My Dog Never Catches Squirrels (and neither do I)

She tries every single morning without fail to get the squirrels chattering happily in the trees above the backyard. She’s out there each day but hasn’t even come close to catching one (and wouldn’t know what to do with it even if she did). It’s a worthless exercise, but one that she will urgently awaken me to pursue.

Unfortunately, I do the same thing.

Not with actual squirrels, obviously. Instead, I tend to always pursue things that are outside my reach.

Like most things, I think the problem started in Genesis.

In that book, we are told that God created a really good world full of good things and made two good human beings to live in it. He made the humans in His likeness, in His image, and established them as the stewards of the planet. He gave them everything to enjoy with only one, single prohibition: don’t eat the fruit of knowledge of good and evil.

Not content with being made in God’s image, Adam and Eve ate the fruit. They bought the lie that God was withholding something good from them, that they could become gods themselves. Ignoring the multitude of blessings, they sought after what they could not have. They thought that they were wiser than God.

But I’m in no position to judge. I do the same thing, and most of the time it’s not “big sins.” Just the little, nagging ones that are equally as damning.

For example, I know what the Bible teaches about rest. In Christ, we might no longer be required to observe a sabbath day, but the pattern is still a really good idea. God created us to function best when we rest one day and work six. That weekly rest helps us refocus and reenergize.

But I often opt for vacations instead. I refuse to take a true rest week after week, focusing on a getaway that will recharge my spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical batteries. Vacations never live up to the hype, never meet the expectations. I simply can’t go nonstop for 6 months to a year and expect my body to recover in one week. I wasn’t designed for that kind of living, but I often pursue it anyway.

Likewise, I know where God tells me to look for rest: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. (Matt. 11:28)” But my eyes always look to Netflix or YouTube by default. He has never failed to give me rest when I come to Him for it, but I still chase after worldly things that never satisfy.

Sin is an empty promise, offering what it cannot give, causing us to dedicate our time and energy on things worthless pursuits. It is a vanity of vanities, a chasing after the wind.

How Do We Make Disciples? (Making Disciples: part three)

And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.
Acts 2:42 ESV

It is wonderful to speak about the importance and preeminence of making disciples; however, most of it is meaningless if we never ask the next question: How do we make disciples?

There has been a wonderful movement over the last several years to reclaim discipleship.

The state of the modern church looked rather bleak. The need to be comforted and encouraged slowly replaced the gospel call toward holiness and sanctification. Worship preference replaced joyfully solemn worship of the Holy One. And many saw these changes as the failure to make biblically-mandated disciples.

The response was to bring discipleship to an individual level, emphasizing that each Christian has the responsibility to make disciples. Typically, one-on-one regular meetings are promoted most, though discipleship within small groups has also become tremendously popular.

As I said, this is a wonderful and much-needed movement, but we must also be careful not to jump to another equally dangerous extreme in reaction.

I believe discipleship, like our own walks with the Lord, occurs on two fronts, individually and communally.

In the past, we tended to rely upon the church community alone to make disciples, but we must be wary of over-emphasizing individual discipleship now, lest we ignore the benefits of community discipleship.

Because these posts are focused upon the church as a whole, I will spend more time covering the three basic forms of communal discipleship (Scripture, Prayer, and Community) within the next three series.

But for now, let us briefly discuss over the next three posts the three broad ways that we are able to make disciples at an individual level: witnessing, evangelism, and teaching.

The Great Commission (Making Disciples: part two)

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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 all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Matthew 28:18-20 ESV

The life of Jesus is the most astonishing act in all of human history.

Because of our continuous sinning against God, we deserved nothing from Him except His wrath. As the Creator of everything, He demanded absolute perfection from us and even the smallest of sins bear eternal consequences because He is an eternal God. We were trapped in a well of sin with no hope of escape.

Two of the most beautiful words in the entire Bible are: but God. They appear whenever God intervenes on our behalf, which means they appear often. Sin and its consequences are bad news, but God intervenes, bringing good news.

The good news is that God came into the world as a man, Jesus Christ. Being fully human and full divine, Jesus lived the perfect sinless life that we were commanded to live. He then died a horrific death for us, even though He did not earn death. Jesus lived His life and died His death in substitution for us. But the good news doesn’t stop there. Jesus did not merely die for us; He also rose again to life, defeating death permanently.

It is from this position of death-conquering that we receive the Great Commission.

Before ascending to sit at God the Father’s right hand, Jesus gathered His disciples to Him for one final in-person teaching. He gave them a declaration of His authority and their final mission until He returns.

Notice that Jesus’ prefaces His commands with a declaration of His authority. Just as God gave Adam the First Commission as Creator, Jesus commissions His disciples as Lord of all, as the Re-Creator. We must, therefore, keep this authority in mind as we move forward to the commands.

As with the First Commission, Jesus issues four commands, but they are summed into one. The heart of the First Commission was the order to multiply. Being fruitful was accomplished through multiplying, and filling and subduing the earth could only be fulfilled via multiplication. Likewise, making disciples is the heart of the Great Commission. We go to all nations, baptizing and teaching, in order to make disciples.

We are called to make disciples, and this call comes from our Lord.

Making disciples, therefore, is not optional.

We can only either obey or disobey the command.

But why does Jesus call us to make disciples?

Jesus did not command His disciples to multiply simply for the sake of creating more disciples. Jesus never played the numbers game. John 6 gives the account of Jesus feeding the 5000. After doing so, Christ had more than 5000 followers because everyone loves free food. But seeing that they were not actually interested in His words, He told them that real food is found by eating His flesh and drinking His blood. Almost everyone left because no one likes to get free food from a possible cannibal.

Jesus was never afraid to thin the crowd by separating the wheat from the chaff, the sheep from the goats. But still Christianity has become the most culture-shaping force on the planet, with Christians being found in every nation. How is this so?

We should note that disciples, being students, embody the characteristics of their teacher. It is a natural process to become like whomever you follow. This thought is captured in the word Christian, which essentially means “like Christ” or “little Christ”. As Christians, we desire to become like our Lord and Teacher, meaning the goal of creating a disciple is to create an image-bearer of Christ.

The First Commission and Great Commission, therefore, both have the same goal: the glorification and exaltation of God. Both accomplish this goal through multiplying and filling the earth with image-bearers.

Making disciples means creating more image-bearers of Christ. As disciples of Jesus, we should desire to make more disciples of Jesus. We should desire to make the good news that God saves known to the world, a truth which brings light into the darkness of the world. Jesus also called this the expansion of His kingdom against the kingdom of darkness.

As the Church (the collective followers of Christ), our aim and mission is to make disciples, which is the expansion of Christ’s kingdom, which is the exaltation and glorification of Jesus Christ.

Because local churches are composed of their members, each individual church congregation will change continuously with each member that goes and comes, but this mission does not and cannot.

The function of the individual Christian and the Church collective is to make disciples.

A Christians that does not make disciples is no Christian.

A church that does not make disciples is no church.

 

 

Making Disciples | Matthew 28:18-20

Week 1 | Sermon

SUGGESTED VERSES FOR MEMORIZATION & MEDITATION

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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 all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20 ESV)

And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. (Acts 2:42 ESV)

OPENING THOUGHT

The Great Commission is important because it is Jesus’ final words to His disciples before He ascended into heaven. These are the words that Christ wanted to be ringing in our ears until He comes back. We would, therefore, do well to heed them. Jesus’ Great Commission is the mission statement of the Church. His earthly ministry was primarily about bringing the kingdom of heaven to earth, which reached its culmination in His death and resurrection. Though Jesus is no longer physically here, God’s kingdom must continue to expand. This is where we come in.

Disciples are made through two simultaneous avenues: individually and communally. As individual Christians, we obey Christ’s command primarily by witnessing, evangelizing, and teaching other about Jesus. As a community, we make disciples through the proclaiming and holding to the Scriptures together, praying together, and growing into mature community together.

Through the Western Meadows Values Series, we will focus on why making disciples is the mission of the church and how disciples are made through Scripture, prayer, and community. As the church, our aim and mission is to make disciples to the glorification and exaltation of Jesus Christ. This mission comes directly from our Lord. Making disciples, therefore, is not optional. We can only either obey or disobey His command.

Read Genesis 1:28 and discuss the following.

  1. Why did God command humanity to multiply and fill the earth?

Read Matthew 28:18-20 and discuss the following.

  1. Why does Jesus command His disciples to go to all nations and make more disciples?
  2. How can each Christian obey the command of making disciples?
  3. How does the church as a community make disciples?

ACTIONS TO CONSIDER

  • Obey. Are you intentional about making disciples, both individually and collectively? Think through how your life serves as a witness for Christ, how you have shared the gospel with someone, and/or how you have trained someone up in the faith. In what ways will you continue to do so?
  • Pray. Ask the Father for grace and strength to obey the commands of Christ.

On the Rock | Matthew 7:24-29

Week 17 | Sermon

SUGGESTED VERSES FOR MEMORIZATION & MEDITATION

Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it. (Matthew 7:24-27)

And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes.  (Matthew 7:28-29)

OPENING THOUGHT

Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5-7) is a guidebook for being a citizen of God’s kingdom. In chapter five, Jesus covered the overall characteristics of a Christ follower, their purpose on earth, and how they relate to the Old Testament laws and commandments. In chapter six, He addressed godly actions that are not so godly when done out of pride. He also beckoned us to store our treasure in heaven where it will be eternally secure so that we might be able to live without anxiety here.

Christ opened chapter seven with a warning against hypocritical judgments against others, encouraging us to love others how God has loved us. He then issued a series of warnings to finish the sermon. First, He warned against following the easy path to the broad gate of destruction, calling us to enter by the narrow gate into life. Second, He warned against being deceived by false prophets who appear to be Christ’s followers but are not. Third, He warned against self-deception, saying that many who call Christ Lord will not enter the kingdom of heaven.

To conclude the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus gives us a fourth and final warning. Jesus tells us that if we hear and obey His words we will be like a wise man who built his house on a solid rock foundation, but if we hear and do not obey His words, we will be like a foolish man who built his house on sand. It is important to note that Jesus is speaking of those who have heard His words, but some will obey and other will not. The question that we must therefore ask at the end of this sermon is whether we will choose to obey Christ’s words or not.

Read verses 24-27 and discuss the following.

  1. In Jesus’ analogy, what do the two builders have in common and where do they differ from one another? Under what conditions will their differences be revealed?
  2. How do Luke 6:46-49 and James 1:21-27 help to further understand the importance of obedience when following Christ?

Read verses 28-29 and discuss the following.

  1. How did Jesus’ authority compare to the scribes?
  2. Why is astonishment and amazement not a sufficient response?

ACTIONS TO CONSIDER

  • Obey. Apply Jesus’ warning to how you hear His words in the Scriptures. In what ways do you obey the Bible, not just read it?
  • Pray. Ask God for the strength to obey His commands.

12 Tests for Knowing I’m Saved

This Sunday I preached Matthew 7:21-23, which is easily one of the most solemn texts in all of Scripture.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones said of these verses: “These, surely, are in many ways the most solemn and solemnizing words ever uttered in this world, not only by any man, but even by the Son of God Himself. Indeed, were any man to utter such words we should feel compelled not only to criticize but even to condemn him.”

This is because Jesus’ words reveal an unsettling truth: many who profess to know Christ will not enter the kingdom of heaven. They believe they are following the narrow path to life, but they are actually walking down the broad road toward destruction.

This is absolutely terrifying because our eternal destination is at stake.

A chill should run down our spines whenever even imagine hearing Christ’s word: “I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.”

I’ve already written on if we are able to lose our salvation, but the question still remains: how can we know that we are saved?

Paul Washer seeks to answer this question in the third book of his Recovering the Gospel series, Gospel Assurance and Warnings. In the book, Washer looks to John’s first epistle as containing tests for evaluating whether our faith is real or false.

In 1 John 5:13, the apostle states, “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life.” This means that the purpose of 1 John is to help us KNOW that we have eternal life.

Below you will find 12 tests that Washer pulled from 1 John for evaluating our walk with the Lord.

With an open Bible and an honest heart, use God’s Word “to see whether you are in the faith.” (2 Corinthians 13:5)

Test 1: We know that we are Christian because we walk in the light (1 John 1:4-7). Our style of life is being gradually conformed to what God has revealed to us about His nature and will.

Test 2: We know that we are Christian because our lives are marked by sensitivity to sin, repentance, and confession (1 John 1:8-10).

Test 3: We know that we are Christian because we keep God’s commands (1 John 2:3-4). We desire to know God’s will, strive to obey it, and mourn our disobedience.

Test 4: We know that we are Christian because we walk as Christ walked (1 John 2:5-6). We desire to imitate Christ and grow in conformity to Him.

Test 5: We know that we are Christian because we love other Christians, desire their fellowship, and seek to serve them in deed and truth (1 John 2:7-11).

Test 6: We know that we are Christian because of our increasing disdain for the world and because of our rejection of all that contradicts and opposes God’s nature and will (1 John 2:15-17).

Test 7: We know that we are Christian because we continue in the historic doctrines and practices of the Christian faith and remain within the fellowship of others who do the same (1 John 2:18-19).

Test 8: We know that we are Christian because we profess Christ to be God and hold Him in the highest esteem (1 John 2:22-24; 4:1-3, 13-15).

Test 9: We know that we are Christian because our lives are marked by a longing and practical pursuit of personal holiness (1 John 3:1-3).

Test 10: We know that we are Christian because we are practicing righteousness (1 John 2:28-29; 3:4-10). We are doing those things that conform to God’s righteous standard.

Test 11: We know that we are Christian because we overcome the world (1 John 4:4-6; 5:4-5). Although we are often hard pressed and weary, we press on in faith. We continue following Christ and do not turn back.

Test 12: We know that we are Christian because we believe the things that God has revealed concerning His Son, Jesus Christ. We have eternal life in Him alone (1 John 5:9-12).

I Never Knew You | Matthew 7:21-23

SUGGESTED VERSES FOR MEMORIZATION & MEDITATION

Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom
of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is
in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did
we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your
name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I
declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers
of lawlessness.’ (Matthew 7:21-23)

OPENING THOUGHT

Jesus’ most famous teaching, the Sermon on the Mount, was preached
to His disciples for the purpose of informing them how to live as citizens
of the kingdom of heaven. Chapter five began with the Beatitudes,
which are the characteristics for how Christians are to live. He then
proceeded to define His followers purpose and their relation to the
Old Testament commandments, which He demanded must now be
met at the heart-level. In chapter six, Jesus taught how we give to the
poor, pray, and fast in-correctly. He also encouraged us to store our
treasure in heaven, not on earth, and when they are secure with God,
we can truly live without anxiety, knowing that God is in control.

Chapter seven began with a warning against hypocritically judging
others (take the log out of your eye before removing the speck from
your brother’s eye) and continued with the call to love others with God’s
love (treat others as you desire to be treated). Jesus then began to
conclude the sermon with a series of warning. First, He warned us to
enter by the narrow gate which, though difficult, leads to life. Second,
He warned against false teachers, who would infiltrate the church like
wolves in sheep’s clothing.

We now come to Jesus’ third warning. If last week Christ warned against
deception from false teachers, He now warns against self-deception.
Jesus tells us that many who call Jesus Lord and do good works in His
name will not enter the kingdom of heaven. In fact, Jesus will declare
that He never knew them at all! These are some of the most solemn
and sobering words in all the Scriptures, calling us to consider any false
hopes that we hold to and whether we truly know the Lord at all.

Read verses 21-23 and discuss the following.

1. Jesus begins by saying that not everyone who calls Him Lord
will enter the kingdom of heaven, but it is also important to
remember that no one will enter who does not call Jesus Lord.
Why is the Lordship of Christ so significant?
2. These verses reveal that many who have hope of entering the
kingdom of heaven will one day learn that their hope was false.
What are some of these false hopes?
3. The severity of this text might cause us to question the reality of
our salvation. How can we know that we are saved?

ACTIONS TO CONSIDER

• Obey. The only hope we have of entering the kingdom of heaven
is by following the difficult path and entering by the narrow gate,
which is marked by the death of self and faith in God’s grace.
Reflect upon whether you trust fully in the gospel or upon your
own efforts.
• Pray. This week pray for friends or family you know that are
currently being deceived by false teaching.