Monday Morning Preacher: Paul & Timothy

Last Sunday was our final sermon in the four-part “Paul & series”.  The series focused on what we Imageconsider to be our “family traits”—the essential qualities that we hope characterize the people of Damascus Road Church.  I say hope because we’re sinners and will, until we die, consistently fall short of God’s glory.  In other words, we will never perfectly exemplify these traits as we ought; in this life they are disciplined pursuits we aim to mature in as the gospel goes deeper into our hearts.

In the past four weeks, we examined what these traits looked like in the various relationships the apostle Paul had with others. From Paul & Barnabas we learned how the gospel transforms us into an encouraging people; a people devoted to helping others hope in the cross in our failures and to boast of the cross in our successes. From Paul & Peter we learned how the gospel transforms us into an admonishing people; a people who fear God more than men, a people convinced that the power to change a heart rests with God’s Word. From Paul and Rufus’ mom we learn how the gospel transforms us into a loving people; a genuine family who takes responsibility to fulfill our roles in loving those in our care. 

Finally, we have the relationship between Paul and Timothy.  From this relationship we learned that the gospel transforms us into a discipling people.  Community for the sake of community, or gathering together simply for friendship, even support, is not the primary mission of CHURCH.  While these things are necessary to an effective mission, according to Jesus, we have something more to do than gather together each week to encourage one another to love Jesus and admonish one another when we don’t . He spelled out the mission quite plainly to his disciples before he ascended to heaven:

19 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, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”  Matthew 28.19-20

Paul gave his life in obedience to this command.  He did not do this because it was popular, easy, or comfortable.  He followed to his death because he, like the disciples who dropped their nets, believed that LIFE was found in knowing Jesus AND in making him known–and no where else!  And, in this final letter (2Timothy) to a young disciple of his own, he tells Timothy that he must do his part to make more disciples–to carry on the mission of God.  The conclusion that we must all individually, and corporately, come to is that there are a lot of things we CAN do as people, as Christians, and as churches.  But there is one thing we MUST all do–make disciples.  If we do not believe that making disciples is our primary role while we still breathe then, at some level, we do not believe Jesus.  And at the heart of our refusal to obey the Great Commission is a personal unbelief in the gospel. Our attitudes and behaviors reveal that either we do not love the gospel as the one source of life OR we do not love people enough to share that source with them. We are ashamed of Jesus.  

When, by grace, we are made alive, we are also made ambassadors of that life! We are each uniquely  called to play a role in the mission of God. Every Christian, young and old, is all called to fight like soldiers, to run like athletes, to work like farmers–not just to be “Christians”– TO MAKE DISCIPLES. Granted, we do not all fight the same style, run the same speed (or form), or farm the same kinds of crops the same way. But I know, as do you, the difference between a fighter and a citizen, a runner and a spectator, or a farmer and a consumer. 

The question is now IF we should obey Jesus’ command, but HOW we individually will endeavor to do so. 

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Friday Funny: Tithing

http://youtu.be/0VSCrRrY-aM

We foolishly showed these videos in a service once. I say foolish, not because it isn’t true. I say it simply because a discerning person (or pastor) knows that just because you can doesn’t me you should. Still makes me laugh though.

We foolishly showed these videos in a service once. I say foolish, not because it isn’t true. I say it simply because a discerning person (or pastor) knows that just because you can doesn’t me you should. Still makes me laugh though.

Isolation is not just distance from God’s people

It continues to sadden, but not surprise me, when people deny, reject, or otherwise abandon that whichImage the Bible says they need.  I am talking about biblical, gospel-centered, community. There have been many times that shepherds, like myself, have “left the 99” to chase after the one sheep who has wandered. Sometimes this proves fruitful.  Most of the time, it is disappointing and draining. Then if, after much time and energy spent, the exasperated shepherd decides to stop actively chasing (even though his hope for return remains), things go from bad to worse.  With no shepherd around, the lying wolves come out from hiding in the woods. And if the wandering sheep stops running long enough to look around, they become frightened. They look back to see that the once “chasing” shepherd has returned to his flock–and the now lonely sheep begins to listen to the lies of the prowling wolves.

After listening to lie after lie, the sheep will often adopt an identity as a victim in their attitudes, perceptions, and behaviors.  The sheep wrongly believes the shepherd never “really” loved them (at least not the way they needed); they wrongly believe that the flock doesn’t care and has forgotten about them (at least not like they care or think about the flock), and they wrongly begin to believe that they are “better off” without the flock (at least this one).

Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire;
he breaks out against all sound judgment. Prov.18.1

Of course, it is rare, if not impossible for anyone who has never experienced community to admit that they don’t really need what they never had. But it is rarer still for those who have experienced community, to admit that they don’t have it anymore.   When challenged about their observable withdrawal from fellowship (obvious to everyone in the community they once shared) they often become defensive.  Instead of listening for the heart behind any admonishment, instead of sensing the pursuit by those they love, they hear nothing but “unspiritual” opinions and feel nothing but attacked.  Blind and offended, they’ll often respond with a carefully prepared list of evidence to prove they haven’t withdrawn–it reads like a time card–which only serves to affirm the contrary.

The truth is, we all need community and community needs all us–we were built for it. When God describes his church as a building, a body, and a bride, it is clear that community is not an afterthought (And even if you don’t believe God, even the world proves that nothing significant happens without community, teams, etc.).  According to the Bible, a community of soldiers helps us to fight; a community of athletes helps us to run; a community farmers helps us to grow; a community of counselors help us to be wise; a community of priests helps us to heal; a community of prophets helps us to learn; and a community of kings helps protect us.  The opposite is also true.  Without community you cannot fight, you cannot run, you cannot grow, you cannot be wise, you cannot heal, you cannot learn, and you cannot be protected.

The Bible is clear. When someone wanders from the people of God, when they cease to listen to the heart-desires of their brothers and sisters, they have isolated themselves away from more than just people. No matter how spiritual they might look, feel, or sound, according to Scripture, those who isolate themselves are self-seeking and no longer seeking the desires of God.

Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire;
he breaks out against all sound judgment. Prov.18.1

From The Pursuit of God

The doctrine of justification by faith—a Biblical truth, and a blessed relief from sterile legalism and unavailing self-effort—has in our time fallen into evil company and been interpreted by many in such manner as actually to bar men from the knowledge of God. The whole transaction of religious conversion has been made mechanical and spiritless. Faith may now be exercised without a jar to the moral life and without embarrassment to the Adamic ego. Christ may be “received” without creating any special love for Him in the soul of the receiver. The man is “saved,” but he is not hungry nor thirsty after God. In fact he is specifically taught to be satisfied and encouraged to be content with little. The modern scientist has lost God amid the wonders of His world; we Christians are in real danger of losing God amid the wonders of His Word. We have almost forgotten that God is a Person and, as such, can be cultivated as any person can. It is inherent in personality to be able to know other personalities, but full knowledge of one personality by another cannot be achieved in one encounter. It is only after long and loving mental intercourse that the full possibilities of both can be explored.
 
Tozer, A. W. (Aiden Wilson) (2011-03-24). The Pursuit of God (p. 12). Kindle Edition. 

Basic questions you might not have biblical answers to

A small group of men and I are going through a basic discipleship class (@6am on Friday mornings!).  In the past, I have might have viewed much of the content in the book we’ve chosen as too basic, too simple, or too elementary. That is until I read verses like Colossians 2.6-8 and realize that it’s these basic principles, the ones that we first learn as “newly planted” believers, that help us grow:

6 Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, 7 rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. 8 See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.

The study we are going through does what I have often failed to do as a pastor (and simply as a Christian)–it assumes you/I know nothing about Christianity.  I think we could all do well to assume we know less than we do–to adopt the disposition of a genuine learner.  And to that end, we might want to begin with the reality that you may not have as many answers (to important questions) as we  might have thought.  Then, with our newly assumed ignorance, start reading the Bible. I am confident that there is a good chance the experience will reveal that much of what we once believed to be true isn’t biblical.

Below are the four questions from the first three chapters.  They are simple questions with IMPORTANT answers.  Our answers WILL dictate your attitudes, perspectives, and behaviors.  Moreover, they will govern our relationship with God and with other believers.  I won’t give you my answers, but I will list Scriptures where partial answers can be found.  AND, I will challenge you to ask yourself whether you have answers…and whether or not those answers come from your emotion, your intellect, your experience, or your Lord.

What is a disciple of Jesus? (Why follow?)

What is the church? (Why go?)

What is the Bible? (Why read?)

What is prayer? (Why speak?)

(Answers: Q1 – Mark 1.1-20, 8.27-34; Q2 –  John 10.16; Ephesians 2.18-22; 4.11-16; Q3 – 2Tim 3.16-17; 1Peter 1.20-21; Heb 4.12; Q4- Matt 6.9-13; Luke 11.2-4; 11.5-13; Phil 4.6-7)

Searching for Community not Fellowship

http://vimeo.com/30891621

I enjoy listening to Francis Chan’s heart. His words challenge me to be more concerned about moving on mission and less concerned about standing in community. I appreciate how he, and men like David Platt, approach the Word of God with simplicity. They just want to do what it actually says and not complicate it with what we (or others) think it says.

I enjoy listening to Francis Chan’s heart. His words challenge me to be more concerned about moving on mission and less concerned about standing in community. I appreciate how he, and men like David Platt, approach the Word of God with simplicity. They just want to do what it actually says and not complicate it with what we (or others) think it says.