followers make followers

Matthew’s last words record Jesus before he ascended to heaven,

“Go therefore and make followers of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Between Matthew 4 and Matthew 28, Jesus transformed twelve followers into a new kind of fishermen. In the Book of Acts—or Acts of the Jesus Followers—you see these men going into all the world telling the world about Jesus. Why? Because Jesus was the answer to the world’s problems. Jesus and his followers would turn the world upside down.

Maybe God will never call you to be a pastor or a missionary. Maybe you will never be called to go to the desert of Chad or the jungles of Brazil. You have your own jungle. As a church God has placed you strategically in a dark, broken, and hurting community.

As Daniel 12:3 says,

“Men and women who have lived wisely and well will shine brilliantly, like the cloudless, star-strewn night skies. And those who put others on the right path to life will glow like stars forever.”

If you are a follower of Jesus, then you are those stars shining brightly for others to see the Light of the World. It was a title he also passed onto his followers. The mark of a committed follower of Jesus is if he is making more followers of Jesus.  Followers make followers.

Are you a curious, convinced, or committed follower of Jesus?

Curious: Will you accept Jesus call to follow him today? Spend time with Jesus. Read Matthew.  Put yourself in the shoes of a follower.

Convinced: Do you resemble your Rabbi? What nets do you need to leave to cling to Jesus?  Are you ready to spend the rest of your life following Jesus?

Committed: Who is following you to Jesus?  Make more followers.

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consider the cost of following Jesus

Most people in Jesus sandals would be enamored by the types of crowds that followed him, but Jesus wasn’t. He could see through their facade and into their hearts. He knew not all who followed him really believed. Notice how Jesus talks about fo-followers or fad followers:

“Now when Jesus saw a crowd around him, he gave orders to go over to the other side. And a scribe came up and said to him, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” Another of the disciples said to him, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” And Jesus said to him, “Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead.” (Matthew 8:18-23)

Some follow Jesus until the going gets tough or until there is an excuse not to follow. Where Jesus traveled there wasn’t a Holiday Inn or a Sleeper Number beds. In fact, Jesus didn’t know where he would sleep most nights. Also in Jesus day, the pink slip out of any situation would be sickness or death in the family. It may seem like Jesus was insensitive towards the man whose father was dying, but Jesus knew that this man had many excuses.

I’ve seen firsthand how Chad, Africa has chewed up many missionaries. I’ve felt it too.  It is a difficult place. You have to deal with isolation, sickness, slowness of ministry, discouragement, and physical and spiritual deserts. It’s the kind of place you choose to live and most choose not to.  Few are called. The cost is high. Honestly, there are no easy places on earth. Following Jesus anywhere is difficult.

If you’re truly following Jesus, he will call you to walk on the water sometimes—to trust him so completely that if you take your eyes off him you will sink. (Matthew 14:22-33)

Following Jesus will take you into a broken and hurting world, but will get a front row seat to see how Jesus can mend it.

Following Jesus means worshiping him even when I don’t feel like it. Believe me there are days when that will be tested.

Following Jesus will make you look like a fool sometimes. If your life makes complete sense to unbelievers, then you aren’t really following Jesus.

Following Jesus means others will hold you to a higher standard . Following Jesus will reveal your shortcomings.

Following Jesus demonstrates you acknowledge the great cost Jesus paid for your sin. There is a cost to following Jesus. Jesus knows about cost. The cost may be loss of comfort or all-in commitment. Jesus has his way of separating the crowd from those who were curious, convinced or committed.

Have you considered the cost of following Jesus? What nets do you need to drop in order to cling to Jesus? Nets are anything you cling to other than Christ.  Look at your hands, then look at Jesus.  Let them go.  And follow.

your calling is to follow

Calling can be a confusing thing.  Often times people talk about calling in relation to their profession, place of belonging, premonition or personal prowess.  However, calling in Scripture is more often related to a Person.

Likely you follow Jesus because he called you to follow. The fact that Jesus calls you and me to follow him is utterly amazing. It is unexpected. I am unworthy. Think about it. God is the only one who completely and perfectly knows you, he undoubtedly cares for you, and he infinitely loves you. And Jesus, God with skin on, calls you and me to follow him. Wow!

Jesus is the Caller.

In essence, Jesus is popping the question. Will you marry me? Will you live in covenant with me? Will you give your life to me? Will you spend your life with me? Sickness or health? It is a question to think about. He is not looking to have a fling. He isn’t into dating you and then ditch you because of irreconcilable difference. He’s into you for life.

I think back on my relationship with Sarah.  We’ve known each other for 18 years, but 12  years ago we began dating.   I was  curious about everything from the food she liked, to her favorite music and hobbies, and I’d happily stay up late talking on the phone to learn everything I could about her.  After about a year I became convinced that she was the woman I wanted to spend the rest of my life.  It has been almost 10 years since we walked an aisle and spoke vows to each other.  Those words held a lot of weight and demonstrated our commitment to each other.  They still do.  Those commitments would be tested.

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The stages of a growing relationship aren’t linear though.  We don’t move from one stage to another in order and the previous ones pass away.  In a healthy relationship all three are happening together.  We must never cease to lose curiosity.  We must never forget why we became convinced that we wanted to give ourselves for the one we love. And we must renew our commitment daily.

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So it is with our relationship with Jesus.  Interestingly, he made the first call.  He took the initiative.  He has proven his love.  He showed that he is into the small and big things of your life.  And he delights in you.

If Jesus calls you listen.

To ignore Jesus invitation is rebellion. Rebellion is the essence of sin. Sin says, “I will do what I want. I will listen to no one. I call the shots. I will not follow. I’m just not that into you. I’d rather be single.”

You are either drawn to Jesus or you are repelled by Jesus. All throughout Matthew he shows the contrast between the disciples who are drawn to follow Jesus and the Pharisees who are repelled and reject Jesus.  The contrast between the rebels and followers is seen best in Matthew 9:9-13, which is also Matthew’s autobiography:

“(Jesus) saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth, and He said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose (left everything) and followed Him. And as Jesus reclined at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and His (followers). And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to His followers, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” But when He heard it, He said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means: I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

There is a lot to say there about Jesus, but what I want to focus on is what Jesus focuses on.

Jesus sees you.

Most people wouldn’t even make eye contact with a taxman out of fear of having to cough up some coins. Matthew’s identity is his job title. It wasn’t a title to brag about as it was one of the most hated of professions. It would be like saying he is a dentist, parking warden, telemarketer, or debt collector today. However, Jesus connects with Matthew. He calls Matthew. Jesus didn’t care about Matthew’s title. He gave him a new one.

Jesus sees ordinary people. People with labels and reputations. He doesn’t care about peoples titles. He cares about people. He cares about you. He sees you mess and all. He invites you. He cares about everything—that you leave everything—because he makes everything in your life different. And He gives you a new title.  Think of some the new titles he gives.  It can be life-changing to be called a son/daughter to one with imperfect parents, beloved to one with a sour marriage, or treasure to one who feels like a peanut rather than a precious stone.

To Jesus you are seen. You exist. And He calls you to follow.

you are known by what you follow

You and I are born to follow. As children we naturally follow by watching and imitating others. We are told to follow the herd, the leader (footsteps), the rules, even the yellow brick road. Something happened between childhood and adulthood, when we are taught to lead our own life and follow our dreams or follow our heart. You are a follower before you are a leader.

The truth is, you won’t hear a graduate say, “I want to be a follower when I grow up!” His parents won’t spend thousands of dollars sending him to Followership Academy. As adults we don’t want our legacy to be known as a world class follower.

However, we are followers more than we’d like to admit. We are closet followers of various sorts. We follow things from fashion, passions and interests. We follow the lives of the famous, favorite sports team, even things we like on Facebook or Instagram. While we don’t want to be known as being a follower, we are known by what we follow.

In a sea of a million things to follow it is good to ask why follow Jesus? I am sure you’ve thought about it. I am sure someone has asked you why do you follow Jesus?

That’s what brings me to the book of Matthew. Matthew is a Handbook for Followers. Matthew was a founding member of Jesus’ 3-year apprenticeship on followership.

I will begin near the beginning of the story. In Matthew 4:18-22, Jesus had already began his ministry. He wasn’t well known yet. Matthew says of Jesus,

“While walking by the Sea of Galilee, (Jesus) saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Immediately they left their nets and followed him. And going on from there he saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets, and he called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.”

Jesus must have been a compelling man. Four men who were tied to their family fishing business left everything after Jesus said only ten words, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Their response is wowing. They immediately left their nets, boat, livelihood, and family to follow Jesus. Let that weight of that sink in for a moment. Jesus was that compelling. And he still is.

It might not startle us today, but it would have startled the early hearers of this story to learn about the type of people Jesus called. They were fishermen. They smelled like fish. They mouth was foul. They were a dirty bunch much like you’d see at the local pub, biker’s bar, or blue collar hangout. Yet Jesus called these men as his first followers. They were the most unlikely, unexpected, unworthy men. Some of us need to hear that today!

What is even more startling is what Jesus is calling them to do. He wasn’t calling them to a better fishing spot (that comes in a later story). He wasn’t calling them to a better job as good as “fisher of men” may have sounded. That’s until you understand how challenging people can be compared to fish.

These men knew who was calling them. Remember, Jesus was considered a rabbi. To follow a rabbi was a lifelong commitment. A student shadowed his rabbi and resembled his rabbi. Jesus asking these men to follow him would have been a high honor. The highest honor!

However, Jesus throws a major cultural curve-ball: rabbi’s didn’t call for followers. It was the other way around. Interested students would make a request to their rabbi of choice without guarantee of being chosen unless they were a star student. Jesus does the exact opposite he called students to follow him. He wasn’t acting like a normal rabbi. That’s okay because Jesus was the Rabbi of rabbis.

God throughout history is the main pursuer between man and God. In the garden, God pursued Adam. God called Abraham to go to the land of promise. God called Moses out of the burning bush. God led Joshua into the promised land and fought his battles for him. God called Samuel, Elijah, and Jeremiah to be prophets. As you look back over your life, surely God is the ultimate pursuer.

And Jesus pursued each of his followers. Jesus fielded his team with people that not only would have been picked last, but likely not at all. When you build a team you most often look for the strongest, wisest, or most skilled players. The misfits and stragglers are usually picked last. No mistake about it, Jesus oddly picked the last to be first. He picked the most unordinary team of ordinary men. Isn’t that a little comforting?

Imagine if Jesus had an assessment for his disciples. Something like this,

To: Jesus, Son of Joseph
Woodcrafter’s Carpenter Shop
Nazareth 25922
From: Jordan Management Consultants
Dear Sir:

Thank you for submitting the resumes of the twelve men you have picked for managerial positions in your new organization. All of them have now taken our battery of tests; and we have not only run the results through our computer, but also arranged personal interviews for each of them with our psychologist and vocational aptitude consultant.

The profiles of all tests are included, and you will want to study each of them carefully.  As part of our service, we make some general comments for your guidance, much as an auditor will include some general statements. This is given as a result of staff consultation, and comes without any additional fee.

It is the staff opinion that most of your nominees are lacking in background, education and vocational aptitude for the type of enterprise you are undertaking. They do not have the team concept. We would recommend that you continue your search for persons of experience in managerial ability and proven capability.
Simon Peter is emotionally unstable and given to fits of temper. Andrew has absolutely no qualities of leadership. The two brothers, James and John, the sons of Zebedee, place personal interest above company loyalty. Thomas demonstrates a questioning attitude that would tend to undermine morale. We feel that it is our duty to tell you that Matthew had been blacklisted by the Greater Jerusalem Better Business Bureau; James, the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus definitely have radical leanings, and they both registered a high score on the manic-depressive scale.

One of the candidates, however, shows great potential. He is a man of ability and resourcefulness, meets people well, has a keen business mind, and has contacts in high places. He is highly motivated, ambitious, and responsible. We recommend Judas Iscariot as your controller and right-hand man. All of the other profiles are self-explanatory.

We wish you every success in your new venture.
Sincerely,
Jordan Management Consultants

Eating Problems for Breakfast by Tim Hansel, Word Publishing, 1988, pp. 194-195

Aren’t you glad Jesus doesn’t give us assessments or look at our resumes like that before becoming his followers?  I sure am.  I wouldn’t make the cut.  Few of us would.

Jesus was calling these four men away from the only job they knew to something completely unknown. He was calling them to a career change without term limits. These men wouldn’t be going home at the end of the day. They would walk wherever Jesus walked, sleep where he slept, eat all their meals with Jesus, and listen intently as Jesus shared the Scriptures. By spending time with Jesus, these young men would grow to become just like him.

Later in the Acts of the Apostles, it is said,

“Now when [the council] saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus.” (Acts 4:13)

Peter went on to be the rock of Jesus’ church. John became Jesus’ beloved friend. And Andrew would give up his life for the sake of Jesus—as did the other followers.

And then there’s you too! You are known by what (or Who) you follow. How do you resemble your Rabbi and who is follow him behind you?

Matthew: Follow the King

King’s sit on thrones in palaces.

King’s wear royal clothes and crowns.

Kings enjoy the best things the world has to offer.

King’s make laws and command kingdoms.

King’s don’t live and work among their people.

The Gospel of Matthew is about a King—a different sort of king.  His family tree is traced back to the great king David, but he is born to an unknown young couple.   Rather than a palace, he has nowhere to call home.  He wears a crown, but it is made of thorns.  He commands obedience, a loving obedience that comes from the heart.

Matthew’s King doesn’t sit on a throne surrounded by a royal court; he spends time with sinners and outcasts.  Matthew wants his readers to know one thing above all: Jesus is King.  He is the king who guides his people like a shepherd into his kingdom. He forgives them, offers rest to their souls, and promises never to leave them.  Though he calls his people to follow him in suffering and the cross, he promises that this is the way to eternal life.

Matthew also shows that Jesus is King through his actions.  Storms are silenced by his voice.  Evil spirits are cast out with a word.  The sick are healed by his touch.

The day is coming when he’ll return revealed in all his power and glory—the reigning and ruling, eternal King.  Matthew wants his readers to know, follow, and be like the King.

I want to know this King, how about you? Let’s discover him together through Matthew.

FOLLOW THE KING is a study guide of 111 devotionals through the Gospel of Matthew.

Click here to Downloads the MATTHEW Study Guide

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absolutely surrendered

Absolutely Surrendered

The day that I asked Sarah to marry me was wintery. We walked around our favorite park (also the sight of the Battle of Tippecanoe). I had everything I wanted to say scripted, but the one thing I couldn’t plan was her response. As we neared the bridge overlooking Burnett Creek I stopped and tried to engage in some sweet talk, but all Sarah wanted to do was beeline to the car because she was cold. As she began to walk off the bridge I got down on one knee and said, “Sarah, I got one more thing I’d like to say.” As she turned around I said, “Would you marry me?” Her response was not the traditional “Yes!” but her one-word answer I will never forget. She said, “Absolutely!”

Why was Sarah so willing and eager to absolutely give herself to me? It is still a wonder to me (and for you married men too)! I have a similar wonder as I read about Paul’s absolute surrender to Jesus in Acts 21. Why is Paul so committed to walk into a life threatening situation? How can I have power and passion like that for ministry? The text will answer these questions among others today.

Serve On Purpose (vs.1-16)

To give a brief background, Paul is traveling from Ephesus back to the Big Apple, Jerusalem (500 miles). He is finishing his 3rd and final missionary journey. And Luke gives us Paul’s travelogue (vs.1-3). And you thought you had it bad with 2 connections and a 6-hour layover in Paris!

What was awaiting Paul in Jerusalem was no vacation or Sunday School picnic. According to Acts 20:22-23 Paul had some clue what awaited him, ”Behold, I am going to Jerusalem, constrained by the Spirit, not knowing what will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me.”

It’s interesting that along his journey, Christians also “through the Spirit” advise Paul not to go to Jerusalem (vs.4-12). How does the Holy Spirit give information that seems so contradictory? Could it be the Holy Spirit gave both Paul and the Christians the same information, but the application of the information was different? I think so. Paul was willing to obey the Spirits directions, but the others likely did want to lose Paul or be responsible for his martyrdom. They also might have thought, “Who wants to go to prison or face afflictions? Certainly we can help him find an easier way.”

If you were in Paul’s sandals you would have family and friends steering you towards gentler meadows too. As hard as it is to accept God’s will or calling, it is still the harder for those who love you. Now it’s not wise to ignore sound advice from spiritual leaders or blow off the opinions of your teammates or scoff at your organizations safety and security policies. You are accountable and it just might protect you from a huge blind spot. However, like Job’s friends or Paul’s friends, could one limit the work of God by holding people back from going where God is at work, even if it is dangerous or unsafe? Just something to chew on.

What was Paul’s response to the advice not to return to Jerusalem? (v.13) It broke his heart. He was ready to be imprisoned, even die for the name of Jesus. Paul knew his ultimate end. God made it clear on the day of his own conversion (cf. Acts 9:15-16 “he must suffer for the sake of my name”). Paul knew his purpose and it was worthy of his life and death. Paul had zero leashes attaching him to this world. No earthly ambitions anchored him down. For early he said, “I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.” (Acts 20:24) The first mark of absolute surrender is to serve God on purpose no matter the cost.

If you are married you probably remember your wedding day and the honeymoon bliss. Ours ended about 2-days after the honeymoon when Sarah and realized we couldn’t spend 24-hours a day together anymore. If you are in the ministry you probably went into the ministry because God did an amazing work in your life and you wanted other people to know Him too, no matter the cost. Then life happened. Honeymoon over. The daily routine became taxing on your time limiting ministry. Your team tasked you with doing certain projects that you did not enjoy or feel skilled to accomplish. You became so busy by the demands of people, and all sense of privacy was eliminated. Transition or conflict with colleagues was disheartening. And through the months and years your original calling and vision for ministry has weathered.

Doing ministry can often separate you from the reasons you went into ministry. As Mike Breen said so well, “We are so addicted to and obsessed with the work of the kingdom, with little to no idea on how to be with the King.” How can it be that you can serve God and spend yourself for Him yet become so tired, hallow, burnt, even distracted from your original call to ministry?  It is good to come back to the reason you came to the field, to the One who called you, gifted you, sustains you, and gives you purpose to wake up each morning and walk out your gate.

Paul is very intentional and purposeful about what he does, he’s not dissuaded by the opinions of others, he has no limits on following Christ, and he serves on purpose for the sake of Jesus’ name. It took a bit of persuasion, but Luke and the others gave Paul over to the “will of God.” (v.14) And Paul continues his death march (v.15-16) enjoying one last night under a friendly roof.

Endure False Accusations (vs.17-36)

As Paul arrives in Jerusalem the first person he meets is pastor James, the half-brother of Jesus. Ah, missionary-to-pastor we all know where this conversation is going, but notice Paul doesn’t talk about numbers of converts or churches planted, he only spoke about the things the Lord had done (vs.17-20a).

James on the other hand talks numbers. He then introduces Paul to rumors related to his teachings or lack of teaching certain truths among the Gentiles (vs.20b). What is most striking in this passage is how Paul responds to rumors and false accusations upon his ministry. There is much you and I can learn from his example:

First, listen to the accusations (vs.21-22). Initially Paul says nothing. He keeps his lips zipped. Luke doesn’t record any immediate reaction from Paul. He simply listens to James and takes in all the details.

How do you handle it in the ministry when you are falsely accused? Are you quick to deny, defend, or devour? How do you respond when someone says something about you that is not true? Sometimes the biggest attackers to your ministry aren’t your neighbors, but your own brothers and sisters. Christians have a bad reputation for gunning down their own.

During my second year as an assistant pastor I was presenting a vision that the leaders had spent many months praying and fasting over. The desire was plant sister churches in our area. The idea was birthed from Scripture and we desired to be a church that not only reached our Jerusalem and uttermost parts of the world, but also our Judea and Samaria. Following my presentation a lady stood up and said, “Why should a church of 200 people think about planting another church when I have a hard time staffing our Sunday School classes. You are obviously a shepherd who doesn’t care about the sheep. You are leading our church astray.” She then proceeded to list every peeve she had about me as a young pastor which were many.

She might have made some valuable and helpful remarks, considering I was such a green leaf just out of Bible College with fresh ideas, but all her arguments were voided due to the character bombs she dropped. It was like she threw a grenade loaded with shrapnel aiming to shred my character, reputation, and ministry. Thankfully an elder also stood up and became a shield to my defense. She continued to spread rumors about my teachings and made many false accusations about my character. I was crushed and hurt. What was even more painful was her unwillingness to meet together or accept Matthew 18 counsel. The elders of our church prayerfully asked her to leave the fellowship.

Second, obey the advice of wise spiritual counselors (vs.23-26). When James asks Paul to cleanse himself he does as he is told. He doesn’t have to do what they are asking, but he goes the extra mile to help diffuse the situation. And it worked, but only for a few days.

Third, humble yourself (v.27-36). Can you hear the attacks and exaggerations given Paul? None of which are remotely true, yet despite the lies Paul responds with gentle and humble obedience to the authorities. There is no mistake that Paul’s response is similar to Jesus during his trial and crucifixion. What he is modeling is how the least of these can be the greatest of these. Humility displays the greater man and is one of the greatest defenses when under attack.

How do you respond when attacked? God never promises serving Him will be easy or that everyone will respond fairly, but he does promise to stand with you in the face of accusation. As you endure accusation with the gentleness and humility of God you mimic Jesus. And Jesus is glorified when you turn the other cheek for the sake of His name.

Testify in the face of opposition (vs.37-40)

Paul has more than a black eye and bloody lip. He was beaten within an inch of his life (vs.37-40). He doesn’t fight back with fists, but he really desires to use this as an opportunity to tell them about Jesus. He goes on to tell His testimony of how Jesus transformed his life (Acts 22:1-22); giving one of the great defenses of his life. Even in the face of opposition, Paul is eager to testify the name of His Savior (cf. Acts 23:11).

When ministry gets rough, go back to your conversion and call. Relish in returning to your story often. Fall in love with Jesus all over again. I came to Christ at the age of 12, I gave my life completely to Christ. When I reflect on my story I am floored by the miraculous grace of God. How God plucked me out of a dysfunctional family born to two teenage parents and plucked me out of a lifestyle addicted to self, lust, and people pleasing. Those who know me best see the life-transforming power. It’s a power I want others to know about too.

At the communion table in the upper room just hours before His crucifixion Jesus told His disciples what would happen to Him for the sake of their salvation. He broke bread and passed a cup of wine. Then he said, “Whenever you gather together do this in remembrance of Me until I comes back again.” And indeed, our Bride Groom will come for us, His Bride, may we with one voice say, I am yours “absolutely” now and forevermore (cf. Revelation 22:17-20).

Maybe it is time to keep on your knees once again. Raise your flag of surrender. Surrender all to your Love beginning with your life, family, children, and ministry.

What are the defining marks of a disciple?

discipleship

Recently, I was asked this question by a friend, “What are the defining marks of a disciple of Jesus?” That’s a really good question. How would you answer that question?

At its core, the word disciple means follower or more specifically a follower who is a learner. A disciple learns and never stops learning the ways of his teacher or master. He learns by watching, listening, and mimicking his master.

The New Testament is chalked full of examples of men and women who who were called disciples of Jesus. The examples include people who followed Jesus both before and after they committed to follow Him completely (Jn.6:66; Acts 11:24). That’s interesting.

When it comes to being a disciple of Jesus, it is probably important to understand what Jesus expects of a disciple. John, a close disciple of Jesus, records a message given by Jesus that clearly outlines defining marks of a disciple,

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you.” (John 15:12–14)

In Jesus’ own words, we have three defining marks of a disciple of Jesus:

1) A disciple loves like Jesus.

Notice, a disciple is not marked by his knowledge of Jesus (which is important) nor the good things he does for Jesus (which is also important). A disciple is moved to act upon what He knows about God. As Jesus says, “you love one another as I have loved you.” (cf. John 13:35, 15:9, 12, 17). This is not an option, it is an order. A disciple is primarily and distinctively marked by the love he shows another.

You can manufacture this kind of love for a moment, but Jesus demonstrated it throughout His entire life. Jesus had an amazing capacity to love people. He loved the unlovely and His enemy. A disciple loves God and others, like Jesus, by learning from Jesus Himself.

2) A disciple is willing to sacrifice his life for the sake of Jesus.

The words that came out of Jesus’ mouth next are words I am sure you agree are true, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” Yes! To that I heartily say, “Jesus, you’re right on! The highest level of love is a willingness to give your life for someone you really care about.” However, Jesus is not just sharing a truism. His intention is that you would connect this truth to the way you love Him (Eph.5:1-2).

Jesus had no shortage of followers. He wasn’t interested in crowds of followers, He was focused on the core of the follower. Some followed just to catch His next miracle, others followed to hear His earth shaking stories and sermons, while others followed for reasons both good and bad. Not everyone that followed Jesus loved Him, some hated His guts.

Jesus had a radical way of separating true followers from bandwagoners. Frequently He had crowd reduction sermons and say things like,

  • “Sell everything that you have…and come, follow Me” (Mk.10:21)
  • “Forsake your life and follow Me” (Mk.8:34-38)
  • “Want to be great? Be a servant” (Mt.20:26-28)
  • “If anyone does not carry his own cross daily and follows Me” (Lk.9:23)
  • “If anyone comes after me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” (14:27)

Afterwards, many would go home saying “Jesus, you’re just asking too big a sacrifice from me.” Others would mock His words saying, “You think your God or something?” And others continued to follow. They weren’t many, but they were committed because they counted the cost.

When Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” he was looking for a radical response. It’s as if He says, “If you are really My follower, then you will be willing to go to the grave for Me.” Wow. Let the words of Jesus sink into your skull for a moment. Did you think about that before you committed to follow Jesus?

A disciple dies to self. A disciple is willing to sacrificially lay down his life for Jesus, like Jesus went to the grave for yours.

3) A disciple obeys Jesus’ commands.

One who sacrificially loves, like Jesus, also joyfully obeys His words. Have you joyfully responded to His invitation? What invitation, you ask? Jesus gives you an invitation to be His close companion. This is more than an invitation to be buddy’s, pal, or homeboy. Jesus says, “You are my friends if you do what I command you.” This is not a manipulative or coercive invitation, rather it’s a mark of a follower. A disciple is willing to follow whatever His teacher or master has asked Him to do.

This is good news. Jesus is the earth shaking good news. He followed every one of the defining marks of a disciple. He lived the words He preached. He mimicked His Heavenly Father. So much so, that if you want to know what God is like, look at Jesus. No one could find a fault in Him. He went to the grave an innocent man. He did not die a fatalist, a moralist, or the most liked by the populist. He obeyed His Father joyfully, even when it cost Him His earthly life. He loved sacrificially, so that by His grace you could live eternally with Him. That’s the kind of friend, teacher, master, God He is.

Jesus last words to His disciples after His resurrection were, “teach them [all future disciples] to observe all that I commanded you.” A disciple learns to live obediently to the teachings of Jesus and joyfully seeks to reproduce the same characteristics in others until He returns.

So what are the defining marks of a disciple of Jesus? Well, in Jesus own words, a disciple is one who loves like Jesus, sacrifices His life for the sake of Jesus, obeys Jesus’ commands, and helps others to do the same. What say you? Do you bear these marks?

Question every disciple should ask himself:
Do I love people more and more?
How do I love those I least like?
What is the motive behind my love for God and others?
Is my love coming from duty or delight?
In what ways am sacrificing my life for the sake of Christ?
What commands of Jesus do you have a hard time obeying?
How are you learning to follow more like Jesus today?

is it better to know Jesus or love Jesus?

I grew up in central Wisconsin. As a teenager, I was a big fan of Brett Favre (along with 5 million other people in the State). I know his stats starting from 1992 to present. I would pretend to throw like him my backyard. I’ve read all his Sport Illustrated cover stories. I worked at a Sporting Goods store so I could collect his memorabilia. I can even tell you the name of the town he lives in down south (Kiln, Mississippi). I have never met Brett, yet I feel like we’re buds. I know a lot about Brett Favre (probably more than most of you), but I really don’t know him. I love to watch him fling a football, but I don’t really love him like those closest to him.

Sadly, some in the church think of Jesus like I thought of Brett Favre. Now I am not comparing Jesus to Brett Favre (although I know some fanatics who might). You can be just a fan of Jesus. You can know a little about Him, and love things about Him. But you might not really know Him or love Him as He desires. This leads to the question in the title: Is it better to know Jesus or love Jesus? No, it’s not a trick question, but the answer may surprise you.

When Jesus came He called for faith and followership from the least to the greatest, the poor to the rich, the sinner and the religious. Jesus came to save the good, bad, and ugly. We see this in Luke 7. As we step into the story it begs us to ask another question: Who am I most like in the story?

1. Am I like Simon the Pharisee? He’s got a lot knowledge of God, but no intimacy [Luke 7:36].

In Luke 7, Jesus is invited over for dinner by a Pharisee named Simon [v.36]. Ironically, Simon invited Jesus over just after He scolded the Pharisees for not accepting either John or Himself. And the Pharisees just accused Him of being a party boy with the tax collectors and sinners [7:34]. But Jesus didn’t play favorites. He accepted dinner invitations from the Pharisees too, without asking about their motives [cf. 11:37; 14:1].

What is a Pharisees? In the Bible, they are a group of Jewish religious leaders. In its title, Pharisee, means, “separated ones.”  They built ‘fence laws’ (traditions) around God’s law to help them keep God’s law and to protect their personal image so that they appeared holy and separate from the sinful world. They hung holiness around their neck like Mt. T wore gold chains. Their fence laws were often stricter than God’s law. They were good law keepers and made sure others saw it. Their fence was painted and polished on the outside, but inside it would not meet any inspection codes. Pride and hypocrisy are the failures of fence law’s. They knew a lot about God, but they really didn’t know Him. In Matthew 15:8. Jesus describes the Pharisees as “people who honor Me with their lips, but their hearts are far from Me.”

Simon invitation to have the traveling rabbi over for a meal would have been considered a religious brownie point. Jesus should have been considered the guest of honor. In the Middle East during those days there were certain rules of etiquette. First, a customary greeting would be given of a kiss on the cheek or hand. To neglect the kiss of greeting would be like having a person come into your home and not saying, “Hello!” or shaking their hand. Second, in a shoeless culture, the washing of feet was mandatory before meals. Normally the host or his servant would wash the feet or at the very least they would give water to the guests to wash their own feet. Third, for an especially distinguished guest, some (inexpensive) olive oil was given for anointing their head.

When Jesus comes to the house of Simon, there is no kiss (greeting), no washing of feet, and no oil for his head. The reason is not certain why Simon did not do these courteous gestures. But from Jesus’ words later on, Simon didn’t really know Him. If Simon really knew who He was he would have honored Jesus more extravagantly.

It’s not that Simon did not know God. He knew a lot about God. As a Pharisee, he spent his life studying the Scriptures. By the age of 12 he had memorized the first 12 books of the Bible. He would squash the kids in your AWANA ministry! By the age of 15 he had memorized the entire Old Testament. Sadly, he committed to memory more than 300 OT prophecies about the coming Messiah, yet he didn’t even realize it is the Messiah who sat at his dinner table. He knew about Jesus, but he didn’t know Jesus.
He’s all knowledge, but no intimacy.

When I graduated from Bible College I had quite the chip on my shoulder. I read the Bible backwards and forwards many times for class. The Bible became a textbook. I knew enough Greek and Hebrew to look smart. I knew the Bible, but my head was the size of a hot air balloon and it was filled with pride. God used a lot of patient people in my first ministry to chisel away at my pride. And it’s still a temptation.

Pharisees often confused knowing God for loving God. In church, it is easy to get this confused too. We build systems that cater towards knowing about God, but not necessarily loving God. We have endless Bible studies with workbook and Bible curriculum with homework. Sermons notes with fill in the blanks. If you grew up in the church, you probably go to Sunday school, where you have a teacher. In the summer the kids may go to Vacation Bible school. All these programs help you know, but not always love God.

Hear me out (before you throw stones); I wholeheartedly encourage studying, teaching, and preaching God’s Word. It is a biblical mandate. It’s my calling. Even our example, Jesus, read and quoted Scripture as proof that He knew God’s Word. The problem isn’t knowledge. The problem is that you can have knowledge without having intimacy. In fact, knowledge can be a false indicator of intimacy. Obviously where there is intimacy there should be a growing knowledge of God, but too often there is knowledge without a growing intimacy.

Think about it this way, the proof that I love my wife is how much I know her. I know what kind of deodorant she uses. I know her favorite kind of Thai food. I know what makes her laugh or cry. So knowledge is part of intimacy, but just because there is knowledge doesn’t mean there is intimacy.
Probably the best biblical word for intimacy is the word “know.” But this knowing goes much deeper than knowledge. The Bible first uses this word to describe a relationship in Genesis 4:1, “Adam knew Eve his wife.” The Hebrew word for “knew” here is the word yada, which means ‘to know completely and to be completely known.’ Unabashedly, Genesis 4:1 is an intimate moment between a husband and wife. It’s a beautiful picture to help see what it really means to know God.

In Psalm 139, David uses this word yada to describe how God knows us, “O Lord, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether. You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it.”

So the word used to describe a husband and wife is also used to describe how God knows you and wants to be known by you. This changes the way I think about knowing God. He’s not interested in a let’s-just-be-friends relationship; a noncommittal dating relationship; or a relationship where you define the terms; He is seeking the kind of commitment and intimacy best illustrated in a marriage relationship. Do you just know about Jesus or do you really know Him? Are you like Simon the Pharisee? He’s got a lot of knowledge of God, but no intimacy

2. Am I like the woman?  She’s got little knowledge of Jesus and lot’s of love [Luke 7:37-38].

While Jesus is eating at Simon’s house a woman comes on the scene. She comes uninvited. To better comprehend the awkwardness of this moment, you must understand that she wasn’t just any woman. She’s “a woman of the city, who was a sinner.” [vs.37] Her reputation negatively precedes her. She’s done bad things that have damaged her reputation. Maybe she slept with her boyfriend, cheated on her husband, is in a same-sex relationship, or was a prostitute in the small town.

We are uncertain the specifics that drew her to Jesus. But in desperation she came to Him at Simon’s dinner party—a dinner she would never be invited to attend nor would she have interest in attending anyways. As she wandered in she felt the condemning glares from “holy men”. Nervous as she might be, she brushes off the glares and stares at Jesus.

Apparently she had heard Jesus teaching, maybe earlier that day. What about Jesus teaching made such an impact? Was it forgiveness? Perhaps while listening to Jesus she thought, “Can He really forgive my shameful past?” Was it redemption? Maybe as Jesus spoke she realized that only He could put back together the broken pieces of her life and make her whole. Was it love? Maybe she wondered, “Certainly Jesus knows how messed up I am; how the guilt of my sin stains me so deeply. Could He love me too?”

What she does next is impulsive, extravagant, and culturally unthinkable, especially to someone who did not know Jesus [v.38]. Can you feel the tension? The woman approaches the dinner table and stands at the feet of Jesus. The table is silent. Everybody is watching. Everybody knows who she is. They are thinking, “What is she doing here?” She looks around at the guests. She gets glares of judgment. She looks at Jesus. He looks at her. She looks to Him in faith seeking forgiveness for her shame. He looks back with a loving smile. She says nothing. Nothing needs to be said.

She is so overwhelmed, tears of repentance rain down. She falls and begins to kiss Jesus’ feet. Her tears begin to drip onto the dirty feet of Jesus. She sees the muddy streaks and suddenly realizes that His feet haven’t been washed. She can’t ask for a towel, so she lets down her hair. The dinner guests gasp out loud at her disgrace. Then she takes a costly alabaster jar of ointment. Perhaps in the past she used it drop-by-drop for many men. But now she empties it. She will not need it anymore. She pours out, her life, on His feet, and she kisses them over and over.

The woman does a gutsy and glorious thing, all at the same time. She faced her sin. Rather than running from it she runs to the only one who can forgive her. She is broken, grieved, and repentant. Her offering of worship is a sweet smelling aroma. In a moment, she moved from a life of shame to a member of the Fellowship of the Unashamed.

When is the last time you had a moment with Jesus like this woman? Repentant? Broken? Honest before God? When’s the last time you’ve poured yourself out before Him? When is the last time the shed tears over your sin and shame? When is the last time you demonstrated unashamed and extravagant worship?
Can you relate to this woman?

This sinful woman is a mentor to us all of a repentant heart and worshipful response towards Jesus. Unlike the Pharisee, who loves himself too much, she sees herself for who she is—a sinner needing forgiveness. Do you remember who you were before Christ? Do you see the seriousness of your sin? The closer I get to Jesus, the more sinful I recognize myself as being. I am the Pharisee when I forget I am like the woman. The woman didn’t know a lot about Jesus, but she knew He could forgive her sins. She didn’t love a bunch of things about Jesus. She really loved Him. Proof of her love was over-the-top worship. Do you love things about Jesus or do you really love Him?

3. Am I like Jesus? He’s got unbiased love and unconditional forgiveness [Luke 7:39-50].

It is easy to look at the two characters of the story and say, “I definitely don’t want to just know God like the Pharisee. I want to love God like the woman.” But you can assume or zoom by the third character in the story—He’s most important. His name is Jesus. He is the main character of not just this story but also the Bible. He is the one you most need to emulate. “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” [Ephesians 5:1-2]

Notice how Jesus responds to Simon’s statement whispered under his breath [v.39 “If Jesus were a prophet He would know what kind of woman this sinner she is]. Jesus doesn’t blast him out of his boots by saying, “I heard that! Why would you say such a stupid thing, Simon! How dare you judge me? I am the Judge here.” No. But He doesn’t ignore Simon either. Listen to the tenderness in His voice: “Simon, I have something to say to you…” [v.40] In answer to Simon’s statement, Jesus uses His prophetic powers to read Simon’s heart. He told him a short parable. It is one of the smallest parables of Jesus (only two verses long), but it is hugely significant [vs.41-42].

In summary, a banker loans money to two men, one receives two year’s wages and the other receives two month’s wages. Neither man can pay back the banker. Unexpectedly, the banker shows grace and removes the debts from both their records. When each man should be bankrupt and file chapter 7 they are given a new start to life. Obviously, both gain new affection for the banker. But Jesus asks a crucial question, “Which man loved the banker the most?” Simon being no intellectual slouch has a ready answer [v.43]: “the one with the larger debt.” And Jesus acknowledged Simon has the right answer as a religious person would, but it did not mean he saw he was the one with the small debt.

Jesus’ story is not just for Simon, but it’s for all the ears at Simon’s table (including you and me). What is your place in the parable or Simon’s table? How would you respond to Jesus’ story? Would you sit beside Jesus and acknowledge only a small debt, or would you fall down at His feet and, in tears, begging for the forgiveness you do not deserve?

Now Jesus is ready to make His point [vs.44-47], “Do you (even) see this woman?” Jesus did not dispute the woman’s condition. They both agreed she was sinful. That’s not the point. The point: how acceptable is she before God? Simon is disgusted with her. He is also inhospitable with Jesus. But Jesus lets her touch, kiss, and wash His feet. Why? She loved much. She was a human in need of divine grace. She needed what only Jesus had to give—forgiveness and salvation. Ignoring any reply or reaction from Simon, Jesus spoke to the woman, “Your sins are forgiven.” [v.48]

Can you hear the dinner party guests gasp again? They began chattering around the table, “How could He forgive sins? That is God’s job. Who does this man Jesus claim to be?” [v.49] Precisely! God. As God, He can forgive. And Jesus’ words here are ultimately what get Him hung on the cross by religious people, like Simon. Again Jesus ignores them, and focuses solely on the woman, “Go on without worry. Live a new life. Your faith has saved you.” [v.50]

Jesus’ words are an invitation to Simon, and us all, to open our eyes to people around us who have been marginalized or ostracized. Before this moment, Simon failed to really see anything at all; he saw neither Jesus nor the woman. He was blind to her act of repentance and love. He only saw her sin. We don’t know if Simon changes. But we do know Jesus loves Simon as much as He loves the woman. He longs for Simon to see her not as a category (sinner) but as a person who, above all else, needs God’s love and forgiveness, “He who is forgiven little, loves little.”

The question of this text remains still remains, who am I most like? Simon? The woman? Jesus? The Pharisee and the woman are both sinners on opposite extremes of the pendulum. And Jesus gives them both what they need. The Pharisee needed truth in love. The woman needed forgiveness and assurance of His love. Jesus’ call to faith reaches out to people society deems as despicable (even the rapist, molester, cereal killer, stripper, or terrorist). But the church, unlike society, must show the sinner the way to Jesus and show His forgiveness and unconditional love. What can we do as a church or followers of Christ?

First, understand that faith often appears in the most unexpected places. It could be at your Sunday lunch and your waitress at Red Lobster, or the guy outside the bar, or the young pregnant gal walking to the clinic, or the uncomfortable and awkward outcast sitting in the pew near you. Let God bring salvation the way He chooses to the people He chooses. God can transform the worst of sinners and the greatest of the religious [cf. 8:1-3].

Second, beware of religious taboos such as never associating with sinners or shooing them away from the church. Yes, there is a place for protecting your church from false teachers, confronting sin, and “being in the world, but not of the world.” But how will they know unless you show love and forgiveness of the Light of the world? Our church creed must read: we are all equal in Christ who is our Head, though messy and sinful we are still His glorious Bride, everyone is welcome, for we are One in Him.

Third, cherish the truth that no one is worthy to receive what Jesus offers the woman. Know your place among the unworthy. What if God sent you a bill every month for your sin, what would you owe God? What would your debt be? Too much! Thank God, He sent Christ to forgive your debt. If you are in Him, He’s paid it all. Don’t you think that Jesus’ coming to earth, being obedient to the Father, even to the point of death on the cross is rather extravagant? My response is to pour out over-the-top gratitude. Be proud to be a member of the Fellowship of the Unashamed.

Fourth, believe Jesus alone has the power and authority to forgive sins and offer salvation. You can be the most religious or most sinful. The distance between you and God is repentance. Respond to Jesus in humble faith and accept His forgiveness and salvation. Today.

Is it better to know Jesus or love Jesus? It is best to know and love Jesus from your head all the way to your heart. Jesus said when asked by a Pharisee the greatest commandment, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” [Matthew 22:37-40]

to all those who love Christ and His gospel

To all those who love Christ and his gospel,

Without the gospel

everything is useless and vain;

without the gospel

we are not Christians;

without the gospel

all riches is poverty,

all wisdom, folly before God;

strength is weakness, and

all the justice of man is under the condemnation of God.

But by the knowledge of the gospel we are made

children of God,

brothers of Jesus Christ,

fellow townsmen with the saints,

citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven,

heirs of God with Jesus Christ,

by whom

the poor are made rich,

the weak strong,

the fools wise,

the sinners justified,

the desolate comforted,

the doubting sure, and

slaves free.

The gospel is the Word of life.

– John Calvin [in his preface to Pierre-Robert Olivétan’s 1535 translation of the Bible.]

[HT]

the call of Abram

A few years ago Sarah and I began to grow a garden. Gardens do not just grow over night by mere happenstance. You have to till the ground, plant seeds, water, and harvest. It takes work and a lot of initiative. In Genesis 12, God takes the imitative to nurture the seed of humanity; He readies the land and blesses the growth. He does it all through an ordinary man named Abram.

An Unexpected Call: God intersects with man [Genesis 12:1-3]

Can you image the day, Abram is out in the field tending to his herds and he hears a strange voice calling to him. Remember, God had not spoken verbally His covenant with Noah. It is God, again, who initiates a covenant relationship. Like Noah, Abram was a sinner living with sinners, but found favor [grace] in the eyes of God from among all the scatter people on the earth.

What was God calling Abram to do? First, Abram was called to leave the land that he was used to traveling around. Second, he was to leave his family and specifically his father’s house. Third, he was to go to a strange land that is not specifically named. God simply calls Abram to leave his homeland to journey to a new land that God would show him. Do you sense the radical measure of this call and the details left out? Put yourself in Abram’s sandals. How would you respond to such a radical call?

Why was Abram called to do something so radical? God promised to bless Abram’s faith and obedience beyond just him and his tribe. Abram was called by God to become the father of a new nation, become an example of living faith, and become one of the Bibles most mention patriarchs of Gods promise [i.e. over 300 times in the OT & NT].

Here in this short, three verse—text message sized—call, God rehearses some of the major themes of Genesis. First, God promises land [12:1b]. Second, God promises seed [12:2a; cf. 4:25-26; 6:5; 9:20ff; 11:4]. God says later his seed will be like the dust of the earth [13:16; 28:14]. In a real sense God promised Abram he would be a father and through his son a great nation blessed by God would be a blessing to all nations.[1] Third, God promises blessing [12:2b; cf. 22:17; 26:3; 28:3] of His presence, protection and covenant. Fourth, another theme arises that has not been mentioned until now, nation [12:3; 18:18; 22:18; 26:4; 28:14]. God promises to make Abram’s name great,[2] which ironically is the same thing the Babylonians failed to achieve for they pursued it apart from God.

Abram Answers the Call: a faith that grows on [Genesis 12:4-9]

You don’t see a long deliberation in between the call of God and the answer of Abram. You do not see him lying in his bed at night thinking about his conversation with God, or talking with his wife over dinner, or asking God some clarifying questions like, “Where did you say I was going?” The amazing fact is: Abraham believes God and goes [12:4]. No questions. No hesitations. He goes, in spite of leaving everything he knew behind and not knowing specifically how God was going to do all that He promised. It is as if he says to God, “Alright, God, I’ve got nothing else to lose.” At 75 ears old, a guy who at his age should be enjoying retirement and grandchildren takes his wife, their household, and his Nephew Lot to an unknown land.

This is the first step of faith in Abram’s life. It is a step that will affect not only him but also all of mankind. God will use Abram’s mustard seed sized faith. Have you ever been where Abram is in your life?  You decide to trust God, doing things His way, even in the face of the impossible. Abram starts off his journey with faith. No excuses, like “I forgot to lock the front door honey?” No turning back to feed the goats and camels, he takes them all with them.

As Abram goes, he comes to a land where people are living; a brick wall for a nomad. What does Abram do? Does he decide to go back home deciding this must be a dead end and not a part of God’s plan? No. Abram reacts by trusting God. He owns his faith and praises God on this blind journey of faith. His faith in the One True God is coming alive. For the first time Abram is offering praise to a God who speaks and is loyal to those trust in Him. He dedicates the land to God [cf. Leviticus 20:22-24; Psalm 72:8, 17-19]. By worshiping Abram is saying, “There is no other god, but You!”[3]

From this point forward, the lens of Genesis focuses in on the descendants of Abram as God’s covenant people raised up to be blessed nation and a be blessing to all other nations and people who follow. If you contrast Abram with Babylon, both the story, which preceded his call and the city that was the location he was called from [Genesis 11]. The Babylonians sought to be a great nation, blessed people, and great in name, but they pursued this apart from faith and apart from God. So, God called one of them, Abram, out from the land and into covenant with Himself and promised to give to Abram all that the Babylonians had strived for by His gracious provision. Therefore, God is demonstrating that our hope is not in the efforts of sinners who save and bless themselves, but only in entering into covenant relationship with God by faith.

What lessons about faith do we learn from Abram? How does his faith point us to Jesus?

First, your obedience to God is always connected to your faith in God. If you trust God you will obey God. The more you obey God the greater your faith will grow. Though Abram’s faith is incredible it is not complete. Only Jesus’ faith and obedience were complete.

Second, any time you obey God expect opposition through seeming dead ends, speed bumps, or foggy roads ahead. Faith helps you press on when the road ahead is hard or uncertain. The disciple’s obedience led to persecution [Matthew 5:3, 5, 10]. Jesus obedience led to a suffering cross.

Third, God calls ordinary people to carry out His extraordinary plans. Abram was a sinner, but God’s grace was upon him. The covenant promises carried out by Abram’s faith point to the New Covenant in Christ.

Finally, the seed of Abram that will bless all nations points to Jesus, the promised seed, who will redeem the sinfulness of mankind [Matthew 1:1; 24:14; Romans 4:13]. Those who obey and have faith in Him will live with him in the Promised Land in the Eternal Kingdom [Hebrews 11:10; Revelation 22:1-4].


[1] This promised seed is singular, which points to Jesus [cf. Genesis 3:15; Matthew 1:1, 1:17; Galatians 3:16].

[2] Abram was also told he would that his descendants would receive the Promised Land if he in faith go from the land God called him to. Reaching the Promised Land was not fulfilled in Genesis because Genesis ends with Joseph requesting his bones to be taken from Egypt to the Promised Land in the day that God’s people finally entered that place. Also, Exodus ends with the expectation that one day the Promised Land will be entered [Exodus 40:34-38], which is not realized until after the death of Moses [cf. Joshua 1-4].

[3] Abram responds by worshiping God in faith by building an altar other times in Genesis [12:7, 8, 13:18, 22:9].

understanding your calling FAQ

I have heard many Christians say, “My work is not fulfilling,” “I feel lost in the meaningless of the mundane,” “I feel like I’ve have failed God because I’m not doing enough for Him,” “I feel called to _____, but I feel like I’ve have missed my calling.” If this is you, you may be suffering from confusion and over-complication of the Christian calling. What does the Bible say about your calling? Let’s look at Jesus’ idea of calling as seen in His closest companion John.

WHAT IS A CALLING? [John 1:35-51]

In order for there to be a calling there must be a Caller. If there is no Caller, there are no callings—only work. When Jesus commands His disciples to follow Him, He is the Caller calling followers to a lifetime of worship and service. He is calling them to be a worshiper of One [primary call], and be a servant of all [secondary call] spreading the fame of Christ. Your calling is to follow Christ so decisively that everything you are, everything you do, and everywhere you go, and with everything you have worship God and serve His church spreading the name of Christ. Calling is the foundation of Christian existence itself. Calling in the Bible is a metaphor for living as a follower, worshiper, and server.

Whether you are a teacher with the TSC, a plumber in Pittsburgh, a mother on Monroe Street, a businessman, secretary, missionary, or pastor; your call is the same—worship God and serve the name of Christ through His church. Calling is not just for those in full-time Christian service, and everyone else is part-time or not even clocked in yet. The clergy-laity distinction was created by Roman Catholic Church, and a bad hangover for the modern evangelical church.

Martin Luther said, “God and the angels smile when a man changes a diaper.” William Tyndale wrote, “if your desire is to please God, pouring water, washing dishes, cobbling shoes, and preaching the Word is all one.” Bishop Thomas Becon wrote, “Our Saviour Christ was a carpenter. His apostles fishermen. St. Paul was a tentmaker.” Everyday ordinary work without a calling is simply work. Everyday ordinary work with a deep and devoted sense of calling is an extraordinary opportunity to live as a worshiper God and servant of the cause of Christ!

Christ gives your work meaning, not that you are working for Him [secondary], but that you are satisfied in Him [primary]. You are not called because God needs your help [Acts 17:24-25], or you need to payback God [2 Corinthians 9:8], or you need to do something for God [John 12:25-26]. You are not primarily called to something or to go somewhere, but are called to Someone.

WHO IS CALLED? [John 3:16-36; 5:19-35]

Every genuine follower of God has been called from Adam and Eve to Moses to David to John the Baptist to Paul the Apostle to Fred the follower living in a flat in Philadelphia. To Noah God said, “make yourself an ark of cypress wood…” (Genesis 6-7, and he had not even seen rain before). To Abraham, “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you.” (Genesis 12, and he had no clue where God was calling him to go). To Esther (via Mordecai), “For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?” (Esther 4). To Jonah, “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.” (Jonah 1, and he was on a short-term mission).

The list could go on and on of people who were called by God. The New Testaments most frequent one-word description of a Christian is that he is called [2 Thessalonians 2:13-17]. These folks in the Bible are people just like you and me—ordinary people, wanting to trust the extraordinary God of the Universe, but not always under the most comfortable and clear circumstance. However, a common thread runs through each calling: proclaim the salvation of God through worship and service to the ends of the earth.

HOW DO I KNOW THIS IS MY CALLING? [John 13:1-17]

Jesus said so, and Jesus did so. Jesus’ calling was to worship God and service His name [i.e. wash feet]. He lived as the example towards that calling, even to the enemy who would eventually betray Him [i.e. Judas].

IS MY CALL SPECIFIC? [John 21:15-19]

The biblical call is specifically general: be a follower of Christ devoted to worship God and serve the name of Christ. It’s easy to swallow the fact that God has a macro-specific call, but you can quickly complicate and confuse the call by forcing a micro-specific call. God’s macro-specific and micro-specific plan for your life is to stay close to Jesus, worship Him [“if you love Me”], and serve Him [“if you love Me, feed His sheep”].

What about God’s calling Paul to go specifically to Macedonia [Acts 16:8]? Notice this “course correction” was given in the context of Paul’s active service in God’s mission. Then Holy Spirit tells the church at Antioch to set apart Barnabas and Saul for a church planting mission [Acts 13:1-3], but both men were already active in preaching and serving.

HOW DO I DECIPHER MY DECISIONS & WORK WITHIN MY CALLING? [Acts 13:1-5]

1) Seek wisdom in God’s Word. [Psalm 1:1-3; 119:105; Luke 24:32] You first learn how to hear from God by following His written word. If you can’t follow what He’s written in His word, chances are, you are ignoring the Holy Spirit.

2) Seek wisdom through prayer. Matthew 9:38 says, “pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to throw out laborers into His harvest.” The point is to pray. “If anyone of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God who gives generously without reproach, and it will be given him.” [James 1:5]

3) Seek wisdom in your church (4-fold ministry). Ephesians 4:11-12 says, “And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors/teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.” When you sit in a service like this, you’re hearing wisdom from God. He speaks through your pastors and spiritual leaders. Seeking wisdom and guidance from spiritual authorities is wise.

4) Live out loud the gospel. Most people find their world is a small zip code on this grand planet where a particular people group live who needs the gospel. Surrender all you are and have to the gospel of Christ [Luke 14:26-27, 33]. Don Alban Sr. [my ol’ missions prof],says, “Every follower of Christ is an immediate missionary for Christ.”

5) Use your spiritual gifts in conjunction with your church [1 Corinthians 12; Romans 12; 1 Peter 4:11-12]. Work through the organism that God uses in this world today. Worship and service is funneled through Christ’s church. If you are worshiping and serving God through your church you can reproduce the same anywhere.

WHAT ABOUT THE HUTTS CALL TO GO TO UNREACHED OF NORTH AFRICA?

Sarah and I have believe we would be honoring Christ either by remaining on staff at BGBC just as much as we would spreading Christ’s fame among the unreached peoples of Arab North Africa [or any other nation]. We also believe we can be an extension of the ministry of our church in a land where there is no gospel influence. There are literally hundreds of unreached people groups around the world.

So why would we be burdened for a small region in North Africa among a small unnamed and unreached people group? Simply, God has called us to worship Him and spread His fame among those who are not. Our calling is about lifting Christ high, being Christ-like, and through His church serving the name of Christ to the ends of the earth.

walking in new life

Change is a part of life. Changes happen around you all the time. The seasons are constantly changing, your body changes with age, styles of hair, clothing, and home decor change, and technology changes so fast that it is difficult to keep up-to-date. Change is part of the world that God has created. Though you live in a world that is changing it does not mean you like it. Most do not like change.

Now there is a part of change that we do appreciate and enjoy—newness. We enjoy spring when all things become new. We enjoy babies being born. We enjoy having a fresh clean new look. We like getting new cars, home, or toys. Most people dream about what it would be like to live a new life. If you can have a new life what would you do?

If you are in Christ you have a new life. Now when it comes to this new life in Christ, God does not just want to save you, He wants to change you.[1] Paul compares the new life in Christ as a walk—or way of life. When Paul talks about “walking in a manner worthy of the calling you have been called” [4:1-3] he talks about more than a temporary fix [or new habit for a new year]; rather walking in new life is changing into a whole new way of living.

do not walk as you once did [Ephesians 4:17-21]

Paul shares the truth of walking in new life with urgency and divine authority, “you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do.” [v.17a] He is not throwing out suggestions or casual comments, rather it is as if he were saying, “I share this with you, and insist on it in Christ.” Paul calls believers not to walk as they once did before Christ, so he contrasts the way an unbeliever with the new life in Christ. Can you identify 7 characteristics of the Gentiles lifestyle? [vs.17-19] They can be summed up by three marks of an unbeliever.[2] The picture you get of our plight without Christ is not pretty.

First, you were futile in your thinking [v.17b]. Futile in thinking means before Christ your thinking failed to produce the results or failed to achieve the goals. Your mind was always searching, but never finding satisfaction. You were left feeling empty, falling prey to foolish idolatries, and fumbling for answers because you are not in touch with true reality, rather restless with trivialities. Most thinking of an unbeliever is rooted in self, which asks, “How can I change things?” When a follower of Christ asks, “How does Christ change things?”

Second, you had a Godless outlook on life [v.18]. You were estranged from God. You were like foreigners in an unfamiliar land without a compass or sense direction. You were walking, but getting nowhere. You did not know your way because you have no understanding of God because you were visually impaired spiritually. You were ignorant to His purposes and plans. Your knowledge of Him does not translate into a relationship with Him. It is not so much what you know, but what you do with what you know. Before Christ you deliberately refused and rejected a Godward life leaving you hardhearted toward the way of God.

Third, you were controlled by your moral callousness and consuming passions [v.19]. You had spiritual leprosy that dulled your sensitivity to sin. You are unable to exercise self-control because you had no power over your cravings. You had no shame. Your life was like a spiritual episode of the Jerry Springer Show. You were morally depraved and consumed to please only yourself. You were in a vicious cycle of wanting to stop sinning, but not knowing how nor having the right motivation.

I told you, the picture of our plight was not pretty. As I read down through this list I am sickened by my former spiritual state. I think that is the point. You should have a bad taste in your mouth over your former way of life. This is not the way a believer has learned Christ [vs.20-21]. Now the prerequisite for a changed life starts with godly desire to change [cf. 2 Corinthians 5:17]. Your thinking changes the way you act; God-centered thinking leads to God-centered action. How can you change your thinking you ask? Hold tight.

how to walk in new life in Christ [Ephesians 4:22-24]

A changed life and God-centered thinking are the fruit of your salvation in Christ. Jesus is more than just the Savior of sin; He is the change agent for all spiritual growth. When you begin a relationship with Christ you can expect a lifelong journey with Him. Paul shifts his attention from your former way of walking to walking in the new life. He gives three ways to walk away from your former way of life. This is how the gospel affects your thinking:

First, kill your old self [v.22]. Why does the old self need to be put off? It is corrupt through and through with deceitful desires.[3] Think of an old building that is no longer safe and without hope of being fixed. Instead, it needs to be demolished. Likewise, the old man full of sinful decay needs to be trashed. Do not hold on to the remnants of your former way of living. It destroyed you then and will seek to destroy you now.

Second, renew your mind [v.23]. Once the old self is destroyed it needs to be replaced with a new structure. At this point we allow God to remodel our mind from the foundation to the structure to the interior décor. God is not concerned about a beautiful looking building on the outward; He is challenging us to consider the inward. He wants to renew our control-center—the mind [cf. Romans 12:2; Colossians 3:10]. Before our relationship with Christ our mind was motivated by self, but in Christ He moves in to be at the center.

Third, replace the old by putting on righteousness and holiness [v.24; cf. Col.3:12]. God not only author salvation, He wrote the manual on how to live following salvation. Remember, Christ came not just to save you, but to change you form the inside out. As Timothy Keller says, “the gospel is not just the ABC’s of your faith it is the A-Z’s” of your spiritual growth. You created in the likeness God, but in Christ you have the power and motivation to become like Him [2:10; Galatians 6:15]. What is God like and what are you to strive to be like? He is righteousness and holiness [v.24].

How can you know if you are really changing in Christ? As changed follower of Christ walking in the way you will have a godly response to trials, know the sins you struggle with a growing desire to walk away [Galatians 5:19-21; Colossians 3:5-9], you humbly allow others to confront you in love, you enjoy accountable from others for change, and you involve God in the change process giving Him all the glory. Have you experienced the new life in Christ like this?

Do you know why railroad tracks are 4ft. 8 ½ inches apart? These measurements are rooted from the English who set train tracks into motion, but their width apart has a long history. 4ft 8 ½ inches is the width wagon wheels are apart, the width of ruts in the road, the width of Roman chariots, which all come from the width of two horses butts put together. We are people who do not like change.

If you are like me, there are many areas in your life that you would still like to change. Walking in the way of Christ is a life long journey of growth and changes; the new life is just the beginning. What changes do you need to make in your thinking? Are you ready to allow the work of Christ to help you walk in His ways?


[1] Cf. 1:6,12,14; Matthew 5:16; 1 Peter 2:12

[2] Cf. Romans 1:20-23; 2 Corinthians 4:3-6

[3] Cf. Romans 6:6; Colossians 3:9; 1 Corinthians 2:14; 15:33; 2 Corinthians 11:3

it takes a village [to build up a follower]

When I think about Old Europe I am drawn to the massive cathedrals. These marvelous monuments to Christendom took hundreds of years, thousands of man-hours, and millions of dollars to build. Dedicated craftsmen have embossed cathedrals with ornate artwork, colorful stain-glass, meaningful sculptures, and rich relics, which all add to the message of Scriptural themes. To this day these cathedrals are engineering marvels.

The church is often misunderstood and misapplied. As beautiful as these cathedrals and churches may be they are not the church. The church is not a building—it is people. The church is built up by followers of Christ displaying the glory of God and discipling one another to godliness.

The purpose of the church is quite important as it relates to the growth of the people within the church. Discipleship is often described as a one-on-one personal if not private endeavor. As we disciple someone in Christ the first things we teach them is about private growth: practicing devotions, private prayer life, and personal obedience. This is good and true, however, the personal growth in Christ also happens biblically through community within the Body of Christ [1 Corinthians 12:7; Ephesians 4:12]. Seldom is discipleship viewed as a community project.

EPHESIANS 4:11 And He gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 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, 14 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. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 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.

Ephesians 4:11-16, teaches us about the corporate aspect of discipleship. Once a follower commits to Christ they can immediately contribute to the Body of Christ [cf. Romans 12:6-8; 1 Corinthians 12:1-10; 1 Peter 4:11]. Without contribution to the Body of Christ we fail to mature in our faith or have accountability to continue in our faith. Christian growth does not happen in isolation, rather growth happens in community. According to verse 13 there are three aspects of discipleship that cannot happen in isolation: unity, mature in knowledge, maintaining a measure of fullness of Christ.

Unity of the faith is the first and most obvious aspect of community discipleship. Communities have common goals for the benefit of one another. God’s people are moving towards the goal of one faith. Faith is not just personal, but it is a public way to stir one another to faith and good works [cf. Hebrews 10:22-25; Philippians 1:27]. This means followers are using their God-given gifts for His glory and the growth of the community. New believers need to see the unified community of faith [cf. Colossians 2:7].

The second aspect of community discipleship is maturing in the knowledge of the Son of God. Knowledge is not only a personal entity, but refers to the community of followers [cf. v.12]. The knowledge of Christ is the core of the church. Together we encourage one another know Christ and make Him known. This maturity of knowledge is illustrated by infants of who are immature and unstable, like a storm-tossed boat blown in all directions by the winds of false teaching [v.14]. Mature followers are able to discern more clearly what is true and false, but new followers need to grow in their knowledge of Christ. Knowledge of Christ is not an end in itself, rather being transformed by Christ is the goal of this knowledge [cf. 1 John 2:3-4].

The third aspect of community discipleship is maintaining a measure of fullness of Christ. This is the end result of community discipleship—being like Christ.[1] Now the church is already the fullness of Christ [1:23; cf. 4:10], but the future element is still present in our need to be like Christ. The maturity of this growth is measured by nothing less than Christlikeness.

Community discipleship is critical to the growth of the individual followers. Rechargeable batteries do not power up by themselves. They need to be plugged into a power source in order to be recharged. So it is with Christian maturity—followers cannot grow apart from being plugged into the church.

Christ is both the Builder and the Foundation of the church [2:20; cf. 1 Timothy 3:15]. Without a connection to the community of Christ—the local church—we cannot grow, as we ought. If we do not encourage new believers or immature believers to be connected to the Body of Christ they will remain immature, if not disillusioned by true Christian growth. A believer can growth through Bible Study, prayer and personal obedience, but more complete growth happens in the context of the church community. When this is happening the members of the body are being built up and growing the way God intended.

It takes a village to disciple a follower. The church is that village, and together we can encourage one another to unity, mature knowledge, and fullness of Christ. As John Stott says, “Maturity in unity which comes from knowing, trusting, and growing up in Christ.”[2]


[1] John Koessler, True Discipleship. Chicago, IL. Moody Publishers, 2003. 180.

[2] John R.W. Stott, God’s New Society. Downers Grove, InterVarsity, 1979, 169.

no more ties for fathers please

Happy Fathers day. This is the day when we honor our dads by giving they ties, gift cards to Menards, and cooking them brats or steak on the grill. We are thankful for our dads. Dad’s have a huge influence over the lives of their kids. This year more than ever the reality of becoming a father is hitting home. With my wife approaching 5-months of pregnancy, I am thinking seriously about being a dad.

The name of the father in the story we are going to look at today is Jairus. He had quite the rap-sheet: he was a spiritual man being the “ruler of the synagogue.” He was a big cheese among the Jewish community. He possibly heard Jesus speak in the synagogue at Capernaum. But more importantly for this story he was a Dad.

We do not know the name of his daughter, but we do know that she was an only child (“only” cf.Jn.3:16), about 12 years old and was suffering a deadly illness. What do you suppose she saw in her dad? I wonder if she thought of him as being old-fashioned and out-of-touch like many today’s pre-teen daughters? I want to assume that she thought of her dad as a faithful man. What are the marks of a Faithful Father (Follower)?

Faithful fathers [followers] are not ashamed to worship Jesus [Luke 8:40-41]

“There came a man…and falling at Jesus feet.” Jairus approached Jesus during the day while many people were out and about [cf. this is opposite of Nicodemus who comes to Jesus in the middle of the night]. Jairus comes to Jesus because his daughter is sick. It is a hard thing for a father to see their children suffer. He approached Jesus without reservation and fell down at His feet [not out of exhaustion, but begging]. Matthew 9:18 “there came a certain ruler, and worshiped him” Notice: Jairus went himself. He did not send his wife, he didn’t send a servant, rather he went to Jesus Himself.

Oh, that dads would seek Jesus without shame. That they would take their priestly responsibility in the home. That they would seek Him without reservation. That they would seek Him boldly. A faithful father knows he has a faithful God.

Faithful fathers [followers] are not ashamed to invite Jesus to the house [Luke 8:41b-48]

“begged Him to come to his house.” Notice that the event that followed was “as He went,” the entire crowd followed on their way to Jairus’ house. Can you imagine that phone call? “Honey, everyone is coming over to the house.”

Oh, that God would give us Dads who would bring Jesus into the house. Men who would stand with Joshua and declare to the world, “as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Men who would lead their families in prayer, speaking the truth of God’s Word, worshiping and living out their faith.

On the way to heal Jairus’ daughter, Jesus is touched by a woman suffering from a long-lived physical ailment that caused her to be ostracized by her community. According to Leviticus 15, she would have been labeled “unclean” and anyone who would touch her would also be unclean. In the crowd she rushed to Jesus, and believed that if she simply touched Jesus she would be healed. In that moment, Jesus stopped. He draws attention to the woman. She confesses. And Jesus comforts her by saying, “daughter,” (only time Jesus ever uses these words) “it was your faith alone that saved you.”

This parenthesis miracle was a tremendous lesson on faith for both the crowds and Jairus. Not only did Jesus’ healing of this woman stall the situation to heal Jairus’ daughter, but paved the way for His words. Jesus miracle now shifts from public to private. While Jesus was still speaking to the woman a messenger can to Jairus to let him know that his daughter died and not to bother coming home.

Faithful fathers [followers] are not ashamed to put the welfare of their child in the care of Jesus [Luke 8:49-56]

“Do not fear, only believe…” When Jairus received the news that his daughter was dead, he didn’t dismiss the Lord, rather he gave her into Jesus’ care. This reminiscent of Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice Isaac on the altar. Jesus’ response to the father, “Do not be afraid. Only believe.” [Note: aorist imperative tense, literally, act in belief, “trust me,” “hey you, have real faith!”] Jairus completely put his daughter in the hands of God’s care.

Faithful followers of Christ are not afraid. They completely entrust their children to God. Ungodly fears are directly linked to things we are thinking [Proverbs 4:23; Philippians 4:8). Oh that God would give us Dad’s who would commit their children into the hands of Christ.

As I think about being a father, I want to be a worshiper modeling a love for God to my children. I do not want to be ashamed to invite Jesus into our house. He is our special guest, always welcomed and honored. I also want to sacrificially give my children over to the care of their God who is ultimately their Creator and Sustainer.

risky move


The Discipleship Experiment.

This year our student ministry leadership set a goal: be disciples discipling others to be disciples. We decided to do ministry biblically, thus the discipleship experiment took life. It was a risky move, but a bold biblical endeavor.

We had some speed bumps, U-turns, and engines overheat along the journey, but overall I am ecstatic to see our adult leaders become more actively involved in the spiritual growth of our students. Though many would admit, “I feel like I’ve failed.” I would say their input into the lives of the students was exceed by the spiritual output. In other words, high risk [discipleship] equals high reward [disciples].

What is biblical student ministry?

Student ministry biblically is a ministry of the church coming alongside families equipping them to become faithful followers of Christ. Student ministry is intensive discipleship geared towards students and their families. Intensive discipleship is both encouraging one another to follow Christ [evangelism] and equipping follower in Christ [followership].

Discipleship is difficult. It’s difficult because of the cost involved. The cost may involve time, studying the Word to help student see their lives mirrored in the Word, willingness to get messy as students fall into sin, and desire to pour your life into another by living in a way that models a disciple of Christ. Discipleship takes a willingness to be selfless for the sake of another to see and savor Jesus Christ.

Discipleship is all for Christ and all about Christlikeness.

It is easy to disciple for all the wrong reasons. Some disciple to feel needed, important, or appreciated. Others disciple to impress, lord-over, or act as mini-Messiah’s. This is not discipleship. We don’t disciple as matter of self-defense or self-promotion. You don’t pour your life into others to fill yourself up. How selfish. Discipleship is selfless because it is promoting Christlikness.

When you gaze at the cross and get a glimpse of the gospel you see that you are unworthy, but God in Christ is worthy. Discipleship must always be rooted and nourished by the living message of the gospel. Jesus died, He was buried and resurrected that you and I might have abundant life [Galatians 2:20; Philippians 1:20-21]. Without the gospel discipleship is dead.

This year I watch Brent pour his heart into middle school boys. Middle schools are not the easiest flock to shepherd. He would take them out to Taco Bell before FUEL or have them work on construction projects at the church. These middle schoolers know that Brent cares. Brent made a risky move–doesn’t feel like he did enough–but was willing to pour Christ into middle school boys. To Brent discipleship was more of a risk than being a stunt man. He was willing to get get messy and be spent of the sake of Christ.

Successful disciples are servants first [Matthew 20:25-28].

Christ became the servant of all. It is crazy to think that a King and Creator of the universe became a servant to His creation. Jesus gives us a genuine model for leadership and discipleship: humility [Matthew 11:29; Luke 14:7-11; Philippians 2:3-4], trust [Mark 10:32-41], shepherding [Mark 10:45; John 10:11], gift oriented teamwork [1 Corinthians 12; Romans 12; Luke 9:1-2], responsibility [John 13:15; Ephesians 4:11-13]; and risk [Hebrews 11:1].

Discipleship is a risky move, but it has great rewards.