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Tag: Bible

Unguarded Discipleship

Have you ever wondered why you’re still here? I’ve often thought “Wouldn’t it be nicer if God would just teleport us to heaven the moment we accepted him as our Saviour?” We could be done with sin once for all and we could immediately enjoy the wonders of being with our Creator. That would be way better than staying here on this sin-soaked planet – enduring the pain and the hardships of life.

The Apostle Paul wrestled with this very thought of how it would be better to go and be with the Lord, but at the same time, he knew that God had a purpose for him to remain. He writes in his letter to the Philippians:

I trust that my life will bring honor to Christ, whether I live or die. 21 For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better. 22 But if I live, I can do more fruitful work for Christ. So I really don’t know which is better. 23 I’m torn between two desires: I long to go and be with Christ, which would be far better for me. 24 But for your sakes, it is better that I continue to live. 25 Knowing this, I am convinced that I will remain alive so I can continue to help all of you grow and experience the joy of your faith. Philippians 1:20-25

Paul recognized that he had a job to do. He had a purpose on this planet – and that was to make disciples – in Paul’s words, his job was “to help people grow and experience the joy of their faith.”

And our job is no different. We read in Matthew 28:18-20:

18 Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. 19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 20 Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20

God has chosen for us to be part of his plan of redemption. We are to be his messengers of this Good News. We are to be disciples who make disciples.

Last week we defined a disciple as:

One who is following Jesus, is being changed by Jesus, and is committed to the mission of Jesus.

Those three elements are key to true discipleship. And the big question that we’ve been trying to tackle for the last several weeks is: how do we become and how do we make those kind of disciples as Jesus commanded us?

If that’s one of the main tasks that Jesus has given us to do, if that’s a major reason why we are still on this planet, then how do we do that effectively? How, in 2017 here in Canada, do we make disciples who are following Jesus, are being changed by Jesus, and are committed to the mission of Jesus?

Well, the Bible doesn’t give us a checklist to follow or a no-fail formula for disciple making – but it does give us all kinds of examples in the New Testament and in the old, of people making disciples – helping others trust and follow God.

And so for this message series, we’ve categorized those examples into 5 different contexts. These are five types of relationships in the Bible where we can see discipleship happening.

And so far we’ve looked at the public context, the social context, and the personal context.

And I don’t want to take too long to give you a full recap, but here are the keys points for those three contexts so far.

  • In the public context, disciples can be made in a crowd through teaching, preaching, and inspiration. A good modern example of this would be the Sunday Morning service. It is here that we are we are motivated, persuaded, encouraged, influenced, moved, stirred, spurred on, energized, and awakened in our journey with Jesus.
  • In the social context, Christianity is caught, more-so than taught as we see first hand from others what it looks like to follow Jesus. This sort of discipleship happens within a community – usually 20-70 people. For us this would include many of our church functions outside of the Sunday service – such as backyard BBQs or serving together in the town’s Fall Festival or our Mother’s Day brunch.
  • Then last week we looked at the personal context. If, in the public context we can be discipled by strangers, and in the social context by acquaintances, then in the personal context, we are discipled by friends who support and challenge us. These family-like relationships allow us to practice things like forgiveness and mercy and patience and all that other good stuff as we learn to love others like Jesus did. This is the kind of discipleship that happens in families or small groups of 4-12 people.

And now today we want to look at a fourth context – the Transparent Context.

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Accurately Understanding the Bible

John 15:4-5 says….

4 Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me.

5 “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. John 15:4-5

This is the passage that we started looking at nearly two months ago. By now that might just be a distant memory for you, so I thought I’d better do a little bit of a refresher before we continue on with today’s message.

Back when we started this series, I talked a little bit about how we tend to grow less healthy and less fit over time unless we do something about it. I think that’s true for most people. At least it is for me! My job doesn’t require me to do a lot of physical activity – although this week has perhaps been an exception as we’ve moved and cleaned and setup and done all that stuff…. But generally I spend a lot of time working at my desk or visiting folks around the kitchen table – those aren’t very physically demanding activities.

To compound the problem, the cold of winter tends to encourage me to stay indoors, rather than outdoors. And on top of that, I’ve discovered that there are lot of really delicious things to eat in this world! So for me, it takes intentional effort to stay at least relatively healthy and fit. If I don’t want to get completely out of shape, I need to intentionally develop some healthy habits.

So maybe I need to practice eating a little more healthy. Maybe I need to get into the habit of exercising on a regular basis. Maybe I need to drive a little less and walk a little more.

But the bottom line is, if I want to stay healthy and fit, I need to develop some healthy habits.

And as we’ve been going through this series, we’ve discovered that the same is true spiritually speaking. If we want to stay spiritually healthy and fit – that is, if we want to remain in Christ, staying close and connected to Him so that we produce much fruit like that verse says – then likewise, we need to develop some healthy habits.

Healthy Habits

And that’s what this series has been all about. What are the healthy habits that Christians have been practicing for centuries that can help us develop that deep and meaningful relationship with Christ? What are those Spiritual Disciplines – as they are often known as – that help us stay connected with Jesus so that we can produce much fruit?

Well, actually there are a whole variety of those practices – Bible reading and prayer and worship are some of the more common ones – but there are also some other very valuable practices like fasting or times of silence and solitude that maybe aren’t so common these days, but are still very healthy habits when it comes to cultivating a deep relationship with God.

Now the most recent spiritual discipline or healthy habit that we’ve talked about has been reading and studying the Bible. We’ve spent a couple of weeks talking about the message of the Bible, how we know the Bible is true and that its actually the Word of God as it claims to be. We talked about how God’s Word transforms our lives. It changes the way we think – it shows us God’s eternal perspective – which in turn, complete changes the way we live our lives.

And we ended our last message with a warning from James 1:22 which says

“But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves.”  James 1:22

And that was really a lead into today message – which is how do we read and understand the Bible accurately – so that we can be sure that we actually do what it actually says? If we’re going to obey God’s Word – if God is going to change the way we think and transform our lives through his Word – if we are basing our entire lives and our eternal future on the words in this book, then we need to make sure we’re accurately understanding and applying what the Bible actually says.

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Transformed by God’s Word

Last week we spent some time looking at the Bible. Of course, that shouldn’t be too surprising. I think I’d have some serious questions about the validity of our church if we didn’t look at the Bible every Sunday! However, last week, our topic was actually the Bible itself.

And we asked some big questions. What exactly is the Bible? What’s it all about – what’s the main message? How did we get the Bible in the first place? And perhaps more importantly, how do we know we can trust it? As Christians, the basis for what we believe about God, about ourselves, about our world, about the meaning of life and how to live it abundantly, about eternity – all of that is found in the Bible. So it seems to me that I want to know with certainty that what I’m basing my beliefs on is true.

And for myself – I’m convinced that it is. I’ve personally spent quite a bit of time researching and seeing for myself – if the evidence truly adds up. And my conclusion is… it does. The evidence seems pretty indisputable to me. But don’t just take my word for it. Check it out for yourself!

We mentioned just a few of the evidences last week. One of them was the continuity of the message of the Bible. Even though the different parts of the Bible were written over a span of 1600 years by 40 different authors on three continents and in three languages – yet somehow, every one of those 66 books of the Bible fit together perfectly to make up one big story – the story of how God loved his creation so much, that despite their constant rebellion and failures, God chose to redeem them. He did that ultimately by sending His Son Jesus Christ, to be born in a stable, laid in a manger, and to one day die on a cross in our place, rising again three days later, so that through Him, we can find forgiveness and eternal life. That’s the message of the Bible – and you find that message throughout the Bible – everywhere from Genesis to Revelation.

We also very briefly touched on the fulfilled prophecies in the Bible and the way the Bible agrees with history, geography, and archaeology. There is just such a host of evidence that I have to conclude that, not only is the Bible true, but it is in fact, as it claims, the Word of God – recorded and preserved over the ages for me and you. But again, don’t take my word for it. That’s just my conclusion. Do your own research and find out for yourself.

Because if the Bible is true and if the Bible is the Word of God as it claims, then the ramifications are huge. If the Creator of the Universe has given me a book that contains all the truth I need to know about Himself, about myself, about my world, about life and how to live it abundantly, about eternity – then I want to know and understand what this book says!

If we are convinced that the Bible is true and that it is God’s message for us, then what should we do with that message? How do we make sure that we understand it correctly and how do we apply what it says to our lives? Should the Word of God actually make a difference in our lives – and if so, how does it?

And so my goal for this message is to give you some tools and teach you some methods for how to discover what’s in the Bible and how to get it off the pages and into your life so that it can actually transform you.

And that’s kinda the important bit right there. I’m not here to convince you to study the Bible just so that you can have a head full of knowledge. Knowledge is good – but it’s not our end goal. The end goal is to know and become more like our Creator. The goal is to strengthen and build our relationship with God. That’s the point of all these spiritual disciplines that we’ll be talking about over the next several weeks as we go through this series on “Healthy Habits”.  I’ll tell you right now that reading your Bible is pointless unless it changes your relationship with God. Praying is pointless unless it changes your relationship with God. Going to church is pointless unless it changes your relationship with God.

Doing these things simply out of obligation or habit without actually engaging with God is like taking your car to the mechanic on a regular basis – but not allowing him to make any changes! How ridiculous would that be? Can you imagine going through the effort and paying the cost to take your vehicle into the mechanics every week – but never allowing him to make a single change to your vehicle? That would be ridiculous. That would be stupid!

But often I think we’re guilty of doing exactly that when it comes to these healthy habits. We go through the motions of reading our Bible or praying or going to church or whatever else we do, but we do it without the real intent of connecting with God through those activities. We forget that the purpose of all those things is to help us draw near to God and to abide in Him.

Remember that verse we read in John 15 a few weeks ago?

5 “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. John 15:5

That’s why we do these things – to remain in Him. To stay connected with God. To know Him and become more like Him. If we’re not interested in doing that, then why are we doing all this ‘religious stuff’? All of these religious activities that we take part in – if we’re not trying to know God and become more like Him through those things – then it’s complete foolishness! We’re just driving our car back and forth from the mechanic shop!

But on the other hand, if we are seeking to know God and to become more like Him – to build and strengthen our relationship with Him, then these spiritual disciplines – these healthy habits – are some of the best ways you can do that! Without that desire, these practices will be empty and pointless. But when you go into it looking to connect with God, these practices will quickly become some of the most joyful, fulfilling moments of your day!

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