Archive for the ‘New Testament’ Category

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Pearls before Swine: Using Discernment when Declaring the Word

July 22, 2012

 

One of the most enigmatic verses in the Sermon on the Mount has to be Matthew 7:6

“Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.
(Matthew 7:6 ESV)

So what are we dealing with here? What does this verse mean?

Verses 1-5 are dealing with judgement and the extent to which followers of Christ should judge one another. These verses do no preclude all forms of judgement or discernment, rather they provide a timely and helpful admonition for those seeking to judge to deal and grapple with their own sin before they proceed to tackle the sin in other peoples lives. While Jesus is admonishing His disciples and by extension us to guard agains hasty and hypocritical judgments, He is by no means saying that we are not to exercise discernment in dealing with others. Verses 1-5 paint a picture of someone going to a brother and addressing sin in that brother’s life. There is some anticipation in these verses that the one confronted with his sin, if confronted in a un-hypocritical way, might have the speck in his eye removed. To put it another way, there is some anticipation that the brother confronted with his sin is agreeable to receiving correction. We learn from Jesus’ instruction from Matthew 18, that acknowledged sin in a brothers/sisters life is to be confronted openly and consistently with the aim of seeing the wayward brother turn and repent of sin and be restored to fellowship with his believing family. If that wayward “believer” refuses to repent, he is from then on to be treated as someone outside the family of God. But what of those around us who are not our brothers and sisters in Christ who are openly hostile to the gospel of God’s grace?

If the teaching in verses 1-5 serve as an example of how we are to avoid displaying hypocrisy in judgment. The parable in Matthew 7:6 serves as a example of how and to what extent Jesus’ disciples, and by extension us, are to avoid displaying futility in proclamation. “This passage gives us a balance for the teaching against judging. Discrimination is to be applied according to the attitude and receptivity of our hearers.”[1] In the Sermon, Jesus is equipping His disciples with the wisdom necessary to proclaim the Kingdom of Heaven. He lays out the method by which one becomes blessed in the Kingdom 5:1-11; He describes how one lives and interprets the law in the Kingdom 5:12-6:34; And now He lays out the consequences of Kingdom living, the personal consequences and the eternal consequences 7:1-27. Here He tells his disciples that the precious truth of God’s word (what is Holy and the pearls) will not be received by all, and therefore should be proclaimed with discretion. This attitude is confirmed throughout this gospel (Matthew 10 for instance) and throughout the Bible. Proverbially it is consistent with proverbs like Prov. 9:8 and 29:1, and this attitude is exemplified by Paul’s reaction to the rejection of the Gospel by the Jews of Corinth… (Acts 18:1-6, see also Acts 13:44-51, 28:17-28; Ro 16:17-18). And also (Titus 3:10-11).

Jesus is clear, those who despise the word of God will perish and are not worthy to receive it, but to any who ask “it will be given to you; seek and you will find, knock and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives and the one who seeks finds…” (Matt 7:7-8) In this Kingdom we are to live as salt and light, to live in such a way that others are prompted to question the hope we have displayed, and we must be prepared to give an answer. (1 Peter 3:15) God will always answer one who asks, seeks and knocks. However, concerning those who lack spiritual understanding (1Cor 2:14) the Word is but folly to be trampled; and we are encouraged to withhold, with discernment, the glory of God’s truth from those who would treat it with disdain.

So based on this verse can we simply write some people off and abandon them in their sin?

 

Well yes and no. “Jesus’ teaching demonstrated that the disciples were not to presume that any person would reject the gospel. They were to offer it to anyone. However, when the gospel was rejected, the disciples were to refocus their evangelistic efforts on others.”[1] Jesus displays this throughout the gospels. When individuals like the rich young ruler come to Him and ask Him about the gospel, He answers. When the young man rejects the gospel and leaves, Jesus does not chase him down and continue to offer the gospel, he lets him go. Likewise when Jesus is before Herod, He does not answer him when questioned about His ministry. Jesus spoke in parables so that those with ears would hear and those without hearing would remain in darkness. We must never “write people off” if writing people off means that we cease to love and pray for them. We are to continually love others and to pray with persistence that it be God’s will that the unrepentant repent and that the hard hearts be softened. For we all at some point stood against our king in hostility to His message, but His grace overcame our sinful will and changed our heart.

We constantly pray that His will be done in the lives of all we come across. But when we encounter those who refuse to listen to the gospel, and repudiate it and profane it treating the Gospel of glory like dirt; we must not continue on at that moment offering them what they do not want. We withhold what is holy and wait for a time when their hearts are softer and their ears are more open. John Hannah, a Scholar from DTS once said that we live out the great commission by loving our neighbor and waiting for the hand of God to strike their life; we love, we wait, and when God sees fit to soften their heart we are their with the message of His glorious Hope.

 

 

 


[1] Quarles, 295.

[1] Dockery and Garland, Seeking the Kingdom. 106.

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Judging Others: Hey You’ve Got Something in Your Eye…

July 21, 2012

Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.
(Matthew 7:3-5 ESV)

 

Fundamentally the log in our own eye should be replaced with the cross. We take that beam of sin, and relate it to the beams of the cross. When the cross is before us, and in our eyes all sin is given its proper perspective. When I say see the cross I mean come to Jesus, for the only way the plank is removed is if He removes it because of His great mercy and through His grace. At the foot of the cross of Christ, the single beam in our eye is replaced by two intersecting at God’s judgment and forgiveness.

 

John MacArthur has a helpful word on how we experience this forgiveness and mercy, and how the beam is removed:

 

“How do you remove the plank? How do you do that? I believe it’s a matter of confession of sin. Don’t you? I think first you have to look and see that it’s there. Verse 3, “consider not the plank in your own eye?” And the word “consider” there means to perceive in a meditative, prolonged way. It is used, for example, in Luke 12:27. “Consider the lilies.” In James 1:23, “as we behold our face in a glass.” It is a constant look, a look of understanding, a look of comprehension. And so he’s saying, “Take a good look. Don’t you see you’ve got a spiritual problem yourself? Don’t you see you’ve got an ungodly self-righteousness that makes you judgmental and critical of other people? Consider that.” Having considered it, you go to verse 5. “Cast it out.” And how do you do that? By confessing it to the Lord. I Corinthians 11:21, “If we judge ourselves, we won’t be judged.” Right? God’s not going to have to chasten the sin of self-righteousness if we deal with it. And so I bring my life fully to the judgment of God, and I ask Him to cleanse, to purify, to remove it.”

 

“And once I’ve done that, I can move on to verse 5, and “then shalt thou see clearly to cast the moat out of thy brother’s eye.” Listen, we’ve got to get the thing out of our brother’s eye, don’t we? We can’t let him go on in sin. That’s to hate him, Leviticus 19:17 says. We’ve got to get it out. But we’ve got to deal with, first, ourselves. Listen to how David put it. Psalm 51. “Create in me, oh, Lord, a,” what? “Clean heart.” Did you hear that? “Create in me, oh, Lord, a clean heart.” Now listen. “Then will I teach transgressors thy ways and sinners shall be converted to thee.” But there’s no way to teach a transgressor the right way, and there’s no way to convert a sinner to God, until I have in my own life a clean heart.”[1]

 

So confession removes the plank, and compassion is the result once the plank is removed. We confess our sins at the cross of Christ, His compassion overwhelms our sin, heals our sight, and we in-turn act in compassion towards others; sparing judgement and proclaiming grace.


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The People’s Court: Judging Others vs. Matthew 7…

July 20, 2012

“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.
(Matthew 7:1-5 ESV)

No one can read the Sermon on the Mount without being prompted to question.  When we come to Matthew chapter 7, the questions inevitably abound; is Jesus saying we can never judge?  Can we ever judge others?

Yes, there are times in which it is permissible, even mandated that we judge or pass judgment on others. One can think of the process of Church discipline in Matthew 18, or the commendation that if a brother sins we are to rebuke him, and if he then repents we are to forgive. (Luke 17:3)  Also later in this chapter, Jesus’ clearly instructs the listener to discern (judge) false prophets and false disciples by their behavior. (7:15-23)   But this passage is not talking about mere judging righteously (Proverbs 31:9); this passage is dealing with hypocrisy and hypocritical judgment.  Jesus first addressed this theme earlier in the sermon, in Matthew 6:2, 5 and 16.  The grammatical construction of the negation “do not Judge” uses the negative “me” which “calls the hearers to cease an action already in progress.”[1]  This allows us to assume that Jesus was addressing a behavior already present within His disciples, “Jesus had observed a judgmental attitude among His disciples and He now urged [them] to abandon that outlook.”[2]

The notion here in this passage is to admonish against the judgmental self-righteousness that fails to reflect the experienced mercy of God.  We judge not, lest we be judged much like we show mercy, so that mercy will be shown to us.(Matthew 5:7)  Jesus is addressing the prevalent mindset of one who would pass judgement on others all the while oblivious to his own sin, perhaps the same sin he is condemning.  There is a consistent scriptural teaching regarding this tragic abuse and denial of mercy: i.e. Romans 2:3 “do you suppose, O man- you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself- that you will escape the judgement of God?”  Christians who have truly experienced God’s forgiveness and mercy are loath to focus on the transgressions of others, as they are rightly so overwhelmed by the weight of their own sin overcome at the cross.  “The story is intended to restrict hypocritical correction of others rather than to restrict all helpful correction.  Jesus calls for His followers to avoid prejudice, prejudgement, and stereotyping.”[3]

Another major question that arises out of this passage is what is the difference between confronting a brother in sin and wrongly judging others?

There are two important aspects of this teaching that we must emphasize:

First. It is important to remember, that in order to observe we need to be able to see in the first place.  This is integral to Jesus’ teaching in this passage, that we deal with our own spiritual blindness before we move on to addressing the need of others.  If you have a log or beam in your own eye you are blind, you can not see your own troubles let alone address the needs of others.  You would not want a blind optometrist performing eye surgery on you; likewise one blinded by their own sin is incapable and ill-suited to address sin in the life of others.  But praise be to God that we serve a Lord who gives sight to the blind and removes our afflictions.  Wh must first address our own sin with God before we move on to others.

Second.  In this passage, Jesus is addressing the hypocritical practice of judging others out of turn.  The observation in view in regards to observing a brother’s sin is completely different.  In this case, one who is well and sighted (having dealt with their own sin first) is tasked with shepherding the flock of God, or keeping another accountable.  When one claims to know Christ, but acts wholly inconsistent with that knowledge those with in the body are tasked with the responsibility of addressing that sin.  They observe and address the sin both for the brother’s soul and for the reputation of the body of believers as a whole.  The intent is not merely to point out flaws or to call someone out, judging them irrationally; the purpose of this observation and confrontation is to lead the brother to repentance and restoration.  If the brother repents, then he/she is to be forgiven and accepted with no malice back into the fold. (Mt 18, Gal 6:1, Col 3:12-15)

 

 


[1] Wallace, Greek Grammar: Beyond the basics, 724.

[2] Quarles, Charles. Sermon on the Mount, 284.

[3] Dockery and Garland, Seeking the Kingdom, 104.

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Evil Opposition in Scripture: A Series…

May 25, 2012

Part 1. Introduction…

From the moment of the Fall there has been a tension present in history.  Adam and Eve felt it and hid themselves in response to it.  God described it in the curse of the serpent and the promise of the Seed.  Cain displayed it with the murder of his brother.  From Cain on, there were a long line of those who embodied it and fell victim to its effects.  The “tension” in question is presence of evil opposition to God’s anointed.  The tension of messianic opposition is rooted in Genesis 3, and branches out through scripture.  Present along with the proto-euangelion in Genesis 3 is also a proto-opposition that bears witness to the type and fate of those who will seek to oppose the seed of the woman.

Where the allusion to the messiah is present, so too is the specter of His opposition.  The presence of these two forces together creates a palpable tension that pulses through the narrative of the Bible.  Each side is marked by characteristics that point forward to their ultimate fulfillment.  Messianic characteristics found in individuals within the text point us to Christ as judge, lawgiver, king, and Immanuel.  Likewise the characteristics of the opposition point us to their ultimate fulfillment in Satan as adversary, deceiver, self-exalting murderer, and defeated one.

This evil opposition and its characteristics can be seen in individuals throughout the text as they seek to oppose the will of God, often as they oppose His chosen people Israel.  As the types for Christ become more pronounced and specific within the text so does the type for Satan.  Our purpose here is to examine this character of evil opposition, its source, its mean and its in end the text.  We shall attempt to prove that there is a link between three passages of scripture that inform our understanding of the presence of evil opposition to anointed of God.

First we will examine the story of Absalom and his rebellion against his King in II Samuel.

Second we shall center on the figure represented in Israel’s taunt of Isaiah 14, “the son of the dawn” and I will argue that Isaiah has Absalom in view in this passage.

Third we will see how both of these Old Testament texts point forward to Judas’ opposition to the Messiah King in the gospels.

Finally we shall draw these texts together and try to make sense of their common characteristics.  By looking at these texts we desire to increase our understanding of both the opposition; Satan, and the One being opposed; Christ.  To that end, as we peer into the darkness may the marvelous light of God may be more pronounced; that we might gain hope by seeing the futility of those who oppose God.

In the Next Post, Part 2, we will discuss the characteristics of evil in Scripture.

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The Content of Complacency…

April 30, 2012

The conception of complacency:

Genesis 3:1-15  Adam and Eve resided in the comfort provided by God and their sole responsibility to was to carry out the commands of God in creation.  In their comfortable state, they were deceived to think that God was not to be trusted, and that their fate lay in their hands.  Rather than being content in what God has provided, they became complacent.  They displayed a disregard for God and His commands in the face of His manifold provision and protection.

Constant complacency:

-Genesis 6-9  The earth and mankind was afflicted by sin (Gen 6).  God provided deliverance through the judgement of the flood (Gen 7-8); Noah experienced the comfort of deliverance(Gen 9:1-19); Noah was lax in obedience and he got drunk off of his own wine and was exposed naked (Gen 9:20-29).

-Genesis 15-18 Abram was promised a seed that would multiply and bless the world.  Instead of waiting on the Lord, he relied on his own ingenuity, and disregarded God in the face of His provision, sleeping with Hagar and fathering Ishmael.

-Exodus 32  God had delivered His people from the affliction of slavery and provided for them protecting them in the wilderness, comforting them.  They got restless waiting for Moses to return from the Mountain of God, and they rebelled, constructing a golden calf, placing their trust and hope in a God of their own creation.  They disobeyed the command of God that there be no other Gods than Yahweh, they displayed disregard for God and His commands in the face of His manifold protection.

-Judges  Judges tells the story of the people of Israel inhabiting the promised land.  God had provided the land for them, and delivered them into it through the leadership of Joshua.  And yet, they continually disregarded God’s provision.  So God gave them judges to lead them.  But in the end, they occupied the land that he had given them and each ended up doing “what was right in their own eyes.” (Judges 21:25)  This created an environment of horrendous acts, rape, murder, and idolatry.

-2 Samuel 11-12: David was complacent during the period in which he sinned with Bathsheba.  During a time “when the kings go out to battle” david remained in the comfort and security of the palace.  Rather than fulfilling his duties as king and fighting alongside his men, David remained in the comfort of the palace.  Rather than obeying the law he loved, to not commit adultery, David was complacent and gave in to his sin.  He showed callous disregard for God in the face of His provision, in that David had wives, and concubines, yet he still lusted after Bathsheba.

The conclusion of complacency

-The people of Israel in the prophets: Complacency is both rooted in disobedience and manifests itself in disobedience and ends, like all disobedience, in judgement.  God had commanded that his people worship only Him, that they wait on Him for there are no gods or rulers like Him. (Isa 40)  And yet Israel was complacent in their worship.  He commanded that hey love Him with all of their heart soul and mind (Deut 6:5) and yet their hearts slowly drifted from Him; that drift was complacency.  By the time of the prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah before the exile, and the prophets like Malachi after the exile; the people of Israel were merely going through the motions with no true love for God.  The people came near to Him with their lips, but their hearts were far from Him. (Isa 29:13)  They felt like they could get by with mere lip-service without really believing in who God is and in what He had commanded them to do.  The result was affliction and judgment in the form of exile and conquest.  Malachi bears witness to this complacency, the priests were going through the motions, offering sacrifices, but they cared little about obeying God fully.  God commanded that the sacrifices to be brought to the altar be whole, without blindness or blemish,(Leviticus 22:22) but the priest were content to continue with substandard sacrifices.  The result was distance from God and the judgment of His silence for 400 years.

In the NT:  Throughout the NT, Christians are called to guard themselves agains complacency.  They are to love the Lord; pray without ceasing (1 Thess 5:17); Guard against errant doctrine to stand firm (Gal 5:1); and to guard against idols (1 John 5:21).  Failure to do these things results in grieving the Spirit, and exclusion from the body of Christ. (Eph 4:30 and 1 Cor 16:22)

The conclusion of complacency gone unchecked and unchallenged is envisioned in Rev  3 where the church in Sardis is addressed by Christ.  They are a church, they have a name, they think that they are alive, but in fact He knows their deeds and they are dead.(3:1)  Complacency can have the appearance of life and activity, but if the activity is not obedience to God, and its life is not found in Christ, it represents a disregard for God in the face of His provision in Christ.

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The Dangers of Doubt…

April 10, 2012

“Immediately Jesus made His disciples get into the boat and go before Him to the other side, while He sent the multitudes away. And when He had sent the multitudes away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray. Now when evening came, He was alone there. But the boat was now in the middle of the sea, tossed by the waves, for the wind was contrary. Now in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went to them, walking on the sea. And when the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, ‘It is a ghost!’ And they cried out for fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid.’ And Peter answered Him and said, ‘Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.’ So He said, ‘Come.’ And when Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus. But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, ‘Lord, save me!’ And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him, and said to him, ‘O you of little faith, why did you doubt?’ And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. Then those who were in the boat came and worshiped Him, saying, ‘Truly You are the Son of God.'”

-Matthew 14:22-31

Is doubt a sin?

Yes. Doubt is an expression of our weak belief and a manifestation of our lack of faith. David Wilkerson states, “of all the sins we can commit, doubt is the one most hated by God.” Doubt is not natural, it is a function of our fallen sinful state. We were created to trust God, rely on Him for everything, and cast our hope on Him. Doubt springs from pride and forgetfulness, it grows in isolation from God, and it ultimately will drive us to seek what we need from someone/thing other than God. Throughout the whole of Scripture God is constantly acting, displaying His command of events and history giving us examples of His care for us and reasons for us to trust Him. He displays Himself as sufficient to deliver the Israelites out of slavery, provide for them in the desert, and deliver them into the promised land. And at every turn and every opportunity the Israelites express doubt and fear and turn to idols for consolation. To be known as a prophet in the Old Testament was to be one who had faith in God and did not doubt. Prophets would call to Israelites mired in doubt and fear to return to God, and put their hope and trust in Him. God is utmost concerned that His Glory be displayed in the universe. We do not display His glory when we doubt.

That is the message behind Matthews passage in Chapter 14. The account of Jesus walking on the water is sandwiched between tremendous acts of faith and provision. Crowds are pursuing Jesus seeking healing from illnesses. When they hear that he is near, they all surround him by the thousands and he heals them, feeds them and send them on their way. These hordes of sick and wounded people had faith, they overcame their doubts and turned their eye and their hope upon Jesus and he saved them. Thousands believe, but Peter doubts. It is by the grace of almighty God through His Son Jesus Christ that He has mercy on Peter and has mercy on us. He comes to us amidst our doubt with one message, “it is I, be of good cheer, FEAR NOT.” (Fear Not! For behold I bring you good news of Great Joy that is for everyman Luke 2:9, “Let not your heart be troubled, believe in God, believe also in me.” John 14:1) our doubt is overcome with one prayer, cried out in faith, “Lord, save me!” At which point, he is faithful to “stretch out His hand and catch us” and rescue us from drowning.

Why did Peter doubt?

Peter doubted because Peter was a sinner and was fearful. He did not understand yet who Jesus was and why it mattered. This is clear in the next major passage of the text and throughout the gospel of Matthew. Peter is constantly acting with a sort of schizophrenia. In this chapter, he calls out to Jesus as Lord, but sinks into the water because of doubt. In Chapter 16 he will confess Jesus as the son of God, but then will oppose Jesus’ prophesy about the cross. After saying that he would never deny Him, Peter denies Christ three times in Chapter 26. It is clear throughout that Peter had an idea of who Jesus was, but he never fully understood. Peter wanted to put Jesus into a mold. He ha a conception of who Jesus was and who He was supposed to be, his Jesus was the messiah who would lead the people of Israel in rebellion against the Romans; not the man who was to be crucified between two criminals. His Jesus was the king to be served, not the Servant who would wash the feet of His disciples. One would argue that it was not until after the resurrection that Peter, endowed with the Spirit of God, fully understood who Jesus was and why it mattered. As he preached at Pentecost the doubt and trembling is gone and is replaced with certainty and power. “Therefore let all the house of Israel know FOR CERTAIN that God has raised him from the dead– this Jesus whom you crucified.” (Acts 2:36) He doubted because he was a doubter; but the resurrection of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit transformed his doubt into unwavering belief. So it is for us, as it was for him. Faith without doubt is able to move mountains; Faith with doubt will barley keep us afloat.

What causes us to doubt?

Doubt is rooted in our failure to accurately understand who God is. God properly apprehended removes doubt. There are really two kinds of doubt; Emotional doubt and intellectual doubt.

Emotional doubt is and can be experienced by believers and followers of Jesus. This is the doubt we see on display in Matthew 14. Peter’s doubt arose out of fear, “he saw the wind was boisterous and he was afraid.” God created us with emotions, and the ability to feel fear. Fear was a reflex meant for God alone. The beginning of Biblical wisdom is the fear of God. Jesus’ message in the gospels is that we are to believe in God and fear not; and if we are to fear then we should fear only God, “the one who has the power to cast both body and soul into hell.” When we fear God, we reflect an absence of doubt and a fullness of faith in Him. When we are motivated by fear for anything other than God, we allow doubt to take over. When this happens our only response should be one of repentance, and reorientation toward God, fixing our eyes on Him, from whence cometh our help.

Intellectual doubt is less common, and more dangerous than emotional doubt. Intellectual doubt is being faced with the command of God and failing to follow Him because of your own reasoned disbelief. It is not reaction out of fear, but rather the fruit of a proud heart. This doubt is the rich young ruler who approaches Jesus seeking everlasting life. He begins to reason with Christ as to the costs of discipleship, ultimately when faced with the choice of following Jesus or keeping his stuff, he doubted the truthfulness of Jesus’ command and left in despair. Intellectual doubt is Romans 1:21, “for though they knew God they failed to honor Him as God.” Intellectual doubters see God, are faced with Him, and reason that what they see cannot be true or affect their lives. When this happens absent repentance, the consequences are dire and permanent. The only hope for this doubter is a grace given radical understanding of who they are in relation to God. This removes pride and eliminates doubt in who God is and what He has said.

When is doubt deadly?

Doubt is deadly when it is uncontested and given in to. Doubt is no residence for the Christian, a Christian may visit from time to time, but he/she cannot stay. Jesus commands us to love the Lord our God with all our heart, all our soul and all our mind. There is no room for doubt in our pursuit of God. But doubt does happen. When doubt creeps in and begins to crowd out our view of God we begin to sink. Doubt leads to death when people choose to place their faith in any alternative other than God. Christ is our hope, He is calling out to us and when we have faith we can walk through the greatest storm; and even if we doubt, we must repent and cry out to the Lord, and He will be faithful to take hold of our hand and save us.

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Disciples in the Making: the Who, the How, and the Why…

March 30, 2012

In the last two posts we have examined the mission of the church, the going into the world, the making of disciples, and the living witness.  In this post we will go deep on Making Disciples, and examine the who, the how and the why behind Jesus command to make disciples of all the nations.

Even a cursory reading of the great commission in Matthew 28 shows that the center of the commission is not on going but rather making.  Jesus commands His disciples to make disciples.  To go into the nations, “baptizing them and teaching them all that I have commanded.”  To often though the church has missed this simple distinction and has settled for merely going and telling, while neglecting making.  The aforementioned pattern in Acts though reflects the fact that the disciples did not make this mistake.  They established a church where they were, proclaimed the gospel, saw growth outward, and established other churches throughout the known world.  This is why we will endeavor to do the same; become established, proclaim, grow, and establish other congregations.  To do this we will focus on the “who” of discipleship, the “how” of making disciples, and finally the reason “why” we should carry out this command.

Who do we Disciple

Discipleship is missions in micro.  It is the proclamation of the gospel and the instruction of believers in the ways of Christ; moreover the progress after the proclamation.  Just as the mission of the church starts close and radiates out, so too does our discipleship.  Those who call upon the name of Christ have merely begun the journey.  There is a vast difference between believing on His cross and taking up your own, and in that gap rests discipleship.  Discipleship begins in the home and for a believer should radiate out from there.  For our purposes we will focus on four categories Family, Friends, Neighbors and Nations. Discipleship is teaching and modeling; the life of Christ, the plan of God, and His character revealed in both.  This must begin at home.  Our church will focus on training men, women, husbands, wives, and parents to in turn train their households.  The nuclear family of the home and the corporate family of the church then should work together to disciple the remaining groups through missions and church planting.

The Flow of Discipleship:

(The Church)                                (Missions)

Church + Families –> Friends, Neighbors, and Nations

How we Disciple

For the church or Christian engaging in discipleship the substance of that teaching is key.  And while the whole of Scripture is profitable for teaching, reproof, correction and encouragement, Jesus provides His church with a ready-made catechism in His Sermon on the Mount.  In the Sermon (found in Matthew 5 through 7), Jesus informs His followers how they are to become; who they are to be; how this should affect their lives; how it should direct their worship; and how it grounds their hope.  His teaching is both the Truth to be believed and the behavior to be followed.

The Sermon for discipleship:

Instruction                                                Focus                                  Verses

How to become…             Blessed (knowing and cherishing God)               5:1-12

Who we are…                    Salt and Light (impacting the world)                  5:13-16

Affects our lives…            Pure Heart, new boundaries                               5:17-48

Directs our worship         God is focus of Prayer, Fasting, Giving                6:1-34

Grounds our Hope            A life lived this way is built on a rock.                7:1-29

Following this pattern demonstrates that we seek to make disciples, not merely count converts.  The goal is to instruct the families of our congregation and then partner with these families to disciple the wider world through missions.    Having examine who we are to disciple and how we disciple them we now will focus on the reason behind our discipleship.

Why we Disciple

God’s people have always had a mandate.  Even in the Garden, those who bore His image were commanded to be fruitful and multiply that image and through that multiplication dominate the earth.[1]  As God’s new creation through Christ we have much the same command.  As we are being conformed into the likeness of His image through discipleship, He commands us to go and preach so that others will come to know and resemble Him.  This command may seem elemental, perhaps even passé, but its weight should be felt not ignored.  For our response to it, either in obedience or rejection, displays our attitude in the face of the risen Savior.   Like those who came to see Him after His resurrection there were only two responses: one either worshiped with hearts burning at His word, or one wavered doubting Him to His face.  We shall endeavor to mirror the former, rather than the latter, so that our worship lived out may serve as a witness to others.  In the next post we shall conclude by examining our witness for Christ which we are to have among the nations .


[1] Genesis 1:28