What is a Christian disciple?

When Jesus said, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 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 everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20), His command of focus is “make disciples of all nations.”

The going, the baptizing, and the teaching are underneath the emphasis of making disciples. What is the meaning of “make disciples,” though? What is a disciple of Jesus?

A disciple is a follower of Jesus who helps others follow Jesus. In our church, we say often (and have been emphasizing the past few weeks during our 2020 Vision series), “Our passion is the gospel. Our church is our family. Our world is our mission.” That is a purpose and vision statement, I believe, that is true of someone who is a Christian disciple.

A Christian disciple is someone who has been changed by the gospel and thus is passionate about the gospel. As a result, a Christian disciple is part of an eternal family and longs to be actively involved in a local church – a church that preaches the gospel. Then, of course, that passion for the gospel drives the Christian disciple to help others know and experience the new life that is only found in and through the gospel.

A Christian disciple goes on mission so that others can become disciples and be baptized and learn to observe everything that Jesus has commanded.

Gospel. Family. Mission.

Go. Baptize. Make disciples. Teach to obey.

What is a Christian disciple? A Christian disciple follows Jesus and helps others to follow Jesus. Are you following Jesus? Are you helping others to follow Jesus? If you are a Christian disciple, you will either answer those questions with a yes, or you are convicted that something needs to change in your life.

As a Christian disciple, you have the Holy Spirit. You have Jesus “with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 20:20b). And, He will not allow you to live contently without being a disciple who makes disciples.

If you are not a Christian disciple, what is holding you back? Will you turn to Jesus today?

Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

The Blessing of Church as Family

Whether you feel like attending your church services Sunday morning or not, be there. Gather with your church because you need your church, and your church needs you. Perhaps you are discouraged and overwhelmed with life; if so, you need others to build you up and encourage you. Perhaps you are doing well spiritually; if so, others need you to build up and encourage them.

I don’t need to go church to worship,” some might say.

Well, I have a few responses to that common excuse I hear from people who claim they do not need church.

  1. Yes, you and I can worship God anywhere, but we cannot experience the fulfillment and satisfaction God created us to experience apart from corporate worship and fellowship. I love to sing songs of praise to God, and I do so when I am driving down the road or walking down the hallway (alone), but those times alone do not even come close to worshiping God with my church family. Lifting up my voice in unison with others seeking to praise Him has no equal.
  2. No one goes to church, but rather we gather with the church. If you are stuck on the idea of “going to church,” you are missing the point that church is not a place but a people. Church is not a building but a body. Church is not a fabrication but a family. And every single person on this earth does better when living, as God intended, with a healthy family.
  3. What a selfish and foolish response it is to claim no need for the church. God created us to be in relationship – in relationship with Him and in relationship with one another. Furthermore, He commands us to gather regularly with the church, to serve the church, and to love the church. Thus, claiming you do not need the church is not only wrong but a selfish rejection of God’s plan for your life to love and serve others (and to be loved and be served).

No, you do not need the church to worship God, but what are you missing without the church? And, what is the church missing without you? We need one another.

On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will be continuing our 2020 Vision series and talking about the great blessing that “Our Church Is Our Family.” Looking at Romans 12:3-8, I hope to share three things church family ought to do continually. Do you value the church as family? Do you see the great blessing in this gift from God?

For by the grace given to me, I tell everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he should think. Instead, think sensibly, as God has distributed a measure of faith to each one. Now as we have many parts in one body, and all the parts do not have the same function, in the same way we who are many are one body in Christ and individually members of one another (Romans 12:3-5).

Members of a body rely on one another and simply cannot function properly on their own. So, the church. The church is the body of Christ, with Him as our Head. We are all under His leadership and authority, and we work together to honor Him and build up one another.

Do you see how, in light of that truth, we do need the church? If you have no desire to be a part of a Bible-teaching church, perhaps it is because you have not come to know the Good News. Please realize how much God loves you – so much so that He sent His One and Only Son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross for your sins and rise again for your victory over sin and death, if you will simply turn to Him.

If you make that decision to surrender your life to Jesus, I believe you will not only gather with the church; you will love and serve her faithfully.

Sunday is also “Youth Sunday,” meaning our youth praise band will lead our worship music, and various youth will pray and serve during the service. We will also have the privilege of hearing from Pastor Preston, our association’s director of missions, about his recent trip to Central Asia.

Passion Is Priority

Our kids opened a few presents last month. They received Christmas gifts about which they were seemingly excited. Of course, some gifts were received more gladly than others, while some have probably already been forgotten. The gifts about which our kids were sincerely passionate, though, are still used and talked about each day. They play with them. They care for them. They protect them. They declare their greatness.

They prioritize these gifts with their time, efforts, and energy because they are passionate about these gifts. Passion is priority.

Now, the reality is that all of these gifts are temporary, meaning they will not last forever, nor will the passion had for them last forever.

WE ARE PASSIONATE PEOPLE

Everyone is passionate about something. God created us this way, and we declare that passion in and through our priorities. You give of your time, your care, and your resources to that which you prioritize. Or, you end up prioritizing the thing(s) to which you give of your time, your care, and your resources (see Matthew 6:21).

We are passionate people, whether our personalities are outwardly charismatic or more reserved. So, what are you most passionate about?

If you have a relationship with Jesus Christ, can you possibly be more passionate about anything than you are about the gospel? Nothing is even close to as great as Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection for our salvation, and if you have experienced that salvation, you are surely passionate about it.

HAVE APPROPRIATE PASSION

On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will begin a 3-week sermon series on 2020 Vision. My hope is to challenge our church (both as a body and as individuals) to have the right (biblical) purpose and vision in 2020 and beyond, beginning with having appropriate passion – passion focused appropriately.

Our passion for the gospel ought to be greater than our passion for anything else. Is your passion the gospel? If not, why? Have you experienced new life in and through a relationship with Jesus Christ? Are you prioritizing your relationship with Him?

Micah, who received plenty of Christmas gifts about which he is passionate (at least for now), opening a gift with Papa and Mema.

Stop Settling for Less!

I am a fan of the Minnesota Twins. In fact, I have been a Twins fan for as long as I can remember. Unfortunately for me and other Twins fans (and the Twins organization), the Twins have not won the World Series in 28 years. For the most part since that last World Series title in 1991, they have been fairly irrelevant in the Major League Baseball picture. Well, except that they have lost an MLB-record (and major American sports record) 16 straight postseason games. Do you realize how difficult it is to lose 16 straight playoff games?

In a sport where a series of games are played in most postseason matchups, it is highly improbable for a team to lose 10 straight games, let alone 16 straight. Being a Twins fan is hard lately – really hard. But, I will stick with them. I will continue to be a Twins fan. You might say I am “settling” for less by choosing to be a Twins fan, and you are probably right.

A couple of days ago, arguably the best pitcher in baseball – Gerrit Cole – signed a monster free-agent contract to play for the New York Yankees. The Twins would have loved to sign Cole, but he did not choose the Twins. He chose the Yankees. By the way, 13 of those 16 straight postseason losses I mentioned earlier were to the Yankees. Ouch!

The Yankees beat the Twins again. Why did Cole choose the Yankees? Well, perhaps the more appropriate question would be: Why would Gerrit Cole not choose the Yankees? With the Yankees, he gets more money, more fame, and a much better chance to win championships. If he chose the Twins, he would be settling for something clearly less beneficial for his baseball career. Sure, I would have loved for him to sign with the Twins, but I certainly cannot blame him choosing the team he grew up cheering for, the team that could pay him a lot of money, and the team that is certainly good enough to win now.

Cole chose the Yankees because, naturally, people do not want to settle for second best. God created us that way.

I say all this not only because I wish the Twins were better, but more importantly because Jesus is the best. And, settling for anything less than Him is the ultimate act of foolishness. God created us to need Him and be in a right relationship with Him, but our sin makes that impossible. He loves us so much, though, that He sent His Son Jesus to take the punishment we deserve, making a way for us to have that right relationship with Him if we will simply turn from our sins and trust in Jesus to rescue us.

So much better than a $324 million contract and a chance to play for one of the most iconic sports franchises in world history, and even so much better than a chance to win multiple championships and get inducted into the hall of fame – so much better than all of that is having a right relationship with our Creator.

Garret Cole probably considered his decision to join the Yankees an easy decision. Anything else would have been settling for much less.

Well, trusting anything or anyone other than Jesus to save you from your sins and give you eternal peace is infinitely more foolish. Only Jesus saves. He Himself said it best when He said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father, except through Me” (John 14:6).

On Sunday, Lord willing, I will be finishing our Advent series – The Light Has Come – preaching on “The New and Better Way” (John 1:15-18). Do not settle for less than Jesus. “No one has ever seen God. The One and Only Son — the One who is at the Father’s side — He has revealed Him” (John 1:18). Settling for less than Jesus means settling for less than God, and you will only be disappointed.

Please realize, I am in no way saying that choosing the Yankees is like choosing God. In fact, as a Twins fan, I would have to say choosing the Yankees is more like choosing the devil ;-). Rather, I am simply making the point that we do not intentionally settle for less in much less important areas of life, so let us not do so in eternally important areas.

Photo by VisionPic .net on Pexels.com

The Humility and the Glory of the Incarnation

The most amazing part of the Christmas story is the part, I believe, we far too often take for granted – the incarnation. God put on flesh and became a human being!

Sure, we know Christmas is about the virgin birth of Jesus, and we sing songs about this miraculous event that changed everything. We have cute little nativity scenes and imagine the irony of the King of kings being born in a stable.

But, the incarnation… Do we really consider how incredible the incarnation was? Is it not the miracle of all miracles? You might disagree and say that the resurrection is the miracle of all miracles, but if you believe in the incarnation, then the resurrection is not difficult at all. After all, the Creator of the earth and the Ruler of life and death became a human while still being God. Of course He can conquer death!

Is the incarnation not the essence of the Christmas story and the miracle upon which the entire gospel story depends? Nowhere else is the Christmas story so concisely declared as it is in the verse I will be preaching from, Lord willing, on Sunday morning: John 1:14 – “The Word became flesh and took up residence among us. We observed His glory, the glory as the One and Only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Throughout the first chapter of John, the truth that Jesus – the Light who has come, the One and Only Son of God – is “the Word” is abundantly clear. And, “the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1).

So, God became a man. The One and Only Son of God, who clearly is God, took on flesh. In John 1:14 alone, there are two aspects of the incarnation that are overwhelmingly beautiful and incomparably powerful.

1. INCARNATION = HUMILITY

Consider, if you wanted to go and fix something and could do or be anything you wanted, what would you do or be? Imagine reviving your favorite sports franchise by becoming the star quarterback or the brilliant coach/general manager. Imagine turning around a big company as a genius CEO. Imagine fixing all that you think is wrong with our country by becoming President.

If you could be anything to restore anything, you would surely go big. You would enter the picture with power and might. We all would.

In fact, I imagine that we would all be just like King Caesar was at the time of Jesus’ birth, if left to ourselves. We would gladly want to tell the world how great we are by proclaiming the greatness of our kingdom. That is what Caesar attempted to do. He was declaring his greatness by counting all his people.

God, though, declared His greatness by becoming one of His people. And, not just by becoming one of his people but by doing so in the most humble, vulnerable way imaginable – as a baby.

Even if Jesus came to this earth as a young, powerful man, the incarnation would still be the most incredible act of humility the world would have ever seen. Why? Well, because Jesus is God. He created us. He sustains us. He is over us. Yet, He became one of us. And, the fact He did so by being born to an insignificant, unmarried couple in a no-name town in a cave reserved for livestock… Well, that only further exemplifies this incredible act of humility.

Jesus “emptied Himself by assuming the form of a slave, taking on the likeness of men. And when He had come as a man in His external form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death— even to death on a cross” (Philippians 2:7-8).

The incarnation, coupled with the most shameful death imaginable, is the greatest act of humility the world has ever known.

2. INCARNATION = GLORY

In a way only God can orchestrate, the most humble act is also one of outstanding glory. No other person to ever walk this earth embodied the fullness of God, except His One and Only Son. “For God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in [Jesus]” (Colossians 1:19).

Jesus took on flesh, becoming fully man, but in doing so, He did not stop being fully God. Humility and glory. Again, this is why this was and is the miracle of all miracles. All other miracles can be understood, explained, and believed when you understand and believe the incarnation.

The incarnation is the complete glory of God filling the body of a man. He is the God-Man, and He proved so throughout His life and ministry.

The incarnation is the ultimate act of humility, and it is the greatest act of glory the world has ever seen. If you believe Jesus is who He said He is, and you place your faith in Him, you can receive the forgiveness of your sins and share in His glory for all of eternity. To learn more, check out the link below.

Want to experience new life now and eternal life with God? Check out The Story.

Why We Cannot Save Ourselves

On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will be continuing our church’s Advent series – The Light Has Come – preaching on “Rejection for Reception” from John 1:6-13. The truth of the gospel is that Jesus had to be rejected in order for us to be accepted. Jesus had to die in order for us to have life.

In studying for this message, Ephesians 2 kept coming to mind, as verses 1-10 are emphatic on the necessity of God’s grace and God’s rescue being necessary for our salvation. No sinner can save himself, and because we are all born sinners, we must recognize two reasons why this is our reality.

1. SINNERS ARE DEAD

And you were dead in your trespasses and sins in which you previously walked according to the ways of this world, according to the ruler who exercises authority over the lower heavens, the spirit now working in the disobedient” (Ephesians 2:1-2).

Writing to believers who had been saved from their sins, Paul was reminding them of their previous condition before salvation. This is also a sobering reminder of the condition of all people apart from Jesus Christ. “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” (Romans 3:23), and “The wages of sin is death,” (Romans 6:23).

Sinners are dead – dead in their sin and dead for eternity if something does not change.

2. THE DEAD CANNOT REGENERATE

For the dead to experience life, they must be regenerated. They must be revived. The dead cannot regenerate themselves. They are dead!

Paul made clear in Ephesians (and in Romans, Galatians, and Colossians) that only Jesus can save us from our sins. Only He can bring the dead to life. As dead sinners in need of revival, we are in desperate need of God’s mercy and grace.

Without Christ, we are spiritually dead people walking on our way to hell, and only He can deliver us out of that death. Only He can revive us and give us new life, life that is eternal.

For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift — not from works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).

If a dead man was brought back to life because of someone performing CPR, he certainly would not brag about that revival. Rather, he would want to boast in the one who did the reviving. He would be grateful for the one who performed CPR. He would surely realize what a gift he received in being brought back to life because he would not have regenerated himself. Rather, he was saved by someone else.

BELIEVE AND RECEIVE

To all who did receive Him [(Jesus)], He gave them the right to be children of God, to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood, or of the will of the flesh, or of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:12-13).

Salvation is not achieved by family, by our ethnicity, by our sincerity, or by our effort. Salvation is received by the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ alone. Have you received Him? Are you telling others about Him?

If you recognize your need for new life and desire to turn from your sins and follow Jesus Christ, check out The Story.

What’s YOUR Good News?

Our third son, Silas, turned nine on Sunday. Like pretty much all nine-year-olds, he was pretty excited it was his birthday. He was happy to talk about it and thrilled to get some gifts, his choice of supper, and his favorite (and my favorite) dessert – cheesecake. No one who spent any amount of time with Silas this past weekend would have failed to realize it was his birthday. He was too excited to hold in that good news!

Really, is this not the way it is for all of us? I do not mean that we all love and talk about our birthdays like children do. What I mean is that we all talk about exciting, good news. If something is important to us, we are compelled to talk about that something.

So, what is important to you? What good news are you sharing with others?

LIGHT

If you have believed and experienced the Good News – the gospel of Jesus Christ – then you will long to talk about this Good News. Advent – the Christmas season when we Christians celebrate the arrival of Jesus Christ our Savior and longingly anticipate His Second Coming – begins Sunday. Do those who know you see in you a love for the Christmas story, the gospel story? If you have placed your faith in Jesus, the answer is surely yes.

On Sunday morning, I will begin a new Advent sermon series – The Light Has Come. Jesus, of course, is the Light of the world, and He came to our dark world to bring salvation to all who turn to Him. In this series throughout December, we will be considering the Christmas story according to the gospel of John and challenging one another to respond rightly to the Light.

LIFE

If you respond rightly to the Light by turning away from your sins and trusting in Him for forgiveness and eternal life, is there any better news in all the world to share with others? What would a close examination of your life tell others about your greatest convictions, commitments, and passion? Is new life – eternal life – in and through Jesus Christ, the Light of the world, at the center of top of those priorities?

Again, I sincerely believe that if you have experienced new life, the answer surely has to be yes. When you have new life in Christ, you are either passionately talking about Him, or you are convicted that you need to be talking about Him.

How is your passion? What is your good news?

What I am MOST thankful for with Silas right now is his sincere search for the Truth. He asks a lot of great questions about Jesus and seems to genuinely desire to know and follow Him.