In our last post we began to explore what it means for one to be a disciple. We said a Christian disciple is one who believes in the teachings of Jesus, rests on his sacrifice on the cross, is led by the Spirit and imitates the example of Jesus. Another one of our takeaways was that a disciple is one who is himself involved in the task of disciple making as prescribed in the Great Commission. If you missed out on that post, please click here to catch up.
In the subsequent weeks we are going to take a closer look at some biblical characters to see the heart we should have whilst undertaking this great commission. By the use of the term “heart”, we hereby mean the attitudes, longings, and proclivities that should characterize one undertaking the dispelling task.
The first of such characters I would want us to look at is Ezra.
Ezra was a post exilic priest and scribe and a trusted servant of King Artaxerxes. He led the second wave of Jewish exile returnees from Babylon to Jerusalem. Decades earlier, the people of Israel had broken all the terms of the covenant they had with God. They had abandoned God and started worshiping idols. Also, they had become ritualistic in their relationship with God and had become a nation filled with all kinds of social injustices. For their punishment, the Hebrew nations of Judah and Israel were taken captive by the military superpowers of their day. But even in the midst of their unfaithfulness, God in His love and covenant faithfulness, promised them a day of return. This was the context in which Ezra found himself. Zerubbabel had returned earlier with the first wave of returnees to rebuild the temple of God under the decree of King Cyrus. Ezra under orders of King Artaxerses. The then King of Persia, returned with one goal in mind; to teach the Law of the Lord to the exile returnees so as to have a holy people living in a Holy land.
One verse in the entire Ezra-Nehemiah narrative, captures the heart of this priest as he sought to turn the people to God. In Ezra chapter 7:10 it reads; “For Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the Lord, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel.”
There are some lessons we can glean from the text. First of all is that, he set his heart to study the law of the Lord. He realized that for him to lead his kin in a nationwide revival, he first of all needed to be familiar with the word of God. He purposed in his heart. He directed his desires towards God’s word. If we are going to be effective in carrying out our mandate as disciple makers, our relationship with the word of God needs to move from a passive relationship to an active one. We need to move from Sunday word hearers and 5-minute-rushed quiet time Christians to intentional word-searching Christians. The word of God must be our delight. We must long for it. We must yearn to plunge into its depths and discover the hidden treasures of God. In 2 Timothy 2:15 we hear the Apostle Paul caution Timothy, his protege and son in the faith, to study to show himself approved unto God. He further adds that he needs to do this so that he will not be put to shame while carrying out his duty and to be able to rightfully divide the word of Truth. The shame we sometimes feel in the task of evangelism, and the fear of our inadequacies will give way to Spirit inspired boldness if only we will spend time in God’s word.
Secondly we see from the text that Ezra set his heart to DO what was taught in the Law of the Lord. It is one thing to study and acquire knowledge but living by said knowledge is another thing altogether. Ezra realized that for people who have been in captivity and lived without God for so long, his greatest teaching aid would be that of a personal example. Like Ezra, we have been sent to a world lost in sin and groping in darkness. We must not only preach Christ but we must embody our message. We must become the light that lights their path to the cross. In the midst of moral decay, we must be the salt that preserves our generation. Christ must not just be heard, he must be seen in us. He is the head and we are his body. We are his arms and feet. His loving embrace must be felt at our hands. His care for the needy and downtrodden must be seen in our care for them. It has been said that our lives may be the only bible someone may ever read. As such we must make sure at the end of the day whoever encounters the pages of our lives will leave with an overwhelming knowledge of Christ.