The Local Church in the Local Jail: A Discipling Ministry from the Inside Out

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  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 2012-02-22
  • Publisher: Textstream
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He sat alone, and with the exception of his friends most of society viewed him as a social and religious outcast. His living was made at the expense of other people and undoubtedly gave little thought to the fact that he was robbing his own people as a means to his own financial gain. This man along with others like him "had bought tax franchises from the Roman emperor" and then used their authority to not only collect taxes but also extort money from people over and above any tax that was due. This man, according to our legal system, was committing a criminal act every day that he went to work. This man committed murder. He saw two men involved in a confrontation and because one was of his own race, he overpowered the other man that was beating his countryman and killed him. He allowed his anger at what he witnessed get the better of him resulting in a life being taken and this murderer fleeing from possible arrest. He lived for the next forty years in the desert. Some men have reputations that strike fear in all that hear his name. This individual had the reputation of gladly seeing any put to death that opposed his religious viewpoint. He was a blasphemer against God. He was violent against those who believed in Jesus Christ. He was a persecutor of innocent men and women. In one sense he was a man involved in a "holy war" against any that did not embrace his religious views. Upon his conversion, he considered himself the greatest of all sinners. Yet this same man found mercy at the hands of God when he repented of his ways and placed faith in the same Jesus that he formerly hated as well as those who were his followers. Who are these men? The first is one of the twelve disciples of Jesus, known as Matthew. The second is Moses, a man who was second in greatness as a prophet only to Jesus Christ. The third man is Paul the Apostle, responsible for thirteen of the twenty-seven New Testament books of the Bible, three missionary journeys, planting numerous churches, and training many individuals for the work of the ministry. I bring these individuals to the forefront of this chapter because of the importance of understanding that disciples of Jesus do not always hail from stereotypical back-grounds that so many might believe are necessary in order for an individual to succeed as a disciple. For those that think this way, it is safe to say that their expectation is for disciples of the Lord to look like his disciples before they become his disciples. Yet even Jesus clearly implied there is a process through which those that are disciples develop and change. "It is enough for a disciple that he be like his teacher" (Matthew 10:25). "A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone who is perfectly trained will be like his teacher" (Luke 6:40). This means that disciples through experience become like the one who has been the discipler. The plain sense of these statements from the Lord is that through the training relationship between teacher and disciple, the process of growth has a beginning point and finds its culmination when the disciple is like his teacher. The disciple does not look like the individual that he is to become as the result of discipling until he has been discipled. With that previously stated premise—disciples ought to look like disciples before they become disciples; it is reasonable to consider what some of disciples of the Lord looked like when they became his followers. Matthew has already been mentioned. He was an extortioner. Peter, one of the most prominent of the disciples, was impetuous, prideful, and at times cowardly. In the Lord's most critical hour, Peter went as far as to deny that he knew Jesus Christ at all. Additionally Peter, Andrew, James and John were power hungry; they not only wanted to be leaders but also "lords." James and John possessed an attitude of intolerance for others who did not believe as they did. Two other disciples had a problem with faith. Philip viewed things from a pragmatic, cut and dry seeing the glass half-empty as opposed to half-full philosophy of life. Thomas refused to believe the message of the resurrection of Jesus Christ unless he was able to physically touch the Lord. Finally Simon the Zealot (Luke 6:15) was one like others in this "political party" who hated the Romans and look forward to the overthrow of the Roman Empire. The Zealots thought nothing of killing Romans believing that God's will was being accomplished through the violence of the sword. This short summary is the basic profile of the disciples of the Lord. What they looked like when they became followers of Jesus is far different from how they looked three years later after being trained and discipled by the Master, Jesus Christ. These men went from being men with less than impressive resumes to men who through the Word of God, the Spirit of God, and the grace of God became world changers and models of what happens in a life when the decision is made to follow after Jesus Christ. In answer to the question what do disciples look like the answer is simple: they look like changed men and women that have a starting point with Jesus and are in a continuing relationship with him. Any of the above profiles could match the typical man who is incarcerated: prideful, money hungry, violent, self-centered, intolerant, impetuous; as well as alone, easily swayed, doubtful, etc. The Lord's choosing his disciples provides tremendous insight concerning what a disciple looks like at the beginning of the master/disciple relationship. Above all it should be noted that perfect men were not sought (who then would have qualified?). Instead these men were developed through time to become "perfect" in the biblical sense of the word. The New Testament word translated at times "perfect" with different Greek words; three of them are artios, katartizo, and teleios. Paul uses artios in 2 Timothy to speak with confidence concerning the profitability of the Bible in a person's life (3:16-17). He that uses the Scriptures to learn about God, self, and what they teach concerning godly living, will be artios or arriving at that point that he is able to fulfill in his life that for which he was created. The reason for achieving artios is because he becomes "transformed through the renewing of the mind" (Romans 12:2) through applying to life those truths that will bring transformation. In other words, any man that places himself under the authority of the Scriptures can become a changed man.

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