Not Opposed to Effort: the Second Roadblock to Meaningful Discipleship

(This post is the 3rd blog in a series about the nature of discipleship in our churches today.)

 

In the first post of this series (Read it here) I argued that the American church’s misunderstanding of the phrase “grace is enough” causes us to misrepresent the Christian life and miss out on what it truly means to be disciples of Jesus. 

To right the ship, we need to understand two roadblocks that prevent us, and others, from following Jesus into the life of discipleship we were created for.

Not Opposed to Effort: the Second Roadblock to Meaningful Discipleship

(This post is the 3rd blog in a series about the nature of discipleship in our churches today.)

 

In the first post of this series (Read it here) I argued that the American church’s misunderstanding of the phrase “grace is enough” causes us to misrepresent the Christian life and miss out on what it truly means to be disciples of Jesus. 

To right the ship, we need to understand two roadblocks that prevent us, and others, from following Jesus into the life of discipleship we were created for.

Not Opposed to Effort: the Second Roadblock to Meaningful Discipleship

(This post is the 3rd blog in a series about the nature of discipleship in our churches today.)

 

In the first post of this series (Read it here) I argued that the American church’s misunderstanding of the phrase “grace is enough” causes us to misrepresent the Christian life and miss out on what it truly means to be disciples of Jesus. 

To right the ship, we need to understand two roadblocks that prevent us, and others, from following Jesus into the life of discipleship we were created for.

The Limits of Accidental Christianity

I spent last weekend in Wisconsin with pastor (and Packer's Chaplain) Troy Murphy and his family of believers at Green Bay Community Church. They hosted an "Accidental Faith" Seminar on Saturday and we talked about the case for truth, the case for God's existence and the case for the Resurrection. I was very impressed with the number of people who came out on a beautiful, warm, pre-Spring day in Wisconsin. Troy has done an amazing job raising up a group of disciples who want to be intentional. They get it. They want to be more than accidental Christians. I often use that expression to describe what I see around the country. Here's what I mean:
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Verifiability Is A Christian Distinctive

Christianity is unique among theistic worldviews. Some religious systems are based purely on the doctrinal, proverbial statements of their founders. The wisdom statements of Buddha, for example, lay the foundation for Buddhism. In a similar way, the statements of L. Ron Hubbard form the basis of Scientology. But in both these examples, the statements of these worldview leaders exist independently of any event in history. In other words, these systems rise or fall on the basis of ideas and concepts, rather than on claims about a particular historical event. While Christianity makes its own ideological and conceptual claims, these proposals are intimately connected to a singular validating event:

London, England

The first time I traveled abroad was to study abroad. And this was in London, England. While there is not space here to recount the impact that experience has had on my life, let me take the opportunity to list out a few lessons learned for any that may study or travel abroad.

1. Think beyond College and beyond the next semester now.


When I studied abroad, while at College, some well meaning people called it a "once in a lifetime" experience. I always disagreed with this. Instead, I saw this as part of my pathway and journey and as soon I left London, I knew I would return. I did not know I would return over 10 times, but I knew I would return because I saw global citizenship and humanitarian work as part of how I would live my life. Your life is the thing that you get one shot at....not your travel.

The Brief Case for Peter’s Influence on Mark’s Gospel (Bible Insert)

When I first examined the New Testament Gospel accounts, I was intensely interested in their authorship. I found it interesting that two of the accounts were not written by (nor even attributed to) eyewitnesses. Luke wrote his account based on the testimony of “eyewitnesses and servants of the word,” but Mark’s Gospel is a bit more mysterious. Was Mark a previously un-named witness? Form whom did he get his information? I’ve written about the case for Mark’s source both at ColdCaseChristianity.com and in my book, Cold-Case Christianity. I believe the evidence points to the Apostle Peter as the authority for the material in Mark’s Gospel. In this post, I’d like to offer a Bible Insert summarizing briefly the case for Peter’s involvement (along with a graphic illustration of the cumulative case):

Peter is Described with Familiarity
More importantly, Mark is the only writer who refuses to use the term “Simon Peter” when describing Peter (he uses either “Simon” or “Peter”). This may seem trivial, but it is important. Simon was the most popular male name in Palestine at the time of Mark’s writing,  yet Mark makes no attempt to distinguish the Apostle Simon from the hundreds of other Simons known to his readers (John, by comparison, refers to Peter more formally as “Simon Peter” seventeen times). Mark consistently uses the briefest, most familiar versions of Peter’s name.

Peter Is “Bookended”
Unlike other Gospel accounts, Peter is the first disciple identified in the text (Mark 1:16) and the last disciple mentioned in the text (Mark 16:7). Scholars describe this type of “bookending” as “inclusio” and have noticed it in other ancient texts where a piece of history is attributed to a particular eyewitness. In any case, Peter is prominent in Mark’s Gospel as the first and last named disciple.

Peter Is Mentioned Frequently
Peter is featured frequently in Mark’s Gospel. As an example, Mark refers to Peter twenty six times in his short account, compared to Matthew who mentions Peter only three additional times in his much longer Gospel. 

Peter Is Named By the Church Fathers
A number of early Church witnesses and authorities confirm Peter as the source for Mark’s Gospel. Bishop Papias of Hierapolis (60-130AD) repeated the testimony of the old presbyters (disciples of the Apostles) who claimed Mark wrote his Gospel in Rome as he scribed the preaching of Peter (Ecclesiastical History Book 2 Chapter 15, Book 3 Chapter 30 and Book 6 Chapter 14). In his book, “Against Heresies” (Book 3 Chapter 1), Irenaeus (130-200AD) also reported Mark penned his Gospel as a scribe for Peter. Clement of Alexandria (150-215AD) wrote a book entitled “Hypotyposeis” (Ecclesiastical History Book 2 Chapter 15). In this ancient book, Clement confirmed Mark was the scribe of Peter in Rome. Early Christian theologian and apologist, Tertullian (160-225AD), also affirmed Peter’s contribution to Mark’s Gospel in “Against Marcion” (Book 4 Chapter 5). Eusebius (Ecclesiastical History Book 6 Chapter 25) also quoted a Gospel Commentary written by Origen (an early church father and theologian who lived 185-254AD) attributing the Gospel of Mark to Peter.

Peter’s Embarrassments Have Been Omitted
There are many details in the Gospel of Mark consistent with Peter’s special input and influence, including omissions related to events involving Peter. How can Mark be a memoir of Peter if, in fact, the book contains so many omissions of events involving Peter specifically? It’s important to evaluate the entire catalogue of omissions pertaining to Peter to understand the answer here. The vast majority of these omissions involve incidents in which Peter did or said something rash or embarrassing. It’s not surprising these details were omitted by the author who wanted to protect Peter’s standing in the Christian community. Mark was quite discreet in his retelling of the narrative (other Gospel writers who were present at the time do, however, provide details of Peters ‘indiscretions’ in their own accounts. See Cold-Case Christianity for a more detailed explanation).

Peter’s Knowledge Has Been Included
In addition to the omissions we have cited, there are a number of details included in Mark’s Gospel demonstrating Peter’s involvement and connection to Mark. As we describe a few of them, notice these inclusions are relatively minor and don’t seem to add much to the narrative. Their incidental nature is an indicator the author lacked a motive other than to simply include Peter’s perspective in the account. Peter’s involvement appears to have been faithfully recorded by his scribe and assistant, Mark.

Peter’s Outline Has Been Followed
Papias maintained the Gospel of Mark was simply a collection of Peter’s discourses (or his preaching) as this information was received and recalled by Mark. If we examine the typical preaching style of Peter in the Book of Acts (1:21-22 and Acts 10:37-41 for example) we see Peter always limited his preaching to the public life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus. Mark’s Gospel omits the private birth narrative and other details of Jesus’ life described in the opening chapters of Luke and Matthew. Mark begins with the preaching of John the Baptist and ends with the resurrection and ascension, paralleling the public preaching of Peter as we see it summarized in the Book of Acts.

There is sufficient cumulative, circumstantial evidence to conclude Mark did, in fact, form his Gospel from the teaching and preaching of the Apostle Peter. I’ve illustrated the cumulative case for Peter’s involvement in the following way (excerpted from Cold-Case Christianity):

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Not Opposed to Effort: The First Roadblock to Meaningful Discipleship

(This post is the 2nd in a series about the nature of discipleship in our churches today. Click here to read the first post.)

 

In last week’s post (Read it here) I argued that our misunderstanding of the oft-used phrase “grace is enough” causes us to misrepresent the Christian life and miss out on what it truly means to be a disciple of Jesus. 

We have a shallow view of grace and an incomplete definition of discipleship.

The Resurrection Matters

The resurrection of Jesus is not just the reason for Easter. It is the most important event in the history of the world. Not only does Christianity rise and fall on the reality and the power of the resurrection, but the very fate of the human race also depends on it.

The apostle Paul said as much in his first letter to the Corinthian church: And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins (I Cor. 15:17).

What does that have to do with the human race? Well, if there’s no resurrection, there’s no Jesus, at least not the Jesus portrayed in the Bible. The biblical Jesus is the Son of God, who came to earth to save people from their sins (Matthew 1:21). In his death Jesus took on the sins of the world. In his resurrection he conquered death and those who believe in him to experience God’s forgiveness and be forever reconciled to God.
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How Cold-Case Killers Confirm the Biblical Description of Humans

I’ve been investigating cold-case murderers for about fifteen years. During this time I’ve met several defense attorneys who have been certain their client was innocent. One confided she was unable to believe her defendant could have committed such a horrific crime given his present life. I can almost understand her disbelief. Most of my suspects are regular people who live quite ordinary lives following their crime. They are doting parents (and grandparents), firemen, church elders, engineers, painters, professionals and blue collar workers. They’re your neighbor, your kid’s scout leader, your co-worker and your family member. These people aren’t serial killers, they’re regular people who have committed an extraordinary crime. When you arrest a serial killer and interview his neighbors, they’ll typically say something like, “Wow, I am so glad you took that guy to jail. He was weird. I always suspected he was up to no good. I heard strange noises and smelled strange smells over there all the time!” But when you take a cold-case murderer to jail, his neighbor will typically say, “No way! I’ve known that guy for a dozen years. He’s watched my kids and we hang out all the time. There’s no way he could have committed a murder!” How can regular people who’ve lived good, decent lives for decades be capable of committing a horrific murder thirty years earlier? If you’re a Christian, you may already know the answer to this question. I certainly do, because my cold-case killers confirm the Biblical description of humans.
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