The Weekly Epistle 2/14/24

Living Hope Family, 
 
Two concerns were raised with the epistle I authored this week, which require me to make an affirmation and correction. Before I address those two areas, it’s important to note the epistle was not published in its entirety. Due to an editorial error, two paragraphs were not included in the published text. That said, the absence of these paragraphs does not negate the reason for this follow-up message, though their exclusion did serve to add to the confusion my epistle may have caused.
 
AFFIRMATION: 
 
While it’s safe to assume I have the benefit of your doubt, I still think it is necessary for me to state that I, 1000%, affirm the deity of Jesus Christ. In my epistle, I stated, “…at the incarnation, Jesus laid aside many of his divine attributes.” This was a poor choice of words on my part, and it is totally understandable why some of you may have been confused. I offer this correction: During the course of his earthly ministry, Jesus chose not to exercise some of his divine attributes. As one might choose not to flex a physical muscle, Jesus, at times, chose not to flex his divine muscles. He was still intrinsically divine; he still possessed the muscles; he just didn’t always use them. 
 
I affirm the theology of the hypostatic union (the theology that affirms that Jesus was 100% man and 100% God—He was 200%). At the same time, I acknowledge that the mystery of the hypostatic union, as with the mystery of the Trinity, is beyond our comprehension. What a wondrous thing that we can know our Lord intimately yet never fully understand his nature. We have indeed been welcomed into a wonderous mystery. 
 
CORRECTION:
 
After the publication of the epistle John 6:63-64 was brought to my attention, which states,
 
“It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are Spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.)”
 
Clearly, my exegetical work was left wanting in this instance. I assure you I am a diligent student of God’s Word. My error in representing the text accurately was an honest error of ignorance. 
 
With that said, I do stand by the heart of this week’s epistle, specifically the points of application contained within. When we identify disciples, we’re not looking for the wise, the astute, the gifted, the competent, or even the most faithful. Remember, “God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God (1 Corinthians 1:29). 
 
I hope you can see past the confusion and error to see how Jesus modeled discipleship.
 
A full copy of the text in its original form is below. 
 
Blessings, Church. 
 
Pastor Dan
The Why of Discipleship
Week Four: Why We Trust People Who May Prove To Be Untrustworthy
            
Peter has always been my favorite disciple. He is famous for speaking before he thought, leaping before he looked, and otherwise throwing himself headlong into a mirid of difficult scenarios with nothing more than his unbridled passion to guide him. I don’t know about you, but I can relate to Peter. Maybe you can relate better to Thomas. You love the Lord, and you’re dedicated to Jesus, but your doubts creep in from time to time and keep you from following hard after him. Maybe you can relate to James and John. You’re zealous for the Lord, but sometimes your hotheaded temperament gets the better of you, and you overstep when admonishing a fellow believer. The Gospels are wonderful because, in them, we see a relatable God—in the person of Jesus—relating to people who we can relate to. 
 
We can learn much about discipleship when we examine the lives of the eleven disciples. But what about that pesky twelfth disciple, the “son of perdition,” the treacherous Judas? What could we possibly learn about discipleship from him? Maybe there’s not much we can learn from his example. Still, if we look closely at the sad story of Judas, maybe we can learn something about Jesus’ approach to discipleship and, in particular, why he chose to trust someone who ultimately proved untrustworthy. Here are two observations for your consideration.
 
First, Jesus didn’t know what he didn’t know. 
 
It’s a bit of a theological rabbit hole, but scholars generally agree that at the incarnation, Jesus laid aside many of his divine attributes, including omniscience. It can be objectively stated that Jesus didn’t know everything (Mark 13:32). 
 
The Gospels are clear: Jesus chose Judas, appointed him an apostle, and endowed him with authority to minister in his name (Mark 3:13-19). Did Jesus know that Judas would prove to be untrustworthy? That seems doubtful. Who would knowingly pick a backstabber to be one of their closest companions? It seems far more likely that something about Judas compelled Jesus to seek him out. Perhaps he was friendly. Maybe he was good with money and had an inherent interest in caring for the poor. We don’t know. All we know is Jesus took him at face value and chose him to follow after him. 
 
Likewise, we don’t know what we don’t know. Therefore, we must always look for the best in others and extend to them opportunities to walk alongside us as fellow disciples of Jesus Christ. 
 
Second, Jesus knew his Heavenly Father had a sovereign plan.
 
I have often wondered how Jesus processed his relationship with Judas in hindsight. Songwriter Michael Card mused on this very thought in his classic song, “Why?”
 
 
“Why did it have to be a friend
Who chose to betray the Lord
Why did he use a kiss to show them
That’s not what a kiss is for
 
Only a friend can betray a friend
A stranger has nothing to gain
And only a friend comes close enough
To ever cause so much pain.”
 
At some point, the Father revealed to his Son, the backstabbing scheme of his close friend. Jesus must have been heartbroken. Yet in his anguish, he never lost sight of his Father’s sovereignty. Through tearful eyes, Jesus could still see that Judas’ betrayal served a providential purpose (John 17:12). 
 
If Jesus had to keep his Father’s sovereignty in mind, how much more must we? God brings people into our sphere of influence and entrusts them to us. Sometimes, our effort to make a disciple goes sideways and the person we spent so much time building into proves to be untrustworthy. Does that mean that we should have never made the investment? No. Jesus invested with no guarantee of a favorable return. Likewise, we must continually pour into others and leave the outcome to the Lord.
 
The reality is all of Jesus’ disciples proved to be untrustworthy (Mark 14:50). Fortunately, through the cross, Jesus extended grace and mercy, and all but one of his friends took him up on the offer. We must be willing to extend the same grace and mercy we have found. We must be willing to build into others with no guarantee of return. And we must come alongside them when they prove to be untrustworthy. Why? Because that’s the philosophy of discipleship that Jesus modeled for us. 
 
Blessings, 
 
Pastor Dan