Over the Christmas period I was doing quite a bit of praying about the discipleship crisis in the Australian Church. During this time I became increasingly conscious of sin in my own life blocking the growth needed to help others reach spiritual maturity.

I have somewhat of a reputation of intimidating people. Some have attributed this to a stern manner, a serious look, emotional intensity, rudeness, others to a prophetic call and so on. The Lord has used several personal incidents lately to discipline me in this area. He began to show me that I was taking responsibility for something I cannot carry and then projecting this onto others as a burden which they too cannot carry.

Jesus Carries the Cross

When Jesus said ““If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23), he did NOT mean that there are two crosses, one we carry and one he carries. Through grace we are to be empowered by the Spirit who strengthened Jesus for his sacrifice (Heb 9:14) to carry whatever loads the Lord gives us. It might seem that Christ only carries us when we are overwhelmed, and at other times we walk next to each other, but scripture teaches that apart from Jesus’ indwelling power we can never do anything for God (John 6:63; 15:4-5) [1]. When a minister of the Word like me is carrying a burden without a sense of grace and speaks in Christ’s name it is always going to put a load on the shoulders of others.

Abide in the Vine

I can sense the Lord saying that the solution to this disorder is a deeper abiding in the Vine. “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5 ESV). Such abiding requires letting go of all the self- imposed responsibilities which can never manage and which (in my case) lead at times to outbursts of annoyance and anger. Only Jesus can handle everything.

Regaining  the Edge

At times recently I have felt that I have “lost my edge” and that I needed to “get back on the edge”. As I prayed about this more closely I sensed the edge was actually the state of my own heart.

In 2011 I was meditating on this scripture about Jesus; “from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword” Rev 1:16 ESV) and sensed an inner connection with “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” (Matt 12:34). I believe the Lord was saying that the Word he speaks is absolutely sharp at its edge because his heart is completely soft towards humanity[2], and that his soft heart is the strongest heart of all.

The call of God in our time is to raise up disciples who are able to bring others into a sphere of unconditional grace where, as Jesus said, “my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matt 11:30). This means leading men and women into a condemnation free zone; a space where they do not feel any extra weight is being laid upon them other than the one given by Christ himself, and for which the gift of the Spirit is more than sufficient.

A Jesus Awakening

When Jesus was given the Spirit-Word at his baptism (Luke 3:21-22) he felt like he was standing under an outpoured waterfall of grace, for he received the Father’s word that wrath was being taken away (John 1:29). This encounter launched Jesus on his public ministry.

The revelation of God from heaven that will launch a new phase of disciple-making in our land is the gospel message of wrath-taken-away (Rom 1:16-18). This is the grace-filled encounter that will soften all our hearts and restore the edge on our lives.

[1] I think the famous Footprints In the Sand poem is mistaken. http://www.footprints-inthe-sand.com

[2] The outstanding emotion attributed to Jesus in the Gospels is compassion (Matt 9:31; 14:14; 15:32; Luke 7:13).

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