Christianity 201

January 25, 2019

Looking for Disciples Who Look Like Us

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:31 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

Several times at our sister blog we’ve linked to the writing of various authors at The Jagged Word, but we’ve never included his writing here. Today we’re offering you a sample. As usual, send some link love to our featured writers by clicking the title and reading each article at its point of origin.

Collecting vs. Making Disciples

by Joel A. Hess

I often forget a little detail in our Lord’s command to His church in Matthew 28. He says, “Go and make disciples…” Every time I read and reread this almost cliché passage, I am reminded that Jesus tells us He is going to “make” disciples. It will be something done to people. No one will be waiting at the church door knocking to come in. 

“Making disciples” implies that no one is going to “come to the cross,” “come to their senses,” or “sign up on the sign-up sheet” hoping to be selected. No one came to the birth of our Lord except those called by God. No one came to the empty tomb except those expecting to find a dead body. Jesus made every disciple we read about in the New Testament, from Mary and Joseph to Matthew the tax collector and Mary Magdalene.

He did this by the power of His Word and words. Every single person who has come to faith in Christ was once stone-cold dead—worse, an enemy of God. As Jesus says in John 8, “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” Jesus finds us. We don’t find Him. So He calls Himself the Good Shepherd. He is the “Good” Shepherd because He is the Shepherd David talks about in Psalm 23. But He is also really good at being a Shepherd! Just as God found Adam and Eve and made them into believers of His grace, so He finds lost, scared, dying people and does the same. He does this through His church, that is, through other believers in Christ.

While I give lip service to this directive of Jesus, I often times find myself collecting disciples instead. I think many of us pastors and fellow disciples do the same. It’s our default disposition. We look for people who look like us, believe like us, have the same political views as us, talk like us, and live lives like us. Ironically, it has been my experience that those people are the hardest to convert.

Social media probably hasn’t helped us, and neither has the increasing habit of putting our whole lives into political party categories. By doing so, we put a barrier up before we can even start to share the good news of Christ!

I get it. If we only live by sight and not by faith, it certainly seems impossible that a person bragging about their atheism, their alternative lifestyle, and even their hatred of Christianity would ever be a disciple of Christ. But that is what we all were! We were all made disciples by the power of the Holy Spirit through His Word. No one began with a disposition that was neutral, let alone favorable toward believing in God.

How quickly we are tempted to write people off! How quickly we are tempted to not believe the power of the God’s Word, that is, the Good News, that God does not hold our sins against us but has placed them upon His Son!

The church is not a collection of like-minded people, but a creation of God’s, united in their being found, rescued, and gently made (and being made) into hope-filled, peace-filled believers of Jesus.

May God open my eyes to see my neighbor and my enemy as Jesus sees them: as future disciples.

 

July 3, 2011

The Sequel To David Platt’s Radical – Sample Chapter Link

Last year I was greatly challenged by David Platt’s Radical.  While I didn’t get a copy of this sequel, I came across this preview a few days ago. You can begin reading some of Chapter One of Radical Together here, or click the link at the bottom to open your own .pdf file of the entire chapter. (There’s much more in the preview than what’s here and it’s easier to read!)

Before Mark came to the Church at Brook Hills (the church I
serve), he had spent practically his entire adult life involved in
church programs and serving on church committees. “You name
it, and I did it,” Mark said. “I was on finance teams and personnel
teams. I worked on capital building campaigns and sat in long term
planning sessions. Every week my schedule was filled with
church activity.”

After becoming a part of our faith family,Mark started hearing
people talk about making disciples. That’s when he realized
that, despite all the good things he had done in the church, he
could not name one person outside his family whom he had led
to Christ and who was now walking with Christ and leading others
to Christ.Mark said to me, “David, I have spent my life doing
all the stuff in the church that I thought I was supposed to do.

But I’m realizing that I have missed the most important thing:
making disciples.” At his workplace and in our community, Mark
is now intentionally leading people to Christ and teaching them
to follow him.

The story of Mark’s life as a Christian should frighten us.The
last thing you and I want to do is waste our lives on religious activity
that is devoid of spiritual productivity—being active in the
church but not advancing the kingdom of God.We don’t want to
come to the end of our days on earth only to realize that we have
had little impact on more people going to heaven. Yet if we are not
careful, we will spend our lives doing good things in the church
while we ultimately miss out on the great purpose for which we
were created.

That’s why I say one of the worst enemies of Christians can
be good things in the church.

Of course, some will disagree with my claim. “How can good
things in the church really be one of our worst enemies?” some
might ask. “Sin and Satan are our worst enemies,” they might say.
And they would have a point.  But let me point something out: We
know sin and Satan are our enemies. We know we need to be on
our guard against them. But too often we’re oblivious to the threat
posed by the good things we’re doing. We’ve laid down our
defenses against the way that the good can hinder the best. In this
sense, good things can subtly and effectively become one of our
worst enemies.

As Christians today, you and I can easily deceive ourselves
into thinking that dedication to church programs automatically
equals devotion to kingdom purposes. We can fill our lives and our
churches with good things requiring our resources and good activities demanding our attention that are not ultimately best for the enjoyment of the gospel in our churches and the spread of the gospel in our communities.

We must be willing to sacrifice good things in the church in
order to experience the great things of God.

continue reading the preview chapter with this link:  .pdf file

May 1, 2011

Assessing Your True Priorities

Earlier today at Thinking out Loud, I posted an excerpt from the forthcoming book Not a Fan by Kyle Idleman.  If you wish to, you can read that by clicking here.   Reading further into the text, I found a list of four criteria which Kyle suggests we can use to analyze where our life priorities lie.  Before listing them, it reminded me of three similar questions I had listed her nearly a year ago.  You can read that full article by clicking here, but here is a short summary:

  1. What’s the first thing you think about when you get up in the morning? — Probably the best indicator of where your true priorities lie, and fortunately for some, this is not public knowledge.
  2. What do you talk about when it’s your chance to control the conversation? — This is the one your friends and family might better answer.  Out of the abundance of the heart comes speech.
  3. What do you want your life to be remembered for? — Similar to question two, but taking the long view; this combines both speech and talk that is put into action.

Kyle’s list — the following is lifted from pages 60-63 — included four questions:

  1. For what do you sacrifice your money? — The Bible says, “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”  What you spend your time and money on often reveals the true desire of your heart and shows what or who you are truly following…
  2. When you’re hurt, where do you go for comfort? — …I have found that when someone goes through a difficult time or a painful circumstance, who or what they are truly following is often revealed.  When our first response…is to turn to anyone or anything other than Jesus it may reveal that our affection is divided…
  3. What disappointments or frustrates you the most? — When we feel overwhelmed with disappointment it often reveals something that has become too important…
  4. What is it that really gets you excited?Like the things that disappoint us, the things that excite us can also point to something or someone that is in competition with Jesus…robbing God of your whole heart…

I encourage you to read the book when it is published at the end of May, but these questions are ideas we can consider today.