What kind of people are being bred and produced in our churches and families. This is a big issue to challenge parents and church leaders.
The big danger we face is of producing those who have an outward conformity to accepted standards, but their heart is not in it. They conform to the standards that are presented to them out of obligation or respect, but if they had their own way they would be doing differently.
The issue is an issue of leadership and teaching. Are we law teachers and demonstrators or grace teachers and demonstrators?
Law teachers basically present the rules and say that if you keep them all will be fine. But if you don’t keep them then things are going to go bad.
Those who teach grace are continually drawing their students into the wonderful news that there is acceptance. Naturally we are wrecked and written-off because of our sin. However, there is acceptance with God though our Lord Jesus Christ who once died to take away our sins. In leading this way we present the true way as a way of delight where we can know that we are with God. In teaching this way we want to draw hearts into an appreciation of how much good God has demonstrated in Christ. We, of course, need to be demonstrators of this. Children need to see that their parents are livers of grace.
As grace is presented in all its richness to our congregations and children then we long and pray for a heart response. Such a heart response will lead to lives that are wanting to go on and know the Lord and live to please God.
They live to please God not just to keep the standards, but because they love the One who gave the standards.
Parents, church leaders and all involved in discipleship must remember this.
It must be noted though that law teaching is not excluded by the need to teach grace. In fact the law if properly handled shows the need of grace. So in that sense the law when used properly is a means of grace.
Here is the BBC report on the death on November 17th (last week) of the American missionary, John Allen Chau. His willingness to give up all, even life itself, so that others might know the love of God in Christ Jesus is surely the love of God in demonstration. It is must be truly Christ-like self-sacrificial love.
It is reminiscent of the desire of the five American missionaries to reach the Auca Indians back in the 1950’s (see here for basic details).
I am challenged and effected as to how much my life reflects this self-denying love. Am I constrained / compelled by the love of Christ (see 2 Cor. 5:14). I preached on that at our church back in September the audio is here. But how much am I living the message I preached? And now we have this portrayal before us in the life of Mr Chau. In all his weakness, he was willing to risk his life to teh end taht others might have life.
In his letters shortly before his death he mentions about who will step up to take his place if he is taken. Sobering words indeed.
So how seriously do we take the great commission to go and make disciples of all nations (Matt. 28:19a)? How much am I longing to see people gathered around the throne of God praising God in their own language?
In Matthew 13:22 we read The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful. These words are part of our Savior’s explanation of the parable of the sower (or soils). In reading the passage this morning, I was particularly struck by the phrase “the deceitfulness of wealth”. In our Lord’s explanation he is indicating that the good Word of God does not go on to bear fruit in the lives of certain people because, for one reason, it is choked by the deceitfulness of riches.
To be deceitful is to make false claims that deny reality. So how are riches deceitful?
- Riches offer us a happy contented life. However, they so often deliver stressful lives as we have so much property to care for and bank accounts to manage.
- Wealth offers happiness. However, the wealthiest people are often the most miserable people.
- Riches offer freedom to do what I wnat. However, health, relationships and force of circumstances mitigate against this.
- Wealth offers permanent blessings all “on tap” as I use my card and drain from my abundant bank account. However, eternity dawns and we find the riches of this world are useless to bring salvation to the soul.
- Wealth says that I can buy my way to perfect relationships. The wretchedness of my heart wrecks such dreams as so easily I sin against my nearest and dearest.
- Riches offer to be a friend to help me become what I should be. Alas in the end they become a tyrannical god and kill my soul in this world and the next.
Whether we have lots of money or little money we can still be duped into thinking that money will buy me anything. Money is a great friend, but a terrible master.
Jotham grew powerful because he walked steadfastly before the LORD his God (2 Chron. 27:6). Jotham was a leader of substance. He was a man who had a good influence upon the people. He was the type of leader you want around. He was a man with a strength and capacity derived from a life set on pleasing God. What made Jotham what he was?
When we read an alternative rendering in the English Standard Version we get a flavor of his character So Jotham became mighty, because he ordered his ways before the Lord his God. He was what he was because ordered his ways before the LORD his God. His life counted because his life was lived in the presence of the Lord. He took time to consider his actions in the light of God’s Word. Implicit in the statement that ordered his ways before the LORD his God is the fact that he was a student of the law of God. It would be impossible for him to walk steadfastly before the Lord his God without the law being at the heart of his life. Moreover, we must reasonably infer that he took time to draw near to God; he sought the Lord in prayer. All his life was lived in fellowship with the Lord.
So how about us? There is a direct correlation between the way we are walking and our effectiveness. Those who walk steadfastly before the Lord will be effective people. those who study the Word and pray will be effective people.
I am concerned here to dwell upon the need for Christians to be studying the Bible. Growing Christians are Bible studying Christians. Moreover, such people are enjoying what it is to be a Christian. So Bible study is essential and thrilling. Particularly I want to address you:
- if you are starting out in Christ and therefore you are new to the Christian life.
- you have drifted in your walk with the Lord and are feeling all is drab and aimless.
- you have been a Christian for many years and want a fresh surge of progress.
- you have time on your hands through some providential happenings.
My simple advice is to get stuck in to studying a book of the Bible. I suggest you start with the one chapter books and build up from them. Get some commentaries and Bible helps. Make notes on what you are learning. Memorize all or apart of what you are studying as well. Above all, don’t let time pass away which can be helpfully used for the study of scripture.
Above all be praying before, whilst and after studying the Bible.
And through this and in this, you will be knowing something of the joy of knowing the Lord.
Churches need to have the faithful bringing of the Word as part of their dna. Whether it be through preaching times, bible studies, one-to-one-studies or whatever, the Word needs to be relentlessly brought into the church.
I fear though that no matter how faithfully and powerfully the Word is brought, much of the benefit is being dissipated by what people are watching, listening to and reading outside of church. The problem has always been there, but it has been exacerbated by the internet. There is now such easy access to everything and anything that people easily fall into the trap of feeding their souls on what is junk at best and poison at worse. The likes of Joel Osteen and Joyce Meyer are so pervasive online that the undiscerning so easily fall under their sway.
So what needs to be done?:
- There is the challenge of teaching about discernment.
- We have to be more open about who the false teachers are out there.
- We need to confront false teaching.
- We need to encourage the people to come and ask the shepherds what they should be listening to and watching.
- We need to confiscate everyone’s phones and computers until they have learnt that to make sure they will only listen to healthy teaching. Well perhaps that’s going to far, but I feel like doing it sometimes.
- I need to keep loving the sheep. I despair at times, but I need to keep leading them into green pastures.
(Originally published in Venabling on 25th September 2017)
To be a disciple of Jesus Christ is to be a learner and a follower of Jesus Christ. Accordingly if you are involved in discipling someone so that they are formed into being a leaner/follower of Jesus Christ there are certain things that are required:-
- An Example. You need to be displaying Christ in your life to the person you are discipling. They need to see your life so that it recommends the truth you are seeking to pass on to them.
- Teaching. There is information to pass on concerning the faith. There is also the need to provide wisdom for life.
- Consistency. Your life must match with the truth that you are passing on to the person. If not, the whole discipling process is derailed.
- Visibility. You cannot hideaway and just send podcasts to the one you are seeking to disciple.
- Goal. Your Goal is not to make a person religious. Rather, it is to see them moulded into the likeness of Christ.
- Prayer, You will need to be relentlessly praying for the working of God’s Spirit, so that spiritual, Christ-like, formation will take place.