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Discipleship Culture

Discipleship CultureWhy Discipleship?

In Matthew 28:18-20, Jesus said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”

To be a Christian is to be a “disciple” – someone who is learning the way of Christ and following the way of Christ – as Jesus says, learning to obey all that he has commanded.  The Apostle Paul even called it “learning Christ” (Ephesians 4:20), being transformed into his image.  The goal of discipleship is Christlikeness.

But how does that happen?  How do you grow as a disciple and grow up into Christ and become transformed into his image?

 

Ephesians 4:11-16 gives a picture of how discipleship happens…

“[God] gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.”

These verses give you a picture of the process of growing up into Christ.  They show two main elements of discipleship…

First, the Apostle Paul mentions the formal offices in the church – apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers.  (Some of these offices, we believe, were foundational and have passed away.)  These formal church leaders have a primary responsibility for discipleship.  Put another way, part of discipleship happens through the official ministry of the church.  Theologians use the phrase – “the public and ordinary means of grace” – which are the preaching of the Word, the Lord’s Supper, Baptism, and prayer.  These are formal, public and corporate means of discipleship.

In other words, coming to church is discipleship.  Discipleship is what happens in Sunday School, in the worship service, in prayer meeting, at the Lord’s Supper.  These are the corporate means of grace.

But Ephesians 4 also shows us a second element to discipleship, which is a “culture of discipleship” – the mutual discipleship of the Body, where all the saints are equipped for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all grow up into maturity in Christ, every part doing its share.

The key point is: Everyone is a disciple and everyone is a discipler.  Everyone receives and gives discipleship.  Everyone has a responsibility and a role to play.  There is no place in church for consumers.  We were all appointed to be producers, to bear fruit.  In John 15:16, Jesus said, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit.”  In the Christian life, we all receive ministry, but we all also are to minister.  We are disciples but we also disciple one another.

 

2 Timothy 2:2 says,

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

Titus 2:3 says,

Older women likewise are to be reverence in behavior, not slanderers, or slaves to much wine.  They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women…”

1 Thessalonians 1:8 says,

For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything.”

The people that Paul discipled were now discipling others.

Everyone is a disciple and everyone is a discipler.  Is that how you think of your Christian life?  Is that how you think when you come to church?  When you have children, you may think that way – that you have responsibility to disciple your own children.  But what about with other people at church – even people your own age, even your own pastors?  Do you any responsibility to disciple them?

 

What Is “A Culture of Discipleship”?

Biblically, discipleship is not a program, but is a culture.  Some churches have developed discipleship programs, which are kind of like classes that people complete.  These may have some value, but Biblically, discipleship is not a quantifiable skill-set, with set goals that can be achieved.  It cannot ultimately be a program, but is a culture.  Discipleship is what should happen in the ordinary ebb and flow of life.

Deuteronomy 6:6-7 says, “These words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.”  Discipleship should be part of your daily life!

According to the New Testament, discipleship happens not just through instruction, but through relationships and imitation.

In 1 Corinthians 4:14-16, the Apostle Paul writes, “I do not write these things to make you ashamed, but to admonish you as my beloved children. For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel. I urge you, then, be imitators of me.”

He repeats himself in 1 Corinthians 11:1, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.”

In Philippians 4:9, he says, “What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me – practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

This kind of discipleship can only happen through the sharing of lives.  In 1 Thessalonians 2:8, the Apostle says, “Being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves.”

The dictionary defines a culture as “The shared values, goals and practices that characterize a group.”  So what is a “culture of discipleship”?  It is a group of people habitually demonstrating through their values and daily practices mutual love for one another and mutual encouragement to be like Christ.

On an individual level, it is being someone constantly looking to others for help in being like Christ  and looking to help others be like Christ.

When my wife and I were young Christians, we were very affected by relationships we had with other Christians, particularly older Christians.  By God’s grace, we were very much the initiative takers in pursuing those relationships.  We were constantly inviting ourselves over to people’s houses, offering to babysit their kids, watching their marriages, watching how they raised their kids, watching how they lived their lives.  We were ruthless in asking people questions:  “We’re struggling with this… How do we get through this? … Why did you do that? … How do you do that? …”  We were hungry to learn how to live practically in godly ways.  We benefited from inserting ourselves into people’s lives and proactively and persistently pursuing people – looking for help in being like Christ.  We knew we needed help.  Fortunately, there were older Christians who made themselves available to us, who were completely open towards us.  They were people putting themselves in our path to let us in.  We were constantly seeking them out, but they were constantly putting themselves in our path.

That’s what a culture of discipleship means – a group of people who are ruthlessly and seriously looking to others for help in being like Christ and looking to help others be like Christ.  

It is younger Christians pursuing older Christians, pursuing relationships, asking questions.  It is older Christians opening up their lives, putting yourselves in the paths of the younger.  It is also Christians of the same age and station of life mutually pursuing and encouraging one another.

One very important rule when it comes to discipleship is: The initiative for discipleship depends on you.  You have to be hungry and thirsty for discipleship.  You have to seek it out.  If you wait for someone else to initiate towards you – offer to disciple you, or ask you to disciple them – this culture will never develop.  It happens as you live this way yourself and open up your life to others.  Sometimes you might pursue others for help or seek to help others, and it may not be reciprocated or appreciated, for various reasons.  But beginning with you, so much depends on you having your heart open.  The Apostle Paul said, “Our heart is wide open…widen your hearts also” (2 Cor.7:11-13).

How ‘Discipleship’?

So what does initiative in discipleship look like?  What practical steps can you take to engage in discipleship?

First, it is important to emphasize the place of prayer for discipleship.  Do you regularly pray for other Christians in your church or your small group?  When you don’t pray for other Christians, you’re not thoughtful about them.  But when you pray, your mind and your heart are stirred to care for your brothers and sisters in Christ.  You’re thoughtful about ways they are struggling, thoughtful about their needs, and about how you might be an encouragement to them.  Your prayers for them are pleasing to God and near to his heart.  And he stirs your heart to be more purposeful in caring for one another.

Second, be thinking about ways you can use your natural gifts in discipleship What are you good at?  What are you interested in?  Could others be blessed by your sharing of these gifts with others?  A musician in our church mentioned specifically choosing hymns to play during the offertory that would encourage people she knew in the church who were struggling.  Instead of just picking a song by default, she was being thoughtful to use her gifts to encourage and disciple others. Are you a writer?  Are you a handyman?  Are you a baker?  Are you artistic?  Are there ways you can use these gifts to bless others?  Are there ways you could include others while you do these things?

Third, you cannot overstate the importance of hospitality for discipleship Particularly in our culture, which keeps people so far apart, inviting people into your home, allowing them in to observe your life and family, is incredibly powerful.  This was an important part of the early church (Acts 2:44-47, 4:32; see also 1 Peter 4:7-11).

 

The Fall issue of the 9Marks Journal on discipleship listed the following practical steps for discipleship:

In practice, how can I disciple other Christians?  

  1. Join a church.
  2. Arrive early at church gatherings and stay late.
  3. Practice hospitality with members of your church.
  4. Ask God for strategic friendships.
  5. If possible, include a line-item in your family or pastoral budget for weekly time with fellow Christians. Discuss this matter with your spouse. If possible, provide such a budget line for your spouse as well.
  6. Schedule regular breakfasts, lunches, or some other culturally-acceptable social engagement with teachable individuals (of the same sex). Depending on the person, you may decide to meet once, indefinitely, or for a set number of times (say, five). If you and the individual share a pastime, look for ways to share that pastime together.
  7. Ask them about themselves. Ask them about their parents, spouse, children, testimony, job, walk with Christ, and so on. In asking questions, however, do so in a manner that’s appropriate for your cultural context (don’t scare them!).
  8. Share about yourself.
  9. Look for ways to have spiritual conversations. Maybe decide to read the Bible or some other Christian literature together.
  10. Consider their physical or material needs. Would they benefit from your help?
  11. Pray with them.
  12. Depending on your home situation, invite the person to drop by your house or spend time with your family. Let them watch you live life.
  13. Look for ways to pray for the person throughout the week by yourself and/or with your spouse.

Appendix – Suggested Resources

Gospel-Centered Discipleship.  By Jonathan Dodson, Crossway/GoodNews Publishers.

Growing One Another: Discipleship In the Church (9Marks Healthy Church Study Guides).  By Bobby Jamieson, Crossway/Good News Publishers.

Instruments In the Redeemer’s Hands.  By Paul David Tripp, P&R Publishing.

A Long Obedience in the Same Direction: Discipleship in an Instant Society.  By Eugene Peterson, Intervarsity Press.

What Is A Healthy Church Member.  By Thabiti Anyabwile, Crossway Books.
Matt Foreman– Matt Foreman, studied at Furman University and Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, Pastor of Faith Church in Media PA where he serves with his wife Mary Scott and a bunch of adorable red headed kids! Matt and Mary Scott are both Furman WDA alumni. Go Paladins! Read more of Matt’s blogs at http://blog.faithchurchpa.org/

power of words

power of words“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me.”

Really?

Let’s not kid ourselves. Words are potent. Words brought galaxies into being when “God said…and there was”(Gen 1:3). God’s words have impact (Isa 55:11), are living, active, and sharp (Heb 4:12), illuminate dark places (Ps 119:105), nourish souls (Mt 4:4), and defeat death (Lk 11:43). The words of the gospel are “the power (literally, dynamite) of God.”

Words transform. They heal. And they can “hurt me.” I will never forget Mariah Carey saying in an interview that for her, one criticism will instantly overrule 1,000 praises. There is something to this. Words have power.

Words can wound and steal life. Gossip and slander bring a cheap thrill to some, while exploiting and objectifying others (the similarities to pornography are striking). False testimony uses words to misrepresent, caricature, or malign the reputation of fellow humans, usually for selfish gain. Words of condemnation, accusation, and cutting sarcasm create pain as they shame, belittle, and discourage. Coarse joking uses humor to draw attention to oneself, while sending rotten fruit in the atmosphere.

There are also “healing words” (Prov 12:18). Words of praise have healing power. Communities thrive in a culture of mutual celebration, of “catching each other doing good.” This is a hallmark of life together as Spirit-filled daughters and sons. Words of encouragement will “put courage into” those who are weak, afraid, and torn down. A timely rebuke protects a friend from self-destructive patterns. A gentle word turns away wrath (Pr 15:1) and halts the cycle of evil. Grace-filled words engage skeptical minds and doubting hearts (1 Pet 3:15-16).

The question remains, how are toxic words transformed into healing words? Scripture tells us how. It begins by identifying the source of our words: “…out of the heart, the mouth speaks” (Lk 6:45). Our words are healed as we replace what fills our hearts.

Why do we gossip, slander, condemn, accuse, slash with sarcasm, joke crudely, boast, and lie? Every toxic word traces to some sort of pseudo-savior—something that the heart is clinging to more tightly than Jesus. The comedian Tom Arnold once admitted that he uses humor in order to have something out there so people will like him. “It’s the reason behind almost everything I do,” he said. For some, human approval is the preferred narcotic. For others like Rachel, it’s having children: “Give me children or I’ll die” (Gen 30:1). For the Pharisee, it’s the feeling of superiority: “Thank you, my God, that I’m not like other men” (Lk 18:9-14). The options are endless. Our words echo the beat of our hearts.

Words are transformed through what Chalmers called “the expulsive power of a new affection.” For our words to become life-giving, and for toxic words to fade from our vocabularies, this new affection must be Jesus. Hearts taken by the beauty of Jesus will yield beautiful words.

What makes Jesus beautiful? He only spoke beautiful words—never careless, unkind, hateful, or untruthful. Even his sharp, strong words were beautiful, always perfectly suited for the occasion. But there’s more. Jesus also is the Beautiful Word Incarnate, the Word who became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:1-14). His perfect words flowed naturally from his perfect life, which secured the benediction or “good word” of his Father: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased.” This same benediction has since been transferred to and secured for us who believe—when we are at our best and when we are at our worst.

Since our daughters’ births, at bedtime I have regularly pronounced a benediction over them: “God made you beautiful and special, and he loves you so much. So does your Daddy. Don’t ever forget that.” My hope is that these last words of today will register as the first words of tomorrow. Abby and Ellie crave a paternal blessing that overrules the negative verdicts that the outside world, as well as their own hearts, so easily pronounce against them. Words of life hearken them back to their true identity as daughters, precious and beloved—an identity that’s fixed when they’re at their best and when they’re at their worst.

The Father’s benediction is ours. Through Christ and because of Christ, we are pronounced as his beloved. We can enjoy deep rest because the last word of Jesus’ life—“It is finished”—is the first word for ours. With us he is well pleased. Nothing can change this.

There’s one more thing. For us to gain the Father’s benediction, Jesus had to lose it. At his baptism, Jesus received the “good word” from on high. On the cross, he heard no word from the Father. Just shaming, condemning, deafening silence. The silence did not break Jesus’ bones like sticks and stones, but it broke every other part of him. This was for our healing. The Word Incarnate receiving silence from heaven opened heaven’s heart, and secured the Father’s “good word” toward us. If this does not melt our hearts and transform our words, what will?

 

Editors Note: This article was first published by Scott Sauls who is a Furman WDA Alumni at Sticks, Stones, and the Power of Words

scott SaulsRev. Scott Sauls, a graduate of Furman University (BA, Business) and Covenant Seminary (MDiv), began serving as our Senior Pastor in March of 2012. Scott is married to Patti and is Dad to Abby and Ellie. Prior to CPC, Scott was a Lead and Preaching Pastor at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City. He has also planted, organized, and been the Lead Pastor of churches in Kansas City and Saint Louis. While in Saint Louis, Scott also taught Advanced Homiletics (preaching) at Covenant Theological Seminary. Formative experiences for Scott have included being an athlete, living in a multi-cultural, economically diverse neighborhood, and being carried by Jesus through a season of anxiety and depression. Influential voices in Scott’s life include Tim Keller, Jonathan Edwards, Johnny Cash, CS Lewis, Sally Lloyd-Jones, Paul Tripp, Martin Luther King, Jr., Flannery O’Connor, and NT Wright. In his free time, you might find Scott relaxing with family, friends, or a book, playing his Gibson J-45 guitar, hiking in a park, eating at Edley’s BBQ, enjoying live music at some fabulous Nashville venue, or cheering for the North Carolina Tar Heels.

prayer

Unknown“In that day you will ask in my name, and I do not say to you that I will ask the Father on your behalf; for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God.” John 16:26-27

Have you ever really thought about what it means to pray “in Jesus’ name”? Often, it can just become a mantra or tag-line we say at the end of our prayers. But for Jesus, it was a matter of theological significance. It was a paradigm-shift in the practice of prayer. It opened the flood-gates to power in prayer. He told his disciples, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.”

However, prayer “in Jesus’ name” may be easily misunderstood. In fact, Jesus warns disciples about misunderstanding prayer “in his name” (in John 16:26-27). He warns that we can be confused about what praying “in his name” is designed to accomplish. We can act presumptuously in thinking of it as “saying the magic word”. But we can also act disbelievingly in thinking that we need to convince God.

We can misconstrue the need to pray in Jesus’ name by thinking that the Father is distant and reluctant in his attitude towards us. To be sure, Jesus acts as a mediator between us and the Father; he propitiates the wrath of God. But none of that should lead you to think that there is tension between Jesus’ heart and the Father’s heart, and that the Father’s heart is distant from us and needs to be convinced. Prayer in Jesus’ name does not mean that Jesus must convey the request to the Father and convince the Father on your behalf. Instead, Jesus wants us to be assured, “The Father himself loves you” and needs no prompting from the Son (see 2 Cor.13:14).

Too often, I think that I have fallen into this trap. I doubt that God actually wants to hear me. I doubt that my prayers are effective. So I pray using Jesus like a bargaining chip to convince God to listen – “for the sake of his Son”. While there is truth in the practice of claiming God’s promises in prayer, this kind of attitude towards God is dead wrong.

It’s not like you come to the gate of heaven and they crack the door and look out at you suspiciously and ask, “Why should I hear your prayer? Why should I let you in?” And you say, “Because of Jesus.” And they reluctantly respond, “Oh, all right, fine”, and open the door just wide enough for you to dart through. And Jesus is like the bargaining chip to convince them to let you in. No! Prayer in Jesus’ name means – prayer knowing that the gate is flung wide open and the red carpet rolled out and the Father running to welcome you.

How does that change your prayer life?!?

Prayer in Jesus’ name is prayer on the basis of Christ’s finished work. It is prayer confident in all that he has done for you and accomplished. It is praying with confidence that the door is already wide open. John Calvin wrote, “We have the heart of God as soon as we place before him the name of his Son.”

Hebrews 10:19-22 says, “Since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.”

Prayer “in Jesus’ name” means that we are invited to pray like we’ve never prayed before. We are invited to prayer with the knowledge that the Father is waiting at the door to hear our prayers. Oh, that we might take up with joy such an awesome invitation and pray “in Jesus’ name”.

Today thy gate is open, and all who enter in,
will find a Father’s welcome and pardon for their sin.
The past shall be forgotten, a present joy be given,
a future grace be promised, a glorious crown in heaven.

O all embracing mercy, O ever-open door,
what should we do without thee, when heart and eye run o’er.
When all things seem against us to drive us to despair,
we know one gate is open, one ear will hear our prayer.

Matt Foreman– Matt Foreman, studied at Furman University and Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, Pastor of Faith Church in Media PA where he serves with his wife Mary Scott and a bunch of adorable red headed kids! Matt and Mary Scott are both Furman WDA alumni. Go Paladins! Read more of Matt’s blogs at http://blog.faithchurchpa.org/

easter sunrise

easter sunriseOne of my favorite women of the New Testament is without a doubt Mary of Bethany. When I think of Mary, I can’t help but think of her in three snapshots. In each one, she is at the feet of her beloved Jesus: first, learning, then weeping, and finally worshipping. Yes, this is the woman who to her sister Martha’s dismay, sat at the feet of Rabbi Jesus instead of manning the kitchen(Luke 10:38-42). Yes, this is the one who sobbed at the feet of a Jesus, who seemed to have come too late when her beloved Lazarus lay reeking 4-days-dead behind the stone (John 11). And yes, this is the one who unabashedly worshipped at the feet of Jesus as she anointed him with precious perfume just 6 days before Passover and the unleashing of all events that would lead him to the cross(John 12:1-10). Mary of Bethany—learning, weeping, worshipping, Mary what can you teach us about the way a heart readies itself for the climax of salvation history?

1.) Recall and celebrate what the Lord has done for you…

We find Mary’s story of anointing Jesus in John 12:1-10. A similar story appears in Matthew 26:6-10 and Mark 14:3-9 (although there is some disagreement as to whether these last two tellings represent an anointing by a different woman—since the woman in these accounts is unnamed—or whether this too is Mary of Bethany). At any rate, we know that a dinner is being thrown in Jesus’ honor, most likely as a way to thank him for having brought Lazarus back from the dead. If the woman in Matthew and Mark represent synoptic accounts, then we also know the party was hosted in the home of Simon, the Leper, a man whom in many regards had been brought back into the land of the living. Mary, Martha, Lazarus and Simon remembered what Christ had done for them and celebrated it.

As you prepare your heart this Easter, think back on what God has done for you and thank him. Celebrate the new life you have seen Him bring forth.

2.) Remember and take to heart what God has taught you…

We know Mary had spent a considerable amount of time learning at Jesus’ feet. The fact that she brought a burial perfume is either God supernaturally moving her to bring this particular gift without her understanding or a testimony that she had been listening to Jesus, and that she understood at least in part what was about to occur. I tend to think that by God’s grace, Mary had put the pieces together and brought this costly burial perfume because she had been meditating on and taking to heart what God had taught her.

As you prepare your heart this Easter, what has God been teaching you this year? Ask Him if there is something He wants you to apply or a step of faith He wants you to take.

3.) Don’t skip to the happy ending…

If Mary did understand that Jesus was about to face his death, it might have been tempting for her to skip to the happy ending. After all, she knew Jesus personally as “The Resurrection and the Life,” (John 11:25) and would have at least considered the fact that He might be able to conquer death when He Himself was in its grip. But perhaps, Mary understood more than most the importance of being with someone in the moment. Jesus, after all, had paused to weep with her when He knew that in just a few moments He would raise Lazarus to life. Likewise, Mary honored the suffering of our Lord Jesus and the solemn pain of what was to come by anointing him with this burial perfume.

As you prepare for Easter, resist the temptation to skip blithely by Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. Take these days to meditate on the depth of Christ’s sacrifice for you, on His pain and your sin. Let His agony and your desperate state without Him sink in and linger with you awhile before turning your attention to His victory on Easter morning.

4.) Forget about everyone around you…

Although the evening was most likely marked by a festive atmosphere—after all this was a time to honor Jesus and the new life he’d brought—Mary didn’t try to please others and keep the mood light. In fact, she ignored what everyone around her might think, and she broke open this costly perfume on the feet of Jesus. She even humbled herself to wipe his feet with her hair—when women of her day never even let their hair down in public. She refused to care about the opinion of others and instead cared about the one thing needful, worshipping Jesus.

As you prepare for Easter, don’t let the fact that others take this day as one simply for chocolate and Easter Egg Hunts deter you from approaching Jesus and these special days with unashamed worship. Ignore the crowd and focus on the One who deserves all our worship.

5.) Give Him that which is most precious to you…

The perfume Mary anointed Jesus with was no trivial gesture. As Judas’ incredulously points out, this precious mixture would have been worth a year’s wages. Mary poured out one of her most precious possessions in an act of lavish love because she knew the lavish love of Christ was so much greater.

As you prepare for Easter, ask God to show you if there is any area of your life that is off limits to Him. Think about what is most precious to you and ask yourself if you are willing to lay it at the feet of Jesus as a testimony to Christ’s own lavish love for you.

6.) Bless Jesus by your unashamed worship…

For me one of the most mind-numbing aspects of this story of Mary anointing Jesus is the fact that somehow, in God’s infinite wisdom and kindness, He allowed a humble woman like Mary to actually minister to Jesus in an hour of need and bless Him. That is hard for me to wrap my mind around. Jesus was blessed by Mary’s act of faith. And because of it, He promised that wherever the Gospel would be preached her story would be told.

As you prepare for Easter, humbly ask God to allow your worship to be a pure and pleasing blessing to Him. Bless the Lord who has so mightily blessed you.

 

catherine claire larsonCatherine Claire Larson is a graduate of Furman University, Reformed Theological Seminary and a WDA Alumna. She is the author of two books, “As We Forgive: Stories of Reconciliation from Rwanda and the upcoming Waiting in Wonder: Growing in Faith While You’re Expecting. Catherine has graciously allowed us to share her post for Easter. Please enjoy her other writing and blogs at http://www.catherineclairelarson.com Follow her on Twitter @CatherineLarson

The article is also found at http://www.catherineclairelarson.com/6-ways-to-prepare-your-heart-for-easter/

targeting the heart

targeting the heart

 TARGETING THE HEART WITH GRACE AND TRUTH

We need to pay close attention at all times to the motivational dynamics of the Christian life—the primary reasons (from a human perspective) why people do not see Jesus as precious, and therefore do not see the appeal of following Him with their whole hearts, are in fact motivational reasons. Specifically, the “sin beneath the sin” of all sins is idolatry—the elevation of a created thing to a place where it becomes one’s functional “Lord” and “Savior,” the ultimate object of worship and service (Romans 1). Therefore, the key to persuading people to trust and follow Jesus (grace and truth!) rests in persuading hearts that Jesus is more precious and lovely than the idols that we are all prone to worship and serve. Remember, it is the Gospel (the fantastically great news of Jesus) that alone is the power of God for salvation—it is the only power for true, heart-level transformation.

For every one look you take at your sin, take ten looks at Jesus.

– Robert Murray McCheyne

The reason I preach the Gospel to you every single week is precisely because you forget the Gospel every single week!

– Martin Luther

The first and greatest commandment is that you “love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength and mind.”

– Jesus

 

We must directly address why the Gospel does not “take” with many—idolatry is that reason.

John Calvin rightly said that the human heart is an idol factory. Our hearts will instinctively erect counterfeit gods or pseudo-saviors to whom we give our allegiance, our ultimate affections, and our obedience.

A working definition of idolatry. An idol is any person or idea, any created thing that captures the loyalties and affections of our hearts more than God Himself. An idol is anything that becomes more essential to us than Him.

An idol is anything which occupies God’s place—it is anything upon which you will base your life. It is what you look to for your sense of meaning, happiness, and validation. When something becomes your idol, you will give it your unquestioned loyalty. You will let it run your life, determine your choices, and govern the use of your money and time. You will give yourself to it effortlessly.           – Timothy Keller

We must assume that everyone is religious by nature. Every human being, whether Christian, religious, agnostic, or atheist, will worship something or someone. One of our primary tasks is to understand what is capturing the ultimate affections of people’s hearts. Ecclesiastes reminds us that God has put eternity into the heart of man (Ecclesiastes 3:11). We were created to be in relationship with God. He designed us to love, honor, adore, and obey Him. If we don’t do this, by necessity we will have to love, honor, adore, and obey something or someone else! Our idols are our “rather-than’s” that capture and sabotage our hearts’ affections that belong first to God.

 

This is part 5 of a series of articles by Scott Sauls. 

Read the rest starting here – A Jesus-like Culture Part 1

Scott Sauls, a graduate of Furman University and Covenant Seminary, is foremost a son of God and the husband of one beautiful wife (Patti), the father of two fabulous daughters (Abby and Ellie), and the primary source of love and affection for a small dog (Lulu). Professionally, Scott serves as the Senior Pastor of Christ Presbyterian Church in Nashville, Tennessee. Prior to Nashville, Scott was a Lead and Preaching Pastor, as well as the writer of small group studies, for Redeemer Presbyterian of New York City. Twitter: @scottsauls

Editor’s Note: Scott was a member of our WDA Campus Ministry (Next Generation Ministry) while at Furman University. We are excited to see our alumni continuing to carry a vision for discipleship!

This is a repost of A Jesus-Like Church Culture  by Scott Sauls. It appears here with the author’s permission. Website: cpcblogs.blogspot.com.