What should a church be about?
An analogy for church is the planet Jupiter. Hard, rocky core surrounded by swirling gases. Churches need a core that’s solid. Everything around it can be fluid. Programs can start and stop. Ministries can come and go. Methodologies can change depending on who you are trying to reach or build up. But the core of every church should remain rock solid.
The Bible is clear when it comes to core values of a church, but it is pretty silent when it comes to practical methodologies. There is no blueprint for church, no manual to follow. All we have are principles and then in some sense, the execution is up to us and it can vary greatly from one church to the next, depending on the gifting of the pastor or the gift mix of the congregation and the unique burdens that God places on individual hearts of people.
In terms of methodology, what worked in the previous generation may not work today. For example, the generation of college students today are very different from the generation when I was a college student. Berkeley and Caltech are light years apart. They are like completely different planets in separate galaxies far, far away. So we need to be flexible and fluid in our methodologies. We can try, re-assess in a year and then keep what works and throw away the rest.
But the core must remain intact. So what is the core of this church? What are the core values? What must we hold onto even as surface level things swirl around and change? These are all ways of saying the same thing.
High-Level Vision: 3 Legs of a Tripod
We started off the year with a high-level vision for not just 2012, but what I am convinced needs to be the overarching vision for the Christian life for all time, past, present and future.
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and, Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10:27)
18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)
The 3 legs of a tripod are 1) love God, 2) love neighbor and 3) make disciples. Those things need to be kept at the forefront of every believer’s mind.
View from atop the Rockerfeller Center in NYC–it’s breathtaking. You are 70 stories up and you can see the entire cityscape. To me, that’s kind of like the 3 legs of the tripod–it’s a high level view.
When you are that high up and you got your camera, you can take some snapshots of important landmarks – the Empire State Building, Statue of Liberty, Central Park. That’s what I want to do today. Focus on a few landmarks.
The problem with the high level view is that you can do these things as an individual. I can love God on my own, I can love neighbor whenever I feel like it, alone, and I can make disciples by myself. No outside help is necessary. What’s missing is the church. The church needs to be kept in view. Actually, if you really try to live out the 3 legs of the tripod with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, you will soon realize your need for the church, that in fact, the church was the means to love God and love neighbor and make disciples. That church was God’s chosen vehicle to fulfill the Great Commandment and the Great Commission. That’s why you can’t separate our individual status as children of God from our corporate status as members of His church. Those are 2 sides of the same coin.
Now that we have the high level principles, the view from 70 stories up–love God, love neighbor, make disciples–let’s look at the church and get some ground level emphases for LBC.
Now let’s turn our attention to Acts 2:42-47.
42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
After the death of Christ and the resurrection, the first Easter, there was Pentecost when the Holy Spirit came down in power, then Peter preached his first sermon and 3,000 were saved. That was the birth of the church.
What did this church devote themselves to? 4 things.
1) fellowship, 2) apostle’s teaching (Word of God), 3) breaking of bread (Lord’s Supper), and 4) prayer.
SESSION #1: FELLOWSHIP
What do you remember?
What Fellowship is Not
In our day and age, fellowship is a very diluted word. It’s more than gathering together and hanging out and opening the Bible once in a while. It’s more than going bowling together on Friday nights because you are lonely and want to hang out with your friends. The church is not a frat, it’s not a social club. The church is not a company with a mission statement where as long as we execute and keep everyone happy and our numbers are consistently on the rise, then we are successful. Fellowship is something entirely different.
At many churches, you join the church and the leaders put the org chart hat on and try to plug you in somewhere. There are pre-defined ministries like children’s ministry or committees like the welcome committee or there are jobs like ushers or the evangelism director. There is nothing wrong with having defined ministries and committees and roles, and we will need to have a more clearly defined structure as we grow. However, even if we were large, I wouldn’t want the first thing we do when a newcomer walks through our doors is to plug them into one of these ministries and give them a title with a function.
I see those things as secondary. The church is not a company with an org chart and departments and job titles.
Several Compelling Metaphors for the Church
I think there are several compelling visions or metaphors for church. We are the bride of Christ, the house of God, a family, the temple of God built with living stones.
Body of Christ
One in particular that I find helpful is the body metaphor. We are the body of Christ (Rom 12:3-8).
We Belong to One Another – Relational Language
Various gifts are mentioned, but those are secondary. More fundamental than the exercising of gifts is v5 – so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member BELONGS to all the others. Belongs to, belonging – my child belongs to me because I’m his father. We belong to our Heavenly Father because He created us. Belonging – this is relational language.
Fellowship or church is where we belong to one another. 1 Cor 12:20-26 uses the same relational language. God has put the body together. God put this particular body, LBC in Pasadena, together. This means, it is no accident that you are here. Why did God bring this particular group of people together?
So that together we can learn to have equal concern for each other. If a couple from our church is moving into a new home this week, then I am moving. If they need help, I’m there. We can say we are one body but if you are only concerned about yourself and your concern for others here is never expressed, then you are only part of this body in theory. Our concern needs to be expressed concretely. If one part suffers, we all suffer. Funeral. That’s not theory. It means you actually feel the pain of another. Actually going to that person and offering a shoulder to cry on. If one part is honored, we all rejoice. We go to that person and say, let’s celebrate. Your joy is my joy.
Prioritization. The first 2 meetings–Sunday service and prayer meetings–I am pleased to say everyone for the most part is taking those seriously as shown by their regular attendance. Discipleship and small groups, things like that are voluntary. It depends on where you are spiritually and your schedule and your desire.
What Kind of Culture Do We Want?
Related to the right kind of fellowship, we need to discuss having the right type of culture.
We All Bring Our Culture to the Table: Ethnic Culture, Previous Church Culture
We all bring our culture to the table. If you’re Asian, you bring your Asian culture to the table. If you’re Caucasian, you bring American culture to the table. If you are a second generation Korean American, or Chinese American, you bring a hybrid culture to the table.
On top of that, we bring our previous church culture to the table. Growing up, your church might have been a first generation immigrant church that was very conservative and had strong leadership and they were reaching out to only one ethnic group.
Compare that first generation immigrant church with a church like ours where we, God-willing, are trying to build a multi-ethnic community. Do you think the methodologies within those two churches will be the same? Of course not.
Or you might have come from a church where there was only one dominant ministry–homeless ministry or some type of social work and nothing else vs. a church with many kinds of ministries–the poor, college students, the elderly, young singles, married couples, empty nesters. How similar would those 2 churches be? Probably not that similar. Yet, due to our culture and our previous church background, subconsciously, we all bring certain preferences and perspectives to the table. Wouldn’t you say so?
Elements of a Biblical Culture
What is biblical culture? What are the non-negotiables? I’ve identified several elements of a biblical culture: 1) truth, 2) love and 3) unity.
The first element of biblical culture is truth.
Without truth, there is no true fellowship. Christianity begins with the truth that we are sinners. This is our starting point. We can’t have the same level of fellowship with non-Christians as we can with other Christians because we don’t have the same starting point. There is a fundamental difference between Christians and non-Christians when it comes to our self-identity.
Christians, we don’t believe that truth is relative. If God is the Creator, then there is only one truth. Truth is exclusive and so when the Bible says, for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, we can say Amen to that. That’s me, I am a sinner.
The tricky part is that even while we were saved from sin, we still have a sinful nature. We become blind to our sins. So one key function of a church is to speak truth about sin.
How do we do it? We proclaim truth directly from the Word of God and the Holy Spirit convicts of sin. At times, the Word of God alone is not enough because sin is self-deceptive and we become blind to our own sins. When there is clear sin, like David’s adultery with Bathsheeba and his murder of Uriah to cover up, God may have to send a prophet into your life like a Nathan. There are times when we will have to play the role of Nathan to one another.
If someone is in blatant sin among us, it is our job as a church to speak truth into that brother or sister’s life. Because we are accountable before God, esp. the leaders, God is going to hold us accountable for the souls that He has entrusted to us. This raises the bar. I’m looking out for your soul and I need people to look out for mine.
Wielding the Sword of Truth vs. Speaking the Truth in Love
How should we speak truth to one another? What if every chance we got, we wielded the sword of truth and we stabbed one another with it. Or we came down on each other with the hammer of truth all the time. This is easier. It produces faster results. It can also create behavior that is motivated by fear and guilt. If we always used the sword and hammer, we’d probably end up killing off more people than saving..
This is why Paul urges us in Eph 4:15 to speak the truth IN LOVE. Love is the vehicle of truth.
Another way to put it, we need to speak the truth with the right spirit. If truth is spoken in an unloving way or with the wrong spirit, then we’re not ready to speak the truth. We have to wait until we can speak with the right spirit, with love. We can dispense and pronounce truth with a sword or a hammer or we can speak the truth in love. Truth can actually damage and kill and stumble rather than edify unless it is spoken with the right spirit.
I’ve heard Asian churches label this type of speaking the truth with the right spirit as American. Treating others like we are ladies and gentleman. Preach and then leave people alone. Don’t meddle. That’s what is meant by “American” church. I take offense at that. Speaking the truth IN LOVE is not an American style over against an Asian style. It’s simply being biblical.
The second characteristic of biblical culture is love.
What is love? How does the Bible define love? 1 Cor 13.
Speak the truth in love. Speak the truth with this kind of spirit. A spirit that is patient, kind, not boastful, not proud, not rude, not self-seeking, not easily angered, a spirit that keeps no record of wrongs.
Love is Dying
Jesus defines love in John 15:13.
13 Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.
I wish it were easier. No one wants to die. Instead, we want to defend ourselves, we want to criticize, we want to accuse, but who wants to die? Not me, not you. That is why we need the Holy Spirit’s help. Regular self-death requires the Spirit’s help. This kind of humility and compassion is Spirit-generated. We have to be filled with the Spirit in order to genuinely love because love at its core requires death.
When we decided to follow Jesus, we agreed to follow him in a life of dying.
23 Then he said to them all: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it.”
It is no surprise that the Christian calling is to deny oneself and take up a cross daily and follow Jesus. Love requires a cross, an instrument of death.
In the world, you can be selective. If someone at work annoys you, you can avoid that person. Not in the church. Jesus loved sinners of all shapes and sizes. And he calls us to do the same.
1 Peter 4
8 Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.
Love Covers Over a Multitude of Sins
Love covers over a multitude of sins. Love does not deny truth. Love does not bury its head in the sand and say, I don’t see your sins. Love looks at sin and many times covers over it. Isn’t that what Jesus does with our sins? He covers them. We were forgiven in Christ, even for sins that we didn’t even know we committed, or are committing at present. Sins that we are unaware of and therefore have not confessed. But in Christ, we are given a blanket of forgiveness. He covers over a multitude of our sins. If God came down on us every time we sinned, every time we had a sinful motive, or a hidden thought, or a careless word, do you think any of us would survive? If God always shined the spotlight of his truth on each and every sin conscious or unconscious as soon as the sin was committed, we would be destroyed. You and I wouldn’t be able to do anything. We would be on our faces, undone, paralyzed, unable to face another day. So in Christ, our sins are covered to a large extent so that we can breathe and we can have hope for a better day.
Biblical culture does not deny the importance of truth, but truth without love will stumble and possibly even destroy you and me. Speak the truth in love. Because love covers over a multitude of sins. When it comes to a church adopting a biblical culture, there is truth, there is love, and lastly, there is unity.
The third element of biblical culture is unity.
We are all Christians, members of the body, we’re all servants. But when considering the topic of unity, we do have to account for one thing–maturity.
Need to Factor in Varying Degrees of Maturity
Maturity is more than the length of time that we have been walking with Christ. Everyone matures at a different pace. Maturity is not defined by the number of years we can call ourselves Christian. Or the number of years of church attendance. Maturity is a tricky thing. Some like Apostle Paul seem to mature overnight. And never miss a beat. Others like Peter stumble. They have their moments where they race ahead. And times when they sputter along or stop in the middle of the road.
Reasons Why We Don’t Mature
If you map out your spiritual life, you probably can identify periods when you really matured quickly in a short amount of time. You loved spending time with God and reading His Word and praying. And you were ready to serve others and put their needs ahead of yours. Or to share the gospel with a complete stranger. And there are also periods when you didn’t mature very much, or perhaps, you even took a few steps backward.
Why aren’t we racing along and maturing every single day? Because of unconfessed sin. Hidden idols. Because of trials that we didn’t respond well to. Unexpected suffering hits and we lose faith in God. Sins done unto us by others can stunt our growth. People we trusted ended up disappointing us. And because of these factors, we don’t mature as we ought.
Seasons of life can affect our maturity. Getting married – some get really derailed spiritually because of this. Or enduring a difficult marriage – that can really block maturity. Or getting a new job. Or working for a demanding boss. Or becoming a new parent and being sleep deprived. There are many reasons that we can point to that explain why our maturity fluctuates.
This means that at every church, you have those who are more mature and those who are less mature. How do we account for this disparity in maturity among our members?
Two Approaches to Unity
Unity is possible in one of two ways. One is the Navy Seals approach. Only the strong survive. We only want the best of the best. It’s my way or the highway. If you can’t cut it, go to the army. Some churches take the Navy Seals approach when it comes to unity. And at the end of the day, a church like this is left with a very uniform group of those who made the cut.
The other approach, which I think is the biblical approach, is to embrace weakness. We all take turns being strong and being weak. And when we are doing well spiritually and we are “strong,” how should we act toward those who are not doing well and who are weaker? We have to embrace and accept them as they are (Rom 14). As long as we are not compromising, we have to be careful not to stumble a weaker brother or sister (1 Cor 8).
Biblical unity is impossible unless we are willing to accept weaker brothers and sisters.
Unity – Embracing Weakness and Diversity
Beyond that, biblical unity involves not only embracing weakness, but embracing diversity. God’s nature is trinitarian. 3 persons, 3 distinct persons, 3 persons with distinct differences and roles yet unified. And if church is a reflection of God, then, we, too, ought to reflect the same unity despite our differences. As we become more multi-ethnic, do you think that will challenge our unity? You bet. We’ll either try to be uniform and push one way of doing things on everyone, or we will embrace diversity while trying to maintain unity.
SESSION #2: APOSTLE’s TEACHING/WORD OF GOD
What do you remember?
Word of God – The Word of God is the authority by which we test everything against.
It’s the map for the journey. If we are not sure about something, how to do something, how to decide something, where to go, where do we turn? The Word of God. The answers to life, personal faith, church, the final destination, the marching orders for the church, it’s all there.
It’s like Prego sauce. It looks like plain tomato sauce, but on the label it says, mushrooms, bell peppers and onions, but you can’t see them. But it’s in there. You need answers. Look to the Bible – it’s in there.
What if there is a disagreement for the flavor of the Prego sauce? One guy tastes it and says, that’s nothing but tomatoes. Another guy says, no, I taste pesto with a hint of garlic. How do you settle the debate? You turn the bottle around and read the ingredients.
The Bible is our ingredients list. When there is a disagreement, we go back to the Bible.
We have to watch out for blind spots.
For example, you can live in the West where it is comfortable and all the references in the Bible about the poor, although it is meant to be the physically poor, we can see those references through an over-spiritualized lens. And what that does is it distorts Scripture and gets us off the hook. I don’t have to consider those who have nothing materially and who don’t have financial means, those who are physically poor because those references are talking about the poor in spirit. That’s not my ministry, not my calling, not my concern. It gets us off the hook. And this area become a blind spot.
That’s why we need outside voices. If my interpretations or emphases were unique, you should be nervous. Every leader has blind spots. Every church has blind spots. It’s for your own safety that I invest a considerable amount of time and energy getting to know pastors outside of our immediate circle. It’s for your safety that I listen to other preachers and I spend time reading books and commentaries.
The best way that I know how to keep from becoming imbalanced is to preach the Bible chapter by chapter, book by book. Teaching the whole counsel of God.
Let’s recap what the Word of God does.
First, the Word of God lays us bare.
12 For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. 13 Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.
When you read the Word of God or you listen to a Bible study or a sermon, what is supposed to happen? We encounter a holy God and because we are sinful, the hidden things are going to be uncovered and laid bare. The thoughts and attitudes of our hearts will be exposed.
Second, the Word of God teaches, rebukes, corrects and trains us in righteousness.
2 Tim 3
16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
Whenever the Word of God is preached, it is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness. 2 of the functions of Scripture are negative. Rebuking and correcting. God, through His Word and with the help of the Holy Spirit, whenever the Word is preached, God’s job is to teach, rebuke, correct and train. And if you are blind, it’s the job of the shepherds here to lovingly help you to see your blindness.
What’s the goal of being taught, rebuked, corrected and trained? So that v17
2 Tim 3
17 so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
Who are the servants of God? Not the pastor, not the paid staff, not the “professional,” but everyone. Every believer is a servant of God.
The function of the Word of God is to equip the servant of God, meaning each and every believer is to be equipped for every good work that you will ever be asked to do over the course of your lifetime.
Third, the Word of God prepares God’s people for works of service.
11 It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, 12 to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
In a church, who’s doing the work? Is it the pastor doing all the work? Or the Bible study teacher doing all the work? Or the evangelist doing all the evangelism? No, we have our various roles and functions in order that God’s PEOPLE can do various works of service, together. Do you see that?
Whether you’re with us for 4 years or 40 years, we want each of our members to be equipped and to leave here equipped. For works of service.
The Word of God equips and prepare the entire body of Christ, every believer, for works of service. But works of service is kind of broad. So I want to bring it down to 2 concrete areas.
What are two areas that we want to build up through the teaching ministry of the Word of God? One is the ability to self-feed. Which is a prerequisite of the second area. The second is the ability to disciple others.
The Importance of Self-Feeding
4 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
We just covered this. The Word of God is as important to our spiritual lives as food is to our physical bodies. Church is not a seminary where you come to a professor (i.e. pastor) who unlocks the mysteries of Scripture and you accumulate facts and then only after 20 years you are finally ready to read the Bible for yourself. The Bible is food. If you only eat once a week, you’ll be starving. Your growth will be stunted. One goal of the teaching ministry is to teach you how to feed yourself daily.
What does it mean to be equipped as a believer for good works? It starts with learning to feed yourself with the Word of God. How can you have the strength to serve others unless you have the ability to feed yourself. If you have an infant, it’ll be a while before they can take care of themselves. You have to spoon feed them. But as you mature, you expect your teenage son to be able to open up the refrigerator for themselves and make themselves a sandwich and not die of starvation. This is part of what it means to grow.
I don’t want to have to spoon feed a bunch of Sunday attendees for the next 40 years. That would be a disservice to you. I am not here to make you dependent on me. I am not here to make you dependent on the church. Our job is to equip servants to do good works.
Over time, this means learning how to feed oneself through the Word of God and developing a prayer life. These are the components of a personal relationship with God. If you are relying on a midweek Bible study or a Sunday service to sustain your spiritual life, then you will never grow beyond a certain point. Imagine if you just had 2 meals all week. You’d be starving all the time. And that 1 or 2 meal per week, you would gorge yourself. That’s not healthy. Your growth will be stunted.
You have to learn how to feed yourself daily bread. That’s why we call our devotions, daily devotions. It’s daily feeding time. That is one way we build up spiritual health. On our website, we have a Devotional Text or DT that we have been using at our church for many years. It’s a 4 year Bible reading plan put out by the Scripture Union that jumps between OT and NT and in between there is Psalms and Proverbs. I encourage everyone here again to use this plan, if you are not doing so already. So that God can speak to us corporately as a church and so that we can share with one another. Like we do sometimes at our prayer meetings.
The second goal of the teaching ministry is to discipleship. We are all disciples. All Christians are, by definition, disciples of Jesus. There are not 2 different levels: the regular Joe Shmoe Christian who attends church and the really mature disciple of Christ who serves others. Likewise, there are not two levels of disciples: the disciples who take God seriously in terms of personal devotion and the super disciples who disciple others. There is only 1 kind of Christian and 1 kind of disciple and it is a disciple who disciples others. A disciple making disciple. And your goal in discipling others is to make sure they learn how to disciple others.
The link between the Word of God and discipleship is undeniable.
In the Great Commission, we have Jesus’ final charge to the believers.
18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
If you study these verses in the Greek, it becomes apparent that the verbs “go,” “baptize,” and “teach” are all participles which derive their force from the one controlling verb “make disciples.” From the grammar, I hope you can see that the point of the Great Commission, the end game is to “make disciples.”
A key component of discipleship is teaching. They key word is to obey. God wants more than our teaching to be information transfer. He wants transformation. The Word of God means nothing unless you are willing to submit yourself under it and obey it and allow the Spirit to transform you through it.
Discipleship is where the Word of God meets our lives. Discipleship happens in the intersection between the Word of God and real life. Just teaching is not enough. We have to obey everything, everything Christ commanded. Not the easy teaching, not the teachings that fit us well, but everything Christ commanded.
How do you disciple?
This is an issue of methodology. Every church has their methodology. Some rely heavily on programs. Some rely heavily on hiring the right minister. What should our methodology be?
I think we need to start with the ministry of Jesus.
From my study of the life of Jesus Christ, a few things stand out in terms of the way that Christ modeled discipleship for us:
1) He went out to find disciples
2) He invested in a few disciples
3) He lived with his disciples
4) He ministered with his disciples
5) He released his disciples into the harvest field
1) Jesus Went Out to Find Disciples: Evangelism
What did Jesus do first? Jesus went out and found disciples. We call this evangelism. He evangelized and called people to drop what they were doing and become disciples. Evangelism and discipleship are the same thing. You can’t have discipleship until you evangelize someone who agrees to be your disciple.
Jesus asks us to follow the same pattern in the Great Commission – go and make disciples. Go. It doesn’t say, wait until people come to us. Churches can’t sit back passively and wait for seekers to come and get saved and then ask to be disciples. We are to go.
LA is a mission field. LA is home to people from more than 140 countries speaking over 220 different identified languages. Before we consider spending thousands and going to a foreign mission field, we can’t ignore the fact that there are millions of unreached people in our own backyard.
2) Jesus Invested in a Few Disciples
Jesus did mass evangelism. He preached to the crowds. He fed the crowds. He healed the sick and performed other miracles. But where did Jesus spend the vast majority of his energy? The Twelve. The 12 disciples that Jesus himself went out and found. So Jesus went out, he obeyed his own Great Commission by going and he found 12 men.
What were these men like?
13 When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.
Unschooled and ordinary. Why do you think a bulk of Jesus’ disciples were unschooled and ordinary? They were not highly educated. Why didn’t Jesus go to the Jewish upper class, or the Jewish elites? Why didn’t he go to the Jewish leaders because they already knew Scripture and they were at least motivated spiritually? Can you imagine Jesus being surrounded by Jewish religious leaders and he’s teaching them and every few minutes, he’s interrupted. Jesus, I’m not sure you are understanding the context correctly, or Jesus, I don’t know if I agree, or Jesus, did you think about this? Think of how slow his discipleship would have been had he been stuck with well-educated people.
They were unschooled and ordinary and therefore teachable. Jesus was the Teacher and the disciples were like sponges who followed Jesus around town to soak up whatever he had to say.
They were available. They left everything and followed Jesus. They left their jobs, their families. So that they could live with Jesus. They saw him everyday for 3 years.
These first batch of disciples left everything. They made themselves available. And they gave Jesus their undivided attention. The disciples admitted that when it came to spiritual life, they were lost and they needed help. They needed personal attention. And they showed up to class by availing themselves to Jesus. Jesus was interested in teaching the masses, but Jesus focused on a few. Jesus did not shirk his responsibility to reach the nations. His goal all along was salvation of all nations, but his methodology was to focus on a few who were teachable and available.
3) Jesus Lived with His Disciples
Jesus had 12 who were enrolled in his school of discipleship. They set aside all other agendas. They were available for him to teach and mold. What did he do? It’s quite simple – he said, come, follow me. Let’s live together. Let’s do life together.
Discipleship is where the Word of God meets your life. You can’t disciple someone unless you know them well and you know how they are living. We can see each other on Sundays week after week and just smile and speak pleasantries to one another and this can go on for decades. And we can remain as ladies and gentlemen and be complete strangers to one another. You may even ask me to disciple you, but we won’t be able to get very far with a Sunday only relationship.
You need proximity. You need regular contact, much more than once a week saying hi, how was your week over a meal of meatballs. Discipleship assumes relationship and proximity. If you are doing life together with the person you are discipling and you develop an intimate relationship where you can meet often, you will find plenty of teaching opportunities.
In the Great Commission, it is not enough to teach Christ’s commands. We are called to teach others to OBEY Christ’s commands. It’s life on life. When you trust someone and you see how they live day to day for an extended period of time, there are countless teaching opportunities. In the areas of finances, time management, decision making, stress management, prayer, conflict resolution and forgiveness, addictions, idolatry, accountability in the basic Christian disciplines,
4) Jesus Ministered with His Disciples
Life together leads to ministry together. Rather, it might be more appropriate to say that the Twelve learned how to minister to others by observing how Jesus ministered. Ministry provided more teaching opportunities. Remember how Jesus approached the religious leaders? And how different his approach with them was compared to the woman caught in adultery. By observing Jesus, the disciples learned how to approach each person differently. How to ask the right questions. How to be compassionate. How to be flexible and open to all kinds of people while not compromising on the truth. Jesus gave the 12 a backstage view into the heart of God for all kinds of people.
It’s one thing to teach about sacrifice and putting the needs of another ahead of your own in a sermon or Bible study. It’s quite another thing altogether to demonstrate what that looks like in real life as you minister together.
Or, evangelism – we can teach evangelistic techniques or you could take the person you are discipling along to evangelize another person. Or, teaching about prayer vs. actually praying with the person you are discipling. Demonstration and modeling are integral parts of discipleship.
You learn by listening, as a student listens to a professor in lecture. You learn better by teaching others. You might be able to get a problem correct, but if the teacher asks you to get in front of the class and explain how to do it, you need to know the material far better. Discipleship takes it a step further. Not only do we learn for ourselves, not only do we teach others, but we are called to show others. It is good to tell people what we mean, but it is infinitely better to show them. People are looking for a demonstration, not an explanation.
5) He Released His Disciples into the Harvest Field
Jesus taught the disciples and allowed them to observe how he ministered. But also, Jesus gave them firsthand experience by releasing them into the harvest field. During his three year ministry, Jesus sent out the 12 to minister and another group of 70+ disciples, two by two, to the harvest field. Were they ready? No, but Jesus believed in on the job training. Three years into his discipleship training, Jesus left the 12 for good. Were they ready then? No, but they were sent out.
You can learn many things from a textbook, but some things you just got to learn on the job. You can learn managerial skills in a MBA classroom, but there’s quite a gap between that and actually learning in your first managerial position. I can learn about how to pastor in seminary. But I’ve learned things the last 2 years being a pastor that I could never learn in a classroom.
If you are being discipled and you want to serve, then I want to give you a shot. Whether it is teaching or discipling someone else, I want to give you as much on the job training as I can. You will make mistakes, as will I. And we learn from our mistakes together.
When you are discipling someone, you don’t need years and years of equipping. You just need to be one step ahead of the person you are discipling.
I want to shorten the training period. You don’t need 4 years and a degree before you can disciples someone else. We want to equip you and encourage you to engage the world. Share what you know. As you teach and share with others what you know, you will realize your lack. That’s a good place to be. It causes you to cry out to Jesus. And causes you to seek counsel from others. We’re here to help.
Jesus lived with 12 men for 3 years and what was the fruit of the ministry he left behind? What happened to the 12 disciples after Jesus left them.
12 disciples + Matthias (replacement to Judas) + Paul = 14 disciples. Out of 14, 1 betrayed Jesus, 4 were local missionaries in Jerusalem/Judea. The rest, 9 of them, were foreign missionaries (who were essentially church planters).
9 were martyrs. It was quite eye opening for me to see the fruit of Jesus’ discipleship. What began at the outset of his call for discipleship as a “come and see” ended as a radical call to “come and die.” 9 out of 14 died because they took up their crosses daily and followed Jesus and for them, it was a literal cross where they had to die. This is the call of every disciple of Jesus Christ.
Heb 10:-23-25 talk about the importance of meeting together for the purpose of spurring one another on toward love and good deeds and encouragement.
I see church as twigs gathering in a fire. Jesus is the flame and some of us are twigs that are in love with Jesus and our life is blazing. Others are twigs that are smoldering. Still others, the fire is completely out. But we gather around Jesus and in fellowship with one another, to light each other’s fire. We spur one another toward loving and good deeds. We should walk away from our times together wanting to love more and wanting to do more good deeds for others.
When 2 or more gather outside the walls of this church, a new fire starts wherever God places us, in our homes, at our workplaces, in our dorms, on college campuses. Remember the goal – God calls us to go and evangelize wherever God places us so that we can make disciples who will in turn make disciples.
SESSION #3: GOSPEL AND SPIRITUAL FRUIT
What do you remember?
What is the Gospel?
Before we talk about what salvation through the gospel is, I find it helpful to discuss what it is not. The gospel is not merely an invitation that you tack on the end of a sermon to elicit a response, i.e. walking down the aisle and accepting Christ at the end of a service. The gospel is not merely a tract like the 4 Spiritual Laws and just because you agree and check off some boxes, you’re saved. The gospel is not merely a door through which you enter the Christian life.
The gospel is more than an invitation, more than a tract or a doctrinal statement, more than a door. It’s not enough to say, I had an emotional response at a retreat, therefore, I must be saved. Those tears were sincere. Having a clear moment of conversion is not even essential. Compare Paul and the disciples. Paul had a clear conversion on the road to Damascus, but as for the 12 disciples, their conversion was not so clear. It was gradual.
What is the gospel? It’s when a holy God, by an act of incomparable mercy does not cast us off as objects of wrath to eternal judgment, but he shows us grace according to his sovereign will by sending His own Son to die in our place the death we deserved. And those who recognize this free gift of grace and respond in repentance of their sin and faith in Christ are saved. The response of repentance is the recognition that Jesus is my Savior. He saves me from my sin. And the response of faith is the recognition that Jesus is my Lord. I surrender all before Jesus and follow him.
The gospel has its methodology. It’s something that is preached. The gospel has its content. It does contain some elements of doctrine and theology. Responding to the gospel is an important starting point so in that sense, it is a door through which we embark on our spiritual lives, but the response of repentance and faith reveals an important truth. It reveals that that the gospel ends in a relationship. We are repenting before a person. We are putting our faith in somebody, namely Jesus Christ.
Why is it important to keep the gospel at the forefront of our minds and hearts?
Let’s keep the relational language. The gospel is embodied in the person of Christ. You are saved when you encounter Christ. After you are saved, you follow Christ. The term “Christian” was used initially as a derogatory term referring to Christians as being “little Christs.” A Christian is a little Christ, which is actually quite a good summary of what it means to be a Christian. We are called to be imitators of Christ. We are called to become more and more Christ-like in our thoughts, our speech, our actions.
So when we say, let’s keep the gospel at the forefront, what we are actually saying is this. Let’s keep Jesus at the forefront. Let’s remember, he’s the head of the church. Let’s remember to exalt his name and none other. Let’s remind ourselves that there is no other name by which we are saved. Let’s point others to Jesus. May everything we do as a church lead to helping one another know that everything else is rubbish compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.
If the gospel is not at the center, instead of a life-giving relationship with Jesus, we will have nothing more than a man-made religion.
The more I study the New Testament, I more I see a recurring pattern emerging. Keep the gospel at the forefront, or in other words, keep Christ at the forefront, and everything else–the health of the church, discipleship, evangelism, missions–these things will follow naturally. But if you depart from the gospel, all hell breaks loose.
Recall our study through 1 Corinthians. They started with the gospel, they were saved, their testimonies were confirmed, they started off well. Then, what happened? They departed from the gospel. How do we know this? The church became man-centered. They were enamored with human leadership more than the beauty of Christ. They looked to the giftedness of certain leaders over other leaders. The overt spiritual gifts were emphasized and desirable to wield power and influence over people. Factions started forming. There was division in the church. This led to an unraveling in terms of ethical behavior. Sexual immorality. Infighting, even a lawsuit.
The same thing happened in Galatia. They took the pure gospel of Jesus dying on a cross for the sins of the whole world and the offer of salvation as a free gift for all people and they added a requirement that in order to be saved, you had to be circumcised. They took a Jewish custom and applied it to the gospel and made it a requirement in order to be saved. If you add anything to the gospel, it’s no longer the gospel. If you take anything away from the gospel, it’s not the gospel.
The biggest threat to the true gospel is religion. Jesus’ harshest words were reserved for religious-minded people.
The important thing to know about fig trees is that the fruit precedes the leaves. v19 – Seeing a fig tree by the road, he went up to it but found nothing on it except leaves. The leaves were like a blinking neon sign–come here, come check me out, figs are here. If there were no leaves, then Jesus wouldn’t have even bothered going up to the tree.
The figless fig tree was a metaphor for the Jewish state. Full of leaves. Full of abundant religious profession. An elaborate hierarchy of scribes, pharisees, priests and elders. And Jesus was trying to show them that they were dead, meaning despite the leaves, there was no fruit.
What a warning this is to all churches. We can have elaborate programs and many people being added to our membership. We can plant churches and do overseas missions among the unreached and unengaged, but it is quite possible to do all of this and still be full of nothing but leaves.
A fig tree that has leaves and no figs is a freak of nature. It’s unhealthy growth. These freaks of nature occur in forests and in vineyards so it’s not impossible to have a fig tree with no figs and only leaves.
It’s interesting to note–recall that in the Garden after the Fall, the first Adam came to a fig tree looking for leaves to cover his shame, but the Second Adam, Jesus Christ, goes to a fig tree and looks for figs. He is looking for fruit, not leaves.
How can you tell the difference between a false prophet and the real thing? v16 – By their fruit you will recognize them. Personal knowledge of Christ can only be validated by fruit. We can know about Christ and not be saved. We are saved when Christ knows us.
A second reason that we need to keep the gospel at the forefront of our minds and hearts is our need to have a posture of dependence on Christ.
5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”
But if you remain in Christ and he remains in you, the promise is that you will bear much fruit. It’s a guarantee. Our conversion was not a surface level change. True conversion is a change from the root to the branch. The root of sin and self was crucified (Gal 2:20) and from that internal change, external change followed. Inside out change.
Now we have to examine, is there fruit in my life? A couple of very helpful passages to examine ourselves is Matt 5 (the Beatitudes) and Gal 5 (fruit of the Spirit). Matt 5 – these are the marks of a Christian. Gal 5 – a Christian is one who bears fruit of the Spirit.
Before talking about the fruit of the Spirit, there is mention of acts or works of the flesh. Why? It underscores a principle: If the root is good, the fruit will be good. If the root is bad, the fruit or outcome will be bad.
He calls the vices in 5:19–21, acts of the sinful nature or “works of the flesh,” and the virtues in 5:22, 23, “fruit of the Spirit.” Why does Paul call the products of our flesh “acts” or “works” and the products of God’s Spirit through us “fruit”?
By looking at the surface–the fruit, acts, behavior, the outcome–you are getting a window into the root of a person. The heart. The spontaneous reactions of strife, jealousy, anger, envy stem from a heart where the flesh is still alive. And a flesh that is still alive seeks what it thinks it deserves. Everything it produces is flavored by the mentality of merit, and entitlement and what it deserves.
So even in the names that Paul has given to his lists of vices and virtues, he helps us see that the issue is not the outward activities of life but the kind of heart that produces our outer life. Or the root that produces the branches filled with either leaves or genuine fruit. Paul assumes that some powerful battle has been fought and won in the deep territory of our soul. That’s the meaning of verse 24, “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” We belong to Christ. Christ has taken possession of our soul. Our sinful nature, our old self, our flesh has been dealt a mortal wound and stripped of its power to have dominion.
When the Gospel is preached and there is true conversion, your life changes (fruit of the Spirit).
Now we are ready to talk about the fruit of the Spirit.
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control.
Paul – why does he use fruit? Why not say, traits? He’s using an analogy of botanical growth. Bearing fruit is as gradual as the growth rate of a blade of grass. You can never see it while it is happening. Take for example a young boy or girl. We may say to our child whom we see everyday, I think you’ve grown, but I’m not sure. Growth is so small, so gradual that you can’t see it.
Spiritual growth of fruit is gradual. It’s mysterious. We can’t self-generate growth. We can’t will growth, even physical growth, you can’t will it. How much more we are utterly powerless to grow ourselves spiritually. It’s the fruit OF THE SPIRIT. The Spirit does the growth and we can’t fully explain it. It’s mysterious. And it’s seasonal. No growth, nothing, nothing, week after week, then a sudden spurt of growth.
Growth can never be measured. It can only be tested. Let’s take a runner. You ask a runner, do you feel faster now than you were last year? It’s hard to say. Until you are tested. The stopwatch comes out and you can measure it. Same goes for spiritual life. Have you grown in the fruit of the Spirit? It’s hard to tell until you’re tested. A trial comes. Trouble hits. You are in a jam. Someone speaks a harsh word to you and you don’t react with harshness. And you realize, wow, I’ve grown in patience. I never would have been this patient last year.
Christian growth is inevitable. If you have the Spirit of God within you, you will grow. You must. It’s like an acorn. It grows into a tree and it is powerful enough to split the sidewalk. An acorn vs. a thousand pound slab of concrete. Who wins? It’s no contest. The acorn will always win. A tree grows and it splits the pavement. Botanical growth has this kind of power in its gradual-ness. How much more powerful is the fruit of the Spirit?
Growth is internal. There is a difference between mechanical growth, which you can see, and organic growth, which is more internal. For example, you can make a pile of bricks. And the pile may be growing, but it is not growing organically. It’s mechanical. It’s not the same as the way a child grows.
Growth is also symmetric.
Notice that it says in Gal 5:22, the fruit of the Spirit, not the fruits. The subject is singular and the predicate is plural. Did you ever notice that? Paul is breaking the rules of grammar to make a point. Real Christian change – all of these things–love, joy, peace, and so forth–are one. It is a singular fruit.
The key word in the Edwards quote that helps unlock the mystery of Gal 5:22 is the word “concatenated.” The graces of Christianity are concatenated, or linked together, connected. Apply this to Gal 5–it’s one singular fruit. Think of the fruit of Spirit as a singular cluster of fruit, all linked up and dependent on one another.
There’s a symmetry. For example, peace and humility. What if you are proud, but you are at peace all the time. Then, it’s a counterfeit peace. True peace comes from humility. The root of worry, or the lack of peace is pride. It’s a refusal to take a humble posture before God. Anyone who worries thinks they know what they need. An arrogant person is very sure of what he needs. This is the complete opposite of a person who is at peace out of his humility. God, I know you are always there. Lord, you know what I need. I don’t know. I put myself in your hands. I’m a child. You’re my Father. Peace is always connected to humility. If you are proud, you think you are at peace, but your “peace” is the result of wise choices you made, the job security you have, and so forth.
Some people are very gentle but they are not faithful. Faithfulness here refers to loyalty and courage. You can be gentle, but that may simply be your temperament. A personality trait. Some are just sweethearts by nature. It’s your Myers Briggs-ness. You are sweet but you’re a coward. You have a natural sweetness, but you are too afraid to hurt anyone. If you are cowardly and you’re gentle, then you’re not really gentle.
Concatenation of the graces. Peace and joy are present consistently. You have integrity. Meaning you’re consistent, however you slice you, in whatever situation, you’re always the same. It’s not true peace and joy if those are absent when circumstances change or if they fly away when you’re around a different set of people.
Tim Keller helps to discern true false from false fruit.
He takes a fruit and then defines what that fruit is, gives the opposite of that fruit and then he presents a counterfeit form of the fruit. These characteristics of the fruit of the Spirit are going to blend and start sounding like one another because remember, it’s one singular fruit. Too much to digest here so I just want to expose you to these ideas to give you something to think about later.
Fruit of Love
Definition – To serve a person for their good and intrinsic value, not for what the person brings you.
Opposite – Fear, which manifests itself in 1 of 2 ways: either self-protection, you withdraw because you don’t want to be hurt OR you abuse people because you make sure that they never hurt you. In both cases, the driving force is fear.
Counterfeit love – Selfish affection. You seem like you are rescuing someone but you really rescuing self. Attracted not to a person, but to how this person’s love makes you feel about yourself. We this in relationships. People “in love” are more in love with romance than the person themselves. Romance makes you feel good and so you ending up using the other person.
Fruit of Joy
Definition – Delight in God and his salvation for sheer beauty and worth of who he is.
Opposite – Hopelessness, despair. Those are the absence of joy.
Counterfeit – Elation that comes with blessings not the Blesser! Mood swings based on circumstances. These are clues that our joy is not coming from the Lord because this joy doesn’t fluctuate with the circumstances.
Fruit of Peace
Definition – Confidence and rest in the wisdom and sovereignty of God more than having confidence in yourself.
Opposite – Anxiety and worry
Counterfeit – Indifference, apathy, not caring about something. “I don’t care.” Apathy is a poor man’s peace. You can maintain a false peace if you shield your heart from things that should cause you concern, you look away and say, I don’t care about that. It’s a coping mechanism.
Fruit of Patience
Definition – Ability to take trouble (from others or life) without blowing or having a meltdown or becoming angry. To suffer joyfully because we can identify a bit more with Christ’s suffering on our behalf.
Opposite – Resentment toward God and others. Wanting to throw in the towel. When I became a Christian, this is not what I signed up for.
Counterfeit – Cynicism – things will never change. Or self-righteousness – “This is too small to be bothered about.”
Fruit of Kindness
Definition – Practical kindness (good deeds) with vulnerability out of deep inner security. When you are a secure person because of God, you can be kind toward others.
Opposite – Envy. Inability to rejoice in other’s joy. Why? Because you feel insecure. How come that good thing is not happening to me?
Counterfeit – You will do kind deeds but in a manipulative way to build yourself up. “Right hand knowing what left hand is doing.” You do something nice in order to congratulate yourself or take credit for your self-righteousness.
Fruit of Goodness
Definition – Integrity, honesty, transparency. Being the same in one situation as another. Consistency. You are the same in front of someone you like and someone you don’t like.
Opposite – Phoniness; hypocrisy.
Counterfeit – Truth without love. “Getting it off the chest” for your sake. When you get annoyed, you may say things to that person in a way that you wouldn’t normally say to a person whom you like. A person with the fruit of goodness will seek the good of the other person always, seek to build up always, no matter who it is that is in front of you.
Fruit of Faithfulness
Definition – Loyalty. Courage. Being courageous consistently. To be principle-driven, committed, utterly reliable. True to one’s word.
Opposite – Opportunist. Fair-weather friend. Quick to change sides because you lack courage to stand your ground based on your convictions from God’s Word.
Counterfeit – Love without truth. Sentimentality. Being loyal when you should be willing to confront or challenge.
Fruit of Gentleness
Definition – Humility – best definition is self-forgetfulness. Not thinking less of yourself, but thinking about yourself less. Thinking more about God and the needs of others and less and less about yourself.
Opposite – Superiority, proud, ego boast, self-absorbed.
Counterfeit – Inferiority or insecurity – these people may come across as gentle, but they are just as self-absorbed as proud people. In their self-consciousness, they are just as self-absorbed as people who are constantly thinking about how great they are.
Fruit of Self-Control
Definition – Ability to choose the important thing over the urgent. There are always urgent things, pressing things, things that seem like they require our immediate attention. At the end of the day, we need self-control to choose what is most important over these other secondary things.
Opposite – An uncontrolled person driven by impulses. A distracted person.
Counterfeit – Willpower through pride. I am better than this. I am above those distractions and addictions. A strong-willed person can overcome simply through effort and pride.
Final question, how do we bear fruit? Fruit-bearing requires two things. First, v24–
24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.
You have to crucify the sinful nature. Does that mean just stopping certain behaviors? That’s like cutting off a branch. You have to deal with the root, not the branches. Our sin arises because there are things in our hearts that we desire more than Jesus. There is something at the root level that is more important to you than Jesus Christ and that thing is running your life and creating the works of the flesh. Those things need to be crucified. You need to go home and identify the things that need to be crucified.
25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.
Second, you need to live by the Spirit and keep in step with the Spirit as he directs your attention to the beauty of Christ. Now we are full circle. We are back to the gospel. Jesus is the gospel embodied.
If you understand the gospel and you are truly converted, your life will change. Fruit will be born as you continue to reckon your flesh as dead and as you rely on the Spirit, whose sole job is to point you back to Christ, not just for salvation, but for your sanctification.
SESSION 4: GOSPEL AND PRAYER
Read Acts 2:42-47
42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
The fourth core value is prayer. Prayer is important. Why? Because a church is not a company. At a company, you can have a strong, charismatic leader, a CEO, who has studied the market and articulates the right mission statement to take the company to the next level of growth. And as long as he assembles the right leadership team who can execute on the mission statement, success is within reach.
The church is not a company. What would happen if we lost sight of the gospel and we stopped praying as a church? We could work really hard and see great results. Or we could work really hard and nothing happens. Depending on the results of our efforts, we would either become proud if things went well or we would despair if nothing happened. Both are examples where we again are putting ourselves at the center. Remembering the gospel grounds us in the truth that we can do nothing with Jesus. Prayer reminds us that church is a spiritual enterprise and reflects our utter dependence on Jesus Christ as the head.
What are we to pray? We can pray many things, but I want to talk about one thing that I want to encourage us all to pray through. Pray through the gospel.
You may ask why? I understand the gospel. I can articulate the gospel. I can teach others about the gospel. Why do I need to pray through it?
We need to pray through the gospel because you and I don’t know, I mean deeply know, the gospel as well as we think. The gospel is the power of God unto salvation. It is a power that brings a dead person to life. But it is more than that. The gospel is a power so strong that it changes the way we think, it changes our speech, it changes our desires and appetites, it releases us from addictions and destructive patterns, it changes the way we respond when others mistreat us, the gospel changes everything about us.
Listen to what Paul says about the gospel.
1 Cor 2:2 – For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.
The gospel is knowing Jesus Christ and him crucified. Nothing else. Paul’s singlemindedness, focusing on this one thing, was the secret of his power.
Phil 3:7-11 – 7 But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. 10 I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.
Knowing Christ, knowing that righteousness comes not through our efforts but what Christ did on our behalf, knowing the power of his resurrection by fellowshipping with Christ through suffering, knowing this one thing and what does Paul call everything else? Rubbish, trash, it was a loss compared to knowing Christ.
There are many more verses. It’s not enough that churches mouth the correct gospel content. Jesus died for my sins, he resurrected and now I walk in that same power. Look at the Galatians church or the Corinthian church. I am sure they mouthed the gospel. I don’t we can assume their doctrine became heretical in terms of how the gospel was preached. If you were to ask the Galatian leaders or the Corinthian leaders, why have you departed from the gospel, they’d probably look at you funny. What do you mean we departed from the gospel? I preached it last week.
Gospel content, the right words can come out from our mouths, but that doesn’t mean we are centered on the gospel in all we do as Paul was. There’s the issue of practice. The fruit. How we live. Other things that we emphasize more than the gospel or even putting them on equal footing with the gospel. Study these books and you will see that these churches departed from the gospel primarily in practice.
Without the gospel, you have 2 extremes: the way of the permissive person or the legalist. The permissive person says, God forgives sin. Well, I love to commit sin. This is a great arrangement. The legalist says, God forgives sin, but I am not sure I believe it so I have to work really hard to clean up my act.
When you pray through the gospel, it creates a unique individual. A person with gospel self-esteem.
The gospel says, you are more sinful and weak and evil than you ever dare believe, but you are also more loved and accepted than you ever dare hope. At the same time.
When you have gospel self-esteem and you fall into sin, it makes you more prone and more able to repent because it’s not the end of the world. Your conscience is framed with grace so that you can take a clear look at yourself and admit, I am a sinner, but I am also loved.
The gospel creates a unique kind of person. This is the context and basis of everything we say and do in the Christian life. The gospel makes you on the one hand a humble person but it means you are by no means in despair or discouraged. Because in spite of your sin, God loves you.
We all want to be Spirit-filled, don’t we? Have you ever thought about what that means? Being Spirit-filled – it’s when the work of Christ becomes very REAL for you.
How can you receive criticism without being crushed? I’ll tell you how. You pray through the gospel.
Jesus is my priest, he is my brother, he loves me, this is not the end of the world. You receive criticism but you are not crushed. You have a buffer.
How can I give criticism without crushing?
You pray through the gospel.
I am a sinner, I should be cast off, Jesus, gentle, gentle Savior, he has been patient with me, he has coaxed me along. How can I be harsher with this person than Jesus has been with me?
You might be thinking, sure, sure, you are telling me that I can think this way when someone my spouse or my boss is yelling at me? Intellectually, at that moment, you can say to yourself, I need to preach the gospel. But you and I know, you can’t just turn it right away like a light switch.
You know how we may love certain authors or speakers. Like for me, it’s Tim Keller. He is one preacher whose books and whose sermons I have listened to over and over again. What you’ll find is that over time, when you have an author like that whom you admire, you don’t just master his works, you get a feel for how his mind works. You’ve never read his opinion on a particular subject, but you know what he would say. You’ve gone beyond the words of the book or the sermon, but you have penetrated to the way his mind works. Because he’s in there. Sunk down so deep. His ideas are so deep that they come out instinctively.
What if by the power of the Holy Spirit, the words of Jesus penetrated so deeply that you have the mind of Christ. Isn’t that promised to us in 1 Cor 2:16?
1 Corinthians 2:16
“For who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.
We have the mind of Christ, meaning, the way Jesus THINKS about you becomes instinctive, reflexive. Not consciously thinking the gospel but you are thinking about it through repetition–praying through the gospel in your prayers over many years. It gives you a stability, a poise, a peace, I don’t have to be afraid of anything anymore emotionally. Thinking through his mind, seeing life through his eyes. This is having the mind of Christ and you gain the mind of Christ by meditating on the gospel over and over again. It starts with intentionally praying through the gospel instead of assuming we know it.
**Structure: LIFEgroups (see slides)