A Disciple of Christ. Therein is the description that most every seeker wants to be known as. And yet, after the crucifixion and Resurrection of Yashua (Jesus), God now calls us Son of God. So how do we get from disciple to Son? This writing attempts to explore that journey.
Disciple or Son?
The journey continues. When I first became aware that I was being called to embark on a journey to a Spiritual Existence, I had not the slightest thought of what this journey was, nor did I ever consider how this journey might change or shape me. Indeed, I don't even remember being aware that there was such an opportunity that I have now learned to call "a Spiritual Existence". The only thing that I vividly remember is how out of control and unmanageable my life was. I craved stability. I wanted, more than anything else, to be an acceptable husband to my wife and a respectable Dad to my two sons. And my life was so chaotic, I didn't even know how to fix these 'relatively simple' things. I had not a clue as to why my life's experiences were so unfulfilling. What I needed - nay, what I must have! - was discipline. Or so I thought.
When I accepted Jesus Christ as my savior, I thought I was entering into a new way of living. I really thought, and most infant believers believe the same way, that I was going to study the Words of Jesus, and as I applied His teachings to my life, I would be able to live the kind of life that I not only would not be ashamed of, but one that would be pleasing to God. I, like all young followers of Jesus Christ, wanted to be able to live an existence that would not only be pleasing to God, but would also be a "walk" that could stand the scrutiny of those Elders of the Faith whose voices were used to draw me to Jesus. I certainly did not want to fall short of the expectations of those whom I was sure did not fall for the same weaknesses and temptations that I had fallen for; over and over and over again. I was hungry to be able to see, in my own walk, the "victory" that the visible television preachers and pastors of large congregations in my area were exemplifying. I wanted to be as successful in " my Christianity" as they were in theirs. And in looking back, I think "my Christianity" was about as successful as "their Christianity"!
As my journey continued, I began to be exposed to voices from differing viewpoints in how to walk out this thing called "Christianity". I would listen to men who lived very strict and disciplined lives. I would be condemned because my convictions were not as pure as his convictions. And then I would hear an authority figure who lived a much more liberal and "carnal" existence. And his way of life seemed a little easier, but somehow compromising.
I then heard from some of the Spiritual Giants of our generation. And they somehow had managed to learn how to be able to live a very "holy" life, but also be able to partake of some of the liberties that other, less Spiritual, brethren accepted as acceptable. The more I was learning of My Father, the more confused I became about how to be the best disciple possible. This walk was not becoming easier, it was becoming more difficult. "My Christianity" was not becoming easier to pull off. It was become more laborious. Following Jesus was becoming quite a task.
By the Grace of GOD, I was introduced to some of the teachings of others who had begun journeys with many of the same convictions and aspirations as me. I was blessed to hear from marvelous and mature believers who had already been through many of the same confusions and frustrations that I was experiencing. I will here pay tribute (as if I could possibly repay the service that these individual Believers have been to the Body in our generation and time) of some of those voices that have helped me. Malcolm Smith, whom I believe to be the most talented and gifted teacher of Holy Spirit Life that I have known, came out of a religious background so severe and austere that I can't even imagine the bondage and frustration it must have caused him. But GOD walked him through those experiences in order that he would be able to be a Deliverer of others. Malcolm, I thank you in ways that I don't have words to express. Wherever you are, may GOD continue to elevate you in CHRIST. My heart is to you always.
Malcolm taught me what a pharisee was. I learned, from Malcolm's experiences and teaching, that pharisaical religion was what Jesus came to expose and dismantle. And that those who prided themselves on being able to keep rules better than others were not sweet wine, but rather bitter gall. Jesus called them snakes and vipers. Wow!
And I also was introduced to a Blessed Brother, Karl Coke, who was solely responsible for exposing me to, and teaching me from, Hebrew. I learned from Karl how it is not possible to understand much of scripture unless you can learn to understand the Hebrew language. The translations that we have today, in much mixed English, can be inadequate to properly relate and translate certain Spiritual Truths. This is not a critical condemnation, but rather an eye-opening revelation. Or it was for me. Karl taught me the Hebrew alphabet, many customs, and shared with me Spiritual insights that had come to him from many years of walking and talking in CHRIST. But he also sparked in me a passionate love of the Hebrew language, and I now spend most of my limited study time in the pursuit of the Spiritual Truth that is unveiled to me in the Hebrew language. I am rather skeptical as to how much Greek Jesus spoke to those around Him. Karl, thank you. Thank you!
On another front, about the same time that Malcolm Smith and Karl Coke were being used to deliver me, FATHER united me with the couple that have been my Spiritual Parents for over 15 years. Polly and Rudy Jones have nurtured and counciled me, and taught me by example, that Spiritual doesn't necessarily mean what you do in your religious practice. More times than not, to be Spiritual is to do less, and not more. Rudy has taught CHRIST in the Tabernacle for more than 45 years. The Truths that Rudy can relate in Tabernacle discussions take your Spiritual walk to dimensions that are staggering, and at the same time stabilizing. If you cannot stand on Truth and have it support you, it probably is not Truth. Truth must be able to withstand every scrutiny and testing. If it falters at any point, then it cannot be GOD's Truth. Rudy has taught me Truth. Not only from his teachings from scripture, but from his Walk. Truth must support your walk, and Rudy and Polly have displayed Truth. To my Spiritual parents, I humbly say Thank You! How do you find words to thank your parents for the life that they have given you?!
Now, do I reveal these leaders in my own life to glorify them? Am I telling you of these individual members of the Body of CHRIST so that you may admire them and revere them? Of course not! Not one of these people want to be called, by you or me, reverend. The only Glory that they are interested in is that you may be able to see CHRIST in them, and that they would be able to feed you by CHRIST in them. "CHRIST in you, the hope of glory"[Col. 1:27] is their testimony. Amen!
I tell you of these people, not to glorify them, but to use their lives as examples for why I am even trying to share this idea with you. There was a time in my life, and in your life, when what we needed was discipline. You and I would never even have turned to CHRIST if we had not need of a physician. "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.--I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance".[Math. 9:13] We turned to Jesus because we were broken, and needed fixing. We turned to God because we desperately sought for a cure. We were dysfunctional, and we knew it. And somehow, in His Miraculous Way, He got our attention and began to call us out of the world system of thinking. Yet, when He called our names, we were Spiritual babes. We didn't even know enough to consider what the ramifications of this calling might be. We were carnal and selfish. And the first step on this journey is to realize that you have been living your life all wrong. But even when this is accomplished, and we begin to accept that there are some changes called for, we don't have the ability to make these changes. And so God, in our thinking, starts to require of us discipline. We think we see, in the teachings of Jesus, what appears to us to be a list rules; that which we may do, that which we may not do. This is called the Knowledge of Good and Evil. It is the Tree in the Garden that FATHER warned Adam against. And yet, with most everyone I have known, this has also been their starting point. Mine included. How ironic that the very thing GOD told Adam not to do has become the starting point for us on our journey. The first thing we ask God for is to tell us what to do and what not to do. We ask for discipline.
"Go and make disciples (disciplined ones) of all nations, baptizing them..."[Mat. 28:19] What fundamentalist, of which I count myself among, does not know and quote this scripture? This scripture is even foundational for many evangelistic endeavors. The unction to "go into all the world" is motivated by this need to make disciples of all nations, "...teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you;"[Mat. 28:20] The invocation to be a discipler is unmistakable to most. We even call this idea the "great commission". And yet, somehow, is it possible that maybe we have missed the mark with this position? Is it possible that, in an effort to try and translate some very difficult issues, we have allowed some translating to cloud the simple truth that Jesus was teaching us? Can we possibly believe that what Jesus was telling us was not to just call disciples, but to eventually teach men that GOD now calls them "sons"?!
"For you are all sons of GOD through faith in CHRIST JESUS. For as many of you as were baptized into CHRIST have put on CHRIST.- - And if you are CHRISTS, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise. Now I say the heir, as long as he is a child, differs not at all from a servant (disciplined one), though he is master of all, but is under guardians and stewards (disciplers and teachers) until the time appointed by the father". [Gal. 3:26 - 4:2] I think this passage to be most important in understanding that to be a "disciple of Christ" is very limiting to our knowledge of who we are in CHRIST. We all, admittedly, started out wanting to be disciples of Jesus Christ. Who wouldn't want to be disciplined by Jesus Christ? What better way to correct the chaos that was my trademark than to have my expression of life shaped by the One Who is LIFE HIMSELF? To be disciplined by the Words of Jesus is the beginning of our walk with God. But may I suggest to you, that is only the beginning? And no accomplished runner wants to remain at the starting gate.I want to share with you something I learned from studying Hebrew words. One of my earliest desires was to understand the idea of sonship. Incidentally, I am still learning what this means. In a particular study, I heard of the ritual in Judaism known as Bar Mitzvah. I had heard the words before, but had no knowledge of the practice. I was told, in this study, that Bar Mitzvah should be translated into English as "Son of Commandment". To experience Bar Mitzvah is seen as a milestone in a boy's life if he is Jewish, or as I would rather say, practicing Judaism. To accept Bar Mitzvah is referred to in some writings as "taking upon yourself the yoke of the law", or Torah. To yoke yourself to the law was, and is, seen as a great practice in spirituality. And yet, every place in scripture where I look at the word "yoke", regardless of which Hebrew word is being translated, the idea is that the "yoke" that holds you is seen as grievous and binding. To compare this with the words of Jesus, "...My yoke is easy; My burden is light". Or in my own words, to yoke yourself to Jesus does not become cumbersome and bondage.
To look at this concept closer, the word "Bar", in Bar Mitzvah, comes from the verb "bara". The word "bar" is the noun form of the verb "barah". I spelled this word as "bar-ah" only for phonetic understanding. The first use of the word "bara" is in Gen. 1:1. The verb "bara" is translated in Gen. 1:1 as "created". "In the beginning, GOD "bar-ah", or created, the heavens and the earth". Bar-ah is not a very popular and well used word in scripture, and so every time it appears, it stirs my curiosity. The definition of the verb "bara" describes an activity of cutting and shaping. "Bara" is translated 'create and created; shape';' choose'; and even' cut down'. The idea to me is one of fashioning and shaping. To "bara" would be to take a piece of wood, put the wood into your lathe, and fashion and shape that piece of wood until it looks like what you had in mind. And not a bad idea, I might add. And, you can change the shape of the wood endlessly; but you can never change the nature of the wood by changing it's shape. No matter its shape, it is still a piece of wood.
The word "mitzvah" is translated "commandment". Many believers, of all ages and eras, have clung to the word "commandment", and been frustrated to tears with their inability to "keep the commandments". And rightfully so. We still try to urge and coerce people to "keep the commandments", and with the same results. Why? What is wrong with this picture? Why can't we seem to make ourselves keep the commandments? A commandment is an external pressure for the purpose of eliciting a desired response. When you want your children to obey you, you give them commandments. And it is understood by all that if you break the commandments that are given you, you suffer the consequences. I hope you can hear this. GOD didn't give Moses Ten Commandments. Put down your stones, and please hear me out. GOD did not give Moses Ten Commandments for the Israelites to keep. What Moses did receive was Ten Words. Ten Words? Yes. The Hebrew word, in Exodus and Deuteronomy, that we have translated "Ten Commandments" is actually "Ten Words". The Hebrew word for "Word" is 'dah-vahr'. 'Dah-vahr' is always used when referring to GOD's Words. And it should be translated 'Word'. 'Dah-vahr' has a completely different meaning than 'mitzvah'. 'Mitzvah' is rightly translated as commandment. 'Dah-vahr' is not. 'Mitzvah' comes from the verb, 'tzah-vah', which means to tie something to yourself. The word is used to convey the idea of binding yourself to something or something to you. Can you now see that Bar Mitzvah, or Son of Commandment, is really to try to shape you and mold you by external do's and don'ts that you bind yourself to? If you wrote a scripture, and taped it to your arm or forehead, would that change the way that you think, or view life? Of course not. GOD is not drawing you to HIMSELF so that your external practices will improve. GOD is about the business of changing us from the inside out. Jeremiah saw this, and told the practitioners of external Judaism that they were an abomination to GOD, and that GOD was going to divorce Israel. He then told them that GOD was going to do something that they wouldn't be able to comprehend or believe. "..I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts (inward parts); and I will be their GOD and they shall be My people.- - For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more".[Jer. 31:33-34]
A disciple is one who endeavors to keep a list of commands for the purpose of eliciting a desired response. Look it up in Webster's for yourself. To discipline yourself is to attempt to change your behavior by a set of external commands. A Son, however, has the nature of his Father. Can you see this analogy? The Hebrew word that is translated as "son", as in Son of God, or son of any man, is the word "ben", pronounced 'bayn'. This word comes from the verb 'bah-nah'. Bah-nah means to build; like a master mason building a magnificent structure from stone. That is the word GOD uses when HE refers to you and I as "Sons of GOD". HE does not refer to us as "Bar ELOHIM, but Ben ELOHIM". We are not shaped as GOD's Sons by external forces, but rather we are built up by HIM by revealing to us who we are from the inside out. GOD even refers to us as "Living Stones" that HE is building HIS Tabernacle with. "Coming to HIM, a living Stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by GOD, precious; you also, as living stones, are being built (bah-nah) up a spiritual house, a Holy priesthood, to offer up Spiritual sacrifices acceptable to GOD, through Jesus Christ".[ 1Peter 2:4-5] Refer back to my comment about giving commandments to our children. You give them commandments to keep them in a safe place until they are able to understand, from the inside out, the consequences of their actions. You don't give your children commandments so that you can rule over them. You give them commandments, external do's and don'ts, until the time that they are able to discern for them-selves. As your children, and heirs of all, they are still under tutors (hopefully their loving and guiding parents) until they can hear GOD for themselves.
Please consider this quote from Rudy Jones. "The Overcoming, victorious Life is not experienced by those who know the most, ie. who have the most intellectual knowledge and are able to excel at keeping more rules than others - Christianity is the Resurrection Power of GOD in CHRIST, and is only expressed according to His Divine Order". Order? 'Order' is the Hebrew word 'dah-vahr'. 'Dah-vahr' is the perfect order of GOD, and is therefore translated as 'Word'. GOD is experienced in 'Order' and that Order can and must be discovered within every believer. HIS LIFE is not learned by 'inductive teaching' but is discovered within by 'Deductive Discovery'. It is HIS LIGHT. Conversely, religion is an organized set of 'disciplines'; of rules and regulations which in the mind of the constituent become laws. This 'discipleship' is taught and learned from an external teacher. The results can be "good" as an ordered institution, and can produce personal and societal benefits; but it is, at best, you living someone else's vision and dreams. Religion is inductively taught by some external authority figure. Jesus led HIS followers into a quest for the LIFE of GOD as an 'inside discovery'. The LIFE of GOD is an inside job." End quote. Not bad, Rudy.
The followers of Jesus Christ were not called to learn a better set of rules from HIM. They were called to give up any ideas that they had about being "good men", and lean totally and helplessly on the ability and integrity of GOD to reproduce HIS LIFE in them. The LIFE of CHRIST is not an acquired and learned behavior. The LIFE of CHRIST, in you, is CHRIST in you! There are no efforts noble enough and sincere enough and diligent enough to manifest CHRIST in a discipled one. You can't apply enough layers of laws and regulations onto the outside of man to change him on the inside. GOD is an inside job!
I hope you now can see that GOD did not give to Moses Ten Commandments (Mitzvah's). GOD gave to Moses Ten Words (dah-vahr). GOD did not give to Moses a list of do's and don'ts. What Moses received from GOD was Ten Words that describe the Character and Nature and LIFE of GOD. And from discerning these Words, we can use them to see how we, in our carnal and fleshly thinking and living, have totally and completely failed to know and understand and manifest the Character and Nature and LIFE of GOD. The Ten Words were never given for us to try to keep them and not break them, and in so doing, prove that we are better people than those who don't keep them as well as we think we do. Quite the contrary, the Ten Words were given to show to us how impossible it is for us to mimic and copy the LIFE of GOD. I cannot possibly keep the Ten Words. I have to throw up my hands, give up completely, and say to FATHER, "I can't do this. You have to do it for me". As long as you think you can keep the rules, you have missed the point completely. "Oh, wretched man that I am; who can deliver me from this body of death"? Thanks be to GOD! I say again, Thanks be to GOD who has given us the victory in Jesus Christ.
My intent with this writing was to try to draw a comparison between the ideas of 'disciple' and 'Son'. Jesus said, on the morning of Resurrection, "Go and tell my Brothers that I ascend to My FATHER and to your FATHER; to My GOD and to your GOD". HE no longer referred to them as servants (disciplined ones), or friends. HE called them Brothers. He was calling them Sons of GOD. "And if the Spirit of HIM who raised CHRIST from the dead dwells in you...". "For all who are led by the Spirit of GOD, these are Sons of GOD".
I pray that these words will only bless you, and cause you no harm. And if anything I have said here does not Honor and ascribe Glory to GOD Our FATHER, may those words fall to the dust to be trampled under foot and do no disservice to our LORD.
In HIS NAME,
Shalom and Shalom! Alan