Multiply: The Local Church

Here we are again, another week. ¬†Hope your week went well, mine did. ūüôā We continue our study in Part II: Living as the Church: Session 2: The Local Church. Don’t forget to follow along: https://multiplymovement.com/material. ¬†This week we get to examine what the disciple-maker looks like within the local church. ¬†“You are on this earth to continue the mission that Jesus left for you… but you can’t do that on your own” (65). ¬†Jesus’s plan for us includes being unified with others who are on the same mission we are. ¬†We have a responsibility to each other. ¬†However, we are not to spend all our time within the confines of the church. ¬†As we work together to support one another, we can reach out to those beyond the church. ¬†Jesus says His purpose was to “seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10 NASB). ¬†As followers of Christ, this is our purpose too.

Discussion Question #1: Would you say that your church is more inwardly focused or outwardly focused? Why do you say that?

Known By Our Love

Wouldn’t it be nice if there were something that distinguished followers of Christ from non-followers? ¬†Maybe we wear a different style of clothing or carry a mark on our bodies or maybe a secret handshake? ¬†Christ says there IS a way we can recognize followers of Christ:

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. ¬†By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35 NSAB).

By this all men will know…” We will be recognized as followers of Christ, as the church, by the love we have for each other and for those who are lost. ¬†It will be like nothing they have ever seen. ¬†Our love will be a like a beacon, like a huge neon sign that says “CHRIST DWELLS HERE”! ¬†There are many things that are the “duties” of the church, but if these are not done in love, they “profit nothing”.

Discussion Question #2: Read 1 Corinthians 13. Would you say that the life of your church is characterized by love? Why or why not?

Discussion Question #3: What steps can you take to be an example of love in your church? Whether you are an official leader in your church or not, how can you lead others in being more loving?

A Compelling Community

Did you know that Jesus prayed for us specifically just before he died? ¬†Let’s take a peek at John 17 in verses 20-23:

‚ÄúI do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me.¬†¬†The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one;¬†I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me.”

“For those also who believe in Me through their word..”¬†Hey! That’s us! Jesus prayed for us! ¬†Let’s pay close attention to what He prayed for. ¬†He prayed for us to be united. ¬†Sounds like a good idea, right? Everyone could use a bit of harmony and peace. But Jesus prayed for unity for a specific reason: “so that the world may believe you sent Me”. ¬†Our unity is a testimony to the truth of Jesus’ mission.

Discussion Question #4: Read John 17. Pay careful attention to Jesus’s desire for His followers. Would you say that your church could be characterized by this kind of unity? Why or why not?

Discussion Question #5: Take some time to think about your church and your unique cultural setting. What would it take for your church to be united, and for that unity to be displayed to the unbelieving world?

Jesus wants our interactions within the church to be so noticeably different from the world that it cannot be hidden. ¬†We shouldn’t have to try to pretty up our church services or church buildings to try to make ourselves more attractive. ¬†The world should be naturally drawn to us by our love and our unity. ¬†Peter gives us warning on how to interact with the world:

¬†“Who is there to harm you if you prove zealous for what is good? ¬†But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. And do not fear their¬†intimidation, and do not be troubled,¬†but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always¬†being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence; and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame” (1 Pet. 3:13-16 NASB).

Our attractiveness should come from our love and unity so that the world will have nothing to slander us by.

Discussion Question #6:¬†Do you ever feel like a salesperson when sharing your faith, peddling a product that didn’t really work for you? What steps can you take to change this?

Discussion Question #7:¬†What would it mean for your church to live as a compelling community‚ÄĒa group of people who demonstrate love, unity, and hope in such a way that the unbelieving world is compelled to find out what is going on?

A Kingdom of Priests

In the Old Testament, priests had a special role to fill. “A priest represented the people to God–interceding on their behalf–and represented God o the people–meditating His truth, commands, and grace into their lives” (73). ¬†In the New Testament, the church was given this job. ¬†We are “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God‚Äôs own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Pet. 2:9 NASB).¬†The church is called to be and to do what Israel failed to be and to do” (74).

Discussion Question #8:¬†Read 1 Peter 2:4‚Äď12. How should Peter‚Äôs description of our calling as the church affect the way we think about and interact with our surrounding community?

Your Church Matters

Being a working member of the church is an important part of being a disciple maker, but if we are not reaching out to the world as well, we are kind of missing the point. ¬†“God blessed Abraham so that He could bless the world through him” (74). ¬†He didn’t just bless Abraham. ¬†He doesn’t want to just bless you. ¬†He doesn’t want to just bless those who are already in the church. ¬†He wants to bless us so that He can bless the world. ¬†Such is the all-encompassing love of the Father. ¬†Never forget that you, yes you, have a part to play in God’s plan of redemption. ¬†You are set in your specific circumstances in your specific church for a reason. ¬†God has plans for you right where you are. ¬†If you see a need or a chance for growth within your church, don’t wait for someone else in the church to step up. ¬†You can step up and you can help your church get on the path that God intends for it.

Discussion Question #9: Spend some time in prayer. God’s calling for your church is too important to neglect, and it’s too important to take on without the power of the Spirit. Ask God to so fill the life of your church with His Spirit that your community notices a difference. Ask Him to equip you for the role He has called you to play in His plan of redemption.

I hope you have been blessed by our study this week and that you have some good points to ponder throughout the week.  Until next week, God bless!

With Fear and Trembling?

Something I’ve noticed in my studies lately is that people in the Bible tend to react with fear or grief when they experience God. ¬†And I wondered, why is that? ¬†Why, in the presence of the glorious righteous King Who has done all in His power to save us and show His awesome Love, do they grieve? ¬†Why do they tremble?

All the people perceived the thunder and the lightning flashes and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking; and when the people saw it, they trembled and stood at a distance. ¬†Then they said to Moses, ‚ÄúSpeak to us yourself and we will listen; but let not God speak to us, or we will die'” (Ex. 20:18-19 NASB).

Then Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, ‘This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn or weep.’ For all the people were weeping when they heard the words of the law” (Neh. 8:9 NASB).

“Zacharias was troubled when he saw the angel, and fear gripped him” (Luke 1:12 NASB).

I understand that a fear of the Lord is a good thing in the sense of a reverence and respect for His awesome power, but should we be so afraid that we run from Him?  Is not that type of fear a lack of trust in Him, in His protection and love?  Perhaps it is not Him we fear, but a fear of judgement and the consequences of our own sinful nature.

“Then I said,

‘Woe is me, for I am ruined!
Because I am a man of unclean lips,
And I live among a people of unclean lips;
For my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts'” (Isa. 6:5 NASB).

“But when Simon Peter saw that, he fell down at Jesus‚Äô feet, saying, ‚ÄúGo away from me Lord, for I am a sinful man!'” (Luke 5:8 NASB).

Perhaps we are right in our fear of judgement for “the wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23). ¬†And yet, at the end of Nehemiah 8:10 it says this: “Do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength“. ¬†The joy of the Lord is your strength. Not His fearfulness or His judgement, but His joy.

And He brought forth His people with joy,
His chosen ones with a joyful shout” (Psa. 105:43 NASB).

Splendor and majesty are before Him,
Strength and joy are in His place” (1 Chron. 16:27 NASB).

“…In Your presence is fullness of joy…” (Psa. 16:11 NASB)

We can come to the Father in joy. ¬†Not being afraid of Him as our punisher, but rejoicing in Him as our deliverer through Jesus Christ. ¬†As Hebrews 4:16 says “Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need“. ¬†Let us draw near with joy.

Multiply: Life in the Church

I hope you have been blessed this week.  Seasonal blahs has made it hard for me to stay positive, but I am encouraged in the Word and so we press on.  Today we are picking up in Part II: Living as the Church: Session 1: Life in the Church.  I hope you will follow along: https://www.multiplymovement.com/material

So far we have looked at what a disciple is, why we should make disciples, and our heart motives for doing so. Today, we look at the support we will need to receive and give to make disciples. ¬†In today’s time, particularly in the Western world, we value individuality. For someone to “go it alone” is looked upon as strength. ¬†This is not God’s¬†design. ¬†“While every individual needs to obey Jesus’s call to follow, we cannot follow as individuals” (51). ¬†Disciples belong in a community, a church. ¬†“…The New Testament is full of commands to do this or that for ‘one another’. Love one another, pray for one another, encourage one another, etc.”(51).¬† We cannot follow Christ and ignore these teachings. ¬†We are meant to be “intertwin[ed]… with the Christians around us” (52). ¬†This unity is important for both living as a disciple and making more disciples. ¬†We can find this in the church.

Committing Your Life to the Church

First let’s define the church. ¬†It is not a building, a club, or an option. ¬†It is God’s plan for reaching the world. ¬†“The church is a group of redeemed people that live and serve together in such a way that their lives and communities are transformed” (52-53). ¬†God wants us to be a part of this kind of group for fellowship, for community, for fulfilling His mission. ¬†There are many verses in the Bible which addresses the church:

“But the Bible says the local church is important. God has entrusted local churches with godly leaders who teach us His Word and care for our souls (Heb. 13:17; 1 Pet. 5:1‚Äď8; 1 Tim. 3:1‚Äď13; 5:17; Titus 1:5‚Äď9). God has united us together in local churches to keep one another from sinning and straying from Christ (Gal. 6:1‚Äď5; Matt. 18:15‚Äď20). God has commanded us to gather together in local assemblies where we preach God‚Äôs Word, celebrate the Lord‚Äôs Supper, baptize new believers, and pray for and encourage one another (Acts 2:42; Heb. 10:24‚Äď25). Then we scatter to care for believers and to share the gospel with unbelievers (Acts 2:43‚Äď47). Clearly, being a disciple and making disciples involves committing your life to a local church where you are joined together with other believers under biblical leadership to grow in the likeness of Christ and to express the love of Christ to the world around you” (53-54).

Discussion Question #1: Why do you think the New Testament places such a high priority on Christians being committed members (or parts) of local churches? How can this priority best be reflected in your life?

Discussion Question #2: Read Ephesians 4:1-16.  How should this passage affect the way you view your responsibility to other Christians in the church?

Bearing One Another’s Burdens

It has been stated that every Christian disciple is a minister, so who should we be ministering to and how?  Paul gives us a hint:

“Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted. Bear one another‚Äôs burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ” (Gal. 6:1-2 NASB).

Ministry is simply helping those around you: bearing one another’s burdens, helping those struggling with sin. ¬†We are often tempted to bear our burdens alone, we think our problems are our own. ¬†When we are disciples of Christ, part of His church, our problems belong to the church. ¬†Your fellow Christians are called to encourage and to help you, just as you are called to help them. ¬†The benefit? “…our own sanctification happens as we minister to others” (56).

Discussion Question #3: Think about your unique setting and identify a few opportunities that God has given you to minister to the people around you.Have you taken advantage of these opportunities?

Discussion Question #4: Take a few minutes to meditate on Galatians 6:1-2. ¬†What would it look like to help bear someone else’s burden? ¬†Is there anyone in your life right now whom you should be helping in this way?

Getting Beneath the Surface

What does bearing burdens look like?  Sometimes helping others means not just changing external situations, sometimes, it means helping them to change their hearts.  We need to get to the heart of the matter, literally.  Jesus says out of the heart come all the things which defile a man:

“And He said to them, ‚ÄúAre you so lacking in understanding also? Do you not understand that whatever goes into the man from outside cannot defile him,¬†because it does not go into his heart, but into his stomach, and is eliminated?‚ÄĚ (Thus He declared all foods clean.) And He was saying, ‚ÄúThat which proceeds out of the man, that is what defiles the man. ¬†For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts,¬†fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries,¬†deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as¬†deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. ¬†All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man‚ÄĚ (Mark 7:18-23 NASB).

“Whatever help we can offer people who are struggling with sin has to be aimed at transforming hearts, not behavior” (58).

Discussion Question #5: Why do you think we tend to focus on the external circumstances and behavior when we try to help people change?

Discussion Question #6: Using your own words, try to explain why it is essential to get to the heart of the problem rather than merely addressing the circumstances and behavior.

Transformed by the Gospel

So we know we have to change the heart to change the behavior, how do we do that? Well… we can’t. ¬†Only God can:

“Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. ¬†I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances” (Ezek. 26:26-27 NASB).

We can help encourage change, but the change itself comes from God. ¬†“‘Getting saved’ is not about praying a prayer and then continuing to live our lives as though nothing happened. No, when God enters our lives, we are changed from the inside out” (59-60, emphasis added). ¬†We must remember where our power for change comes from. ¬†“The power to transform hearts and change lives comes from the Holy Spirit (John 6:63), through the Word of God (2 Tim. 3:16‚Äď17), and through prayer (James 5:16‚Äď20)” (60).

Discussion Question #7: How should the truth of the gospel and the power of the Holy Spirit affect the way we approach helping people change?

Bearing one another’s burdens is SO important. ¬†A church who does not bear each other’s burdens is a defeated church, a joyless church. ¬†This was never God’s intention. ¬†“If the church is going to fulfill its God-given mission in our modern world, we are going to have to take our responsibility to one another seriously. We will have to accept His call to bear one another‚Äôs burdens‚ÄĒeven when it‚Äôs messy, even when we find ourselves in over our heads” (61).

Discussion Question #8: Would you say that your church body is characterized more by defeat and isolation or by the power and transformation of the Holy Spirit? Why do you say that?

Discussion Question #9: What steps can you take right away to help your church function more like God intended?

Every Member Doing Its Part

Did you know that you, personally, have the power to help your church or harm your church? ¬†If you are sitting on the sidelines, your church is not functioning as God intended it to. ¬†You have work to do. ¬†You have people to minister to. ¬†“God placed you in your unique situation because He wants you to minister to and with the other Christians He has placed around you” (62). ¬†

“…We are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ,¬†from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love” (Eph. 4:15-16 NASB).

“The goal of the church is to grow up in every way into the likeness of Christ. But the church will never reach this goal unless ‘each part is working properly'” (63). ¬†We all have a responsibility, and if you are not doing your part, you may actually be¬†hurting your brothers and sisters. ¬†“Helping people change is what discipleship is all about” (63).

Discussion Question #10: Would you say that you have been playing your part in the body of Christ? If so, how might you still need to grow in this? If not, are you ready to get involved? What steps might you need to take?

Discussion Question #11: Spend some time in prayer. Ask God to give you confidence in the Spirit’s power to use you in ministering to other people. Ask Him for the wisdom to know what to do and the discernment to recognize people who need help. Pray that God would use you and your church to continue His plan of redemption in your unique setting.

I hope this lesson has given you plenty to think about as it has me. God bless you in the week to come.

The Celebration of Love

Facebook-Hearts-Best

On this “special” day that everyone turns to in celebration of love, I thought it only fair (and even better) to celebrate the love God has for us for “Who will separate us from the love of Christ?” (Rom. 8:35 NASB). This is one of my favorite songs:

The Love of God –¬†Fred¬≠er¬≠ick M. Leh¬≠man

The love of God is greater far
Than tongue or pen can ever tell;
It goes beyond the highest star,
And reaches to the lowest hell;
The guilty pair, bowed down with care,
God gave His Son to win;
His erring child He reconciled,
And pardoned from his sin.

Refrain

O love of God, how rich and pure!
How measureless and strong!
It shall forevermore endure
The saints’ and angels’ song.

When years of time shall pass away,
And earthly thrones and kingdoms fall,
When men, who here refuse to pray,
On rocks and hills and mountains call,
God’s love so sure, shall still endure,
All measureless and strong;
Redeeming grace to Adam‚Äôs race‚ÄĒ
The saints’ and angels’ song.

Refrain

Could we with ink the ocean fill,
And were the skies of parchment made,
Were every stalk on earth a quill,
And every man a scribe by trade,
To write the love of God above,
Would drain the ocean dry.
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Though stretched from sky to sky.

Refrain


Multiply: The Heart of a Disciple Maker

Morning! I hope you are enjoying your day and that you have been blessed by our study so far. Today we delve into the heart of a disciple maker.  What does that heart look like?  Once again, you can follow along: (https://www.multiplymovement.com/material) we are in Part 1: Living as a Disciple Maker: Session 3: The Heart of a Disciple Maker.

Now that you know what a disciple is and realize the reality of the necessity to make disciples, you have a question to ask yourself: Why do¬†you¬†want to make disciples? What is your motive? ¬†You will find that the motives of the heart are often called into question in things spiritual and this is no different. ¬†If you are attempting to make disciples for the wrong motives, you may be wasting your time and worst still, you may be doing more harm than good. ¬†“If God cared only about outward appearances and religious activities, then any effort toward ministry would please Him. ¬†But God tells us repeatedly that He cares more about the heart than the externals(39).

“But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees¬†not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart'” (1 Sam. 16:7 NASB).

Think about the Pharisees. ¬†They were all about outer religious activities. ¬†They made it their life to practice godliness, to make sure people around them were practicing godliness, and they were diligently teaching the law of God. ¬†However, Jesus makes it clear that they didn’t quite “get it”:

“‘This people honors Me with their lips,
But their heart is far away from Me.
‚ÄėBut in vain do they worship Me,
Teaching as doctrines the precepts of men‘” (Matt. 15:8-9 NASB).

Discussion Question #1: Take a moment to examine your heart.  In all honesty, why do you want to make disciples? Do you struggle with wanting your actions to be noticed by others?

Teaching Is Dangerous

“The Bible takes the role of a teacher very seriously, and so should we”(41). We have to be careful about why we want to teach. ¬†We don’t want to teach for our own desires or glory. ¬†Our words can do good for others or cause harm. ¬†“As a disciple maker, you could make a huge impact for the kingdom of God. Or you could lead people horribly astray”(42). ¬†James gave a strong warning about the power of the tongue.

Discussion Question #2: Read James 3:1-12 and meditate on James’s warning. ¬†How do these powerful words affect you? How might you need to adjust your approach to making disciples?

Love Comes First

Paul further adds to the ideal goal of our motives.  Paul says that if all our efforts for the Kingdom are practiced without love, they are completely worthless:

If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing” (1 Cor. 13:1-3 NASB).

“The result of loveless ministry is serious: ‘I am a noisy gong… I am nothing… I gain nothing…'”(43). ¬†Think again about your motives for teaching people. ¬†Are you teaching them out of love for them and love for God, or is something else driving you? ¬†If you are completely honest with yourself now, it will save heartache and disappointment later on, not only for you, but for those you seek to disciple. ¬†“A sure sign of a loveless heart is seeing people as a means to your own ends…Teaching others with this type of mentality is bound to be sterile and unfruitful”(43). ¬†Teaching people for Jesus is more than just having the right words. ¬†You can boundless knowledge to teach, but if you don’t have love, none of it matters. ¬†If you need more convincing let John say it for you:

“We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love abides in death” (1 John 3:14 NASB, emphasis added).

So you see, it isn’t just about imparting knowledge to people, it’s about love. ¬†It’s about the outflowing of God’s love and glory. ¬†It’s about demonstrating¬†your love of God through¬†a love of others who you will teach to love and obey God. ¬†Throughout your journey, constantly check your motives and ask God to purify them. ¬†This will become a worthwhile habit.

Discussion Question #3: Up to this point, would you say that your desire to make disciples has been motivated by love? Why or why not?

Discussion Question #4: Describe your love of the people God has placed in your life. What evidence can you point to that shows that you love the people around you?

Discussion Question #5: In addition to praying fervently, what practical steps can you take to increase your love for people?

Teaching by Example

“One of the worst things you are do is teach truths that you are not applying” (46). ¬†This is called hypocrisy. ¬†It is often the most common criticism of Christians. ¬†Jesus gave some grave warnings about people like this:

“…Therefore all that they tell you, do and observe, but do not do according to their deeds; for they say things and do not do them. ¬†They tie up heavy burdens and lay them on men‚Äôs shoulders, but they themselves are unwilling to move them with so much as a finger. But they do all their deeds to be noticed by men; for they broaden their¬†phylacteries and lengthen the tassels of their garments” (Matt. 23:3-5 NASB).

James also gives a warning:

But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; for once he has looked at himself and gone away,¬†he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. ¬†But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does” (James 1:22-25 NASB).

We must put into practice what we are calling others to do. ¬†Another thing to consider, we are to teach by example. ¬†How can we teach by example if we are not “practicing what we preach”? ¬†Hebrews says:

“Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the¬†result of their conduct, imitate their faith” (Heb. 13:7 NSAB).

We need to have a faith that we can put into action so that others may imitate our faith. ¬†“Because of this, being a disciple maker demands your entire life. ¬†If you’re not ready to lay down your life for Christ’s sake, then you are not ready to make disciples. ¬†It’s that simple” (47).¬†

This doesn’t mean that you must be perfect to being with. ¬†You do have to¬†realize that making disciples is costly. ¬†Being a disciple and making disciples is about transformation. ¬†You must be willing to be transformed¬†yourself¬†if you wish to see others transformed.

Discussion Question #6: Would you say that your life is being transformed by the power of God’s Word? ¬†Why or why not?

Discussion Question #7: What changes do you need to make in order to live the truth that you will be teaching other people?

Discussion Question #8: The things you’ve been thinking through in this session are not easy to address–there are no “quick fixes” here. ¬†End your time with this session by praying that God will give you the proper motivation to make disciples, increase your love for Him and the people around you, and empower you to live out the truths that He has called you to teach to others.

Once again, I hope you are blessed by this week’s study and you will be able to examine your motives with an open and honest heart. ¬†God bless you in the week to come.