Monday, February 14, 2011
The Core of the Commission
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,
My grandfather was a great man. No, he didn’t do anything great, in so much that the world would grant him any sort of accolades. He was great because I knew he loved me; without a doubt, he loved me. Our relationship was not perfect, but it was very good.
Everyone called him “Buck,” but I called him “Granddaddy” – pronounced “Grandiddy,” in the very rural northern Piedmont colloquial fashion. Buck loved to hunt. I know he liked to succeed, but I believe it was the actual hunt that he most enjoyed. I loved to be with him. Deer or no, it was him I wanted to spend time with. He loved
deer dogs and he loved to hear them “run” deer. Walker
One particular time Buck and I were standing in the edge of a field, on opposite ends, waiting for the dogs to run a deer across our path. The dogs quickly changed directions and Buck jumped in the truck and left; quickly, and without me. A bit dejected, but totally unconcerned, I sat down and waited. A couple of hours later he returned, mumbling something while handing me saltine crackers, a Pepsi and a can of Sardines.
Buck was committed to going after that deer. I’m also glad he was committed to our relationship. I am not sure if I knew the way home.
This is a true story, and I believe it’s a perfect illustration of the condition of most active local churches. Notice, I said active, meaning local bodies of believers who are doing something besides marking off Sundays and Wednesdays with building inhabitation. Active, in most cases, means programs and events and trips. Though it’s all organized, I am afraid we may be settling for less than the true calling God has privileged us to pursue. In other words, it seems our commitment to “go” is strong, but our pursuit of “make disciples” is lacking.
Events aren’t always easy, but they’re always temporary. That’s why we like them. This call to “go” fits right into the groove of events and short term missions and programs. We can heed the “go” part of the Great Commission and do all sorts of things, but the question is are we also pursuing the call to make disciples?
Making disciples is messy, never easy and always requires more commitment than feels natural or comfortable. However, I believe it’s what we are designed for, redeemed for and left here on this planet for. Making disciples is the call, command and commission and we should never settle for anything less.
The difficult part of accepting this assignment is also the blessed part. Namely, the church has to become relationship oriented again. Consider the Garden of Eden; it was only sin that caused Adam and Eve to hide from God. They were designed for fellowship with God, but sin corrupted original design. It not only ruined their relationship with the Lord, but it corrupted their relationship with each other and they felt shame before one another and before God.
Consider the Ten Commandments. As always, The Law reveals the nature of God, but the Ten Commandments show us an outline of relationship too. The first four commandments highlight the right attitudes and actions for our relationship with God.
· You shall have no other gods before Me
· You shall not make for yourself any idols
· You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain
· Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy
He’s first; nothing else before Him or even as important as He is. Respect Him. Spend time set aside just to honor him. Those are pretty clear expectations for relationship.
The remaining six commandments reveal the most basic guidelines for not blowing relationships with others.
· Honor your father and mother
· You shall not murder
· You shall not commit adultery
· You shall not steal
· You shall not bear false testimony against your neighbor
· You shall not covet
Think about it for a moment; if your friend tries to murder you, it’s probably going to have an effect on your relationship, right? Think through these others; any failure to respect these commands damages relationships.
Further, all the OT laws are extensions of these ten. They all reveal God’s nature and show us His desire for how we should relate to Him and relate to others.
And notice, too, that horizontal relationships, which are people to people in nature, are supplied out of the vertical relationship. Meaning, as we walk with God, He sets us right to minister to those around us.
Discipleship is certainly not only a New Testament phenomenon. It’s always been God’s way. Deuteronomy 6:5 sums up all the Law by commanding people to “love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” God clearly desires that whatever He says to us sinks beyond the realm of knowing into the reality of being. Deuteronomy 6:6 continues “these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.” But, God never meant for whatever He was doing in us to simply stay in us. Verse 7 gives us God’s expectation of what we’re to do with what He is saying and what we’re becoming: “You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.”
In everything we are hearing and becoming we are to translate to everyone in everything we’re saying and doing.
We know this is difficult. It requires believers to have full-time accountability and full-time activity. It’s a call to a life mission and a lifestyle; to always be in relation to God and to pass that relation on to others.
Many believers are active. Many have the “go” part down pat. Commendation should be gladly given to anyone seeking to serve the Lord. However, let’s not be half-measure people, especially when our half measure is missing the whole point. Going that does not meet the call to make disciples is short-sighted.
A new commitment to pursuing the mission God has given is predicated by a new commitment to pursue the privilege of being a disciple. We walk with God. We are disciples of Jesus. Then, we pass it on. We must be vertically bound and horizontally spent. That’s the only way it will work, because that’s the way God designed discipleship.
Jesus told the disciples “all authority has been given to Me.” Big stuff. Important. Jesus had the authority to send, equip and empower. What did He desire to use that authority for? You got it, making disciples. Go, or more accurately, as we’re going along in life, make disciples. Activity is not the call. We have activity just by living. Making disciples is the call of God.
The Apostle John succinctly embodied the core of the mission: “that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ” (1 John 1:3). We proclaim what we’ve seen and heard and know and have experienced so that people might walk with us, and, more importantly, they might walk with Jesus. Disciples bidding others to walk with the Master, and not just with talk, but exemplifying the disciples life as we relate to the Master is the core of the mission.
Where does it start? It starts in the cash register.
In one episode some Pharisees were plotting to “entangle” Jesus in His words (Matthew 25:15). Instead of being entrapped by what His own words, Jesus discipled them. They wanted to know whether it was right to pay taxes to the Roman authorities. In His divine genius, Jesus asked them for a coin and questioned them, asking whose image was on the coin. The Pharisee contingency answered that it was Caesar’s image. Jesus’ replied, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's” (vs. 21). Then, Jesus dropped the hammer and gave us the method by which people are to serve the Lord. He continued by saying, render “…to God the things that are God's” (vs. 21). You all know Genesis says “let Us make man in Our image.” We are made in His image. We must render ourselves to God. We are His coinage. We must let Him spend us.
It’s simple. Our lives are not our own (ref: 1 Corinthians 6:20). We are to sent and spent. We are God’s coinage and He desires to invest us in humanity, making disciples, and teaching them to “observe” all that He’s commanded us.
We must continually render ourselves to God, sit at His feet, learn of Him and live the life of an intentional disciple maker. That’s the core of the commission: Disciple Making.
My grandfather was always sitting on go. Whether hunting, working or relaxing. He was always ready to do what needed and should be done. The good thing for me is he was also always sitting on “Come on, go with me” too.
Let’s be careful to adopt this mentality in our relationship with the Lord and others. Let’s sit on go, for sure, but let’s make sure our going is making disciples, not just passing time.
Friday, February 11, 2011
For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:8-9;
I’ve learned a long time ago not to buy clothes for my wife when she is not with me, though sometimes I’ve forgotten what I’ve learned. I can’t explain it, but I am a sucker for sweaters. I see a sweater that I think my wife will like and I just buy it. Maybe it’s because I love sweaters so much! I have plain sweaters, sweater vests, argyles and even a couple of button-up sweater vests. I even have a pink sweater!
What I have learned is my wife does not need, want, desire, request, require or appreciate my tastes in HER clothing. Don’t get me wrong, she’s always polite. She’s kept several, like souvenirs, but she’s worn none of them! This doesn’t even mention the shirts and shoes I presume to pick out for her. Here’s the deal: she has different tastes than I do. Point blank. End of story. I give up. (Until I see another sweater!)
God’s thoughts and ways are vastly different from our own. I don’t imagine many of us need convincing of these fact.
Our tendency is to make God very human, very like us. He’s not. Not even close. However, God calls us to be like Him (ref: Leviticus 11:44 & 1 Peter 1:16). How can it be that God would desire us to be like Him when we know we are so very different from Him? Simple: God desires spiritual transformation for us. Further, God empowers spiritual formation in us!
For that to even begin, we must be “born again,” meaning we must have a spiritual rebirth (John 3). We must be born from above, birthed again to new life in Christ, having died to self and come alive by faith in Christ and the quickening of the Holy Spirit. With that new life comes God’s promise to keep on completing what He has begun in us (Philippians 1:6).
- A new nature (2 Corinthians )
- Power for living (John 15:1-5)
- Service like Jesus, and more (John )
- Unchained from the power of sin (Romans 6:1-14)
- Fellowship with the Living God (Hebrews 11:6)
Of course, there’s more! Since God’s ways are so far from our own, we need spiritual transformation to experience Him. Since these wonderful promises are not attainable by the work of our own power, we need a miracle! That’s what being “born again” is! It’s a miracle!
People surrendering to God in Christ Jesus receive the marvelous help of the Holy Spirit to be born from above into new life with a new nature: TRANSFORMATION!
Too many church people are trying to live a life of religious-do-it-done-it. Wow. That’s not what we’re designed for. We’re designed for fellowship with the Living God. We’re designed to enjoy Him. We’re designed to love God. We’re for life, not just breathing. Sin is a murderous killer, separating us from life, which is in the Living God. It corrupts us thoroughly and spiritual transformation is both the beginning and continuing of healing and restoration.
We will never pursue the things of God in our own nature. We may pursue things we put God’s name on, but they won’t be of Him.
I can’t pick out clothes for my wife. I can’t be like God on my own. I need her help for the clothes. I need God’s help…period. I need God’s help.
Do you desire spiritual transformation? Seek the Lord. He’ll gladly give what He has freely offered.
If My people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. (2 Chronicles 7:14, ESV)
Growing up, “Don't blow at me!” was one of my father's favorite rebuking statements. That's the expression he would use when I'd sigh after one of his commands. I think I used up a lot of oxygen doing that growing up. Dad didn't allow “back-talk.” When I say he didn't allow it, I mean he did not allow it! We learned that lesson very young, and adhered to it strictly our entire life. I can't tell you how many times sighing was my form of calm rebellion. There were probably hundreds of times, working in the tobacco field or the garden, in which Daddy corrected me and I'd sigh and he'd say, “Boy, don't blow at me!”
There is something to be said for doing the right thing with the right attitude. Discovering what is the right thing to do can be hard. Doing it with the right attitude can be even more difficult.
2 Chronicles 7:14 is written to the people of God; people known to be God's people. It's a promise and a warning. God used Solomon to build the Temple. Solomon finished that task and God gave Solomon a dream. The promise was simple: God will forgive and heal. The warning was simple too: But if you turn aside and forsake my statutes...I will pluck you up... (2 Chronicles 7:19ff),
However, and this is our subject for today. Do you notice what conditions and what mechanism God gives to the people? God tells them to pray. Simple, right? Well...
It's not as simple as it sounds. God desires us to seek Him in prayer. That's the right thing to do. Too much prayer involves seeking our own wants and needs and desires. Consider the blunt words of James 4:3 You ask and do not receive, because you have asked wrongly, to spend it on your passions. Our petitions to the Lord should involve seeking His face, His will, His desires, His plans; it should involve seeking Him. The best way for your prayers to be answered in the affirmative is to pray according to the desires of God.
Not only must we pray according to God's will, but we must also humble ourselves. Certainly, this is not in our nature! Our flesh loves to be exalted. We even think of it as an American right to be full of “swagger” and pride. It's not a Christlike characteristic at all! He even described Himself as lowly and meek (Matthew 11:29). James speaks bluntly on this as well: humble yourselves before the Lord and He will exalt you (4:10). When we push ourselves under the Lord, giving Him honor above ourselves and submitting to His will over our own, we can trust His good providence to lift us in His good time and for His good reason.
Last time, this article addressed God's command to pray for other believers. One of my deepest and most abiding prayers is that the people of God would become serious about humbling ourselves and seeking the Lord's face. We need to turn from our wicked ways and pursue the Lord. We need God to heal our land. Politics and policy won't fix America. Better schools won't fix America. A stronger economy will not heal America. A larger, more effective military force will not fix America. We need God.
Let's not be as foolish youths, “blowing” at authority and going through the motions of the wrong thing with the wrong attitude. My dad wouldn't tolerate it and I am sure our Father will judge it as well! Let us indeed humble ourselves, seek the Lord and pray. It's the right attitude and the right action for approaching our Father.
For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him (Ephesians 1:15-17, ESV).
One of the most blessed things about working with a ministry that works with many denominations is that I get to work with many denominations! Sounds too simple, doesn't it? When ministry kept me in one denominational arena, I rarely looked out. Sure, our fellowship gathered with local churches from two other denominations each Thanksgiving and with a neighboring church of a different denomination for Resurrection Celebration, but we didn't have a real and regular practice of being together. Though I was passionate about our distinctives I was also often bound by them, kept from fellowship with people who love Jesus too. I'll tell you what I am learning: it's easier to write people off than to pray them up.
If prayer were to become a ministry for believers – notice, “if” – the first place we need to start in praying for other believers! Really. I'm serious.
Now, wait a minute...calm down...I know, I know...someone is already finding ways to exclude others: “I do pray for believers but them people ain't Christians like me!” The problem is that most of them people are saying the same thing about you!
Don't mistake my tongue and cheek method as irreverence. It's not that at all. It's an accusation. One of Jesus' clearest indicators as to whether someone is a disciple of His is whether such a one has love for other disciples. He said, “By this all people will know you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). Uh oh. Some folks are in trouble!
The Apostle Paul was pretty clear about who he was talking to in the letter to the CHURCH at Ephesus. He was writing to the “saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus” (vs. 1). As a matter of fact, Paul was clear in communicating that all of God's plans and blessings were in Christ. Grab your Bible and consider Ephesians 1:3-15 very carefully, noticing each time it says something like “in Him” or “in Christ.” God's plan is “in Christ” for sure, so for people who understand that much – that God's plan for “things in heaven and things on earth” is united in Christ – I call them Family. When it comes to The Family, I desire to know and love you all.
All that being said, let's get to the ministry of praying for other believers! Perhaps you don't even know if they are believers. Pray the simple words of Ephesians 1:17 for yourself and for them, asking God to give each of you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him.
Paul said, “For this reason...I do not cease to give thanks for you.” What was his reason? Simple, Paul said his reason was that he'd “... heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints...” Paul prayed for the Ephesian believers because he saw their object of their faith, Jesus Christ, was right and their love for each other was evident. WOW!
Whoever you are out there – Red, yellow, black and white. Methodists, Baptists, Presbyterian, Episcopalian, Catholic, Non-Denominational and all other “Jesus is the only way!” folks you can find. Poor, rich, middle-class. Native American, European, African, Hispanic, Asian. City folks and country people. Southerners, Westerners, Northerners. Whatever distinction you may have that Satan wants to use to separate us. – if your faith is in Jesus and you love other believers, I want you to know I have a ministry of prayer towards you.
Who's with me? If you desire to be known as a disciple of Jesus, love others who love Him. If you love them, pray. Pray by the mighty hand of God that we show the world we are His by our love for one another.