Monday, July 1, 2013

Sincere Discipleship

                When I say the word, “sincere”, what comes to your mind? Do you think of someone who is honest and loving? Do you think of someone who is kind and compassionate? Do you think of yourself when you read or hear the word “sincere”? Do you think of a disciple of Christ? This seven letter word has been rolling around in my mind for days now. When I wake up in the morning, it is what I hear, when I go to bed at night, there it is. It all started a few days ago, when a sister in the Lord spoke the word. There it was, stuck in my head and beginning to spring up in my heart. I had to find out what the Lord was trying to tell me about this word sincere, I just had to know.

                The word “sincere” is used four times in the New Testament. The first mention of it is found in 2 Corinthians 6:6, “by purity, by knowledge, by longsuffering, by kindness, by the Holy Spirit, by sincere love.” Paul and Peter are the only apostles to use the word in their epistles to the churches. Some of the other apostles use the word sincerity, but sincere is only used by Paul and Peter. So then, what does it mean to be sincere? What does sincere look like on a Christian? Am I sincere? These are questions that I have been asking myself since the word became implanted in my brain.
                The word sincere means “without hypocrisy”. At least in the context of 2 Corinthians 6:6 that is what it means. But if you travel over to Philippians 1:10, sincere takes on a whole new meaning, a whole new life of its own. Paul writes his prayers for the Philippians down in verses 3-11, but in verse 10 he says, “that you  may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ.”
                Here, Paul is praying for the Philippians that they would be sincere. That they would be found pure when examined, when they are sifted and tossed to and fro, sincerity would be found in them. The definition of sincere in this context means to be “found pure when unfolded and examined by the sun’s light.” This definition reminded me of the rose bushes in my garden. As the sun penetrates the roots and the stem of each bud, the flower begins to unfold. With each passing day, as the rose unfolds its petals, the sun begins to penetrate more and more into the very heart of the bloom. The sun causes the rose to open up, to be examined by its light, and the simple rose allows the sun to see the sincere beauty hidden within each petal. As the rose unfolds, it gives off the sweetest fragrance, and it brings great delight to all who look upon it.
                We are to be sincere disciples of Christ. We are to be like this rose. As we draw nearer and nearer to Christ Jesus, as we allow Him to penetrate the very depths of our blooms, He will being to unfold and unveil in us sincere beauty for His glory. But, to be a sincere disciple of Christ, we first must allow the “Son” to penetrate us. Are we serious about being sincere? To be sincere in Christ means that we are going to have to make sacrifices, we are going to have to go the distance. To be sincere is more than just allowing Christ into our hearts; it also means that we are willing to give ourselves wholly, completely, to God. We willingly open each petal of our souls and allow Him to penetrate to the roots with His light.

                Matthew Henry writes, “that they might be an honest, upright-hearted people…Sincerity is our gospel perfection, that in which we should have our conversation in the world, and which is the glory of all our graces. When the eye is single, when we are inward with God in what we do, and are really what we appear to be, and mean honestly, then we are sincere.” Sincere discipleship means that we are who we say we are in Christ. Who we are inward is who we are outward; a sincere disciple does not cover up or try to hide who they are, or pretend to be something they are not. A sincere disciple is seen as is, there is no covering or hiding, they are true and honest, upright and different.
                Throughout the bible the Lord God calls His people to be holy, to be separate, to be different, a people for His own good pleasure. A sincere disciple will be just that; separate. They will desire to live Romans 12:2 daily. “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” They will strive to let go of all that is from the old nature and embrace all that is new in Christ. They will allow Christ to penetrate to the roots.

                A sincere disciple of Christ will set their minds on the things of God, not on the things of this earth. A sincere disciple will find him/herself at the cross, sacrificing and surrendering to the will of the Father, no matter what the cost; on a daily basis. A sincere disciple will have one purpose, one heart, one mind, one faith, one hope; they will be single in all that they do. With one mind they will serve Christ, with one heart they will love the brethren and with one hope they will follow the will of God in their lives. They will “take up their cross and follow” Him.

                Wesley writes, “having a single eye to the very best things, and a pure heart…holy, and unblameable in all things,” is what sincere discipleship looks like. When we allow our hearts to be divided, when we allow the things of this world to crowd out the single goal of Jesus Christ in our lives, we have lost our sincerity. We desire to be disciples of Christ, we seek to follow Him, but Jesus clearly tells us that to do that we must “take up our cross”. The cross is a place of sacrifice and total surrender. It is a lying down of ourselves, our hopes, our dreams and placing at the feet of God the Father everything; every single part of our lives, at His feet, seeking to live for Him and Him alone.
                This has been a hard lesson for me to learn, and with each passing day I see that my desire to be a sincere disciple of Christ comes at a price. I must, if I seek to be sincere in Christ, let go of anything that is not of Him. Sacrificing my time for Him, my hopes for Him, and my dreams for Him. I must come to a place where His grace gives me the strength to be sincere, to be single in my thoughts and heart, to be His and only His. Too many times I allow television and excuses get in the way of what He is asking of me. Too many times I allow other things to cloud my heart and mind, instead of coming to Him and spending time with Him. I desire to be a sincere disciple, a disciple that is sold out, all in, all His. He requires nothing less of us, He requires it all. With Christ it is all or nothing. There is no in between, there is no marriage between His children and the culture we live in. We must make the commitment to take up the cross and follow Him. In this and this alone is where we will find the sincere discipleship we so desperately long for.

                I find that I keep coming to this crossroads with the Lord. He calls me to lay it all down, to place it all at His feet, to follow Him in sincerity, yet, here I am still, making excuses and finding distractions to keep me from the sole purpose He has for me- to follow Him in all singleness of sincerity. Where are you today? Are you too finding that you have to make a choice to follow Him as a sincere disciple? We cannot serve two masters; we must be single, with one purpose and one mind becoming sincere disciples of Christ. Sincere discipleship is having one mind, one heart, one hope, one faith, one love, one person willing to embrace all of Christ, and letting go of the old so that we are able to embrace the new, the single, sincere love of Christ Jesus.  Let us all become sincere disciples, with one heart and one mind, following One Lord and One God and One Spirit, forever and ever, amen. I choose Christ.