The (First) Three R’s of Discipleship

Recently, we’ve been talking about what it really means to live as God’s people; as those who have made a decision to walk (live) as Jesus taught and place every aspect of our lives under His Lordship – everything we have, want, say, do…all of it.

In my most recent post, I shared the words of another writer who directs us in how we are to live in light of the way things are playing out in modern society and our culture’s current state of affairs by offering the following viable alternatives:

  • Continue living by the Christian ethic (with everyone, in every situation/circumstance)
  • Joyful acceptance of God’s revelation (this world is not our home)
  • Total affirmation of the Bible’s morals, values, and meaning.

And while I maintain that these are certainly great goals to strive for and we should never lose sight of them, today I want to acknowledge with you that sometimes even our best-laid plans go awry.

We mess up.

We make mistakes.

We do the wrong thing…again.

We backslide.

So, what are we supposed to do then?

I believe this is actually a part of our Christian walk in this broken world.

It is in our brokenness and our recognition of it that we call out to Jesus.

It is what I will refer to as the (first) of the three R’s of Discipleship:

  • Return
  • Repent
  • Remain

Today, I’ll focus upon the first R: Return.

It’s the concept that whenever we fall short, the best thing for us to do is to humbly return to the feet of Jesus.

It’s interesting, isn’t it that as children (and sometimes even into our adult lives), in the face of our failures we’ve learned to run either to or from people in our lives depending upon our experiences with them and their response.

What child in the throes of their turmoil from having messed up doesn’t want a parent (or other loved one) to whom they can turn for love; comfort, grace, instruction and encouragement?

Wouldn’t it be great if, when we blow it, there was someone to whom we could turn, confess our shortcomings to and be assured that they would listen and then provide nothing but genuine love and encouragement in return?

We know, of course, and acknowledge that there are natural consequences that almost always follow every bad decision, choice or behavior.

But wouldn’t it be great if we could genuinely experience that our failures are never final?

Learning and applying the discipline of returning to the feet of Jesus gives Him something to work with and, ultimately, makes us stronger.

The apostle John (also the author of the Gospel that bears his name) writes of this in a letter to encourage and strengthen the believers in a group of churches near Ephesus in the western half of what is today the country of Turkey.  In 1 John 1: 8-10 and 2: 1-2, he writes,

If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us. My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.

Did you catch that?

John shares the promise that if we humble ourselves to a point where we are willing to confess our sins to Christ Jesus, he’ll be faithful and just with our confession; he’ll then forgive us and go even a step further to purify us from all unrighteousness.  Make no mistake here; He wants us to not sin; but when we do, through Jesus we have a righteous advocate with the Father.  He’s paid the penalty in our place, for our shortcoming and for sins he didn’t commit.

He keeps short accounts.  There’s no whiteboard in His office where every sin we’ve ever committed is written down and starred with a little check box next to it to mark once we’ve dealt with it.  He took care of all of it on the cross.

And all He asks is that we come to Him.  That each and every time we fall short; we return to the foot of the cross; giving praise and thanksgiving for the grace and mercy that He provides; for the love, encouragement and instruction he offers for those who receive and accept it.

As if to say, “I don’t love what you did but I love you.”

I believe in you and want the best for you.”

“Let’s get yourself up, dust yourself off, and try that again.”

“This time, let’s try it this way, shall we?”

It’s truth is told again through the parable of the prodigal son.

I encourage you to read it through the lens of the prodigal and the concept of “returning” via this link.

As you do, I pray that you’ll be encouraged to consider where it is that you have fallen short this week.

(If you just can’t think of any, then may I encourage you to re-read 1 John, 1: 8-10?).

Return to Jesus, shortcomings and all and see if He doesn’t cleanse you and coach you into a better tomorrow, where the whiteboard is once again shiny and new.

Right here with you,