Discipleship

Discipleship is more than meeting for coffee

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Posted by The Vine Church Blog on

Some of Jesus' last words to his followers are to "go and make disciples of all nations" (Matthew 28). Regarding discipleship, the apostle Paul tells the young pastor Timothy that "what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also" (2 Timothy 2).

We know that discipleship is something that's important, something we probably should be doing, but how do we go about doing it?

Trevin Wax at the Gospel Coalition blog has some great insights into discipleship.  He sees that churches typically fall into two camps on opposite sides of the pendulum swing that imperfectly pursue discipleship. Camp 1 forgoes thoughtful discussion about the Bible and simply tells people in detail how to live. Camp 2 faithfully communicates doctrine, but is not very helpful when the rubber of application hits the road of life.

Jesus' example of discipleship included years of living and traveling with his followers and friends.  There was definite doctrinal instruction, but also a clear example of doing life together.  While a weekly meeting at the coffee house is a good starting point for discipleship, we are being called to something deeper.

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Tags: discipleship, jesus, paul, timothy

Dietrich Bonhoeffer on Discipleship

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Posted by The Vine Church Blog on

Pastor Bonhoeffer

The three core values of the Vine Church are gospel, community, and mission.  Discipleship—following Jesus' example and adhering to him—involves living out all three.  

Jonathan Parnell has a great excerpt on discipleship from Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a pastor who deeply followed Christ in the midst of Nazi Germany, even to the point of death

Discipleship means adherence to Christ, and, because Christ is the object of that adherence, it must take the form of discipleship.

An abstract Christology, a doctrinal system, a general religious knowledge on the subject of grace or on the forgiveness of sins, render discipleship superfluous, and in fact they positively exclude any idea of discipleship whatever, and are essentially inimical [or hostile] to the whole conception of following Christ.

With an abstract idea it is possible to enter into a relation of formal knowledge, to become enthusiastic about it, and perhaps even to put it into practice; but it can never be followed in personal obedience.

Christianity without the living Christ is inevitably Christianity without discipleship, and Christianity without discipleship is always Christianity without Christ.

 

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Tags: discipleship, dietrich bonhoeffer

What If Discipleship Looked Like This?

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Posted by Zach Nielsen on

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Are You Performance Driven?

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Posted by Zach Nielsen on

Jerry Bridges:

Evangelicals commonly think today that the gospel is only for unbelievers. Once we’re inside the kingdom’s door, we need the gospel only in order to share it with those who are still outside. Now, as believers, we need to hear the message of discipleship. We need to learn how to live the Christian life and be challenged to go do it. That’s what I believed and practiced in my life and ministry for some time. It is what most Christians seem to believe.

As I see it, the Christian community is largely a performance-based culture today. And the more deeply committed we are to following Jesus, the more deeply ingrained the performance mindset is. We think we earn God’s blessing or forfeit it by how well we live the Christian life.

Most Christians have a baseline of acceptable performance by which they gauge their acceptance by God. For many, this baseline is no more than regular church attendance and the avoidance of major sins. Such Christians are often characterized by some degree of self-righteousness. After all, they don’t indulge in the major sins we see happening around us. Such Christians would not think they need the gospel anymore. They would say the gospel is only for sinners.

For committed Christians, the baseline is much higher. It includes regular practice of spiritual disciplines, obedience to God’s Word, and involvement in some form of ministry. Here again, if we focus on outward behavior, many score fairly well. But these Christians are even more vulnerable to self-righteousness, for they can look down their spiritual noses not only at the sinful society around them but even at other believers who are not as committed as they are. These Christians don’t need the gospel either. For them, Christian growth means more discipline and more commitment.

Then there is a third group. The baseline of this group includes more than the outward performance of disciplines, obedience, and ministry. These Christians also recognize the need to deal with sins of the heart like a critical spirit, pride, selfishness,envy,resentment, and anxiety. They see their inconsistency in having their quiet times, their failure to witness at every opportunity, and their frequent failures in dealing with sins of the heart. This group of Christians is far more likely to be plagued by a sense of guilt because group members have not met their own expectations. And because they think God’s acceptance of them is based on their performance, they have little joy in their Christian lives. For them, life is like a treadmill on which they keep slipping farther and farther behind. This group needs the gospel, but they don’t realize it is for them. I know, because I was in this group.

Gradually over time, and from a deep sense of need, I came to realize that the gospel is for believers, too. When I finally realized this, every morning I would pray over a Scripture such as Isaiah 53:6,” All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all,” and then say, “Lord, I have gone astray. I have turned to my own way, but you have laid all my sin on Christ and because of that I approach you and feel accepted by you.”

I came to see that Paul’s statement in Galatians 2:20, “The life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me,” was made in the context of justification (see vv. 15-21). Yet Paul was speaking in the present tense: “The life I now live ….” Because of the context, I realized Paul was not speaking about his sanctification but about his justification. For Paul, then, justification (being declared righteous by God on the basis of the righteousness of Christ) was not only a past-tense experience but also a present-day reality. Paul lived every day by faith in the shed blood and righteousness of Christ. Every day he looked to Christ alone for his acceptance with the Father. He believed, like Peter (see 1 Pet. 2:4-5), that even our best deeds–our spiritual sacrifices–are acceptable to God only through Jesus Christ. Perhaps no one apart from Jesus himself has ever been as committed a disciple both in life and ministry as the Apostle Paul. Yet he did not look to his own performance but to Christ’s “performance” as the sole basis of his acceptance with God.

So I learned that Christians need to hear the gospel all of their lives because it is the gospel that continues to remind us that our day-to-day acceptance with the Father is not based on what we do for God but upon what Christ did for us in his sinless life and sin-bearing death. I began to see that we stand before God today as righteous as we ever will be, even in heaven, because he has clothed us with the righteousness of his Son. Therefore, I don’t have to perform to be accepted by God.

Now I am free to obey him and serve him because I am already accepted in Christ (see Rom. 8:1). My driving motivation now is not guilt but gratitude. Yet even when we understand that our acceptance with God is based on Christ’s work, we still naturally tend to drift back into a performance mindset. Consequently, we must continually return to the gospel. To use an expression of the late Jack Miller, we must “preach the gospel to ourselves every day.” For me that means I keep going back to Scriptures such as Isaiah 53:6, Galatians 2:20, and Romans 8:1. It means I frequently repeat the words from an old hymn, “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.

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How To Know If You Love Religion or The Gospel

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Posted by Zach Nielsen on

Michael Kelley:

As he was closing his sermon on Sunday, my pastor made this wonderful point:

“If you want to know whether you love religion or whether you love the gospel, check and see how angry you are at God.”
Read the rest.

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The Sabbath Helps Us Battle Anxiety

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Posted by Zach Nielsen on

Imagine that you are self-employed with very tight financial margins.  Miss a day's work and your competitors get the upper hand.  Miss a day's pay and you wonder if you'll be able to buy groceries. Time is money.

Now consider an agrarian economy.  Here time might mean survival.  Delay planting and you might miss the rain.  Take a day off in the midst of harvest and your produce might over-ripen or even rot.  With these risks in mind, the Sabbath was a big deal.  It was a test, a weekly tutorial for anxious people.  God was saying through it, "I am the Creator God who will care for your needs.  Embedded in the rhythm of your week will be an opportunity to rest.  You will do this because I rested on the Sabbath, and you will do it because I continue to be at work on your behalf on the Sabbath."

Just when your think you are getting the knack of the manna and are not worrying about tomorrow, you are told to trust your heavenly Father for today and tomorrow.  Once again, we can't help but be astonished at God's strategy.  Worry and fear are about danger, perceived needs, and being out of control. By incorporating the Sabbath into the normal rhythms of life he gives us weekly opportunities to say, "You, God, are in control, and I will practice trusting you by honoring your Sabbath and resting today."

- Ed Welch, Running Scared: Fear, Worry & the God of Rest, p. 78

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Christian Liberty and the Raised Eyebrow

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Posted by Zach Nielsen on

A very helpful post here by Mark Lauterbach on the nature of Christian liberty and how to apply it and communicate about it. Here is one important paragraph. Please read the rest.

I am not saying we can skip the details. I must apply in the details! Christian liberty is not avoiding specific application of truth. I am saying that I cannot take my application and proclaim it as Scripture. I dare not state my application as having the same authority as Scripture. I can say, “The Bible tells me to flee from immorality. The Bible tells me not to have fellowship with deeds of darkness. In my case, I think that means I should not watch PG-13 movies. That is my conscience before God.”

 Apply that to your school choices, application of gender roles, major purchases, how many kids to have, whether to watch and what to watch in media, whether to drink wine and beer and, etc. The Bible says nothing about watching TV. The Bible, given in the wisdom of God, has enough principles to shape how we answer that question. God the Spirit will help us apply. More than that, we will grow and change in our application. But keep your applications separate from the pure Word of God.

The whole thing here.

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I'm Not a Christian But I'm Coming To Your Church

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Posted by Zach Nielsen on

Good post here from Thomas Weaver on the Resurgence blog:

Okay I'm not a Christian, but I’ve finally made the decision to come to your church this Sunday. Don’t expect much from me though. If something comes up I might not, but right now I’m planning on it. I feel like I need to go, but I’m not sure why. I want to tell you a few things about myself before you meet me.

  1. I'm not going to understand religious language or phrases so be aware of that when we talk. I don’t understand slain in the spirit, God is moving in me, covered in the blood, I need to die to self, you just need to be in the Word, what you need is a new life, etc. If we have conversation filled with religious talk, I'm probably not going to understand half of the words...and maybe think you're a little crazy.
  2. When you ask me how I’m doing, know that I don’t trust you. I’m probably going to lie and tell you I’m fine. It’s not that I don’t want to tell you; it’s just that I come from some pain and am not sure if I trust you yet. How about you tell me your story first? If I like you and get the vibe that you’re not trying to capture my soul or anything, I’ll tell you mine.
  3. I’ve got pretty rough language and I can be bitter and angry about some things. If I sense in you a mindset of superiority, I’m out. If you are just waiting for your turn to talk instead of truly listening to me, I’m not going to be interested. Don’t expect me to be exactly like you.
  4. Don’t make a big deal of introducing me to everyone you know. I understand a couple of people, but please; don’t set up a welcoming line. I’m just there to check it out; I need a bit of space.
  5. I’m going to be looking for genuine interest in me. I don’t want to feel like your personal salvation project or be a notch on your “I saved one” belt. If this Jesus is who you say he is, then I’m looking forward to seeing Him in you. That’s how it works, right?
  6. I’m going to have questions. I need truth, not your preferences or your religion, so can you just tell me what the bible says?
  7. I need to feel welcomed. Is there a time limit or something on my visit before I'm supposed to feel unwelcomed? I mean, I’ve been to other churches and there seemed to be a push for me to make up my mind or something. How long until I’m unwelcomed?

Thanks for hearing me out. I’m pretty sure I’m going to come this Sunday. But I might not.

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Learning From Those Who Are Older (From a Mom's Perspective)

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Posted by Zach Nielsen on

Amy Scott:

This morning I read an article by John Piper in which he reflects on his retirement. At 35-years-old, I can’t imagine that I was the target audience for the piece. 

It reminded me of something. (Let me elaborate and then I will wind back around to the article.) When I was a young mom with small children, I remember looking for other young moms to share my life with. There’s nothing wrong with that. Women often seek out friends who look like them. 

I understand the reasoning. For starters, the logistics are easier. When you hang out at a house with sippy cups, you don’t have to worry ancient Egyptian relics being displayed at knee level. 

But it also made navigating those early years a little harder than they needed to be. And let me tread carefully (because women need each other in a profound way), but when I surrounded myself exclusively with people struggling with the same issues that I was, it distorted my perspective. Enter, the mommy wars– the field where bottles and breasts are moral issues and vaccinating your child will demote your standing on the playground. 

I remember crying after I got a smackdown on the playground because my toddler was still (!) using a bottle at 18-months-old. He is a teenager now, and he does not use a bottle or suck his thumb. He even makes it to the potty in time. (He doesn’t pick up his big boy toys without death threats, but it is not my fault. Really.) I love my baby, but really, I did not have the mature perspective to distinguish between moral issues and practical ones when he was young. I was young (and still am). 

What does this have to do with Piper’s article on retirement? Only this: that the more we invest our lives into learning and growing from those that don’t “look like us”, the more we’ll learn. It’s a challenge, to me and to all the women who tend to join bandwagons and get all myopic about our pet issues.

Read the rest.

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Tags: parenting, mothers, discipleship

Jesus and the Cool Kids

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Posted by Zach Nielsen on

[12] He said also to the man who had invited him, “When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. [13] But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, [14] and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.”

[15] When one of those who reclined at table with him heard these things, he said to him, “Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!” [16] But he said to him, “A man once gave a great banquet and invited many. [17] And at the time for the banquet he sent his servant to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’ [18] But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a field, and I must go out and see it. Please have me excused.’ [19] And another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to examine them. Please have me excused.’ [20] And another said, ‘I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.’ [21] So the servant came and reported these things to his master. Then the master of the house became angry and said to his servant, ‘Go out quickly to the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in the poor and crippled and blind and lame.’ [22] And the servant said, ‘Sir, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room.’ [23] And the master said to the servant, ‘Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled. [24] For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet.’” - Luke 14:12-24

I like to hang out with the cool kids.  Don't we all?  Cool kids smell better, look better, act better, and usually make me feel cool too.

Cool kids usually don't need Jesus.

Sometime I wonder if our evangelistic efforts in our churches are stunted because we don't gravitate towards the most broken in our society.

Do cool kids need Jesus?  They sure do, but the problem is that most of them don't know they do.  

They are not desperate enough.  Are our lives and churches structured around the people that Jesus said would receive him?  The broken, weak, and needy?  The "least of these"?  Why not?

It's awkward, I know.  I don't want to do it either.  But what part of the Cross is not awkward? Painfully awkward.

I'm not advocating for a new "program".  Just wondering out loud about how we do evangelism and how we could maybe do it better.

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Tags: missions, evangelism