How and Why We Must Make Disciples

Caesarea Philippi

INTRODUCTION

Before the subject of making disciples can be detailed, the definition of what a true disciple is must be established. To do this, one must look to the scriptures, specifically in the Gospel of Luke. Jesus starts by saying, “If anyone comes to me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” While this passage uses strong language, it does so to portray a disciple’s love for Christ must be greater than any other person, place, or thing. Jesus continues saying, “Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.” This essentially means a disciple must be willing to lay down their life by surrendering their complete will to God. Finally Jesus says, “For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not sit down first and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it?” This passage illustrates disciples must ask themselves if losing everything, possibly even their life, is worth the cost of following Jesus.

Ultimately, being a disciple requires sacrifice, relationship, and transformation. As Dr. Rod Dempsey says, “A disciple is someone who knows Christ, grows in Christ, goes for Christ, as well as someone who shows and shares Christ with others.” With a proper definition established, this paper will give a detailed description of how disciples are made in the context of the local church and a Christian community. In addition, it will also highlight the specific roles and importance of the local church, pastors, saints, and the spiritual giftings God has equipped followers with to make and prepare new disciples in order to fulfill the Great Commission.

DISCIPLE MAKING IN THE LOCAL CHURCH

While each church is unique operating with different visions, they all have the same mandate from God, which is to fulfill the Great Commission. At Caesarea Philippi, a place full of pagan idols, temples, and a place of horrible sacrifices where the blood of babies flowed down the streams, Jesus asks His disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” Peter answers, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” After this declaration, Jesus told his disciples, “”I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.” This passage contains the first mention of the word church, so a proper understanding of the context and exegesis is critical. The word church here refers to an assembly of called out ones and as R.T. France illustrates, “The gates [of Hades] thus represent the imprisoning power of death: [but also how] death will not be able to imprison and hold the church of the living God.” Ultimately, the church was meant to become the fulfillment of the kingdom of God with a specific mission: to complete what Jesus had started. God sent His Son to save the world, but He would have to die on the cross in order to make atonement for humanity’s sin. Because of this, Jesus commissioned His disciples saying, “Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” Leon Morris portrays how, “The charge given added solemnity from being linked thus to the mission of the Son: their mission proceeds from His. It is only because he has thus accomplished His mission, and indeed precisely because He has accomplished it, that they are sent into the world.”

While the Great Commission should be the mission of the church, the Great Commandment should be the church’s primary motivator. Jesus came not to abolish the law, but to fulfill it and through this New Commandment, He had essentially reduced over six hundred laws down to two: love God and love your neighbor. These can only be accomplished when one loves the Lord with their entire heart, soul, strength, and mind and it is only out of a complete devotion to God and submission to His will that a disciple will be truly effective in advancing the kingdom of God.

For a local church to be successful in making new disciples, they must focus on three things. They first must be intentional; with their motivation rooted out of love for God and others for it was the love of God that made a way for everyone to be saved. Second, they must focus on the individual by identifying giftings, callings, and helping them grow by learning how to use their gifts to advance the kingdom and make new disciples. Lastly, they must be missional by teaching disciples it is their mandate to reach a lost and hurting world by pointing people to Jesus. The more a church can help their disciples reach their full potential, the greater impact the church will have in fulfilling its purpose.

Disciple making is going to look different in every church to some extent, but as Malcolm Bartsch illustrates, there are several key principles, which must not be overlooked:

While extensive and careful work has been done on the concept ‘discipling’, there are at least two areas, which seem under-represented in the discussion. One of these relates to the sacraments of baptism and Holy Communion and their significance in the discipling process. While various church traditions place different emphasis on sacramental theology, the treatment of one of the key texts relating to ‘discipling’ (Matthew 28:18-20) gives baptism only a brief passing reference, while Holy Communion is only obliquely referred to. The other area of concern relates to the person and work of the Holy Spirit, particularly in the gospel of John. While there is brief mention of the Holy Spirit, this receives surprisingly little development considering the emphasis placed by Christ on the role of the ‘Helper’ (John 14-16) in the future work of his disciples.

DISCIPLE MAKING IN THE LOCAL COMMUNITY

As the church helps believers grow in their spiritual maturity and become active in fulfilling the Great Commission, the next step is for the believer to start evangelizing in their local community, within their family, their places of employment, and everywhere they go by sharing what God has done in their life. Jim Putnam identifies these individuals as, “Spiritual Parents [who] live out God’s Word in their daily lives. They are kingdom-centered and God-dependent.” The more a disciple grows in Christ-likeness, the more they will find purpose, worth, and identity. It is important to note a disciple can never teach someone something they themselves do not know, just as they can never lead someone to a place they have not yet been, so it is crucial for every disciple to continually stay focused on growing closer to Christ.

People are constantly watching and it is often during times of trials and persecution where one’s devotion is tested and when the true depth of one’s faith is revealed. It has been said Christianity and the process of discipleship is something that is more caught than taught, so being imitators of Christ is crucial especially in times of great adversity. Paul said it best, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” Despite being imprisoned, Paul still found joy in serving the Lord and wrote four of his letters to the churches. He did not allow his circumstances to deter him from living a Christian life. Paul, in spite of his suffering and persecution allowed God to use him in a capacity that would not have been possible if he had lost faith or given up. Instead, he counted it as pure joy and the more the world and life attempted to stop him, the more his circumstances seemed to motivate him in spreading the gospel and serving God.

Relationships are critical in making and training new disciples in the community. In this culture, it is necessary to earn the right to speak into someone’s life and this normally takes time, but there are small windows of opportunity, which God opens up that followers of Christ must always be ready to capitalize on by speaking truth into a situation or by being able to help through acts of service rooted out of love. The goal of every believer is a transformation that happens with the renewing of one’s mind. In essence, after coming to faith, an individual is given a new lens to view the world through. It reveals just how broken we are, but also how lost and hurting the world is and the only remedy is Christ Jesus. As followers of Christ, it should be one’s ambition to make coming to church and faith as easy as possible, but for many churches they have instituted high walls of entry and low expectations after coming to faith. God wants to see every believer grow in faith, not just stay where they are when they come to faith and that is why living a transformed life is more about the process and journey and not just about attaining perfection, which is only possible on the other side of eternity.

The message of the Gospel is all about love and reconciliation; God through Christ has reconciled Himself to us and as followers of Christ we must never forget that. At the moment of salvation, we are a new creation; the old has gone and the new has come. Essentially, the Gospel transforms our perspective of life and through the development of one’s spiritual formation a transformation of the heart takes place. What breaks the Lord’s heart begins to break ours and the love and compassion the Lord has for His children begins to be poured out through us. We live for the glory of God and by loving others, by leading them to Christ, and by helping them grow in their faith realizing their full potential is the greatest way we can bring glory to His name.

ROLE, PURPOSE, AND GOD’S PLAN

Just as the Gospel transforms our heart, it also transforms our purpose. Before Christ, everyone lived according to his or her own agenda and goals, but after coming to faith, every believer has a new identity and purpose found in Christ. That purpose is to be ambassadors of God’s kingdom exercising love, hope, peace, and reconciliation as our message to a lost and hurting world. Believers must learn how to allow God to not only to work in them, but also through them as they fulfill the Great Commission.

Church

The primary role of the church, as Jim Putman suggests is, “To create biblical disciples in relational environments.” The church is the body of Christ and all parts must be working together to achieve maximum efficiency. The body grows in love and becomes healthier when all parts are functioning correctly. This means, with and through disciples, the mission Jesus passed on to the church must be intentional and focused on individuals. In a world where four babies are born and two people die every second, there has not been a greater need for the church to become what God intended it to be. The churches’ first goal should be to win people to faith in Christ. Secondly, it should be to help believers find their giftings and callings by providing an environment where they can refine their skills, and lastly it should be to send them out to make new disciples teaching the same principles which they were taught. Every believer has a part to play and the church has the potential to become what God intended it to be when people find their role in the body and engage collectively proclaiming the Gospel.

Another characteristic of the church, which must be defined, is why does the church exist both globally and locally? As Ruth Ann Sigurdson illustrates:

When we looked at the church in a global sense it was for the purpose of sharing the love and gospel of Jesus Christ… It serves the community and has strong doctrinal teaching… It also offered a service to them and our families in weddings, funerals, and baptisms. The question was more difficult to answer than we had anticipated because we soon came to realize that locally it was to meet our own needs and globally it was to meet the needs of others.

The church must also teach believers how to study, interpret, and apply the word of God to their life. By observing some of the habits of the early church the importance of several things are apparent: they regularly studied the Apostle’s teaching, they fellowshipped with each other, they shared meals together, they prayed together, and they regularly met and praised together. The culmination of all these habits led to unity in the church as well as favor with all the people. A sad reality Tim Nichols highlights is:

Across North America today most churches are experiencing very limited growth or even decline. There are multiple factors that contribute to this systemic problem. These factors include, but are not limited to (a) a maintenance mentality, prioritizing the sustaining of church programs and facilities; (b) pastoral dependency, limiting lay member’s participation; (c) apathy and complacency about the lost in the community around the church; and (d) the lack of clear vision, purpose, and direction to unify and inspire the energy and resources of the congregation.

God does not want the church to play it safe as is illustrated in the parable of the talents. He desires His followers to have a heart for the lost and hurting rooted out of love. God’s will for the church is centered on discipleship and how to teach believers to be in this world, but not of it. The foundation of discipleship must be helping people grow in their love, obedience, and reverence for God. One area of major disconnect occurs between a believer and God when their relationship with Him is not intentional and all encompassing; if it is not then they truly do not love the Lord. God requires our all and if we truly love the Lord, we will obey what He commands. The importance of the church is critical to the discipleship process as Dietrich Bonhoeffer illustrates, “No one can become a new human being except by being within the church, that is, through the body of Christ. Whoever seeks to become a new human being individually cannot succeed. To become a new human being means to come into the church, to become a member of Christ’s body.”

Pastor

As Nichols illustrated above, “One of the greatest needs in the North American church today is to energize a shared ministry between clergy and laity.” This primarily rests upon the pastor to cast a vision to the visionless, one they can be a part of and rally behind. As God’s word says, “Where there is no vision, the people will perish.” Bill Hybels asks the question: “How does a leader best communicate vision? [They do so:] By embodying it. By personifying it. And By living it out.”

It is also the role of the pastor to equip the saints so they are able to do the work of service. By helping saints grow spiritually, they are able to grow closer to God. In addition to equipping the saints, pastors must also teach about God’s love, because the more they learn to love God, the more they will love others. In a like manner, the more one reads the word of God, the more they will understand His ways; the more they understand His ways, the more they will learn to trust Him; and the more they trust the Lord, the more confidence they will have standing upon His promises.

Upon examination of I Peter 5:2, we see Peter addressing the elders proclaiming, “Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care.” As Putman points out, “This verse points to the pastor’s responsibility to see that the people are being cared for spiritually.” Peter Davids elaborates further on this imagery illustrating, “The image of shepherding God’s people ‘or His people’s being his flock’ is an OT image that is common in the NT, but the command to elders to shepherd is found only here and in Acts 20:28-29. Both places significantly connect shepherding with ‘watching over it,’ showing that shepherding is a job of oversight.”

As shepherds over God’s flock, pastors are often called to oversee, rescue, feed, comfort, lead, cast vision, and protect those under him or her. It is the job of the shepherding pastor to find the lost sheep and bring them home. Sheep are notorious for wandering off and getting lost. In fact, in extreme cases of sheep wandering off, the shepherd would actually break the sheep’s legs, mend them, and then carry the sheep on his back until they were healed. Upon healing, the sheep would no longer stray away from the pastor’s side. The question every believer must ask themselves is would they rather have a little discomfort now or do they want to be completely lost with potentially no way of being found again?

The writer of Hebrews says, “Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you.” Essentially this means that pastors will be held accountable for how they lead, just as the flock will be held accountable for how they follow. The best example of a pastor was Jesus and He lived a life of service and sacrifice. “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” As with most principles in life, all you must do is observe what Jesus did and figure out how you can replicate His methods in your own life.

Saints

Paul’s letter to the Romans is often considered the guide to living a Christian life. In chapter twelve he urges believers to offer their bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God equating it to a spiritual act of worship. He warns them to not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but to be transformed by the renewing of their mind. Paul cautions the reader to not think too highly of one’s self, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.

Paul describes the church as the “body of Christ” noting each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. In addition to the various parts, we also have different gifts, according to the grace given us. Some will have the gift of teaching, serving, encouraging, contributing, prophesying, governing, or showing mercy; the important principle is to use whatever gift God has given you in proportion to your faith. Douglas Moo draws a comparison between the parts of the body and spiritual gifts saying, “Moreover, the parallels between the sequences of exhortations here and in other Pauline texts also suggest that Paul may be rehearsing familiar early Christian teaching. Note especially how Paul, as in 1 Cor. 12-13, follows a discussion of gifts with a reminder of the importance of love.” It was by one’s love that the world would know we were His disciples and what better way to show love than by all parts of the body working together as the saint discovers and identifies his or her gifting.

Paul also warns the saints to hate what is evil, while clinging to what is good. We are to be devoted to one another, submit to authority, love one another, and honor one another, while being joyful, patient, faithful, and hospitable. Lastly, Paul address trials and persecution saints experience instructing them to bless those who persecute you; rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn; live in harmony with one another, do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited, do not repay anyone evil for evil and be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. Paul urges saints to live at peace with everyone while not seeking revenge in order to leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. Unbelievers are not the enemy and they should instead be viewed of prisoners of war in this spiritual battle for souls and while Satan has the gates of hell, Jesus has the keys. The only way to overcome evil is with good and the only way to not be overcome by evil is to continually do what is right and good in the eyes of the Lord.

Paul, in his letter to the Ephesians, continues to emphasize the importance of unity within the body. He urges believers to be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing one another’s burdens in love. Paul stresses the importance of peace in unity saying, “There is one body and one Spirit– just as you were called to one hope when you were called–one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” Paul also identifies it was He who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers in order to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up. By speaking the truth in love, Paul proclaims we will in all things grow up into Him who is the Head, that is, Christ. In Christ we are a new creation, so Paul instructs saints to put off their old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

Paul closes this chapter warning saints not to sin in their anger and never to let the sun go down while you are still angry: a timeless principle! His reason for this was to stop the devil from gaining a foothold in the saints’ life. He also cautions not to let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen while getting rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling, and slander, along with every form of malice. Instead, he encourages the saints to be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as Christ forgave you.
The final role of the saints is to evangelize. This presents an area for debate especially when using Ephesians 4:11-12 as context. While this passage does say, “He gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds, and teachers to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ” it does not mean evangelism is reserved for a select few. Regardless of misinterpretation, the main reason for not evangelizing comes down to spiritual apathy and laziness turning the Great Commission into the great suggestion. Donald Whitney points out, “God does gift some for ministry as evangelists, but He calls all believers to be His witnesses and provides them with both the power to witness and a powerful message.” Every believer should proclaim the goodness of Christ and be witnesses in all they do and everywhere they go.

Spiritual Gifts

Paul, in I Corinthians 12 is dealing with the issue of what it means to be spiritual as well as the abuse of gifts: mainly speaking in tongues. In verse 11, Paul establishes every Christian has at least one spiritual gift, given by the Holy Spirit, which God wants us to use for His glory. The question for some is how do they find what their gift is but the more apparent dilemma is after finding it; why do most choose not to use it? For some, they may be embarrassed or confused how to, so they simply hide it or choose not to acknowledge what God has given them. However, this is an affront to God because He expects us not only to use our gifts advancing the kingdom, but He also expects us to grow in those gifts by using them.

Just as spiritual gifts were a topic of debate in the early church, they continue to be today as Michael Horvath illustrates how, “Spiritual gifts have quickly moved into the forefront of discussions of personal spiritual growth.” While there are different types of gifts, they are of the same Spirit. Even in the diversity of gifts, one can observe unity because God is a god of order. Horvath defines spiritual gifts and their roles as:

Individual difference characteristics that are relevant to behavior in a Christian context. Second, spiritual gifts are not argued to be specific to the professional pastorate; all Christians are thought capable of possessing them. Third, most definitions include the provision that spiritual gifts are either new abilities, or newly augmented natural abilities, that are given to individuals after they become Christians. This is in contrast to natural abilities, which are characteristics possessed by all individuals.

The primary role of spiritual gifts, as Gordon Fee illustrates, is rooted out of love for the edification of the church:

Their passion for tongues in the assembly was further indication of their failure to love one another. Love, however, is not set forth in contrast to tongues, but as the necessary ingredient for the expression of all spiritual gifts. The reason for the gifts is the edification of the church, which is precisely what love aims at, but uninterpreted tongues does not.

Paul in Ephesians 4:7 says “But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift.” Again in Acts 1:8 Jesus says, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” These gifts are to be used in spreading the gospel from our within our neighborhoods and communities to the four corners of the earth while also in building up the body of Christ. As believers in and followers of Christ, we exist solely to glorify God and we do this most effectively by testifying of His love, mercy, grace, and redeeming power. As part of the body of Christ everyone has a part to play and if a spiritual gift is not being used, it is the equivalent of missing a body part. As the body of Christ, we are meant to be connected and we are meant to use our gifts in conjunction with each other’s as I Corinthians 12:12 states, “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.”
God’s greatest gift is love, so it should be no surprise He expects our attitudes and actions to be rooted out of love. The Great Commandment is at the heart of the New Testament and played a pivotal role in the spread of Christianity as Claire McLisky illustrates:

The idea of Christian love has been central to the Christian religion since its inception [and] Christian love played an important part in early Christian theology… In teaching Protestant Christianity, Martin Luther believed, the aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and sincere faith. For Luther, Christian love was universal and undiscriminating, mirroring God’s love for humanity. The aim of the Christian faith was, therefore, to cultivate a “pure heart” and be so in accord with God’s Word and his example that he will wish everyone well and do good to all, as God wishes him well and gives his divine love to him.

CONCLUSION

Disciples are the legacy of Jesus. Out of pure love, God sent Jesus on a mission to save the world and upon completing His task, He has now entrusted the church to complete the mission. This paper has shown a disciple is someone who knows Christ, grows in Christ, goes for Christ, as well as someone who shows and shares Christ with others. First and foremost, a disciple must make sure their relationship with God is in order and that they are using their gifts to edify the church. Then one needs to be intentional about making and equipping disciples in the church and local communities. Followers of Christ must show love to all because that is how the world is supposed to know they are His disciples. Christians must also deepen their relationships with the people in their lives by focusing on the individual and their needs. Lastly, believers must maintain a missional mindset because Christ died for everyone, so one’s focus cannot be limited by their own thinking. God has called us, He has equipped us, and now He is sending us out to find, feed, and rescue His lost children by winning them to Christ, growing them as disciples, and sending them out as witnesses of God’s glory. Becoming a disciple is a choice made at the moment of salvation. It is one that demands complete love, sacrifice, and submission to the will of God. While the cost may be great, it will never amount to the sacrifice and price Christ paid.

Bibliography

Bartsch, Malcolm. “Making Disciples: The Significance of Jesus’ Educational Methods for Today’s Church.” Lutheran Theological Journal 40, no. 1 (05, 2006): 44-5. http://ezproxy.liberty.edu:2048/login?url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/213743289?accountid=12085 . (accessed 11-18-15).

Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, Volume 4: Discipleship. Minneapolis, MN: First Fortress Press, 2003.

Davids, Peter H. The New International Commentary on the New Testament – The First Epistle of Peter. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1990. WORDsearch CROSS e-book.

Fee, Gordon D. The New International Commentary on the New Testament – The First Epistle to the Corinthians. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1987. WORDsearch CROSS e-book.

France, R. T. The New International Commentary on the New Testament – The Gospel of Matthew. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2007. WORDsearch CROSS e-book.

Horvath, Michael. “Spiritual Gifts Inventories: A Psychometric Perspective.” Journal of Psychology and Christianity 32, no. 2 (Summer, 2013): 124-33. http://ezproxy.liberty.edu:2048/login?url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/1437251886?accountid=12085. (accessed 11-18-15).

Hybels, Bill. Courageous Leadership. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan. 2002

McLisky, Claire. “And They’ll Know We Are Christians By Our Love”: Exploring the Role of Christian Love on Maloga Mission, 1874–1888. Journal of Religious History, 39: 333–351. 2015, doi: 10.1111/1467-9809.12181, (accessed 11-18-15).

Moo, Douglas J. The New International Commentary on the New Testament – The Epistle to the Romans. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1996. WORDsearch CROSS e-book.

Morris, Leon. The New International Commentary on the New Testament – The Gospel According to John. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. WORDsearch CROSS e-book.

Nichols, Tim Nichols. “THE PASTOR’S ROLE IN VISION-BASED LEADERSHIP.” The Journal of Applied Christian Leadership 2, no. 1 (Summer, 2007): 20-31. http://ezproxy.liberty.edu:2048/login?url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/751869916?accountid=12085. (accessed 11-18-15).

Putnam, Jim, Bobby Harrington, and Robert E. Coleman, Discipleshift: Five Steps That Help Your Church to Make Disciples Who Make Disciples. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2013.

Sigurdson, Ruth Ann. The Purpose Driven Process: a Church Asks Some Hard Questions and Unearths Some Uncomfortable Answers.” Presbyterian Record July-Aug. 2006: 30. General Reference Center GOLD. Document Number: GALE|A150910354. http://ezproxy.liberty.edu:2048/login?url=http://go.galegroup.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu:2048/ps/i.do?id=GALE%7CA150910354&v=2.1&u=vic_liberty&it=r&p=GRGM&asid=70382952919dad2e74ae770435039d37 (accessed 11-18-15).

Whitney, Donald S. Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life. Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2014.

Centrality of Christ in Discipleship

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IMPORTANCE OF THE CENTRALITY OF CHRIST IN CHRISTIAN DISCIPLESHIP

To properly understand our role as disciples, we must first understand Jesus came to seek and save that which was lost, but in order to save, He first had to be willing to serve. In a like manner, Dave Earley illustrates what is necessary when we join Christ on His mission, “The growth and development of the believer is both internal: becoming like Christ in word, thought, and attitude and external: becoming like Christ in action.” Because Christians are called to be Christ-like in our words and actions, this writer finds it especially interesting when you look at the group dynamics of Jesus’ disciples. He had His twelve, but within that sphere were the three in His inner circle and the one whom He beloved. Greg Ogden cites two reasons for His model. The first is “Internalization: by focusing on a few Jesus was able to ensure the lasting nature of his mission. The second was by Multiplication: just because Jesus focused much of his attention on a few does not mean that He did not want to reach the multitudes.” We see Paul continue the same approach by investing in the lives of a few to reach the many.

HOW OBEDIENCE & SUBMISSION REFLECTS THE DISCIPLESHIP OF CHRIST

Our hunger for significance has turned the Great Commission into the Great Suggestion by putting one’s needs ahead of God. Christ told His disciples, “If you love Me, you will keep my commandments.” As Earley states, “Discipleship is not merely a matter of information remembered. It is about a lifestyle that is practiced. It is a lifestyle of absolute abandonment to loving God and obeying His commands.” If one truly believes the word of God to be real, they should do what He commands, but as Soren Kierkegaard writes, “We pretend to be unable to understand [God’s word] because we know that the moment we understand, we are obligated to act accordingly.” This is profound! If the words of Christ were to be taken seriously, only complete obedience and submission would be the result. Ogden summarizes the struggle that takes place in each believer as: “Coming to Christ is therefore a battle of our wills. No one makes a decision to follow Jesus without wrestling. Jesus will only have one place— first. Even once we are “in Christ,” there is a constant need to align our will with His desire. To love God with all of our heart is to seek to obey all of His commands and live under His authority.”

To obey every command of Jesus is a tall order by any stretch of the imagination, but to even come close to obeying them is only possible by depending on God to give us the grace needed to live a life, which brings glory and honor to His name. When we are obedient and submissive to the word of God, following the Great Commission , the Great Commandment , and the New Commandment are possible because of the trust we put in God’s word to be true.

3 STAGES OF DISCIPLSHIP

The three stages of discipleship involve a declaration, development, and deployment. In the first stage one is asked, “Will you believe in Jesus”? In the second stage one is asked, “Will you follow Jesus?” Finally in the third stage, one is asked, “Will you obey God’s commands and go and make disciples?” Just as Jesus made disciples, we are called to do the same. The first stage of declaration leads to a believer, the second stage of development shows one how to follow Jesus, and the third stage of deployment puts into practice all you have learned by multiplying new disciples. David Walker poses the question, “If the chief role of the church is a mission to the world, surely that form of discipleship that primarily exercises it must be seen as significant in itself, alongside other discrete expressions of Christian discipleship.” This writer believes each stage of the discipleship mission plays a crucial role in fulfilling the Great Commission effectively and the goal in the entire process is sharing in the life of Christ. Gareth Robinson illustrates, “The faith we have received is the faith we are to pass on: through the Church [by making it] clear that anyone may come and find acceptance, no matter their lifestyle. But coming to Christ and becoming his disciple requires a life change.”

How Stages Work Together

Each stage builds on the skills and lessons learned previously. In our walk with God, there is no such thing as standing still. We are either moving ahead with Jesus in our daily walk or we are losing ground. We see this model played out as a new believer moves from being regenerated to being transformed and ultimately turning into a disciple who reproduces and multiplies other disciples and teaches them to observe everything God has commanded. In an ideal model, a new believer should turn into a disciple through an apprenticeship process and by studying God’s word so that disciple can learn to do the same thing for others. As Earley concludes, many people just follow the first part of the Great Commission without the teaching and mentoring aspect, which only leads to immature followers.

Earley demonstrates, “Each level called for greater faith, obedience, and commitment; each level yielded greater intimacy with Jesus, and each level produced greater impact on others.” As the disciple becomes convinced and moves through each stage what began as curiosity leads to conviction and ultimately a committed conversion and desire to multiply. Anthony Gittins proposes the purpose of discipleship is mission oriented and says, “Discipleship requires the recruitment and formation of believers who will continue the work of Jesus wherever they may be and wherever they are led.”

How Disciples Take the Steps of Obedience

One of the first things a disciple must do is lay aside their doubts and trust in God completely. Miriam Seyler poses the question, “What might our lives look like if we graciously accepted this grace of God, of which Paul speaks, as the terribly expensive gift that it is? If God could give to all humanity this extravagant gift of salvation, can we offer anything less than unfettered obedience in return?” Where He calls you, He will provide a means of transportation and what He calls you to do, He will equip you with the necessary giftings. God does not build staircases that go nowhere and He is intentional in what He has called each of us to do. As a disciple begins to trust and believe in God we see Jesus move from being a Savior to a Master and finally as being a Commissioning Officer. Earley in his obedience model equates it to, “Coming to Jesus, Being with Jesus, and Going for Jesus.” In obedience, a disciple of Christ is always looking to take the next step with total disregard of self, out of complete faith, and commitment.

During the second stage of commitment, the disciple moves into a deeper relationship with Jesus as they learn to pray, love one another, and live a life centered around community. Faith should lead to obedience as James Thomson illustrates: “The Christian faith, like all things that enter upon the mind of man is never free from the dangers of a one-sided emphasis. The Gospel is a ‘Divine-Human Encounter,’ having its origin in God, but intended to be realized in the lives of men.” All of our desires come from God and our most basic desire is to love and be loved by. This is why the story from Genesis to Revelation is about relationships. Humanity is created in the image of the Triune God and as believers we are invited into the Godhead by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in our lives. As a disciple learns to devote themselves to one another the next step is learning to love one another. If we love the Lord we will obey His commands. This powerful declaration is rooted out of love. Just as Christ loves us, He commands us to love one another.

The more we immerse ourselves in the word of God, the more we discover not only the nature of God, but also who we are in Christ. It is here where the believer must count the cost of what it now means to move from being a believer to being a follower. One of the best examples is the story of the rich young ruler. Canon McAdams illustrates, “His desire for eternal life is strong, but misguided. He can’t bet everything on Jesus. He needs a back-up plan in case Jesus and His God don’t or won’t deliver.” This story has a very sad ending, but no one should follow Christ without first understanding the cost. When we surrender completely, we catch a glimpse of the unending love God has for us. Ogden conveys, “We love God with our minds by absorbing the truth about who God is as revealed in Scripture and aligning our lives accordingly; in other words, it is through the absorption of Scripture into our way of thinking that we take on the mind of Christ.”

The final stage of obedience occurs when everything we do and everything we are is about advancing the kingdom of God and bringing glory to His name. Charles Spurgeon said it best, “Every Christian is either a missionary or an impostor.” Everywhere we go is a mission field and we are commanded by Jesus to be missionaries; the question remains if we will be obedient? Before attaining this final stage you must be able to answer yes to that question. As Robert Garrett concludes, “The greatest missionary in history was Jesus Christ.” Jesus was not only sent into the world to save us; He was also a Rabbi and disciple maker. Jesus sacrificed everything for humanity as Earley conveys, “Jesus willingly left His Father, home, possessions, position, culture, comfort, convenience, safety, and security in order to come to earth and carry out His assignment.”

CONCLUSION

In summary, Jesus sent His disciples into the world to make disciples. That mission has been passed to Christians today. Jesus emphasizes the urgency when He said, “The harvest is abundant, but the workers are few.” The fact that only two percent of believers regularly share their faith with others, that only five percent have ever led someone to Christ and barely half of born again believers know what the Great Commission is does not look well for the future of Christianity. It should compel us when we contemplate that over one hundred people die every minute because death is only the beginning. Whether one wants to admit it or not, we all have everlasting life; where we spend it is determined solely on whether you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. As disciples, we are being called and sent out into the world so that through our love, all would know we are His disciples and through deep personal relationships we are able to open the door to evangelize and lead others to the same loving Savior who rescued us. Jason Dukes eloquently summarizes our mission as, “The Sender has sent you and me to be His letter of love unto humanity. May we live sent daily and may we begin now.”

Bibliography

McCord Adams, Canon Marilyn. “Diagnostic Discipleship Mark 10:17-31 Proper 23 [28].” Expository Times 117, no. 12 (September 2006): 509-510. Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost (accessed November 6, 2015).
Dukes, Jason. Live Sent: You Are a Letter. Birmingham, AL: New Hope, 2011.
Earley, Dave and Rod Dempsey. Disciple Making Is…How to Live the Great Commission with Passion and Confidence. Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2013.
Earley, Dave and David Wheeler. Evangelism Is… How to Share Jesus with Passion and Confidence. Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2010.
Garrett, Robert. The Gospels and Acts: Jesus the Missionary and His Missionary Followers in Missiology. Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 1998.
Gittins, Anthony. Called to Be Sent. Liguori, MO: Liguori Press, 2008.
Ogden, Greg. Discipleship Essentials: A Guide to Building Your Life in Christ, (Expanded Edition). Westmont, IL, USA: InterVarsity Press, 2009. ProQuest ebrary. Web. 5 November 2015.Copyright © 2009. InterVarsity Press. All rights reserved. http://site.ebrary.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu:2048/lib/liberty/detail.action?docID=10734189 (accessed 11-5-15).
Ogden, Greg. Essential Commandment: A Disciple’s Guide to Loving God and Others. Westmont, IL, USA: InterVarsity Press, 2011. ProQuest ebrary. Web. 5 November 2015. Copyright © 2011. InterVarsity Press. All rights reserved. http://site.ebrary.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu:2048/lib/liberty/detail.action?docID=10768107 (accessed 11-5-15).
Robinson, Gareth. “Three keys to mission: Kingdom, incarnation and discipleship,” Theology March/April 2015 118: 107-114, doi:10.1177/0040571X14559158. http://tjx.sagepub.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu:2048/content/118/2/107.full.pdf+html (accessed 11-6-15): 110.
Seyler, Miriam. Guest editorial: “Obedience to Jesus Christ.” Sewanee Theological Review. 48(3), 267-269. (2005). Retrieved from http://ezproxy.liberty.edu:2048/login?url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/214715328?accountid=12085 (accessed 11-6-15).
Spurgeon, Charles. The Soul Winner: Or, How to Lead Sinners to the Savior. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1965.
Thomson, James Sutherland. 1951. “Gospel of life.” Theology Today 8, no. 3: 302-312. ATLASerials, Religion Collection, EBSCOhost. http://rx9vh3hy4r.search.serialssolutions.com/?ctx_ver=Z39.88-2004&ctx_enc=info%3Aofi%2Fenc%3AUTF-8&rfr_id=info:sid/summon.serialssolutions.com&rft_val_fmt=info:ofi/fmt:kev:mtx:journal&rft.genre=article&rft.atitle=The+Centrality+of+Christ&rft.jtitle=Theology+Today&rft.date=1951-10-01&rft.issn=0040-5736&rft.eissn=2044-2556&rft.volume=8&rft.issue=3&rft.spage=294&paramdict=en-US (accessed November 6, 2015).
Walker, David. (2015). Christian discipleship and consecrated life. The Australasian Catholic Record, 92(2), 131-140. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.liberty.edu:2048/login?url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/1700064508?accountid=12085 (accessed 11-6-15).

What’s Love Got To Do With It?

love-god
The primary response to a holy and righteous God is unwavering love. The deeper ones love for God is, the closer they will walk with Him and the more glory they will bring to His name. The object of one’s deepest love is what is most important in their life whether it be their time, talents, or treasures. As Matthew 6:19-34 states, our heart will always provide for what it values most and as Kenneth Boa points out, “If we value God first, our capacity to love Him and others will expand, [but] if we value the world first, we will miss out on not only the joys of knowing God but also the joys of this life.” 1 John 2:15-17 warns us of the dangers of loving the world and the things in it and makes it abundantly clear if anyone’s’ love is for the world; the love of the Father is not in them. Our relationship with God should be our first love as Boa continues to highlight, “Because the infinite and personal God loves us, He wants us to grow in an intimate relationship with Him; this is the purpose for which we were created – to know, love, enjoy, and honor the triune Lord of all creation.”

God’s love for us is the only reason we have faith and hope and it is only through His love for us that we are able to love Him in return. Boa demonstrates how, “We bear the image of God, but we are ensnared in trespasses and sins. We are capable of harnessing the forces of nature but are unable to rule our tongue; we are the most wonderful and creative beings on this planet but the most violent, cruel, and contemptible of earth’s inhabitants.” When love is the wellspring of our life and our motivator, we are capable of changing the world through the transforming power of the Holy Spirit, but when love of one’s self is the driving force; only evil will ensue. The love of God is amazing in its endless attributes; it is: causeless, measureless, and ceaseless. Nothing we can do will earn more of God’s love or lose any of it and as Romans 8:35-39 assures us as believers; nothing can separate us from God’s unending love.

In the Old Testament’s Shema (Deuteronomy 6:4) and the New Testament’s Great Commandment (Mark 12:30 and Matthew 22:35-40) we see the importance of loving God completely with our entire being. Any action, attribute, or emotion, which brings glory to His name, can be traced back to our love of God. Our fear, faith, obedience, worship, delight, reverence, service, and even our submission to Him all are birthed out of our love for God. God’s word calls believers to love the Lord with all their heart, will all their soul, with their entire mind, and with all their strength. It is through loving the Lord that believers truly come to know Him and the more we know and love the Lord, the more willing and trusting we are to carry out our purpose in bring glory to His name. Love is at the very core of the nature of God as Boa illuminates, “Christianity is not a religion but a relationship that is born out of the Trinitarian love of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” To truly know God is to love Him with everything we are and in everything we do. We are able to love because He first loved us and as John 15:10 explains, if we really love the Lord, we will obey His commands.

Boa summarizes the importance of love saying, “Our great task in the spiritual life is to will to do His will, to love the things He loves, and to choose the things He sets before us as good.” Loving God not only allows us to love ourselves; it allows us to love the people in our lives. It is by our love for others that the world will know we are His disciples and it is only through our loving relationships that they will be open to the supernatural transformation that God wants to do in their life.  

Bibliography

Boa, Kenneth. Conformed to His Image: Biblical and Practical Approaches to Spiritual Formation. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2001.

DiscipleShift: What should a disciple look like?

Discipleshift-Stuff
The question everyone should ask is are they following Jesus, or are they asking Jesus to follow them; the answer to this question will define if they are simply a convert or truly a follower of Jesus. Jim Putnam shows how, “Conversion is [merely] the first step in the discipleship process.” Putnam then contrasts the two states by claiming, “Conversion is the beginning of a journey, whereas discipleship is ongoing.” This essentially means at the point of conversion, a mental decision is made to follow Jesus, but in addition to that decision there is also a spiritual response to the Holy Spirit and an acknowledgment of our God-given purpose. Dave Earley and Rod Dempsey illustrate, “A disciple is someone who seriously considers the cost before following Christ… [And] is totally committed to Christ, [meaning] our love for Christ is so great, so consuming that, in comparison, it feels like hatred (disdain) for others” (Luke 14:26).

To live we must die; to save our life, we must be willing to give it up: “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” Jesus was and is the model for us to follow as we are now called to fulfill the Great Commission by way of the Great Commandment. Dr. Rod Dempsey gives a great definition of a disciple as, “Someone who knows Christ, grows in Christ, and goes forth in Christ,” meaning they have surrendered completely to God and to the calling God has placed on their life. Anyone who claims to be a disciple, but does not show God in his or her words and actions is not one.

Putnam offers three characteristics of following Jesus as: “1. Accepting Jesus as Lord, leader, and master of our lives, 2. Being changed by the power of the Holy Spirit and transformed by the renewing of our minds, and 3. Action, which leads to a change in what we do with our hands after we have made the decision to follow Him in our heads.” Essentially being a disciple means: Following Christ (head), being changed by Christ (heart), and being committed to the mission of Christ (hands).” As a disciple of Christ, we are on a mission to love others to Christ by sharing our life experiences and what God has done in our life with them (John 13:35). This is why it is so important that we reflect the image of Christ in our words and our actions. As a disciple we are to abandon the things of this world because they are only temporary and will pass away, but everyone’s soul is everlasting and it is up to disciples through the power of the Holy Spirit to ensure others spend eternity in heaven and not hell.

Earley and Dempsey take a similar approach in defining a disciple by extracting the principles, which should be evident. A disciple must be, “1. Sacrificial: submitting to Christ no matter the cost (Luke 14:28), 2. Relational: loving God, loving neighbors, and loving other disciples, and 3. Transformational: understanding spiritual growth is directed toward becoming like Christ in word, thought, attitude, and action.” The more a disciple emulates Christ’s nature and character, the more they will live their life according to His values. Earley and Dempsey close with an important fact: “You cannot be a follower of the person of Christ without being a follower of the mission of Christ.” You also cannot serve Christ without totally surrendering to Him by carrying your own cross and surrendering your will to God.
Great Commission of Disciples This writer’s personal definition of being a disciple begins first with 1. Accepting Christ into one’s life (John 3:16), 2. Recognizing Jesus as Lord, master, and Savior forsaking all else (I Corinthians 8:6), 3. Submitting to His will, word, and purpose by changing one’s ways and transforming their minds by loving others (John 8:31-32 and I Corinthians 5:17), and lastly 4. Reproducing other disciples by showing them the way of the Lord so they too can lead others to Christ (Matthew 28:19-20). Relationships and bearing fruit is paramount in being a true disciple (John 15:5-8). Ultimately, true disciples of Christ must die to themselves daily and live to bring as much glory to God as possible while thanking Him for all the blessings and giftings He has provided.

Bibliography
Putnam, Jim, et al. Discipleshift: Five Steps That Help Your Church to Make Disciples Who Make Disciples. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan. 2013.
Earley, Dave and Rod Dempsey. Disciple Making Is… How to Live the Great Commission with Passion and Confidence. Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group. 2013.

Incarnational vs. Informational Apologetics

apologetics-nature-pic

PART I
As evidenced by reality, actions speak much louder than words and in a society so engrossed with self-actualization where everything is about them, no one is going to care how much we know until we show them through acts of kindness layered with love, acceptance and forgiveness how much we truly care. If we are not willing to build relationships with the people in our lives, it leaves little room for any influence. In addition, no one is going to listen to what we say if we do not practice what we preach. It is not just our duty or obligation to share with others what Christ has done in our lives; it is our moral imperative, which must be rooted out of our love for God and for all of His children.

Incarnational Apologetics and Informational Apologetics, as David Wheeler stated are essentially two sides to the same coin much like how evangelism and worship must be combined to be truly effective. Humanity is flawed, but despite our fallen state, God has still chosen to use us to advance His kingdom by spreading the Gospel. The sad reality is most Christians profess their faith with their mouths, but deny the Lord by their lifestyle. Mahatma Gandhi said it best: “I like your Christ; I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” Wheeler adds to this quote by stating, “The sad fact is that many people will never understand the reality of biblical ideals such as forgiveness, unconditional love, or even salvation, because they cannot move beyond the inconsistent ways in which Christians communicate their faith through daily living.”

So the question remains: Is evangelism only the communication of proper information, or does it also include the total person in reference to one’s outward behavior that validates the information to the world, or is it both informational and incarnational? This writer believes it is both based on the combination of the Great Commission and the Great Commandment. Jesus told His disciples to spread the Gospel, but He also told them the world would know they were His disciples by the love they showed. You can have all the knowledge in the world, but if you do not have a love for the people you are trying to reach, you will never reach them on a deep and personal level. Will McRaney states, “The greatest resistance to the spread of the gospel is within our minds and spirits.” Barriers to spreading the Gospel can be internal, which prevents the believer from sharing their faith, or they can be external, which relate to defenses the unsaved build to keep people out. If we are going to be successful in sharing Christ with others, we must find a way to tear down all barriers and sometimes this must be done brick by brick. McRaney attributes fear, apathy and insecurity as the top reasons for internal barriers essentially saying if people do not want to do something, they are always going to find an excuse. As Adrian Rogers says, “Your zeal is never any greater than your conviction.”

Fear has been defined as false evidence appearing real, but in relation to barriers in sharing one’s faith, it ranks among the highest reasons for not spreading the Gospel. Whether one’s fear is real or imaginary does not matter because they both cause a distorted perspective to the power, which dwells inside every believer. Fear is one of Satan’s favorite tactics to use because no one likes to fail, but the key to success in reaching others is transparency and dependence upon God. McRaney argues, “Lost people do not expect us to be perfect; they expect us to be honest with our successes and failures. They want us to be authentic.” This is an area I constantly have to remind myself about especially relating to events in my past. As embarrassing as some of my failures were, they are part of my testimony and they open the door to speak life and truth into the lives of lost and hurting people. God causes all things to work together for good when we love the Lord and are called according to His purpose, so we must trust Him to use everything we have walked through to advance His kingdom. Another important aspect we must remember when spreading the Gospel is to be Christ-like. Jesus sought out the lost and undesirable people in places any civilized person would not venture, He never forced people to follow Him, and He regularly met the immediate physical needs of a person before beginning to address their spiritual needs. Evangelism is spiritual warfare, so we must be sure all areas of our life line up with God’s word before attempting to lead others to Christ. I am by no means saying we need to be perfect because if that were the case, no one would be able to evangelize, but what I am saying is what McRaney concludes, “Most people will be loved to Jesus, not convinced to Jesus” and our part in this process should be communicated both in our knowledge and by our actions.

PART II

Upon watching the video about Lindsay, her approach to life is becoming more common in the younger culture where the premise is all roads lead to God. It became immediately evident that her ex-boyfriend’s Universalistic theology took root in her belief system combined with all her previous negative experiences with other doctrines and religions. I too moved all around the world, which exposed me to many different cultures in military postings where your Chaplain often was responsible for speaking to many denominations of faith, so I can relate to the melting pot theology she has made in her mind. If she were a neighbor of mine, I would know immediately that her conversion would be one of much prayer and continued acts of kindness and not condemnation to build a relationship with her. As is common with her generation, she had a bad experience with organized religion, which has left distaste for most communities of faith, so I would not press her into just believing in everything I believe. Instead, I would listen to everything she has to say and use her answers and beliefs to further her understanding of who God is and why Jesus had to die for her sins. She believed in the Bible, but struggled to understand its relevance today, so this is an area I would attempt to help her comprehend. She recognized God has many different names, which He reveals throughout scripture, however, she also believed false gods were included, so this would be an area I would try to build a bridge to help her understanding. She believed God is in everything and is everywhere, so I would try to help her recognize the omnipresence, omnipotence, and omniscience of God. She also believed that we should treat others with love, so I would share with her the Great Commandment not only in word, but also in my actions.

One of the major points I would emphasize early on would be who Jesus was and what He did for all of humanity. She believed he was a great leader, but did not know for sure if He was fictional or not. Although her belief structure was very polytheistic, she believed in miracles and even life after death. With that response I would walk her through the consequences of sin and show her the reason Jesus had to die on the cross for our sins and emphasize to her without a personal relationship with Christ she would go to hell regardless how good of a person she was. Despite her beliefs, she seemed fairly intelligent in why she believed what she did. Because of her past negative experiences with churches, I would apologize even though I had nothing to do with them because when bitterness takes root there is little hope of anything positive growing in the same soil. Hearing her story and knowing three out of five children will leave the church, as they become adults reminds me of the story of the Prodigal Son. I prayed for her this morning and I hope her parents continue to as well. There is nothing greater than what was lost being found again. Satan is scared of what we can become when we submit our lives to Christ and engage in the biggest battle the world has ever known: the battle for our souls and even though Satan has the gates of hell, Jesus has the keys!

Bibliography

McRaney, Will McRaney. The Art of Personal Evangelism. Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 2003.

Caner, Ergun, and Ed Hindson (eds.) The Popular Encyclopedia of Apologetics: Incarnational Apologetics by David Wheeler. Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 2008.

Carpe Diem

carpe_diem

Every moment we spend on this side of eternity is a blessing from God so that we may be a blessing in the lives of those around us. Mark Twain once wrote, “The two most important days in one’s life are when you are born and the day you find your purpose.” Both of these days are miracles in their own right, but many never truly find their purpose or they forget it along the way.

Trying to imagine why God breathed us into existence is truly humbling, but the day you truly acknowledge your role in the body of Christ, you will find worth, purpose, and meaning. I believe the most important day in anyone’s life is today because you can’t do anything about yesterday and tomorrow is only shaped by what you do today.

When we think differently, it should cause us to live differently, as long as we are open to what God wants to do in and through us. Most of us know the truth, but we are so good at telling ourselves lies that we allow the devil into our lives because of his disguise. Truth vs. deception clouds our perception and the enemy wants nothing more than for us to forget our purpose and worth.

Hard times, trials, challenges, crisis, unspeakable torment, hurt, and pain are inevitable. It would be nice if we could simply walk around these seasons and chapters in life, but the reality is we must march through them. In this fight for our lives, our misery grows, our pit becomes deeper, our purpose is forgotten, and our priceless worth is exchanged for nothing. Christ did not die for us to live defeated and He surely did not suffer for us to live condemned.

Our pasts are all littered with regret, things we wish we could forget, and things we should have remembered, but have forgotten. However, our past is also important to our future. It’s often those who forget the past who continually make the same mistakes, but looking into the past is also a great way to see how far you’ve come and also to remember your worth, purpose, and meaning in life.

No matter where you are, I encourage you to seize this day. Whether that means looking into your past to find where you went off the track or looking at what you can do today to get back on the track. Our direction in life is the most important thing. You can go 100 miles, but if you aren’t headed in the right direction, it doesn’t help you get where God is calling each of us.

Past performance is a good indicator of future results. For some, just reading this you immediately feel condemnation, but the beauty of being a child of God is your past does not dictate your future when you love the Lord your God with all your mind, soul, strength, and when you love your neighbor as yourself. Knowing redemption and feeling restoration is a beautiful thing, so never be ashamed of where God has brought you from. Your past is your testimony of God’s unfailing love and your future should be sharing that same love with others.

Good Samaritan

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:30-31 (NIV)
Mark 12_30
This weekend I went with my wife to see the Lone Survivor in the theater. I knew some of the story from the book and even though some of the storyline was tweaked by Hollywood, this was based on the true story of a four man SEAL team. The entire story was very moving, but near the end of the movie something took place that I can’t get out of my mind.

Luttrell, played by Mark Walberg was paralyzed from the waist down after sustaining multiple gun shots wounds, compound fractures and broken pelvis. His entire team was killed in action and he was all alone with multiple Taliban soldiers pursuing him when Gulab, a local Pakistani came across Luttrell after crawling for 7 miles.No One Fights Alone Obeying a Pashtun code of honor called Pashtunwali; Gulab offered Luttrell asylum and protection, even though to most Luttrell was considered “the enemy.” “Pashtunwali is a respect,” the real Mohammad Gulab told 60 Minutes, “a respect for a guest who comes knocking at your door, and even if he is in need or he is in imminent danger, we must protect him. I knew I had to help him, to do the right thing, because he was in a lot of danger.” Even after the Taliban told Gulab they would kill him, his brother, his cousins and his entire family if he would not hand over the American, Gulab said, “No, I will protect him till the end.”
Lone Survivor Pic
Most people operate by a certain set of principles, codes, beliefs or an ethos, so when I watched this scene play out in the theater, all I could think about was the story of the Good Samaritan. Good SamaritanIn this story, a Jewish man was on his way down from Jerusalem to Jericho and was beaten, robbed and left for dead. The only person to stop and give aid was the Samaritan who to the Jews were considered less than dogs. What could make someone who was so despised and looked down upon lend aid to their oppressor or enemy? It’s more than a conscience or sense of doing the right thing; it is love.
These stories to me are so moving because God tells us to love our neighbor, yet all we want to know is who our neighbor is. We are more concerned about justifying our actions than loving people and showing them grace and mercy regardless of their race, age, gender, or circumstances. You can’t love God and have hatred in your heart towards other people and we can’t be the light of the earth if we are afraid of the dark. In both of these accounts, these men chose to honor and love their neighbor regardless of who they were. People who show love and mercy are the greatest example of a true neighbor, so to be the light of Christ we wish to see in others we must show them the love of Christ by our actions.