Category: Uncategorized

Discipleship is Following Jesus

Do you recall this old camp song?

I have decided to follow Jesus, I have decided to follow Jesus. I have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back, no turning back. Though none go with me, still I will follow, though none go with me, still I will follow… No turning back, no turning back. The world behind me, the cross before me…no turning back, no turning back.

 I can make a list of those who have helped me follow Jesus—can you? This is discipleship.

 John MacArthur says, “Discipleship is more than just being a learner, it’s being an intimate follower, having an intimate relationship, following to the point where you would go as far as death out of love.” God’s love for us starts a chain reaction. He loves us, then we love Him, and then we love others. I John 4:19-21 says, “We love because He first loved us. If anyone says, I love God, and hates his brother, he is a liar, for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.”

 “Being a disciple of Jesus means orienting our lives towards others, just as Jesus did. It means laboring for the sake of others…It requires an investor’s mentality, knowing that the return is eternal…God’s Word is the seed that ultimately bears fruit, even if we don’t see it in the short term.” (Mark Dever)

In other words, we labor, we sow, we rest, God grows!

 Discipling is initiating a relationship in which you teach, correct, model and love. And of course, it takes great humility. According to Philippians 2, it’s having the same mind, the same love, and using diverse gifts for the glory of God, not out of rivalry or competition, but counting others as more significant than self!

 As women, we shrink back from initiating relationships with other women for fear that we will somehow be found out that we are imperfect and that our flaws will be discovered and put on display. However … “That is our confidence: not that we have the perfect home and well-behaved children, but that in the muck and mire, God’s spirit is at work. Even in our weakness, God uses our words to warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, comfort the weak, and show patience to everyone, all for His great glory.” (Erin Wheeler)

We get so mixed up by believing our own glory is at stake when in fact, we exist for making His name great through our relationships!

Through our discipleship, we want people to grow in the knowledge of God in Christ, and faith comes from hearing the Word of Christ. Mark Dever explains, “they cannot obey what they haven’t been taught.” And you cannot impart what you do not possess.

 Don’t think discipleship happens without sacrifice. Just look at the disciples when Jesus called them to follow Him! They immediately left their nets and family behind and followed in obedience! Discipleship requires the sacrifice of time. It requires hearing and studying the Word of God. It requires lifting your eyes to the Wonderful Counselor in prayer. It requires love.

 “Our purpose for pursuing Titus 2 character, relationships, and ministry is not merely to be better wives, moms, and ministry leaders, to have a better reputation, or to be able to sleep better at night. Our ultimate purpose is to make much of God. We do that as we experience, enjoy, and reflect the loveliness of Christ, making Him known to a world that is starved for true beauty.” (Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, Adorned,)

 Are you walking hand in hand with others in your church community? Can you say, “Follow me as I follow Christ?”

 “Show me your redeemed life and I might be inclined to believe in your Redeemer.” (19th century German philosopher, Heinrich Heine)

  • Michelle Spansel

Sacrificial Serving

“To see the Church strengthen every person so that they invest in the equipping others, through: serving sacrificially in every area of life.”

The sacrificial service of a Christian, pouring themselves into the life of another, for the advancement of God’s Kingdom, is highest form of discipleship. In the business world, the term to describe this activity is mentorship, where the experienced leader works directly with the novice to develop useful skills that advances the cause of the organization. Actually, mentoring is a biblical principle. Consider the example of Joseph, a Levite, from Cyprus, whom the Apostles called Barnabas, “Son of Encouragement” (Acts 4:36). Barnabas probably did not get his nickname by slapping people on the back saying, “you can do this.” No, a nickname is affectionately awarded someone when their personality traits and actions reflect an attribution i.e., encouragement.

So, who did Barnabas mentor? The first person we see sponsored by Barnabas is none other than Saul of Tarsus, who tried to destroy the Church. Acts 9 describes the story of Saul’s conversion and subsequent joining in the church. The passage indicates that the Jerusalem church was not convinced that Saul was a Christ follower, and for good reason. Yet, Barnabas brought him to the apostles (v. 27), spoke on Saul’s behalf and in time, the church was at peace with Saul. Some time later, Saul and Barnabas were commissioned as a missionary team, sharing the gospel and encouraging believers as they traveled from place to place.

A quiet event occurred during the first journey that had great impact on the duo and reset Barnabas’ next major sponsorship. John Mark, one of the younger members of the team, deserts the work and returns home.  As Paul and Barnabas plan their second missionary journey, John Mark wants to join back in but Paul wants no part of it. Barnabas had a decision to make, stay with Paul or begin a mentorship with John Mark. Barnabas choses the younger man and they sail to Cyprus (15:39) – that is not the end of the story; however. Eventually, we learn that John Mark is reunited with Paul in Rome (Colossians 4:10; Philemon 24) and as Paul approaches the end of life, he requests that Timothy “Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is very useful to me for ministry” (2 Timothy 4:11).

What can we learn from this? We should look for ways to be used of God in the caring of His people. Sometimes our discipleship commitments are short-term. Yet, there are times when we are called to step into the lives of our brothers and sisters for the long-term, helping them develop their spiritual skill sets, growing together in Christ. Long-term discipleship is not an evaluation of the church talent pool; it is a calling to invest in the equipping of others for the Glory of God.

  • Selby Brannon

My Teaching Is Not Mine

A question I’ve heard quite a few times over the past few years, “JP, why do we teach about the glory of God so much?”  Today, my short answer is, “if we get that wrong our teaching will eventually miss the mark.”  Let me briefly explain from the life of the greatest Teacher.

(John 7:15-16) The Jews therefore marveled, saying, “How is it that this man has learning, when he has never studied?” So Jesus answered them, “My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me…”

The religious specialists who took great pride in their educational bloodlines were not entirely correct.  What we should read here between the lines is, [insert snobbish tone] “this son of a carpenter has no pedigree.” He’s teaching but he didn’t even go to school!

Even though Jesus didn’t have the pedigree of say, Paul, Jesus was taught and he learned. Mary and Joseph were probably good teachers.  From a young age, Jesus spent time in the synagogue asking questions and discussing with biblical scholars.  Luke proclaims Jesus grew in wisdom and stature and favor with God and men. (Luke 2) Eventually, Mark 1:22 leads us to believe Jesus taught with an authority that was very different than the learned men.  Was it his education that made the difference?

When Jesus said, “my teaching is not mine” he was not being self-deprecating, he was telling them why his teaching is different.  The religious elite weren’t focused on the glory of God, but were enamored with titles, accomplishments and educational pedigree.  It didn’t matter if what they were teaching was true.

Jesus’ exchange here teaches us why the glory of God is the foundational authority of our teaching.  Ultimately the power in our teaching has little to do with education but it has much to do with our delight and submission to the glory of the One who sent us to teach it.  Jesus goes on to say in John 7:18, “The one who speaks on his own authority seeks his own glory; but the one who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true…”

Friends, we teach about and unto the glory of God because that’s what Jesus did.  It’s not about educating people in theological loftiness.  Don’t get me wrong, the time we spend learning is as important for our teaching as it was in the life of Jesus.  But if we forget that the foundation of what we teach is about the glory of God, our teaching becomes theological musings at best.

Every time we hear something taught about the glory of God, I pray we have ears to hear.

  • Jeff Pierce

Strengthening Community

When the YMCA rebranded itself in 2010, it did so to remind that it is an organization that is committed to the strengthening of community. While the Y continues to cling to its Christian mission, it cannot (and should not) be the most important place for community to be developed or fostered in our society. This is reserved exclusively for the Church.

Consider the role of the Church and take a look at two critically important aspects of her place in community.

First, we need community. We must be a part of the fellowship of believers for so many reasons, but most importantly, because God’s Word calls us to it.

“But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” (1 John 1:7)

As we acknowledge who we are in Christ and allow real gospel focus to permeate our lives, it must be our humble conclusion that God has placed us in community with one another for His glory and our good. While the Church is far from perfect, it is our very best place to do life with each other and find the grace that comes through our Lord to be put on display.

Secondly, we must be in the community. This is the missionary call on our lives to take the gospel to the nations. This will always be accomplished by our complete trust and obedience in a loving Father who calls us to be on mission where we live, work, and play.

Pray earnestly where God has called you to enter into His mission that all would come to the saving knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

….and don’t forget to use your gift cards!

  • Dick Bennett

Shining a Light in Our Families

At the time of this writing, we’re only a handful of days from Christmas. For many of us, that means various reunions, gatherings, dinners, and brunches with our extended families.

Each of us could likely go on for hours about the unique holiday dynamics of our family units. Some are Christ-centered and filled with God-honoring traditions. Some have a Christian veneer, where Christ is acknowledged at a surface level but never allowed to have any real effect on family festivities. Some ignore Christ entirely and instead focus on what the world has to offer. This is all in addition to the distinct ways that our families interact—sometimes in love & encouragement, sometimes in friction & conflict.

Whether you are heading into Christmas elated for the interactions with your families or dreading the inevitable drama, we cannot forget a very important task that each of us have: to shine our lights for others to see. Unfortunately, many of us forget that “others” includes the family that we see a handful of times a year.

Matthew 5:16 — “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”

As we draw closer to celebrating Christ’s birth, I encourage all of us to be a light and example to the family members you interact with over the holiday. Especially during this time, there is a great story to share of Christ’s love and sacrifice and to allow that to color our attitudes and outreach to those who don’t know Him. This attitude is going to look different for each of us: maybe you ask God to give you the courage to share the gospel for the first time with an agnostic family member or you may ask for the patience to continue to show love and kindness to a family member who is openly hostile to the things of God.

It can be so easy to slide into what’s comfortable or safe when gathering with our families—resist the apathy and instead seek to glorify God through the loving pursuit of those God has put around us.

How are you going to be on mission with your family this Christmas?

  • Tucker Barlow

What You Have To Give

“I continue to pray that this will be a time in your life of great growth and radical faith… you have so much to give with your life.”   This was written inside an Amy Carmichael biography that was given to me almost 11 years ago by my boss.  I remember when I read it, wondering what my life really had to give.  In that season all I saw was what I wasn’t good at and that was A LOT!

In many ways this was my version of what Paul told Timothy in in 2 Timothy  1:6 “… I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you…”  I had someone who was willing to see and love me as the Lord does.   My leader saw that there were gifts that God had given me that I had yet to see or experience.  That there was a work that God was doing in my heart with my story that was going to give God’s glorious redemption a platform in my life.

Being a part of a church gives us the opportunity to be a part of many peoples’ stories.  We get to see those around us as Christ sees them and we get to tell them how Christ sees them. In the hopes that it will lead them to understand their God given identity and be people who are, “living a life of joyful obedience, developing their God given gifts, and serving sacrificially in every area of life.”

I now can see that by God’s grace my life has much to give.  That it is my joy to be obedient to what God has called me and that I do have gifts from God to be used for His glory in the story of His redemption.  I didn’t start out believing that, but because Mark Spansel believed God’s truth in me, I can now say I do and that it’s a delight!

  • Jill Butler

Embracing with Humility our Constant Need

Last Month, we began our walk through the book, “How People Change” by Timothy Lane and Paul Tripp. Chapter Two of the study book is entitled, So, You’re Married to Christ, where the authors confront us with our betrothal to Christ; speaking to our future visible union with Him, when He returns to claim us as His Own. A truly stark motivation for change, don’t you think?

For earthly marriages, there is a giving and receiving of vows which seals a covenant that scripture explains “therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” Mark 10:9. Somewhere in the first year, the starry-eyed couple sees the difficulties of living together in their community of two. Even though a couple struggles with the hardships of marriage, they can still enjoy a rich life-long relationship. Yet, the success of their community of two is predicated on submission and self-denial to one another.  Only when they put away desires of immediate self-gratification and focus their energies on the happiness of the other spouse, will they indeed enjoy a lasting happy marriage.

The same is true for authentic community among brothers and sisters in Christ. Submission and self-denial is hard to come by. Who among us wakes up in the morning and says to themselves, “Today, I will deny myself and be submissive!” No, to the contrary, most of us awake up and say something to the effect, “Today, I will win!”

At the core of self-denial and submission is humility – thinking less of ourselves in both position and significance. Humility is a crucial trait in the Christian Life. The person who thinks highly of himself is not looking for a Savior. Rather, salvation comes to the individual who, like a little child, falls wholly dependent on the Heavenly Father. The new believer’s humility grows as they learn to live in community, denying themselves, taking up their cross and following Jesus.

Christian Community is not about us huddling in groups on a Sunday Morning. It is about living together, rejoicing together, and humbly suffering together. Genuine community is not crafted on our terms. It is not the local club where members receive benefits for monies rendered. No, real community compels us to lift our eyes above our purview, seeing the horizon of relationships; encouraging dear brethren; striving in love one-for-another. Most importantly, as we grow in community we bring Glory to God for the work he has done, in gathering repentant sinners together, as the body of Leroy Community Chapel.

  • Selby Brannon