Discipleship

Tuesday Devotional: Hosea 4

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James 3:1

Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.

Matthew 18:6

“If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.

Woe to you, teachers of the law, pastors, ministers, priests, elders, deacons, Bible study leaders, missionaries, Christians.  We are given such a gift of God’s grace in Jesus Christ and His Gospel.  However, this gift brings with it tremendous responsibility and obligation to truth and to the well-being of those we interact with and, in many cases, lead.  God pronounces a judgment through Hosea that rings true today.  The leaders and ambassadors of Jesus Christ have in many ways failed.  Many churches have lost the message of Jesus and in some cases have totally traded the presence of Jesus as King of Kings and Lord of Lords for an image of a co-worker, friend, buddy, neat-guy, Jesus.

Where is obedience to His Gospel?  Where is obedience to God’s Word?  Where are self-sacrifice and humility?  Where are perseverance and the pursuit of righteousness and the active fight against the prince of this world, Satan?  Where is equality?  Where is the hunger and prayer for reconciliation as opposed to division for the sake of comfort?  Where is the unbreakable bond of marriage?  Where purity?  Where is prayer?  Where is faith?  Where is Jesus?  The message of Jesus is not easy or convenient but it is simple and true.  Why are so many people unsure about what is required of them as Christians?  Is it because they are not themselves pursuing truth in the scriptures?  Is it because they are being misled by leaders who have abandoned truth?  Is it because they are not being led at all?

It is a privilege and an honor to be called to lead someone to Christ, but have we not forgotten that there are consequences for leading them away from Him?  Repent, Teachers!  Repent, Pastors!  Repent, Priests!  Repent, Christians!  It is a gift to work alongside the Father in His work of redemption in this world but that work has clear directives that must be followed, or else.  Or else.  That sounds scary, and it should.  We are given a responsibility to shepherd, protect and care for those God has given us to disciple.  God is sovereign and this does not mean that we have to be perfect.  Far from it.  We will never be perfect. On the contrary, we will continue with our fight against sin as we disciple.  However, we are called to teach and obey a perfect covenant.  This is non-negotiable.  If we do and we make mistakes, there is grace.  If we don’t and we lead people away from Christ, there is without a doubt judgment.  Count the cost, leaders!  Are you called to lead?  Never neglect to pray for our Heavenly Father’s grace upon your endeavors.

Tuesday Devotional: 3 John

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There is a powerful unity among those who profess faith in Jesus Christ.  Followers of Jesus find a home in knowing that each and every person is walking on the same path that starts at the cross and ends in his kingdom.  However, at the cross we do not just find a team, but the life of Jesus Christ alone sacrificed for the entire world. We find a Lord and Savior who unites his church through faith in him, but we are also given the power and commandment to take his Holy Spirit out into the world so that they too can find him.  At the foot of the cross we do find a family of believers and a body to become a part of.  However, this family ought never confine or prevent us from reaching into the world of those yet to be grafted in.  Our mission is to find our home with Christ through the fellowship of believers, yet be fully aware of our necessity to go forth into the world in order to bring others back home.  Each and every person must be brought into this faith in Jesus Christ.

Regardless of the point in a person’s life at which they met the Lord and submitted to the work of the cross, in each testimony is a point where they did not have faith in Jesus Christ.  Therefore, the one thing that all of us share is that at one point we were all strangers to Christ, even though he knew us from the beginning.  Every testimony begins with our separation from Christ as a result of our sin.  Thus, as we come into faith in Jesus Christ, we can never adopt a tone of the privileged preaching to the under-privileged.  At the foot of the cross we all receive grace, we all receive mercy and we all receive forgiveness.

This is the gospel that must be taken to the furthest corners of the world and unleashed in healing.  For those overwhelmed and transformed by that experience at the cross there is only one truth. Jesus Christ is the Lord.  Our place in his presence is leveled at the foot of the cross upon which he gave his life for us.  In his presence there are only two groups: reunited children and children yet to be reunited.  Either way, both groups consist of children of the same heavenly Father who desires all of them be brought back home.  In the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ we find our family, only family because we share a common Father.  In this Father we find our new life, our new way and the new brothers and sisters, unified because we have all been lost but are now found.

Tuesday Devotional: 2 Peter 1

bibleRead 2 Peter 1:3-11

Projects usually have an estimated time of completion, and ultimately are completed.  A destination has an estimated time of arrival, and can ultimately be reached.   The transformation of an individual from sinful indifference toward Jesus Christ to a life forgiven and overcome by his spirit is neither a job that we work to complete nor a destination at which we arrive in this lifetime.  The process of spiritual transformation that occurs in a person through the work of the Holy Spirit is ongoing.  It never ends as long as life remains.  It is not gained by striving, and we do not enjoy the completed work in this life.  We are often unaware of the process of this work, although we continue to participate in throughout our lives.  The complexity of taking a sinful heart of man and recreating the holy heart of Jesus Christ in a person takes persistence, trust and time.  While there is nothing that we can offer God in the actual rewiring of our heart into one compatible with his, we are not absent or excluded from the process.  On the contrary, we are essential in this radical transformation.

Our role is not to produce the change.  Our role is to present the opportunity for change.  Our role is to give the Holy Spirit every opportunity to work out our salvation and rework the tendencies and desires of our heart.  In this role we cannot afford to be complacent or inattentive.  We must never assume that the work has been done.  We must never lose the heightened awareness of potential opportunities for change.  We must never assume that the destination has been reached.  If we ever find ourselves believing these lies we can be sure that we have effectively brought our transformation to a complete stop.  As we change and grow into the life of Jesus Christ we must not waste time trying to calculate the progress made or the progress to be made.  As we are transformed we must be aware of only one thing: that our work is not done and we are not there yet.

So, until then, until we breathe our last, our goal each and every day is to seek out opportunities for the Holy Spirit to reveal more of the spirit of Christ in us.  This search for opportunity will contradict our opinions, our plans and our preferences.  It will press us in ways that we are not used to being pressed.  However, in these moments where our heart and character are pushed into discomfort, the spirit of Christ will be able to reveal itself and prove the promises of Christ that we all can change, and we will all be made like him.  A disciple’s heart is never satisfied, content with ground already travelled.  A disciple’s heart is daily hungry for more. More intimacy with the life of Christ. More transformation in his image.  To a disciple, the challenges of this world prove the transformation of our hearts in the way we hunger for everything other than what the world has to offer us.  As we race to close the distance between us and the life and spirit of Jesus Christ, we will become completely unaware of our surroundings and our progress.  We will forget the course.  We will forget the race.  We will forget the clock.  We will run further than we thought we could and longer than we had planned to run. We will arrive without realizing that we have.  The race will be a fading memory to, at the end, being with him forever without ever having to run again.

Tuesday Devotional: James 2

bibleRead James 2:1-18

Submission is at the heart of obedience.  And contrary to popular belief, obedience does not limit or confine, as much as it potentially liberates.  The difference between an obedience that oppresses and an obedience that liberates is in the will of the one who obeys.  If the obedience is ultimately for the sole benefit of the leader at the expense of the one obeying, this obedience will only benefit one party.  If the obedience is for the greater good of the whole and both parties benefit from the obedience, then the obedience can be a means to liberate rather than imprison.  Everything about the life of a Christian revolves around this state of complete submission.  There is no life or union with Christ if there is no submission.  Along the road of discipleship exists only one shepherd with one voice, and the sheep that follow after and listen for that voice have only one choice once they hear it: submit to his authority, and follow. 

This, however, is not a submission or obedience that empowers the one giving directions, while burdening the one following.  The purpose of submission to the authority of God’s voice, spirit and will is his pure desire to free us from ourselves.  Left to our own devices we will recklessly and carelessly destroy everything that surrounds us.  Our human nature is not bent to serve others with the fervor with which we daily desire to serve ourselves.  The human heart has a tendency to overlook more far-reaching implications and consequences of our own actions in trade for more immediate gratification.  We are a horribly near-sighted and forgetful creation.  We learn and then we forget the lesson.  We hear and then forget what we heard.  We follow and then forget why we were following and whom we were following in the first place.

Along with all of this, we are predictably unstable.  We stand firm and then we collapse.  We know for certain and then question everything at hand.  In the presence of God’s word and the life given us in Jesus Christ, being in a state of near-sightedness, forgetfulness or instability is impossible.  The life renewed in Jesus Christ is the opposite of all of those things.  When we allow the words of Christ to enter into our lives, and when we completely submit to him, we are made aware of certain truths that are immovable and unshakable.  When wandering makes our direction unclear, our God leads us through the desert as a pillar of fire and a cloud of smoke that is unmistakable and undeniable.

In these moments the reality of his presence in the desert of our confusion must not be taken lightly or overlooked.  The only way to miss the pillar or the cloud is if we choose to look another way or close our eyes.  Otherwise, it is there, it is real and it directs us where to go.  In times where we are tempted and our flesh prompts us to act as our old life would desire us to, the transforming power of the Spirit must receive our complete submission to turn from our old self and press forward, both with the spirit of Christ and the faith that the impossible transformation is complete in Jesus Christ.  In times of blessing, where we are overwhelmed with peace and joy in our lives, we must never forget that before we were, God already was.  We must never forget that it was his authority over creation that willed us into existence, and all of the blessings that we enjoy had their beginnings far before we ever knew we desired them.  We have been given simply because the authority of the Lord has willed us into a position to receive.  The submission and obedience required by God’s authority is not to establish a hierarchy for the sake of hierarchy.  He desires that we submit to him because if we submit to anything else, we will lose, and lose everything.  He is our protector and provider.  Submitting to his will results in our protection and provision forever, by the only one who has the means to provide what we need.