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Friday, 12 July 2013

Discipling others requires more than one person......

Jesus can disciple one to one
When Jesus left us his command "Make disciples of all nations...." we might think that his method of discipling - one man to twelve - could be ours too. Should one Christian on their own disciple twelve others?

The reason the answer is a definite no is simply this: not one of us reflects Christ perfectly, we are all blemished in many ways, reflecting Jesus only partially. But two or three believers together have a better chance of reflecting Christ to a young believer than one.

And discipleship in the early years is just so important. 

Illustrations and examples please
I remember a very argumentative Christian joining a fellowship I was pastoring. Later I met her former pastor and discovered why she was so argumentative - he who had discipled her was argumentative!

Although this may seem an odd example: from the world of imprinting we learn the vital significance of early example. A friend of mine was given an European Eagle Owl. He thought this was a kind gift, but the eagle turned out to be a moody - and even dangerous - bird: early in its life, the owner had mistreated it and in reacting to the mistreatment it had become moody and dangerous fullstop.

A child's early development crucially affects the child later on in life. Feral children often never learn to speak because in the first few years of their lives they lived with animals or in the wild.

It is far better for young Christians to be surrounded by a small group of older Christians rather than one Christian who will naturally have many faults and pass them on to the new believer.

Our solemn duty
Our call is to disciple the world (not merely convert the world) and this requires surrounding young believers with godly examples. Discipleship puts great demands on us, because as we are, so will the world be. "Follow me as I follow the example of Christ" says Paul. We can't take anyone beyond where we are. That makes Christian living a serious matter, especially when surrounded by baby Christians.

Monday, 1 July 2013

How to obey the command "Rejoice in the Lord always"

A strange repeated command
On the surface of it, "Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say rejoice" is a strange command (Philippians 4:4).

How can one command joy? What if the circumstances we find ourselves in are anything but joy bringing? Are we expected to find and flick a joy switch? And if so wouldn't that joy be false?

Is Paul encouraging us to a stoical kind of joy, a grit-your-teeth kind of joy? An outward joy that does not reflect our hearts or are circumstances?

The commands of Scripture do not pass straight to the will or emotions but run through the mind - a mind that is informed by God's Word and God's promises.

So here are three steps - mental steps, mind steps, Word steps, to joy, when we find ourselves in the dumps:

(1) Trust in the over-ruling providence of God
We often find ourselves joyless when something 'bad' has happened - something we have labelled 'bad'. In these circumstances, we get ourselves back on the joy track by remembering that even that thing is included in the "all things" of Romans 8:28 which will work out for our good. So we rejoice in the sovereign purposes of God, though we cannot see them.

(2) Trust in the forgiveness of God
On other occasions we are joyless because we have fallen - once again - into something we hate and thought was once history. Condemnation sets in and we spiral into guilt and remorse. Joy returns when the promise of God to forgive us if we confess our sin comes to mind.

(3) Remember the Father's unconditional love
A third step to joy is to remember that we are unconditionally loved by God, covenantally loved by him, no matter what or how or when.

The fruit of the Spirit, which is joy, is not disconnected from the work of renewing our minds with God's Word. It's not as if joy can just well up if condemnation fills our minds and hearts. Removing these hindrances to joy "allows" the joy of the Holy Spirit to bubble up, the joy inexpressible and full of glory.