Posts Tagged ‘Bible’

Faith - Hebrews 11_6When it comes to our relationship with God, our mind is a battlefield. God wants us to communicate with Him, but often what we think about and dwell on is a roadblock to an intimate and growing relationship with God. We condemn ourselves and go about trying to please God through wrong methods or wrong motivations. We can’t imagine how we could possibly please a holy God. The more we try the more we realize our failures. We find ourselves with Paul in Romans 7, longing for the freedom of Romans 8, but not understanding how to get there. The effects of “stinkin’ thinkin'” is being researched by Dr. Peggy Zoccola, Asst Professor at Ohio University.

The research team recruited 34 healthy young women to participate in the project. Each woman was asked to give a speech about her candidacy for a job to two interviewers in white laboratory coats, who listened with stone-faced expressions, Zoccola said. 

Half of the group was asked to contemplate their performance in the public speaking task, while the other half was asked to think about neutral images and activities, such as sailing ships or grocery store trips. 

The researchers drew blood samples that showed that the levels of C-reactive protein were significantly higher in the subjects who were asked to dwell on the speech, Zoccola reported.

Dr Peggy Zoccola 
For these participants, the levels of the inflammatory marker continued to rise for at least one hour after the speech. During the same time period, the marker returned to starting levels in the subjects who had been asked to focus on other thoughts.

The C-reactive protein is primarily produced by the liver as part of the immune system’s initial inflammatory response. It rises in response to traumas, injuries or infections in the body, Zoccola explained. 

“More and more, chronic inflammation is being associated with various disorders and conditions,” Zoccola said. “The immune system plays an important role in various cardiovascular disorders such as heart disease, as well as cancer, dementia and autoimmune diseases.”

C-reative protein is widely used as a clinical marker to determine if a patient has an infection, but also if he or she may be at risk for disease later in life.

The study concludes that dwelling on negative events can increase levels of inflammation in the body. I also contend (unscientifically of course) that dwelling on your sin and failures and inadequacies causes inflammation of your faith eyes, hindering your ability to walk by faith! Faith is absolutely critical to being a God-Pleaser! Our focus must be on His power, and not our failures. If our focus is wrong, we will develop crippling faith, faith that is weak and ineffective.

What we think, speak and act impacts our faith:

Jesus knew that our lives are impacted by what we think about. He even extended it to include what we say and what we do. The following verses can be backed up by many more:

  • But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person. But to eat with unwashed hands does not defile anyone.” Matthew 15:18-20
  • For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he: Eat and drink, saith he to thee; but his heart is not with thee. Proverbs 23:7
  • “Death and Life are in the power of the tongue” Prov 18:21
  • As I have seen, those who plow iniquity and sow trouble reap the same. Job 4:8
  • Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. Galatians 6:7-8

Our Heart & Mind can serve as roadblocks to being what God wants us to be: God-Pleasers.

Walk-Minding-the-Holy-Spirit-goodI was told in Bible College that Martin Luther ripped the book of James from his Bible. Actually, he did not, but he did preface it in his Bible as a “Book of Straw.” He found some of its teaching as being contrary to his understanding of Salvation by grace alone. For example, James wrote in chapter 2:

Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe–and tremble! But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” And he was called the friend of God. You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only. James 2:17-24

I have struggled with this concept of faith, grace and works as well. After all, we read from David’s flagship Psalm the following:

Blessed are the undefiled in the way, Who walk in the law of the LORD! Blessed are those who keep His testimonies, Who seek Him with the whole heart! They also do no iniquity; They walk in His ways. You have commanded us To keep Your precepts diligently. Psalm 119:1-4

Implied in my relationship with God is an expectation from Him that I obey Him, and keep His commands. However, my life has been one complicated by selfishness, sinfulness and failures. If anyone deserves Hell, it is me.

If I struggle with this, then I imagine that you may struggle with it as well. I believe as we continue to look at Hebrews 11:6, that the Holy Spirit will affirm some truths for our soul that will reassure us, or perhaps spur us.

Faith vs. Works

You cannot really separate faith from works. We must not see them as two separate things, but rather joint expressions of relationship with God. This is the Hebrews 11:1 definition of Faith. This is the Hebrews 11:6 definition of the one who pleases God.

  • Faith is substantiating and demonstrating.Faith is the substantiating Hebrews 11_1
  • Faith is believing and showing that belief in your diligence and priorities.
  • Faith is listening to God and building an Ark.
  • Faith is the language of God.
  • Without faith you cannot please God, and you cannot communicate with God.

Faith & Focus

If you do not have faith in God, you have faith in something else. Faith and Focus go hand in hand. What would people say you focus on?

Moses proved what the focus of his life was when he fled Egypt. His focus (faith) empowered his fleshly eyes to see the invisible God as if He was visible! “By faith he left Egypt, not being afraid of the anger of the king, for he endured as seeing him who is invisible.” Hebrews 11:27

Moses saw Him who is invisible Hebrews 11_27

Vs 27 illustrates the power of Faith… The key is furnished by v. 27, as seeing him who is invisible. Faith apprehends as a real fact what is not revealed to the senses. It rests on that fact, acts upon it, and is upheld by it in the face of all that seems to contradict it. Faith is a real seeing[1].

Noah proved by his actions what his focus was on:

  • Noah had faith, and showed it by obeying God and building an Ark.

On the other hand, the people of Noah’s day showed what their focus (faith) was on: themselves. They wanted to keep on having fun as if there was no tomorrow, and ignored the warnings of Noah, and could not see the signs of God’s existence and power! This reveals a truth that many refuse to admit:

We all have Faith in something…

You life is lived in faith. Many live by faith only in what they see, what they can do. Faith in themselves, or in their possessions. I know, True Faith applies only to making UNSEEN things real. But unfortunately, most people are too pragmatic or self-sufficient to have True Faith. They are content with their lives, and really don’t need a power beyond themselves. To self-sufficient people, faith has no application. Only those who realize there is a real Creator God will even begin to sense their need for faith.

Are You ready to Discover the Power of Faith? Are you ready to make a HEBREWS 11:6 Commitment?

Hebrews 11:6 is a powerful verse. It is a verse that once committed to, means your life will forever be intertwined with God. You are staking everything on Him! Faith that will give you a personal and family connection with the Creator of the Universe! When you have it, your life will bear evidence of it!

To develop and understand this Faith, you need to wrap your life around Jesus Christ! Have you come to Jesus as the Son of God, your Minister, your Mediator, your Intercessor, your Savior and Lord? You have not made a decision to center your life upon and around Him! If so, it is pointless to explore the power of Hebrews 11 Faith. Your faith is in yourself, and this will not make sense to you.

For we walk by faith, not by sight: 2 Corinthians 5:7


Who are kept (guarded) by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 1 Peter 1:5

Faith allows you to be fully vested in GodFaith Allows You to Be Fully Vested

Being fully vested in God means He is fully vested in you as well. The key to this relationship is Faith.

  • Faith is the only communication that God accepts.
  • Faith is the only way you are accepted in God.
  • This is the lesson of Hebrews 11:6

Examples of faith that fully ‘vests’ us in God

Romans 4:18-22: Abraham was fully convinced!

Faith-and-Obedience-IntertwinedIn hope he believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, “So shall your offspring be.” He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead ( since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. That is why his faith was “counted to him as righteousness.” Romans 4:18-22

Romans 5:1-5: All those who endure Suffering!

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. Romans 5:1-5

1 Cor 2:5: All those who don’t trust in their own wisdom!

that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. 1 Corinthians 2:5


Faith Translates us to be a God-PleaserAnd without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. Hebrews 11:6

1.  How important is Faith?

  • Without it, you cannot please God, you cannot draw near to God, you cannot receive anything from God

2.  Can you communicate with God without Faith?

  • True Faith is the only Means of Pleasing God
  • Without faith you are ‘adynatos’ – without power.
  • You have no ability whatsoever to do anything to please God.

You say “I believe” but belief alone is not faith. Remember how God defined faith-it makes real things that are invisible. It substantiates the reality and power of God. Anyone can say they believe in God. But does your belief accomplish what faith does, it brings you into His presence. Your faith carries you and all your problems to the very throne of God, where He works His mercy, justice and righteousness in your life. No one comes to God without being effected and affected by His holiness. Does mere “belief in God” work His holiness effect upon your life? No, because belief by itself is hands-off, academic and simply “good-to-know.” That is six-degrees of seperation stuff. Only FAITH brings you to the throne, puts you in the inside and allows the Holiness Effect to transform you!

3.  True Faith in God transforms from part-time to “Fully Vested”

  • If you are fully vested, you are in God’s “crew.” You are his ‘hommies’, friends, gang, posse, people who have God’s back
  • You are not a groupie or a fan, someone there just for the fun.
  • Faith demonstrates the reality of your being in God and depending upon Him NO MATTER WHAT!
  • Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. Romans 8:8
  • You Must believe God IS!

The idea is not merely that God exists as a rewarder, but that He will prove Himself to be a rewarder of that person who diligently seeks Him. As Vincent puts it: “He who approaches God has, through faith, the assurance that his seeking God will result in good to himself.”

This is not an academic belief, but one that grows from being fully vested in Him! This is reflected in your heart, your mind and your actions. Do you believe in an unseen Deity that watches you and who is eternal and powerful. Do you have faith to believe that He is powerful enough to work in your life?

Faith Translates You (in)to the Majesty

Faith is the language that reaches God’s ears. He listens to those who pray and think and act in faith in Him! Faith tranlates our prayers into God’s heavenly language! Faith translates us to a place of power before the throne! Do not offer prayers without faith in God! They are gobbledygook to him!

  • faithHow does your Heart reflect your belief that God is?
  • Negative thoughts, hatred of others, wicked plotting, desire for revenge, bitterness over events.
  • How does your Mind reflect your belief that God is?
  • Do you rely on yourself?
  • Always thinking about yourself
  • Always excusing the way you live being contrary to what God’s Word says?
  • Neglect the meditation on God’s Word?
  • How do your hands reflect your belief that God is?
  • Are they selfish?
  • Do they steal?
  • Do they give to others?
  • Do they react in anger, fear
  • You Must believe God is the Rewarder who is worth seeking with all you have.

The words “diligently seek” are literally “seek Him out,” the prefixed preposition being local in its force in this translation. But those who seek Him out are diligently seeking Him, and here we have the perfective use of the preposition.

Vincent says in this connection: “God’s beneficient will and attitude toward the seeker are not always apparent at the first approach. In such cases there is occasion for faith, in the face of delay, that diligent seeking will find its reward. One is reminded of Jesus’ lessons on importunity in seeking God (Luke 11:5-10, 18:1-8)”[2]

The Only way to have faith and be fully vested in God is through Jesus Christ

looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:2

  • Jesus is the archēgos – leader, captain, founder of our faith.

Christ is the leader or captain of faith, in that he is the perfecter of faith[3].

I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20

  • Jesus is the “teleiōtēn” “to carry through completely, to finish, to make perfect or complete.”[4]

If you want to please God, you do so in faith, from faith and by faith. Faith empowers you to be fully vested in this invisible Creator God. Faith demonstrates a heart, mind and life that is fully vested in God and all that He is, regardless of how your life plays out, for your know that He is fully capable of rewarding your faith and commitment.

GodPleaserbannerfbssFaith translates [5] YOU to a God-Pleaser!

  • Faith is the way to please God. (Abel)
  • Faith is the substantiating of His Word and Power (He is)
  • Faith is the Demonstrating of the Value of Pleasing Him (seek)

Heart – Head – Hand

  • Heart=God is a rewarder of all those who seek after Him
  • Head=Good report is obtained not by what you do, but your substantiating in your life the truth and power of God by demonstrating through your life your trust in Him
  • Hands=Put on Jesus each and every day by faith, and serve others in the power of His name.
    • You offer your life in faith. You profess your testimony without reservations before your friends and acquaintances.
    • You continue to use your hands to diligently seek after God, knowing that He will reward the work of your hands, as long as they are working in the Faith of Jesus Christ!

Three frogs deciding to do nothing but sitNow, are you going to be like those frogs and sit there on that lily pad, professing your decision to jump? Or you actually going to leap off and into this mighty God, and demonstrate with your life the power of this unseen God.

[1] Marvin R. Vincent, Word Studies in the New Testament, (New York: Scribners, 1887), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, Under: “Hebrews Chapter 11”.

[2] Kenneth S. Wuest, Wuest’s Word Studies – Volume 2: Word Studies in the Greek New Testament, (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1973), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 198.

[3] Marvin R. Vincent, Word Studies in the New Testament, (New York: Scribners, 1887), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, Under: “Hebrews 12:2”.

[4] Kenneth S. Wuest, Wuest’s Word Studies – Volume 2: Word Studies in the Greek New Testament, (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1973), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 214.

[5] transitive verb to move or carry somebody or something from one place to another, usually with a complete change of condition or scene


Advice to a New Pastor of a small town Church

1. Spend an hour a day doing nothing but considering what the Lord wants to do in your life right now. Anchor your thoughts with a section of Scripture or with a relevant Biblical concept or even a problem you are facing. Take the time to lift Him up and consider what He is doing or wants to do. Make it your time where you are centering your life and duties upon Him. Develop an inward core that centers itself upon God.

„ 2. Realize that your ministry to your family is more important than the ministry itself. Your ministry will grow from your ministry to your family.

„ 3. Learn to be content with the people and building God provides for you. Give thanks for them every day. Express thanks and appreciation publicly and constantly.

4. Realize you will always be an outsider to the community. Just accept it. But counter that with your insider status to the power of God. Manifest a supernatural life and they will desire to be an insider with God like you. When they know the power and reality of your faith in God, they will want that ‘insider’ faith as well.

„ 5. Look for someone to mentor/disciple. Make this a priority. Hopefully it is someone in the church, but be open to men outside the church.

„ 6. If there are leaders, let them know your expectations about discipling them.  Hopefully they will agree. If not, don’t push it the first year, but try to draw them in as you share discipleship successes with those whom you are able to disciple. If they still resist after a year, go through Titus and Timothy with them. If they still refuse, have the courageous conversation of asking them to resign.

7. Don’t be afraid to make a change in something your first year. You will discover that some are wanting you make a change.

Will Willimon reports in his post, “Non-synoptic church leadership in church” that he was given the following advice as a young pastor which he now shares with others,

“I am sure someone has told you that you shouldn’t change anything when you go to a new church for at least a year,” he said to me.  Indeed, someone had told me just that. “Well, forget it!  Don’t change anything in a new church unless you become convinced that it needs changing! Change anything you think that needs changing and anything you think you can change without the laity killing you.  Lots of churches are filled with laity who are languishing there, desperate for a pastor to go ahead and change something for the better.  Lots of times we pastors blame our cowardice, or our lack of vision, on the laity, saying that we want to change something, but we can’t because of the laity.  We ought to just go ahead and change something and then see what the consequences are.”

8. Learn everyone’s name (first and last name) including the kids. Make a personal photo directory or flash cards if you need to. Learn all the names of the leaders or “gate-keepers” in town. Invite the bank president or mayor out to lunch and find out who the community leaders are.

„9. Discover who the “gate keeper’s” of you community are. Get to know them, and look for ways to make the power of Christ known.

10. Schedule as many meals and coffees with people as possible. Go to their workplaces and pick them up and take them to a place that they normally go to lunch. (This is tough on a minimal salary)

11.„ Ask these kind of questions to ask when you meet with people (don’t try to evangelize them the first time you meet):

a. Where did you grow up? Where have you lived?

b. What is your job? Help me understand what you do and what kind of pressures you have. Is it a great job or just so-so? Why? How is your relationship with your boss? If the boss, what kind of struggles do you have with your employees?

c. What is your church background? Why did you come to our church? (of if they don’t come to church-what is your attitude toward church in general)

d. At some point tell them you would like to say a little prayer for them, but you wonder if there is anything else you could pray about? (In other words, you will know enough already to be able to pray for them). Do a quick prayer for them.

People will be surprised at how interesting and good it is to meet the pastor and you will not feel pressured to ‘convert’ them or get into church politics until you get to know people. The people are more important than the church. When you get to know people, you will understand where they are coming from. Try to understand their passion. Then followup your visit with prayer for turning their passions into a relationship with Jesus Christ. He will guide you in how to reach them or grow them.

12. Don’t make fun of their rural lifestyle, don’t use big words, don’t be condescending. Be genuinely interested in their lives, their problems and their needs. Be willing to go the extra mile in helping them out. The sooner they trust your intentions the sooner they will trust your ministry.

13. Normally pastoring is 1/3 preaching (study, prep, reading), 1/3 administration (meetings, email, phone calls, mail, chaos), and 1/3 pastoral care (meeting with people).  But for you it will be ½ pastoral care and the other two ¼ each. You will have to initiate and be intentional to meet with anyone. Very few will reach out to you.

14. Force your wife to meet folks by inviting people to dinner. Your kids may embarrass you, but the other couple or family will get to see you as you really are. They don’t want fake. They want real.

15. Get to know the history of the church and who used to go there and what happened.

16. Look at the church constitution and see what the purpose of the church is. Make sure your leadership accepts that purpose and wants to work toward its fulfillment. If not, either the purpose or the leadership needs to change. Design projects to involve the leadership in the fulfillment of the church purpose.

17. „A small church is not leadership driven. Small churches are “interwoven” meaning that the people have strong relationships based on blood or long friendships. They will tend to take the church very personally. They will see it as “their” church. You may want to make some changes or start certain programs, but while they may say “that’s a good idea, Pastor,” they will be looking to see what the church ‘patriarch’s’ are thinking. If you do not when the true leaders over, you will never get the support or participation you need.

The following letter was written by Mrs. Floyd K. Chapman, who lives in a small [pop. 1,064] Midwestern town. Her letter was written in response to an article about the suspicions some folks have of their pastors.

The folks in a small town don’t really care to hear what some author says. They only want to be convinced of your sincerity. Few of the common people read as much as we’d like to think. Many I know read only the following: the headlines, daily funnies, lost and found items; local items. Also they read some farm magazine, after a fashion–then they turn on TV. This is truth, whether we want to admit it or not.

On Sunday they go to church–they like to hear about Jesus, because he loved them enough to put up with their failings. They are not especially interested in economics, except as it affects them directly, or in politics, except in presidential years. But they respect freedom beyond words. They despise anything that makes them lose their self respect and much talk to the contrary they fear the creeping socialism that has made so many dependent upon the monthly government check that puts the bread in their mouths.

They know that they are not learned or smart and they fear people who are, unless they love them. Love is something one feels and if one loves he overlooks so much.

Can you take the big truth, the fact that too many of our ministers do not like people. They love subject matter, but are not sympathetic with the daily problems and weaknesses of the common man. This is not a weakness confined to our denomination.

Too many think they know it all–and do not give the other fellow credit for any knowledge. For instance, a pastor in our community a few years ago attempted to tell one of our more successful farmers of the superiority of horsepower. If it was or was not superior was not the point: the farmer was operating a large farm successfully and happily with his modern machinery. The minister should have been more tactful. If he knew nothing about farming he should have kept still or asked questions.

Sir, I am only a small-town woman, but I am sincere when I say there are a few qualifications a minister must have. Without them, regardless of denomination, he will be accused of everything under the sun–including communism.

1. He must have had a sincere Christian experience and must sincerely love the Lord and His work.

2. He must have had a certain amount of training in Bible, organization and method.

3. He must be willing to work–not too good to use his hands at times–and not too proud to ask help if he needs it.

4. He must really like people–more than books, more than organization, more than position.

5. He must walk ahead leading the people gently as a shepherd, and not try to drive them with a whip. 

“But without faith it is impossible to please Him.” (Hebrews 11:6)

Faith is an absolute requirement for coming to God, for pleasing Him. What sort of faith allows us to please Him?

We quote Hebrews 11:1 as a general definition of faith, but Romans 4:3 sheds more pertinent light on what sort of faith it takes to please God.

Romans 4:3 “What does scripture say? ‘Abraham took God at his word, and that act of faith was accepted as putting him into a right relationship with God'” (The New Testament: A Translation by William Barclay).

Abraham’s “act of faith” was to believe the words of God. Simply, faith is believing what God says. That belief, that faith, is what pleases God, putting us in a position to have a right relationship with Him. Even in our human relationships, trust in what a person says is foundational.

Trust is never simply an intellectual agreement. It is visceral and intangible and always affects our emotions and actions. This is why it is so devastating when a spouse discovers the other has been unfaithful. That trust which had enveloped his or her soul has been destroyed. That trust which gave him or her life had suddenly been exposed to be based on a lie.

Abraham shows us that this belief, this faith is a deep conviction which resides in our core being, effecting our will and our mind, and even our emotions. His great love for his only son was laid aside to show his trust in this great invisible God. His core trust and faith resulted in obedient action. This is why James declared that faith that does not result in works is not true faith at all, for it is useless for LIFE!

(Jas 2:20) Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless?

Adam and Eve were forced from the Garden because their trust and faith in God had been shallow, and void of works that demonstrated their trust in His Word. They decided to live by sight when they chose to disobey and eat the fruit. Their action demonstrated a faith that was not pleasing to God. They believed in God, certainly, just as Satan and his minions. However, when it came to trusting His WORDS and acting upon them, their faith fell short of pleasing God. In fact, their “faith” resulted in their death!

Adam and Eve became the first example of man choosing to walk by sight rather than by faith. Mankind has continued in the footsteps of the first Adam, proving that Adam and Eve’s faithlessness was not an aberration, but a trait inherent in every human heart.

Failure to trust the Word of God, failure to walk by faith resulted in a barrier between themselves and fellowship with God. That broken trust ruined their relationship just as it does a marriage.

Satan is the foremost example of faithlessness (faith that does not please God). Satan believes God exists, but his faith is dead because it does not lead to right actions.

James 2:19-20, from the New Living Translation (NLT), forcefully points out the futility and foolishness of Satan’s faith: “Do you still think it’s enough just to believe that there is one God? Well, even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror! Fool! When will you ever learn that faith that does not result in good deeds is useless?”

“Pleasing Faith” Believes and Obeys the Word of God

When confronted with the choice to eat or not eat the fruit, what evidence did Adam and Eve have? All they had were the words of God. Notice the classic definition of faith found in Hebrews 11:1: “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” What is the “evidence of things not seen?” God’s words. The rest of the chapter provides examples of men and women who followed God based solely on His Words to them.

Hebrews 11:36-38 list various trials that they went through for their faith. Notice verse 39: “And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise.” Even though they did not receive the promise of God, they still believed Him, followed Him, and gave their life for Him, trusting that the sovereign God could and would keep His promises even beyond the grave.

Consider closely Abraham’s decision to sacrifice his son, Isaac. When Abraham raised the knife to sacrifice his son, the only evidence things would work out was the word of an unseen God. Abraham could believe God—take Him at His word—or believe all the evidence he could see that the son of promise would die before God fulfilled His promises. Abraham could not “see” what God was going to do. As far as Abraham was concerned, Isaac was dead. The only “evidence” he had that it all would work out was God’s words—the promises God made to him.

God also needs evidence.

God wanted to know what was in Abraham’s heart. (Genesis 22:12) God said “Now I know what is in your heart.” He knew and recorded for all eternity the “evidence” that Abraham walked by faith, not by sight. Therefore, Abraham became the “Father of Faith” for all who would please God must have faith to believe that He is!

To walk requires action and effort. So even the phrase “walk by faith” demonstrates that living faith requires action and effort. As Hebrews 11:6 declares, “Pleasing Faith” believes that God rewards those who DILIGENTLY seek Him. Our evidence is God’s words. God’s evidence is our actions.

We are just like Abraham. So says Galatians 3:6: “You have exactly the same experience as Abraham. Abraham took God at his word, and that act of faith was accepted as putting him into a right relationship with God” (William Barclay). Just as Abraham had to choose between believing God and believing the circumstances he could see, God also has to put us into exactly the same position. He must find out what is the true intent of our hearts—the depth of our faith. God needs to “know” that we will trust Him, no matter what.

“Pleasing Faith’s” Source

Where do we get this “pleasing” faith? Ephesians 2:8 answers: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God.” We cannot work it up—that would be our effort, and Romans 8:8 says that we can never please God in our flesh. Further prove this faith comes from God is the correct application of Galatians 2:20:

(Gal 2:20) I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.

Paul exchanged his life for Christ’s life. Paul was dead, and Christ lived through him. This life of faith was only possible through the faith of Christ! Christ’s faith was Paul’s faith! This is truly an exchanged life!

Consider when God first started working on us. One year we were clueless, the next year things were making sense. We read the Bible and understood it, but more importantly, we believed it. Where did that belief come from? It was, as Ephesians 2:8 says, a gift from God. The real miracle is not that we understood, but rather that we now believed those words we understood. And this happened only because God made it possible.

What was the evidence that we believed those words? We began living by them. Our new works and actions were the evidence of our faith. Just like Abraham, our actions showed our desire to begin a right relationship with God motivated by His gift of faith. “Don’t you remember that our ancestor Abraham was declared right with God because of what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see, he was trusting God so much that he was willing to do whatever God told him to do. His faith was made complete by what he did—by his actions” (James 2:21-22 NLT).

Are you willing to believe and obey God’s Word?

To test our faith, God’s pattern is to bring us to a point—a brick wall or a Red Sea—that seemingly allows no escape. That is where He can find out what is truly in our hearts—hearts of belief or evil unbelief.

(Heb 3:12)  Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God.

Paul had this experience and recorded it for us in II Corinthians 1:8-10:

We should like you, our brothers, to know something of the trouble we went through in Asia. At that time we were completely overwhelmed, the burden was more than we could bear, in fact we told ourselves that this was the end. Yet we believe now that we had this sense of impending disaster that we might learn to trust, not in ourselves, but in God who can raise the dead. It was God who preserved us from such deadly perils, and it is he who still preserves us. (Phillips translation)

Even though all human hope was lost, God came to the rescue to teach Paul—and us through Paul—that God can be trusted.

“I am God! I can be trusted. . . . I alone am the God who can be trusted” [Isaiah 65:16 (CEV)].

What areas of your life are not “pleasing” to God? What areas of your life are being lived by sight? Is your faith pleasing to God, or is it lifeless?

2 Timothy 1:14 By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you.

The Aptitude of a Disciple Maker

„ What is an “aptitude”? n. 1. An inherent ability, as for learning; a talent: an aptitude for mathematics.

  • Being a Disciple Maker is not based upon your ability, but the ability of the Word of God!
  • Based on One Premise – The Word of God cannot be bound. The Word of God is powerful!

Last week we focused on our attitude toward Disciple-Making. Your attitude determines how you value this Word of God. Do you believe it is life-giving? Do you believe it is a sacred deposit? Do you believe it is of greater value than anything in this world? Sadly, many ‘Christians’ have the attitude of the Jews that Malachi was writing to, 400 years before Christ’s coming.

Malachi 3:14 You have said, ‘It is vain to serve God. What is the profit of our keeping his charge or of walking as in mourning before the LORD of hosts?

For the Word of God to be profitable to us, or beneficial, it must be mixed with faith.

Hebrews 4:2 For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it.

This is why the Jews were overcome in the wilderness. Even though they saw evidence of God, even though they had a messenger who talked directly to God, the word of God did not profit them, and they did not have faith to belief in the power of God, nor in His promises. Because they failed to believe they were overcome and perished in the wilderness, never receiving the promise of God’s blessing as symbolized by the Promised Land.

I am here to proclaim to you that this Word of God is indeed Powerful and worth giving your whole life for! It is profitable, it has the power to save, the power to heal, the power to make whole! It is the power to save us from this sin sick world. It is the power to make us sons of God. It is the power for Life, Abundant Life and it is the power for Eternal Life!

Whether you believe it and value it is up to you. If you allow your heart to get hard, no amount of preaching or begging or pleading will get you to believe!

If you do not value this Word, you will not see the value of intentional discipleship. You will not see the value of Gospel Track Discipleship. I am praying that our hearts will be softened and our eyes open to the power of God’s Word, and that He would renew within your heart a longing for Jesus Christ, a longing that will develop a desire for discipleship in your life, and a willingness to learn how to disciple others.

Matthew 24:35 Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will never pass away.

Isaiah 55:11 so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

The Word of God created the universe. The Word of God holds this world together. By the Word of God we exist. Without the Word of God this universe would fall apart.

Colossians 1:17 And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.

Paul says in our text that the Word of God is NEVER bound. It is always powerful!

This World was designed according to God’s Word. God wants His Word to bring His design into your life. It is a precious deposit, one which is profitable for your life. Justice in your life is through God’s Word! For God’s Word to bring justice into your life, for God’s Word to have profit in your life, there are three-

APTITUDES which we must have or develop.

1.   Soldier

2.   Athlete

3.   Farmer

If you can lay hold of the qualities involved in being a soldier, an athlete and a farmer, this Word will enrich your life, and you will want to share its value with other believers so their life can be enriched.

It will not because you are a super talented Christian.  It will because the Word produces the desire within you! This is what Paul meant in 2 Thessalonians 3:1:

2 Thessalonians 3:1 Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified, even as it is with you

Is the Word of God having “free course” in your life?

Jesus encountered a strange thing when He returned to Nazareth and preached. Here was the town he had grown up in, worked in. Everyone knew who he was, who his family was. They were amazed at what Jesus preached, but it was marked with unbelief. They could not believe that Jesus was capable of being something more than just the guy who fixed broken chairs, or made furniture. So most of the town did not belief in what he was saying. Here is how Mark describes what happened.

Mark 6:5-6 And he could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and healed them. And he marveled because of their unbelief. And he went about among the villages teaching.

Because they did not believe the Word of the Lord, it severely hindered the “free course” of the power of the Word. Jesus could do a few small miracles, but their unbelief prevented Him from doing so much more.

If we want the Word of God to have ‘free course” in our lives, to profit our lives, to allow God to accomplish all that He wants for our lives, we need to work on this “belief” factor. We need to ramp up our treatment of God’s Word.

Let’s look at 2 Timothy 2:1-13 and discover why the aptitude of a Soldier, an Athlete and a Farmer are so important to seeing the power of the Word in our lives.

1. Paul tells young Timothy to build up through grace:

1 You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus,

    • Grace strengthens us as we follow Christ.

2. Be a banker with the Word of God

2 and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.

3. Be like a Good Soldier

3 Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. 4 No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him.

    •  Willingness to share in suffering

„ A Soldier realizes he has a job to do, a job that requires sacrifice of personal freedom and luxuries. „ The task at hand is the priority, and requires 110% of our attention.

„ You can lose your life by not training or not being attentive.

A. Keep from being entangled

    • „ Entangled by wants
    • „ Entangled by failures
    • „ Entangled by inadequacies
    • „ Entangled by worries

B. Keep your heart trained upon the one who enlisted you.

    • „ Long battle, we need His strength
    • „ He enlisted us, He will train us
    • „ We must listen and believe.

C. It is Jesus you seek to please.

    • „ We please Him when we believe what He says
    • „ We please Him when we pay attention to what He says

4. Be like an Athlete

5 An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules.

    • Seek the crown
    • Follow dedicated regimen

„ Victory is only a tenth of a second difference. Phelps qualified for 8th place in the 400 Individual medley at 4:13:33. „ Laszlo Cseh was 9th at 4:13:40=„ 7/100 of a second.

„ Only 3½ seconds separated 1st from 8th place.

  1. Have the heart of a competitor
  2. Follow the rules
    • „ A great long jumper must make his mark.
    • „ A great sprinter cannot leave too early.
    • „ Rules are important for the integrity of the games.
    • „ God has a design that must be followed for our lives.
    • „ There is mercy, but you can never presume upon it.

„ God’s Word and Justice will always prevail, and belief in His Word is rule number one. You cannot be lackadaisical and expect God to always bless you.

„ Last time an athlete presumed he would win if he simply showed up; he was beaten by a tortoise.

5. Be like a Farmer

6 It is the hard-working farmer who ought to have the first share of the crops.

  1. Committed
  2. No time off when the work is to be done
  3. Timing is critical
  4. Soil must be prepared and taken care of
  5. Patience as the crop grows.
  6. Faith that God will make it grow, that rain will be provided.
  7. Trust that God will reward your belief and hard work.
  8. You get to share in the fruit!

„ Heb 11:6- must belief that He is and that God is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.

6. Understand What the Lord Wants for You.

7 Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.

  • Here is the commonality He wants us to see:
  1. They all must be diligent
  2.  They all must be faithful
  3.  There is an element of faith
  4.  There must be a dependency on the Lord to make each successful.

7.   Always remember it is about Jesus

8 Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel,

8.   Believe in the Power of the Word

9 for which I am suffering, bound with chains as a criminal. But the word of God is not bound!

„ God’s Word is never bound.  We simply refuse to let it be that valuable deposit in our lives. „ So we have nothing to give to those around us.

  • Don’t allow your limitations to hinder the Work of the Gospel

9.   Release the Power of Jesus Christ

10 Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.

10.     Realize the Power you Have in Christ

11 The saying is trustworthy, for: If we have died with him, we will also live with him; 12 if we endure, we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he also will deny us; 13 if we are faithless, he remains faithful— for he cannot deny himself.

  • Do you believe your Regeneration?
  • Do you believe the Life of Jesus Christ is your life?
  • Do you believe you reign with Him
  • Do you believe He is faithful even when we are faithless?
  • He is always faithful, even when we are faithless.

„ Never be at Ease in your Unbelief

Mark 16:14 The disciples were reclining. They were at ease in their unbelief. They were more concerned about their bellies than they were their hard hearts. Jesus rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart. They had refused to believe the report that Jesus was risen and alive!

The disciples were allowing a fleshly thing to cloud a spiritual realityTheir focus on what was in the past hardened their heart to what was true in the now! This is true of Christians today.

We feed our hearts on what God has not done or failed to do. Whenever we dwell on what has not happened, we foster the atmosphere for the spirit of offense and bitterness to arise and then thrive. When we dwell on what has not happened, we legitimize unbelief. We even excuse unbelief as normal. So we promote a sense of justification for not believing God.

Jesus rebuked that attitude in His disciples. He rebukes that attitude now! That attitude and thinking has to die! Christians are at ease in their unbelief. They are reclining at the table of fleshly attitudes and thinking. While we feed our bellies, the world is crying out for spiritual truth that will change their lives. While we are content in our unbelief our neighbors are crying out for something worth believing in.

Discipleship is all about taking people into their Destiny with the Power of the Risen Christ

Too often the Church focuses on keeping people from “sin “instead of taking people into their destiny with the power of the risen Christ. Churches that provide excuses for falling short of and not believing the power of Christ are merely promoters of “religion,” for God’s Word says religion is “form without power!” (2 Tim 3:5)

The area of our greatest unbelief is in our prayers.

So much of the content of our praying is for things we already possess in Christ, but fail to believe. So we labor to ask God for things we already have. We expose our unbelief through our boring prayers. We fail to ask God for things we do not possess because we fail to believe what God has given us. No wonder prayer is laborious and cursory to most Christians. No wonder there is a prevailing attitude that their prayers never reach the ceiling! Our prayers are often exercises in unbelief!

Churches are to be houses of prayer. The God purpose of prayer is to produce JOY in the experience of the believer.

John 16:24 Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.

Prayer is not to twist God’s arm, or to make us seem more spiritual. Prayer is to encourage our belief in the reality of Jesus. Jesus wants prayer to take us into fullness of JOY! JOY is the currency of Heaven! God reserves JOY as the reward for the suffering. Christ endured the cross for the JOY that was set before Him. The reality of Christ will deposit the currency of heaven in our lives. JOY is the currency of Heaven! JOY is the result of prayer! Jesus says to all faithful servants who live with His power in their lives, “Well done…enter into the joy of your master.” (Matthew 25:23)

God wants us to feast on belief in the power of the Name of Jesus. Prayer is designed to be a breakthrough into His heavenly JOY! Prayer is the expenditure of belief in return for the heavenly currency. If we pray only for that which we already possess, we will never experience the breakthrough of JOY. We will never discover the riches of God’s heavenly currency!

Never allow our prayers to contradict what God has already promised. Our unbelief closes heaven’s resources to us. Closed heavens are between our ears. Failure to know JOY is between our ears! We limit our God because our unbelief does not want to take hold of His power and JOY, even when He is standing in front of us with outstretched arms!

This is why Paul prayed so fervently for us:

Ephesians 1:18-19 having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might…

Paul saw Jesus, saw His power, and saw that power in His life. Paul experienced JOY even in prison, even in the stockades, even holding flotsam in the middle of the ocean. Paul’s eyes were opened and his heart was on fire for the realities of Jesus Christ! He could see the greatness of the power within Him, the same power that raised Jesus from the grave.  Paul never reclined in unbelief after that vision.

Our Vision should FIRE our Heart!

Christians have no excuse for not seeing the same vision. The vision is there for all to see. If we fail to believe, the hardness of our heart is exposed.

When Jesus was baptized, Matthew writes, “immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him” (Matthew 3:16). The picture is of the heavens being divided, rolled back, suddenly exposing the power of the heavenlies, and allowing the Holy Spirit to descend upon Jesus. Stephen saw the heavens rolled back and gazed upon the Glory of God and His Son. The truth is that the heavens have been opened to all Christians! The Holy Spirit has been given to all Christians. The Glory of God is for all Christians. We have the Holy Spirit living within us, a gift from our Savior!

Our Father is jealous for us to know the power of the Holy Spirit within us. He earnestly desires us to believe and experience His JOY!

James 4:5 Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”?

We Live under an Open Heaven

We live under an open heaven. The heavens are rolled back revealing the Power of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit lives in every believer, but his POWER is not upon every believer. Luke 4:1 says that Jesus left the Jordan River full of the Holy Spirit. But he did not have the POWER of the Holy Spirit until He believed the Word of God in His confrontation with Satan in the wilderness.

Are You Aware of the Power within You?

The Holy Spirit is in us eternally, but His POWER is not opened to us unless we believe. When we allow the wilderness of this world to influence our believing, we fail to see the power of the Spirit. We fail to influence the wilderness around us. We fail to alter the environment around us. Men who believed in the POWER of Christ influenced the environment into which they were placed. Stephen had a profound effect upon those angry men. Paul had an astounding effect upon prisoners, towns people, and even hardened Roman Soldiers.

Christians must learn how to “host” the presence of God such that He is always before us, influencing the environment of every place we step into. What we are conscious of, we are positioned to manifest. What we are aware of, we are able to release. If we are not conscious and aware of the POWER of God within us, we will never be able to influence those around us. The Gospel is not a ministry of words. The Gospel is the ministry of Power because of the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives.  The Gospel is the ministry of releasing the presence of the Holy Spirit in the whole earth.

We will never release that which we are unaware of.

A woman who had struggled for years with an issue of blood made a “demand” upon Christ. In desperation she reached out among the throng to touch the “hem of His garment.” She made a demand for her life. In spite of all the people pressing around Him, Christ was so aware of the Spirit’s presence that He instantly knew when a demand was made to which the Spirit responded. If we are not intensely aware of the Holy Spirit within our lives, we will have nothing to offer those around us who are desperately seeking power for their lives. They are overwhelmed, they are needy, and we have no life-giving power to offer them.

A demand was made upon Peter. Peter confessed he had no silver or gold, but Peter was intensely aware of what he did possess. Peter had life in Christ, and He was willing to share that POWER with the beggar at the gate. Peter said “what I do have I will give you.”

Write a HUGE Check with Heavenly Currency!

Peter knew a heavenly currency that the world knows nothing about. Peter wrote a HUGE check because he knew what he possessed (Acts 3:6). Most Christians can only write tiny checks because our unbelief has obscured what we possess.

We live with such ignorance of what we possess. We possess the very “Kingdom of God.” The one who freed us from our sins, at the same time made us a Kingdom, Priests to His God and Father (Rev 1:6). Jesus said “the words that I speak to you are spirit and life.” (John 6:63)

Jesus Spoke Life through His Words

John 6:63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.

Jesus, being the very logos (word), spoke the Spirit and Life where ever He journeyed. When Christ spoke, His words became the Spirit and brought LIFE to those who believed. When we believe in the Words of Christ, and speak them into the world, we impart the Spirit to our environment, and we impart LIFE to those who believe.

We are Kingdom builders through the POWER that is in us. This Kingdom is not in food or drink, but is righteousness, peace and JOY in the Holy Spirit (Romans 14:17).

When we are aware of the power that lies within us, and we exercise that power in faith, we are building the Kingdom by bringing people to the LIFE in Christ. We are dispensing the heavenly currency of JOY to those around us.

When you are handing out money, people stop and demand some. When you are handing out JOY, joy that this world is so hungry for, people will stop and demand it. The communities around the disciples took note of what they were handing out. They took note of where they went. They even brought the sick and lame into the streets to catch the shadow of Peter and be healed (Acts 5:15). Note: Your Shadow will always release what overshadows you! Peter was overshadowed by the Holy Spirit!

An unbelieving, defeated group of Christians will never see life brought to the dead in sin. They will never see miracles of God. Unbelief and defeat produces inward focused Christians, prone to depression and discouragement. When we turn inward we become a dead sea. An inward focused Christian is a dead Christian. An inward Christian is self-absorbed and self-centered. We need to be pre-occupied with who Christ is! With what Christ can do! We need to constantly release Him into every circumstance we encounter. We release His POWER by faith!

Don’t allow disappointments to obscure Revelation

So much of “Christianity” is based upon disappointment rather than revelation. We fail to see the Glory of God or the Power of His Son. Stephen saw the revelation in the midst of a downpour of stones. Paul saw the revelation in the midst of a hateful heart. John saw the revelation in the midst of loneliness and exile. The Revelation of Christ changes our environment. It changes our heart! Rather than being disappointed in what God fails to do for us, we need to focus on all that God has done for us!

Jesus said that if you see Him, you have seen the Father. So Jesus is the revelation of the nature and power of God. Jesus said that “all power” had been given to him in heaven and on earth (Matthew 28:18). His power is the basis of us going into the world. If we do not know His power by revelation, then we will be powerless if we go into the world. We will be overcome by the world!

Christ is in us as a River Let Him Flow!

Powerlessness is inexcusable and unacceptable. The Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead is in you and he wants out. He is not in us as a lake, or a ‘dead sea’, but rather as a river. Rivers flow from. The nature and power of God becomes ours as a believer. We have to believe in our own conversion! We have to believe in the POWER that was given to Jesus and was given to us!

As Paul prayed, the Lord is releasing a spirit of wisdom and revelation so that we can actually rise to who He says we are! We cannot afford to rest in unbelief, nor can we afford to think thought that God never thinks about us. We must learn to meditate on the things the Holy Spirit can say “AMEN!” to.

Paul wrote that in order to serve God acceptably, our minds (that thing between our ears) must be renewed so that our lives are transformed. Our minds must come under the influence of the Holy Spirit. We must learn divine perspective in order to live the divine life.

This renewing of our mind can only come from a divine encounter with the POWER of God. We must see the revelation of Christ as the POWER in our life. Any creed or teaching that does not take us to the person of Jesus in a divine encounter will only make us more “religious.” It will only equip us to argue, not bring life into our environment.

When our beliefs line up with the POWER of Christ in us, we can take the Gospel into our communities without limits, without baggage that weighs it down and renders it powerless. We must have the experience of the Gospel that changes our lives, changes our thinking and makes us intensely aware of the divine POWER within us. Only then can we dispense the currency of heaven to those joyless souls around us.

Who can be a Disciple-Maker? Why should we be a Disciple Making Church?

I want to ask you two questions, because these questions will be before us the next few weeks.

1.  “What is the difference between being a Christian and being a disciple?”

Is there a difference between a convert and a follower?

Is there a difference between a fan and a player?

  • One has seen, and another continually sees.
  • One has encountered, the other continually encounters.
  • The result is transformation. A follower becomes like the one he follows. A player becomes like his teammates (transformed by the coaches)

“We are not so much Christ followers as we are Christ admirers who happily listen to amazing stories about His life and His teachings, then go about our business without the principles imparted making an impact on who we are.”

2.  Why is Disciple-Making so Important?

  • Jesus told us to make disciples.
  • World Philosophy is overpowering.
  • People can be overcome in the wilderness.

Last week Ray looked at 1 Thess. 1. Pastor Ray told us about worldly philosophy that is so prevalent, and how the only way to rescue men from the world is not just to get them saved, but to intentionally make disciples.

Paul, Silas and Timothy were committed to making disciples. A simple belief was not enough to overcome the worldly philosophies that were bombarding the Thessalonians. Paul and his fellow workers realized they must invest time in the new converts to see them grow in Jesus Christ and be overcomers.

1 Thessalonians 1:5-6 because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also with full conviction. And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit,

The Thessalonians became friends with Paul, Silas and Timothy. Not just “sure is hot” “weather friends” but I am struggling with my faith because I’ve been out of work for a year kind of friends. Friends who are with each other in the trenches. Friends who pray together, who seek the Lord together. Friends who talk about problems with family together. Together, together, together. Discipleship is togethership.

George Barna states in his book, Growing True Disciples, “Almost every church in our country has some type of discipleship program or set of activities. Stunningly few churches have a church of disciples”, (Barna 2001, 21).

  • 88% of children raised in evangelical homes leave church at the age of 18, never to return.
  • Approximately  2/3 of the members of Southern Baptist churches attend church only sporadically.
  • The average “evangelical” church in America wins 1.67 persons (less than 2) to Christ and their church each year for every 100 persons who attend that church.
  • 1/3  of church members state their greatest individual needs are not being met by their church.
  • Less than 50% of church members pray for 5 minutes at least twice a week.
  • Only 11% of church members have shared the gospel even once in the last year and 33% have never shared the gospel with anyone.
  • Most church leaders, when asked, cannot even define “Disciple”, and hardly any have been trained to “Make disciples”.[1]

“In a comprehensive study we conducted, we compared the beliefs, attitudes, values and behaviors of believers and non-believers…. We concluded that it is difficult for non-Christians to understand Christianity since few born again individuals model a biblical faith (Barna, 63).

The Church in America is failing to live up to its promise; we’re not even coming close to fulfilling it…. Believers are largely indistinguishable from non-believers in how they think and live … If we hope to make a significant difference in the lives of individuals and in the nation’s culture, then we must increase our intentionality, our intensity and improve our strategies” (Barna, 13).

“Discipleship does not happen simply because a church exists. It occurs when there is an intentional and strategic thrust to facilitate spiritual maturity” (Barna, 29).

“My most recent research, described in Maximum Faith, shows how the vast majority of American Christians have denied God His rightful place on the throne of their lives. Our default response, driven by cultural expectations and personal preferences, is to withhold control of our lives so that we, not God, can reign supreme – all under the cover of being “good and responsible Christians.” More often than not, we treat God as our religion consultant and turn to the Bible as an emergency reference book.

Most Americans point to their typical faith practices – e.g., church attendance, Christianeducation involvement, personal Bible study, daily prayer, freely donating money to ministries, participation in a small group, etc. – as evidence of personal piety.

In essence, the born-again community has invited God to reside in our hearts, accepting the special gift of love and forgiveness that He offered, along with His promise of eternal salvation. Sadly, once we felt certain that we had His gift securely in hand, we abandoned Him and have continued to operate by the standards and values of the world, searching for earthly treasures and pleasures. That is why the research has consistently shown over the past two decades that the lives of born-again Christians are essentially indistinguishable from those of people who do not claim Jesus Christ as their savior. We may be “religious” but we are not truly transformed by our faith in and relationship with God. Only a tiny proportion of born again adults get beyond their profession of faith to experience the more robust and significant life that is available through Christ to His followers.

A major reason why few Americans experience the richness of the Christian life is that we do not know what to do beyond reading and memorizing more Bible verses, attending church services more consistently, donating money to worthy causes, volunteering a few hours at church, and discussing our faith in Jesus with family and friends.

And unfortunately, my research reveals that a majority of believers who figure out where the journey goes, and what it takes to maximize the opportunity God grants us by completing the journey to wholeness, instead choose to settle for a less complete and fulfilling life.

Jesus’ Altar Call

Jesus’ altar calls were different. His view of what it meant to be saved was different from the modern church’s feeble definition. Jesus qualified the true heart of repentance by the test of discipleship.

The rich, young ruler ran and stopped Jesus in the street. He inquired, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”

The Lord responded by sharing one of His favorite sermons written by Moses.

The young man replied, “All these I have kept since I was a boy.”

Jesus then raised the bar of discipleship: “Sell everything you have and give to the poor” (Mark 10:17–22). Scripture is clear, this young man walked away sad.

The rich, young ruler was willing to be a convert, but he was not willing to pay the cost of discipleship. He wanted a religion that was convenient for his lifestyle apart from the lordship of Christ. His desire for convenient religion left him where it leaves every insincere person — sad and despondent.

Christianity without discipleship is Christianity without Christ. This kind of discipleship becomes nothing more than an abstract idea, a myth that has a place for the Fatherhood of God, but omits Christ as a living Lord and Master. Without real discipleship there is trust in God, but there is not a genuine following of Christ. Cheap grace is a deadly enemy of the church.

As we go forward with forming “GraceLife Community Church” I hope you will see the need to form a church whose culture and core is intentionally built upon relationships which are growing together in Jesus Christ. After all, that is discipleship.

1 Timothy 1:12-20 I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service, though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. To the King of ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen. This charge I entrust to you, Timothy, my child, in accordance with the prophecies previously made about you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, holding faith and a good conscience. By rejecting this, some have made shipwreck of their faith, among whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme.

A. Christ Values Faithfulness

  • 1 Tim 1:12-I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful

Christ doesn’t look for your leadership skills, or knowledge or athletic ability. God looks for one quality in disciple-makers-faithfulness.

  • What does faithfulness entail?
  1. Stick-to-itiveness
  2. Single eye
  3. Deep appreciation
  4. Common goal
  5. Not double-minded

B. Christ Appoints Sinners To Service

  • vs 12b-13 – appointing me to his service, though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief
1.  God’s mercy and grace transforms us with faith and love in Christ.

Why does God use sinners? He values broken vessels, so that the power is of Him. 

2.  God wants His grace to overflow from us to others.
  • vs 14 – and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus
3.  Grace always flows when we are emptied of self at the Cross

1 Corinthians 1:18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

1 Corinthians 1:27-30 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption,

C. Christ Desires to Save Sinners

  • vs 15, 16 – The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.

Jesus looked upon the city of Jerusalem and wept as he saw thousands enslaved by sin, overcome by the world. He desired to gather her children up into his arms as a Mother Hen gathers her brood, but they would not come. So Christ saw that He could take fellow sinners, broken vessels, and use them to reach out to fellow sinners.

1.  Sinners are to be examples
2.  Patience and Endurance are on display in Discipleship

Not our patience or our endurance, but Christ’s. Christ endured to the bitter end for our sakes, and He runs alongside us in a marathon, not a sprint. His perfect patience is displayed when we come alongside other believers. His patience with us leads others to believe.

3.  Discipleship is based on transparent relationships rich in mercy.

D. Christ Desires Soldiers who Overcome

  • Vs 17,18 – To the King of ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen. This charge I entrust to you, Timothy, my child, in accordance with the prophecies previously made about you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, holding faith and a good conscience.

When one is overwhelmed by their sins, they realize they need a Savior.
When two admit they struggle with sin, they realize they need an Overcoming, Conquering King!

1.  Discipleship takes believers and leads them along three prioritized paths:
    1. The first priority is a growing commitment to the Person of Jesus Christ.
    2. The second priority is a growing commitment to the Body of Christ, your face-to-face group of disciples.
    3. The third priority is a growing commitment to the work of Christ in your world. 

These do grow on each other, but they also must be engaged at the same time. You need growth in all three to stay healthy in your Christian walk. You need growth in all three to overcome the world.

The disciple-making church operates with a specific definition of discipleship to Jesus.

Jesus defined disciples as those who forsook all to gain all of Him! We can dumb down discipleship, but we will get what we ask for. If we ask for small commitment, we will get small disciples. If we ask for sometimes commitment, we will get sometimes disciples. A true disciple maintains his or her relationship with Jesus Christ 24/7, 365 days a year. A true disciple follows the King of Kings!

2.  Discipleship Grows Overcomers
  • vs 18b that by them you may wage the good warfare, holding faith and a good conscience

Luke 11:21-22 When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own palace, his goods are safe; but when one stronger than he attacks him and overcomes him, he takes away his armor in which he trusted and divides his spoil.

John 16:33 I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

Romans 12:21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

1 John 5:4-5 For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world— our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?

Is your life a contradiction to discipleship?

  • A disciple who does not grow, who does not have the purpose of growing, in their discipleship to Jesus is a contradiction in terms.
  • A stagnant or comfortable disciple is a contradiction.
  • A disciple who does not change and grow is a contradiction.
3.  Discipleship Does Not takes the Path of Least Resistance.

2 Peter 2:20 For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first.

1 John 4:4 Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.

4.  Disciples will have authority when Christ reigns

Revelation 2:26 The one who conquers and who keeps my works until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations,

Revelation 3:21 The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne.

E. Christ Desires to be our Helmsman

  • vs 19, 20 – By rejecting this, some have made shipwreck of their faith, among whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme.

Our life can be seen as a majestic ship sailing the oceans with its tall mast and sails filled with wind, gliding across the waves with the grace of its maker. Disciples sail the seas of life guided by the direction of our helmsman Jesus Christ. It is the trust and faith we have in him that allows our lives to be directed by His will.

Hymenaeus and Alexander followed Christ for awhile. For some reason, their faith faltered and they found themselves overcome by the waves of the world, and finally their lives were shipwrecked upon the rocks of the shore.

They rejected Jesus Christ as their guide and began to take control of their own lives. They cast the Lord “overboard” and took control of their own lives, steering as they willed. Sadly, their ship wrecked upon the shoals of this world.

Shipwrecks are caused by carelessness and indifference.  (Like the captain of the Cruise Ship that recently sunk) The seas of life are very treacherous, filled with hidden obstacles that can tear a hole in our hull. Only Christ can guide us safely through. Jesus knows every obstacle that will be in our path. The Lord knows what we need and He knows where we need to go. We worry about what is over the next horizon and how to survive the coming storms. Our hearts are filled with fear as the storms of life pound upon us and we cry out to the helmsman for relief. One who is a disciple has been trained in how to stay close to the Savior and interpret the signals He provides.

Hymenaeus and Alexander lost their faith. Their hearts were corrupted and they rejected God’s will and turned to their own desires. Paul declares in II Timothy 2:18 that Hymenaeus (and Philetus) “have gone astray from the truth saying that the resurrection has already taken place, and they upset the faith of some” (II Tim 2:18 ). Their actions not only caused them to lose their souls but also impacted others whose faith was “upset.”

Should we be disciples? Most definitely. Can you be a Christian and refuse to be a disciple? I don’t see how.

Who can be a Disciple and a Disciple maker (they are one and the same)?

Any sinner who decides to be faithful to Christ and allow Him to lead his life, because you want to be an overcomer.

So Why Should a Church be committed to being a Disciple-Making Church?

  • Because we owe it to Christ.
  • Because it allows Sinners to reach other sinners
  • Because it allows Grace to overflow in our lives
  • Because it produces Overcomers
  • Because it keeps us ship-shape.
  • Because we will be drawn into the power of Christ for our every-day lives.

[1] (Barna 2001)