Archive for the Discipleship Category

Love. Really!

Posted in Discipleship, Love on December 3, 2014 by nmpreach

What does it mean to love God?  You might be thinking, “Come on!  That’s an easy one.  We should love God with all of our heart – with all of our mind – with all of our soul.”  Right.  But what does it mean to love God?  On the other hand, you might be thinking, “This must be a trick question.”  I can assure you it’s not.  For some time, I’ve tried to consider what it means to love God.  Maybe you have some thoughts.  Consider these:

If I love God, shouldn’t it change the way I live?

If I consider myself a follower of Christ, shouldn’t I be different from when I wasn’t a follower?

1 John 3:1-3 reads,

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.  The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him.  Beloved we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.  And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.  (ESV)

Perhaps there’s a few things to consider from this text:

1)  God’s love for us despite who we are.

2)  The phrase “children of God.”  Let that sink in for a bit.

3)  Followers of Christ are to be different from the world.  At this point, I would ask you to consider the original question.  Take the time to read the bold text above.

4)  Becoming like Christ is a process.  It doesn’t happen over night.  In fact, culmination happens “when he appears.”

5)  Following Christ compels us to become more like Him.

Of course there are other things to notice.  But that’s a start.  I have other texts and thoughts in mind.  But maybe a conversation can begin.

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It Matters!

Posted in Apologetics, Discipleship on November 12, 2014 by nmpreach

 

thinkerRecently, I had a discussion with another believer concerning the necessity of apologetics in the Church.  Before going further, perhaps a definition of apologetics is necessary.  Apologetics is simply a defense of the faith.  In other words, knowing what one believes and the ability to articulate those beliefs.  The person I was speaking with mentioned his concern over arguing or what he called “debate” within the local church.  The apostle Paul speaks of irreverent babble and avoiding such things while writing to Timothy.  While I’m not interested in an unproductive discussion, I do believe it’s important that one determine what is truth and defend truth accordingly.

It doesn’t take long to determine we live in a society that holds to truth being relative.  According to the ideology, what might be true for you is not true for me.  I pray you can see the problem with that way of thinking.  To form the issue in a question might be helpful.  So here goes: What can we know for certain?  Why do we know 2 + 2 = 4?  You get the point.  If truth is relative…fluid…constantly changing for the benefactor, can it be absolute truth?

Just before Paul warns Timothy of irreverent babble, he writes these words.  Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth (1 Tim 2:15, emphasis mine).  A few words require a second glance.  The words “approved” and “rightly” must mean something.  In other words, “approved” means there is a standard Paul expects Timothy to attain.  The word “rightly” declares the standard to be concrete or unchanging.

As Christians, we believe we must start with the absolute truth.  In the Gospel of John, Jesus of Nazareth is reported to have said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life”  (14:6).  Later in the same Gospel, John records Jesus answering Pilate, “…I have come into this world – to bear witness to the truth.  Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice” (18:37).  Those words are not fluid.  They don’t have one standard today and another tomorrow.  Truth is truth.

Sadly, relative truth is not something just for the secularists.  The influence of the world has penetrated the walls of the Church.  For that reason, there are just as many who gather to worship who believe in some level of relative truth.  It’s easy to say “Amen” when one is not tempted in a certain way.  However, when the standard hits “too close to home,” it’s much more difficult.

Might part of the problem be that we’ve forgotten the importance of critical thinking?  Is it possible that even believers are influenced towards relativity rather than absolute truth?  After all, we’re told to be tolerant and love our enemies.  That said, often times we display a huge misunderstanding of tolerance and love.  Speaking truth is love to the nth degree!  In regards to critical thinking within the Church, apologist William Lane Craig offers, “Our culture in general has sunk to the level of biblical and theological illiteracy.”  That seems harsh at first glance.  But at times, love means hearing what we don’t want to hear.  Something to consider is what will the Church do about it?

The gentleman I was visiting with believes apologetics is something for the spiritually elite.  The thought goes “The Gospel is simple.  Leave the minutiae to those in academia.”  On one hand, the idea of a simple Gospel is correct.  However, when one chooses to never go beyond the “surface,” many blessings will never be realized.  Discipleship includes loving God with all your heart, all your mind, and all your strength.  Without absolute truth, a healthy starting place will not exist.

I would offer the healthy starting place must be Jesus.  But convincing an unbeliever of the starting place might be more difficult than you can imagine – especially if your starting place changes from time to time.  I have no right to determine truth for you or even for me.  You haven’t the right to do the same for me or others.  You see, truth has been defined.  Truth is named Jesus.  It matters where we start.  And it matters that we continue a relationship with He who is truth.

 

 

Who’s Your Daddy?

Posted in Discipleship, Jeremiah, Sin on January 14, 2014 by nmpreach

Jeremiah seems to “speed up” as he writes of judgment in chapters 21-25.  Maybe it’s just me.  But do you get a sense of his passion?  His attempt to convince the people of God to make the right choice is evident.  This is not a new message.  But the prophet prays they understand and their legacy will be one of faith and obedience.  In fact, the only way to have a legacy is to follow God’s will.  They were apathetic, complacent, and making some horrible decisions.

Read these verses again:

He judged the cause of the poor and needy; then it was well.  Is not this to know me? declares the LORD.

But you have eyes and heart only for your dishonest gain, for shedding innocent blood, and for practicing oppression and violence.

Jeremiah 22:16-17 ESV

The prophet is clear.  The people of God are so focused on themselves – so arrogant, prideful, and selfish – that they have followed their own ways.  The consequence is judgment.

In our time, we have a tendency to do somewhat of the same.  Jesus himself said, Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you? Luke 6:46

We have become convinced that all we must do is have a mental assent to certain dogmas.  In other words, believe the right things, and that’s what following Christ is all about.  That’s crazy….and unbiblical!

The idea of belief throughout Scripture had follow-through.  In other words, talk is cheap.  You might say you believe, but the words didn’t mean much.  The question was, what did you do about it?  Jesus didn’t just come and perform miracles for an “oooh” and “awwwww.”  He came to restore lives.  And then, He calls us to do the same.  How can we share Jesus with those around us if we just exist in our own little world and never act upon what’s in our head?  That would be foreign to them then and should be foreign to us now.  The question is, Who do you follow?  God?  The world?  Yourself?

Our problem is one of laziness.  We want to do just enough to get by.  Walk the aisle, say a few words, get in some water, believe a few things, and get my ticket punched.  That’s not what Christ called us to do!  I hear numerous excuses all of the time.  “I’m just not religious.”  Good!  Jesus said you should only be religious about loving people.  “I could never be good enough.”  You’re right.  But amazingly, God loves us anyway.  “The Church just isn’t for me.”  Really?  What if Jesus died for the Church and will return to claim His bride?  Is it for you now?  “They’re just a bunch of hypocrites.”  Fair.  We’re all sinners and not one is perfect.  But convincing yourself of some independent “good-guy” living is not only silly, it’s  stupid!  “Once saved, always saved!”  Really?  Maybe we should discuss what it means to be saved. Ultimately it’s not about you.

Is that harsh?  Intolerant?

It’s what Jesus said.  Read Luke 6:46 and then be slow to decide your answer.

Sheep and Goats (5)

Posted in Discipleship on December 13, 2013 by nmpreach

frazzled

This is the last (for a time) in a series of posts regarding discipleship.  If you’ve not been following, the series is based upon Matthew 25, particularly the “sheep and goat” passage.

Have you seen the Dobson video?  I’m speaking of the one where he talks about overcommitment.  If you haven’t seen it, click here.

Great thought, right?  Dr. Dobson makes the point that life often gets in the way of what’s most important.  Recently, I had a discussion with a man who said, “We’ve told the boys they can only play one sport this year.  They have to choose.”  I replied, “Good for you.”  I wish more parents would do the same.  Football runs into basketball that runs into baseball that runs into soccer that runs into gymnastics that runs into dance lessons that runs into Boy Scouts.  You get the idea.  We’ve convinced ourselves that the more our kids are exposed to, the better parents we are.  The busier we are, the more successful we’ll be.  It’s all a lie!  I’m with Dr. Dobson.  Something’s got to give.

Now here’s where I’m going to push back a bit.  Is it really a problem of overcommitment?  Could it be that we’re simply committed to the wrong things?  Each of the things listed aren’t inherently bad.  But when it takes over a life, it becomes idolatrous.   Johnny can’t come to youth group because he had practice on Monday and Thursday and had games on Tuesday and Friday.  He’s just too tired!  Suzie has Girl Scouts on Wednesdays now.  She’s been a part of the scouts for four years.  We don’t want to let those people down!  And it’s not just the kids, right?  I’m in the civic club, on the committee that meets twice per week, etc.  I just can’t say “No!”  I can’t make Bible study because I am so tired.

The fact is discipleship entails discernment.  When you’re no longer the king of your domain (but Jesus is), it makes you constantly evaluate your priorities.  Here’s some words that sound pretty harsh:

If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.  Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple…So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple. Lk 14:25-27, 33

Any guess as to who said that?  The Sunday School answer is right in this case.  Jesus!  Jesus makes it clear what it means to be a follower.  Of course He’s not speaking of hate the way we often think of hate.  He’s not preaching about a pauper lifestyle.  The point He’s making has to do with discipleship.  It’s about living for Him – not me nor you!  There will be those around you (even in your family) who consider your commitment to be “over the top,” “excessive,” or an “overcommitment.”  You can’t worry about that.  Nothing can be more important than your relationship with Christ!

One last thought: You think Jesus was “overcommitted” when He died for the sin of the entire world?  May He find us committed to the right things when He returns!

 

Sheep and Goats (4)

Posted in Discipleship on December 11, 2013 by nmpreach

horse

You’ve heard (and possibly said) “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.”  In regards to discipleship, that holds true.  I can raise my kids with godly values.  I can introduce them to the Gospel in creative ways.  But eventually they choose to accept or reject a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

I believe in something called Free Will.  I won’t bore you will all of the gory details of what that entails (although I’m always willing to talk theology).  Basically, though, free will means each individual is given grace from God to decide for himself/herself whether or not to receive God’s gift.  The other end of the “spectrum” would be Determinism – which entails God choosing to work in every detail – from who goes to heaven or hell to what color of shirt I’m wearing.  Again, that’s a very basic definition.  But it does provide justice to the doctrine.

What’s this have to do with discipleship?  In my mind, everything!

In ministry, it’s taken me much too long to learn I can’t “fix” anyone.  Because we live in a broken world, there will always be struggles, suffering, and pain.  I can’t do much of anything about those things – EXCEPT point people to the One who can.  The Apostle Paul writes a letter to the Church in Rome that describes Adam’s failures and Jesus’ victory.  Take time to go read Romans 5.  Go ahead!  Do it now.

Back now?  So you understand what Paul is saying?  You and I can’t offer anything to those around us, with the exception of what’s already been done for us by Christ.  Then it’s up to them.  Responses might be: 1) Total rejection – Jesus tells us to “dust your feet (and move on); 2) Measured interest – These are those who want to hear more.  I’m reminded of the times Paul preaches the Gospel over and over again; 3) and Acceptance – Read Acts 2 and Peter’s message at Pentecost.  The response was, “Brothers, what must we do?”  Of course, we all want those we share with (especially those we deeply love) to accept that personal relationship.  But there are times they choose not to do so.  I must simply continue to pray for God’s grace and an open heart.

I want to finish the post today with a few texts from Scripture.  Of course, it says it much better than I.  Both of these are from the English Standard Version.

And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell.  But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD. Joshua 24:15

The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.  1 Peter 3:9

So keep leading the “horses.”  Perhaps one day, they will drink.

Sheep andGoats (3)

Posted in Discipleship on December 10, 2013 by nmpreach

We’re talking about discipleship and particularly looking at how Christ portrayed what we should do.  To follow Christ means to do what He did.  So what did He do?

Among many things, Christ offered hope in a broken world.  As He ascends back to heaven, He commissions the Church to do the same.  This past Sunday, our body of believers observed Isaiah 42:1-9.  The text speaks of a coming Messiah bringing justice several times.  Justice is setting things right – offering peace among the chaos, encouragement to the discouraged, and hope to the hopeless.  Do you think the Jews sought peace, encouragement, and hope?  You’d be smart to bet the farm!  Although Jesus “redefined” Messiah for the Jews, in hindsight they would have to admit that he offered all of the above.

The prophet then turns his attention to the people of God.  They are called to offer peace, encouragement, hope, etc.  They are said to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, and to release prisoners.  Perhaps this reminds you of the Great Commission in Matthew 28.  Jesus says to His followers, “Go and do what I’ve done.”  That’s a paraphrase of course.

I’ve always been taken back by what He calls us to do.  He knows the Church is comprised of sinful and broken people.  Yet He tells us to do what He has done, is doing, and will do.  Despite who we are, God allows us to be a part of His great plan.  How can I open blind eyes?  How do I bring prisoners out of a dark place much less release them?  I think the answer relies in not in who I am, but in who He is.  As a matter of fact, I know that’s where the answer is.  My responsibility is to notice where God is already working and join Him there.  When that happens, good things result.

So who in your life needs peace among chaos?  Who needs your encouragement to put one foot in front of the other?  Who will you lead out of bondage?  You may feel ill-equipped.  You are!  But you can provide peace, encouragement, and freedom by pointing to Christ.  In other words, it’s okay not to have all of the answers.  It’s not okay to wring your hands and offer no peace, no encouragement, and no hope.  It’s not okay to let them figure it out for themselves.  What they do with the truth is up to them.  Let God do His part.  Will you do yours?

Sheep and Goats (2)

Posted in Discipleship on December 4, 2013 by nmpreach

So here’s a text that’s easy to understand:

And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.  For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.  For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?  For what can a man give in return for his soul?  For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”  – Mark 8:34-38

Easy, right?  Ok, maybe not.

If you want to follow, you must deny yourself.  How long could we spend on that?  Deny myself?  Just say no!  It’s much easier said than done.  Yet that’s how Jesus defined discipleship.  And not only did he define verbally, He lived it out!  You and I could be the most religious people in the world (Pharisees anyone?), do good things, etc., yet forfeit our souls because we’ve missed the whole point.

Golden calf

Idolatry was rampant in the Old Testament.  They made things to worship (e.g Ex 32).

Idolatry was part of life in the New Testament.  They were religious but worshipped idols (e.g. Acts 17).

Idolatry is popular today.  I like my stuff.  In fact, I AM my “stuff.”  And it’s only in destroying the “stuff” that we become genuine disciples.

Push back!