Sunday, June 23, 2013

Deliberate Discipleship – On Purpose Growth

“Be teleios, as your Heavenly Father is teleios.”
Matthew 5.48

Most people think that once one is saved, he or she is now living in a state of grace, and that’s it.  We go to church, try to be good, apologize when we fail, and then just go on living one’s life.  Unfortunately, this isn't the whole story. 

Being a disciple is more like being a student or an apprentice.  When we are born again, we become spiritual babies.  We become children of God – new babes in Christ.  And just as it is with all new babies, it’s a time of celebration – but it’s also just the beginning of a process. 

Lots of new Christians miss the importance of this.  They feel a since of relief and joy from their salvation, but then as time goes by their zeal loses some of it's fizz.  Many of them are taught that prayer and bible study and church attendance is what they need, and that is true, 
BUT: these things must be done with a purpose!  

The purpose is not to have so-called “spiritual disciplines,” which has become another popular (and unbiblical) teaching these days.  As you’ll see later in the SOM, memorizing bible passages, reading just because you’re “supposed to” and praying like common religious people do … these things are insufficient for growth or to please God.   

Before you get too upset with me for challenging these things, please consider the outcome of these practices today.  Christianity’s reputation is very poor.  Many who have been Christians for years are weak, shallow and still have to be fed milk instead of solid food (1 Cor. 3.2 & Hebrews 5.12-13, for example).  Most Christians get harder as they get older, but instead of becoming more durable they become more brittle & fragile.  They should be leaders, but they’re still small-minded and opinionated.  If they don’t have the preacher, pastor or priest to come hold their hands, they fall apart.  Marriages get weaker – not stronger.  Many are just plain pathetic.  And children grow up to leave church completely.  How is that the strength and glory of God giving peace beyond comprehension? 

The failure is in the system.  Our churches are teaching us that we should study the bible, but they don’t tell us why (and very few teach how).  They have us attend church because we’re “supposed to,” but then they entertain us or yell at us when we get there, and they label their church gatherings as: worship, praise or worship services, when not one of these things is found in the bible.  Why do people accept giving church services a label that’s not in the bible?  Because they don’t know any better. 
“Let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind. And if a blind man guides a blind man, both will fall into a pit.”  Matthew 15:14
The proper function of a New Testament church is to help you get stronger – not to worship God!  At least that’s what the bible teaches (1 Corinthians 14.26, Hebrews 10.24, Ephesians 4.11-16, etc.), and this is not the job of a “professional,” but it’s up to each person to participate.  (more on this in the next article)     

Since we get these misleading messages at church, it falls to each individual to seek the truth and learn how to develop from newly reborn baby into a teleios disciple.  That means you. 

The choice is clear: you can choose to be just another church-going nice person, or you can choose the way of discipleship. 

Being a typical Christian is much easier, and you’ll have lots of company. 
And what’s wrong with that?
Answer: the outcome. 

Muscles that aren't exercised atrophy.  If you (spiritually speaking) spend your life on the couch/pew watching TV/”worshiping” you will eventually be the spiritual equivalent of a fat, lazy slob.  Maybe you’re saved … but you’re good for nothing.  In the end you have become the one-talent Christian who buried it in the ground (Matthew 25.24-30) or you may be the fruitless plant (Mark 3.18-19), healthy big and strong, but with little or nothing to show. 

But even if this isn't your lot, you should understand that choosing this path is one of short term ease and long term pain.  Many older Christians today have their world rocked by things that are so minor it shouldn't faze them.  But since they haven’t developed spiritual calluses, they are way too easily angered or upset.  And when they get angry or upset … they don’t even have sense enough to be embarrassed for their behavior! 

Think for a moment, and consider how many seniors at your church can you name who are like this:
Love doesn't seek its own, isn't easily provoked, doesn't take into account a wrong suffered….  Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 1 Corinthians 13:5-7
The alternative is to grow stronger spiritually each year.  Have a goal to be someday at a point where it’s very difficult to tempt you to be angry or hurt.  To become so strong that when the storms of life come your way, you can sleep in the boat like Jesus did instead of freaking-out like so many in our churches are today. 

When we learn to live and love like this, that’s when we’ll become attractive like Jesus was.  No one would want his life, but we’d all love to have his strength.  No one wants to suffer as he did, but everyone wants to be wise like he was, to heal and teach and have compassion like Jesus!

So … let me encourage you to consider this choice prayerfully.  If you want to take this difficult path, I’ll walk with you through it.  I will help some - God will help more.  I’ll show you how to make God smile and love you … not only as a cute baby, but later on for God to love you for what a fine adult you've become. 

God loves His children, but He doesn't always like us.  Choose wisely
He is our God, and we’re the people of His pasture and the sheep of His hand.
Today, if you would hear His voice, don’t harden your hearts, as at Meribah, as in the day of Massah in the wilderness, “When your fathers tested Me, they tried Me, though they had seen My work.  For forty years I loathed that generation, and said they are a people who err in their heart, and they don’t know My ways.  Therefore I swore in My anger, Truly they shall not enter into My rest.”  Psalm 95:7-11
Consider this choice today.  Stop and pray about it.  Ask God to give you the wisdom to make the right choice, the strength to see it through and the love to help others to join us in the way.  Then, share your decision with another who may be like-minded; and with me in the comments section.

  Brothers, don’t be children in your thinking; yet in evil be infants, but in your thinking be teleios.
1 Corinthians 14:20

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