Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Responsibilities of a Church Member: Disciple and Be Discipled

A disciple is a learner and follower. Not like following someone on twitter where you just read their tweets and move on. It is a use of mental energy to learn and spiritual energy to apply what is learned. It is not simply knowledge accumulation but also wisdom in applying truth and growth in Christlikeness.

Jesus commanded all Christians to "make disciples" of all nations. We gave some thought to that responsibility in the last post on sharing the gospel. In this post, we note that making disciples of Jesus isn't simply sharing the gospel and seeing them enter into the family of God. It also involves "teaching them to obey all that [Jesus] commanded."

This isn't something we do merely for new converts, though just as with a newborn the intensiveness of care will be greater for a new believer than a mature one. Instead, we do this for one another. Specifically, those who are older and more mature in their following Jesus are to disciple those younger and less mature in the faith. Titus 2 makes this clear. God expects older men and women to teach what fits with true and healthy Bible doctrine - that is what sort of living and believing and character fits with God's truth. They do this by being real-life examples of right doctrine lived out.

Almost all of us will be further along than others in learning the ways and truth of Jesus. And almost all of us will be less mature than others in the faith. So, we all have a calling to be a learner and be a trainer. This happens as we gather together and intentionally seek out those from whom we can learn. Perhaps it is making it a point to get to know an older godly man or woman and to chat with them regularly after church about what God is teaching you and what he is teaching them. Perhaps it is writing notes of encouragement to a younger guy (if you are a guy) or girl (if you are a woman). Perhaps it is a more formal meeting up with an older man (for men) or woman (for women) to study the Bible and pray and receive accountability and encouragement.

Regardless of what it form it takes, discipleship is part of the job description of members in a local church. It is not only the job of the pastors. Paul makes this clear in Titus 2 and in Colossians. In Colossians, he says it is his goal as a minister to see others mature in Christ:
Him we proclaim, warning everyone (Greek is noutheteo) and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. (Col 1:28).

Lest we think it is a job solely for pastors, later, in chapter three, he says:

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing (Greek is noutheteo) one another in all wisdom (Col 3:16a).

So this "teaching" and "admonishing" is for all of us to be a part of. It might look different for a college student or young mom, or retired man, etc. We all have different opportunities, giftings, etc. But one constant is that it is flowing from the "word of Christ" (Col 3:16). So it is not us trying to make others our disciples. We are following Jesus and seeking to help others follow Jesus. What this means is that I don't try to make someone look like all my idiosyncratic ways of applying Scripture. Instead, we might say, "Here is what God says in his Word, and here is how I work that out as a Christian. You might work out the details a bit differently, but let me help you work it into your life. Following Jesus means finding a way to apply this to your life."

If you are looking for a place to start, why not spend some time praying that Jesus would give you a sense of your need and a humility to seek to learn his ways from others in the church who are wielding and living the Word. And why not ask him to help you find ways to do the same for others who are less mature too. After that, you might want to spend some time thinking about discipleship (especially if this idea is new for you).

Two Resources to help you think about discipleship: 

Titus 2:1-8 
But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine. 2 Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness. 3 Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, 4 and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, 5 to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled. 6 Likewise, urge the younger men to be self-controlled. 7 Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, 8 and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us. 
The short book entitled Discipling: How to Help Others Follow Jesus by Mark Dever (there is a copy in the church library).


Wednesday, November 14, 2018

A Prayer for National Adoption Month

This month is national adoption month. We were able to finalize the adoption of our two youngest boys this month and attend a national adoption month luncheon at Children's Home Society. I was asked to give the invocation and pray for the meal. Here is my prayer:

Psalm 68:5-6 
Father of the fatherless and protector of widows
 is God in his holy habitation. God settles the solitary in a home;


God, you describe yourself as the father of the fatherless in your holy dwelling place. You settle the solitary into families. We come before you humbly recognizing that you are the creator of every person and every thing. You are the rightful ruler of all things and the source of all good. So, we come before you acknowledging our total dependence on you and thanking you for your mercy and care which you often demonstrate - even as we experience it now with each breath we are taking and this meal before us.

As we celebrate national adoption day, we are filled with sorrow and joy. Sorrow because the need for adoptions remind us that all is not right in this world.  We have sought to replace you with ourselves - and that rebellion in each human heart has brought selfishness, hurt, pride, broken relationships, and death. Yet we also have joy because we see your mercy and grace demonstrated in giving a family to children in need. We see you, working through people made in your image, redeeming that which was broken by placing the abandoned into the position of beloved son or daughter. And in this, we see something of your Fatherly love.  We see something of your sacrificial love. You too are an adoptive Father.  You adopt a people out of the misery that comes from our ignoring you and you place them into your family as beloved sons and daughters redeemed by Jesus' sacrifice and resurrection.

So here and now we have joy mixed with sorrow. But we look forward to the day when your perfect kingdom will come and those who enter it will have no more pain or tears or abuse or selfishness but rather will live by the light of your perfect presence because of what Jesus has done. It is in his name we pray. Amen.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Praying for Our Evangelism

Last Sunday night Charlie did a talk on sharing the gospel around the holidays and we spent time praying for our evangelism. Below is the prayer sheet we used. Perhaps you'll find it helpful as you pray (this was adapted from an article by Garrett Kell found at desiringgod.org).

Praying for Our Evangelism

Praise God for his merciful heart and for making a way of salvation

·         This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus (1 Timothy 2:3-5)  
·        For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost. (Luke 19:10)

Pray God will help us see the desperate need of lost people

·         For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died;  and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. (1 Cor. 5:16)
·        I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh. (Romans 9:23) 
·         And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life. (Matt 25:46)

Pray God will open doors for the gospel

·         At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ (Col 4:3)

Pray God will give us courage to proclaim Jesus

·         and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak. (Ephesians 6:19-20)
·        All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.  (John 6:37)

Pray God will allow us to see him grant the gift of faith and repentance.

·         We are asking for this on the basis that it gives God and his kingdom great joy: “Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance” (Luke 15:7)

·         We are asking God because he alone can grant this gift: God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth (2 Tim 2:25) 

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Responsibilities of a Church Member: Share the Gospel

Share the Gospel

Continuing the series on the responsibilities of a church member, we now turn from our role in preserving the gospel to our sharing the gospel.

The great commission is familiar to us. But, perhaps, we quietly insert something into it.
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore [all who are extroverted and smooth in speech] and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age." (bracketed text added by me to bad effect)
Do you see what we might quietly add to the great commission? In reality, however, this is not a call to an elite group of Christians. It is not a call only for pastors. It is a call for all of God's people. The promise at the end of these verses is for all Christians, so too is the command that the promise undergirds.  Jesus is with all Christians to the end of the age, and his call to make disciples is the mantle all Christians bear.

As a member of the church, one of your responsibilities is to share the good news and to disciple Christians (more on this aspect in a future post). We are to seek to share the gospel with family members, friends, neighbors, classmates, and others we encounter.  Not every conversation will be about the gospel. And not all gospel conversations will be a full laying out of the gospel. We don't try and force people to listen to us share the gospel, and we don't merely try to get through a checklist of facts. But, we do have the responsibility to share the gospel. 

And we do this not only individually but through the corporate witness of the body of Christ. Our love for one another (which requires us being together and living the Christian life as a body) is a way the world will know that we belong to Jesus. Jesus said in John 13:35 "By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” 

For a good book on the topic of evangelism, check out Mack Stiles Marks of the Messenger: knowing, living and speaking the Gospel. 

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Responsibilities of a Church Member: Preserve the Gospel


Help Preserve the Gospel  

The gospel message, the good news of God about salvation, is what creates a redeemed people. If we don't have the gospel, then we don't have the people of God, the church. Paul says in Ephesians 3 that the mystery of Christ (the anointed, promised one of God who would save his people from sin) was not fully revealed, at least not in flesh and blood, until the coming of Jesus who is the Christ and creation of one body - Jew and Gentile. So the gospel message is what creates the church. 

Since the gospel is the foundation, the church, made up of its members, is responsible for guarding this central truth against error. In Galatians, Paul rebuked the entire congregation for turning away from the gospel to false teachings (Gal 1:6, 3:1. He didn't just rebuke the leaders. Why? Because we all have a responsibility to cling to and preserve the only good news of God. 

So, I take from this, that each member has a responsibility to guard and cling to the gospel. Personally guarding oneself from false teaching concerning how a person is made right with God. Also, listening to the teaching in the church and being sure it does not "go off the rails" when it comes to the gospel. If it does, there needs to a loving, humble, and bold effort to bring correction. 

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

"The Extraordinary Life of Helen Roseveare"

I just listened to a podcast about the life of missionary Helen Roseveare (from the Gospel Coalition). She was a single woman who served as a medical missionary in the Congo for much of her life. She was honest about her struggles, sorrows, doubts, and God's faithfulness in it all. I encourage you to listen to this talk on her life (the podcast is about 45 minutes long).

Responsibilities of a Church Member: Affirm Citizens of God's Kingdom

Help Affirm Citizens of God's Kingdom  

In baptism and church membership we are acting like an embassy of Heaven. We are affirming a person's claim to belong to the Kingdom of God (note this is different than placing them in or out of the Kingdom - God alone does that work).  Baptism pictures that a person has been united with Jesus in his death and resurrection. It is a public declaration which is administered by the church. When we gather to observe this ordinance, we are not merely spectators but serving as witnesses and agreeing that we believe the baptismal candidate has a credible profession of faith. Church membership gives visible "borders" to those who belong to Christ. Church means an assembly of people. And when we receive new members we are saying they are part of the assembly of those who are born again, as best as we can tell. We are saying we believe this person has been brought out of the kingdom of darkness and into the Kingdom of the Son of God. 

The same is true in church discipline, but it is the opposite side of the coin. If a member stubbornly sides with their sin over Jesus and refuses to repent, then we are to clearly assert that we can no longer vouch for their being part of God's Kingdom. In 1 Corinthians 5, Paul tells the congregation (not just its leaders) to remove the man persisting in sin. They aren't to disassociate with unbelievers who persist in sin (though they are not to live like the unbelievers). Instead, they are to disassociate with those who claim to be brothers (in the family of God) who are clinging to evil. Why? Because the person who is claiming to belong to God's Kingdom while living in a way that sides with the Kingdom of Satan should not be affirmed as belonging to God's Kingdom. And it is the church members who have this role. 

So, as a member of a church, you are responsible to participate in baptism, receiving members, and removing members.