely, the "good news" of the Kingdom of God is more than that there is an "entrance gate" (initial salvation!) Oh the MAGNITUDE of the TRUTH which Jesus taught concerning the KINGDOM-RULE of God for this earth, for the here and now, and for the future. Beloved, can we begin to comprehend the magnitude and greatness of the Kingdom Jesus came to present and to demonstrate, and all of the "good news" that characterizes ALL of it, not just the "gospel" of an entrance gate (initial salvation). I cannot go into detail here or document with Scripture, because the subject is too vast. But to summarize briefly: what about the ineffable beauty and glory of, the KING of this Kingdom, whom to know is to LOVE, and which, in time, begins to so captivate the "lover" so that only infinite wisdom could possibly comprehend the extent to which that love would SACRIFICE for the King, the interests of the Kingdom, and the ultimate welfare of ALL (or every last one) of its citizens.

But lest we get things out of their proper order, what about the LOVE of the KING (who "begat" His love IN us), and His ULTIMATE; and ABSOLUTE sacrifice on the cross, whereby He bore the full weight of man's sin with incredible suffering, but also sealed an everlasting covenant (Heb. 13:20-21) which ESTABLISHED His KINGDOM of LOVE (He has no other kingdom, for He accepts only those who are willingly obedient out of love), and also made available to every citizen all the INCREDIBLE BENEFITS OF THAT KINGDOM. And, beloved, ALL of the blessings, rights, privileges, authority, power, purposes, responsibilities, sonship, future destinies, as well as present day provisions— yes, even miracles, whenever necessary. What a glorious "gospel" (good news) of the KINGDOM we have to declare and to be a part of. Let's take a look at what Paul says.


 After rebuking the Corinthians for their sectarian preferences for certain preachers, and likely different aspects of truth they were emphasizing, Paul shows the foolishness of such "picking" and "choosing;" for, he declares: "Therefore let no man glory (boast) in men. For ALL THINGS are yours; whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; ALL are yours; and you are Christ's, and Christ is God's" (I Cor. 3:2l-23).


A very important distinction needs to be made here, however. As citizens of God's Kingdom, what is ours legally or positionally, must become ours experientially (actually become a part of our experience, incorporated into our lives as a "living reality," so that we can say that we "possess" it). This takes time, and also depends upon the degree of our diligence, and the eagerness of our response to God and the truth of His Word. This is where Discipleship comes in. But before I further develop that theme, I want to illustrate from two other perspectives the difference between positional truth and experiential truth.


[ Positional Vs. Experiential Truth ]

 Suppose that a young man came from another country to the United States as a legal immigrant with a view to becoming a citizen. He rents an apartment in New York and in due time, after completing the requirements, he becomes a citizen of this great country. But because of [the] language barrier (he doesn't put forth the effort to learn English very well), as well as fear of venturing out and a desire to be left alone, other than frequenting the stores to secure the necessities of life, he never goes beyond two or three blocks of his apartment, having secured employment in a store within that area. He spends the rest of his life never experiencing the wonders of the great city of New York, let alone "taking in" the vast "richness" of the beauty and glory of all 50 states of the country that he is now a citizen of, even though he has the "right" and "privilege" to travel where he pleases. Contrast this man with another immigrant becoming a citizen of this country in his youth. But his desire and "drive" is entirely different. He diligently studies the English language, goes to school and gets a good education, which lead to a well paying job. On his week-ends and vacations, he travels as much as possible and "takes in" much of his new country. He diligently seeks to please his employer and rapidly advances in his company, making more money, having more time off and traveling to more parts of the country. After accumulating considerable wealth, he is able to retire early and spend many years traveling to virtually every state to enjoy the beauties, wonders and blessings of this great country. Now consider: legally, both of these citizens [have] exactly the same "positional rights" or "standing" in this country. But how vastly different is their experience. Potentially, of both it could be said of the vast expanse and "treasures beautiful" of this country: ALL THINGS ARE YOURS. But one is just content to be a citizen and incorporate very little into his experience. But the other, through a life time of diligent effort and application takes the potential and turns it into actual experience, vastly "enriching" himself with what this country has to offer.


Now keep in mind the above is only meant to be an illustration. I'm not trying to get you interested in the natural things of this life or nation. But spiritually there is a parallel. Few Christians have grasped the great spiritual potential that is theirs to claim, "press into" and incorporate into their experience as they grow in their knowledge of Christ and "go deeper" INTO Him in a personal and intimate love relationship. But it will never happen without a commitment to DISCIPLESHIP, which will become clear as we progress in this study. But let me illustrate further the difference between what is ours positionally (and potentially), because of our citizenship in God's Kingdom, and what can become ours personally (in experience).


[ - Typified in Abraham ]

After God had brought Abraham into the land of Canaan, He said to him: "Lift up now your eyes, and look from the place where you are northward, and southward, and eastward, and westward: for all the land which you see, to you will I give it, and to your seed for ever" (Gen. 13:14-15). But then God gave Abraham a command as follows: "Arise, walk through the land in the length of it, and in the breadth of it; for I will give it to you" (Gen. 13:17). "It was one thing for Abraham to view from a distance the land that God promised as a part of the covenant position which was his. It was quite another thing for him to put forth the effort to walk throughout that land and make it a part of his personal experience. After the commandment to "walk through it," we read in Gen. 13:18: "then Abram removed his tent, and came and dwelt in the plain of Mamre, which is in Hebron, and built there an altar to the Lord." As Abram continued to move through the land, every place he went, he built an altar to the Lord, which speaks to us of a fresh dedication to the will of God. And we need to realize that our personal possession of our FULL "inheritance in Christ" can only become a reality through a daily "ALTAR experience" (see Rom. 12:1).


Later, when Abraham's seed was ready to actually take possession of the promised land, God re-emphasized the same truth as portrayed through Abraham. Speaking to Joshua, who was t o lead the people in, He said: "go over this Jordan, you, and all this people, to the land which I do give to them, even to the children of Israel. Every place that the sole of your foot shall tread on, that have I given to you, as I said to Moses" (Josh. 1:2-3; see also Deut. 11:24). Although the land was theirs by covenant right, only that portion which they were willing to go in and take and put their foot on would become their personal possession. This not only requires time and effort, it required WARFARE against the inhabitants of the land. Although God promised to fight for them and drive out the inhabitants of the land before them, they still had to be willing to "take up the sword" and do battle, so that God could defeat the enemy THROUGH them. He also said that he would not drive out the enemy all at once, but rather He declared: "By little and little, I will drive them out from before you, until you be increased, and inherit the land" (Ex. 23:30). The lesson for us is that we do not possess our inheritance in Christ all at once, but gradually, as we are willing to take our commitment to Christ seriously and become His disciples, as we shall see later.


[ Concept of "Inheritance:" Moving from Position to Experience ]

This very matter of "inheritance" illustrates further positional and experiential truth as we apply it to the Christian who has been born into the family or Kingdom of God. Consider a natural family. Any child born into that family immediately has certain legal or positional rights (inheritance) just by being in the family. As he grows, he is able to begin to actually experience increased measures of that "inheritance" as he is able to enjoy and benefit from the things his parents provide for him, know and experience their love and care, and as he gradually broadens his scope and number of activities which "enrich" his life. In addition through growth and knowledge, he is required to assume greater responsibilities as a part of enjoying his inheritance. Eventually, along with any other children in the family, he is destined to be a joint-heir of all that his parents have to offer. Actually, from the point of "positional truth", he is a "joint-heir" the moment he is born into the family; but he will not actually experience the FULLness of it until time, growth, experience and responsibility have come to pass in his life.


[ - Understanding the Jewish Custom of Inheritance ]

Since the Jewish customs of inheritance in Bible days differed somewhat from ours, let me briefly outline the process required of a Jewish boy.   When a Jewish boy reached the age of 12 (some say 13), a special religious ceremony was held for him. Through this ceremony, the boy is recognized as beginning his adult life, has reached the age of accountability whereby he becomes accountable for his own actions.   At this time he entered the business of his father as an apprentice so that he might learn his life's occupation. At the age of 20, he entered the military service of his country and was subject to call to battle whenever necessary. At the age of 30, having been released from active military duty, the Jewish man reaches the age of full maturity. It is usually in his 30th year that he goes into business for himself, no longer working with his father. And at the age of 40, he should be able to enjoy the fruits of his labors. It was at the age of 30, when it was time for him to launch out on his own, that the father gave him his portion of the family inheritance. It was not at the time of the death of the parents that the inheritance was divided up, as is our custom. We can see this Jewish custom in the story of the "prodigal son" as given in Luke 15:11-32. In vs. 12, one of the sons says: "Father, give me the share of the estate that falls to me." And the Father divided his wealth between them. (NAS Bible). At that time the Father obviously did not know what the son was going to do with his portion. He probably thought the son was eager to get started "on his own" to make his living.


It is interesting to note that this practice was followed by the Heavenly Father's dealing with His own Son, Jesus. Jesus did not leave his natural family to "launch out on His own" until He was 30 years old. It was at that time (with the Heavenly Father's approval—"This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." (Mt. 3:17). The portion of the "inheritance" given to him to accomplish the "work" he was to do on the earth was the "Spirit without measure" (John 3:34), leading to the "Spirit-powered ministry" (Luke 4:14), which enabled Him to "finish the work" which the Father had given Him to do (John 17:4). When He performed His first miracle at Cana of Galilee, we read that He "manifested forth his glory" (John 2:11). He was not only the Divine Son of the Heavenly Father, but He was also humanity's FIRST "manifested (unveiled) son", walking in the pristine glory of restored immortality which was lost by the first man, Adam. This "manifest sonship" was later raised to a higher level when His physical body was GLORIFIED (after His death for our sins, and AT the time of His resurrection).

When a Jewish man, at the age of 30, was given his portion of the family inheritance, he became a "joint-heir" with His father, being officially PLACED by the father in his FULL inheritance. What had been his legally and positionally even at his birth, was now his experientially. But between the two were years of learning, discipline, growing experiences, and incorporating truth into his life. With this natural illustration in mind, I want to comment on a portion of Paul's writings in Romans, chap. 8, as we consider our spiritual inheritance "in Christ." (Be patient, for all of this preparatory "perspective" will eventually lead us to understand the importance of DISCIPLESHIP). The following is taken from Rom. 8:16-19: "The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God; and if children, then heirs: heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; IF so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together. For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. For the earnest expectation of the creature (all creation) waits for the manifestation of the sons of God."


First, notice that we are "children," which is translated from the Greek word teknon (which means "a child"--as produced). This would indicate one spiritually immature—yet, as Paul says, "an heir" (positionally and potentially). But then in the last verse, Paul speaks of the expectation (future) manifestation of the "sons" of God. The Greek word translated "sons" is huios, which is usually used to denote a matured son. And such, Paul says, are to be "manifested" (unveiled or revealed). This "manifestation" would correspond in our illustration of the Jewish custom when the age of 30 had been reached and the Father was ready to "reveal" to his friends and neighbors, and other family members, that a certain son was ready to assume the status of full manhood, receive his portion of the family inheritance, and be officially "placed" in the presence of those called to witness the occasion in the position of full "joint-heir" in the family.


[ The Meaning of "Suffering" with Christ ]

But take note that Paul places a qualification between being "children" and "manifested sons;" he says, "IF so be that we SUFFER WITH HIM (Christ)." The word "suffer" is a translation of the Greek word sumpascho. The "sum" part is a preposition which denotes "union"—"together with" (in association or companionship), and can also connote the idea of "completeness." The rest of the word means to "experience a sensation or impression" (sometimes painful). It is the same word that is used of Jesus in Heb. 5:9, where it says the He "learned obedience by the things which he suffered." The English word "suffer" as we use it today conveys a too "narrow" and "specific" meaning to give us the full, meaning of the Greek word, which simply indicates any or all of the impressions or sensations (mental, emotional or physical) which make up an experience or all the experiences of life. This is one of the drawbacks of using the King James Version, which was translated in 1611 A.D. In any "living language," over a period of time, words tend to change their meaning. However, the Greek word does convey the idea that these experiences can be painful; thus implying "suffering" (either to the "inner man" of the heart or to the physical body). It's like a child growing up who must go through many experiences to come to maturity. For various reasons (which you can obviously figure out), some of those experiences are going to be painful and involve some suffering.


With the above explanation, go back and read again the passage from Rom. 8:16-19, and I believe you will better understand the qualification stated by Paul for those who aspire to be among the "manifested sons" who will be "glorified together" with Christ to "reign" with Him, namely: "IF SO BE THAT WE SUFFER WITH HIM" (8:17). Just as Jesus placed Himself under the instruction and discipline of the Father, that He might learn to be obedient in every situation and experience to the Father's will, so must we place ourselves under the instruction and discipline of Christ for the same reason. This is the essence of DISCIPLESHIP as we shall see. Another pertinent scripture is found in Heb. 2:10 where we read: "For it became him (Jesus), for whom are all things, and by whom are all things in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings." The Greek word translated "sufferings" here is pathema; it is slightly different than the other word we were discussing, but is similar and can be traced back to the same root: it means "something undergone (possibly a hardship or pain; or an emotion or influence.). But again, we are dealing with the varied experiences of life. The Greek word translated "perfect" in this passage is telos, and indicates the reaching of a set goal, and can thus be variously translated "complete," "finish," "conclusion," "mature," "perfect"--as indicating the "ultimate" arrived at. If you will read the rest of Heb., chap. 2, you will see that Jesus was, through the experiences of his life, being prepared for that ultimate "role" He was to fulfill as a "merciful and faithful HIGH PRIEST:" ". . . for in that he himself has suffered being tempted, he is able to [help] them that are tempted" (Heb.2:17-18). But, remember, that as a KING-PRIEST ("High Priest"), He is not to fulfill this "role" or "function" ALONE in the coming Kingdom. There are those who are going to rule as "kings" and "priests" WITH Him (Rev. 1:6, 5:10). That is why Heb. 2:10 says that He must "bring many sons to glory" (the same glory that He has). Notice that it is sons (huios), that He will bring to glory; not "children" (teknon).


[ Explanation of Sonship ]

There is one other word that I must bring to your attention before going to Jesus specific teaching on Discipleship. It is the Greek word huiothesia, translated several times in the King James Version as "adoption." The Greek work means "the placing as a son." It has nothing to do with "adoption" as we use that English word in our day. According to the Scriptures, we are "born" into the family and kingdom of God; not "adopted." John 3:3-7 & I Pet. 1:23.  The problem comes from not understanding Jewish customs. The "thesia" part of that Greek word comes from another Greek derivation which can mean to "appoint," "commit" or "ordain;" "give," or "set forth." We are dealing here again with that specific time when the son of a Jewish father reaches the point in his life (around the age of 30), when the Father, usually in a special ceremony, "appoints" to that son his portion of the family estate or inheritance, and "places" him in the position of a FULL joint-heir in the family. With this understanding, then Rom. 8:23 makes sense: "And not only they, but ourselves also, which 'have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body." Notice that this "placing as a son" is something that we are "waiting" for; and it comes only when it is time for the "redemption" (and glorification) of the physical body. Then the "joint-heirship" with Christ will become a reality in the experience of those who qualify. I will not take time to deal with the other passages where this Greek word huiothesia appears. Just one more remark. I am sure that when Paul uses the expression "we," he was not thinking of anyone less than a born-again, spirit-baptized, sanctified, cleansed, maturing and "overcoming" Christian—namely the 100-fold category. I believe I can prove this by other references in Paul's writings, but that is beyond our scope in this particular study. Great confusion comes from not recognizing the different categories of Christians, and our foundation for this is provided in the teachings of Jesus, although I believe such are alluded to in Paul's writings IF we first get the right understanding from Jesus' teachings. Great confusion has also come from trying to build foundational doctrine from the writings of Paul. The foundation must come from the very words of Jesus. Writings beyond that provide amplification and additional insight.


The Position of Discipleship


[ Distinguishing Discipleship from the Initial Gift of Eternal Salvation ]

We do not become a disciple of Christ in order to become a Christian, or in order to "get saved." Salvation precedes Discipleship. Neither do we take Scriptures that are dealing with Discipleship and try to make them applicable to salvation as many do. For the sake of this study, I am using the word "salvation" in the sense of our initial receiving of Christ as our Savior with the resultant gift of eternal life for the soul. That which Jesus referred to as being "born from above" (John 3:3), and expressed in his words in John 5:24: "Truly, Truly, I say to you, He that hears my word, and believes on him that sent me, has everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death to life." In John 4:10, Jesus calls it the GIFT of God, and makes clear that this gift IS "everlasting life." I need not go into the many scriptures which show that this "eternal life" for the soul is the present possession of all who have truly repented and sincerely believed with their heart in Jesus Christ as the Son of God and their Savior.


I point out the foregoing only because some teach "salvation" as on on-going process; such as, we have been saved from the guilt and penalty of sin, we are being saved from the power and defilement of sin (as well as being saved or delivered from many problems, both inner and outer, that hinder the progress of our "Christian walk," and we shall eventually be saved from the very presence of sin. I believe there is merit in this approach, but for my purposes in this article,  I am seeking to emphasize Christ's call to DISCIPLE-SHIP as context in which to portray our need to progress and grow in our Christian commitment and experience IF we are to receive the greater benefits of Christ's Kingdom; even as I pointed out earlier, the "gospel" (good news) of the Kingdom involves far more than just the message of the GIFT of eternal life for the soul, which is just the "entrance gate".

[ Ed. Comment: Brother Earls has undertaken the difficult task of separating out the concept of ongoing discipleship from new birth class salvation. The difficulty is that the term "salvation" has many degrees of biblical application, some of which are permanent, others not; some of which are instantaneous and others progressive; and some of which are besttowed entirely apart from our participation while others must be "worked out with fear and trembling" on our part. From my perspective, discipleship is in fact all about the ongoing salvation of the soul beyond eternal spiritual rebirth, though Brother Earls would be reticent to acknowledge this if not outright disagree with it. Regardless, whatever relationship discipleship has to any other degree of salvation, his burden is to prevent confusion of discipleship with eternal spiritual new birth which is bestowed entirely apart from our participation and cannot be lost--contrary to the indiscriminate teaching of extreme wilderness discipleship salvationists who confuse these two dimensions of salvation. For this cause at very least, he is restricting the term "salvation" to refer to eternal spiritual new birth.]    


I want now to focus your attention on a KEY scripture which, I believe, presents Christ's two-fold call or invitation: first to SALVATION, and then, secondly to DISCIPLESHIP. The scripture is found in Mt. 11:28-30. For the sake of illustration I will divide the Scripture as follows:



“Come to me, all that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Mt. 11:28)



“Take my yoke on you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and you shall find rest to your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Mt. 11:29-30)



Notice that there are two distinct invitations and two promises of "rest." The first "rest" Jesus promises to ''give" would certainly relate to those who come to Him laden with their great burden of sin and guilt, receiving from Him that which He is willing to give: forgiveness of all their sins and the gift of eternal life. Thus the first invitation is to come to Him for salvation. The second "rest" is that which He will enable those who respond to "find," providing they fulfill the conditions. The first condition is to "take my yoke on you," and the second is "learn of me." Now, immediately following, Jesus states two things about Himself which are parallel to the two requirements He gives. Let me "pair" them as follows to show what I mean.


“Take my yoke on you”  

   “I am meek.”

“Learn of me”

“I am lowly in heart.”



There is no way we can understand these statements of Jesus about Himself unless we see them in terms of His relationship to His Heavenly Father. Thus, Jesus is asking us to relate ourselves to Him, in the same way that He is related to the Heavenly Father. I will explain what I mean by this, but I want to unfold it under the next section as we discuss the purposes of Discipleship.


The Purposes of Discipleship


[ Purpose 1: To  Become "Yoked Up" ]

(1) The first purpose of Discipleship is to "get yoked up" to Jesus Christ, even as He is "yoked" to the Father. This will enable Him to work the quality of "meekness" in us, even as He is "meek." What is "meek?” Some translations use the words "mild" or "gentle," but I believe it means far more than that. I think most of you are aware that a "yoke" is the "brace" that "ties" two animals together in such a way that makes it imperative for them to move and work AS ONE; making a "team," as a "yoke of oxen." To "take Jesus' yoke" means that you give up your "right" to any independent action on your own—you are committed to the will of Jesus Christ and His will alone. It means also that you "yield" to the Lord all other so-called "self rights" which the carnal nature in each of us instinctively wants to "exercise"—the "rights" to be self-assertive, to be selfishly ambitious, to take offense, to "get even", to retaliate, to take things into our own hands, to get carnally angry and "lash out" at someone (in word or deed), to always justify ourselves and blame someone else, to "put someone else down," to try to promote ourselves, to get resentful or bitter, to try to promote ourselves in the eyes of others, etc. etc. (you can add to the list). The reason for this is that our "yoking up" with Christ is NOT a "yoking of equals."   Jesus did NOT say "let's get yoked together." He said, "you TAKE MY YOKE upon you." He Is the Lord (master—boss), and we are His servant, or more accurately, His "love-slaves." Although we are "workers together with Him" (II Cor. 6:1), Only He initiates the work or "spiritual activity." We cease from our "labours" (Heb. 4:10) and enter into HIS. We desire and seek to function ONLY in those ministries and / or gifts He has ordained for us. He is our KING and He takes good care of us as citizens of His Kingdom. He is our leader, provider, advocate, lawyer, manager, judge, rewarder, promoter, and/or anything else that we need. That is why we come out of the kingdom of darkness (and Satan) and surrender our stupid, carnal "rights," and receive from Jesus, our King, whatever "rights" (and privileges), coupled with the necessary authority and power, to enable us to [be] truly blessed and productive citizens of His kingdom. Hallelujah! This is a part of the "gospel" (good news) of the Kingdom that I mentioned earlier in this article.


The truly "meek" person has learned the secret of total YIELDING and TRUSTING. "Meekness" is NOT "weakness;" it is rather "STRENGTH UNDER CONTROL." Like the animal whose self-will has been "broken" (not the "spirit"—inner "drive" or "vital force"), and yields to the "yoke" (as the oxen) or to the "bit and bridle; saddle or harness" depending on use (as the horse), and then waits for and responds to the command of the owner (master). What a beautiful sight is a horse hitched to a carriage, standing at attention, waiting for his master; head erect, neck arched, nostrils expanded—with maybe a "snort" or two, as the head shakes the mane a little; muscles "rippling" with strength; yet, not a movement forward until the master arrives, takes his place in the seat, picks up the reins, and gives the command. That is a picture [of] "strength under control."


Jesus was the perfect pattern of meekness throughout His life. However, from the time that He allowed Himself to be taken "captive" in the garden until He "dismissed" His Spirit on the cross, His "meekness" was severely put to the test. For at any time He had the power to instantly vanquish His "captors" and set Himself free. Even on the cross, He could have exercised the power to dislodge Himself from the spikes which held Him, instantly heal His body and go free. But Jesus was unequivocally "yoked" to the Father's will, even obedient unto the death of the cross (Phil. 2:8), that He refused to exercise His "right" NOT to die. Since He had never sinned He was not subject to death and did not have to die—no fault was found in Him (Luke 23:4, 14). He refused to exercise that which we carnal humans think is a "right"—to retaliate again His tormentors and crucifiers. A scripture which so beautifully expresses this is found in I Pet. 2:23. Quoting from the Amplified version: "When He was reviled and Insulted, He did not revile or offer insult in return; when He was abused and suffered, He made no threats {of vengeance}; but He trusted {Himself and everything} to Him Who judges fairly." Dozens of examples and scriptures could be given to illustrate throughout His life and ministry that Jesus was truly speaking the truth when He said "I am meek" (Mt. 11:29), but I will quote just one scripture: "Jesus answered and said unto them,  Truly, Truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of himself, but what he sees the Father do: for what things soever he does, these also does the Son likewise" (John 5:19). He "couldn’t" do anything independent of the Father because of His COMMITMENT to be "yoked" to the Father's will. His total yielding of any "rights" of His own, and His total TRUST that the Father would "espouse His cause" in everything—that was His "meekness"—STRENGTH UNDER CONTROL.


It was said of Moses that He was "very meek, above all the men which were on the face of the earth" (Num. 12:3). This is why God could use him so greatly, and trust him to follow His directions in leading over two million people out of Egypt and through a forty year wilderness journey. But on one occasion, Moses lost his meekness. The people of Israel arrived at a certain place near the end of their wilderness journey and there was no water for them. They gathered against Moses and contended with him severely. Moses fell on his face before the Lord as he had done many times before to get the Lord's direction, and the Lord told him what to do. He was to gather the congregation together, and along with Aaron his brother, he was to take the rod in his hand and speak to a certain rock and it would give forth water. The details are give in Numbers 20:1-12 On a previous occasion, toward the beginning of their wilderness journey, when the congregation was in need of water, and they strove with Moses because of it, Moses was instructed by God to take the rod and strike a certain rock, causing waters to come forth (Exodus 17:1-6). On the second occasion, however, Moses evidently became more irritated by the people's "attack" on him (he had been the object of their "wrath" on many and varied occasions and circumstances throughout almost forty years), and for some reason he evidently felt he had a "right" to vent his uncontrolled anger on them. Gathering them before the rock, he "lashed out" at them with these words: "hear now, you rebels; must we fetch you water out of this rock?"  Not only in anger did he imply that he and Aaron ("we") were going to produce the water (not giving glory to God), but his infuriated mind failed to recall God's specific instructions. Instead of "speaking" to the rock, Moses "lifted up his hand, and with his rod he struck the rock twice" (Num. 20:11).


Although God responded to Moses’ action by providing water for the people, He rebuked Moses with these words: "Because you believed me not, to sanctify me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this congregation into the land which I have given them" (Num. 20:12). It cost Moses dearly when he lost his meekness, failed to yield totally to the Lord's control, took things into his own hands, and acted "on his own" in disobedience to the command of the Lord, and by doing so "exalted" himself in the eyes of the people by implying that he (and Aaron) were going to produce the water.


To be a "Disciple" is to take Jesus' "yoke" upon us; to be so yielded, surrendered, committed and "united" with Him that we become "meek"—totally under His control and will, as He was "meek" when upon this earth—totally under the control and will of the Father. "Meekness" is listed as one of the "fruits" of the Spirit in Gal. 5:23. We don't become meek overnight. But by consistent submission to His "yoke"—giving Him total "right of way" in our lives, this beautiful character quality will be developed in our lives. The Greek words translated "meek" and "meekness" are usually translated "gentle" and "gentleness" in the New American Standard, and some other modern English translations. Although this is an essential ingredient in meekness, I believe that if you will re-study this section on "taking Christ's yoke," and deeply ponder all of the ramifications, your understanding will be greatly deepened, and the impact on your life (if taken seriously) will be significant. Other New Testament Scriptures that you can study where "meekness" is mentioned are as follows: I Cor. 4:21, II Cor. 10:1; Gal. 5:23, 6:1; Eph. 4:2; Col. 3:12; I Tim. 6:11; II Tim. 2:25; Titus 3:2; Mt. 5:5, 21:5;  I Pet. 3:4; James 1:21, 3:13; and II Pet. 3:15.


[Purpose 2: To Learn of Him]

(2) The second purpose of Discipleship is given in Mt. 11:29 in the second statement Jesus made following the one we have been dealing with: "Take my yoke upon you, and LEARN of me." The parallel to this, as we have already noted is "for I am lowly of heart." The Greek word translated "lowly of heart"—tapeinos, indicates one who is "abased or lowly (in circumstances or disposition)." Although variously translated in the New Testament, it is most often translated (taking the noun and verb forms together) by the English word "humble," or "to be humble" or "to humble oneself." The same Greek word, but combined with another word—tapeinophrosune, is translated "humbleness of mind" or simply "humility." For the purpose of emphasizing Jesus' command to "learn of Him," I want to impress on you three important aspects of humility: (1) our willingness to be teachable; (2) our desperate need; and (3) honesty—the willingness to admit when we are in error in our thinking and beliefs and the willingness to change and adjust in our understanding.


Before elaborating on these, let me say that the only way we can LEARN of Christ Is by diligently studying His WORD—the Scriptures. Jesus clearly distinguished between those who believed on Him and those who were His disciples. Quoting from John 8:31-32: "Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on Him, If you continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." I will come back to this scripture later, but right now I want to emphasize the importance—as we approach the climactic events of this age, and as the Lord is getting ready to manifest Himself through His people as never before, as a necessary part of our preparation—of setting aside things that are not important, and GETTING INTO THE WORD OF GOD (in study, meditation and prayer) CONSISTENTLY (daily, unless hindered by unusual circumstances). Probably the greatest contributing factor to most Christians spiritual "anemia" is the failure to consistently and prayerfully read and meditate on the WORD of God. You may have sincerely believed on Jesus for salvation; you may be "born again;" but according to the Scripture just quoted from John 8:31, if you are not "continuing" In Jesus' Word, you are NOT His disciple; neither will you reap the blessings and rewards of discipleship, one of the most important of which is given in John 8:32: "and you shall know (by personal experience) the truth, and the truth shall make you free (from the "disease" of sin: its bondage and inevitable consequences; as well as the debilitating effects of an unrenewed mind—fear, worry, depression, etc.). More on this later! The word "continue" which Jesus used in John 8:31 is a translation of the Greek word meno. It is used well over 100 times in the New Testament and is variously translated by the English words: "abide," "continue," "remain," "dwell" (for more information on this word and its implications in our spiritual life, order my booklet titled "Daily Abiding in Christ;" it has helped to uplift and liberate many lives, as indicated by many testimonies received). This word is used by Jesus in John 15:7 where He declares: "If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you." It should be obvious to us that if His words are going to "abide" (dwell, remain, continue) IN us, that we must spend considerable time consistently "continuing" (abiding, dwelling, remaining) IN the Word.

[ Ed. note—extraneous dated local/national commentary omitted here ]


[ Grace Through Humility: the Key to Learning ]

Now back to LEARNING from Jesus. The key is humility, even as Jesus said He was humble (lowly in heart). Jesus had to "humble" Himself in order to take on human flesh. Phil. 2:7-8 says that He "took on him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross." While in the flesh, it says in Heb. 5:8 that He LEARNED obedience by the things which He "suffered" (experienced). I have already dealt with that Scripture, but I want to point out now that the Greek word translated  "Learned" in the verse just quoted is exactly the same Greek word which is used when Jesus said "LEARN of me" (Mt. 11:29). Although the mighty Spirit (being) who indwelt the body of the one known as Jesus of Nazareth was the very Divine SON of the HIGHEST, yet in "lowering" Himself to take on human flesh and LIVE as a human,  He had to be "humble" enough to LEARN how the Father wanted Him to conduct Himself in every situation He faced: what He was to say, to do, and how He was to respond to every person (or persons) that crossed His path, that He called to follow Him, or that confronted Him in any way. Without such "humility" to LEARN OBEDIENCE in every situation, He could not have fulfilled the Father's will or finished HIS work (John 17:4).


How much more do we need the quality of humility to LEARN of (from) Jesus. The Scriptures promise that with humility comes the GRACE of God. "But he gives more grace. Wherefore he says, God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble" (James 4:6; see also I Pet. 5:5). Whatever we receive from the Lord is a manifestation of His loving GRACE ("unmerited favor"). "Grace" not only indicates the "unmerited favor" of God extended to us because of what Jesus did for us, it also implies the Divine influence upon (and within) the human mind and heart to do supernaturally what we are incapable of, because of our human limitations, doing for ourselves. With reference to our immediate subject—learning from Jesus—it is impossible to rightly understand the teachings of Jesus (or any other Scripture) so that they become LIVING REALITY within us, unless our minds are supernaturally illuminated. After His resurrection, Jesus appeared to the twelve who were gathered together, and at that time Luke 24:45 says: "then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures." It is now the function of the Holy Spirit to "take the things of Christ and reveal them to us" (John 16:14). In writing to the Ephesian Christians, Paul prays that "the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the (Holy) spirit of wisdom and revelation in the (full) knowledge of him (Christ)." Eph. 1:17—see also John 6:63 & I Cor. 2:9-14. "It is the Spirit that quickens" (makes "alive" and "real") said Jesus, but even the Holy Spirit cannot reveal anything to us unless we have the quality of HUMILITY.


[Teachability: The First Aspect of Humility]

There are many aspects of that which we call "humility," but earlier I said I wanted to emphasize three; if we are to "learn of Jesus." First, a teachable spirit. Jesus links humility with the nature of a child (Mt. 18:4). We must become truly child-like in our approach to the Scriptures. There are three things that keep most people, even most Christians, from being truly teachable: (1) to much secular (humanistic) education; (2) too much religious tradition; and (3) too much carnality remaining in the heart—most Christians believe what they want to, and I'll tell you why later.


[ Effect of Secular Humanist Education on Teachability ]

First, with regard to "secular education," most people in this nation have gone through high school, and a great many have had some or much college education. Having been exposed to so much foolish "worldly wisdom" (see I Cor. 1:18-29), most heads are so filled with faulty concepts that it takes much time and "humility" to get the mind "open" to Scriptural concepts (which are usually so completely opposite to that which is learned from the world society). To help us understand, let me give you a factual illustration. During the 1980 presidential campaign, before the political parties had selected the respective candidates, there were three men running for the office who claimed to be "born again" Christians; John Anderson, Jimmy Carter, and Ronald Reagan. (The following is in no way a "judgment" on the claim to be "born again"—only God knows; I personally hope that each one is a "born again" Christian). Because of the claim of each to be "born again," a group of concerned Christian citizens made a study of position or "stand" of each of these candidates on a number of important moral issues that are "festering" in the nation. The results of the study were published in a small brochure which I read. I don't have one at hand right now so I don't remember the exact number of issues the candidates were polled on, but it seems there were eight or more. The result, however, was rather dramatic. On every one of the moral issues, the "stand" of John Anderson and Jimmy Carter was exactly the same. On the other hand, the "stand" taken by Ronald Reagan was exactly the opposite of the other two candidates on every moral issue. Furthermore, the study showed that the positions taken by John Anderson and Jimmy Carter were identical to that advocated by the secular humanists. Whereas the position taken by Ronald Reagan was Biblically oriented on each moral issue. Just what influences shaped the thinking of these men, I cannot say. I do know that Ronald Reagan went to a Christian College, which might help to explain his Biblical perspective.


The above simply illustrates the fact that one can be a professing Christian and either not understand, or not be "open" to Biblical truths because [ ] the mind has been so conditioned by the knowledge accumulated by secular education. Knowledge tends to inflate the ego (I Cor. 8:1). Strongly held opinions are not easily relinquished. Not many are willing to admit that they "know nothing yet as they ought to know" (I Cor. 8: 2). But DISCIPLESHIP demands a child-like spirit of humility which is teachable, so that the mind can be completely "renewed" or renovated (Rom. 12:2, Eph. 4:23, Col. 3:10).

(To be continued)


[Next:  The Purposes of Discipleship, Cont  ]