Love for neighbor creates unity in the community and we should seek unity.

“For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” (Gal 5:13)

In Christ we have been set free from the demands of the law. Not that we set the law aside in that we shouldn’t follow God’s Word. No, we must and we should follow God’s Word. A disciple is someone who follows a master. Jesus is our master. We are His disciples. We should follow Him. But we are free from the law’s bondage over us. It is no longer our tutor, teaching, training, restraining and pointing. It has accomplished it’s goal in that it has pointed us to Christ.

Jesus is the fulfillment of the law. He embodied it perfectly, never breaking a single command. As a result, He is able to be our perfect sacrifice, fulfilling the law on our behalf so as to make those who believe in Him through faith righteous.

Having experienced the freedom Christ provides, we should not use your freedom to satisfy the desires of our flesh. In fact, the opposite is true. Having been set free from the bondage of sin, we should use our freedom to follow Jesus in living according to God’s Word.

Not that it is a bad idea, but we don’t need to memorize all the commands in God’s Word in order to follow in Jesus’ footsteps. The whole law, as we are told in verse 14, can be summed in their phrases, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Gal 5:14). Paul is playing off Jesus’ answer in the gospels to a question regarding what is the greatest commandment. Jesus answered it is to love God and the second greatest was to love your neighbor (Matt 22:36-40). I believe both ideas are implied here, but the specific focus of the passage in on community, which is why the second greatest commandment is quoted.

It is wrong to say that you love God, while at the same time hating your brother. If you love God, you will love your brother. You will not use your freedom to bite and devour them. Instead, you will use your freedom to show love and care for them. If we seek to devour another instead of living in unity with them, we will be devoured ourselves. So as others attempt to take a bite out of us, we should press into love.

Love for neighbor creates unity in the community and we should seek unity. It is what the law, although imperfectly, was seeking and what we are capable of now that we are freed from the bondage of sin in Christ. We are capable of loving and living in unity with our fellow brothers and sisters. We must press into unity in our community by loving others as we would love ourselves.

Godly grief is healthy grief, it produces repentance and growth in Christlikeness

“As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us.” (2 Cor 7:9)

One of the things wrong with today’s society is the desire not to offend or cause someone grief. We go out of our way to make others comfortable, even if making them uncomfortable for a time is what is best.

I believe these desires are birthed out of selfishness not love. We selfishly don’t want others to tell what we are doing wrong, nor do we want to deal with the difficultly that comes with telling others they are acting in the wrong. Conflict, even if it is good and healthy, is difficult. We have become a society, a people, who avoids conflict at all costs, even if it means not doing what is best for another.

Paul, however, didn’t avoid conflict. He spoke the truth in love to the Corinthians. It grieved them for a time, but Paul rejoices because it resulted in repentance and growth in Christlikeness. His words of love caused them to turn from their sin. They ultimately resulted in them living in community in unity with others in a way that builds others up rather than tears down.

I believe if we are going to grow as the church, we must get to a place where we are ok with causing others godly grief. Accountability, speaking the truth in love to others, is biblical, as well as it is necessary. We will never grow if others don’t tell us how we need to grow.

Godly grief is healthy grief, it produces repentance and growth in Christlikeness.

Self Denial is the Result of the Spirit’s Work in Your Life

And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.

Luke 9:23

Jesus calls us to daily deny ourselves to follow Him. You can’t live half in and half out. You must be all in. You must be willing to die to your own self-interest and live life fully for Christ if you are going to be a follower of Jesus.

Thinking about Jesus’ call reveals our need for Him. We can’t live for Jesus in a self-denying way without Him first changing our desires. The change in desire from self to Jesus reveals the work of God in our life and assures us of our salvation.

Do you see self-denial and Christ-centric living in your life? Do you put Jesus before all other things? Are you willing to give up all for Jesus? If so, you can be assured of your salvation. You would and can only do those things because the Spirit is at work in you.

Rely on the Spirit to live “on mission”

“But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me. And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning.”

John 15:26-26

We are able to live life “on mission” because the Spirit dwells within us and empowers us.

The degree to which we rely on the Spirit is the degree to which our mission will be successful.

Relying on the Spirit doesn’t look like us sitting on our hands. Rather it looks like us depending on Him to provide us the Words to say in difficult or foreign situations.

It looks like us trusting He will bring people into our paths. A “divine appointment” if you will.

It also looks like us petition the Spirit to change the hearts of those whom we know and asking that He would use us as His instruments to bring about change.

It further looks like us trusting that the Spirit will convict, convince, and regenerate.

Instead of seeking to build the church and make disciples in a man-centered way, we must rely on the Spirit and align ourselves with God’s will found in God’s Word.

Jesus sends the Spirit for a reason, let’s not deny His existence and power. Instead, let’s allow the Spirit to empower us to live life “on mission” for Jesus, making disciple-making disciples of all peoples.

How Can We Reach the Next Generation?

“He established a testimony in Jacob and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers to teach to their children, that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and tell them to their children, so that they should set their hope in God and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments; and that they should not be like their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation, a generation whose heart was not steadfast, whose spirit was not faithful to God.” (Ps 78:5–8)

I have been reading through the Psalms as part of a program to read through them all 150 in a month. In this morning’s reading, I came across the above passage. In it, we are told that generational ministry is important. Whatever else we are doing, we need to see the importance of reaching the next generation for Christ.

How do we do it?

(1) It begins at home

If you want to reach the next generation and you have kids, you need to start pouring God’s Word into them. Start early and young. Get in a routine of reading the Bible with your children, even if it is a paraphrased version. A favorite at our house is the Jesus Storybook Bible. It is a great beginner Bible because it introduces them to the storyline of Scripture in a non-moralistic way.

You can also start memorizing Scripture with your kids. This is something I have started doing lately with my oldest. His mind is a sponge at this age, which means it is a good time for him to start hiding God’s Word in there. I am using the Fighter Verses App, and we are working through the Foundation verses for kids.

(2) It continues in the community

If we want to reach the next generation, we have to make ourselves available to them. As well as we need to seek to build relationships with them. We need to show interest in the things in which they are interested. Be an encouragement to them. Let them know we are a resource to them.

(3) It continues on into the church

If we want to reach the next generation, we have to recognize that the things that reached our generation are probably not the same things that are going to reach the generation or two or three after us. Their preferences are different. How they interact with the world is different. What they expect and want out of the church may even be different. We need to be willing to remove any obstacles to them coming into the church. As well as we need to look for ways to serve them.

But, and this is huge, we need to remove obstacles and serve the next generation do in any way we can without diminishing the gospel, and the preaching and teaching of God’s Word. The gospel changes everything, we need to make sure it is central. Life change happens as the Word of God is driven into our hearts by the Work of the Holy Spirit. Watering down its message, changing it, or diminishing the centrality of God’s Word in any way our ministries will not result in us truly reaching the next generation.

The Psalmist tells us it is the truths of God’s Word that we are to teach our children to set their hope on, not fun and games, musical preferences, TedTalks, community service, etc. It is God’s Word that produces fruitful people who are ever seeking to glorify God with their lives, so we must keep God’s Word central, while at the same time removing any preferential obstacles in the church.

Question for Reflection

  1. How else can we reach the next generation?

Are You A True Disciple-Maker?

Every month I receive a new issue of Table Talk Magazine. It is a devotional magazine without the fluff. The articles and daily devotions not only have theological depth and clear teaching on Scripture, but they are also relevant, challenging, and informative. I would encourage you to get a subscription (and no, I am not getting paid to say that.)

This morning, while reading the Church and Discipleship in the September issue, I came across these challenging thoughts.

The Great Commission calls us to make disciples (Matt. 28:18-20). All power on heaven and on earth has been given to Jesus, who gives power and a call to us. Making disciples means that we embrace this call by accompanying people along their way. Some churches call this “doing life together.”

But true discipleship is not just about hanging out. True discipleship is about embracing gospel truths in the context of a biblical community that results in life change. It’s about visibly seeing sanctification in the life of a new believer. It’s about progressively becoming more aware of our sinfulness and of God’s holiness. It’s about the cross looming larger and larger in our lives as we embrace gospel truths. Gospel-centered churches understand this. The true measure of a church’s success is not its size but whether it is making disciples.

We have a vast problem in our churches, not only in American churches but in churches around the world. We have many “conversions” but few disciples. We have many “conversions” but few who embrace the Lordship of Christ…

True disciple-makers are not just interested in developing leaders…they are interested in seeing the cross loom large in the life of a new believer. They are passionate about sanctification. They are passionate about teaching gospel truths. And the result of this kind of biblical discipleship is amazing – people and churches whose testimony truly reflects God’s character, bringing much glory to Jesus.

Questions for Reflection

  1. Are you a true disciple-maker?
  2. Does your desire match that mentioned in the article?

Resources

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Table Talk MagazineThe Church and Discipleship, 23.