Pursuing God’s Culture of Discipleship (Pt 2 The Gospel)

 “Let us always remember that Christ calls men and women not only to trust Him as Savior, but also to follow Him as Lord. That call to discipleship must be part of our message if we are to be faithful to Him.” Billy Graham

If we want to personally embrace, and help guide people towards Jesus’ call of discipleship, it must touch our identity.  We have to first see ourselves and our calling to both become and help make disciples.  If this identity isn’t in our foundation, any attempts at discipleship will become another dead religious work.  It will be going through motions without an inward Spiritual drive motivating them.  A dead work can be defined as doing religious things without real ongoing connection with, and direction from Christ.

Foundations are so important. The way people come into Christ and the church usually determines how they will walk once they are there. What are they committed to by being there? Are their lives actually being transformed by Jesus? A. W. Tozer said it well, “We can know the right words yet never be changed. This is the difference between information and transformation.”

” We can know the right words yet never be changed. This is the difference between information and transformation.”

Biblical traits that will be found among people who are following Him as disciples.

  • Following Jesus and being led by the Spirit (Romans 8).
  • Bearing the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5).
  • Pursuing and exhibiting the mind of Christ (Philippians 2).
  • Living out the characteristics of Love according to God’s definition (Jn 3:16, 1 Jn 3:16, 1 Cor. 13 and 1 John 4).
  • Pursuing the Biblical practice “putting off the old person and putting on the new, Jesus” (Colossians 3, Romans 13:8-14).
  • Engaging in His mission every day, everywhere, all the time as we are sent out by Jesus  (Jn 17:18, 20:21).
  • Continual pursuit of a Spirit filled life through which we make progress and move in His power (John 7:37:38, Acts 1:8, Ephesians 5:18).

Proper Foundations Begin With The Gospel

Shallow or incomplete presentations of the gospel will produce shallow Christians. A wrong perspective of what Christianity is all about will affect discipleship. Progress is often blocked because it is tied by the background assumption of what people believe the gospel is about and their understanding of what it is to be a Christian.

Often Christianity and salvation are reduced to confessing your belief that Jesus died on your behalf. That is all there is to it. Salvation is free and nothing else needs to happen but accept it. Is that really all the gospel is? We tend to treat the experience of conversion as something entirely separate from the process of following Him as a disciple (Mt 28:18-29).

 What are some of the incomplete versions of the gospel?

  • The prosperity and affluence gospel.  In this gospel, the right to prosperity and happiness IS the cause. The things of God exist for me to have the best life now in terms of personal dream fulfillment and an affluent lifestyle.  The great quest for our lives is to develop our faith in order to claim our rights to prosperity and affluence.  It produces an entitlement mentality and a subtle motivation of managing the things of God towards personal ends.
  • The forgiveness for heaven gospel.  This tends to foster a type of person that is much like the old vampire movies I watched as a young unbeliever.  People aren’t that concerned about a real relationship. Like the vampires, they just relate enough to get the effect of the blood in their lives.   Once they get the effect of His blood in them they want little more to do with Jesus until they get to heaven.  This tends to create Christians who are not disciples.  The message is “be forgiven.”  Following Christ is optional.
  • Liberal gospel of moral therapeutic deism.  Conversion is about improving the quality of your life by feeling better about yourself, doing good works, becoming a better person, working for justice, and helping needy people.  Absolute truth and clear standards are optional.  The goal is to have a better feeling about our life and its meaning.  In this gospel, instead of following Jesus and exhibiting the culture of heaven, there is more of an accommodation of the earth’s culture to stay relevant and appealing.
  • The consumer gospel.  God exists to fulfill our lives in a variety of areas and give us a sense of personal self-worth and fulfillment.  The church and religious programs are simple means to get what we need to make our dreams come true.  God is happy if we are happy. It promises to provide everything a person on the go needs: convenience, speed, sound-bite theology, and instant results.  Since impatience is the besetting sin in the west, the consumer gospel replaces the slow and difficult path of authentic spiritual maturity with methods and programs that give fast and easy results.  Our sins are taken off the table and the deeper life of discipleship is optional, something we can pursue if we have time.  This gospel creates people who become finicky consumers who shop for churches and programs that quickly and efficiently meet their needs. If they can find an easier or better one they go to that one.
  • The religious rightness gospel.  This gospel tends to prioritize correct doctrine, adherence to a narrow behavioral and moral code, and an exclusiveness of truth. The goal is that we become more right than everyone else so we feel better about our faith.  It forms a mentality that we are better than others, like the Pharisees.  Why, because we have THE truth.
  • The gospel of the Kingdom.  This is the Biblical gospel (Mt 4:23, 9:35, 24:14, Lk 16:16).  It is the proclamation of the loving rule and reign of Christ over all of life.  Through Jesus’ incarnation, perfect life, death (bearing our sin and suffering God’s wrath for us in order to justify), and His resurrection triumph, we have the opportunity to live in Him.  We are accepted by God, set free from sin and wrath, and brought under the loving Lordship of Jesus.  This was the first message that the early church proclaimed, “God has made Him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified” (Acts 2:38-42).

As we confess Him as Lord and come under His loving rule we are delivered from the bondage and power of sin. As we believe, follow, and begin to obey (put into practice) His word, we are progressively set free from the damaging effects of sin and enjoy life in Him.  The entrance has always been the same. Jesus is the door (entrance) to the Kingdom (Jn 10:7-9).

As we continue to follow and obey, we continue to be set free  John 8:31-36 So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine;  (32)  and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free…(36) who the Son sets free is free indeed.

Unfortunately, we can cheapen the gospel to the point people buy in without selling out to Jesus. 

Sin at its core is selfishness.  It is enthroning you, your desires, your needs, and your plans, then worshipping them.  Unfortunately, we can cheapen the gospel to the point people buy in without selling out to Jesus.  It becomes believing without following.  It is comfortable, convenient, and me-centric.  It becomes more about Him following us to fulfill our desires rather than us following Him in order to fulfill His desires.  This is not the gospel.  This type of gospel will not have the effect of people following Him, being truly set free, and living for His sake.

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God’s People Pursuing A Culture of Discipleship (Pt 1)

Discipleship isn’t learning more information about Jesus. It is knowing and following Him in the context of His people as we progressively put His commandments into practice while pursuing His mission.

John 15:8 My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples.

3 John 1:4 I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth.

Many churches and leaders believe that they are succeeding if they can produce a Sunday morning service which both appeals to people and motivates them to attend. What about the people who sit in the audience week after week? What about their ongoing motivation in following Jesus and maturing? Meeting attendees are often left to themselves when it comes to following Jesus, growth, and maturity.

The things we experience on Sunday morning should produce a change on Monday Morning.

There is often little motivation in the cultural atmosphere of the church for people to go forward and make progress. For those serious enough to want to go further there are Bible studies and various other groups provided for “discipleship,” but what about the motivational atmosphere in the church culture? Is there an atmosphere that motivates people to follow Jesus, put His words into practice, and live as a family of disciples on His mission?

Having quality Sunday morning services are important but those gatherings can never take the place of people walking together in real everyday life following Jesus, and helping each other put His words into practice while pursing His mission. This is essential to becoming and making disciples who progressing towards maturity (Eph 4:16, Col 2:19).

Gods people are not called to merely attend services. They are called to follow Jesus They are called to become and help make disciples.  Matthew 28:18-20, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. (19) “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, (20) teaching them to observe (put into practice) all that I commanded you.

This was how the early Christians lived. So much so that they were labeled disciples way more than Christians. Acts 11:26…the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch. The designation of “disciple” was used 269 times in the New Testament while the designation “Christian” was used only 3 times (Acts 11:26, 26:28, 1Pet 4:16)

What does the term “disciple” mean? According to Bible dictionaries, a disciple is “a follower, learner, and an adherent.” The Biblical idea is increasingly loving, following, and obeying Jesus in all areas of life.  We are called to both become and help others become disciples who follow Him and put his words into practice.

We need more than discipleship programs in the church. We need to see a discipleship culture. If discipleship doesn’t reside in the culture of a church then the Great Commission becomes a great option leading to the great omission.

We need more than discipleship programs in the church. We need to see a discipleship culture. If discipleship doesn’t reside in the culture of a church then the Great Commission becomes a great option leading to the great omission.

What would it be like if we had a church culture where becoming and making disciples was a natural part of what everyone did? What if discipleship wasn’t just a program or strategic plan but a culture involving shared values, language, vision, and a common life centered around helping people walk as disciples of Jesus.

We need to be intentional and have a passion for becoming and making disciples. We need a Spiritual inward drive and a cultural motivation in the church to see God’s people live as a relational family of disciples walking together on God’s mission. It is a culture where every person is involved in the process of helping each other as God’s family on God’s mission.

Cultural change starts with the gospel we embrace and proclaim.

The way people come into Christ and the church usually determines how they will walk. What are they committed to by being there? What participation do they exhibit that leads to what the Bible considers growth and maturity? Are their lives actually being transformed by Jesus? AW Tozer said it well, “We can know the right words yet never be changed. This is the difference between information and transformation.”

” We can know the right words yet never be changed. This is the difference between information and transformation.”

Are these Biblical traits of maturity being developed among God’s people?

  • Are people following Jesus, being led by the Spirit (Romans 8)?
  • Are people bearing the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5)?
  • Are people exhibiting the mind of Christ (Philippians 2)?
  • Are people actually taking on the character of love according to God’s definition (Jn 3:16, 1 Jn 3:16, 1 Cor. 13 and 1 John 4)?
  • Are people pursuing “putting off the old person and putting on the new, Jesus” (Colossians 3, Romans 13:8-14)?
  • Are people engaging His mission as they are sent out every day, everywhere, all the time (Jn 17:18, 20:21)?

Shallow or incomplete presentations of the gospel will produce shallow Christians. A wrong perspective on what Christianity is all about will affect discipleship. Progress is often blocked because it is tied by the background assumption of what people believe the gospel is about and their understanding of what it is to be a Christian.

Often Christianity and salvation are reduced to confessing your belief that Jesus died on your behalf. That is all there is to it. Salvation is free and nothing else needs to happen but accept it. Is that really all the gospel is? We tend to treat the experience of conversion as something entirely separate from the process of following Him as a disciple (Mt 28:18-29).  More next time.

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Discipleship in the Midst of Busy Lives

discipleshipEveryone serving Jesus is called to both become and help make disciples.  This is the Great Commission.  Matthew 28:19-20  “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit,  (20)  teaching them to observe (put into practice) all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always.

Becoming and making disciples of the Lord is different than making decisions for the Lord.  It is more than simply deciding to believe that Jesus died for our sins.  Even the demons believe that (James 2:19). Disciples are those who follow Jesus and are learning to obey (put into practice) His word in every area of their lives.   Discipleship isn’t simply gaining information about Jesus but learning how to put into practice all that He said in our everyday life.

How can we really do that in the midst of lives that are already too busy?   We live in a fast-paced world where we can hardly find time for God or our families.  We can barely get everything done before collapsing in bed at the end of an overwhelming day.

It is helpful to consider the way Jesus did it.  Making disciples wasn’t a program. Discipleship was a relational way of living.   His grand strategy was simple.  In the course of living everyday life and facing everyday situations, He modeled, taught, spoke about the Kingdom, and helped shape God’s life in the people who were around Him. As he shared life with them God’s word rubbed off on those who followed Him. Unplanned events were often Diving opportunities to learn how God’s Kingdom works in everyday life.

Jesus’ strategy for discipleship wasn’t classroom or curriculum-based, it was relational based.

American Christianity often thinks of discipleship in terms of programs (“Discipleship Training Night, Discipleship Class, Discipleship Huddle Groups etc.), but Jesus did it in the midst of everyday life.   Mark 3:14  And He ordained twelve, that they should be with Him, and that He might send them out. Jesus’ strategy for discipleship wasn’t classroom or curriculum-based, it was relational based.  It was mostly unplanned opportunities that came up in the everyday rhythms of life that became the impetus for “teaching them to obey” God’s commands.

Jesus' strategy for discipleship wasn't classroom or curriculum-based, it was relational based. Click To Tweet

Here are some important things to keep in mind so we don’t see discipleship as a program or another busy chore in the midst of lives that are too busy.

  • Opportunities for discipleship are everywhere and anytime.

The way Jesus lived among His disciples included both planned and unplanned opportunities for discipleship.  In the course of everyday life serving God together, unplanned people and events came along and Jesus was able to bring God’s Kingdom perspective in them.

  • Discipleship is relational.

People aren’t projects they are friends.  Discipleship is about helping our friends learn to follow and obey what Jesus said.  It takes living life among people.  It is about being who we are and showing the Kingdom perspective in every area of life.

  • Include people in your everyday life.

It is having people join you, or you join them in real life stuff instead of just a meeting or a program.   The best way to help people put into practice His word in everyday life is to have examples from everyday life.  If you have to run an errand or work on something around the house include people in it.  If you have to go serve someone take them with you.

  • To learn how to obey Jesus in real life we have to live real life.

We aren’t rushing off to a discipleship class or program.  It is people being around us in the course of real life. It is where people see our successes, failures, and responses to challenges in the everyday life of being a husband, wife, son, daughter, employee, and steward of our resources.   Learning how to confess sins, repent, and restore relationships when we falter is an important part of discipleship.  I like how Jesus said in Matthew 11.  The MSG translation uses the term “unforced rhythms of grace.”  This takes the pressure off in the midst of busyness.  Mt 11:28-30 “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

  • Learn how to work from rest, not always striving to rest from work.

When we work from rest we actually find life in God’s work. This is how Jesus, in the midst of physical exhaustion, engaged with the woman at the well and found God’s life in the midst of it.  Out of rest He joined the Father in His work finding fresh life to which He replied to His disciples when they returned from getting food for Him,  John 4:34 Jesus *said to them, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to accomplish His work. We actually gain life when we work with what God is doing instead of feeling a burden of trying to produce it ourselves.

If we approach discipleship from a place of rest then it isn’t more work we need to do.  It is a life-giving thing we get to do.    Hebrews 4:10-11  For the one who has entered His rest has himself also rested from his works, as God did from His.  (11) Therefore let us be diligent to enter that rest.

 

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When Did We Separate Being a Christian From Being a Disciple?

Acts 11:26…the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.  

When did God’s people get the permission to separate the idea of being a Christian and being a disciple?  If we consider the Great Commission Jesus gave His people in Matthew 28 the idea of discipleship is at its core.  Jesus’ call was to “make disciples who are learning to put into practice everything He said.”

Matthew 28:19-20  “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit,  (20)  teaching them to observe (put into practice) all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always.

Unfortunately, the church has substituted the idea of making disciples with making decisions.  The church has separated believing in Jesus from following Him as a disciple.  We tend to measure the success of any evangelistic effort, crusade, or event with the question, “how many decisions were made” or “how many people believed or attended?”  What about discipleship?

We must be careful that we are not substituting the idea of making a decision with becoming a… Click To Tweet

What is a disciple?  Bible dictionaries define the word disciple with ideas like “a follower, learner, or an adherent.”  If you look at discipleship in light of the Great Commission it is following Jesus and learning how to put into practice everything He has said.   It is a way of life following and learning to obey Him. This is way different than simply deciding to believe in Jesus. Consider some of the Biblical statistics concerning discipleship.

  • Jesus called people to “follow Him” 25 times in the Gospels while calling them to “believe in Him” only 4 times.  The emphasis is clearly on being a disciple.  Even James despairingly says that “you believe God is one, that’s fine, but even the demons believe that and tremble” (James 2:18).  God’s people should have a little more faith than demons.
  • The New Testament refers to God’s people as “disciples” 269 times while it uses the designation “Christian” only 3 times.  One of the 3 says, “the disciples were first called Christians at Antioch” Acts 11:26.  The Biblical emphasis is clearly on discipleship.

All through the Bible God asked people questions to get at the root of false ideas they had embraced.  Here are some crucial questions we need to ask ourselves to get at the heart of God’s design for discipleship.

“Christianity without discipleship is always Christianity without Christ.”  Bonehoeffer

  1. When did we separate the Matthew 28 Commission into two completely separate parts, being baptized and being made a disciple who follows Him? 
  2. How did we arrive at a salvation that makes room for believing but not following and obeying? 
  3. How do we think that we can be servants of Jesus without following Him? Jn 12:26 “If any of you wants to serve me, then follow me. Then you’ll be where I am, ready to serve at a moment’s notice. 
  4. When did we allow for a state in which we believe in Jesus but do not continually follow and seek to put His word into practice?  Jesus seems to indicate that this produces false disciples instead of true ones.  John 8:30-32  As He spoke these things, many came to believe in Him.  (31)  So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine;  (32)  and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”

Christianity that doesn’t follow Jesus

Over the past 200 years, American Christians have fostered a brand of Christianity centered around offering programs in order to attract people to a meeting.  The Sunday service is the main point of attraction.  This approach fosters a mentality that church is an audience of spectators and consumers rather than a group of people who are following Jesus and seeking to put His word into practice.

Attractional Christianity fosters a consumer mentality that is always looking for the best deal for personal interest.   Commitment is rare in this model.  The focus becomes the consumer’s needs, wants, and desires rather than Jesus’ desires.

…Christ did not appoint professors, but followers. Soren Kierkegaard

In the consumer model, people attend in order to have a better week, better life, better family, better finances, and more feelings of satisfaction and happiness.  They rarely live or serve in the sacrificial way that Jesus consistently called His people to.  He wasn’t looking for members who casually join an organization or attend meetings, but people who would “lay their life down to follow Him together with others.”

Mt 16:24-26 MSG Then Jesus went to work on his disciples. “Anyone who intends to follow Me has to let Me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self. What kind of deal is it to get everything you want but lose yourself? What could you ever trade your soul for?( Mk 8:34-37 Lk 9:23-27)

We need a revolution of discipleship

One of the greatest Ameican theologians of the past 150 years, H Richard Niebuhr said something very important that we need to seek God for today.

“The great Christian revolutions came not by the discovery of something that was not there before. They happen when someone takes radically something that has always been there.”  H Richard Niebuhr

As I have studied church history for almost 40 years I have seen this played out over and over among God’s people.  One generation discovers something in a fresh way that had previously been neglected and God brings about great advancement through it.   I believe we are in need of a fresh revolution of discipleship.  Without  God’s design for discipleship being in the fabric of the church then Great Commission will become the great omission that leaves discipleship out. The 21st-century church desperately needs a restoration of God’s calling for everyone to be disciples.

What would the church look like if all of its members were following Jesus and seeking to put into practice everything He said?  This may sound like a pipe dream but it really is God’s design!  What would the church look like?  Just like what Jesus said it would, the salt of the earth, the light of the world, a city set on a hill that radiates the glory of God.

 

 

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Continual First Step of Kingdom Advancement Part 2

I remember reading a story of a young American student who visited the Beethoven Museum in Bonn, Germany. The student became fascinated by Beethoven’s piano that was on display there.

It was a thrill to think that Beethoven had composed some of his greatest works on that piano! The student who fancied herself a good pianist who had played for years asked the museum guard if she might play a few notes on it. She offered him a little money on the side to let her play.  He agreed and the girl sat and played a tune.  As she finished she asked the guard, “I suppose all the great pianists who come here want to play on that piano.” To her surpise he said, “Paderewski, the famous Polish pianist was here a few years ago, and he said he wasn’t worthy to touch it.”  This story highlights  an important issue in God’s kingdom, humility (poverty of spirit).

As I wrote in my last post the idea of the “Kingdom of God” centers around His active rulership.  The best thing that can happen to any person on the face of the earth is for more of God’s loving rulership (Kingdom) taking over more of their life.  As that happens His Kingdom continually advances in and though our lives (Mat 13:31-32, Mk 4:30-32,  Luk 13:18-19).

“If you are wrapped up in yourself you will be a very small package.” Benjamin Franklin

The initial step, and continuing steps of receiving His Kingdom in any area of our lives is humility (poverty of spirit). When we abandon poverty of spirit we will prohibit the Kingdom from advancing in our lives.

It usually goes something like this; we become aware of an area of our lives, an attitude, or a reaction that is not under His rule.  As we are challenged about it by the Spirit, the Word, and often through His people, we are faced with a decision.  We humble ourselves (poverty of spirit), confess our sin, repent (turn away from it), and freshly yield ourselves to Jesus.  His restoration follows.

The opposite of poverty of spirit (pride) keeps us from this process.  That is why poverty of spirit is the first step, and continual first step of receiving His Kingdom.  I like what the great saint Augustine said about it, “It was pride that changed angels into devils; it is humility (poverty of spirit) that makes men as angels.”

Poverty of spirit is that sweet root from which all of God’s virtues will shoot.

Sheep and Goats

One of the analogies Jesus used about those who continually receive His kingdom and those who don’t are sheep and goats.  Sheep humbly receive;  goats proudly resist. Goats are famous for butting others.  That resistance is part of their nature.  We have all exhibited qualities of goats when we resist/butt others who are trying to help us receive His kingdom in various areas of our lives.

Here is a cue that we are acting more like a goat.  When we find ourselves resisting truth about our attitudes or actions by using the word “but”… but you don’t understand…but you did this…but I was having a bad day…but who are you etc., it should be a wake up call.  Sheep respond with yes Lord, while goats respond by butting.

Judas goat

Another problem with goats is their destructive influence on others.  Shepherds sometimes train a goat to associate with sheep to lead them to specific destinations, like to be corralled or slaughtered.  The name they aptly give for this goat is the Judas goat after the Biblical character.  Isn’t that an accurate spiritual metaphor of what happens with goats among sheep?  Goats possess a stubborn streak and resist directions they don’t like and God clearly shows us He doesn’t like it (Zechariah 10:3, Matthew 25:31-33).  They always end up leading sheep astray from God’s kingdom not just in what they say but in attitudes and actions.

When our desires, ideas, and will crosses His, we are faced with the issue “Who is in charge here?” Is Jesus ruling or are we?  Is His way the right way or ours?”  The poor in spirit yield; the goats resist.  Poverty of spirit is what makes us able to walk with God and the imperfect people He joins us to.

Here is a good poverty of spirit test:  

  • Do I live with a constant awareness that I am dependent on God, or do I think I have enough ability, strength, and wisdom to manage my life?
  • Am I anxious about my life and future?  Humbly trusting God leads to peace.
  • Am I consistently self-conscious?  Am I overly concerned about what people think about me or replay in my mind how I looked in various situations?
  • Do I have a fear of man more than a fear of God? Am I afraid to take stands or make decisions because of what others think?
  • Am I easily embarrassed and often feel insecure?
  • Am I always comparing myself to others?
  • Do I desire to receive credit and recognition for things and feel slighted when I don’t?
  • Am I deceptive about myself in front of others in order to preserve my reputation?
  • Am I selfishly ambitious and/or overly competitive?
  • Am I easily inconvenienced when asking to sacrifice or serve?
  • Do I feel a sense of favor when I help others succeed and I get no credit for it?
  • Do I feel better than others?
  • Do I make it hard for people to challenge me without attacking them or what they are saying?
  • Do I tend to see myself as more gifted and talented than others?
  • Do I feel deserving of things or entitled rather than seeing them as a gift?
  • Do I wallow in self-pity or am I overly consumed with how I am treated?
  • Am I jealous or envious of others abilities, possessions, positions, or accomplishments?
  • Do I tend to be a know it all?
  • Do I find it easy to reveal my own mind and have answers for practically every situation?
  • Do I have a hard time getting things out of teachings because I usually think of someone else who needs to hear them?
  • Is it hard for me to admit I am wrong?
  • Do I encourage people to correct me, but then make them feel uncomfortable in doing it?
  • Am I stubborn?
  • Is it easy for me to find things to criticize others about?
  • Is it hard for me to point to any one I am submitted to in a real way?

If these things look familiar run to the good shepherd and He will work His nature in you (Phil 2:11-13)..

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An Important Element in God’s Atmosphere of Discipleship

If I had only one sermon to preach it would be a sermon against pride.-GK Chesterton

How dare they bring that up? Who are they to point that out to me? I thought we were friends.  I bet I could come up with hundreds of things that they are doing wrong. As a matter of fact what about that issue we had to bring up with them a few months ago? Jesus wasn’t even in the picture of their life then. How about the continual things they struggle with?  They bring this up to me, no way!

All of us who live around the house of the Lord have probably had thoughts like this cross our minds or have heard them from others when we are challenged about something. This is especially true if you live around a church environment that is serious about spiritual maturity.

One of the things we know about God’s design for his house is that there should be an atmosphere of growth and maturity. None are perfect, but we are all in the same boat.  Jesus is working in us to bring about a mature bride (Eph 5:26-27).  Hebrews 13:20-21 God equip you in every good thing to do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ..

A Family of Disciples

The church is God’s House and it is to have a family atmosphere, but we must not lose sight of another important aspect of that atmosphere.  We are a family of disciples.  The clear call of the Matthew 28 Great Commission is, “go and make disciples… teaching them to observe everything I’ve commanded you” (Mt 28:19-20). Our calling is to both make, and be made disciples (followers are learning to obey Jesus).  If we are moving in that calling the church will have an environment of discipleship in the context of family.

We see this very clearly in the church at Antioch. Acts 11:26  And they were with the church there for a year, teaching the people; and the disciples were first given the name of Christians in AntiochThe church was a family of disciples who were given the name Christian.  God’s family is not just a family of Christians, it’s a family of disciples. If this is embraced as a important foundation, then an overriding characteristic among it’s members is a motivation grow up to please Jesus in every aspect of life.

The church should be known for discipleship in the context of family.  This has a wonderful side of it in which we are encouraged, affirmed, loved, and valued.  We have the wonderful security of a family that accepts us and loves us for who we are in spite of our many imperfections.

The other aspect, that is just as important, is that there are fellow family members who walk beside us and sometimes bring faithful challenges. This is what the Bible says Proverbs 27:6  Faithful are the wounds of a friend, But deceitful are the kisses of an enemy.  Many great men and women of God in the Bible where the recipients of this side of God’s grace through fellow family members such as the 12 disciples from Jesus, David from Nathan, and Peter from Paul. 

Many times in my own life I have been challenged by the fellow family members in areas that I initially found unpleasant yet necessary.  Why does God choose to do it that way?  Why can’t it be just between me and Jesus?  After all I have a real personal relationship with God.  Why does someone else have to get involved? 

An Important Thing God is after in Relational Challenging

It was pride that changed angels into devils–Augustine

There is something very important that needs to get cemented in our mind that will help us be more open to embrace the challenges from friends.  One of the deadly traits that was created in the heart of Satan when he was part of God’s family was called “pride.”  Pride was the thing that caused him to be removed. “Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created, till iniquity was found in thee” (Ezek. 28:15). This beautiful, powerful, intelligent, and gifted being fell from his perfect state when his heart was lifted up (aka pride) because of his own beauty and brightness (v. 17). No longer was he willing to be a servant to the Creator. Staggering pride in the heart (the propensity towards “I will”) was to blame for the tragedy in heaven. “How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! … For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne … I will sit also upon the mount … I will ascend above the heights…I will be like the most High” (Isa. 14:12-14).

Since that event he has tried to generate his nature of pride inside of everyone. This made angels into devils (Rev 12:3-9).  Pride is the root nature of the Satan, and the root nature of every sin.   It is the direct opposite of the root nature of God’s kingdom that Jesus says is humility.  “Blessed are the humble for theirs is the kingdom” (Mt 5:3).  This is why God clearly says He hates, and is opposed to pride in every form.

  • Proverbs 8:13  To fear the LORD is to hate evil. I hate pride, arrogance, evil behavior, and twisted speech.
  • Proverbs 6:16-17  Six things are hated by the Lord…  (17)  Eyes of pride
  • James 4:6  Therefore it says, “GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE.” (1 Pet 5:5).

When God sends his faithful challenge through fellow family members, besides the issue there is a corresponding challenge to any pride that has gotten inside of us. There is a degree of humility we have to embrace to receive the challenge and not react in a childish, self-centered, and prideful way. The nature of pride is self exalting competitiveness with others. In the faithful challenging of family members God is both correcting behavior and challenging pride.

In the faithful challenging of His family members God is both correcting behavior and challenging… Click To Tweet

Local churches are to live out a discipleship environment in the context of family.  It is a good thing to remember when you receive both the encouragement and the challenge of friends that God is not only correcting things, but also rooting out the nature of enemy, pride.  We are the body of Christ and as such we are to display the nature of Jesus through our lives.

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