Book Review – Discipling

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Discipleship can be a mysterious topic in churches.  How do we do it well? What does it look like? Is it a formal didactic lecture or an informal hang time?  Dever, as he tends to do well, simplifies the mystery in his book “Discipling” he provides a working definition of discipleship as quite simply “helping others follow Jesus.”

In this increasingly individualistic culture, it rubs against the grain to intentionally orient our lives towards others, but that is the foundation of discipleship – particularly, of course, with an eye towards gospel influence.  Yet, this is what the book, appropriately so, encourages.

The book is well organized into three parts, addressing some of the questions in discipling.  What is discipling? Where should we disciple? How should we disciple?  As is expected and appropriate, Dever highlights the centrality of the local church as the primary place for making and maturing disciples of Jesus.   If the church is doing it’s job, people will be diligently following Jesus and then others will be following their example in discipleship relationships.

This all should ultimately be based on the word of God, as the core of discipleship is about teaching truth from the Bible and applying it in our actual lives.  This looks differently for each situation.  I have seen people intimidated by a discipleship relationship thinking that it is a didactic lecture from the Greek text with PowerPoint slides each week, but it doesn’t have to (and probably shouldn’t!) look like that.  We share the word of God in our dailiy relationships which are born from the local church.

Truth needs to be taught and seen in peoples actual lives, with it’s chaos and unpredictability.  This is what Dever highlights as the “life-truth-life” pattern.  Our lives should attract people to listen, we teach truth from God’s word to them, and then their transformed lives illustration what is taught and in turn attract more people to listen to them…and the cycle repeats, and God is glorified!

 

 

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Going Beyond

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In Matthew 5:43-48 is another well known passage where Jesus is teaching on loving your enemies.  Matt 5:44 says “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” Bonhoffer in “Cost of Discipleship” clarifies enemies are those who have hostility against us, not necessarily those against who we have hostility against.   How we treat people in those situations says a lot about where our hope is based and how much we understand we have been loved by God in Jesus.

v47  is pretty key in understanding this concept – “and if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others?”

Christians are called to go beyond what others do and say.  We are called to be different.  Called to stand out.  In all situations, we are called to glorify God.  This is different, “extraordinary.”  The temptation is to blend in, to not stand out from others.  Yet we see from the Word of God that we are called to “do more.”  This isn’t an effort based system of earning God’s favor, but if you are disciple of Jesus you are already accepted by God.  Now, we work to go beyond the norm, we avoid sin, we love our enemies — because of who we are in Christ.

If we are truly living our lives according to God’s word – we will stand out.  Sometimes this will be hard, as anyone who desires to live a Godly life will be persecuted.  (2 Tim 3:12).  We are not promised an easy, financially prosperous, and healthy life – no matter what the false teachers on the “Preachers of LA” say.

But, what we do know, is that a life lived for God’s glory is the most fulfilled life that one can have, because we are walking in obedience to our Creator, and living a life of love, and in that is the blessing of growing in Christ and being more and more filled with the knowledge of Him as we go thru life.  Only in that is true peace and joy.

Jesus Prays for You

John 17 is a very rich passage – it’s Jesus’ prayer before he is arrested, falsely tried, beaten and crucified. In it we see several things that are emphasized.

  • Glorifying God – Jesus glorified God on Earth.  How?  By fulfilling the Father’s plan perfectly and faithfully. Likewise, we glorify God by doing his will – avoiding sin and pursuing righteousness, making disciples, and many other God glorifying things. (v1-5)
  • Word of God – Jesus says that he ‘gave them the words you gave me’ (v8).  We are blessed that we have these words.  Think of how many people gave their lives in order for us to have English Bibles, how long people before us didn’t have access to them, and how many people still don’t have access to God’s words in their own language. Treasure God’s word – study it, meditate on it, soak in it.  Jesus’ mission was partially to give us the words of God.  They are pure truth, and bring spiritual growth (AKA “sanctification” v17)
  • Prayer – Jesus is praying for the Father’s strength to finish the mission…he knows exactly what is before him – the cross.  If Jesus prayed for strength to stay the course – how much more should we?
  • Jesus prays for you – well, if you are a believer that is.  v20-21:

“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. (John 17:20-21, ESV)

Jesus prays for those who will believe in him thru the work of the disciples who will faithfully carry his words forward in the future.  Followers of Jesus are still carrying on that mission – bringing God’s word – holding fast to this ‘word of life.’ (Phil 2:!6) The word brings spiritual life!  Jesus, the God-in-flesh, came from the Father on a mission to redeem a sinful fallen human race, to give the precious words of life, that those who believe may have life in his name. As we draw near to Good Friday and Easter, how sweet these words are.

Refocusing from the Post-Pastoral Haze

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So. Yeah. This past Tuesday night I became a Pastor. Officially voted in. Some emotions include: humbled, joyful, numb, scared, excited, anxious, ready-to-get-going, did I mention humbled? I have a blurred memory that night of people asking me how I was feeling (perhaps I looked shocked or sick?) and my response was “Um…kinda numb right now. Thanks.” As the numbness has started to dissipate, it’s time to get back to normal with blogging/journaling. (The treadmill can wait…)

My focus will be discipleship and worship. On the discipleship side, I’ll be working first with the youth groups who are fresh off of a trip to WOL Snow Camp where many professed faith in Jesus for new life and reconciliation with God.

How fitting that I was in Matthew 28 today on the reading plan. This is the crux of our task in discipleship:

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore 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.”

(Matthew 28:18-20 ESV)

Jesus is the authority over all. We are commanded to submit to him, making disciples of all nations. How do we do that? We use the word of God – teaching them to obey all that he has commanded us. The whole word of God, all of it, Old and New Testaments is one story – the plan of redemption. God’s plan to redeem us sinful humans back to him, thru His Son – Jesus. We boldly proclaim and “hold fast” to the word of life (Phil 1:16) – it is our tool for making disciples, his all sufficient perfect word.

May we dig deeply into it today and have the courage to trust that what God has commanded us in it is far better than anything this world offers us.