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Faith, Family, Ministry, and Everything in between

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Feature Friday (07/20/18)

Cool! I remember hearing and using that word numerous times as a middle school guy. My parents were often using it. My friends were using it more. And even I was using it from time to time. The term came up everywhere. In the classroom, at the dinner table, at church, on the sports field, and in the grocery store. “Cool” seemed like a universal term to me, it was everywhere. But it would not be until a few years later where I connected the dots. Just because everyone was using the word, did not mean everyone was using it the same way.

The word “cool” to my parents usually indicated something about the weather. It was neither hot, like the middle of the summer, or cold, like those winter snow storms. No! Cool to my parents meant the weather was just right. But to my buddies and I, the word “cool” meant something else. We used the term when someone did something awesome. We rarely used it when discussing the weather (but then again we rarely discussed the weather as middle school boys). See that is the funny thing about buzzwords, the more it is used the less we think about its meaning. Sometimes, as in the case of “cool”, to the degree that two people can use it in the same conversation but with very different understandings of what is being said.

One of those buzzwords in today’s culture is leadership. As a leader, I highly value leadership, not only my own but also the organizational context in which I lead. Yet all too often when people talk about leadership there is a very different concept in play. Which is why how we define leadership becomes very important. This is why I loved reading Michael Kelley‘s article “A Simple Definition of Leadership“.

While not oversimplifying the case, Kelley gives a short succinct definition of leadership. He goes on to develop that definition a bit more and give some support to why it is a great definition. So enjoy the article and as always be with the Lord’s people on the Lord’s day!

Photo by Collin Armstrong on Unsplash

Discipleship: The External Characteristics of a Disciple

discipleship_graphic1aMatthew 28:19 says, “Go therefore and make disciples”. This was Jesus’ final command to his disciples as He left this earth to return to the Father in heaven—five simple words that form one small statement. But this final command of Jesus summarizes His purpose for those who call themselves His followers, His disciples, those who wish to learn from Him. While this commission from Jesus has been performed for millennia since the ascension, it is often vague or misunderstood so that those who believe themselves to be “making disciples” really are not. So what does a disciple-maker do? What does it look like for one to make a disciple? In order to make disciples one must know what a disciple is, what the internal characteristics of a disciple are, what the external characteristics of a disciple are, how Jesus made disciples, how one will make disciples, as well as what success will look like in making disciples. This series will engage those topics continuing with: The External Characteristics of a Disciple. The gospel of John lays out the external characteristics of a disciple which include an abiding in the word, a loving one another, and bearing fruit.

First, a genuine disciple of Jesus Christ will abide in the word. In John 8:31-32 Jesus said, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” Jesus used the verb abide, which means to remain, to dwell, to continue or to have a determined resolve.[1] This word carries with it the type of resolve a dog shows when it really wants to chase a ball, but stays put because the owner told the dog to “sit”. Paul uses the same word when he speaks of his desire to be with Christ yet truth that he will ‘remain’ in the flesh (Philippians 1:21-25). This type of abiding gives assurance to a genuine disciple. Confidence is built by consistence. And the consistent abiding for a believer is in the word. This word is the Jesus’ teaching, His example, His life, His commands. This word is the Word of God. It is this Word that God points us back to over and over and over again (Psalm 1, Psalm 119, Matthew 4:1-11, Romans 10:17, 2 Timothy 3:16-17, 2 Peter 1:3, 2 Peter 1:19-21, Hebrews 2:1-4). Disciples abide in the word.Jonah

Second, a genuine disciple of Jesus Christ will love one another. In John 13:34-35 Jesus says, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” This type of love is one that cherishes. it is a love that is a determined, willful, selfless love. It is the love Paul explains in 1 Corinthians 13 as, patient, kind, not envious, not boastful, not arrogant, not rude, not iinsistingon its own way, not rejoicing with wrong, but rejoicing with the truth.  This love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. This love never ends. This is the love disciples show to one another. It is a love they display to other believers. It comes out in a multiplicity of actions (Mark 9:50, Romans 12:10, Romans 14:19, Romans 15:7, 14, Galatians 5:13, James 5:16). But the ultimate example of this love was in Jesus Himself who died for the sins of others (1 John 4:9-11). Disciples love one another.

Third, a genuine disciple of Jesus Christ will bear fruit. In John 15:7-8 Jesus says, “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.” The verb to bear means to produce, to follow a course, or to demonstrate the reality.[2] Jesus is illustrating for us the truth that a branch does not bear anything unless it is connected to the vine or tree. And as disciples of Jesus people will bear fruit. Fruit in this teaching of Jesus is referring to actions. Other places in the gospels Jesus constantly referred to actions as fruit (Matthew 7:15-20). And the ultimate fruit of disciple is described in Galatians 5:22. This fruit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. These actions come as one has the Spirit that comes through connection with the Vine, Jesus Christ. Disciples bear fruit.

fruitSo are you a disciple? Are you evidencing the eexternal characteristics of a disciple? Do you find yourself abiding in the word? Is there a love for other believers evidenced in your life? Finally, are you bearing the fruit of the Spirit?

Make sure to stop by next week where this series on discipleship continues with How Jesus Made Disciples!

[1] Robert H. Mounce, “John,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Luke–Acts (Revised Edition), ed. Tremper Longman III and David E. Garland, vol. 10 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2007), 479.

[2] Arndt, William, Frederick W. Danker, and Walter Bauer. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000.

The Church: How it Interacts

DGC - Toy Story-Youve Got a Friend in Me“You’ve got a friend in me…you’ve got a friend in me”! Upon hearing this song, anyone familiar with Disney will immediately think of the light-hearted cowboy character Woody, and his more intense companion Buzz from Toy Story. However, what makes the song great is how it captures what we all hope is the reality of friendship. Friendship exists around a common bond, through thick and thin, and is strengthened by all the shared experiences of those involved. There is something about friendship that causes us, as humans, to rejoice and long for it. But where can this great kind of friendship be found? In a bar?…At a sports arena?…In other places? There is a greater friendship and bond that should be displayed within the church.

We have already discussed what the Church is, the difference between the Universal and Local church, and the structure and organization of the Church. Today, we will examine the three main aspects of interaction that should take place within the church. In Acts 2:42-47, we see the church demonstrate fellowship, service, and unity toward and with one another.

First, the church must be a place of fellowship. In Acts 2:42 and 46, Luke records how the church interacted with one another from the very beginning. Here we see that the new believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship; to the breaking of bread and the prayers; and day by day, to attending the temple together and in each others’ homes. Fellowship starts with a devotion to one another (Hebrews 10:24-25) and the early church had it. They listened to the same teaching, shared the same meals, went to the same locations, and of utmost importance had the same Lord and Savior (Matthew 16:18). At the core of it all was the apostles’ teaching or, as it is now known, the Word of God (2 Pet. 1:3; 2 Tim. 3:15-17). In light of hearing God’s Word and the devotion to it, the church exhibited great fellowship with one another, but also great service toward one another.

servant-leadership

The second aspect of interaction within the church flows out of their fellowship around the word, and that aspect is service. Back in Acts 2:45, we see that the first Christians served one another greatly, despite the personal sacrifice it cost them. “They were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.” Now this was no commune. Everyone was not selling everything they had compiling it and then sharing everything–no, no! Instead, they were fellowshipping with each other on such a level that if believers found out that one of them was in need, they would go sell possessions to ensure their brothers and sisters had their daily needs met. We see this going on throughout the book of Acts (4:34-37; 11:29). But this service toward one another was more than a good deed–it was an expression of their faith in God (James 2:14-16) and proclamation of where their true treasure lied (Luke 12:33-34). So the church’s fellowship around God’s Word drove them to service towards one another which only united them further.

The final aspect of interaction within the church was unity. Luke records in Acts 2:44 and 47 that, “all who believed were together and had all things in common…praising God and having favor with all people”. So we see that it was their common fellowship (God and His Word) and service that grew these people to be united in all things. This group was cohesive, composed, and concentrated. They were cohesive around God’s Word and caring for one another, thinking the same way (1 Corinthians 1:10). They were composed of the same oneness in body, Spirit, hope, Lord, faith, baptism, God, and Father (Ephesians 4:4-6). They were concentrated on Christ’s example of humility (Philippians 2:3-8). The early church was united with one another because of their focus on God and love for one another. They fellowshipped together, served one another, and were unified because of the cross of Jesus Christ. golgotha-01

What about us? How are we, as the church today, interacting with one another? Are we fellowshipping, serving, and unified with one another? If not, with which area do we struggle most? What can you and I do this week to pursue fellowship, service, and unity with our local body of believers?

Stay tuned for part 5 of this series “The Church”. Up next: How it Worships. If you missed part 1: The Church:What is it?, part 2: The Church:Universal vs. Local, or part 3: The Church: Who is in the Church, read it here!

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