Discipleship: What, Why and Who

Discipleship: What, Why and Who

What I Learned Last Sunday

You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, my persecutions and sufferings that happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, and at Lystra—which persecutions I endured; yet from them all the Lord rescued me. Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. 14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. -2 Timothy 3:10-17

Check out last Sunday’s sermon here.

Pastor Mike shared ten “Whats” of discipleship (What is discipleship) along with why discipleship is necessary and who should lead in discipleship.
Let’s meditate on these as we seek to disciple one another this summer.

As you review these points ask yourself these four questions.
Question 1: Which of these areas do I desire to mature in personally as a Christian?

Question 2: Which of these areas will I, in this life, no longer need growth?

Question 3: Am I failing to grow in any of these areas by failing to help another grow?

Question 4: Is God more honored by my private unshared holiness or by the mutual worship of Him with other Christians?

WHAT is Discipleship?

Teaching: Hold to and pass on the truths that God’s Word teaches you. You are always teaching something to others. You cannot call discipleship biblical if you don’t teach the Bible in your discipleship.

Conduct: Practice what you teach from God’s Word, and help another do the same.

Aim in Life: Direct your life goals to glorify God. In doing so, help others see what is really worth living for.

Faith: Put your hope in Christ alone, and help another see that you trust Jesus alone for salvation.

Patience: Embrace the patience that God showed you, and help another by patiently stepping alongside them for their

Love: This is the foundation of all a Christian does. We help others do the same.

Steadfastness: Do not give up, and help others persevere despite terrible circumstances.

Suffering & Persecution: Suffer well, and help others suffer with hope in God.

God’s Faithfulness in Your Life: Ponder and point out how faithful God is, and help another see God’s abounding faithfulness in his/her life.

God’s Word: Found your life on the Word, and help another see God’s Word as their equipping wellspring.

In summary, “Discipleship is life together, saturated in the Word of God” -Pastor Mike

WHY disciple and be discipled?
Simply put, it is not easy to follow Jesus, so we need to remain close to the source and close to one another in order to endure.

Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted… – 2 Timothy 3:12

WHO should be involved in discipleship?
Christians.

Words & Truth

Words & Truth

What I Learned Last Sunday

Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil. – Matthew 5:37

There is a wrong, or incomplete, conclusion that can be made from Sunday’s sermon (Check out the sermon here).

The wrong, or incomplete, conclusion goes something like this:
IF Jesus says, “Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’” (Matthew 5:37).
THEN I just need to use fewer words when I make promises. Or, I should simply say ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ when I make promises.

Question: How is that conclusion incomplete?
Answer: The above conclusion does not address the very heart of the problem. Our words must actually be true.

Question: How do I verify if my words are true?
Answer: When my actions are following the path of God, who is the definition of truth, reality.

It is true that Jesus says, “Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’” (Matthew 5:37). However, as Pastor Mike shared, “Our speech and the integrity behind our words must be true.”

Therefore, if I ONLY conclude that I need to use less words when I make promises, I have forgotten to consider whether or not the fewer words I use are true! A simple ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ can still be full of blatant falsehood.

The problem with words is that we have come to realize the great power they have. James rightly understands the tongue is small but powerful (James 3:5). It can be used for great good and terrible evil (James 3:9). Solomon would agree with James as well. If you read Proverbs chapter 9, you will find that both wisdom and folly use their words to call out to the passerby. One offers words for life (Proverbs 9:1-12), the other promises life with her words which in fact are death (Proverbs 9:13-18).

The problem with words is that we often desire them to be believed on their own, for our benefit, rather than for them to be true. We want to be well thought of, so we say words that will give a good impression. They impress the boss. They brighten the child’s face. They give hope to the struggling sinner. In the moments when words are used, we want to be liked, we don’t want to be true. So, we make promises with our words that will sell ourselves to others.

The sad reality is that time always reveals our methods to fall short of truth. Our time in the sun will be gone. Bridges will be burned down. Our integrity will be destroyed when our words do not align with reality, truth.

How much better off we would be if we fought to be true, true to our Lord, than to use our dishonesty to impress others.

Question: Will I consider that God is true when I use my words?

Question: When I am tempted to lie for the impression of others, will I stop and ponder that God sees my heart?

Question: Will I be reminded that God is ultimately the One whom I should consider when I use my words?

Texts that Prove the Text

Texts that Prove the Text

What I Learned Last Sunday

…rightly handling the word of truth. – 2 Timothy 2:15b

Check out last Sunday’s sermon here. In that sermon, Pastor Mike said “beware of bad proof-texting”. With this longer-than-usual post, instead of commenting on the sermon, I am offering some thoughts about reading passages within their contexts. I pray it will be helpful to you as you read and study God’s Word.

Proof-texting.

We often like to reference passages that make a point, driving home an argument. These passages are little weapons in our arsenal to be unsheathed when needed to instruct, convict, correct, and train others (2 Timothy 3:16).

Or do they? If we want to be thoroughly God’s people and not people living for a God of our own making, we need to seek to understand the Bible on its own terms, not on the terms that we would like to impose upon it.

Of course, I am not saying that we never bring biases to the Good Book. We all read through a cultural/experiential lens that must be beaten back via healthy study techniques. However, I am saying that there is one universal principle to Scripture reading that by in large will help us understand God’s Word as written to His people.

Context.
Have you heard a preacher or Bible teacher overuse this word before? Does it sound a bit lame? Possibly. However, I believe that developing a desire to read Scripture in context will bring us closer to understanding what God is saying to us in His Word.

Do we need to be convinced that context is important in Bible reading? If you are one of the few, imagine yourself having to explain to your teenager why Proverbs 5:19 is NOT a license for him to engage in a promiscuous life.

Verses like Proverbs 5:19 seem to me to be clear evidence that context does matter. That verse is, of course, absurd if read alone. It needs context to make proper sense. If Proverbs 5:19 should be read in context, what about every other verse in the Bible? It seems many of the verses we like to read without context are the ones we can shape and mold into a positive message, communicating what seems to be a universal truth anyone would want to hear (“cough” Jeremiah 29:11)…

What do I mean by context?
The original biblical texts are histories, songs, poems, narratives, and letters composed of literary units, all communicating ideas. Originally they had no chapter and verse numbering systems. Therefore, a statement (verse) in the Bible was then never to be read alone (most of the time) as one of many disconnected thoughts. Rather, a verse should be read in connection (context) with all the other statements written around it. These texts that surround the text help give meaning to the text we want to understand! So, to understand the context of a verse, we should start small (smallest literary unit) and move outward to get the best understanding of the passage.

Contextual factors to consider include:

  1. Verse
  2. Paragraph (literary unit)
  3. Chapter (helpful but remember that the original authors didn’t include those chapters).
  4. Entire book/letter
  5. Other writings from the author
  6. The entire Bible

It’s important to start small and work your way gradually to the context of the entire Bible. For example, if you run into a passage from Colossians that seems to contradict what you think Jesus says in the Gospel of John, you should first try to understand the passage in context with Colossians before jumping to John to find cohesion. In doing so you will likely find that your perceived contradiction is made clear later on by the author of Colossians.

Before you go, let’s consider one example of trying to understand a passage in its context.

One Practical Example: 2 Timothy 2:13

The saying is trustworthy, for:
If we have died with him, we will also live with him;
12 if we endure, we will also reign with him;
if we deny him, he also will deny us;
13 if we are faithless, he remains faithful—
for he cannot deny himself.” – 2 Timothy 2:11–13

…if we are faithless, he remains faithful

For a good portion of my life, this statement about God’s faithfulness was a great comfort to the terrifying thought of denying Jesus and therefore being denied by Him (v. 12b).
God’s faithfulness despite our failures is a comforting thought and a biblical truth! Jesus, himself prophesied to the disciples that He would remain faithful to them despite their future abandonment of Him after His arrest and murder (Mark 14:27-28).

However, I don’t believe the statement, “…if we are faithless, he remains faithful,” is meant by Paul to be a comfort. Rather, it is a warning that God will be faithful to Himself to deny any who deny Him.

Why do I think that?

Paragraph Context
In the immediate context of verse 13, we have a quoted saying with four lines, possibly an ancient Christian hymn. The first two lines are positive.
“If we have died with him, we will also live with him;
12 if we endure, we will also reign with him;”

Considering that the first two lines carry synonymous ideas, it would then logically follow that the next two lines would also be connected, communicating synonymous ideas.

“if we deny him, he also will deny us;
13 if we are faithless, he remains faithful—”

The first statement about denying Christ is clearly negative. There is no way to positively understand being denied by Christ. It seems to follow then that the statement of God’s faithfulness is likely more a warning (a synonymous parallel with denial) that God is a faithful, fair, and consistent judge of deniers than a positive statement about God’s faithfulness to forgive sins. This four-line structure would be considerably hampered if God’s faithfulness were intended to be seen as a comfort rather than a warning?

Chapter Context
It is interesting that prior to 2 Timothy 2:11-13, Paul seems consumed that Timothy (and Paul) remain faithful to Christ, despite suffering.
Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect…” – 2 Timothy 2:10
Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.” – 2 Timothy 2:3

Additionally, Paul provides three examples of determined perseverance (the commander-pleasing soldier, the rule-following athlete, and the hard-working farmer) (2 Timothy 2:4-6). These seem to be intended by Paul as motivators for Timothy to keep pressing on in his Gospel work. The question is then, would the following hymn in vv 11-13 be more likely to include a line that disregards the Christian call to be faithful? Or, would the line be a warning (in line with Paul’s prior encouragement) to remain faithful! I think the latter.

Book Context
How does Paul speak about faithfulness throughout the remainder of the letter?

There are nine additional explicit references to faith in the letter. Timothy has faith (1:5, 3:10). Timothy should continue pursuing faith in Christ (1:13, 2:22). Timothy should pass on what he has been taught to faithful men (2:2). False teaching upsets the faith of people (2:18). Opposing the truth disqualifies one regarding the faith (3:8). Faith in Christ is connected to salvation (3:15). Finally, the keeping of the faith is evidence for Paul that Paul is bound for glory (4:7).

Rather than Paul easing up and considering faithlessness as a Christian quality, he actually treats it as a mark of an unbeliever (3:8). On the other hand persistent faithfulness is, to Paul, a mark of being a Christian (4:7).

Therefore, considering the immediate, near, and whole context of 2 Timothy, 2:13 seems more likely to be a warning to remain faithful than intended as a comfort that faithlessness is a Christian quality.

Conclusion
So, let’s love the Word by reading the words in context. This is a great first step to understanding more of God’s Word in order to live it out.

Hope for Sinners in a Seated Savior

Hope for Sinners in a Seated Savior

What I Learned Last Sunday

Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, 4 having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs. – Hebrews 1:1-4

Check out last Sunday’s sermon here.

“Oh no! Daddy, where did Jesus go?”

My daughter asks with concern. She is perplexed, staring at the pages in her story Bible which depict Christ’s ascension to heaven. Looking back at her from the page is a group of cartoon disciples, standing, gaping, looking upward. My daughter is sharing their expression.

“He went up to heaven, honey,” I reply.

“Why?” My daughter is not satisfied.

She is not aware of the great, glorious, hope-filled implications of the answer to her question.

Last Sunday, Pastor Mike returned to Hebrews 1:1-4 to share two implications of Christ’s accomplished work on the cross which resulted in His return to Heaven and His sitting down in glory.

After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high… – Hebrews 1:3b

These implications below explain Christ’s ascension.

Question: Why did Jesus return to Heaven to sit down at the right hand of the Majesty on high?

Answer #1: Because Jesus Finished the Work.

The work Jesus did on the cross was the completion of God’s ultimate plan to reunite Himself with man. The author of Hebrews calls this the act of Jesus making purification for sins. It is sin that singularly separates me from God, and it is Jesus who singularly provides payment for my sin. Jesus has done what no human in the history of the world could accomplish. He both paid for my sin and defeated the consequence of my sin with His body (1 Peter 2:24).

There is no other work now to be done. How do we know this? Because Jesus returned from whence He came, and He sat down. He finished the work!

Right now anyone who believes in the Lord Jesus Christ will be saved (Acts 16:31).

Ponder this: Will I rest in the work of Christ, that He has done what I cannot?

Answer #2: Because Jesus is Exalted, Reigning Over All.

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. – Matthew 28:18

Jesus sat down in glory to show His authority. This is the great confirmation for all the world that the One who took our sin is the glory of God Himself, reigning and ruling over all things and every person. “The greatest rebel and the most ardent worshiper of Jesus are equally under the authority of Christ.”*

So, I should worship Him. He is the glorious and exalted God whom all will bow before. I can also trust Him. What He has said is good as gold and rock-solid reliable. He made purification for my sins. His exalted state ensures my future hope.

Right now God is seeking worshippers who will see Christ for who He truly is and respond in worship (John 4:23).

Ponder this: Will I worship Jesus today, as He is worthy of all praise?

*Quote shared from Pastor Mike in a sermon preached on April 17, 2022.

The Infinite yet Approachable God-Man

The Infinite yet Approachable God-Man

Holy Week 2022 What I Learned Last Sunday

It is Wednesday of Holy Week. Sunday is coming.

And while [Jesus] was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he was reclining at table, a woman [Mary, the sister of Martha] came with an alabaster flask of ointment of pure nard, very costly, and she broke the flask and poured it over his head. There were some who said to themselves indignantly, “Why was the ointment wasted like that? For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor.” And they scolded her. But Jesus said, “Leave her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you want, you can do good for them. But you will not always have me. She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for burial. And truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.” – Mark 14:3-9

Just days before His death, Jesus was the recipient of a gift. Mark 14:3-9 records that Mary anointed His head with costly* ointment. However, Mary soon became an object of scorn. Her act was seen by some disciples as wasteful.

Question: What did Mary see in Jesus that would lead to such an offering, while others scoffed at her “wastefulness”?

Last Sunday, Pastor Mike shared (check out the sermon here) the infinite value of Christ as described in Hebrews 1:1-4. Who is this Jesus whom Mary anointed?

Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days, he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs. -Hebrews 1:1–4

Jesus is…

Jesus is the Heir of all things. (Hebrews 1:2)
The One Mary anointed is the Heir of all. The future points to Jesus, who will one day be acknowledged across space and time, and among every people and language, as Lord of all (Philippians 2:10-11). How then could Mary’s offering be a waste? If anything, first century A.D. Pure nard ointment seems to be an inadequate offering for the Heir who deserves all things.

Yet, the Heir came to Mary in sympathetic flesh (Hebrews 4:15). The Heir became accessible to humanity, so Mary could offer what she could to the person of Christ. She approached Jesus, falling at His smelly feet. She stood and raised the flask over her Lord’s head, drenching His figure in an offering of worship. How wonderful! The truly human Christ actually received her gift, calling it, “beautiful”? What grace and kindness!

Jesus is the Agent of the world’s creation. (Hebrews 1:2)
Mary, and all humanity, are the very handiwork and possession of God through Christ. Therefore, our identity and purpose are intimately tied to the triune Creator God’s purposes.

Yet, Jesus became a creature to create (through torn body and shed blood) a reunion between His creation and the Creator. So, Mary’s offering was, to Jesus, a pre-burial ritual, pointing to His sacrificial payment for sin (1 John 2:2). The Agent of creation became flesh, dwelt with His creation, and would suffer a horrific death under a wrath destined for His creation. Mary’s offering worshiped Christ’s worth as the infinitely worthy sin payer.

Jesus is the radiance of God’s glory. (Hebrews 1:3)
Mary’s forefather, Moses, could only look at God’s back to avoid instant death when enraptured with God’s presence. Even so, Moses’ face was changed to brightness by the glory of God (Exodus 34:29).

Yet, God in Christ stepped into flesh. He became utterly approachable, fully dressed in humanity. Mary could enter Jesus’ presence and honor His person. Her gift ran through Christ’s hair and beard, a fragrant act of worship. As Christ’s physical body made it possible for Mary to offer her gift (He was not a spirit), so also our offerings to God are possible through Christ’s sacrificed body (Romans 12:1-2).

Question: What did Mary see in Jesus that would lead to such an offering?

Answer: Mary saw that Jesus is worthy! He is the Heir of all, the Agent of creation, and the shining splendor of God. No gift is too costly for this Christ.

Yet, Jesus is more worthy. He embodies God’s unfailing love. He came in flesh and received Mary’s offering as His burial preparation, the burial of His body which would endure the weight of God’s punishment against our sin.

Challenge: Today prayerfully consider both the infinite value of Christ and the humility of Christ, and ask God to lift up your heart in worship to Him.

*There are estimates that a flask of pure nard would cost up to one year’s salary in the first century A.D.

Awakened to Sin and Sin-fighting

Awakened to Sin and Sin-fighting

What I Learned Last Sunday

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell. -Matthew 5:27–30

Check out last week’s message here.

Awakened to My Sin
Ok, I am convinced and cut to the heart about my sin. Jesus is not playing games in Matthew 5:27-30. I no longer believe that a particular sinful act (like cheating on my spouse) is all that I should avoid. I now see sin as that pervasive menace, foiling everything good and true. Whether the covetous lust of my heart or my physical actions, both are sinful. The simple difference between these is not of content but of location, for, “…one is [SIN] carried out in the heart and one is [SIN] expressed in the body*.”
…And, sin leads to hell (Matthew 5:30).

Awakened to Sin-Fighting
Ok, so I must fight. Where do I begin?
Pastor Mike shared* that we uphold two truths in our sin-fighting:

  1. Sin leads to hell.
  2. Salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in the finished work of Christ alone.

In terms of practical steps to fight sin, we have many grace-powered tools God grants, two of which Pastor Mike shared.

First, remember the heart of the Gospel when the weight of sin bears down on your soul.

My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. -1 John 2:1–2

Second, A.P.T.A.T. (an acronym shared from Pastor John Piper).

ADMIT: your needs to God.
PRAY: for help and strength from God.
TRUST: that God will answer your prayer.
ACT: in dead-serious obedience to fight your sin.
THANK: God for every victory AND thank Him as a means of replacing temptations with Gospel truths.

Each point in that acronym is helpful, but consider THANK for a moment. Is thankfulness really a sin-fighter?
Paul would say, “Yes!” In Colossians 3, Paul mentions thankfulness three times as an attitude we “put on,” in contrast to the sinful flesh which we remove.

And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. -Colossians 3:15–17

The more you consider the eternal peace Christ has won, the more you will be thankful (Colossians 3:15). The more you ponder Christ in your heart, the more your heart will abound with thankfulness (Colossians 3:16). And, the more you are thankful, the more you will return thanksgiving to God in obedience (Colossians 3:17). “Your heart cannot, in the same moment, be full of gratitude towards God in Christ and be tempted to sin…your heart simply does not have the capacity*.”

So, fight sin today, fully aware of its pervasive effects, and more fully aware of what Christ has accomplished in you.

And be Thankful
When tempted to flee God’s face;
To think that I should cheapen grace,
I remember my sin leads to death,
God’s judgment in the form of wrath,

“I never knew you!” were His decree,
Directed toward none other, only me;
Torn from all things bright and true,
Eternal anguish and regret, no hope for something new.

But if that wrath, placed on His Son,
Eternal joy, my blessing won,
Could I stand thankful in that purchased peace?
Saying to temptation, “No thanks!”

*Quotes from Pastor Mike shared in the sermon preached on April 4, 2022.

Worse (and Better) Than I Thought

Worse (and Better) Than I Thought

What I Learned Last Sunday

You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison. Truly, I say to you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny. – Matthew 5:21–26

Check out last week’s message here.

“It’s worse than I thought!”

A variation of that phrase has been conveyed in past sermons at Ridgeview, as we have walked through Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. It seems to have recurring applications for us. For example, Matthew 5:21-26 shows, first, that my sin is worse than I often think it is. Second, my sin is also more costly than I think it is.

Sin: More Sinful Than I Thought

When my toddler spills my “precious” coffee, and I feel anger and frustration swell in my heart, I cannot stand before God in innocence. “But, I haven’t murdered anyone!” is not a good defense before a holy God. My sin of anger is worthy of judgment.

Jesus himself says to me;

But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire… -Matthew 5:22

I can attempt to explain away or soften Christ’s words, yet they still attack the condition of my heart. Jesus has exposed me as a sinner.

Sin: More Costly Than I Thought

However, Pastor Mike highlighted that Jesus is not simply identifying our inability to follow God’s law. Christ is also showing us that our sin (here in particular He speaks of our anger and evil words) comes with great cost.

When my toddler spills my delicious coffee (possible minutes before Sunday worship is about to start), and I respond in anger, my sin has an effect on my relationship with God. “Anger hinders our worship,” as Pastor Mike shared. Therefore, we must deal with sin seriously.

…if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. -Matthew 5:23-24

We must deal with sin seriously. The little things we do alone, the attitudes we share and the words we believe to be hidden are truly exposed before God. I cannot separate my actions on the Lord’s day from my actions Monday through Saturday. All of my life is God’s, even the “boxes” of costly little unaddressed sins. I can pretend they do exist with an outward smile, yet I can never fool God about such rebellion.

These sins are those which I will give an account to God for one day. Deadly serious.

The Gospel: Better News Than I Could Imagine

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. -Romans 8:1-4

The Good News that Jesus bled and died for me means HOPE that God’s law (more perfect than I thought) will not condemn me in the end. His holy standard, which brings me to my knees in humility, is fully and forever accomplished in Christ. No condemnation can come upon one who is in Christ Jesus!

The Gospel also means Holy Spirit POWER for the Christian. I can and will truly move forward in obedience by God’s grace and the Spirit’s work. My sin will not overcome me in the end, for I will produce the Spirit-filled fruits of love and joy and peace instead of anger and retaliation.

So, when I go to worship, and am reminded of my sin against a brother or sister, I can stand in Christ’s forgiveness, repent for reconciliation, and walk forward in resolve to not go after that sin again. Christ produces in us serious sin-fighting that is guaranteed by the sweetness of grace.

Questions to Ponder:

  1. When was the last time I thought about the Gospel and its implications for my life?
  2. Is there a sphere of my life where I minimize my sin?
  3. What barriers are keeping me from repentance and reconciliation?
Go, Send, or Disobey

Go, Send, or Disobey

Missions What I Learned Last Sunday

Two words sum up Brooks Buser’s (the keynote speaker at the Ridgeview Conference for Global Missions) call to action. Go. Send.

Go
Two weeks. Two weeks after the gospel was shared to an unreached people group Brooks and his team had been working with, he was woken up in the middle of the night by several brand new Christians. What did they want so urgently in the middle of the night? They wanted to know when it was time for them to go. Where did they want to go? They wanted to spread the gospel to other tribes around them that had not yet heard the gospel. They knew Jesus called them to go spread the best news ever. We too are called to live out the great commission. This means some of us will go. Must go. May we let the urgency and obedience of these men sink into our hearts.

Send
Many of us won’t go but we are still called to live out the great commission in sending. What does this practically look like? Brooks gave three ways we can be faithful senders:

  1. Raise your kids with an understanding of missions. Pray you will be a parent whose children will go. What a challenge for me personally. Maybe you start reading missionary biographies, involve your kids in supporting and engaging missionaries, and make it a point to study together what the Bible says about missions. Let’s pray that if the Lord wills, our kids would go and that no one (including us) would hinder them.
  2. Live in a way that the great commission affects your life every day. That could mean owning an older car or living in a smaller home to free up more resources for support. Maybe Monday becomes “missionary Monday ” where your family intentionally prays for the missionaries you support and reaches out to connect with them. It also means that we welcome visiting missionaries with Christain hospitality and send them off in a manner worthy of the Lord (3 John 6, 8).
  3. Be a faithful church member. Faithful and engaged church members are good senders. Commit to your church. Pour yourself into your church and make it a point to invest your time, energy, and talents into your local body.

The time is now for us to go and to send. But so many of us don’t go. Why? Brooks closed the conference with three obstacles that keep us from missions:

  1. Authority: We live as if we have no Lord even though all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Christ. He gave his life for ours. He gets to say what we do and how we spend our lives for him. We must lay our lives down in humble obedience.
  2. Cost: The cost seems too high when we have other things we love more than Christ. If we hold anything tighter than we hold on to Christ, it’s too hard for us to give it up for him. This could be anything from comfort, hobbies, children, safety, money, retirement, status, health, and the list goes on etc.
  3. No Action: Many of us hear the gospel and yet it never changes the way we live. Christ calls us to radical obedience and a complete transformation of our lives. This is fueled by the grace and mercy we have received from him and through him.

We prefer to hold on to rubbish instead of Christ and his surpassing worth.

Will you go? If so, seek the Lord and set Him always before you and you will not be shaken (Psalm 16:8). Talk to the elders at your church as it is the local church that confirms and sends out faithful members to the nations. The only thing you risk losing is rubbish.

So You are Thinking About Doing Missions?

So You are Thinking About Doing Missions?

Missions What I Learned Last Sunday

The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. -Matthew 9:37–38

Missions is not a novel thing. It’s not some new career path no one has ever done you have to figure out alone. Many, many missionaries have been sent into the field so we know a bit about how to prepare and support missionaries.

In his Sunday afternoon breakout session, “So you are Thinking About Doing Missions,” Jack* from Global Serve International explored the traits of goers and senders, how people considering going can prepare, and what the chain of sending a missionary looks like.

Jack highlighted several traits of a goer, starting with a goer’s spiritual maturity. A personal relationship with Jesus is the foundation for everything else. Goers are also focused on the end goal and have an eternal perspective. They see the spiritual need of those without Christ and want to obey the command to reach the ends of the world with the good news that makes peace between sinners and a holy God.

One summer as a counselor out at Camp Witness I heard Tim Carmichael, a representative for Ethnos 360, speak on the importance of missions to unreached people groups. After hearing his story about coordinating missions supply chains in Papua New Guinea, I asked him what we should do now to prepare, in case we became missionaries.

I don’t know exactly what I expected- maybe he’d tell me to start learning a foreign language or something- but he didn’t say that. Instead, he pointed back to Matthew 9:37 and said the number one thing we should be doing today was praying that the Lord of the harvest would send more workers to the harvest. The first step is not acquiring some obscure life skill, it’s a mindset and a prayer. Goers understand the end goal and seek to fulfill the great commission.

Goers practice missional living now. If missions is close to your heart, don’t only focus on your personal maturity. Be involved in the local church. Reach out to those around you. Teach in small groups and children’s ministries, disciple others and be discipled formally or informally, learn and seek to understand the Bible. This is not the Matrix. If you become a missionary, the wisdom of years of small group teaching and engaging others in spiritual conversations will not just download into your brain.

Goers are confirmed by the local church. Jack pointed out that in scripture every time a missionary goes out, they are sent by a local church. Goers don’t just drop everything and drive themselves down to the amazon to try to witness to the locals. They are sent and supported by a church. The church confirms the goer’s readiness and commitment and then actively sends them and participates in the goer’s ministry.

Jack illustrated by placing an individual representing the church on one side of the room and someone representing the unreached people group on the opposite side of the room. Through adding other people to the line started by the local church the missionary (represented by yours truly) slowly stepped all the way across the room to the unreached people group. Each person in the line represented godly parents, prayer support, financial support, emotional support, language and culture training and other types of support. Without people pushing them forward, the missionary could never reach the unreached. As church members, we are part of that chain.

So today, be in prayer, be part of the chain reaching out to the missionaries who have been sent and participate in their ministry, practice missional living and keep an eternal focus clear in your mind.

*We have withheld Jack’s real name since he often serves in sensitive countries.

 

Discipleship in Missions

Discipleship in Missions

Missions What I Learned Last Sunday

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age. -Matthew 28:19–20

Discipleship is part of the Great Commission and thus is a large part of missions. Michael & Debbie Bannon from World Venture held a breakout session where they shared their experience of disciple-making in a variety of overseas contexts. Lyubov Zheleva, with Josiah Venture, also joined us at the missions conference, and discipling is also a large part of her role in reaching the youth of Bulgaria.

The Bannon’s mentioned three areas they see as crucial elements of discipleship:

Time: Making disciples isn’t an overnight process. It may require long evenings, many hours of listening ears, and Christ-like compassion. It is an investment into the soul of another for the sake of Christ. Expect it to take time and much patience.

The Word: Discipleship, very simply, is helping someone know and love Christ. We know Christ through the Word where He is revealed. Thus, discipleship must include spending time in God’s Word together, studying, and asking questions.

Prayer: It is the Lord who brings fruit. We can do nothing without his help. Pray together with those whom you are discipling. Show them the reliance and relationship we have with God through prayer. Pray alone for those you disciple. The church was also huge in helping Debbie pray for women she was trying to reach for Christ. They asked the church to pray daily for these women and sent them monthly calendars with prayers for each day.

It was encouraging and a great reminder to me that discipleship in missions and discipleship in our own lives is very much the same. It takes time, God’s Word, and much prayer. I would also add that it takes hospitality. I could see this trait in both the Bannon’s and Lyubov. This hospitality I’m referring to is not limited to when you open up your home. Discipleship requires hospitality where you have a posture that welcomes people into all of your life with open arms. This is the posture of Christ. We move towards people with open arms as he moves towards us.

A passion of our church is to make disciples here and help missionaries do the same afar – and we believe that this is in obedience to God’s Word. I pray this encourages us in our local disciple-making and spurs us on to pray for the missionaries we support as they labor to make disciples among the nations.