The purpose of discipleship is to help Christians grow up in Christ, to become mature, solid believers with Christ-like character, who are able then to help others in the same process.
When people are born again, they are not born as mature Christians, but babies. Just as all living creatures are born as physical babies, so those who are born again are born as spiritual babies.
Sometimes we see new believers prematurely put into ministry or given responsibilities because of their zeal and excitement in their new life. We either don’t recognize or don’t remember that they are babies. Zealous and excited, but babies. Like all babies they need nurturing and training to become mature and truly useable in the Kingdom. This is the role of discipleship.
Our level of maturity in Christ is not necessarily related to how long we’ve been a Christian. In his letter to the Galatian Christians Paul wrote,
My children, with whom I am again in labor until Christ is formed in you…
Having Christ formed in us takes time. Discipleship requires love, wisdom, patience and labor. But the rewards are great, both for the one giving and the one receiving discipleship.
Paul was speaking here of the things that might seem likely to separate a saint from the love of God. But the remarkable thing is that nothing can come between the love of God and a saint. The things Paul mentioned in this passage can and do disrupt the close fellowship of our soul with God and separate our natural life from Him. But none of them is able to come between the love of God and the soul of a saint on the spiritual level. The underlying foundation of the Christian faith is the undeserved, limitless miracle of the love of God that was exhibited on the Cross of Calvary; a love that is not earned and can never be. Paul said this is the reason that “in all these things we are more than conquerors.” We are super-victors with a joy that comes from experiencing the very things which look as if they are going to overwhelm us.
Huge waves that would frighten an ordinary swimmer produce a tremendous thrill for the surfer who has ridden them. Let’s apply that to our own circumstances. The things we try to avoid and fight against— tribulation, suffering, and persecution— are the very things that produce abundant joy in us. “We are more than conquerors through Him” “in all these things”; not in spite of them, but in the midst of them. A saint doesn’t know the joy of the Lord in spite of tribulation, but because of it. Paul said, “I am exceedingly joyful in all our tribulation” (2 Corinthians 7:4).
The undiminished radiance, which is the result of abundant joy, is not built on anything passing, but on the love of God that nothing can change. And the experiences of life, whether they are everyday events or terrifying ones, are powerless to “separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:39).
Taken frrom my Utmost for His Highest
In the Seven Areas of Life Training, the flesh is defined in a number of ways.
…wanting your own way, wanting everything for yourself, wanting to appear important…
…the part of you that can be enticed to sin and rebel against God.
…the selfish desire to meet your needs apart from God…
Inherent in all of these definitions is the concept of self and selfishness in opposition to the Spirit of God. I have observed that almost every word with the prefix self is a representation of the flesh. For example:
Some of these words might surprise you as being representative of the flesh, but in each case the focus is on the self-life rather than Christ’s life in us.
There are a couple of words with the prefix self that we are encouraged to cultivate in our lives. Do you know what they are?
Self-control is a fruit of the Spirit. (Galatians 5:23)
Self-denial is required of us if we want to be disciples of Jesus. (Luke 9:23)
What words can you add to the lists?
I am preparing for a trip to India. This will be my 4th trip. Needless to say I have grown very fond of the people and country of India. We will be spending 30 hours training 160 lead pastors of two different ministries how to use SALT with their people. We also will be doing a marital conference for 70 pastors and their wives during this stay. As well, we have also been given the opportunity to preach in the evenings on Wednesday and Thursday.
I have been praying what topic God might want us to preach about and have been impressed to teach on John 14: 35 “ By this they will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another”.
I wanted to look at a topic that has a universal understanding, not just for India. I am certain that if the church of Jesus Christ would truly love each other that we could turn the world upside down for Christ.
The problem seems to be that Christian have divided themselves up and have in many cases based their division on non essential Christian issues like taking communion or your method of baptism, or whether or not tongues are for today and some have even separated over what version of the Bible must be used. I do believe that there are things we must agree on, His virgin birth, His sinless life, His crucifixion, and His resurrection. Once we are in agreement on these we can love our brothers and sisters who may have different opinions on non-essentials. We agree to disagree. More important we come together as the army of God and work together to usher in the return of our Lord. As we show the world how much we love each other they will then know that we are Christians.
In India there only 2 to 3% who are professing Christians. They need each other. Together they represent an army of 25 million people. I am convinced with a proper heart attitude of love and cooperation verse competition India could become a Christian nation. I look at the great commission Matthew 28:19-20
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 obey all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.
He did not say in all nations but of all nations and I am just crazy enough to believe that my God can make India a Christian nation.
“A committed young missionary came to me for help figuring out his life purpose. Over the weeks we’d been working together, he’d poured out his heart to me. We talked about his dreams for starting a ministry center as well as the disappointment of losing his support, his relational challenges with other missionaries, the passion he had for reaching youth and the times he’s chafed under controlling leaders.
‘So,’ I finally offered, ‘Let me sum up our conversation. I’m hearing that you really feel called to ministry; you just don’t want to get hurt anymore.’
‘Yeah, that’s about it,’ he replied.
After a moment’s reflection, I asked, ‘Think about Jesus’ life for a second. He was betrayed by one of His inner circle, abandoned by His best friends and tortured to death in the process of living out His life purpose. How will you become like Him if you never get hurt? And how will you ever really know Him if your life is nothing like His?’
That rocked him back a bit.
We reflected together on the story of Jesus’ life, pondering how the fellowship of His sufferings is inextricable linked with the power of His resurrection. That conversation transformed this young man’s expectations about his vocation.”
Taken from A Leader’s Life Purpose by Tony Stoltzfus
But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ – the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in His suffering, becoming like Him in His death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.
The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs – heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in His sufferings in order that we may also share in His glory. I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.
Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when His glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you… So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.
(I Peter 4:12-19)
This past week I ran my first marathon.
I give all the praise to God! He gave me the strength to finish and then gave me
a dose of humility. I came in dead last! I was not an athlete in High School.
Several years ago while getting a physical the doctor asked me if I was a runner.
“No way,” was my reply. He then told me that I have the heart of a marathon runner.
So, last year I began planning and training.
Check out these running jokes –
“My doctor recently told me that jogging could add years to my life.
I think he was right. I feel ten years older already.”
“You have to stay in shape. My grandmother started walking five miles a day
when she was 60. She’s 97 today and we don’t know where she is.”
All jokes aside, it is difficult to keep our bodies in shape.
Most of don’t do physical labor. Therefore we have to add some kind of exercise to our lives.
Let’s examine Hebrews 12:1-2 and see how living the Christian life is compared with running a race.
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith.”
We are reminded of the many people in God’s Word who were stretched physically for God’s work.
“Let us strip off every weight that slows us down.”
Extra weight is removed by a serious runner. What is your weight today? Could it be fear and worry?
“Especially the sin that so easily trips us up.”
Is there a secret sin in your life today? If allowed to continue it will trip you up and cause a major downfall.
“And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.”
Remember the story of the tortious and the hare? Slow and steady wins the race.
I saw many people walking the marathon and they all finished ahead of me.
Endurance is the ability to continue performing a given task over a prolonged period of time.
Will you finish well your life of faith? Even though I was last there were about a dozen other runners who did not finish.
They were picked up by a bus. That would have been embarrassing!
“We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus.”
As Christians we can easily forget we are in a race.
We need to run toward Jesus and run away from anything or anyone who would pull us away from Him.
Look to Him. He is the goal and the finish line.
Let’s run with endurance today. Don’t let your body tell you what to do.
If need be, make a plan to move your muscles.
Ask God what He wants you to do to take better care of His body.