Discipleship

 

“People seldom improve when they have no other model but themselves to copy,” once quipped the 18th-century Anglo-Irish essayist, playwright, and poet Oliver Goldsmith.

In an age of extreme individualism that sets oneself as the standard, that parrots such expressions as “I must live for myself,” or “I must be true to myself,” and “I can only know what is right and wrong for me,” Goldsmith’s observation finds modern-day application.

Not long ago freelance writer Matthew Miller published an article entitled, “The Radical Individualism Raging Through America.” In it, he quoted Paul Krugman, a New York Times columnist, in a piece titled “The Cult of Selfishness Is Killing America,” which espoused that “too many Americans now subscribe to the positive power of greed and the innate belief that everyone is better off when they pursue their own self-interest.”

Unfortunately, this spirit has too often found its way into the church. It is witnessed in both overt and in subtle ways that elevates one’s personal preferences, political opinion, and self-interests over the collective good of the church and the leadership of godly Shepherds.

Most seriously, however, individualism diminishes the Biblical teaching of discipleship that values the virtues of self-sacrifice, self-denial, and self-control. It flatly contradicts Christ’s teachings that challenge us to follow Him.

Consider Jesus’ characterization of discipleship.

“Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple” (Lk. 14;27).

“A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone who is perfectly trained will be like his teacher” (Lk. 6:40).

“If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me’ (Lk. 9:23).

“He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it” (Matt. 10:37-39).

“My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me” (Jn.10:27).

Hearing Jesus, heeding Jesus, following Jesus, and striving to become like Jesus is the essence of discipleship.

Being a disciple of Christ calls for submissive, sacrificial, servile, and selfless attitudes and actions. This means that we submit to His will and Word. That we serve the needs of our fellow man and our church family. That we’re willing to give up whatever stands between us and our relationship with the Lord. And that we surrender our pride, prerogatives, privilege, and personal opinions.

A cursory study of the first-century disciples beginning with Acts 2:41-47reveals that discipleship…

…Requires attachment to the Body of Christ. You can’t go it alone.

…Involves learning. Increasing in knowledge is a must.

…Engages in a devoted, loving fellowship. Think the “one another” commands.

…Issues itself in worship. Assembling with fellow Christians to praise God is vital.

…Results in evangelistic outreach. How can you not share the joy of your faith?

If all of this raises concerns that you fail to measure up to this Scriptural standard, be advised that discipleship is not an event. It’s a process. A life-long process. In the parlance of the Christian race analogy. Discipleship is not a 100-meter sprint. It’s a marathon. An ultra-marathon.

In the words of Bill Donahue,

“Disciples are not just people with more answers to Bible questions who attend more events or listen to more Christian radio. Disciples are people who act like Christ, who are willing to train to be like Him, who practice the disciples of prayer, solitude, worship, Bible reading and study, community and ministry. They are lifelong learners and lovers of Jesus.”

Let us “Renew in ‘22″ our commitment to Christian discipleship.

–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman

Comment at: https://thepreachersword.com/2022/05/23/word-of-the-week-discipleship-2/#more-22498

When All Is Said and Done

We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.
2 Corinthians 5:8

When Lee Strobel researched his book on heaven, he interviewed Luis Palau, the Argentinian evangelist who preached to more than a billion people. “He knew he was dying,” said Strobel. “He had stage four lung cancer….I flew out to Portland because I wanted to interview someone who was about to go to heaven….He told me he’s not afraid of dying. He said, ‘I really believe that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.’”[1]

For the Christian, dying means immediate entrance into the physical presence of the Lord in His great city of New Jerusalem. We leave behind (temporarily, until the resurrection) our bodies of sickness and pain. Yet, in the flick of an eye, we’re there with Jesus among all His golden and gleaming cityscapes.

The Lord will give us extra grace for the moment He takes us home. For that reason, we are confident—even well pleased—to be with Him.

I can tell you from personal experience that, at the end of your life, when all is said and done, you’ll never regret being courageous for Christ.
Luis Palau to Lee Strobel

  • David Jeremiah

Blessed Assurance

We don’t have to wonder where we will spend eternity. Belief in Jesus guarantees a future with Him.

1 John 5:9-13

If we receive the testimony of people, the testimony of God is greater; for the testimony of God is this, that He has testified concerning His Son. 10 The one who believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself; the one who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has given concerning His Son. 11 And the testimony is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. 12 The one who has the Son has the life; the one who does not have the Son of God does not have the life.

13 These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.

 

People fall into one of four categories. Which one applies to you?

1. We are saved and we know it.

2. We think we are saved, but we’re not.

3. We don’t claim to be saved.

4. We’re not saved but would like to be.

As today’s passage shows, God wants us to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that we will spend eternity in His presence (1 John 5:13 above). Salvation is His deliverance from all the effects of sin, and it is available to whoever trusts in Jesus Christ. Do you have that kind of certainty? Unless you’re already confident that heaven is your eternal destination, I urge you to settle the matter now.

First, realize that our Father desires salvation for all people (This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 1 Tim. 2:3-4), and He has provided the way through His Son (For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish, but have eternal life. John 3:16). We are saved when we believe in Jesus Christ and confess Him before men (that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; 10 for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. Rom. 10:9-10).

God is faithful to keep His promises. If you trust in Jesus as your personal Savior, the Father will forgive all your sins and welcome you into His family (But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name, John 1:12)—without regard to merit or worth on your part. He freely gives eternal life to all who believe in His Son. Will you receive it?

The happiness of Heaven!

Following Jesus Christ is counterintuitive

Following Jesus Christ is counterintuitive. Always has been.

In His famous “Sermon on the Mount,” Jesus teaches that life in the kingdom of God is antithetical to what most mortals think and feel.

For instance, if someone attacks you, Jesus says don’t defend yourself or retaliate.

If someone mistreats you, forgive them.

If someone offers sincere correction, receive it in humility without being defensive or taking offense.

If someone compels you to go one mile, go two.

If someone steals your shirt, give them your coat also.

If someone hates you, love them.

If someone trashes you (gossips, slanders, invokes curses on your head), don’t act in kind. Pray for them.

In other words, even when you’re being hated, spoken evil of, lied about, and mistreated, keep the love on. 

Never turn it off.

Now, that doesn’t mean you are to have warm fuzzy feelings in your belly toward those who act like sub-human pigs.

That’s not what Jesus meant by “love.”

Nor does it mean that you are to trust people who act in fleshly ways.

While love is unconditional, trust is conditional and must be earned.

Nor does loving a person mean that you are to fulfill their every request or whim.

Rather, Jesus defines love quite clearly for us in the Gospels: It’s treating others the same way we want to be treated in every situation.

To illustrate, here are some examples of people I’ve known in the past who kept the love on.

Jeff excelled at his job and earned the favor of his boss as well as a promotion and a raise.

Two people (who were buddies with each other) now had a common enemy.

Both of these befuddled souls were insanely jealous of Jeff and began fabricating false narratives about him in an effort to knock him off his horse.

Some who were gullible in the office believed the lies and stopped talking to Jeff.

Jeff kept the love on. He forgave those two people and didn’t retaliate by spreading lies about them as they had done to him. A few noticed that Jeff was taking the high road and their respect for him only increased. A year later, one of Jeff’s detractors got fired. The other had a mental breakdown. Jeff was promoted again.

“The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him.”

~ Proverbs 18:17

“Things the Lord hates…a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.”

~ Proverbs 6:19

Don was coaching a baseball team. He had to cut someone from the team because Don and the assistant coach didn’t feel the guy had what it took to be on the team.

When the guy was told that he was being cut, he became livid and shortly thereafter began demonizing Don and the other coach.

One of Don’s friends—someone quite naïve—believed the false rumors and broke their friendship with Don over it.

Don kept the love on. Don forgave the guy who was spreading the lies and he also forgave his friend who believed them. Don never spoke ill of either men. When people asked why he cut the guy from the team (after he was whining about it to everyone who would listen), Don answered honestly without exaggeration. Eventually, Don’s friend came to his senses and saw through what was going on. And the friendship was restored. Last I heard, Don was still coaching successfully and things were going great in his life. 

“A troublemaker plants seeds of strife; gossip separates the best of friends.”

~ Proverbs 16:28

“It is to one’s glory to overlook an offense.”

~ Proverbs 19:11

Sarah’s boss made her the manager of a group of people at her local store.

One of the women who wanted Sarah’s position disagreed with her method of leadership.

This person tried to persuade Sarah to take on her vision and methods.

Sarah listened graciously, but chose not to go in the woman’s direction. The woman was insulted that Sarah didn’t adopt her views.

So she began laying plans to subvert Sarah’s leadership by trying to win the favor of the other workers who were under Sarah, seeking to persuade them that Sarah was incompetent.

Sarah kept the love on. She forgave the hater and didn’t retaliate. She kept silent on the matter, except when she was privately asked about what the woman was saying about Sarah. Eventually, the hater at Sarah’s job fell on her own sword. She got in trouble with Sarah’s boss over another matter and was fired. 

“If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame.”

~ Proverbs 18:13

“Whoever conceals hatred with lying lips and spreads slander is a fool.”

~Proverbs 10:18

In all of the above scenarios, people opted to walk in their flesh by becoming jealous and/or taking needless offense.

Sadly, it’s often your fellow “Christians” who are the purveyors of this kind of fleshly conduct.

Even so, following Jesus Christ is taking the high road when others opt for the gutter.

When God’s people hear the way of Jesus in this regard, their natural response is usually, but this is so hard!

No, it’s not hard. It’s humanly impossible.

But we aren’t called to live as “mere mortals” (1 Corinthians 3:3-4).

It’s only possible when we learn to live by the indwelling life of Christ.

For His life knows the cross—death to self, losing, yielding, laying your life down.

And it will always lead you up a hill during times of mistreatment.

In addition, the nature of His life is love. But the word “love” is cheap these days.

If you love someone, you won’t lie about them or distort the truth.

If you love someone, you will always think the best of their intentions.

If you love someone, you will treat them the way you want to be treated in every circumstance.

Following Jesus Christ today—or as I’ve put it so often, “following your spiritual instincts”—means transcending the reactions of the flesh.

And in so doing, God gets glory, for you are a child of the most High—the One who allows His rain to shine on the wicked and the righteous alike.

So keep the love on… 

This article was originally published in There Must Be More.

Standing Firm

If we want to withstand trials and evil temptations, we must plant ourselves on a foundation of faith.

Ephesians 6:10-17

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist on the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. 14 Stand firm therefore, having belted your waist with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and having strapped on your feet the preparation of the gospel of peace; 16 in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

Did you know that you’re in a battle every day of your life? The enemy’s goal is to weaken, deceive, and lead believers astray. God protects all who belong to Him, so wicked forces can never touch our salvation (Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable, undefiled, and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 1 Pet. 1:3-5). But they can lead us into sin, cause discouragement, ruin our witness for Christ, and bring about other damage.

The main charge in today’s passage is “Stand firm,” and it’s mentioned three times (Eph. 6:11; Eph. 6:13-14). Paul says the purpose of the armor of God is to enable us to stand our ground in the battle, and his list of armor would not be complete without the footwear mentioned in verse 15. The soles of a Roman soldier’s sandals were studded with iron hobnails, which enabled him to stand his ground against an enemy assault.

Today our anchoring footwear is faith in the gospel, which not only grants us peace with the heavenly Father but also makes us Satan’s adversaries. So plant your feet and anchor yourself on a solid foundation of faith. When we don’t avail ourselves of the protection provided through Christ, we’re more likely to give way in the fight and yield to Satan’s temptations.

The Widow’s Son

A Broadcast with R.C. Sproul

When a widow lost her only son in first-century Israel, she wasn’t only left in grief—she was left destitute. Today, R.C. Sproul continues his expositional series in the gospel of Luke to consider Jesus’ compassion for a woman who had lost everything.

On Bended Knee

That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth.
Philippians 2:10 
Bowing out of respect, reverence, or worship has a long history. Throughout history, most nations were monarchies ruled by a king or queen and bowing before the monarch was commonplace. We still see it in modern monarchies like Great Britain where bowing to the current Queen is a sign of respect for her position. What we don’t see often is monarchs bowing to anyone. But a day is coming when everyone on earth—including monarchs—will bend the knee before the divine King of kings, Jesus Christ.
The bowing of humanity before God’s Messiah was foreseen by Isaiah, an image the apostle Paul then used in Romans 14:11 and Philippians 2:10. The prophet Zechariah foresaw the nations streaming to Jerusalem because they will have heard that God is with the Jews (Zechariah 8:23). Exactly how and when this bowing before Christ takes place remains to be seen. But it will happen.

Bowing in prayer and worship is a rightful posture for those who serve the King of kings and Lord of lords—today and in the future.

Jesus will not be a Savior to any man who refuses to bow to Him as Lord.
Walter Chantry

  • David Jeremiah

Jesus Comes into View

Be Content

Contentment doesn’t depend on what we have or what we lack; it is found in Jesus alone.

Hebrews 13:5-6

Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever abandon you,” so that we confidently say,

The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid.
What will man do to me?”

 

Contentment is a quality seen in very few people today. Our society is always offering new items, gadgets, upgrades, and conveniences that promise pleasure, comfort, and satisfaction. But no material goods ever live up to that promise long-term. Yet many people keep falling for lies instead of being content with what they have.

The book of Hebrews was written to people who were experiencing discouragement and persecution for their faith in Christ. Those believers faced many hardships, including public reproach, imprisonment, and property seizure (32 But remember the former days, when, after being enlightened, you endured a great conflict of sufferings, 33 partly by being made a public spectacle through insults and distress, and partly by becoming companions with those who were so treated. 34 For you showed sympathy to the prisoners and accepted joyfully the seizure of your property, knowing that you have for yourselves a better and lasting possession. Heb. 10:32-34). Yet in (35 Therefore, do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. 36 For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised.)Hebrews 10:35-36, the writer urges them to endure because they have a better and eternal possession awaiting them in heaven. They may not have had tangible wealth or comforts, but in the Lord, they had all they needed—and He promised never to leave or forsake them, no matter what men did to them on earth.

Most of us today have much more material wealth and security than those early believers did, but contentment is largely still elusive. That’s because the problem has to do with the heart. We love money and all that it provides. So while the Lord “richly supplies us with all things to enjoy” (Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to set their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy. 1 Tim. 6:17), true enjoyment is possible only when our heart is set on Him rather than on worldly things. He alone is our hope.