Elijah went before the people and said, “How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal is God, follow him.” But the people said nothing. (1 Kings 18:21)
What makes a disciple a disciple?
The cross adorning our neck? The cross marked out in stained glass we stare at during Sunday services? Or the cross we carry daily?
Our reading of the Word? Our declaration of the Word? Or our living by the Word?
In 1 Kings 18, on Mount Carmel, the prophet Elijah stood before all Israel, including the prophets of false gods (1 Kings 18:20), and spelt out the simple dichotomy that confronts all Christians. If God is your God, follow Him. If not – then follow whomever or whatever you desire. Just know that it’s not God.
Sometimes we overcomplicate things. It’s true, there are many grey areas, even in faith. This is why there’s a spectrum of doctrine, different denominations, but ultimately one church under one faith. Simply put, we may sing different types of songs at our various services, we may get baptised a different number of times over the years – but we can and should still be one church.
The trouble starts when we get caught up in disagreeing over the details – “foolish and stupid arguments”, Paul calls them in 2 Timothy 2:23. The end result, as we see from 2 Timothy 2:26, is that the devil has his way, taking senseless believers captive to do his will.
If the devil is in the details, and that is your god, follow him.
So you can say you follow God. Or you can say you follow the devil. But there’s a third option.
It’s right there in that verse up above. “But the people said nothing.”
When Elijah spoke to all the men of Israel, he was speaking to people of the Promised Land. He was speaking to an assembly who would have counted themselves as worshippers of Yahweh, the one true God.
These days, we would call that the Church.
Sometimes – actually, every day, all the time – a decision is put before us Christians which asks us to choose God (with the capital G), or the (small-g) gods of the world.
Most of the time, the decision isn’t really a public one. For example, choosing waking up early to do quiet time vs sleep. Or choosing to scroll through Instagram rather than paying attention to the preacher (who, trust me, knows you’re not paying attention, and the discouragement is probably dulling his delivery by like 15%).
But ever so often you get the scenario where your decision has an impact beyond yourself.
Maybe you have to step forward to help someone stand up against the schoolyard bully. At a macro level there’s politics, where you have the option on voting for whichever politician abides by values that aligns with your faith.
Or in the public square, where said faith values are being trampled over – do you, like the men in Israel at a time when the altar had fallen into disrepair (1 Kings 18:30), say nothing?
Or, as Elijah put it: How long will you waver between two opinions?
For silence isn’t really silence. You could say nothing – but that says a lot.
So, back to the original question: What makes a disciple a disciple? Surrender.
The Christian purposes himself to surrender every part of himself to the Lordship of Jesus (that’s the Christ in Christian). Especially the bits that are difficult to let go of.
So that’s all my heart. All my soul. All my strength. All my mind. Out of all this – all of my voice, too. The tongue follows the heart (Luke 6:45).
It’s difficult because my heart(/soul/strength/mind) doesn’t naturally love the things of God. But it wouldn’t be surrender if it were easy, no? That’s just choosing a God who agrees with me. That’s backwards – I’m supposed to agree with a God who chose me.
And it’s difficult because surrender is meant to be complete. 100%. This is so important it’s right up there with the First Commandment:
And God spoke all these words, saying, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me.” (Exodus 20:1-3)
What makes a disciple a disciple is an unadulterated altar – where only one God sits and reigns. It must be an intentional, conscious, daily attempt to surrender all or nothing.
You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons too; you cannot have a part in both the Lord’s table and the table of demons. (1 Corinthians 10:21)
You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. (James 4:4)
And what keeps a disciple a disciple? Submission.
If you read through the whole of that episode in 1 Kings 18, you’ll know that it centres around a test. Whichever god sends fire down to burn up the sacrificial bull, that is God.
Then the fire of the Lord fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench. When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, “The Lord — he is God! The Lord — he is God!” (1 Kings 18:38-39)
Then, it took the sacrifice of a bull to bring men to submission. Thereafter, submission involves the sacrifice of a man. You, me. Daily.
Submission means that I have a body tempted by carnal desires – but then I choose to give it up as a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1) instead.
Submission means that I have a mind of my own, with all of its opinions – but then, there is the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16), so I choose to put that on instead.
Submission means that I have a heart that wants it’s own way – but I receive the new heart and new spirit (Ezekiel 36:26) and live by those instead.
I die daily. I have to, because each new day I wake up and find myself still in this failed, imperfect body, with the old desires and opinions. So every day I have to purpose myself to submit to a good God with His good will. It’s for my good.
One day, we the Church will find ourselves on Mount Carmel, a public space with nowhere to hide, and everyone looking on. And the challenge will arise: If the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal is God, follow him.
Will the children of God choose to say nothing?