Discipleship is Intimacy

Intimacy with Jesus

There is so much good about any emphasis the Church puts on discipleship.  We pray, fast, and study the Bible better than any other generation.  We have as our pastors and teachers men and women equipped in our seminaries in Greek and Hebrew, educated in counseling and Church growth.  We are doing missions with the best of them.

But there is something amiss.  I believe we have misplaced intimacy.  Our worship services seem mechanical.  We are no longer in a wild love affair with the One who really matters.  We no longer just spontaneously think of Him, crying out for His mercy and love.

It could be that the evangelical Church in America has passed its expiration date.  We have grown confused, and have struggled with an emptiness that is at the core of a legalistic and a works dominated life.  We do not cry out with a passionate love for Him who desperately wants to hold us close.

The Book of Song of Solomon is the love story between a shepherdess and her beloved.  This love is a love that envelops and controls a person’s entire being.  Her love is intense as well as thirsty.  She needs her shepherd.  There is an element of being ‘lovesick’ and never settling for a second best relationship with her beloved.

Biblical discipleship must always be intimacy with Jesus.

In 2 Corinthians 11, Paul writes about his deep concern for that particular Church,

2 “For I am jealous for you with the jealousy of God himself. I promised you as a pure bride to one husband—Christ. But I fear that somehow your pure and undivided devotion to Christ will be corrupted, just as Eve was deceived by the cunning ways of the serpent.”

There is jealousy involved here (which is suspect by us) and a foolishness (which is embarrassing) and is emotional.  This passage suggests a higher and purer following of Jesus that Satan wants to corrupt.  Paul was concerned that these Corinthians would not be a pure bride.  He got jealous over their vulnerability. He believed that they would miss the bridal love that they possessed.

I want to challenge you to keep the innocence of your relationship with Jesus. Guard it and refuse to be led away from its simple devotion.  Love with a white hot love.  Learn the language of romance again and remember that your discipleship is not an end in itself.  Biblical discipleship is intimacy with Jesus. We must settle on this in our hearts. The true foundation of discipleship can only be a kind of ‘first love’.

“But I have this complaint against you. You don’t love me or each other as you did at first!”

Revelation 2:4

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Dinged Up Disciples, [But No Separation]

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“Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death?”

Romans 8:35, NLT

A simple question is asked. Our response is requested, and expected. We must settle this in our thinking in order to progress with Him. Why? Three reasons.

  • There is something inside of us that militates against God, and the things of God.
  • We have an active enemy that has declared war on our soul.
  • The world we live in is both cruel and very hard at times.

But again, the question remains– “Who can separate us from Christ’s love?” Paul lists the seven issues that might scramble us:

  1. trouble 
  2. calamity
  3. persecution
  4. hunger
  5. destitution
  6. danger
  7. threatened with death

Each one carries its unique twist. Some are general, others more specific. They do overlap, but each are distinct. Each are hostile and mean. I think what Paul is seeing is that believers face “magnetic suffering.” Certain things that are weirdly attracted to us, and we can’t do a thing to change them.

These seven are offered as reasons we find ourselves struggling so hard. But even in them, the apostle declares a victory. They won’t— shouldn’t—can’t really divide us from Jesus’ love.

An ant would have an easier time stopping a roaring freight train!

Paul reminds us again, in the midst our sad and savage situation, that Jesus Christ isn’t even slightly turned back. His love is ‘outrageously’ outrageous. We must keep this close to our hearts. It is truly all we have– but it is also all we need.

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We Are Only Amazing, Together [Plea for Unity]

“That’s how it is with us. There are many of us, but we each are part of the body of Christ, as well as part of one another.”

Romans 12:5, CEV

When we follow Jesus, we will not make any real progress unless we commit to following him together.  We must grow to the wonderful, purposeful point when we start to understand that our essential unity is the work of God in our hearts.  He purposefully blends us–our spirits, personality and thoughts.

We learn we can’t make it alone.  I am an American Christian, and independence is a characteristic of my culture.  We inherently become people who ride hard and ride alone.  There seems like there is not room for two where I am going.  If you get there, I guess we’ll be brothers. But this is not the Scriptures.

Having tried to live my faith in another culture, I discovered I needed a different mentality completely.  I had to learn to reach out to another way of thinking.  I discovered that my new understanding had to include others.  If we win, it is because we are a team.   Soccer was the national sport of my new country–I don’t think it has been successful in the U.S. because it’s fundamentally a true team sport. We don’t think like a team. We don’t like it.

 “Above all else, you must live in a way that brings honor to the good news about Christ. Then, whether I visit you or not, I will hear that all of you think alike. I will know that you are working together and that you are struggling side by side to get others to believe the good news.”

Philippians 1:27, CEV

Unity will leave its mark.  If we choose this particular approach we need to “think alike”.  That takes a bit of a miracle sometimes.  But this intrinsic unity has become the norm.  We are very used to the idea of Jesus saving individual men and women.  But it is a long leap for us to believe that we are sanctified through groups–called Churches.

“I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.”

1 Corinthians 1:10, ESV

No.  Absolutely zero. Divisions.  There is to be agreement in every person.  There is to be a unity, in the very specific area of our thinking and our discernment.  And this is sent to us in Jesus’ name.  Paul understands that the name of Jesus (the Lord and Christ) is to have a definite preeminence, and his wonderful authority was to lead us to this unity.

The implications are this–not agreeing to Jesus’ authority, divides the Church.  Simple.  And that is exactly how we are to understand these issues.  We don’t need to be “rocket-science theologians” here, after all Paul was directing his remarks to simple believers.  He believed that they would understand.

The Holy Spirit is like a magnet. The power that pulls us to Jesus works in us all. We find that iron filings of all shapes and sizes are also ‘connected’ to Him, and we’re connected with each other. It is His magnetism that draws us to  each other.

How committed are you to unity in your town?  The Church gathers on Saturday or Sunday (almost always).  The believers that attend are your brothers and sisters.  They come to worship and pray, and hear the Word.

It is an interesting point that when Paul refers to the Church, and John in the Book of Revelation–it is connected to geography.  It is the “Church of Rome” or the “Church of the Colossians.” Thinking this way, will change how you perceive the Church of Jesus.

“In necessary things, unity; in doubtful things, liberty; in all things, charity.”

Richard Baxter

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The Colorful Church

The Church of Many Colors

10 “His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, 11 according to his eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Ephesians 3:10-11, NIV

3 “Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his children, because he was the son of his old age. Also he made him a tunic of many colors.

Genesis 37:3, NKJV

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“The complaint that church is boring is never made by people in awe.” 

R.C. Sproul

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This word “manifold” is very curious and quite engaging. In the Old Testament this particular word is used to describe Joseph’s coat of many colors. I can only imagine that it was striped like a rainbow, or maybe even tied-dyed. Whatever it was, Joseph was quite distinctive as he wore his colorful coat.

Joseph’s coat

Paul in Ephesians 3, intentionally borrows this word to explain “the manifold wisdom of God.” Paul’s use of this dramatic imagery of Joseph’s coat to describe God’s wonderful wisdom that has saturated the Church. There is something variegated in this wisdom (balance, comprehension, understanding) that infuses His Church.

We are people of color. There is wisdom given to each believer. This defines us, and portrays us. God’s own wisdom, defined quite incredibly in our hearts and spirits, describes our coloration and hue.

Some are merciful, and others are bold. Some are very gentle, and others are “prophetic” and sharp. A few are wise, and others can endure much. But our personal coloring should never threaten another. Those who see only blue– should never be shaken when another sees yellow.

Our fleshly attitudes would militate against this understanding. We seem to insist that everyone be green, or yellow even. But this isn’t how God through the Holy Spirit comes to our spirits. We should receive each brother and sister, in the wisdom that God has chosen, to flow and grow. It seems we are each a “prism” that reflects a certain light.

We can see the “gifts of the Holy Spirit” in 1 Corinthians 12:4-11. They are distributed (but definitely never ‘dumped.’) They come out in many ways through many different personalities and backgrounds. But it seems we are slowly learning that each believer has a definite place and purpose.

I suppose that pride confines us into something that is restrictive. We definitely prefer ideas and proclivities we can control (or maybe label.)  Perhaps, it is we that need to be adjusted. We should see the broadness of God’s grace, and how each one is touched and shaped.

The Church is God’s unique reservoir of wisdom and grace for the world. We gleam with the certain light of His presence and goodness. Each believer, radiates an aspect of grace from the heart of God.

We are indeed the “Church of Many Colors.”

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The Prize is Waiting Just For You

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 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 3:14

 Paul’s wish was a heavenly one.  He understood that this world had absolutely nothing to give him.  Simply put,  his faith was the bulldozer type.  He pressed forward, and he would not compromise or vacillate.  He would have all that Jesus promised.

“If you are a Christian, you are not a citizen of this world trying to get to heaven; you are a citizen of heaven making your way through this world.”

 Vance Havner

Paul ‘presses’ and his goal is very close.  He is God’s ‘pit bull,’ and once he latches on, everything changes.  He wants the prize.  We can only look and wonder.  What Paul has faced should empower us, and give us a sense of what is real.  Life is just a little bit away.  If we turn we will never see it.

There is a life that is far beyond what we think is possible.  Our only real option is to press into what has been pledged.  We must cling to all these ‘possible promises.’  But we must let Him decide what is true.  He has promised us life, and we cannot turn from this.  He is not some ‘shyster or a liar.’  We must push forward and then proclaim Him as ‘Lord of the Guarantee.’

He alone is worthy of such concentrated focus.  We must admit that there is no one who can compare.  Jesus Christ has an intensity and a radical commitment to what is really real and really true.  We must turn to Him and beseech Him to become Lord and King.  No one can compare.

Paul has a deep conviction.  We must follow him, and duplicate his focus.  We must concentrate on his aspirations, and follow him into what is true.  Real Brokenbelievers have very few directions to go.  Paul’s focus and direction should direct and motivate us into a very different direction than what this world system offers us.

“Press on”, or reach for a fresh understanding of Grace and goodness.  Simply put, you really have few options.  Captivity is very degrading and we lose our way very quickly.  We really are much more than this.

Please consider all the good that has been given to you.  The presence of Jesus is not to be trifled with.  He gives all that He is, to bring you to Himself.  But we must commit, and turn His heart to us.  His love is amazing, and all those who turn to Him are brought into safety.

&

kyrie eleison, Bryan

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Contemplating the Crib

When we think about Jesus, when we start to contemplate the crib, we explode into joy over what we have seen. We inaugurate a convincing of His second coming. You might say that we suddenly adjust to a Jesus who just drops in on us.

“And when Christ, who is your life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory.”

Col. 3:4, NLT

Jesus anticipates that His visits to earth, will start to bear fruit. There will be many who will be validated to step up into this place of salvation. But many of us will be part of many others who are involved in this sharing. Jesus has come, and all of us enter into something quite exceptional.

But this is all a future event, it hasn’t happened yet, but we do think about when He will return. But this is not an occasional, fleeting awareness. But we are confident we do understand that His return alters everything. All of a sudden, we are launched into real and eternal promises. These critical assignments coming from this world, will never take the place of being in God‘s purposes.

Paul is wrapped up with a deep and profound understanding of things that are on the threshold.  He is the apostle of the aware. He seems to sizzle with understanding that progresses out of his initiative and creative effort.

But Paul develops, after he sees, a careful sense of certain things that are moving. But he knows what He has seen, and he insists that others join him in this.

This is why we must procure this awareness. To operate in the realm of Paul will be worth our weight in “celestial gold.”  Things are rich and fecund, and they wait in a exceptional awareness. As Paul follows, so we follow. In the Heavenly places, we are being counted as being faithful and quite true.