And you know that God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. Then Jesus went around doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.
This week’s discipleship quality is dependence on the Spirit. And this is something Jesus modeled for us because as Peter says in the Acts 10, Jesus’ ministry was fully dependent on the presence and the power of the Holy Spirit with Him.
Jack Deere in Surprised by the Voice of God puts it well.
Among all the servants of God, Jesus is indeed unique. He is unique because he is God. He is unique because he is the only human ever to obey God perfectly and live a sinless life. He is unique in that he did not simply announce the kingdom of God as other prophets did, but he brought the kingdom with him in his Person. He is unique in his authority within the kingdom: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given” to Jesus (Matt. 28:18). He is unique in his atoning sacrifice on the cross and in his high priestly office.
He is not unique, however, in the source of power of his earthly ministry. His power to live a moral life and to minister miraculously is unequivocally attributed to the power of the Holy Spirit.
To be sure, Jesus made better use of the Holy Spirit’s power than anyone before or after him. He was so reliant on the Spirit that he lived a sinless life. No one will ever duplicate that feat. But does that mean Jesus should not be our moral model? Or course not. If his moral perfection doesn’t prohibit him from being our model of purity, why should his use of the Holy Spirit’s power for hearing God and doing miracles preclude him for becoming our model for the miraculous?
Jesus listened to God, and then as one empowered by the Holy Spirit, he spoke and acted. He passed this same method of ministry on to this apostles, promising them he would send the Holy Spirit to empower them. The Holy Spirit would speak to them, teach them all things, bring all the words of Jesus to their remembrance, testify to Jesus, guide them into truth, and reveal the future to them (John 14:26; 15:26: 16:13). The end result was that the apostles heard God in supernatural ways and worked miracles just as their Master had done. Jesus was their model for ministry.
According to the apostles, what we share with them is the very same power that gave them supernatural ability to hear God and work miracles. Paul’s prayer is that all Christians would come to recognize the inheritance that belongs to them through the presence of the Holy Spirit and know “his incomparably great power for us who believe” (Eph. 1:19).
Does that mean we can do what the apostles did? Yes, through our dependency on the Spirit. Does that mean that we can do what Jesus did? Yes again, through our dependency on the Spirit. The apostles, and even Jesus himself, are a picture and a promise of what we can be when we are filled with the Holy Spirit.
In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach 2 until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen.
Randy Fisk in The Presence, Power and Heart of God, p. 26
The book of Acts begins: “In my former book [the book of Luke] I wrote about all the things Jesus began to teach and do until the day He was taken up to heaven.” The word began is significant - it implies that Acts (Luke’s second book) is an account of what Jesus continued to do after He rose to heaven. Instead of one person, Jesus, doing all the things written about in the book of Luke - speaking His powerful words and doing His awesome works - suddenly Jesus begins to act VIA THE HOLY SPIRIT THROUGH EVERY BELIEVER. This initiates what has to be one of the devil’s worst nightmares: instead of one Jesus at work, there are now millions and millions of “Jesuses” walking around, doing what He did!
Let’s give the devil bad dreams! Let’s live a life fully dependent on the Holy Spirit as Jesus did.
My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.
One of my favorite authors in Dallas Willard and in Hearing God he writes:
I believe that people are meant to live in an ongoing conversation with God, speaking and being spoken to. Rightly understood I believe that can be abundantly verified in experience. God’s visits with Adam and Eve in the Garden, Enoch’s walks with God and the face-to-face conversations between Moses and Jehovah are all commonly regarded as highly exceptional moments in the religious history of humankind. Aside from their obviously unique historical role, however, they are not meant to be exceptional at all. Rather they are examples of the normal human life God intended for us: God’s indwelling his people through personal presence and fellowship. Given who we are by basic nature, we live - really live - only through God’s regular speaking in our souls and thus “by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (p. 18).
God hasn’t lost his voice. He is still speaking by his Spirit through the Bible, dreams and vision, a still small voice and prophetic leadings. He is speaking. The only question is Are we listening? Remember … To hear is to obey!
1 Corinthians 12:4-8, 13
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
Gary Chapman wrote a very helpful book called The 5 Love Languages. Here are the 5 languages:
- Words of Affirmation
- Quality Time
- Acts of Service
- Physical Touch
This video does a nice job of describing these 5 love languages and how you can give and receive them, especially in the context of marriage.
“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.
Compassion is a powerful witness to the reality of God’s love. God’s love may be invisible and intangible, but through simple acts of kindness and compassion, we make God’s love visible and tangible.
It is the simple fact that more people have been brought into the Church by the kindness of real Christian love than by all the theological arguments in the world; and more people have been driven from the Church by the hardness and the ugliness of so-called Christianity than by all the doubts in the world.
Our lives can either attract people to Jesus or distract people from Jesus. I know which one I want to be.
1 Peter 3:15
But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.
Steve and Janie Sjogren founded our church. And in His book Outflow: Outward-Focused Living in a Self-Focused World, Steve writes:
It’s amazing how many well-meaning people miss both the “everyone who asks” and the “gentleness and respect” parts of this verse.
We’re not saying words aren’t necessary, just that usually they need a context in which to be understood and received. If you love friends and family members in practical ways first, while living your faith openly and honestly in front of them, they will start to have questions. If they see you working to forgive those who wrong you, loving people others ignore, and following Jesus in other ways that “aren’t normal,” they’ll become curious. They’ll wonder what’s wrong with you … or what’s right with you. Either way, people who are asking questions are much more open to answers than people who are simply having answers forced on them, whether they care or not.
Overflowing with God’s love and joy will invite questions and open opportunities for you to share your hope with those you love.
That’s sounds a lot like The Questionable Life. Give it read. Give it try!
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
Through deep community the early church grew. First, they grew in maturity. As they studied the Bible and met and prayed together they grew as disciples as Christ. But then what happen? They grew in numbers. And why not? Why wouldn’t God send people their way? Here was a group of people who would help people meet Jesus and become more and more like Him. That’s exactly the kind of church God is looking for. Also was; always will be.
Community is the basis of both our discipleship and our mission. Howard Snyder in The Community of the King accurately shows how the two go together:
Many churches do not share the gospel effectively because their communal experience of the gospel is too weak and tasteless to be worth sharing. It does not excite the believer to the point where he or she wants to witness, and (as the believer uncomfortably suspects) it is not all that attractive to the unbeliever. But where Christian fellowship demonstrates the gospel, believers become alive and sinners get curious and want to know what the secret is. So true Christian community becomes both the basis and the goal of evangelism.
Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.
Lots of people love the idea of Christian community more than they love the people in their Christian community. Why? Because community is hard. Relationships take work. People can have big problems and be big pains.
Maybe that’s why Paul says “practice hospitality.” Because what doesn’t come naturally or easily takes practice. Sort of like music scales and basketball free throws. You need to practice them over and over. The same goes for relationships in the church. When people come from different ages, backgrounds, races, cultures and socio-economic classes, relationships don’t always come naturally or easily. So “practice hospitality.” Get to know someone of a different age than you. Get to know know someone from a different culture than you. Step out of your comfort zone get to know a fellow Christian deeply.
And that's what makes church so wonderful. Where else can experience that kind of diversity within a committed community? Nowhere. But we might as well get used to it now, because we are going to be experiencing that kind of community forever in eternity.
After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice:
“Salvation belongs to our God,
who sits on the throne,
and to the Lamb.”
Practice hospitality. As your mom and coach said, "Some day you’ll be glad I made you practice." I think that day could be today.
Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.
Community is Jesus' discipleship and mission strategy. It's also Jesus’ battle strategy. And who doesn’t battle sin?
Tim Chester in Closing the Window: Step to Living Porn Free writes this:
You may say that confessing to another person is unnecessary because you’ve confessed your sin to God. And yes, it’s true that Jesus is our only Mediator. But it’s also true that Jesus has given us the Christian community to help us live for him. So ask yourself this: why are you happy to confess your sin to God but not to a human being? Could it be that you fear their opinion? Think about that for a moment. You’re more concerned about the opinion of a human being than the opinion of God. You fear man more than you fear God. The Bible repeatedly encourages us to help one another walk in holiness. Why are you spurning this help? Because the approval of other people matters more to you than overcoming your sin. Being thought of as holy matters more than actually being holy. ‘I have heard people tell me many times,’ says Steve Gallagher, ‘that they do not have anyone to confess to. What they were really saying is that they were not desperate enough to seek out someone that might be able to assist them.’
This is why confession to another person is so important. It’s an act that signals and reinforces your real commitment to purity. He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy (Proverbs 28:13).
Tim Chester may be focusing on viewing pornography, but the biblical principles are the same for any sin we battle with. Confession of sin, not just to God, but to others, leads to true healing and forgiveness. Let someone know what you are battling. Let them support you in the struggle. You will experience a greater healing and victory than you have so far!
Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
Paul isn’t living his Christian life in neutral. He’s not coasting to his goal of becoming like Jesus. He’s running toward it. He’s giving it all he has. Why? Because he has a vision and a goal. "I want to become like Jesus. I want to cross the finish and here the Father say to me, 'Well, done good and faithful servant.'”
So Paul’s passion, vision and inspiration empowered his discipline, effort and hard work.
In his book Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life Donald Whitney shares a great illustration of how vision gives brith to discipline.
Imagine six-year-old Kevin, whose parents have enrolled him in music lessons. After school every afternoon, prompted by his mother, he slouches into the living room and strums songs he must practice but doesn’t like while watching his buddies play baseball in the park across the street. That’s discipline without direction. It’s drudgery.
Now suppose Kevin is visited by an angel one afternoon during guitar practice. In a vision, he’s transported to Carnegie Hall. He’s shown a guitar virtuoso giving a concert. Usually bored by classical music, Kevin is astonished by what he sees and hears. The musician’s fingers dance on the strings with fluidity and grace. Kevin thinks of how stupid and clunky his own hands feel when they halt and falter over the chords. The virtuoso blends clean, soaring notes into a musical aroma that wafts from his guitar. Kevin remembers the toneless, irritating discord that comes stumbling out of his.
But Kevin is enchanted. His head tilts to one side as he listens. He drinks in everything. He never imagined that anyone could play the guitar like this.
“What do you think, Kevin?” asks the angel.
The answer is a soft, slow, six-year-old’s “W-o-w!”
The vision vanishes, and the angel is again standing in front of Kevin in his living room. “Kevin,” says the angel, “the wonderful musician you saw is you in a few years.” Then pointing at the guitar, the angel declares, “But you must practice!”
Suddenly the angel disappears and Kevin finds himself alone with his guitar. Do you think his attitude toward practice will be different now? As long as he remembers what he’s going to become, Kevin’s discipline will have a direction, a goal that will pull him into the future. Yes, effort will be involved, but you could hardly call it drudgery.
Do you have a vision of who you are becoming in Jesus? Can you see yourself more and more like Him? See it. Desire it. Want it. And then go for it. Discipline yourself to become more like Jesus. Press on toward the goal.
Douglas Rumford has it right: If discipline is seen as an end in itself, it is as dry as dust. It is just plain hard work. A vision must be attached to the discipline (SoulShaping).
Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed--not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence--continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.
Douglas Rumford in his book SoulShaping writes:
How do we “work out” our salvation? By the activities, the disciplines, and the intentions we call spirituality. While we can do nothing to save or redeem ourselves, we are given the means for participating in the fullest expression of God’s love and power in our lives. As we go along, it becomes very clear that grace - God’s love and power - sustains us. Yet coasting all the way to heaven is a seriously inaccurate perception of grace’s work in our lives. We are on our way to Christlikeness, but we take the steps ourselves empowered by God’s gracious Spirit.
Having begun with the Spirit, we do not continue in our own energy. but we do activity contribute our own energy as the Spirit empowers us. This is no easy concept to articulate with theological accuracy! Divine grace and human responsibility together form an age-old paradox. We can sum it up this way: Believe and follow, and don’t worry about discerning the boundary between God’s power and human energy. We might as well try to mark the exact dividing line between the water molecules of the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean or between those of the Indian Ocean and the Pacific. Somehow, these two energies emerge.
Probably the best way to put it is this way:
Christ is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ. To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me.
1 Corinthians 15:9-10
For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.
Dallas Willard puts it well: Grace is not opposed to effort, it is opposed to earning.
Paul put the effort into following hard after Jesus. That's why Paul become more and more like Jesus. It's not something he earned, but it is something he worked hard at because God's power was hard a work in Paul.
“Come, follow me,” Jesus said.
Do you have a vision of becoming more like Jesus? Are you willing to put the work into become like Jesus?
In The Spirit of the Disciplines Dallas Willard writes:
My central claim is that we CAN become like Christ by doing one thing - by following him in the overall style of life he chose for himself. If we have faith in Christ, we must believe that he knew how to live. We can, through faith and grace, become like Christ by practicing the types of activities he engaged in, by arranging our whole lives around the activities he himself practiced in order to remain constantly at home in the fellowship of his Father.
Let’s take one key activity that we see Jesus practicing over and over - prayer. Prayer is how Jesus maintained connection with His Heavenly Father. And it's the way we can maintain connection with our Heavenly Father too. So practice it. Here’s a pattern for prayer that you can practice. It's based on the acronym P-R-A-Y.
P - PRAISE - Lord, I praise You for …
R - REPENT - Lord, I repent of …
A - ASK - Lord, I ask You for …
Y - YIELD - Lord, I yield my life, my desires, my plans to You. How do you want to lead me? (Then be still in presence of God.)
I personally like this simple acronym and pattern. I like it because I can work through even while I'm driving or doing other things. It's a very simple tract to run on. And I like it because it forces me to go to place I normally wouldn't go to, like regularly repenting of my sin. Usually my prayers consist of most A - Ask. P - Praise and R - Repent and Y - Yield are important too.
Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.
“Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.
“When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ So he got up and went to his father.
The story of the Prodigal Son is a perfect illustration of what true repentance is all about. The Prodigal Son finally comes to his senses and realizes where his selfish rebellion against his father has taken him - to a pigsty. But instead of wallowing in the mud of shame and regret, he heads back home to humble himself and admit his guilt to his father.
Now, repentance may seem like a negative thing, but in actuality, it’s one of the most positive concepts in the Bible. Why? Because repentance is the way back Home to God. It’s the road everyone must take to find forgiveness and be reconciled with our Heavenly Father.
As C.S. Lewis says, repentance is “not something God demands of you before he will take you back … it is simply what going back to him is like. If you ask God to take you back without it, you are really asking him to let you go back without going back. It cannot happen” (Mere Christianity).
Are you ready to go back? Then come to your senses and head Home. The Father will welcome you.
So what do you need to repent of? Prayerfully finish this sentence, "Father, I've come to my senses and see that I have wandered far from Home by (fill in the blank). I now come Home to You through repentance and thank You for Your forgiveness, welcome and love. In Your Son's and my Biggest Brother's name, Jesus Christ. Amen."
“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.
“The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’
“But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.
Do you want something to celebrate? How about the Father's forgiveness?
Jesus gives us a crystal clear window into the Father's heart. He loves to party. And what He really loves to celebrate is when one of His daughters and sons comes home through repentance. Do you believe that the Father threw a party for you when you first repented and believed? And do you believe that you can still bring a smile to His face by coming Home through repentance whenever you wander away in sin? It's true. So give the Father something to celebrate. Repent.
But also join the celebration yourself. Don't let the Father just dance alone. Join Him in doing a jig of joy. When we repent, God forgives us and sets us free. Now, that's something to celebrate!
So celebrate the Love that is celebrating you. Ask the Father to reveal to your heart how much He has forgiven and loves you.
“Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’
“The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’
“‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours.But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”
There's always one in a family - a party pooper! Here the father and the younger son are celebrating their reunion and the older son is outside sulking in self-righteousness. Can you image the joy it would have brought to the father if the older son had come in and joined the party? Can you image his heartbreak if the older son refused to come in?
Don't be a party pooper. Forgive your younger brothers or sisters. Sitting outside sulking in self-righteousness doesn't look good on you. Neither does it look good for the cause of Christ. Join the celebration and extend the forgiveness that the Father has given you to others.
Here's a good way to do that. This is adapted from Neil Anderson's 7 Steps to Freedom in Christ.
MY DECISION TO FORGIVE
Lord Jesus, I choose to forgive (person’s name) for (what they did to hurt me). I choose not to hold on to my resentment. I relinquish my right to seek revenge and ask You to heal me. Thank you for setting me free from the bondage of my bitterness. I now ask You to bless (person’s name). In Jesus' name, I pray. Amen.
Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it.
The Story Behind the Song “I Have Decided to Follow Jesus”
By Dr. Peramangalam Job
About 150 years ago, there was a great revival in Wales, England. As a result of this, many missionaries came from England to northeast India to spread the Gospel. The region was known as Assam and comprised hundreds of tribes. The tribal communities were quite primitive and aggressive. The tribesmen were also called head-hunters because of a social custom which required the male members of the community to collect as many heads as possible. A man’s strength and ability to protect his wife was assessed by the number of heads he had collected. Therefore, a youth of marriageable age would try and collect as many heads as possible and hang them on the walls of his house. The more heads a man had, the more eligible he was considered. Into this hostile and aggressive community, came a group of Welsh missionaries spreading the message of love, peace, and hope of Jesus Christ. Naturally, they were not welcomed. One Welsh missionary finally succeeded in converting a man, his wife, and two children. This man’s faith proved contagious and many villagers began to accept Christianity. Angry, the village chief summoned all the villagers. He then called the family who had first converted to renounce their faith in public or face execution. Moved by the Holy Spirit, the man sung his reply, “I have decided to follow Jesus. No turning back.”
Enraged at the refusal of the man, the chief ordered his archers to arrow down the two children. As both boys lay twitching on the floor, the chief asked, “Will you deny your faith? You have lost both your children. You will lose your wife too.”
But the man replied, again singing, “Though none go with me, still I will follow. No turning back.”
The chief was beside himself with fury and ordered his wife to be arrowed down. In a moment she joined her two children in death. Now he asked for the last time, “I will give you one more opportunity to deny your faith and live.”
In the face of death the man sung, “The cross before me, the world behind me. No turning back. No turning back.”
He was shot dead like the rest of his family. But with their deaths, a miracle took place. The chief who had ordered the killings was moved by the faith of the man. He wondered, “Why should this man, his wife and two children die for a Man who lived in a far-away land on another continent some 2,000 years ago? There must be some supernatural power behind the family, and I too want that supernatural power.”
In a spontaneous confession of faith, he declared, “I too belong to Jesus Christ!” When the crowd heard this from the mouth of their chief, the whole village accepted Christ as their Lord and Savior.
As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.”
Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”
He said to another man, “Follow me.”
But he replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”
Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”
Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.”
Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”
NO RESERVEs . . . NO RETREATs . . . NO REGRETs
By Ronnie W. Floyd
In the early 1900’s, 16-year-old William Whiting Borden graduated from a Chicago high school. He was an heir to the Borden fortune. Before Borden began his Ivy League education at Yale University, his parents sent him on a trip around the world for his graduation present.
Earlier in Borden’s life, he had come to Christ through the great ministry of D.L. Moody. While on his trip around the world, something happened that no one expected. As Borden traveled through Asia, the Middle East, and Europe, he felt a growing burden for the world’s hurting people.
Throwing his life away
Borden wrote a letter to his parents and informed them that he wanted to spend the remainder of his life being a missionary. Upon hearing the news, one of his friends remarked that he would be “throwing his life away as a missionary.”
Upon his return, Borden went on to Yale University and graduated. He then studied and graduated from Princeton Theological Seminary. When Borden finished his elite Ivy League education, he boarded a ship for China to serve as a missionary.
Due to his passion to reach the Muslim people, he stopped in Egypt to learn the Arabic language. While he was in Egypt, 25-year-old Borden contracted spinal meningitis. Within a month, he was dead.
A wave of sorrow went around the world
When the news of Borden’s death was cabled back to the United States nearly every major American newspaper reported on it. As stated in his biography, “A wave of sorrow went around the world . . . he not only gave up his fortune, but himself to be a missionary.”
Borden had walked away from his wealthy fortune to take the Gospel of Jesus to the nations of the world. Most regarded it as a tragedy; however, God took the tragedy and did something far greater than Borden could ever do himself. When thousands of young men and women read Borden’s story in the newspapers of America, it inspired them to leave all they had and give their lives to reach the nations with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Statements of Conviction
When Borden’s parents were given his Bible, they found the following. Just after he renounced his fortune to go to missions he wrote the words, “No Reserves.” His father told him he would always have a job in the company, then at a later point, his father told him he would never let him work in the company again, at this time Borden wrote in his Bible, “No Retreats.” Then, they discovered in his Bible these words written shortly before his death in Egypt, “No Regrets.”
Was his life a waste? Not from God’s perspective. God used his life and death to call thousands and thousands of young men and women to leave all they had and give their lives to reach the nations with the Gospel. God did greater things through Borden’s story than He may have ever done with his life in China.
Your life this week
We can all get in a mode of playing it safe in life. We tend to retreat from those things that are hard. When we look back over time, we often have many regrets. How will you live this week? Live life this week with . . .
No reserves: Do NOT hold back this week. Whatever it is or whatever you are facing, do not hold back. Face it. Go for it.
No retreats: Do NOT always choose the easy path this week. There are times when God’s will is not easy. Go forward in what God is leading you to do in life. Do not turn back. Go forward with God.
No regrets: Do NOT live cautiously this week. When this week is over have no regrets. Live life to the fullest. Choose only God’s will this week.
Live life this week with No Reserves, No Retreats, and No Regrets.
Therefore go and make disciples
We’re Called to Make Disciples, Not Converts:
Has a culture of convenience and consumerism changed the way we preach the Gospel?
By Tyler Edwards
What if I told you that Jesus didn’t want us to win converts? What if I said that in all of Scripture we are never told to convert anyone? What if I proposed that people accepting Jesus into their life does not fulfill our mission?
We may share the Gospel, but it’s not always the same Gospel Jesus shared. Our version can be a little softer. It can be easier. The message, too often, has been watered down. Many of us don’t want to be called radicals. Many of us take the message of Jesus, and we omit some of the more intense parts because they might scare people away.
An Inconvenient Truth
Out of our desire to win converts we’ve often tried to make Jesus more convenient. That’s what our culture is all about. So watering down the Gospel to reflect the culture can be an easy trap to fall into.
We often make following Jesus comfortable and easy, reducing the expectations: You don’t have to do anything different. Just believe.
Carrying our cross has been reduced from a radical relationship of self-sacrificing love and humility to cheap advertisements with bracelets, jewelry and bumper stickers. We turned following Jesus into little more than eternal “fire” insurance. In so doing we made Him something He is not: safe.
What happened to Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s idea of, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die”?
The Consumerism Gospel
When we sell people on a Jesus who is easy to follow, can we really blame them for bailing out or drifting off when things don’t go smoothly?
It shouldn’t be surprising living in a consumer-based culture, that many times people bring the same attitudes into church: It’s my way, my preferences, my desires that are important. If I don’t get my way, I’ll take my business elsewhere.
In watering down the Gospel we have taken what is all about Jesus and made it all about us.
Jesus is a part of our lives when He should be our life. He is life. Following Him requires all our life. The disciples ate, drank, sweat and slept ministry from when Jesus called them to the day they died. Jesus wasn’t a part of their lives. He was their life.
We all are guilty of putting things above Jesus. Whether it's health, wealth, comfort, causes, dreams, hobbies or interests, we all come to Jesus with expectations of what He will do for us. We all have our passions and causes.
But Jesus didn’t come to take sides. Jesus came to take over.
A Change of Heart
Jesus doesn’t call us to be converts or to win converts. Jesus calls us to make disciples.
Jesus offers us grace and love without condition, but not without expectation. When we try to water down the message by saying things like, You don’t have give up sin. You don’t have to change. You don’t have to be transformed. You don’t have to die to yourself. You just need to believe. In doing this, not only are we depriving people of the truth. We are denying them access to a real, transforming relationship with the almighty God.
Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Jesus calls us to be His disciples AND to make Him disciples. But what is a disciple? Let's define our terms. A disciple is someone who is Jesus' apprentice - learning to think and feel and act like Him. A disciple, then, is someone who is in the process of coming to Jesus, trusting in Jesus and becoming like Jesus.
Maybe this diagram will help you picture what it means to be a disciple.
Now most people see the discipleship process starting when you trust in Jesus and become a Christian. Jesus, however, sees the the whole process from coming to Him, trusting Him and becoming like Him as the discipleship process. So when Jesus says "make disciples", He’s not just talking just talking about discipling Christians. He's talking about discipling non-Christians too. He's talking about starting with an unbeliever and helping them grow into a fully devoted follower of Him.
So Jesus' strategy is very simple: Be my apprentice and make other apprentices as you go about your life. So simple and so effective. Think about how the Gospel has spread all around the world today. Jesus' strategy works!
The problem is many in the church today think that Jesus' two-fold strategy of being His disciples and making disciples for Him is optional, at least for your typical Christian. "That's what the 'professional' Christians do, but not normal Christians like me, right?" Wrong. I don't think that's what Jesus had in mind when He gave us His commission in Matthew 28, do you?
I think C.S. Lewis is bang on (he often is):
It is easy to think that the Church has a lot of different objects—education, buildings, missions, holding services ... the Church exists for nothing else but to draw men into Christ, to make them little Christs. If they are not doing that, all the cathedrals, clergy, missions, sermons, even the Bible itself, are simply a waste of time. God became Man for no other purpose. (Mere Christianity).
"Little Christs"! That's a great definition of a disciple. May Jesus help us be one and make many.
One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”
“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
“Well said, teacher,” the man replied. “You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”
When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And from then on no one dared ask him any more questions.
In effect, Jesus says, "Good answer! You're so close to the Kingdom now. Not there yet, mind you, but so close. Why don't you just take the next step and enter the Kingdom."
Jesus understands that people move progressively toward Him. In other words, coming to Jesus is a process. There are certain steps that people go and grow through. The Engel's scale was developed to show what kind of steps people go through in coming to Jesus, in trusting in Jesus and then becoming like Jesus. This diagram is adapted from this scale:
Now the steps listed here aren't meant to be exhaustive. There's just not enough room for that. So can you think of a step that is missing? Why do you think that's an important step in the process of coming to Jesus, trusting in Jesus and becoming like Jesus?
From the steps listed here and ones that you have added, what's your next step in moving closer to Jesus and becoming more and more like Jesus? What do you have to do to take that next step?
After this, Jesus went out and saw a tax collector by the name of Levi sitting at his tax booth. “Follow me,” Jesus said to him, and Levi got up, left everything and followed him.
Then Levi held a great banquet for Jesus at his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were eating with them. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law who belonged to their sect complained to his disciples, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?”
Jesus answered them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”
That didn't take long. Levi (aka Matthew) becomes a disciple of Jesus and immediately starts to make disciples of Jesus. I don't even think Matthew fully believed in Jesus yet. After all, Matthew had just met Jesus and it took years before the disciples fully believed in Jesus. But once again, that didn't stop Matthew from introducing his tax collector buddies to Jesus. And it shouldn't stop us.
Maybe you're not a perfect disciple yet. (Whoever is!) But don't let that stop you from fulfilling Jesus two-fold goal for your life - to be His disciple and make Him disciples. Check out this diagram.
Notice where the two discipleship "bow ties" overlap. You don't have to fully trust in Jesus before helping others come to Jesus. That was Matthew's story. He met Jesus, just got started following Jesus and began to invite others to meet Jesus right away. So whom can begin introducing Jesus to? Once again, it doesn't matter where you are at in the process of coming to, trusting in and becoming like Jesus. Just get started.