Note: This is adapted from a sermon I preached titled Reframed.
I am more convinced than ever that my life is to be about making disciples. I believe all of us who say we follow Jesus are not just meant to be church attendees, but we are called to be people who follow so closely to Jesus that we are covered in the dust kicked up by his feet. We are to be disciples.
As disciples, we are to make disciples. It is the last command we were given by Jesus. Go and make disciples.
That’s where it gets a bit hairy. Just for fun, try this experiment. Go into your church and start asking people how you make a disciple. And don’t ask the pastor or a staff person. Ask someone sitting next to you. “How do you make a disciple?” For even more fun, make sure you them how they specifically are making disciples.
Make sure to pass the peace after that. They will probably need it.
For most of us the idea of making a disciple is daunting for two reasons: 1) We have never been truly discipled and so we don’t have a clue as to what it looks like and 2) We think we are disqualified.
Being disqualified could mean two things. First, it could mean that we believe we don’t have the right certification to make disciples. Each of us probably have some mental model about what that certification is. It might be a seminary degree, or a Bible college degree, or at bare minimum a certification from an eight week Wednesday night class we took at church. Whatever it might be, in order to make disciples you need this.
Or being disqualified may mean there is something in our past we believe disqualifies us from being a person who can disciple others. I believe many of us have this belief.
In Philippians 3:13 Paul says, “Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” On the outset, this doesn’t seem like such a difficult passage. In fact, if we have spent anytime in church or in the Christian subculture, we have probably won a prize playing Bibleopoly with this verse stenciled on it…or at least heard this verse dozens of times.
That doesn’t mean it is easy or simple.
After all, do you have things in your past you regret? And when I say regret, I am not talking about the unadvised late night trip to Taco Bell that you regretted the whole next day. I’m talking about something your truly regret. Something you wished wasn’t there.
Do you have something in your past that you would even say was disastrous?
Ever done anything destructive in a relationship?
If your human, you should have answered yes. We all do. Some of us have more regrets. But we all have them. Now do this. Those things you regret, those things you see as disastrous, just forget them. Forget them and press on. Get on with your life and leave it behind. It’s a new day! Get out and live with no more regrets!
How’s that working out for you?
Do you think Paul is really telling us to forget what is behind us? Let me ask you this, do you think Paul forgot what was behind him? Paul, who used to be Saul, was an early persecutor of the church. His life mission was to find people who followed Jesus and put them in prison or kill them. He oversaw the stoning of Stephen. He went to the high priest and asked him to enact a law that allowed him to go into Damascus and bring back refugees who were fleeing his persecution. He literally hunted men and women down because they believed in the Gospel of Jesus.
Do you think Paul forgot all that?
Of course not! So how could he say what he said? I believe Paul could say that he was forgetting what was behind him, not because of anything Paul had mastered or some self-disciplining technique he learned, but because Paul deeply believed the Gospel.
In 1 Corinthians 15:10 Paul writes, “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace was not without effect.” When Paul says this he is seeing his story, which includes all of his past, through the frame of the gospel. If it wasn’t for the regrets, the horrendous, destructive things he had done then God’s grace on his life would not have been as profound. For Paul, the things he hates about his past are the same things that make the gospel so sweet.
The gospel screams to the ends of the universe that your past does not define you, but the cross of Christ and the words, “You are my son. You are my daughter,” define you.
So many of us have heard the words, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,” but yet continually feel condemned. Maybe the reason is we have never let our pasts be reframed by the gospel and so, every time we think of our past we heap condemnation on ourselves. The gospel frees us of that. Because if God can extend grace to a murderous, hateful man like Paul, he can extend grace to anyone.
This is the gospel. It is the power to reframe our stories. We, then, need to allow grace to reframe our regrets, foibles, disasters and screw-ups. When we allow our stories to be reframed by the gospel is tells the world a very important message:
God is still working.
How has/is God reframing your story? Please share, and let’s tell the world God is still working.