Category Archives: Discipleship

What is a disciple?

A disciple

John 8:31-32  So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

Ask 20 pastors what a disciple is and you’ll get 19 different answers.  If church leaders can’t even decide on what the word means, how can we hope to define it?  As with most biblical truths, we must start with the Bible.  What does it say about a disciple?

It all starts with the Word.  Jesus said to His followers that those who abide in His Word are truly His disciples.  But to be clear, that doesn’t just mean that reading the Bible a lot makes you a disciple.  Nor does it mean that learning a lot about the Bible makes you a disciple.  Abiding in God’s Word means living it.  Each and every move you make in life is grounded in the truth of the Word.  You live according to it.

A disciple is a fully surrendered follower of Jesus Christ who studies the Word, regards it as authority, prays like Jesus, is devoted to fellowship, is spirit filled, serves God, serves others, is a good steward, grows, shares, ministers, and loves.  A disciple should be obvious to anyone, no matter what their beliefs, but a disciple is set apart from the world.

Cleaning up

1 John 1:9 (ESV) If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

When it comes to cleaning up our lives, many people get things backwards. If you think that you’ve got to clean up your act to become a Christian, you don’t understand how this thing works. You and I are incapable of getting ourselves cleaned up until after we give things over to Jesus.

All of the hurts, habits, and hangups that keep us from following after the Savior are exactly the things He came to heal us from. We don’t get ourselves into shape before going into the gym, we go to the gym to get into shape. Likewise, we don’t come to Jesus after we’ve saved ourselves. We go to Him for salvation.

If you’re struggling with something right now that’s keeping you from giving your life over to Christ, like I was before I took that step, look what God’s Word has to say about the subject. There’s no command to “get right” before coming to Him. There is, however, plenty to be said about giving ourselves over to Him so that He can be the one to cleanse us.

Don’t get it twisted. Jesus does the cleaning up. We’re not able to do it on our own, even if we try our hardest. God isn’t impressed with our efforts, He wants our repentance. What are you waiting for?

Seeing Clearly

I Corinthians 13:12 (NLT) “Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God knows me completely.”



This world is so confusing. As I’m writing this, the United States is in the midst of our Presidential election season. With all of the things said, the promises made, and the outlandish behavior from candidates and voters alike, it’s hard to know what to believe about anything anymore. What’s right? Who’s right?

If there’s one thing that God’s Word does, it’s bring clarity to a foggy world. The Christian worldview doesn’t make all things known or completely understood, but it helps to know that all things have their purpose and that we’re promised that one day we will understand it all. One day all of this mess will make sense.

I’m big on reading Bible passages in context because sometimes we have the habit of making something mean something other than what was intended. If you and I will read this Scripture from 1 Corinthians in its proper context, we’ll see a theme surrounding it. Love. So, to borrow a question posed famously by Tina Turner, “What’s love got to do with it?”

Love, according to the Apostle Paul, is the glue that holds everything else together. It’s the thing that makes everything else make sense. If we do all of the things religion requires, but we don’t love, we’ve missed the whole point. Even our political choices should be motivated out of love. What does that look like? I’m going to be honest, I’m not entirely sure. What I do know is that the primary catalysts for all Christians to act are faith, hope, and love. If the greatest of them is love, we should be looking at the world through that scope. How would our actions be different if we saw that more clearly?

Starting over

This means that anlightstock_1665_small_user_3963721yone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! -2 Cor. 5:17 (NLT)

What does it mean to start over? Every year, around this time, millions of people resolve to change certain aspects of their lives. Some succeed, many fail. Most resolutions fall short because there was no commitment to real life change. Goals without real resolve don’t produce movement or real transformation.

I’ve never been big on New Years resolutions. It’s always seemed to me that if I really wanted to change something about my life, I shouldn’t wait until a certain time of year to do it. The time is now! I get why people do it, though. The start of a new year on the calendar signifies a new beginning, a chance to start over. That’s a great time to make some choices towards a better life. There’s a much better chance to start over, though.

God’s Word says that when we place our trust in Jesus, He forgives us, cleanses us from our sins, adopts us into His family, and gives us a new identity. We get a chance to not only begin a new year, but begin a whole new life. The slate is not just wiped clean, the slate is gone completely. Our identity is not what it once was. Our identity is now in Christ. I’ll dig deeper into that idea as we go on. It’s important.

Starting over is a choice. I became a new person when I was saved, but only after I made a decision to embrace my new identity did I see revolutionary growth in my life. Maybe that’s you right now. Maybe you’re like me. You crossed the line of faith, and you’re forgiven, but you’re not seeing some of the expectations you had coming true for you. For me, that brought a lot of confusion and made me question my conversion. I hope that this one-year journey we’re going to take together puts to rest any doubts you have about your salvation.

Decide today to start over with the new life you’ve been given. Even if you’ve been saved for years, it’s not too late. Take the first step in the journey of discipleship and do as the disciples did when Jesus bid them, “Follow me.” This new life is from Him, for Him, and about Him. It’s a wild ride, and it’s all worth it.

Peace with God

Romans 5:1 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

What do you think of when you think of justification through Christ? Do you think of how your sins have been forgiven? They have (Colossians 1:14). Do you think of how you are now lead by Jesus who is your Lord? You are (John 10:27). Do you think of how you’ve now put off your old self and put on an entirely new self? You have (Colossians 3:9). You’re a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). One thing many of us fail to think about, however, is that we have peace with God through Jesus. Oh, I’m not talking about how we’re a little more settled and a little less high strung now. Those things are true too. But, we were once the enemies of God (James 4:4) and now we are at peace with Him.

This word, “peace”, it carries with it so many thoughts, so many feelings, so much nuance. We use it in so many contexts to mean so many things. But this word, this εἰρήνην in the original language, it does not simply mean that we have an absence of anxiety. It means we have an absence of war. Jesus ushered in the treaty when He died on that cross and rose again. He allowed us to walk up to the table with God and sign the agreement, if we so choose, to be at peace. To be God’s ally. It’s then that we find rest and “peace” with all those other connotations.

As followers of Christ, we’ve now been adopted into the very family of God (John 1:12). We’re no longer strangers who battle against our Creator, but children who can communicate with our daddy. We’re not enemy combatants, constantly worried about fighting the adversary that can’t be defeated. Now, we’re on God’s side and He’s on ours. It’s because of Jesus. Because He justified us with His blood, we are given this opportunity. Because of Him, we can lay down our arms and cross over to the other side. And there we find peace.

Love others

325064_2851984026582_830175113_oJohn 13:34-35 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.

The most important commands we’re ever given by God are to love Him above all else and to love other people. This starts with loving our own fellow believers. By our love for “one another,” Jesus says, the world will know we’re His. We don’t always do real well at that, do we? Truth is, the outside world often sees the church as a bunch of bickering people who can’t get along.

It’s unfortunate that the people we call brothers and sisters in the family of God are often the ones who we’re least likely to get along with. It shouldn’t be this way. I submit to you that the leading cause of problems within the church is pride. If we’d put others’ needs before our own, we’d find a much healthier church with healthier individuals.

Pride eats away at the soul of a Christian, causing spiritual health to decline. We can’t get the other commands right if we can’t get the love part. No amount of prayer and Bible study is going to get us unstuck spiritually if we’re not willing to love.

Love is an absolutely essential element of the life of a believer. Without it, we’re flat and ineffective, not living out the calling God has given us.

Present God your first

IS4084RF-00008161-001Matthew 6:24 “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.

Are you ready? Here’s the subject most people don’t want to hear about when it comes to living for God. Money and tithing. You may cringe when you hear a pastor or teacher speak on this topic, but I’m going to ask you to bear with me for a moment.

One reason that many Christians remain spiritually unhealthy is because they choose to ignore this one principle from God’s Word. If you’re spending time with God in prayer, reading and studying the Bible, trying to love your neighbor as yourself, and everything else, but you’re holding something back from God, you’re never going to succeed. It’s not about funding the church. God doesn’t ask us to give because He needs our money. What He wants most is us, and if we’re possessed by our possessions, we can’t be His.

Tithing really isn’t about the amount. It’s about the way in which we give it. If we’re glad to give and have a good attitude, it’s good for our spiritual health. If we give, but it’s with great hesitancy, we’re not doing ourselves any good. Tithing is more about giving the first than it is about giving a tenth. When we trust in God enough to give back to Him some of what He’s given us, we’re actually worshipping Him. When we worship, we’re saying He’s in control and we’re not.

Presenting to God some of what’s already His to begin with is good for spiritual health. Holding on to our stuff and hoarding it, that’s not. Wise people know the difference.

Meet with God daily

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Proverbs 8:34 Blessed is the one who listens to me,
watching daily at my gates,
waiting beside my doors.

 

 

 

 

In the world of Christianity, we’ve come to refer to prayer time spent with God as “quiet time,” but in my life there’s very little time that could be qualified as “quiet.” With three little kids running around, it’s not easy to etch out time for a daily devotional time. Waking up earlier is not always an option, because certain kids in my home (who shall remain unnamed) wake up at incredibly early hours. So am I doing this quiet time thing all wrong? Am I less of a Christian if I don’t follow the many people who get up SO early and spend that time dedicated to the Lord?

The thing is, when we boil down time with God to a few minutes first thing in the morning, we do two things: 1) we cause people who don’t do well at that to feel very guilty or like a failure, and 2) we make prayer to our Father into something that can just be checked off of a list. Time with God is so much more than something to get us going in the morning, though it’s a great way to start the day. It’s an ongoing conversation throughout the day with Him.

Reality check: All that said, if we don’t take some time every day to intentionally meet with God, it may never happen at any other time during the day. If you’re like me, that may not mean you do “quiet time” when you first wake up. I’m willing to be that many of you, like me, don’t function at all until the first cup of coffee has been consumed. I spend time with God after I’m capable of processing what I’m reading from His Word and able to communicate coherently in prayer. Maybe that’s not the way everyone does it, but the important thing is that I spend time with my Lord every day.

He’s always got something to say to me, and I’ve always got something to say to Him. It’s time well spent. Better than anything else I could be doing, as a mater of fact. If you don’t take specific time to meet with God daily, will you give it a try? Start today.

Love Jesus more than anything

Mark 12:30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.

Someone once asked Jesus what God’s greatest command was (Mark 12:28). He answered that it was to love God with everything we have, more than we love anything else. That’s a difficult thing for most of us. We love a lot of things.

Think about some things that you love. You love your family. You may have a pet that you love. Maybe there is a hobby you can’t get enough of. Or there could even be things like your career or the success you’ve achieved that have become objects of your love. God is saying to love Him more than you love anything else. Anything at all.

There was another person in the Bible that asked Jesus what He had to do to get into heaven (Matthew 19:16). Jesus answered Him that he had to give up all of the things that he loved more than he loved Jesus. The very rich man had a ton of stuff he had acquired. The man couldn’t part with his possessions because he had begun to identify himself by them, so he didn’t give up anything and he went away from Jesus very sad. What that man needed to realize was that Jesus is better than anything that he loved in his life. What you and I need to realize is that anything we could give up for Jesus is worth it.

We should love Jesus so much that we want what He wants. We should want to be like Him and want to do what He did. When we make Him most important in our lives, we’re starting to really live for God. When He’s our treasure, and we love Him above all, we can be transformed.

7 habits to improve your spiritual health

John 13:15-16 If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever

Have you ever found yourself stuck in life? Maybe you had this great plan, but after time passed, you just never seemed to get to where you were headed. It could be that’s even true of your spiritual life. You’ve gone to church, tried to be a better person, and just seem to be spinning your wheels. I’ve been there.

It’s tough to be in a situation like that, when you feel like you’re doing all that you can to improve but not seeing any results. It’s infuriating, in fact. Part of the problem with our failed efforts is that we’re trying to make change on our own. It’s not possible apart from the help of the Holy Spirit.

There are seven key habits that are taught in order to improve spiritual health. These habits are not just more effort to transform ourselves; they’re daily choices we make to align what we want with what God wants. I’m going to go deeper into each of these habits over the next few days, but today I’ll just list them for you to ponder.

The 7 habits to improve our spiritual health are:

  1. Love Jesus more than anything else. (Mark 12:30)
  2. Meet with God daily. (Proverbs 8:34)
  3. Study and do the Word of God. (Psalm 1:1-3)
  4. Love other people. (Mark 12:31)
  5. Give the best to God. (James 1:17)
  6. Serve others unselfishly. (Mark 10:45)
  7. Share the Good News about Jesus. (2 Timothy 2:2)