Part of the joy of doing a great deal of reading on the subject of discipleship is finding new ways where I don’t measure up to the task. That may sound odd, but finding my weakness is what allows me to grow. Anyone can continue to build on their strengths, the hard part about being a follower of Christ is confronting weakness and sin.
After finishing the great chapter on faith (Ch.11), the writer of Hebrews has a “therefore.” Of course, when you see a “therefore” it is always wise to ask, “What is it there for?” Well, here is the answer to that;
Heb 12:1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,
Heb 12:2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
We are exhorted to look to Jesus as the “founder and perfecter of our faith.” The form of the Greek word for “perfecter” is used only here in the NT. However it can also be translated as completer. A similar word and idea is used by Jesus in Matthew 5:48, “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
I understand that the bar presented in Matthew’s passage is high indeed. Who could ever be perfect or complete like God is perfect or complete? Nevertheless, when we look at the Hebrew’s passage, we have a bit of light shed on the topic as it relates to Jesus and what it means to be a follower of Christ.
First, Jesus lived the perfect life. He was one who was “in every respect, tempted as we are, yet without sin (Heb. 5:15).”
Second, Jesus offered the perfect sacrifice. “He entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves, but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption…the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself, without blemish to God… (Heb. 9:12, 14)”
Third, he fulfilled, completed the perfect will of God. The only reason Christ is “seated at the right hand of the throne of God” is because his work is done. God’s plan for redemption is completed with the death, burial and resurrection of Christ.
Because of what Christ did – we are compelled to “consider him who endured…such hostility against himself, SO THAT (we) may not grow weary or fainthearted (Heb. 12:3)”. As follower of Christ we have by no means suffered to the point of our example – to the point of total sacrifice. “In (our) struggle against sin (we) have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood (12:4).”
In this book, Following Jesus – Biblical Reflections on Discipleship, N.T. Wright says in his preface, “Plenty of people in the church and outside it have made up a ‘Jesus’ for themselves, and have found that this invented character makes few real demands on them. He makes them feel happy from time to time but doesn’t challenge them, doesn’t suggest they get up and do something about the plight of the world. Which of course the real Jesus had an uncomfortable habit of doing.”
Man! I hate it when someone confronts me with my paltry attempt at following Christ! Being complete in Christ, following the example Christ set, doing what I often find uncomfortable doing, is my biggest challenge as a disciple. Now that I have confessed that, I expect I might determine what I plan to do about it.