If you read my last post on discipleship, understanding that it starts the second you meet someone, the next thing I must warn you is that discipleship leads to death. Well, it leads to death if one does it the way that God has lead us to disciple. The title, "Pursuing Discipleship" is one that doesn't mean that we start trying to disciple, but it means that discipleship must be one that is a pursuing relationship.
The reason we must pursue others, is because it is clearly how God has always been towards, not only us, but towards all of man in all of history. Not only does God pursue, but he shows us the depth that he pursues and the characteristics of true Godly pursuit. Think of it.
God pursued Adam and Eve daily in the cool of the day
After they sinned...God pursued them in the garden asking, "Where are you?"
After kicking Adam and Eve out of the garden, God still pursued their children, Cain and Abel, for relationship
After Cain killed his brother, God pursued Cain and asked, "Where is your brother?"
As the story continues, sin was overflowing, but God pursued Noah.
God then pursued Abram and brought him out of the land filled with pagan gods and promised him a great nation that would glorify his name.
God gives us a clear understanding of how great his pursuit is when he tells the Israelites that he didn't choose them because they were strong, or some sort of great nation. It was merely because he truly loved them.(Deut 7:6-9)
This continues as God's nation is built and decides to leave him and intermarry with pagan countries, etc. When his people find trouble, God pursues them and saves them, but always desiring a relationship with them.
I have spread out My hands all day long to a rebellious people, Who walk in the way which is not good, following their own thoughts
After pursuing this nation for hundreds of years through the prophets that weren't listened to (Jer 35:15) God finally showed how far he would go in this pursuing. He sent his Son to us. He literally came down to earth in the flesh to pursue us. This pursuit, the depth of this pursuit, shows us how far we are to go. Jesus died on the cross. He gave up his very life for us, not only that, but he is now "trapped" in the flesh, as an eternal Being, in a human body (although glorified, still flesh of some sort) for eternity. That's the depth of God's pursuit for us. Do you fathom this? That through all of this, all this pursuit, that even as the Christ is hanging on the cross, being spit on, he still pursues by asking the Father to forgive them.
Not only do we see this in the scriptures, but ask the Spirit to show you how much he has pursued you, even while you were yet a sinner. We clearly see that God has always pursued people, even though they rejected him.
So, the question comes, "What does Christ tell us if we turn to him, what is this going to cost us?"
Jesus tells us to take up our cross and follow him. He tells us to be a living sacrifice, that to gain life, we are to lose it. This is the depth of discipleship.
So, now what?
If discipleship starts the second we meet people and begin relationship with them, when are we allowed to stop pursuing them? If we see how God has pursued man, and ultimately us, the answer is never. We are to pursue in love always. No matter the response from the other person. This is why we are to return evil with love. This is why we are to love our neighbor like ourselves.
Christendom has a terrible name of pursuing others like a zit faced teenager pining after the cheer captain that is out of reach. Once rejected, the cowardly teen grovels in self misery and pity. He then either gives up pursuing women entirely, or moves on to another in his pitiful state.
This isn't to be us. We are to pursue others as God pursued us. Not in some sort of annoying way, but in a way out of love for our neighbor to show them what God is like. When we "move on" or give up, we do not show off our God, but we show off what it looks like when we live by our own power with our own motives.
Our goal in discipleship is not to convert people, our goal is to show others what God is like. Period. We water, we plant...God grows. The problem is that we plant the seed and stare at it for a day and see no growth so we move on...leaving the seed feeling unloved and rejected by yet another crappy Christian farmer.
We have the very power of God living inside of us that raised Jesus from the dead. We don't serve some sort of beggar. We serve the King of kings. Lord of lords.
What if we lived like this? What if we lived in light of what Christ has done for us and the depth of pursuit he showed us to others? How would this change our community? How would this change our relationships? How would this change the views of the people of God?
This type of discipleship that pursues because we have been pursued and loved by God is one that will lead to death...death of self. Because as one pursues like this, we pursue those that don't want to be pursued, we pursue those that hate us in return, we pursue those that reject us over and over again. But, if our identity is found in Jesus and not our converts or how people react to us, it is a beautiful thing to die to that self.
Let me ask you. If Jesus told you, "Your neighbor will never turn to me, but will remain in his sin for eternity." Would you pursue him and love him like you love yourself still? Or would you stop the relationship and focus your efforts elsewhere? The answer to that question shows your heart why you are pursuing.
We should always pursue to show off what our God is like, not for the sake of what we'll gain from that pursuit and relationship, knowing that it lead our King to his death...but this death leads to life.