Tag Archives: Discipleship

Knowing Jesus Changes Everything

I just got joy bombed, or at least that is what I call it after listening to Joy Dawson speak on the subject of following Jesus and the glory of God. Dawson is an internationally known speaker and evangelist. But the real important thing is that she listens to the Holy Spirit and seeks to promote Jesus as the model for how we should live.

Dawson said, “We don’t know Jesus yet. We don’t understand what we are asking when we ask to see God’s glory.” This hit me like a ton of bricks. The apostle John spent years walking and living with Jesus during His earthly ministry. But when he received a revelation of the glory of Christ while exiled on the island of Patmos, he fell down as dead before the One he had known so well. This was Jesus in holiness and in fire. This was God in just part of His glory, and John was undone.

Have I ever experienced God like this? The answer is no. Few of us have. The apostle John received a great revelation that day. We still study it today in the book of Revelation – the unveiling of the glory of God. John received this great revelation while on a prison island – a dark place meant to isolate John could not keep him from what God wanted to reveal. This gives me hope.

Dawson said, “We can go through anything if we focus on Jesus, but it is a choice.” That is so true. The apostle John could have let his circumstances cloud out his heart for Christ. But that didn’t happen, because he chose to seek God even in the midst of darkness and isolation. Do you really want to have a deep, loving relationship with God? It is possible. But it does come at a great price. Jesus paid that price on the cross. And we have to pay a price to follow Him, but it is worth the cost.

Dawson said that Jesus came down to the earth for five basic reasons. These were to 1.) Show us what the Father is like, 2.) Die on a cross to atone for the sins of the world, 3.) Defeat satan and demonic powers, 4.) Show us how to live, and 5.) To be our life.
And Dawson asked what does the Lord require of His followers. She said, “Obedience is all that Jesus wants at any one time.”

The message of Jesus was simple. He put little children in front of the disciples as an example of the kind of faith they should have. Dawson added that Jesus called His followers to repent from sin, believe in Jesus and to obey Him, and to go do and tell what was commanded. It really is quite simple as long as you stay close to God and listen for the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

This brought to mind a question that I have struggled with for most of my adult life. Can Jesus be your savior if He is not your Lord? Dawson suggested that obedience is a prerequisite to be a disciple of Christ. We spend too much time playing church and not enough of our lives being the Church. She said, “Satan doesn’t care how much that you sing to God in a church building if you do not get radical and go out and what Jesus did.”

Jesus preached the Gospel. Why don’t we? Jesus fed the poor? Why don’t we? Jesus comforted the broken hearted. Why don’t we? Jesus healed the sick. Why don’t we? Jesus challenged dead religion. Why don’t we? Jesus spoke in power and under the prompting of the Holy Spirit. Why don’t we?

Sure, some Christians do some of these things. But many of us don’t follow Christ’s example as much as we should in our daily lives.

As Dawson finished speaking this morning, the Holy Spirit prompted me to read I John 2:1-6. I particularly noticed a connection with what Dawson said and verses 3-6. The apostle John wrote, “And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says ‘I know him’ but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.”

The apostle John clearly stated that those who know Christ should live as He did and obey His commands. Jesus gave a commission to His followers to spread His message and make disciples. Jesus has called us to preach to the lost and pray for the sick. Jesus declared that those who come after Him would do greater things than He did because He was leaving the work of the Church to us. While we will never be God nor ransom the world from sin and death, we do have the awesome privilege of caring the influence of Christ around the globe.

So do you really know Jesus? One true encounter with Him changes everything.

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What Do You Want?

A number of times somebody approached Jesus and He instinctively asked, “What do you want me to do for you?” This is an incredible question because He who asked it could truly answer it. Jesus once declared that all power in heaven and earth was given Him. Better than a genie in a bottle, Jesus could actually answer incredible requests.

Some people asked for miracles or healings. Others wanted to follow Him and see where He lived. Still others asked for position and blessing in God’s kingdom. Have you ever stopped to think what you would say if Jesus turned to you and asked, “What do you want for me to do for you?”

This is a very loaded question. It reveals a lot about what we believe about God. It opens our heart motives and inner longings. It shows what we value and how we are open for God to move in our lives. Even the degree that we take the question seriously, reveals something. Do you think God would ever ask you what you want for Him to do in your life?

As I think through this question, I am disturbed by my potential requests. I could list so many things. But these all seem so petty compared to the response, “I want whatever you want.”

Oh, how I wish this was my request. But so often, I want so much more than just what God wants. Actually, my problem is that I want less than His best. There is no such thing as more than what God wants because my more is actually less.

I am wrestling with this question… What really does God’s best look like for my life?

Beyond Talk, Forget Excuses

Jesus sometimes spoke very strong words to His followers and those who expressed a desire to follow Him. From calling people to be perfect to saying that the crowd should eat His flesh and drink His blood, Jesus knew how to challenge everyone outside of their comfort zone. He harshly rebuked Simon Peter on a number of occasions. Jesus continually pushed the disciples to new places of faith and self abandonment.

Jesus told people to take up their cross and follow Him, a concept that would have seemed more repulsive during the first century than it does today. When one man asked for time to bury his father, Jesus said that the dead should bury their own dead. Jesus called those who followed Him to put everything else below their devotion to God. There are no excuses or reasons to shy away from God’s call. Either you are in, or you are not. There is no middle ground. That is where the double minded live, and they are unstable in all that they do.

Why did Jesus seem to set the bar so high? I think Jesus did this because He knew our human tendency to look for ways to get out of what we know we should do. The truth is that we do what we want to do. We have all the time we need to do what matters most. But all too often, we say something is really important and ignore it. We have lied to ourselves. And until we realize that, we just won’t change.

Anyone who is a Christian should hear the call to abandon all and trust God with everything. This requires us to go beyond talk and good intentions. We have to act in faith and divine empowerment as enabled by the Holy Spirit.

Check out this related devotion at http://utmost.org/the-go-of-renunciation/

Disciple Makers WANTED

Pastor Carter Goolsby, lead pastor at MCC, preached last week on making disciples of Christ. He said that many Christians believe that you have to be seminary trained or a seasoned Christian to disciple others. But he insisted that almost anyone can get in on the act. Making disciples is something we are called to do. Even the novice Christian can find someone else that they can encourage or at the very least hold accountable as peers.

Pastor Carter said that too many Christians hide behind the claim that they don’t know enough to disciple others. They are afraid of making a mistake. But this mindset fails to recognize that the original apostles were far from perfect. The whole concept is not to clone ourselves but to encourage others to be like Jesus. We are called to make disciples of Jesus not ourselves.

One of the biggest reasons that Christians shy away from disciple making is the fear of rejection. We should not be surprised when others reject us. Jesus said that this would happen.

Have you answered the call? See what Matthew  28:19 has to say about the original mission of the early disciples.

Fine One, Make One

How should a church go about discipling the flock? Are programs and workshops enough? How do you really change the culture of a people? Ho do people really become fully devoted to Jesus? These are tough questions with very demanding answers.

I believe you can’t rush perfection. And the process of becoming the Church takes time and intentional movement to strip away what is not necessary to reveal the masterpiece underneath. I am reminded of the process of sculpting a giant statute.

I recently visited the Next Wave E-zine, an online magazine dedicated to the Emerging Church and its leadership. It carried a flashback article by Stephen Shields on  developing church leaders. The article is titled, “When the Church Is Its Own Worst Enemy.”

Stephen made some great points. He basically said that a church can’t just setup a Christian education program and expect it to work without first modeling out the behavior we want to see replicated. It’s not a matter of teaching as much as showing. That is how Jesus made disciples. And it takes a long time. The key is replication.

Read Stephen’s article to see how churches can get in the way if they do the wrong thing and ignore the core problem.

http://www.the-next-wave-ezine.info/issue124/index.cfm?id=47&ref=ARTICLES%5FFROM%20THE%20ARCHIVES%5F640

Living for Something More than Your Appetities

“When you walk with Jesus, life may seem routine. But it never is. When you have a routine that focuses beyond yourself, anything can happen, and everything will happen.” – Dick Foth, minister in the Washington D.C. area

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Dr. Dick Foth is a guy I love to hear talk. He has a nice way of telling you what you need to hear but don’t want anyone to tell you.

In a recent sermon at National Community Church in D.C., Dick made the above statement. It really impacted me because the Christian life is not supposed to be ordinary. It is supposed to be full of moments where the divine comes to earth through God’s people.

A Christian should live in such a way that a godly legacy is left in his or her footsteps. In a culture known for its consumerism and decadence, I wonder if we will ever the simplicity of what Foth said. Looking back on the greatest moments of my life, the key theme seems to be how others were impacted and God was glorified. We don’t have time to waste because life is short.

The best life now is a life that is poured out for God in service to His kingdom and other people. I want to live that kind of life. Do you?

What is discipleship?

I have been thinking a lot lately about the above question. Is discipleship more than than just a Bible study or truth search? What are the essential ingredients? How long does it last? Are there seasons of discipleship?

How can we do discipleship in our modern culture of self reliance and self-focused desires? What about a church with hundreds or thousands of members? Can it really do one-on-one discipleship or small groups as Jesus did? Can we really do discipleship in an age where nobody wants to be held accountable and leaders are affraid to say tough words that might cause people to leave and not come back?

Our society focuses more on knowledge and less on the process. We are focused on the ends not the means. We measure success by whether or not something works. Jesus’ only measuring stick was God’s will.

I don’t know if we have the patience today for old fashioned discipleship. We may not be willing to trust or submit to those we are called to follow. Our society rewards rebels and those who do their own thing. Those values are not a high priority for a disciple of Jesus.

Today, we want a discipleship program. We need easy steps and bullet lists so that everything can be quantified and summarized. I think this misses a key ingredient to effective transformation – time. Jesus took time to focus on twelve men. I believe that many leaders in the modern church are not willing to walk through life with people. They already have full plates doing ministry that may not really be discipleship.

Deep, personal discipleship is messy. It is kind of like open-heart surgery. I think we want something less invasive with fewer limitations. This all points to one of the big problems with the Christian discussion today. We focus more on what we want and not God’s desire. We think too much and listen too little. Discipleship should be all about Jesus not any one person or group. Discipleship reveals God to us so that we can strive in His power to live as Jesus did. Humanism has subtly changed the focus of discipleship from Christ to our efforts and achievements.

I think the first key of discipleship is to remember who we are following. And His name is Jesus.