Tag: Jesus (page 1 of 21)

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The Continuous Call to Follow Jesus

follow

I was recently studying the passage of scripture about Jesus restoring Peter after his denial of Him (John 21:15-19). I was studying it for another post I was writing and discovered a couple things that warrant their own posts. One was in verse 19. It says, “He said this to signify by what kind of death he would glorify God. After saying this, He told him, ‘Follow Me!’”

Peter’s Backstory

To make the point, jogging our memory with a little back story refresher is necessary. We are first introduced to Peter in Matthew 4:18. That passage tells us that Peter and his brother, Andrew, were fishing when Jesus walks by them. Upon seeing them, Jesus tells them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” At that invitation, Peter dropped his nets and followed Jesus for the next three years.

Those three years would reveal deep truths to Peter. He would learn what faith is and gaze upon the visible image of his invisible God. I can hardly imagine what it must have been like. His time with his savior would provide the conviction for Peter to say, “Though they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away” (Matthew 26:33). But Peter would fall away and fall away hard.

Peter’s Call… Again

While the other disciples fled and hid, Peter outright denied multiple assertions that he was with Jesus. After Jesus’ crucifixion, we can assume Peter did not see a way back to Jesus, because he returned to the life Jesus had called him out of. And then we see Jesus, likely on the same shore, with Peter performing the same task. After reinstating Peter, Jesus tells him, for the second time, “Follow Me!”

Jesus’ Call to Us

And, this is where Peter ends up; with Jesus offering the same call to him as He did three years prior. The good news is, He offers the same to us. No matter what you have done or how far you think you have fallen, He still says, “Follow me.” His is a call we get to answer every day. And as sure as darkness will come, His merciful call to follow Him, comes more.

photo: Flickr/Simon Matzinger

Walking Together Toward Community: Cultivation

Cultivation

Cultivate disciples who make disciples.

Gospel Centered Community (GCC): a body of committed believers, connected by a shared purpose and vision to see Jesus glorified and who challenge each other into deeper relationships with Jesus and one another.

Gospel Centered Missional Community (GCMC): the practical outworking of GCC and is focused on cultivating disciples who make connected disciples.

I call the process for growing into community The Walk and it looks like this:

The Walk

This is the third and final post in which we will examine the committed actions, and their associated elements, for developing community. In this post, we will examine Cultivation:

The committed action of Cultivation is:

 We will cultivate disciples who make connected disciples by sacrificing our time, resources, and self.

Cultivate Disciples who Make Connected Disciples

I changed the word for this final, committed action at least five times. The intent in action never changed, but I struggled to find a word to fit the message. I chose cultivation and not just because it alliterates. Cultivate is defined as:

1. To develop or improve by education or training, 2. to promote the growth or development of, and 3. to devote oneself to developing or growing.

When a community commits to cultivation, they devote themselves to developing and promoting the growth of disciples who make disciples. In committing to developing others, we honor Jesus’ call to be His witness to a lost and dying world.

When we honor His call, we take part in His commission to make disciples. Making disciples:

  • Moves you from GCC into GCMC
  • Moves you from the experience of growing found in GCC, into the experience of living with a mind and heart set on Jesus’s mission found in GCMC.
  • In GCC we enjoy receiving the love of God, and in GCMC we learn to reveal it to others. If we do not cultivate a mission-minded heart, we cannot fully experience the abundant life Christ promised.

The heart of living in GCMC is a commitment to a life of sacrifice, so others have an avenue to connect to Jesus and community.

By Sacrificing our Time, Resources and Self

Time

When I mention sacrificing your time for your community, if your first thought is “I have no time,” then you need to reevaluate how you spend your time. Or, you may need to realize you are not ready to commit to GCMC. Living in authentic, gospel-centered community, and making disciples requires much of you, including your time. As our example for growing disciples, Jesus dedicated three years of his life and was always with them. This should clue us into the time investment required for making and growing people for the sake of the kingdom.

Resources

Few Christians would argue with the truth that God calls us to be generous with our finances. Whether or not you agree with tithing is irrelevant. Sacrificing your resources in the context of GCMC goes far beyond giving 10% of your income to a local church. Sharing your resources is the practice of maintaining an open hand with ALL God has blessed you with. We can look at Acts 2:45 and see Christians selling everything and doling out the proceeds to people according to their need. This was a generosity in which the Christians divorced themselves from ownership of property that would appear to be theirs, and viewed it as God’s. Because of this view, they were able to honor Jesus by decreasing others’ burdens.

Self

We can use any number of scriptural references to talk about sacrificing ourselves for the sake of our Christian community. However, we must recognize the most important aspect of self-sacrifice is love. Jesus, and later the Apostles, continuously exhort Christians to love one another. Self-sacrifice will always spring out of love for Jesus, and by proxy, our love for each other. When we sacrifice ourselves, for the sake of our brothers/sisters, we identify ourselves with Christ and His sacrifice. One of the best descriptions of love like this is in Philippians 2:3: “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.”

How is this Biblical

A heart of sacrifice is easy to see, in the early church, when we read Acts 2:42-47. Verse 45 is the clearest evidence of the early Christian’s willingness to sacrifice. In that verse, we read they “were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.” This verse makes clear that they viewed their resources as a means to diminish the needs of those around them, both believer and unbeliever. We find their commitment to growing as a community in the time they invested into being with each other. Verses 42, 44, and 46 tell us that all the believers were together every day, attending the temple and sharing meals.

The time they invested was a sacrifice. They gave themselves up to grow others in Christ, and advance the Gospel. And to what end? For the sake of making disciples as Christ commissioned them to do. And that was their purpose. All of their charity, generosity, invested time, and willingness to give themselves for the sake of Christ drew people to God. Their commitment to cultivating disciples had a noticeable impact as “the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved” (Acts 2:47).

photo: Don Caywood

Walking Together Toward Community: Challenge

Challenge

Challenge One Another to Walk as Christ.

Gospel-Centered Community (GCC): a body of committed believers, connected by a shared purpose and vision to see Jesus glorified, and who challenge each other into deeper relationships with Jesus and one another.

Gospel-Centered Missional Community (GCMC): the practical outworking of GCC. Focuses on cultivating disciples who make connected disciples.

I have named the process for growing into community The Walk, and it looks like this:

The Walk

This second of three posts will discuss the committed actions, and their associated elements, for developing community. So what does challenge mean in this context? It is foremost, a committed action

The committed action of Challenge may be read as:

We challenge each other to seek God, unity, and good-will; and to submit to the Word, one another, and the body so that we may walk as Jesus walked.

Challenging Each Other to walk as Jesus Walked

People say they appreciate when someone challenges them, but if we are honest, we prefer for others not to challenge us. At our very core, we refuse challenge and view it as either rejection or a sign of contempt. In fact, if you read quotes about challenge, many of them speak to “overcoming challenge” and “victory in spite of challenge.” Challenge is often interpreted as a hurdle we need to overcome.

That is not the role of challenge within GCC. In fact, it is out of love for other members of our community that we challenge them. Challenge is practiced within the context of community, to “invite each other to take part in” growing more deeply into Jesus. Specifically, it is the call of Hebrews 10:24-25 to “stir up one another to love and good works” and “encourage one another” so that we may walk as Jesus walked (1 John 2:6). By challenging each other through “teaching and admonishing in all wisdom” (Col 3:16) we spur one another on toward Christ. And what is it the practice we hope to inspire? The practice of seeking and submitting to our Savior.

To seek God, unity, and good-will

God

Finding God ought to be simple for most Christians to understand, even if they do not do it consistently. When we seek to know God, we are better able to see Christ clearly. When we see Christ clearly, we allow His light to shine on the areas of our life where we fall short of His glory. In knowing those areas, we can present them to God, in repentance, for righteousness sake. A community of people who love you, will challenge you to seek God, both individually and corporately continually. As a community, we must commit to challenging each other to seek God with our whole heart.

Unity

Unity is grander than agreement on all issues. Instead it leads to a community joined in heart and mind for the sake of Truth, Christ, and love for one another. Ultimately, unity manifests the agreement to participate as citizens of the same Kingdom, under the Lordship of Christ. As a community, we must commit to encouraging each other to seek unity among ourselves.

Good-will

Seeking good-will has to do with those outside of your Christian community. This includes not only your brothers and sisters in Christ but everyone you interact with on a daily basis. We are good stewards of the God-given grace we experience when we extend it to those outside our gathering. We must seek to build and maintain a reputation that causes others to “recognize that [we] have been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13). As a community, we commit to challenging each other to seek the good-will of those around us.

Submit to the Word, One Another, and the Body

The Word

When we speak of submission in the biblical sense, we are not talking about forced subservience. Instead, biblical submission is the willingness to yield to another’s will or authority, especially Jesus’. In the opening sentences of his gospel account, The Apostle John identifies Jesus as The Word (John 1:1-5.) In this context, Christian community carries forward that revelation by submission to Jesus as the spoken Word of God. Therefore, a community seeking to walk like Christ challenges one another to submit to the entire counsel of God found in the Bible.

One Another

Christians commonly refer to this type of submission as “accountability.” Unfortunately, accountability is only as useful as you are honest with each other. Too often, shame, guilt, or pride, coupled with the lack of authentic Christian community, prevents real accountability. In GCC, members commit to challenging each other to be in individual submission to one another. This does not mean that you submit individually to all 30 members of the community. What it does mean is you commit yourself in mutual submission to a few chosen people. Once you intentionally invest in relationships with the purpose of all members giving and yielding to the wisdom of Christ, submission will mature.

The Body

Submission to the body is yielding to the movement of the Holy Spirit in the context of community. It centers on mutual trust that your fellow Saints are seeking God and His wisdom. It has to do with taking issues and concerns to God in a corporate and communal setting and then trusting the collective wisdom. And why do we practice submitting to one another? “Out of reverence for Christ” (Eph 5:21).

How is this Biblical?

Acts 2:42-47 provides us with a clear picture of the early church challenging each other through seeking and submission. This passage tells us how the members “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship.” In this single verse, we see a community making a commitment to seek both God and unity among themselves. They did this by submission to teaching, attending temple together, and eating in each others’ homes (verse 46).

Verse 44 shows additional evidence of their commitment to unity and submission. It tells us the believers were together and had all things in common, indicating their willingness to maintain one heart and mind in one Spirit. Submission was a key ingredient in their community. But not necessarily submission to the apostle’s authority, but rather to the word of God spoken over them.

Lastly, in verse 47, we see their willingness to seek the good-will of those around them. Many biblical commenters agree that “having favor with all the people” means the believers garnered the respect of all individuals, even the unbeliever. This respect was gained through their piety as followers of Christ and their unrestrained generosity and charity. In fact, charity was not confined solely to their community; but was all-embracing and extensive. Verse 45 says, “And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.” We understand this generosity not being restricted to only believers, as the verse indicated “as any had need.”

Challenging each other, as a community, to seek and submit will always result in walking as Jesus walked. The Word of God has provided us with a clear understanding and attitude on how to engage, love, and submit to our brothers and sisters. Day by day, what may first feel like an exercise, will grow into a habit, and ultimately reward us with a practice of embracing challenge for the sake of the Kingdom and relationship with our Savior.

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