Tag Archives: discipleship

T4G Recap and Recommendations

Ryan (@RyanTBrice) really pushed for us to go to “Together for the Gospel” this year. I have to admit, the timing was terrible and I wasn’t looking forward to the long drive. I’ve always heard great things about T4G but I wonder how “together” something really is if its just a room full of male WASPs (or maybe it should be WASCs). I was pleasantly surprised at the number of women and people of color.

The conference was full of great preaching and lots of free books (which is basically my love language). For whatever reason, I was not prepared for how powerful the music would be. We sang only hymns (all from the new “Hymns of Grace” hymnal). I like hymns (I mean, I have a hymnal with my name engraved on it!) but, in general, my tastes are a little more diverse. Not to mention, the “band” was Bob Kauflin on a piano. I was not prepared for how loud and powerful 10,000 voices were going to be. These were not casual singers, these (still mostly men) were singing at the top of their lungs. Most of the time, the piano was just background accompaniment. Often Bob would stop singing and let the voices swell. I think the word “foretaste” captures that moment. Thinking of heaven primarily as worship, these moments of singing were a foretaste of heaven. Here’s a little sample (though it fails to do justice to the magnitude of the moment):

As far as the speakers, I think I’d recommend you start with these three:

  1. The Q&A with Mark Dever and Phillip Jensen. Their discussion was funny, thought-provoking, and convicting. In the middle of their conversation, there were a ton of important practical takeaways. They even broached the subject of Student Ministry! Jensen said in Student Ministry you (1) never get past square one (stay with the gospel), (2) never assume a student is a Christian, and (3) be an expert on sovereignty and sex! Talking about sovereignty and prayer, he briefly explained how our (often) flat view of sovereignty robs the power from God and our prayers: “In God’s sovereignty he is more sovereign than that. We are people, not puppets. His sovereignty encompasses prayer, it is not fatalistic.” There was an interesting foray into Bible translation that was helpful (e.g., how do people in our modern world understand the term “faith.”). Jensen did not fear speaking strongly on a subject (e.g., “I’d cut my tongue out before I’d call a building a sanctuary.”). All-in-all, worth your time.
  2. Mark Dever’s message on endurance. His sermon was rich, encouraging, and convicting. It was good to be reminded of the difference between genuine revival and the false emotion of revivalism. It is never bad to be reminded that “God’s Word is never in danger of not succeeding… The weight of the world is on God’s shoulders, not mine.” This message will have to be watched many times in the future. If you’re discouraged in ministry, watch this message. My favorite moment was to hear him share the personal stories of people in his ministry who have been saved. As he was sharing those stories, I was reminded of the people in my ministry who came to Christ. Each person saved is immeasurably significant and I dare not lose sight of people in the quest to “grow a church.”
  3. Matt Chandler’s message on courage. This message was important because of the culture we now live in. He started by talking about the fear that many in his congregation feel because they are being labeled as phobic and hateful and there is no chance for explanation or defense. In the loss of the pseudo-Christian majority, Christians are going to continue to learn the meaning of genuine courage for Christ.
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New Testament Theology of Discipleship

In the summer of 2011 I preached a four part series on “Discipleship.” It ended up being a sort-of stripped down presentation of “discipleship” according to the gospels or maybe even the first steps in a New Testament theology of discipleship.

Part 1: “Discipleship is Everything” Matthew 4:18-22

Part 2: “Why Jesus Said You Should Hate Your Parents” Luke 14:24-35

Part 3: “Barriers of Discipleship” (Luke 18:18-30)

Part 4: “To Know and Be Known” (John 10:22-30)

What is ‘outreach’?

The Bible does talk a lot about public evangelism. In Acts, for example, the apostles preach to large crowds of unbelievers on many occasions. Their preaching is often direct and, even, confrontational. (e.g., Acts 2:14-40, Acts 14, Acts 7:1-51).

However, there is also a component of relationship and community that is evidenced throughout the Scriptures. (1 Thes. 2:7-12, Acts 19:9, 1 Thes. 4:12).

In my own life, daily discipleship is much harder than one-time events. I don’t particularly mind large, attraction-based, event-oriented evangelism (though I question their effectiveness in today’s culture). However, one-time evangelism must be accompanied by daily, sacrificial, authentic, missional living. I find it much harder to mentor a student weekly than take teenagers to camp once a year. It is much more time-consuming to volunteer in the local middle school than throw a Superbowl party. I have to be vulnerable when I share my life with other people and that scares me. When you share life you share success and failure, strengths and weaknesses.

By God’s grace I will strive to demonstrate the gospel not just once in a while but every day.

Admirer of follower?

The Jesus Paradigm

In responding to Jesus’ call to follow him, I must ask myself what it is I can do to get serious about kingdom-focused living.  Am I really willing to seek the lower place at the table rather than the place of preeminence and respectability (Luke 14:1-11)?  Am I really willing to give to the poor out of my abundance (Luke 19:8)?  Am I really willing to touch sinners (Luke 7:36-39)?  Am I really willing to proactively use my possessions for the good of God’s kingdom (Luke 6:38)?  Everything in me balks at this kind of love and sacrifice.  I recoil at the thought of forsaking the world and its values — whether religious, political, social, educational, or vocational.  To be “sentenced to death,” to become a “spectacle to the world,” to be “fools for Christ’s sake,” to be “held in disrepute,” to go “hungry and thirsty,” to be “poorly clothed,” “persecuted,” “slandered,” “the rubbish of the world,” “the dregs of all things” — the apostle Paul might endure such suffering (1 Cor. 4:8-13), or maybe Ethiopian Christians.  But I, Lord?  Yet if I , as a Christian, do not practice what I preach, if I continue to major in the minors, if “poor in spirit” remains but a meaningless platitude in my own life, then I am merely an admirer of Jesus and not a true follower.

— David Alan Black

Whose are You? A Friday Quote

If you are a Christian, you are not your own.  Christ has bought you at a price of his own death.  You now belong doubly to God:  He made you, and he bought you.  That means your life is not your own.  It is God’s.  Therefore, the Bible says, “Glorify God in your body.”  God made you for this.  He bought you for this.  This is the meaning of your life

John Piper, Don’t Waste Your Life

“Dear Jesus, Give Me What I Want.”

Meditate with me on this fantastic passage of Scripture in Mark 10.  Jesus is talking to the disciples and begins telling them about his death and resurrection:

“‘We are going up to Jerusalem,'” he said, “‘and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and teachers of the law.  They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles, who will mock him and spit on him, flog him and kill him.  Three days later he will rise.'”

Wow!  Talk about powerful stuff.  Jesus is telling his disciples about the brutal death he is going to endure and about his miraculous resurrection that is to come.  A casual Bible reader is well aware that the disciples never fully grasp the idea that Jesus is going to rise from the dead.  They are clearly taken by surprise when he actually is resurrected.

In this passage, however, what struck me as particularly amusing is the request from the Zebedee brothers that follows.

“Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him. ‘Teacher,’ they said, ‘we want you to do for us whatever we ask.'”

Seriously?!  That’s your next question?!  Jesus says he is going to die a terrible, miserable, painful death and then be RAISED FROM THE DEAD and all you can ask is “what’s in it for me?”

Before I am too harsh on the disciples I better look at my own life.  How often do I try to make Jesus my genie.  Instead of pondering how I can sacrifice myself for the glorious cause of Christ, I too often spend my time asking Jesus for physical comforts.  Rather than making salvation all about the glory and power of God, I try to focus it all about.  After all, it is my personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

Stop and think about what Christ has done.  Focus on how to respond to the beauty of the gospel.  Do not follow Jesus merely for temporal blessings.  Rather, follow Jesus because of who He is and what He has done by dying and being raised to life.

“Take Up Your Cross”

Today I received a wonderful little volume by D. A. Carson entitled Scandalous:  The Cross and Resurrection of Jesus. I figured this to be an appropriate exegetical supplement to the passion narratives that I read at this time of the year.  It didn’t take Dr. Carson long, however, to deliver a powerful body-blow to my spiritual apathy when he described the calling of Jesus to the disciples.  Read for yourself:

It is at this juncture that Jesus universalizes the principle that is at stake:  “If anyone would come after me,” he says, “he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.  For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it” (vv. 24-25).  This expression “to take up one’s cross” is not an idiom by which to refer to some trivial annoyance — an ingrown toenail, perhaps, or a toothache, or an awkward in-law:  “We all have our crosses to bear.”  No, in the first century it was as culturally unthinkable to make jokes about crucifixion as it would be today to make jokes about Auschwitz.  To take up your cross does not mean to move forward with courage despite the fact you lost your job or your spouse.  It means you are under sentence of death; you are taking up the horizontal cross-member on your way to the place of crucifixion.  You have abandoned all hope of life in this world.  And then, Jesus, says, and only then, are we ready to follow him.

— D. A. Carson