Links Daily Devotional

MISTAKES: Lessons learned from 50 years of disciple-making (Part 2)

Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work. (Ephesians 4:12, NLT)

Have you ever hit a snap-hook at a key moment in a round of golf? Nothing feels worse.

I saw Sam Snead snap-hook a 5-iron to a par-3 hole at the World Championship of Golf during my college years. Something that couldn’t happen. But it did. Made me feel a little better for all the times I’ve hit this ugly shot.

Many amateur golfers are unaware that golf club manufacturers have devised ways to shape the flight of a ball without a golf lesson. One example: If they build an oversized grip for us hookers it’s far more difficult to flip our wrists at impact, thus fewer balls in the left woods.

Getting golf equipment that fits is essential for golfers who want to improve their score.

Likewise, getting the right message is essential for the disciple.

One of my greatest mistakes in the discipleship of Jesus was not getting better-fitted with the Gospel.

Paul may have stunned fellow believers in Galatia when he wrote, “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him… turning to a different gospel—not that there is another one…But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed… I say again…let him be accursed” (Galatians 1:6-8).

Do you read this as I do, that the Scriptures are saying that our eternal destiny depends on getting the gospel right?

My roots are in Mormon tradition. I was nurtured in a gospel of works. The more good works I did, the higher my standing with God in the afterlife.

In college, some followers of Jesus shared with me another gospel. A gospel of grace. Justification by faith alone. I learned all my works could not save me. Only faith in Jesus Christ and his atoning work could. I believed and experienced his amazing grace, even forgiveness of my sin, guilt and shame. Which was no mistake.

My mistake came later. I began to add to the simple yet profound gospel in Jesus. And like a man in the midst of a dense forest of redwood, I lost sight of the forest.

I got so caught up in work for God that I left my first love. I see others today making the same mistake I did—loving their work more than the One who first created work. It was like playing golf with ill-fitted equipment.

My deceased friend and mentor Dick Halverson used to say: “Relationship is ultimate reality.” Jesus pointed his disciples toward ultimate reality when he said, “I am the way and the truth and the life.”

Has it ever occurred to you, that our truth is a person? That our way is a person? That our life is a person? That’s what Jesus is saying.

What is the gospel? Jesus. He is the Good News. Discovering his love and loving him is ultimate reality.

“Our Lord’s Message was fundamentally Himself,” wrote J. Sidlow Baxter, one of the world’s most admired Bible scholars. “He did not come merely to preach a gospel: He himself is that gospel. He did not come merely to give bread; He said, ‘I am the bread.’ He did not come merely to shed light; He said, ‘I am the light.’ He did not come merely to show the door; He said, ‘I am the door.’ He did not come merely to name a shepherd. He said, ‘I am the shepherd.’ He did not come merely to point the way; He said, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life.’”

Saying “Jesus is the Gospel” does not minimize his finished work. Wrapped up in him is Good Friday and Easter. He is our Passover Lamb. He is the Resurrection and the Life. Jesus is the greatest news the world has ever received or ever will receive.

Recently, I took Jeremy and Rachel, two young friends to see one of my closest friends who I’ve co-labored with for five decades. “I have many regrets,” he said to them. He went on to say that we older believers had spread a cultural, Christian way of thinking all over the world. We did not stay centered in the simplicity of Jesus alone.

We and others in our generation made this mistake.

We hope you get it right.

Jim Hiskey
March 17, 2015
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The Links Daily Devotional appears Monday-Friday at www.linksplayers.com.