Is Every Believer A Disciple?

-What Does Scripture Teach?

The Church, here in the west, has often made a distinction between a “believer” in Jesus Christ & a “disciple” of Jesus Christ! It’s a distinction, however, that Scripture fails to make— that you can be a saved “believer” & just live your entire life for yourself! That, if you desire, you can become a “disciple” and live out your days as a “super saint” for Jesus. No where, in Scripture, does Jesus say anything even close to that! If you abide, in Jesus, you will produce the fruit of a disciple! That’s the outcome of genuine faith!

-Grape Vines Produce Grapes!

There will always be fruit where there is genuine faith. It’s as natural as a grape vine producing grapes. That’s what grape vines do! And, there is fruit that is naturally produced, by God’s Spirit, in the life of every genuine believer who abides in Jesus! In fact, that’s exactly what Jesus says! Fruitfulness is the proof that you’re a “believer” & “disciple.” “If anyone does not abide in Me,” Jesus said, “he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. 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” John 15:6-8.  We bring glory to God when our lives produce fruit because it PROVES that He’s saved us! The PROOF is in the FRUIT!

-Love, Joy & Obedience!

Then, Jesus expands, on that, in the next several verses (v. 9-17). Fruitfulness, He says, is measured by our love, by our obedience, and, by our joy! “This is My commandment,” Jesus said, “that you love one another as I have loved you.” Loving others isn’t an option for anyone claiming to be a follower of Jesus! If there’s no love, it’s because there is no spiritual life. Where there’s no love, there’s no “abiding in Jesus.” “You are my friends,” He said, “if you do what I command you.” We cannot pick and choose what we’re going to obey in God’s Word. Disobedience isn’t an option! If we truly abide, in Christ, we’ll repent when we disobey & realign our life accordingly with the Scriptures. And, there’ll be joy in your life— “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may full.” Our joy is linked to a genuine relationship with Jesus Christ! It’s not circumstantial!

-Even When Life Is Hard!

Abiding in Christ produces joy! Even when the rest of life derails, our joy is centered In Jesus. All those grumpy, mean-spirited, haters out there who claim to be followers of Jesus must have missed that Scripture! Or… they don’t really abide in Christ! This text presents a clear case that God, the Father, won’t stand idle while His children act up! He will prune— “Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit” John 17:2. He will discipline His own! He will spank! But, He doesn’t spank the Devil’s kids! Our response, to His discipline, will either confirm or deny that our “faith” is legitimate! We will confess sin & let His Spirit clean house!

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Prayer That Views God As Sovereign!

-Why Do We Ask “Why”?

Whenever we experience something painful, it’s so typical for us to ask “WHY” isn’t it? Why me? Why do I have to go through this? Hannah’s story, in 1 Samuel, is particularly eye-opening! When she found herself unable to conceive & have children,  it would have been normal for her to ask, “Why am I unable to have a baby?” The Scripture addresses that “WHY” question:  “…the LORD had KEPT HER from conceiving…because the LORD had KEPT Hannah from conceiving…” 1 Samuel 1:5-6.  God takes credit for her inability to conceive! While doctors may have come up with a “medical reason” to explain it, God’s Sovereign control was actually behind the human “medical reason.”

-Praying In The LORD’S Presence!

Hannah responded to her condition by going to the source— “…she continued praying in the LORD’S presence” v.10,12.  Above all our human problems & conditions is God’s Sovereignty! Now, I know that many believers just don’t wanna credit God with that much Sovereignty. They’d rather say that God “ALLOWED” it; but, He’s not really the “CAUSE.” And, they believe they’re “protecting” God’s reputation in doing so! But, listen, if God is not Sovereign over every event & over everything else than you either have to believe that Satan is just as powerful as God; and, there really is a “BATTLE” going on between good & evil; and, God might not win! Or, you have to believe that man’s “FREE WILL” is Sovereign & trumps God’s will!

-Sovereign & Omnipotent!

I believe that the Scriptures tell us that God is both Sovereign and omnipotent! And, in Exodus 4:11, when God said to Moses, “Who made the human mouth? Who makes him mute or deaf, seeing or blind? Is it not I, Yahweh?” that God was taking Sovereign credit for such things as blindness, deafness, and the inability to speak! In His absolute wisdom, He uses the pain & suffering, we endure in this world, for our good & for His glory! It was because Hannah saw her inability to bear children as part of God’s Sovereign plan, that she prayed with a motivation for God’s glory. She saw her negative circumstance as God’s opportunity to bring Himself glory!

-God’s Sovereign Plans For Your Kids!

All the years of barrenness helped Hannah realize something that many parents never comprehend— that children aren’t just for PARENTS! They are for the LORD! God has HIS design for your kids! And, they ultimately belong to HIM! Are you more into your plans for your kids; or, His plans? Hannah’s not bargaining with God, in her prayer! He doesn’t bargain with anyone! Out of her painful experience God had changed her. He had used her suffering to prepare her heart to give her child to God, Who gave it! “After some time, Hannah conceived and gave birth to a son. She named him Samuel, because she said, I requested him from the Lord… though the boy was still young, she took him to the LORD’S house at Shiloh” vs. 20-24. Hannah saw it as her great privilege to give her son to the Lord for His purpose!

 

Praying About Temptations!

-How Did Jesus Teach Us To Pray?

Let me challenge you to take a good, long look at your prayers! Are your prayers consumed with requests? Little more than sending God a grocery list of items you want Him to do for you! If so, you need to spend some time meditating on Jesus’ response, to His disciples, when they approached Him:  “Lord, teach us to pray!” (Matthew 6:5-13)  They found a deficiency, in their prayer life; so, they sought Jesus’ counsel to improve it! One of the last things He teaches them, to pray over, is “temptation”—  “And do not bring us into temptation.”

-A Warning About Being In The World!

Up until this point, in Jesus’ counsel about prayer, His focus had been on praying over our relationships with God & the people around us. Now, He teaches us to pray about going out into the world, where He’s called us to make disciples; but, there’s like a bit of a warning! We need to pray— “Lord, as we go into the world to advance Your kingdom, we need your strength to help us to be IN the world & not OF it!” We will face some spiritual warfare as we advance against Satan’s kingdom! There is an evil one who wants to take us down! We need to pray for the Spirit’s strength to withstand him; so, we pray for the Father’s guidance.

-A Prime Motivation For Prayer!

Overcoming sin & evil should be a prime motivation in our prayers! Are your prayers motivated by a desire to walk deliberately with your God? To love Him with a desire to keep His commandments? Test yourself! Are your prayers centered on the STUFF you want; or, on Holy Spirit help to beat sin? Finally, Jesus adds these words, in His counsel to His disciples, about prayer:  “…deliver us from the evil one…” (v.13) Earlier, in His ministry, Jesus had taught them that “…the evil one comes only to steal and to kill…” (John 10:10).  He wants to steal your joy in the Lord & your love for God & others! He wants to kill your effectiveness as a disciple! And, we don’t have the strength, in ourselves, to stand against him! We’re no match for Satan. So, Jesus is teaching us— as His disciples— to humble ourselves by praying for the Father’s protection from evil! To pray that He would deliver us from Satan! And, from falling back into sin! To stand firm & finish strong despite persecution, if we should face that kind of resistance.

-Don’t Try To Counsel God!

As I bring this series of posts, on Jesus’ “model” prayer, to a close, let me remind you never to pray like you’re trying to be Gods counselor! Never pray like you’re trying to convince God that YOU know the best way to run His kingdom! Clearly, Jesus leaves no room, in His counsel on prayer, for us to make prayer about what we think God should do. He’s far too wise! We’re far too ignorant of the details of His work in the world. He is an omniscient God— in other words, He knows EVERYTHING! That means He’s already considered anything you might try to convince Him to do! He may answer in the affirmative! Or, He may answer negatively! And, if He does, it’s because He knows the “end from the beginning”; and, has the best reasons to make the wisest decision! Let us learn to pray with humility! Trusting God’s answers always!

Created With Specific Tasks!

-Adam & Eve Created To Be A Team!

After creating Adam & Eve, God gave them specific duties as male & female. The text says, “God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, and subdue it. Rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, and every creature that crawls on the earth” Genesis 1:28.  There were several things He outlined for them to do— be fruitful & multiply; and, fill the earth & subdue it; and, have dominion over all things! And, notice, it says that God blessed “THEM.” This was to be a “team” effort! God never intended for it to be a “MAN’S World.”

-Complementary Roles!

The woman complemented the man in fulfilling these duties! And, then we turn the page, of Scripture, to Genesis chapter 2, where we’re given the “details” of creation that had only been skimmed in chapter 1.  God gives them different “roles” or “duties” to fulfill— COMPLEMENTARY ROLES! They fit together by God’s creative design! He created man 1st to work the Garden— “The Lord God formed the man out of the dust from the ground and breathed the breath of life into his nostrils, and the man became a living being.   The Lord God planted a garden in Eden… The Lord God took the man & placed him in the garden of Eden to work it and watch over it” ch. 2:7-8, 15.

-God’s Charge To Adam!

Interestingly, God also created man 1st with a charge to obey: “And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree of the garden, but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for on the day you eat from it, you will certainly die” ch. 2:16-17.  So, God’s command NOT to eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good & Evil was given to Adam, NOT Eve! Have you ever noticed that before?

-Where’s Adam?

The text details Eve’s arrival starting with v.18.  That’s significant! Which begs the question, “where was Adam”, when Satan shows up in chapter 3 and tempts Eve with the condemned fruit? Adam had received the instruction not to eat from the tree & he should have been Eve’s support to obey the command he’d been given! So, God declares, in v.18, the key to understanding God’s design for the sexes:  “The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper as his complement.” Adam couldn’t carry out his duties without her!

-Adam Couldn’t Do It Without Her!

He couldn’t be fruitful & multiply without HER! He couldn’t fill the earth & subdue it without HER! In a very dramatic way God convinced Adam that it was impossible for him to make it on his own! By delaying His creation of Eve, Adam came to recognize how important she was! God created the sexes NOT for competition; but, for cooperation, to complement! It’s hopeless to make life work, on planet Earth, the one without the other! God designed us for interdependence— MEN, you can’t do what you were created to do without women; and, WOMEN, you can’t do what you were created to do without men! That’s not what the culture says! But, the culture is WRONG! The culture didn’t design men & women. Can you imagine how different, how perfect, this world would be if it still looked like it did in Genesis 1,2?

 

God Makes You New (Part I)

-You Need To Know This Stuff!

If you’re a believer, in Jesus Christ, you’re no longer the OLD you! You’ve become—and, you are becoming— a NEW you; a work that God promises to finish once our lives end here! I love how the Amplified Bible renders 2 Corinthians 5:17—“Therefore if anyone is in Christ [that is, grafted in, joined to Him by faith in Him as Savior], he is a new creature [reborn and renewed by the Holy Spirit]; the old things [the previous moral and spiritual condition] have passed away. Behold, all things have become new [because spiritual awakening brings a new life].” Throughout his writings, the Apostle Paul breaks down our salvation into 3 parts; and, understanding this is VITAL to your spiritual growth & to your spiritual sanity!

-3 Big Theological Words!

He uses 3 big theological words—our “JUSTIFICATION”; our “SANCTIFICATION”; and, our “GLORIFICATION.” Now, don’t start snoring on me! Give me a chance to help you understand. You need this; because, it’s all about your “identity” as a disciple of Jesus Christ. If you ever struggle in your faith, it’s because you don’t understand how your faith works—your “JUSTIFICATION” is all about the “WAS” of your salvation; your “SANCTIFICATION” is all about the “IS” of your faith right now; and, your “GLORIFICATION” is all about the “IS TO COME” part of your salvation! Paul explains it like this in 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14— “But we must always thank God for you, brothers loved by the Lord, because from the beginning God has chosen you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and through belief in the truth. He called you to this through our gospel, so that you might obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

-Write This Down In Your Bible!

In your Bible, write down “JUSTIFICATION” next to “…belief in the truth…”  At the moment you believed, in Christ, you were JUSTIFIED by God; and, set free from the “PENALTY” of sin—ALL of it! As far as God is concerned, it’s just as if you’d never sinned because Jesus already paid the price for ALL the sin of ALL humanity for ALL time when He died, as a substitutionary atonement, on the cross! I’ve known believers who struggle with that truth—they believe all their sin, up to their salvation, was forgiven; but, they think they have to keep asking for forgiveness of future sins!

-How Far Is The East From The West?

But, that’s faulty thinking; because, ALL of our sin was “FUTURE” sin when Jesus died on the cross 2000 years ago! When God saves us, He tells us that He’s removed our sin “…as far as the east is from the west…” (Psalm 103:12). He says He “…buries them in the depths of the sea” (Micah 7:19); and, my favorite is that He “…chooses to remember our sins no more” (Heb 10:17). ALL our sins—past, present & future—are GONE! That’s what it means to be JUSTIFIED! Satan doesn’t want you to know that! He wants you to grovel in your sin & your inadequacies! Every time you stumble & fall he wants to accuse you; but, don’t listen to his lies! God no longer condemns you—Romans 8:1. (Next Week: Part II)

 

Devoted To Church Community!

-But, Satan Opposes It!

Unity is always God’s will for His Church! Satan, on the other hand, is always working to sow seeds of “DISUNITY” among those individuals that comprise a local church community! Because Satan has been so successful—at promoting disunity—many believers have determined to live a life of “isolation” while still attending church; and, others have elected to “quit” church altogether! Listen believer: “God never intended for you to live your Christian life in a vacuum!” I am so sorry that you’ve been “wounded”! I truly am! The Christian life was never intended to be lived alone; but, in the context of a “community.”

-Is It Like Joining A Commune?

Now, I’ve noticed that all it takes for some of us to “check out” is to hear that word “community.” Your eyes kind of roll to the back of your head! You cross your fingers & hope we’ll quickly change the subject! It’s like you’re afraid I’m going to tell you to sell everything you own, join a commune, and, raise organic fruits & vegetables! If that’s what you think, it’s because you misunderstand what community means in the Biblical context of a local church. It’s something that, once you grasp it’s meaning,  you’ll never let go of it because of it’s relational beauty!

-Biblical Community Is Beautiful!

In our hearts, we all want Biblical community—it makes no difference your personality type! Whether you’re an introvert, an extrovert, or, socially awkward, all of us long for meaningful human relationships! That’s how God “wired” us—in HIS “image”—in the “community” of the Triune Godhead! He is, Himself, a “community” of 3 persons—ONE God existing in the perfect, loving, community of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Even those of us, who’ve been “wounded” by someone, still keep searching for deep, authentic, relationships. The word “community” is a compound word: “COM” meaning “with”; and, “UNITY” meaning… “unity.” So, it means to “be unified”; or, having “common union.” In the church it just means to share our common life “IN” Christ.  Now that’s a problem, in America, where the typical response is to look for a church where WE can “be fed”; where, our family can be ministered “unto.” That response is foreign in Scripture! It’s is an unbiblical, unhealthy, consumer-driven mindset that has hi-jacked Jesus Christ’s intended purpose for HIS CHURCH! It requires repentance!

-We’re Not Just Here For You!

The church—the followers of Jesus—is NOT made up of those who “minister”; and, those who are “ministered to”! Rather, ALL are to minister!  “And, let us (ALL of us!) consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds” (Hebrews 10:24). “Bear one another’s burdens; and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2). More than 60 times the phrase “each other” or “one another” is found in the N.T. commanding the church in the ways they’re to minister & care for one another! Every person can say, “We’re not just here for you; you’re here for us also!” That’s the responsibility of everyone in the faith community! The church that fails in that is crippled; and, guilty of “man-centered” narcissistic consumerism!

Daniel & The Invisible God!

(NOTE: This Concludes Our Series Of Posts On Daniel’s Life)

-Never Give Up On Prayer!

As I bring this series of posts—on Daniel’s life—to an end, I conclude with an urgent plea not to give up because you don’t get an answer, to your prayers, according to your time line! Instead of quitting, follow Daniel’s example and devote more time to more prayer & fasting! Daniel shows us that because we pray in the spirit, we can’t see—with our physical eyes—the spiritual responses our prayers stir up!

-If We Could Only See!

If we could see into the spiritual realm, our prayer effort would reveal invisible forces of good & evil opposing one another. Unseen spiritual forces are behind every movement! Daniel couldn’t tell, just by observing the Persian Gov’t, that there was a war going on between an “angel of God” & a demonic “prince of Persia” (see Daniel chapter 10). But, if he could have pulled the curtain back, dividing our realm from the spiritual real, just a bit, he would have observed the battle going on in the spirit world. We can only assume, from this text of Scripture, that Satan has “territorial” demons in places of influence, among government leaders, in every nation. That’s why the Apostle Paul later wrote Timothy—in the New Testament—and, told him to pray for kings & all those in places of authority.

-Who Is The Real Enemy?

The REAL ENEMY is not the people we may oppose politically! Our battle, according to Paul’s letter to the Ephesians,  is not with flesh & blood. We need God’s help to see the truth about this! We need to pray for our leaders to be saved! Knowing that our warfare is spiritual in nature, it is our prayers, humility, knowledge of God & perseverance that serve as our best weapons against the spiritual forces of evil in this world; and, the unseen spiritual world behind the curtain that separates us. So, be inspired & encouraged! Daniel prayed! He humbled himself before God; and, he purposed to know God & to understand His ways! And, he persevered! For 21 days, the text says, he prayed & fasted & waited on God to fulfill His Sovereign purpose in His Sovereign time frame! Will you wait on God also?

-Focus On The Unseen!

A Biblical response—to the war going on in the spiritual realm & to life’s problems that result—is to focus NOT on the seen; but, on the unseen! What you see going on in this world will mess with you! It will frustrate you! It will, at times, cause you to question God! It’ll even depress you because it will APPEAR that we’re losing! So, focus on the UNSEEN, not the SEEN! Focus on the invisible God, who is Sovereign, who is Omnipotent; and, who is All-Knowing! He has an unbeatable plan; and, He will get it done! Don’t focus on the political climate of our country; or, the rest of the world! That’s the SEEN! Focus on the UNSEEN God! Pray to Him! He’s the only One who can bring revival & clean up the mess humanity has made of this world! Are you struggling in this area of your life? Make it a matter of prayer! Turn it over to God!