In our Sunday morning series in 1 Peter, “At Home In Exile,” we’ve focused on Peter’s quote of God in Leviticus 11, “Be holy, because I am holy” (NIV). What does it mean to be different, to be strangers and aliens in a corrupt society? One way that we’re trying to move this concept from initial comprehension to ongoing consciousness is our weekly Discipleship Challenge. Each week we will follow up on the previous week’s challenge, and issue the next week’s challenge. Challenges will vary, coming from a number of themes: self-denial, concern for others, focus on God, inconvenience, breached comfort zones, spiritual disciplines, self-control, and other themes related to following Jesus.
I have no plans to ask individuals whether or not they participated in a given challenge; I don’t want to put people on the spot. Some of the challenges, by nature, will preclude certain people from participating, and they shouldn’t feel guilty about that. For example, our first week’s challenge was, “Always choose the worst available parking space,” but we made it clear that anyone with a handicap sticker on their car shouldn’t be participating in this one. Although I’ve been trying to make a point by taking the furthest away spot possible, in more practical terms, putting others first in this area might simply involve parking a few spaces from the front.
My hope is that some people will continue some of the challenges even after the week is over. For me, with the parking challenge in particular, I don’t plan to keep parking thirty spaces away everywhere I go, but most of the time I bet I can save the better spots for others even if that just means five or ten spaces. If a stranger asked me why I don’t park closer, my answer would be, “Because I think Jesus wants Christians to save the best spots for others.”
Another goal is that people will volunteer to share short stories of what happened to them when they tried to challenge. We will set aside some time for this in worship, and will additionally give the opportunity for anyone who is interested to let me shoot short video testimonies (not during worship) for our church Facebook page. If anyone has a story but they don’t feel comfortable sharing in worship, let me know, and I can share it anonymously.
For more information on Discipleship Challenge in general, listen to the last ten minutes of my sermon in 1 Peter 1:13-25, “Distinct,” on our website, http://www.gpucc.org/WordPress1/sermons/
It’s important to be reminded that none of these challenges can earn God’s unmerited favor, which is only bestowed by grace, through faith in his Son Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:8-9). So Christians aren’t earning their way to heaven through actions, but if you have been saved by God’s grace, that will cause you to want to live a holy, set apart life.