This week we finish our journey through the Sermon on the Mount. For me this has been a fun excursion; it has been a very long time since I have dealt with the Sermon on the Mount as a whole. In the church of the twenty first century we often look to the church as we look to everything else within society as a consumer-based product. Often in discussions with churches that are flailing and struggling, their questions, beyond “what are we doing wrong”, are often consumer-based. In reality often churches ask “what product can we offer that will entice people to come.” That is often veiled within a new program or event. On one hand that is not bad, but on the other, if the reason is anything but glorifying God, then the purpose is lost.
When God calls us to be followers, God does so in a specific way, wanting us to be disciples of him. Interestingly, there is a very big difference from understanding yourself as a follower and understanding yourself as a disciple. The follower suggests a passive relationship. As a follower of Christ, we might see our role as sitting back and letting God guide. This is not the message Christ gives; in fact, it is quite the opposite. This call that Christ gives his followers is not to just follow but to be his disciple.
Being a disciple requires many things, but most of all it is to go out into the world with an understanding that we are God’s people and that our life is not bound to here and now but is part of something more. This kingdom mentality prepares us to see the world as a mission field where through the life we bestow and the examples we give, we can be the disciples God calls us to be. Thus, being a follower of Christ is not a passive thing; rather it is a very active thing to be a disciple.
As Christ finishes the Sermon on the Mount, he does so on one hand in an apocalyptic way. He says that the times will come where we will stand judgment, but our judgment will be done individually. And to be judged right we need to find the hard road that is there, but may cause us discomfort.
On the other, he calls us to be aware. There are many who call themselves prophets of God, but are often out for something else. We need to be able to discern in life what is of God and what is of this world and find which is which. Trusting that when we follow God and follow his Guide to discipleship, we will be on firm ground, but when we go forward and find ourselves faltering and falling, we can realize that we have not been on the foundation that we once were thought to be.
The year I started Seminary I went in with one of the largest classes the seminary had accepted in a long time. By the time I graduated we dwindled to less than half. Looking back on the stories that many of the students had, we saw that many were at seminary because there really was no other place for them to be. Many were recently divorced, or could never hold a job in the first place! They did not last long. It was interesting when a couple of us look back, because we saw this difference why did they not make it and we did, not to be arrogant, but because those of us who made it through were there under the premise of finding out what we could do for God, where the others were trying to figure out who they were. Seminary is a very bad place for that, but that is another article! What is important is that whether in professional ministry or personal discipleship, the critical aspect to the success is the strong foundation and trust that we build with God, knowing that we are ultimately kingdom people, and what we do today just helps us to understand what will come tomorrow!
Rev. Dr. Bryan James Franzen