When a person wonders if he is a true child of God, I often point him to John’s first letter because it lists many ways you can KNOW that you love God, that you know God, and that God knows you!
Because our church has been reading the gospel of John in preparation for our Sunday morning classes, I have been recently impressed with what John’s gospel has to say about the marks of a true disciple. I’ll give you a quick list of some I’ve noticed. I’m sure there are many more.
A TRUE DISCIPLE
- Receives Christ (1.12)
- Follows Christ (1.43)
- Is Born Again of the Holy Spirit (3.3, 5-8)
- Believes and Obeys (3.36)
- Worships in Spirit and in Truth (4.23)
- Believes the Father (5.24, 38)
- Beholds and Believes in Jesus (6.29, 40)
- Hears and Learns from the Father (6.45)
- Continues in Jesus’ Word (8.31)
- Hears the Words of God (8.47)
- Knows the Shepherd (10.14, 27)
- Keeps His Commandments (14.15-24)
- Abides in Christ and Bears Fruit (15.1-8)
- Loves His Brethren (15.12)
What strikes you as you look over that list? Do you see any common themes? Are you a true disciple?
In C.S. Lewis’s heart-rending book, A Grief Observed, he chronicles his intensely personal journey through the fog and madness of losing his wife to cancer. If you’ve never read it, it’s definitely worth the read.
This short paragraph caught my eye yesterday:
What do people mean when they say ‘I am not afraid of God because I know He is good?’ Have they never even been to a dentist?
We say, “God is good–all the time.”
Is God good because He always gives us good things? Does God want us to be always comfortable and pain-free? Does God want us to be always wealthy and healthy?
It’s a fact–God IS good all the time–but it’s also a fact that we experience periods of (sometimes intense) suffering on this cursed globe. Lewis lost his Joy, his best friend and lover, to cancer, leaving a gaping hole in his life and heart which took a long time to heal.
But does it ever heal? Scars remain.
A friend lost her dad this week. Another just lost her mom. There’s a time to rejoice and a time to weep, and sometimes the times for weeping seem to swallow up the rest.
But what does Lewis mean by “Have they never even been to a dentist?”
A dentist must hurt, must cause pain, must do things that feel violent. The patient, who was once convinced this small torture was a good thing, now just wants it to stop–let it be done! Yet, plead as he may, the dentist determinedly drills on, not because he enjoys to cause pain, but because he knows this pain is necessary in order for the patient to be whole and healthy again.
Our Lord, the Great Physician, knows our needs before we ask. He knows better than we.
When we pray for healing and grace, what do we expect? Do we expect all pain to suddenly vanish? When we pray for growth and patience and endurance, for what exactly do we ask? Do we think God will suddenly drop it in our hearts with no effort from us? When has anyone ever gained strength without exercise? When has anyone ever advanced without work?
Every one of us will endure pain and hardship. Wealth doesn’t shield a person from cancer. Health does not remove the pain of a rebellious child. The greatest relationship with your spouse will not shield you from the ultimate separation. This earth is still under a curse, evil happens, BUT God is in control! Do we trust Him?
Hebrews 12.3 Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. 4 In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. 5 And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?
“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
nor be weary when reproved by him.
6 For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and chastises every son whom he receives.”
7 It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8 If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. 9 Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. 11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
Sometimes God is the good dentist.