Over the Christmas holidays our family faced a rather intense crisis. Every time we took a photo of our three boys we would have six thumbs pointing proudly into the sky. This initial pose was swiftly followed with a “Boys, put your thumbs down” by an exasperated mum. The response was, without fail, a reduction in the thumb count and an increase in the number of bunny ears behind the heads of younger brothers.
Neither Nancy (my wife), the boys, nor I could work out what had caused the obsessive need for our children to enhance our photos digitally until my wife spun the camera around to capture me lounging on a camp chair and with out thinking my thumb shot into the air and an excited, Fonze like, “Hey” burst forth from my lips!
Both Nancy and I looked at each other in horror as we realised that I was the cause of the ‘negative’ actions of the boys. Over the remainder of our holidays I began my struggle to repress the primal base instinct of every dad – to be uncool.
The influence that I had over my children without any of us realising was a revelation in my understanding of discipleship. It occured to me that every single person on the face of the planet is a disciple of something. Even the most committed Christian disciple will be influenced by scholars, family, society and culture.
It is this evasive, never ending bombardment of life that seeks to guide us and force zealous commitment upon us. For almost all people the dominant number of influences, attempting to make us unwitting disciples, are non-Christian.
So how do we remain disciples of Jesus in the midst of a Tsunami of potential suitors? I have found that the following has helped me.
1. Take captive your thoughts (2 Corinthians 10:4-6)
As each competitor of Jesus comes forward and presents its case for obedience, possibilities are triggered. Fear, lust, comfort and more trigger imagination of what could be. The more these imaginations are entertained the greater the distraction they become. Paul encourages the Corinthian church to stand against those things that would distract them from Jesus by taking captive their thoughts or as the KJV translates ‘Casting down imaginations’. Do not allow your self to entertain thoughts of temptation. The question that we need to ask ourselves is “What thoughts are holding me captive?” This question identifies the fears that control us and the temptations that consume us.
2. Focus on the Positive (Philippians 4:8-9)
Paul challenges the Philippian church to think about ‘whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise…’
This habit circuit breaks taking your thoughts captive by filling your thoughts with good influence. I have found if I am exposing myself to the dishonest, the selfish or the material I find it harder to be a disciple. However when I look to the good and decent I am encouraged to follow Jesus. I am not only talking about the church, as sometimes this can be a bad influence, but throughout the world looking at the goodness of humanity that can inspire you to be a better person and a more passionate follow of Jesus. What are you filling your mind with? Is it time to reevaluate what it is that influences your thoughts – friends, TV, books, etc?
3. Be a transformer (Romans 12:2)
Again Paul challenges us to ‘not be conformed to this world, but to be transformed by the renewal of your mind’. Much of life is responding to what is happening around you. This passage declares that to conform to the world is not acceptable. We are to allow our minds to be transformed by the word of God and the Holy Spirit so that we respond as a disciple of Jesus not as a disciple of the world. For me, this is a challenge to see what could be, not what is. To hope in the absence of hope and love the unlovable. It is the unnatural response to a natural situation.
How are you responding to the world around you? Is it with faith and expectation or fear and resignation? Is it in love, indifference or anger?
4. Surround yourself with witnesses (Hebrews 12:1-2)
Finally, allow yourself to be guided by the great cloud of witnesses that can help to point you towards Jesus and support you on the journey. The writer of Hebrews points to the witnesses as a driving force toward Jesus and discipleship. These same witnesses along with the ones that currently surround you arise to support and encourage you in your walk with Jesus. Who is helping you to be a disciple? Not your pastor or a friend but the person that calls you to account with the truth and cheers as you overcome the hidden sin in your life. Allow yourself to be vulnerable with a Godly brother or sister in faith so that you can endure in your walk.