The Importance of Discipleship and Growth P2

Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed-not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence-continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose. Philippians 2:12-13

 

Why does growing in your faith encompass more than just asking Christ into your life and heart?

Yes, there will be times we do not feel like it. Life is tough; it is full of setbacks and hurts that seem to cripple us. So, we go on permanent disability, unable to hurdle barriers that are really simple to climb, simple, when we are carried by Christ Himself. Did you know all it takes to tie down a horse is a simple leather strap? Did you know a horse could easily break it, like we could break a kite string? A horse does not try to do that because he does not think he is able to do so. You are able to cross any barrier to grow in deeper worship and faith in Christ, because He is there with His healing power.

When we ignore Christ as Lord over our lives and church, we just end up stagnate in life, continuing to hurt. Yes, we will struggle and hurt and we will need times to recover. However, we must make the determination to recover, not to remain disabled, preventing our abiding in Him.

Did you know that God does not ask us to seek converts. He simply asks us to disciple. 

Why? Discipleship is modeling and teaching Christians the precepts of the Bible, mainly prayer, doctrine, and Christian living, which means having an attitude and heart that worships Christ.

Yes, we are still to evangelize, but that is not our main mission and call. When we evangelize, we must realize that it is the role of the Holy Spirit to bring people into an intimate relationship with God.

This is an act of divine intervention and grace. He uses us as the tools, but He is the means. We are the display case of His life and work! We are to care, and share with others His love and character. We are to obey and reach out, but we cannot lead people anywhere.

Christ is the One who leads! 

Our goal is to worship and model our worship to others-not just our service in the church, but the lifestyle of a heart surrendered and poured out to His.

However, with that said, when we are real and authentic in our Christian living, then we are actually doing effective evangelizing and bringing others to Christ even more powerfully and frequently.

How does our focus on Him and not evangelism help us be evangelistic? Because, when the focus is on evangelism, it tends to be about gathering the numbers for numbers sake, and this mindset is pretentious and ineffective. Out of a real, worship-centered heart will come a church that is also poured out in the community, a lighthouse of God’s love and care to the world. It will model Christ-like character to the community, encouraging others to surrender themselves to Jesus Christ. However, this is only the beginning. When we are worshiping Christ with our hearts and minds, we are focused on Him and motivated to be His witnesses. Christ’s work in us is what is contagious to others who are seeking Him.

 

Some passages to consider: Psalm 119:89-90; John 3:30; 2 Corinthians 5:17-21

 

The Church is a Response to Grace

Colossians 1:15-23

We must be about how do I glorify Christ, not please our selves, and do this in all things—worship, relationships, our thought processes, how we make decisions, and how we institute and instigate the work of the church. It all must flow and come from Christ our Lord, our Leader and God, and from nowhere else. When we stop experiencing Jesus as our Lord, and He becomes only a figure in the sanctuary, then we will not be a purposeful or called Church for Him. When we are singing praise choruses and hymns that point to His Holiness and Greatness and as Head of our lives and church, do we mean it? Or, is it merely rhetoric and repetition that has no meaning behind it?

The church exists as a response to the grace of our Lord. Because of what He did, we are to glorify, magnify, praise His name, and then respond further from our worship of Him to our works for Him.

Remember that works have no saving construct; they are only the appreciation and response we are give to His majesty and redemption. Grace working in us will produce the work and will of our devotion and holiness to set us apart for His plan. Our response is to accept His teachings and love with joyful excitement, and replicate it in our lives, thoughts, and actions, and to grow and perfect the relationship and work He gives us.

Remember the Dead Sea; if all we do is allow Him to flow into us and not out, we will stagnate.

If we just try to go it alone without our Lord, we will fail. We cannot flow out if nothing flows in. The responsibility is clear; we are to allow His Spirit to flow in and out, as we are His tools, His children, and His love. When our faith becomes strong, we will not be moved from it, and that means we will not be moved away from Christ. This is what steadfastness is all about: not being shaken from our beliefs and faith in our Lord. When we stray off our path, we tend to substitute steadfastness with stubbornness that takes us far from the purpose and responsibility of the Lord’s church. Being firmly rooted in Christ means keeping to the integrity of Scripture and His teachings, for when we stray from that path, our church will stray away from His opportunities and call. Christ gives us the hope and opportunities to grow, learn, and abide in Him; we are to respond to the call and opportunities He gives with hope and joy.

Got Intimacy with Christ?

Do you long for intimacy with Christ as Lord and love of your life?

Christ gave us grace from His love to make Him our home of faith and motivation in life. Then, He prepares an eternal home for us too. The question is, as Christians, do we give back our worship, praise, gratitude, and devotion to Him? Are we at home with Him as our main inspiration, impulse, and comfort in this life, not just in the life to come (John 14:23)? 

We can be assured He cares and loves us beyond description; but, do we love Him back?

God has a purpose for this world and for our lives and it is all about communion in and with Him. We must find a way to increase our awareness and love for Christ in our daily lives so our lives mean something more than just “what I want” and “what I can get.” It must be Christ-focused, for this is what Heaven is all about too! 

Christ brings us Heaven! He brings peace and a future to us who do not deserve it. Because of Him, we have hope and a future and most of all, we have Him both now and forevermore! What is better than that?! There is nothing that can be a greater motivator and comfort than knowing for certain who Christ is, what He has done, and what place He has for you and me! Now, let us live our lives as if that is true—because it is true. And, keep in mind these powerful passages as well as John 14 in mind, as love and obedience are connected in Him!

What are the best interests for your church?

 

We usually do not like to submit in American culture; we think it is against our best interests. But, think this through a bit. In Scripture, the wife is in submission as a response to the husband’s love for her, his provision, and his having her best interest and care at heart. It is like our response of the fruit of our service to Christ because of His love for us and because of His free gift of grace. We do not earn salvation for our service; rather, it is a fruit of our gratitude. In the same way, this is how submission works. It is not to be forced, but offered freely in response to love. It is something we replicate as we respond in kindness, so our response to one another fuels the other’s response, and so forth. In this way, we are escalating love and kindness instead of repression and dysfunction. In like manner, we are to run our churches this way; the context of the Ephesians passage indicates the Church. 

Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Ephesians 5:19-20 

Christ and the church are the prime models for us in a lifelong commitment of a monogamous marriage. So, the Church needs to be that model, monogamous in Christ; He is to be our One Mate. If our church breaks down in its fruit production, so will our families and then so will our society. Remember, Jesus did not give up on us when things went from bad to worse. His grace, forgiveness, and perseverance came through. It is the model relationship for the home, for loving of children, and for the fellowships and relationships we are to have. The church is the bride of Christ, and He loves her. Your church will either fall or grow depending on how you and the leaders model righteousness, love, commitment, and holiness. These fruits are to be practiced and exercised in the best and fullest way possible!

How is your churches compassion, care?

 

The theme of submission to God is understating His love that covers and protects and in turn helps us relate to others more harmoniously. Real submission brings about closeness when it is formed from love. If it is subjugated, such a barrier to God is formed that, according to Peter, even our prayers will not be heard. Thus, compassion, care, and love pave the way to effective, relational harmony and blessing from God. Pride and our strong-willed attitudes set up a barrier, making all we do ineffective, destructive, and meaningless while also creating distrust and suspicion that breeds disharmony and creates gossip. If we want God to be attentive to us, we must do our part by being attentive to others without iniquity. Harmony in Scripture means to show peace in all situations. It is sympathetic, meaning we understand and identify with another person, putting ourselves in their shoes so we can have real compassion. We are called to bless and do good to those who do not like us; when we pay someone back to get even, we only end up escalating the issue and thus hurting ourselves and usurping God’s authority to judge. This does not mean we are to endure abuse or unlawful actions; rather, it has to do with our attitude. It is a balance between the exercise of the Fruit of the Spirit and the setting up of boundaries to protect us. 

Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. Ephesians 5:18 

The bottom line is this: be considerate in all that you do, to whomever is in your life, showing love as if they have forgotten what Christ and the Fruit of the Spirit are all about. We must see gossip as the antithesis of who Christ is and what Christian living is all about. If we are healthy in Christ, let us show it by demonstrating the work that He did in us. To make this point in part of the Ephesians passage, “Husbands, love your wives,” the verb for “love” (Greek: agapete) designates a continuous routine of action all of the time, not just when one feels like it. Christ loved the church not because it was holy, but in order to make it holy! Thus, we are not only called to know Him more and build our relationship in Him, but also to work at keeping our relationship with others within those parameters of love, submission, and commitment. Even if you make mistakes, misuse your words, and/or manipulate others through impatience, wrong thinking, desires, and/or sin, you still have the call and opportunity to make it right so the church can be better!

Is the Love of Christ in your Church?

 

If you want to be successful as a church you must be willing and able to love! And… real love takes us beyond ourselves!  

How many of us have ever ventured into a church that was filled with unkindness, where we were ignored or even mistreated? As a pastor, I engage in a tough battle to make sure my flock behaves so that Christ would be pleased. I can try my best to set an example and I can try to teach them to behave by showing them and doing my best to model the words of our Lord, but I cannot force them to behave. Real, authentic, Christian love only comes from our real, authentic, Christian formation, which comes from genuine discipleship. Why is this important? If someone is not growing in the Lord, then they are not willing or able to treat others with love and respect. Care, compassion, and love will be moot, and the church will become that annoying noise of 1 Corinthians 13, modeling what love is not rather that what it is. That church will become a club of stubborn pride, devoid of harmony and brotherly love.I do not believe any of us really want that. 

How loving are we?  

Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. Ephesians 5:1-2

The problem tends to be that we come across as unloving people! Even a good church is not always as loving and a caring as it should be. This comes down to a spiritual problem, a disconnect between what we are practicing and what we profess to believe. We may say and believe His precepts of love and care, but has His Truth transformed and renewed us deeply, on both the inside and out? If your church is having problems (and all do at times), it comes down to the fact of our faith. We will only obey God to the point that we trust Him. When we know He is faithful with us, we can be faith-worthy in Him to do a better job at being a steward of His Church. The solution is to be more loving. And, we do this by further growing in Him, then modeling so others can catch on to what they should be—Christians functioning in Him and from Him. 

Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.  Ephesians 5:15-17

When we are unloving, it is because we are unsubmissive. Submission is respect, and the honoring of the will of God and righteousness. As an example, submission is never an excuse to batter or put one’s spouse down in any way. In the Ephesians passage, the directive to husbands is even more daunting than the one given to the wives. Husbands are called to love, which is much greater in importance and prominence than submission! Love is what sets the tone and standard for the relationship—our relationship with God, with family, and with others in the church too.

Moving Away From the Cornerstone

 

The problem is that many churches have fallen so far, they are apostate and others are on the verge of the same betrayal against our Holy Cornerstone. Understanding that He is our Cornerstone gives us a navigational rendering on how to lead and manage our church in a healthy, biblical way. Understanding that He is our chief cornerstone means

Jesus is the Chief, the Head of the corner. It means our Lord is our All in All—we can trust in Him (1 Cor. 15:20-28)! How wonderful and comforting to be able to allow Him to be our haven of rest, our continual comfort.

At the same time, a warning is given in Scripture to those who reject the Living Stone in the Bible. They will stumble and fall. Stumble, meaning disobedient, refers to condemnation and judgment because a person is so “self willed” and prideful, he or she is not willing to acknowledge God as his or her Lord (Mal. 2:8; John 11:9; Rom. 9:33; 14:20; 1 Cor. 10:32; James 3:2; 2 Peter 2:8).

Fall in Romans and Matthew refers to Isaiah (Matt. 21: 33-46; Isa. 8:13-15; 28:16). Peter and Paul both used this image (Rom. 9:33; 11:11; 14: 4, 21; Heb. 4:11; 1 Pet. 2:6-8), that those who reject Jesus as the Messiah will be judged. God’s Kingdom is portrayed as a rock, and we will be cursed by it if we fight against it (Dan. 2: 34-44; Matt. 16:27; Rom. 2:6; Rev 20:12-13; 22:12).

He still gives us His grace—until it is too late and we are called to account. God gives us ample prevision and time to turn from our evil and wayward ways to His True Word, His best Way (Jer. 23:22-23).

He patiently accommodates us (to a point) to give us the time to realize our disobedient conduct, gives us the room to make mistakes, and still calls us back into His arms of love and care. Do not be the one who rejects the Living Stone and causes your church to run askew and away from His call and purpose! We are called to allow our faith to empower our obedience because obedience is what pleases God. Disobedience, from a lack of faith, is detestable to Him and causes us to be lost over dangerous ground. This comes down to “apostasy,” which is the abandonment of one’s religious faith, or skewing it far away from its core precepts.

We are falling away from the Truth and are rebelling against Him when we continue to do this without repentance. We are betraying our Lord and deceiving the ones we are supposed to be leading further into His depths!

The problem with this situation is that most of the leadership in these churches who are failing do not realize that they are, nor do they comprehend that their decisions and the things they chase are moving them away from the Cornerstone and into apostasy. The plumb line from which to gauge where we are is His Word. I am not just talking about moving away from essential Christian doctrine, although this applies. Rather, I am pointing to our not communicating doctrine in love and care and not discipling others so they can know Him more. It is just as bad to have good doctrine and not communicate it as it is to reject good doctrine. The end result is the same玆a Church of Perfidy. Then the person in such a church will not know truth, His will, His call, or recognize opportunities and precepts so he can then act upon them. We become the church of the “pew-sitter” who not only does nothing in a church, but also gets nothing from the church.

Is Christ Your Church’s Living Stone?

 

The idea is that the cornerstone represents Christ as the Chosen Stone (Acts 4:11; Rom. 9:33; 1 Pet. 2:6-8). The idea that Jesus Christ is our Living Stone has significant ramifications of His Lordship over our lives and church. These themes refer to Him as our temple, the One who gives us grace, reconciliation, empowerment, and comfort, and He does not disappoint. Living stone means the foundation, the source of something, such as of a building or a family (Psalm 118:22; Isa. 8:14; 28:16; 2 Peter 2:4-10).

This means Jesus is the Spiritual Temple, not just in theory or in liturgy, but in actual practice, living in our day-to-day leadership and management. He is the place and focus of worship and counsel.

The church or temple is no longer a building; it is a community in relationship to Christ. Think of these images from the reality that Jesus was a carpenter in His human occupation, and perhaps frequently worked with stonemasons or did masonry himself. He was personally familiar with building both in practice and in Lordship, and we must submit to His Lordship in order to be a healthy, vibrant church. Make no mistake. This image from the Gospels is not a mere tale or metaphor; He is to be Christ the Stone, our Giver of life, our Source and Foundation. We must manage His Church from the mindset and practice that He is our LORD for all we are and do (Matt. 21:42; John 1:4; 1 Cor. 3:1-3; 15:45)!  

Living stones in 2 Peter 2:5 is plural, denoting that they are the people of the Church. In the context of our spiritual house, it means a living organism, a sacred temple empowered by God to worship God. This idea implies that our union in Him is our dependence on Christ, as He is the One who supports us, lifts us up, and houses us in His presence (Ex. 19:6; Mark 12:10-11).

This should cause us to think and be in the wonders and fears of “awe!” This means Christian community and fellowship is a “spiritual house,” established, organized, and led in Him. We are all one in Christ and we derive our life from Him. Our identity in Him must affect us personally and publicly, synergizing us as a community so our church is managed in His “reckoning” (Matt. 16:18; 1 Cor. 15:45) that is formed, indwelt, and empowered by the Spirit (Acts 2:33).

We are all precious, important, and have a job to do as a moving, living temple, reflecting His love and holiness (John 2:19; Ro 12:1; 1 Cor. 3:16; Eph. 2:19-22; Heb 7:26; 10:10).  The fact of what our Lord has done for us shows us that we are to be as a corporate collaboration of people in Him. The call is to come to Christ because He is the Living Stone, as He called in Matthew 11:28-30. This is an image of how our Lord is our direction and foundation in all we do, personally and in church, and how we, as a church, should function, as we are all interlocked and plumbed with purpose to one another by our calls, gifts, and abilities—all in Him (Eph. 4). Christ is constructing a building of faith and eminence to be His Church, made up of the stones of “us” lain upon the foundation of Him. Thus, our faith needs to grow from us personally and then move into our community so we can interlock with one another, fastened by the mortar of the Holy Spirit (Eph. 2:19-22).  

In Second Peter 2, Peter tells of the incredible transition from the Temple and the priesthood to the Church—foretold, but still inconceivable to the Jewish mindset. The actuality is that Christ is our stone bridge. He gives us continuity and purpose. Jesus is the Foundation, Pillar, and the Purpose of the Church, which means our church, even your church. To facilitate worship, we as His people as gathered are the Church no matter when and where we are at. We are not cold stones that are stationary and that decay; rather, we are living and movable, cemented together as a corporate identity in Him. 

Yet, as perfect and precious as our Living Stone is, we, the people leading His Church, tend not to want to understand Him and therefore refuse to follow His principles out of fear of losing people, not being culturally relevant, or perhaps a fear of conviction, too. His way gets in the way of their way (my way) of leadership, because they have a skewed understanding of the Cornerstone as LORD.

This idea is much like that of the first century Jews who wanted a warrior Messiah, not a Savior and One who convicted their souls. However, when we are in Him, we have no need to fear a loss of relevancy because we more than make up for it with authenticity, which is far more contagious for the faith to those who do not yet know Him. Authenticity means we are encountering and becoming close to Him. Christ alone gives us the comfort, protection, and the deep love we need. Therefore, we can lead His way and not compromise or lose our footing when we are on His footer. Keep in mind that we, too, are precious in God’s sight!  

Our identification as a “corporate” church does not imply a building; rather, it is a relationship of community where we are His priests! The entire sacrificial and priestly system, as God directed Moses to set up, is now obsolete. It has been replaced. Its purpose was to point to Christ and get people ready; now, He is here. He is the Sacrifice, the Altar, and the Temple, and we are the priests (Ex. 19:1-9; Eph. 2:17-18; Heb. 7:27; 8:6; 9:12-28; 10:12-19; 13:15-16; Rev. 1:6). The key is that we have to listen to His Word; we must relinquish our self-absorbed mindsets and focus on Christ as Lord over all. We are called a Spiritual House referring to the O.T. Temple as God’s dwelling place. Now, that house is more than a building; it is also a legacy, a large family, or a dynasty such as the “House of Israel.” Thus, the Church is God’s dwelling place and legacy (2 Sam. 7:5-7, 12-16; 2 Cor. 6:16; Eph. 2:19-22; Heb. 3:6).