Summary: There are four important things to know about basic training for disciples: A disciple never puts a stumbling block in others’ spiritual path; a disciple forgives quickly—and often; a disciple exercises faith; and a disciple demonstrates faithfulness.
Basic Training for Disciples
by David O. Dykes
Even if you’ve never served in the military, you’ve probably heard of basic training. According to the U.S. Army recruiting Web site, “Basic Training lasts only nine weeks, but you’ll remember those nine weeks for the rest of your life. You’ll spend the best nine weeks of your life learning what it means to be a soldier in the U.S. Army. And when it’s over, you’ll discover some amazing things. Your mind will be sharper, your body will be lean and hard, and you’ll be more confident than you’ve ever been before.” Sounds like an army recruiter wrote that!
A friend of mine who served in the army has some interesting stories about basic training. He once told me about a surprise inspection of their barracks. If they passed inspection, they would get a weekend pass, but if they didn’t, they would have to stay and clean the barracks all weekend. My friend and 37 others passed inspection–but two didn’t. Those who passed were ready to celebrate until they found out the two’s failures meant everyone failed and therefore everyone would be spending the weekend cleaning. You can imagine how everybody felt toward those two soldiers. Now the drill sergeant did not do this to be cruel but rather to teach them that they were a unit and not just individuals.
The same is true in the Christian life. It is impossible to be a lone ranger Christian. We are responsible for one another. In Luke 17, Jesus shares what I call basic training for disciples. God’s purpose for your life is that you become a fully devoted follower of Jesus Christ. In the previous chapters, He was speaking in the presence of his enemies, those religious leaders who wanted to accuse Him. In these verses He is speaking to His disciples. If you are a follower of Jesus, these words are for you. In these ten verses Jesus gives four important keys to becoming a stronger disciple.
1. WARNING: DON’T CAUSE ONE OF GOD’S CHILDREN TO SIN!
Jesus said to his disciples, “Things that cause people to sin are bound to come, but woe to that person through whom they come. It would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around his neck than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin. So watch yourselves.”
It’s bad enough when you personally commit a sin before God, but Jesus said if you cause someone else to sin, it’s even worse. And heaven forbid, don’t you dare lead a little child into sin–you’d be better off to take a short rope attached to a huge rock, tie the rope around your neck and toss the stone into the deepest part of the ocean! Those are strong words!
We live in an age when there is an increase in sexual abuse of children. Child pornography is growing at an alarming rate and the internet has become a means to spread this vile disease. What do you think is going to be God’s judgment upon people who are so wicked they enlist innocent children in such activities? Jesus said they’d be better off dead. I wouldn’t be opposed to making child pornography a crime punished by lethal injection. There are wicked people who lead young people into drug use or prostitution, surely the hottest places of hell should be reserved for them.
Child pornography and drug abuse are simply the most extreme examples of causing someone else to sin, but there are other ways to cause others to sin. Remember, the Bible teaches there are different kinds of sin: anger, pride, bitterness, gossip, unforgiveness, worry and prejudice–the list goes on. These are the sins of attitude we find so common among Christians. Most children learn to sin from their parents. Paul warns parents in Ephesians 6:4 to “not provoke your children to wrath, but to bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” That word “provoke to wrath” means we shouldn’t lead them into a sinful attitude of anger. Few parents would ever physically poison their kids, but many have poisoned their children’s minds and attitudes. If your behavior causes someone else to embrace the sins of disposition, Jesus said you also need a big rock and a short rope as well.
The word Jesus uses for “cause someone to sin” is a the word skandalon, from which we get our word scandal. It was a word meaning the bait in a trap that enticed an animal. Later the word came to mean a stumbling block. If you entice someone else to sin, or you put a barrier in someone’s life causing them to trip up, it’s a terrible scandal in God’s eyes.