For most 21st Century American Christians, the term disciple is synonymous with student.
While student is a decent technical translation, it tends to fall short of painting an accurate picture of what it means to follow Jesus because of how we tend to view the student-teacher relationship.
When you think of student, what do you think of? A classroom? Taking notes? Studying? For our culture, the images we think of are examples of a more passive learning style. But perhaps a more accurate description of disciple would be something like: apprentice.
Why? Because an apprentice learns actively. They study as they do the work. Then, they reach a point when they master the curriculum and teach someone else. That’s what I see when I see the disciples in scripture.
But first, there is a fatal learning flaw that must be overcome. Let’s return to the classroom idea.
Imagine we are like spiritual kids in a classroom.
The class is: Living a Righteous Life as God’s People
The teacher is: The Law (613 Commandments of the Old Testament)
The teacher’s job is to show us how to meet the expectations of the curriculum in a systematic way. Our job is to learn and meet the expectations, or else we don’t pass.
This method (very loosely) describes the way to a right relationship with God in the Old Testament. Obey the Law and you can be righteous.
But, like many kids, we tend to struggle with our classroom behavior. Our sin drives us to goof around in class, zone out, cheat, pass notes, and otherwise be distracted from the teacher. The result? We don’t learn the curriculum and we fail.
The Pharisees believed that the key to righteousness was cleaning up the classroom behavior. We just need to pay attention to the teacher and the problem will be fixed. Unfortunately, it’s not enough. Sin has completely damaged our ability to learn at all.
Behavior is just an expression of what’s going on inside. Our sinful behavior is not the root of the problem. It’s a brokenness that has hindered our ability to even hear the teacher.
It’s like we have a learning disability.
We’ve had it since birth. We can’t control it or fix it on our own. And we can’t learn the curriculum without intervention from the outside. That’s what the Pharisees didn’t understand – sin has sabotaged the class from the beginning.
We can’t meet the expectations of the Law without an intervention from God. And that’s exactly what God did.
Romans 6:23: For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
I love the parallel structure of this verse. The wages of sin is death. In other words, what we get paid for sin. We aren’t just victims – we’ve earned it. But, there is a gift freely given (as opposed to a wage) that comes from what Jesus earned: eternal life.
Jesus met the expectations of the curriculum fully and finally. Although the Law is still teaching us about sin and holiness, it no longer decides whether we pass or fail. Through faith, Jesus’ Law-abiding accomplishments are credited to us. We pass with flying colors because Jesus did. What’s that mean? We are righteous in the eyes of God because Jesus is righteous.
That’s why just following the Law won’t get you where you need to go. The problem isn’t the teacher, it’s the students. We need intervention from Jesus Christ.
Marker #2: “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).
Marker #1 on the Roman Road: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).
What does this mean for your relationship with God this week?
Maybe it means living under grace instead of legalism. Are you so concerned with your behavior or the behavior of others that you find reasons to keep people out of the classroom? Is your quest for perfect attendance really what God wants for your heart?
If you want to hear more on this, you can listen to Part 2 of the sermon series below.
Never Miss A Thing!
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