Intimate Discipleship

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It’s all about Jesus

There is much good about the emphasis that 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 who have been equipped in seminaries and educated in counseling and church growth. And we are doing missions better than ever.

But I think there is something missing.  I seriously 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 dwell on Him, crying out for His grace and mercy.

Could it be that the evangelical church in America has passed its expiration date?

Perhaps 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. We miss out on so much.

The Old Testament book of the Song of Solomon is the love story between a shepherdess and her beloved.  This love is a love that first envelops and then 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 foolishness (which is embarrassing) and is emotional (not at all what we think.)  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 once knew.

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 Jesus with a white-hot love. Eternity is a long time to spend with someone who you feel ambivalent about.

Learn the language of romance again and remember that your discipleship is not an end in itself.  Biblical discipleship is nothing more than intimacy with Jesus. We must settle on this in our hearts. The true foundation of discipleship can only be a kind of ‘first love’.

 Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love.”

Rev. 2:4

 

P.S. A fanatic is someone who loves Jesus more than you.

 

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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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