The Work of Disciples
A disciple is a student, a follower, and an imitator of his or her teacher. Jesus said, "Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel's will save it" (Mark 8:34-35). The Lord expressed Himself plainly: disciples have work to do, and it will cost them something. It is only right, since He denied Himself and took up the cross on our behalf, that we serve Him thus.
The Scriptures also describe Christians as priests of the Most High God. "You...are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ" (1 Peter 2:5). What is that sacrifice? "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service" (Romans 12:1). These passages indicate that Christians--all Christians--have a responsibility before God. Every one of us is a priest, and every one of us must offer himself or herself up as a sacrifice to Him by denying ungodliness and worldly desires--yes, and even denying ourselves!
Furthermore, God has given us examples of those who served Him well and those who did evil. In 2 Samuel 2:24, David lays a principle that remains even now. For when Araunah wanted to give him animals to sacrifice, David replied, "No, but I will surely buy it from you for a price; nor will I offer burnt offerings to the Lord my God with that which costs me nothing." God will not be pleased with leftovers. God will not be served at your convenience. God will not take a sacrifice from us that costs us nothing. Compare, then, David's attitude with that of the priests in Malachi 1: 11b-13: "'...My name shall be great among the nations,' says the Lord of hosts. 'But you profane it in that you say, "The table of the Lord is defiled; and its fruit, its food, is contemptible." You also say, "Oh, what a weariness!" And you sneer at it,' says the Lord of hosts. 'And you bring the stolen, the lame, and the sick; thus you bring an offering! Should I accept this from your hand?'" That is to say, the priests at that time just let anything pass. God won't take just anything. Do we offer stolen, lame, or sick sacrifices by just giving what's leftover, just spending as much time as we have to, doing what's right only when it's convenient, just doing enough to keep our name in the directory? You see, it is possible to offer up sacrifices that are pleasing and acceptable, and it is possible to offer up that which God will refuse. We must be diligent to choose the former.
But there seems to remain among the churches a distinction, as there was between the Levitical priests and the rest of the tribes of Israel. Peter said all Christians are priests. Yet we have many who are content to let all the work be done by others. This practice is almost a denominational clergy-laity distinction at best, and at worst denies the Lord who purchased you! We are priests to the Lord; consider that noble calling and duty! Let us determine to serve Him acceptably, not like the priests in Malachi 1. Christian friend, God has given us each a part to play. Is it weariness to you to do the things of God?
Ephesians 4:16 says the body (which is the church, Colossians 1:18) is "...joined and knit together by what every joint supplies." That means the body as a whole depends on its members individually. We individually are who edify the local congregation "...according to the effective working by which every part does its share." That is to say, you are not effective if you aren't doing your share.
It seems Christians often feel the preacher is the one (and I do mean only one) who is required to evangelize. Jesus said we are the salt of the earth (Matthew 5:13), and Colossians 4:5-6 reads, "Walk in wisdom towards those who are outside, redeeming the time. Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how to answer each one." It is clear that the Lord intended the word to get out by word of mouth, and He intended each one of us individually to talk with those who are outside Christ. Teaching the lost is part of our priestly duty, if you will recall that the priests had the charge to teach the people the Law. Let's not shirk our individual responsibility.
Allow me to comment a bit further on this phenomenon I have observed as a gospel preacher. I think perhaps Christians sometimes think that the preacher is the one who does all the evangelization in a local place because they see visitors come and talk with him and maybe even obey the gospel. But if you think this way, Christian friend, you overlook the tremendous amount of work that has been done to get that visitor there! It starts when one obeys the gospel himself. He can teach others how to do the same. He then grows by diligent study of the word. His knowledge enables him to teach still others. He invites someone to services, perhaps even after having studied with that person himself. By the time that visitor comes forward, all the work has been done! And not by the preacher!! Again, the work of individuals in teaching the lost is paramount to the cause of Christ. Let's not overlook it.
Christians also seem to feel sometimes that elders are the ones who perform discipline, talk to those who are weak, see to benevolence, and such like. The Bible says, however, that discipline is to be performed by all (2 Corinthians 2:6; 2 Thessalonians 3:6), helping those who are weak is anyone and everyone's job (James 5:19-20; 1 Thessalonians 5:14), and benevolence is an attitude to be held by all (James 1:27; 2:15-16). There is no Scriptural example of this kind of clergy-laity distinction! Remember that we were purchased at a price, and as such should glorify God in body and spirit, regardless of the cost (1 Corinthians 6:20).
"What else can I do?" There is work beyond the teaching of the lost. Study the Bible (2 Timothy 2:15). You can only do what is right when you know what is right. Join in the local work. That does not mean merely putting your name on the roll; the church directory is not the Lamb's book of life. Joining the work means doing it alongside others! Bible class teachers are always in demand. The editor of the bulletin always appreciates good material that can be included. The strength of youth is always appreciated around the yard and building. Visitors frequently love to be contacted to thank them for coming. A call or letter of encouragement to one who is weak is always needful. Indeed, there are many things necessary in each local congregation--don't think you have no contribution! These (and such like) are what is meant in Ephesians 4:16. Let us all work in the service of the Lord, offering up sacrifices of time and effort that will be pleasing to Him, and building each other up in love. Dear Christian, remember your duties as His priest daily.
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