Is your focus on Christ?
…The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. Go! I am sending you… Luke 10:2-3
The call Christ gives us is for us here is to move forward under His produce to produce the goods of "produce" by the Fruit of the Spirit with our faith. So, how can we do this? My proposal is that we do this from our committed and continual faith formation. The basics on how to grow closer to Christ and deeper in our walk with Him, and also how to draw near to the heart of God are the essential elements to put the "go" into action.
In practice, this means continual prayer, Bible reading, fellowship with other mature believers, and the exercise of our faith in the daily events of our lives. This means we have our reliance in Him, becoming submissive and allowing His lead so we can proceed forward where He provides opportunities. When we realize we have the responsibility to "go," to move in our faith, we can better have the intention and motivation to get up and get under Him. This works for a new Christian who may have no idea of what to do or where to begin, as well as with the experienced pastor who has walked with God intimately for decades. This can even work for the Christian who has stagnated and forgotten what faith and purpose were all about. This works for me, and it will work for you, regardless of personal experience, spiritual growth, witnessing experience, developmental level, disabilities, or age. We are called to God and
Our Focus Must Be On Christ!
Then Jesus said to him, "Get up! Pick up your mat and walk." John 5:8
How do you know if Christ is your focus? Look at your life. Do you confess God with your lips yet deny Him in your daily life? It is easy to belong to a church or recite a creed, but difficult to live the Christian life. Yet, He gives us the love, grace, and means to do so. How do you define faith? Remember, faith without action is a contradiction, and love without obedience is impossible.
As we walk the road of the Christian life, we must be careful that in our strategies and struggles, we do not lose sight of God and His purpose. We typically try to come up with some type of shortcut for success. However, in Him, there are no shortcuts. Maturity and discipleship are lifelong pursuits, and we are to always be growing and bettering ourselves through the Word, prayer, spiritual disciplines, and our godly relationships. These are the tools. He is the means.
Our total dependence upon God will produce a better attitude that creates better actions. You may ask, why should I be willing to give up riches, comfort, fun, and even friends to follow Christ as His disciple? When we read the Gospels, especially Luke, we are given a very compelling motivation-the salvation and blessings that Jesus gives us. These things are eternal while what we give up is very limited and temporary. The best part is that we really do not give up as much as we gain. Giving up a lesser benefit for a superior one is smart and practical, both in business and in being a disciple of Christ.
Do you realize that our dependence on God helps remove our frustrations, prevents disillusionment, and keeps us centered on what is important in life, which is Christ? We can depend on God's grace because God will provide a way out, in His time. When we are not focusing on maturity and dependence, then we are focusing on our selves which ends up distorting, even destroying the Lord's work rather than building His kingdom. We will not be perfect. It is a question of spirituality that we are to submit as we are called because Christ did. Without a life-approach of submission, we will reveal that our foundation for life is not spiritual maturity. Hence, we and our churches will be hindered in growth, as will our outreach. We cannot be a caring community if we are not submissive and humble in our relationship to God and then to one another.
If you think this is just too much and you are feeling overwhelmed, remember, it does not happen overnight; it takes a lifetime. If you are still unsure, then consider this. One of the main reasons people leave their church is they have no real relationships there. Discipleship is the means for relationship building. We are designed for something more in life than just pursuing wants and pleasures. That is why people who "have it all" still feel empty. God did not create any Lone Ranger Christians. He created us to be in community and in relationship with one another; discipleship is the key to that community. God calls us to lift one another up. There should not be a single person in the church that does not have at least one person they can call a friend and have a relationship with outside the church campus and programs.
Being His disciple means going His way to His purpose. It means following His plans, not our own; obeying His will, not our own. Jesus is saying, Look; if you want to be a disciple, you will have to choose to whom you will be loyal. Will it be God the Creator and Savior, or your own limited ideas and things? Being His disciple also realizes that the world hates Jesus because it knows that He has priority over all things and all relationships. The world wants to be god even though there already is a God!
So, what does this mean? We all are called to be discipled and to make disciples. Consider this: the cost of discipleship means asking the question, What does Jesus want me to do? or If Jesus led my life, how would He be and what would He do with my gifts and opportunities? If you are thinking, hey, I cannot do this, consider that there are only two kinds of people who cannot disciple, and they are ones either who are not followers of Christ or who disobey God's command and refuse to disciple. Jesus wants us to see that the cost of discipleship involves understanding that there is a higher calling on our lives than doing what we want to do. We cannot say to God that we are only available two hours on Sunday. We must respond with the attitude of Isaiah: Here I am God, ready to be used by you.
How much does discipleship cost? It costs everything! However, the rewards are limitless as we are entrusted to a Savior who loves us more deeply and rewards us more completely than we could ever comprehend. He desires the best for us, He has a plan and purpose for us in the kingdom of God, and He wants us to spend eternity with Him. There is no better way. To whom would you rather entrust yourself and your wealth of opportunity? True discipleship cannot begin until we learn one important, key aspect of life: there is but one God and you are not He! We must learn to yield to the Lordship of our God and not to the desires of our will. When we do this, the discipleship process can begin. However, when we refuse, we will become the strife and conflict that gives Christianity a "black eye." We become the problem rather than the solution.
We "Go" Best from Our Growth in Devotional Times!
Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. 1 Peter 5:6
The Book of First Peter talks about humbleness, which is characterized by the willingness to follow Christ, receive learning, and experience growth. Two of the best ways I have found to do this are personal devotional time and being a part of a Small Group Bible Study. The more we grow in Him, the more humble and useful we become, better able to connect with others. Humbleness does not mean being weak. It means being strong enough to yield to God rather than to ourselves or anything outside of God's call. Peter tells us we ought to be humble toward one another so that we can know the grace of God, and not be in opposition to God. Secondly, he says we had better be humble, not only toward one another, but toward God. This is so straightforward. This is so essential in order to be a blessed and growing Christian and church, not necessarily in numbers, but in what is most important-discipleship, which is leaning, learning, and growing in Christ, leading to a lifestyle of worship.
The key to the success of finding and developing faith is simple; it is obedience. We must be ready to serve God rather than our needs, even before we know what the call may be, and take this mindset into life and to others. This means that faith goes beyond self to grow. This happens when we allow the impacting work of Christ to continually renew and build us. To grow even further, we can be more contemplative in His Word and in prayer. God's will for our lives is for us to totally surrender and trust in His power and authority, and to abide in Him. He will shape our destiny if we allow it. He will teach us His ways if we will walk in His ways. Trust yourself to our LORD and receive His call in order to build yourself, as well as others, up.
Then he said to them all: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it." Luke 9:23-24
How can this be done? Ask yourself, "How do I…" and "How can I…" to the following:
1 …make a profession/acceptance of faith in who Christ is and what He did on my behalf? 1 John 3:23; Acts 16:30-31
2 …make sure Jesus is Lord of all? 1 Corinthians 3:2; Romans 8:9-17
3 …be a disciple who is willing to grow in Christ? 2 Peter 1:5-7
4 …realize that discipling is not an option-it is a command? Matthew 28:19-20
5 …be a disciple who has surrendered himself to His Lordship? John 3:30; Romans 8:28-32, 12; Galatians 2:20-21; Philippians 3:1-10; 1 Peter 4:2
6 Matthew 28:16-20; Romans 12; 1 Corinthians 12; Ephesians 2:10; and 2 Timothy 2:2 all tell us that faith and discipleship are lifestyles that move us deeper into prayer and into worshipping Christ.
7 …be a disciple who makes good decisions and is focused on God's will?
8 …be a disciple who is honest with God and others? 1 John 1:9
9 …be a disciple who walks with the precepts of Psalm 15?
10 …be a disciple who knows his abilities, gifts, and talents? Romans 12; 1 Corinthians 12-14; 1 Peter 4:10
11 …be a disciple who is willing to submit to His authority? 1 Peter 2:13-15
12 …be a disciple who is infused with humility? Psalm 149:4; Proverbs 3:34; Matthew 18:4; Ephesians 4:2-3; Colossians 3:12-14; Philippians 2:3-4; 1 Peter 5:6; James 4:10
13 …be a disciple who will not be critical or have a bad attitude? Romans 6:14; 1 Corinthians 13:4-5; Ephesians 4:29-32
14 …be a disciple who is not greedy? Luke 12:15; Romans 12:14-15
15 …be a disciple who is willing to wait on God's timing? (Saul versus David)
16 …be a disciple who is a listener? James 1:19
17 …be a disciple who confesses sin and repents of it? Psalm 51; 2 Corinthians 12:9
18 …be a disciple who will not have even a trace of pride in him or her? Job 35:12; Proverbs 6:16-19; 16:5; 18; 29:23; Obadiah 3; Galatians 5:26
19 …be a disciple who is discerning? Proverbs 20:25; Ephesians 6:10-20; 1 Peter 5:8-9; James 4:7
20 …be a disciple who loves people, especially the lost? Micah 6:8; Philippians 2:7; Hebrews 10:24-25; 2 Peter 3:9
21 God calls us to motivate and teach others to move toward more prayer and care for others. Mark 1:35-2:12; Galatians 6:1-10
22 John 1:36-52, and Acts, chapters 10 through 16, tell us that discipling grows from a web of relationships.
23 …be a disciple who is a person who forgives? Matthew 5:46; John 17:20-23; Ephesians 4:1-2; 4:32
24 …be a disciple who is willing to endure hardships, considering them to be growth opportunities? James 1:2-4; 4:1-11
25 …be a disciple who is faithful? Matthew 25:29; Luke 16:10-12
26 …be a disciple who has a servant heart and who leads by servanthood? Ephesians 2:10
Now consider these points; how can you add them to your spiritual walk?
27 One of the themes of the Gospels and Acts 11-16 is that in discipling people, we walk them through the phases and experiences of life. We come along side them and we do not let them go off on their own.
28 Discipleship is a lifestyle. As we become a part of the lives of others, the purpose for loving them is simply because He first loved us; then, we become instruments of His grace.
29 In John 15, the goal is intimacy with Christ-being surrendered to biblical priorities and not to our own. Then, we become tools that Christ can use to reach and equip others. We are to be equipped so that we can enable others to know and grow in Christ.
30 In Mark 8:34-38, Jesus said we are to "deny ourselves." This means we are to surrender ourselves completely to Him. We are to identify with His character and with what He did on our behalf on the cross. Then, out of gratitude, we are to follow Him wherever He leads us.
Have these precepts become realities in your walk with Christ? What is in the way of this happening fully in your life?
What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. Luke 9:25-26
When we live just for and to ourselves, we miss opportunities, learning experiences, and growth, and we will exchange an eternity of rewards for a limited time of fun. Also bear in mind, Christ loves you and wants the best for you. His way is the best way, and we need to have Him and the perspective of eternity in mind, not our limited feelings and desires. Jesus lived and died on our behalf. He willingly gave up His life and paid the penalty for our sin. He allows us not only to escape the fires of hell, but also gives us eternal life. What is your response?
Being a true disciple means having a willingness to trust Him completely in all aspects of life from the highest highs to the lowest lows. It means we are not only willing to trust Him to provide for our salvation, but also for the future. Remember, we are to trust Him even when we do not know, like, or understand, and also when He is leading through unpopular territory. Being a true disciple allows us to put our hand to the plow and not look back (Luke 9:62). As we grow in Christ, we become increasingly unsatisfied with anything less than His call and character.
Jesus invites you to Discipleship!
But, He lets you know up front that it is a commitment that will cost you something. It is not going to be easy. You cannot just say you love the Lord. You must show it as your heart's devotion transcends to your hands and feet. We must be Christians more than just on Sunday mornings. We are called to be Christians both spiritually and as a lifestyle 24/7, that is twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Then, we will truly be Jesus' disciples! Discipleship is costly because Jesus must have priority over our will, ideas, plans, and presumptions. Discipleship is dynamic, not static. Jesus desires us to understand that being a Christian is not just about sitting in a pew or saying a prayer. It is about a life committed, a life changed, a heart and will surrendered, and a new direction and worldview with His precepts and character for living as our example. Discipleship is not a one-time act. It is a change of heart, a change of direction for a lifetime. A disciple is willing to grow in Christ; are you!? Are you willing to GO? Remember, what we give up is of no comparison to what we gain. We are at the winning, beneficial end of this relationship with God.
Take this to heart: Jesus never asked anyone to do anything without enabling them with the power to do it. Let this be your encouraging motive!
Questions to Ponder
1. How much does discipleship cost? Does it scare you? If so, why? What can you do to abandon your fears?
2. Read Luke 9:23 and Luke 14:25-35: Ask yourself, "Am I willing to pay the cost?"
3. What will be the rewards in your life when you are adhering to His command to GO?
4. Now go over the "How do I do this" list again, in prayer, and ask Christ to help you in each bullet point's implantation in you and implementation into the world. (For more help see Appendix II "How to Build your Faith.")
The unfolding of your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple. Psalm 119:130
Some passages to consider: Psalm 119:130; Isaiah 42:16; Luke 10:2-3; John 4: 23-24; 15; 1 Corinthians 2:14-15; Philippians 2:13; 2 Peter 1:5-7
More passages to consider:
1. We Grow Best From Our Devotional Times: Psalm 77; Isaiah 42:7; 69:1-2; 88:7; Luke 10:2-3; John 2:3, 5; Acts 16:30-31; 1 Peter 5:6; 1 John 3:23
2. How Can I Do This? Psalm 15; 51; 149:4; Proverbs 3:34; 6:16-19; 16:5; 18; 20:25; 29:23; Job 35:12; Obadiah 3; Matthew 5:46; 28:19-20; Mark 1:35-2:12; 8:34-38; Luke 9:62; 12:15; John 1:36-52; 3:30; 15; 17:20-23; Acts, 10-16; 1 Corinthians 3:2; Romans 6:14; 8:9-17; 8:28-32, 12; 1 Corinthians 12; 13:4-5; 2 Corinthians 12:9; Galatians 2:20-21; 5:26; 6:1-10; Ephesians 2:10; 4:1-3, 29-32; 6:10-20; Philippians 2:3-4; 3:1-10; Colossians 3:12-14; 2 Timothy 2:2; James 1:2-4,19; 4:7, 10; 1 Peter 2:13-15; 4:2,10; 5:6-9; 2 Peter 1:5-7; 1 John 1:9
3. Missed Opportunities: Luke 9:23-24; 14:25-35
4. Our Focus Must Be On Christ: John 5; 14:1; Job 1-2; Psalm 31:9, 15; 62; 103; 119:50; Isaiah 26:3; 41:10; Jeremiah 27:11; Luke 10:20; Romans 8:28-29; 35-37; 12; 1 Corinthians 10:31; Ephesians 5:21; Philippians 1:6; 1 Thessalonians 5:12; James 1:2-3; 1 Peter 4:12-19; Revelation 21:4
5. Heartfelt Worship: Deuteronomy 33:27; Psalm 139 1-24; Isaiah 40:29; 55:1; Jeremiah 29:11; Matthew 7:7-11; 9:12-13; Mark 9:23-24; John 3:16-18; 5:6; 14:1-3; Romans 6:15-23; 7:7-25; 1 Corinthians 1:24; Galatians 1:6; 2:20-21; Philippians 2:12-13; Revelation 1:17
6. Determination: Psalms 33:15; 119:29-30; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Timothy 4:7, 8; Hebrews 12: 2, 12-13
7. Discipleship: Proverbs 18:24; Matthew 7:18-24; 19:28-30; 10:1-42; Mark 1:1-5; Luke 9:23-25; 48; Luke 14:26-27; John. 8:31; 12:20-26; John 14; 15; 1 John 5:3; 1 Corinthians 3:5-11; 2 Timothy 2:7; 1 Peter 3:15.