DAY TWENTY ONE of 50-Day Spiritual Journey

You may be a little confused or interested in finding out what exactly a disciple-making small group is. Maybe you’ve been a part of a Sunday School class in the past or you are currently attending one of our Growth Groups.

Most of the time we only think of a classroom that is focused on the HEAD (learning knowledge) which is not bad in and of itself. But if that is all a Bible study group does then it falls way short of God’s intention to grow us all into the image of Christ.

Read Acts 2:42-47 again!!

Did the early church do more than just learn the apostles teaching? Yes. As important as doctrine and theology is (you should know me by now that I am very concerned about this), there is also more to church life than just acquisition of knowledge.

We see many things that marked the early church in Acts. Fellowship. Breaking bread together. Prayer. Worship. Having things in common and sharing both life and possessions.  Meeting real needs.  Being joyous and generous.  Seeing God add to their number through His sovereign grace in salvation.

And there is a key word that is used by Luke to show us the passion of the early church. They were “devoted” to these things. The word “devoted” means to have an intentional, passionate, diligent pursuit of and tenacity toward teaching, fellowship, worship, prayer, meeting needs, and being the body of Christ.

You can only do so much of this on a Sunday morning in a worship service.  How many of you feel comfortable stopping me in the middle of my sermon to ask for more clarification about a point? How many of you feel like you truly know the person you’re sitting next to? How many of you can truly experience the meeting of needs and fellowship and fervent prayer in the context of 2 hours on Sunday morning?

As great as our times of worship can be together as we gather to sing, hear the Word preached, celebrate the Lord’ Supper, give tithes and offering, and praise His name, if that is all we experience in our Christian life, we are sorely missing out on what it means to be conformed to the image of Christ.

A disciple-making small group can be a really great context or vehicle for you to experience a growth in your identity in Christ and your obedience to Christ together in community.

Most typical small groups or Sunday School classes are geared toward information, not transformation or obedience.  They are geared toward the head, not so much toward the heart, hands, and mouth. There is usually an inconsistent level of involvement and little expectations of members except to basically show up. There is also usually no emphasis upon evangelism or sending people out on mission.

While having a good Bible study is crucial and we would never want anything less, we also want everyone connected with Emmanuel to be conformed to the mage of Christ in a gospel-centered culture.

How do you truly know that you are living out your identity in Christ and being obedient to Christ if you never connect with other believers who are on the same journey with you in community?

Spend some time in prayer asking God to give you wisdom as you move through this journey. What specific challenges will you face? What particular commitments is He asking you to make?

Dear Father in Heaven,

I need wisdom. I see very clearly in Scripture that I was created to be in fellowship with other believers in a smaller group setting.  I really want to be “devoted” to your teaching, prayer, fellowship, and others in my church family. Help me to know how to move forward. Please grant me wisdom.

I desperately need You,

Amen

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DAY TWENTY of 50-Day Spiritual Journey

We now must ask a huge question as we continue on this 50-day spiritual journey. If I am truly a chosen, loved, accepted, purchased, forgiven, righteous, indwelt, empowered, sanctified child of God who loves, glorifies, treasures, submits, and relies upon Him for daily grace….And…

I am to live as a missionary who is sent into the world to share the gospel…and…I am baptized into the family of God to experience love and encouragement in fellowship….and… I am to be filling my heart and mind with the Word of God not only for information, but also for transformation….THEN…

Here’s the big question: What is the BEST context to actually live this out in my life with Emmanuel Baptist Church?

While “one on one” disciple-making has been popular, as well as triads/life transformation groups, these have prohibited the largest number of people connected to the church body getting involved in the disciple-making process.

On the other hand, the large group worship service is the primary vehicle for the proclamation of God’s Word, but there is no opportunity for feedback, dialogue, application, nor the most effective way to put into practice what it means to live as a disciple.

Jesus Himself had a small group of twelve disciples that he trained, equipped, taught, lived on mission with, and experienced life together. He preached to the crowds as well as he had a triad of Peter, James and John.

In addition, we see in Acts the large gathering where preaching occurred, but we also see that they meet in homes and in smaller groups.

Read Acts 5:42

At Emmanuel, we desire to follow this Biblical pattern of large group gatherings for preaching, music, observing the ordinances of baptism and Lord’s Supper for corporate edification, but we also desire to have an effective context where disciple-making can actually take place.

This is expressed in a disciple-making small group.

Tomorrow we will unpack what this means, but for today, I want you to see that growing to be conformed to the image of Christ is not something you can do in isolation. It is not a lone-ranger mentality where you can live disconnected from your church family and somehow hope to grow in the way that God desires for you to grow.  You most clearly express your identity in Christ and your obedience to Christ when you live in community with other believers.

Read Acts 2:42-47

Think about how Emmanuel would look differently if we consistently put these verses into practice within the total life of our church? Would you want to be part of a movement of God where this is happening?

Begin right now asking God to put a desire in your heart to experience growth in grace through participation in a community of believers. You may not really know what that looks like right now, but the Bible is very clear that we were meant to grow TOGETHER in fellowship and community.

Dear Lord,
I see the wonderful things you did in Acts among the early church and really desire that to be a reality in my life and the life of our church. I may not understand what a disciple-making small group is but I truly want to experience growth in community. I want to have the value of other believers walking beside me in this process of becoming more like you. I want to live out my identity in You with others and I want to obey you with their help. Please put a desire in my heart to grow through participation in a disciple-making small group.

 

DAY NINETEEN of 50-Day Spiritual Journey

Remember BEING comes before DOING. But there has to be both.

Who we are in Christ fuels what we do for Christ.  As disciples who passionately love God, we also need to express that love through active obedience.

If you remember from last week, we spend a great deal of time on the Great Commission and Christ’s charge to us to make disciples.

In essence, as a disciple, we need have this interweaving mixture of all of these components:

  • A HEAD full of God’s Word that leads to true transformation
  • A HEART full of love for others as we live life together as a church family
  • And HANDS that are willing to obey God and go and do what he wants us to
  • And MOUTHS that are willing to share the truth of the gospel.

So let’s expand upon our definition of what it means to have this new identity in Christ:

We are chosen, loved and accepted by the Father so we in turn love Him and seek His glory.  We are purchased, forgiven, and righteous in the Son so we in turn treasure and submit to Him. We are indwelt, empowered, and sanctified by the Spirit so we in turn wholly depend upon Him….

TO…live sent as a missionary, be baptized into a church family, and to learn His Word so that we can obey and be transformed to look more like Jesus.

This involves not only loving and glorifying God with our heads (gaining knowledge), but also engaging Him and others with our hearts (being a church family), and also serving others with our hands and telling the gospel with our mouths (living as a missionary).

Being a disciple is not a “one time” event or a class we take so that we can check it off our list. Instead, being a disciple involves a life-long process of becoming conformed to the image of Christ as a LIFESTYLE.
Read the following Scriptures:

Philippians 1:27 and Ephesians 4:1

In both instances, Paul speaks of our manner of life. This word in the original language means our lifestyle. Is our lifestyle on that is worthy of the gospel? Do we truly display a consistent lifestyle that reflects what it means to name the name of Christ?

Read John 3:30

 Does this describe the way you want to live your life? Is the focus of your life on yourself or is upon Christ and His glory? Is your aim to please Christ in all you do?

Read 2 Corinthians 5:9-10

Spend some time in prayer today seeking for Jesus to increase and you to decrease. Ask Him to give you the grace to live a lifestyle of holiness worthy of the gospel.

Dear Jesus,

You must increase, and I must decrease. I desire to walk in a manner worthy of the gospel. I want my lifestyle to reflect your glory in everything I do. Please grant me the grace to walk in holiness and to live a consistent lifestyle that pleases you.  Please give me the desire to make it my aim to please you in everything I do.

In your Name,

Amen.

DAY EIGHTEEN of 50-Day Spiritual Journey

We’ve now spent many days immersing ourselves in this process of understanding our identity in Christ and what it means to be a disciple of Jesus.  I pray that this process has been helpful in your growth to become conformed to the image of Christ.

One more time Read Matthew 28:18-20

A disciple is:

  • A sent missionary (going/sharing/engaging culture)
  • Baptized into a family (relational/church body/fellowship)
  • A learner of the Word (knowledge/doctrine/study)

Or we could also say that a disciple loves Jesus with his or her:

  • Hands/Mouth
  • Heart
  • Head

Now we come to the third aspect of what Jesus defines as a disciple.  We’ve already explored what it means to be living as a sent missionary and what it means to be baptized into a loving church family.

Now comes the one you are probably the most familiar with—a learner of the Word of God.

Jesus told us to teach for obedience and transformation. It is not just a generic command to teach for teaching sake, but that we are to teach disciples to obey or observe all that Jesus commanded.

Have you actually gone through the gospels and looked at all the commandments of Jesus to see what He actually commanded us to obey?

The Greek word for “observe” means to “preserve, be watchful, guard, to pay close attention”

So we are not making disciples unless we are teaching others to be carefully obedient to the Scriptures and to not only be hearers of the word, but doers also.

Why have we in our modern American context, reduced making disciples to classroom based studies with fill in the blank notebooks? How has it been done for the past 2000 years and how is it done in other countries that don’t have all the resources we have?

At Emmanuel, we speak a lot about theology and doctrine, but there is a purpose for it. We don’t just want to fill our heads with knowledge, but we want that knowledge to transform us into obedient disciples who are being conformed to the image of Christ.

How can we truly know how to worship, and how to obey and how to follow Jesus unless we spend time learning His word?

Read John 15:1-11

Pay careful attention to verse 7—Jesus speaks about His Word abiding in us so that we will bear much fruit.   Notice how he links obedience in verse 10 by urging us to keep His commandments.  How can we keep His commandments? By abiding in Christ and letting His Word abide in us.

Read Colossians 3:16

Let me very honest with you: You and I will never grow to be more like Jesus unless we spend time saturating ourselves in His Word—letting it dwell richly in us.

We need to be very careful that we don’t just become sponges that soak up a lot of information that never leads to transformation. Many of us are educated in the Bible beyond our obedience level. In other words, we may know a lot of doctrine, facts, and theology, but has that translated to a changed lifestyle of obedience where we are passionately loving God and seeking His glory, treasuring Christ and submitting to His Lordship, and relying on the Holy Spirit to be both hearers and doers of the Word.

Spend some time in prayer asking God to give you a hunger for His Word. Make a commitment to read the Bible through in a year or to be diligent and consistent in your daily Bible reading.  Saturate yourself in the Scriptures.

Dear Father in Heaven,

Thank you for your infallible, inspired, and inerrant Word. It will never pass away. Give me a hunger for Your Word. I want the Bible to dwell in my richly so that I can not only learn what it says, but actually obey it. I want to get information from your Word, but don’t let it stop there. I want transformation! I want to be conformed to the image of Christ through a daily intake of Your Word!

In Jesus’ Name,
Amen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DAY SEVENTEEN of 50-Day Spiritual Journey

Being baptized is sometimes seen as a very individualistic event, but you are also being baptized into the body of Christ. You are joining a fellowship of believers who are now your church family.

Baptism is never meant to private. It is very personal, yes, but not private. It is the initiation into a church family where you can serve others and express your love and encouragement to other believers and in turn receive love and encouragement.

Read 1 Corinthians 12:12-13

This is very important. Not only do we have a new identity in Christ that is very personal and special to us individually, but our new identity is meant to be lived out in COMMUNITY and FELLOWSHIP with other believers. This involves our HEART. Loving God by loving others!

Read 1 Corinthians 12:14-27

Part of growing as a disciple means that we take every opportunity to be connected to other believers who can help us in our spiritual growth. Pay careful attention to verse 26—does this mark you as a believer? Do you desire for this to be a reality in our church?

Spend some time in prayer thanking God for placing you in a loving church family. Spend some time praising Him for the wonderful symbol of baptism. If you haven’t been baptized, spend some time submitting to His Lordship in this area.

Dear Jesus,

Thank you for your death, burial, and resurrection. I praise you that baptism is a wonderful picture of this reality. Thank you for also raising me to new life. I was dead in sin and totally separated from you and You brought me to new life in your sovereign grace and gave me this wonderful new identity. Thank you for placing me in this church family. I want to serve and love and encourage others. Help me to value this church family as I serve these people you’ve placed in my life.

In Your Name,

Amen

DAY SIXTEEN of 50-Day Spiritual Journey

Read Matthew 28:18-20

We are exploring these three aspects of what it means to be a disciple:

A disciple is:

  • A sent missionary (going/sharing/engaging culture)
  • Baptized into a family (relational/church body/fellowship)
  • A learner of the Word (knowledge/doctrine/study)

Or we could also say that a disciple loves Jesus with his or her:

  • Hands/Mouth
  • Heart
  • Head

Yesterday, we saw that we are to be “goers”—living as sent missionaries to the culture God has placed us in.

But we are not only “goers”—sent missionaries—but a disciple is one who has been baptized into the family of God.

Once a person has trusted Christ for salvation, first act of obedience is to follow Him in believer’s baptism. This is done by immersion (or dunking under the water) in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Baptism is a wonderful visual picture of two glorious realities.

First of all, it is a picture of the gospel—the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. When a person stands in the waters of baptism and goes under the water and comes back up, he or she visually depicts what Jesus underwent for our salvation.

Secondly, it is a picture of our new identity!!

Read Ephesians 2:1-3

Look at the all the descriptions Paul uses to describe our identity BEFORE we were saved.  Spiritually dead! Following the world! Enslaved to Satan! Engaged in pleasing our flesh! Children of wrath.

But when God’s grace invaded our hearts, He did something amazing in giving us a new identity.
Read Ephesians 2:4-10

Through God’s sovereign grace, He took us from spiritual deadness to spiritual life. He has given us a resurrection where we are now new creations and have this wonderful new identity.

Read Romans 6:3-4

Baptism is a symbol of this spiritual reality of dying to our old life of sin and being raised to a new life with Christ and being granted this new identity.

So baptism is not absolutely necessary for salvation, but it is crucial in our act of obedience to Jesus as a disciple. Following Jesus in baptism means that you are identifying with His death, burial, and resurrection. It shows the world that you have died to your old self and have been raised with a new identity. It is a way of visually showing your profession of faith in Christ.

I need to stop and urge you that if you are a true believer in Christ and have been saved by grace and yet have not followed Jesus in obedience by being baptized, please contact me right away so we can discuss this.

Spend some time thinking about what Jesus has done to our old identity and how He has given us a new identity. Think about how this picture of dying to our old life of sin and being raised to newness of life is fully expressed in baptism.

Dear Lord,

Thank you that you raised me to new life. I was spiritually dead and you caused me to be born again.  My old life is dead and gone, and I am a new creation in You. Thank you that your amazing grace brought about this glorious resurrection. Thank you that I am a baptized believer who has identified with your death, burial, and resurrection and have publically declared my allegiance to You.

In your Name,

Amen

DAY FIFTEEN of 50-Day Spiritual Journey

When Jesus commanded us to make disciples, he laid forth a three-fold process (going, baptizing, and teaching).  So we can summarize what a disciple in Christ is by the following:

A disciple is:

  • A sent missionary (going/sharing/engaging culture)
  • Baptized into a family (relational/church body/fellowship)
  • A learner of the Word (knowledge/doctrine/study)

Or we could also say that a disciple loves Jesus with his or her:

  • Hands/Mouth
  • Heart
  • Head

As we continue to think about our identity, we are also a sent missionary who uses our hands and mouth to share the gospel of Christ.

Do you see yourself as a missionary sent on a mission to share the gospel of Christ with others? When we think of missionaries we often think of our partnership in India or Russia, but God calls all of us to represent Him wherever He has placed us.  We are to live sent!

Read John 20:21

When Jesus says that He has sent us into the world as missionaries, it means that we are His hands and mouth. We worship Jesus by going. Going doesn’t necessarily mean that we have to go to India or Russia or Mexico or on some far away mission trip. Jesus already assumes that you are going—you are living life in your sphere of influence. God has placed you specifically among a group of people who need to hear His message of the gospel.  For most of us, “Going” means to live intentionally where we are as we go about our daily lives. It means being intentional at work, school, play, and in the natural ebb and flow of our lives.

Again, do you see yourself as a missionary sent on a mission from Jesus to share His gospel with others?

Read Colossians 4:2-6

Are you praying this way? Are you praying that you are watchful for God’s activity in ordaining “divine moments” to share the gospel as “you are going”? Are you praying for open doors?  Are you praying for boldness? Are you making the most of your time? Is your conversation gospel-centered? Are you ready to give an answer to whoever asks?

As we think about identity, let us consider how this fuels our activity as a sent missionary.

Since we are chosen, loved, and accepted by the Father, and purchased, forgiven, and righteous in the Son, and indwelt, empowered, and sanctified by the Spirit, we in turn love and seek to glorify the Father, treasure and submit to the Son, and wholly depend on the power of the Holy Spirit.

We want to share this good news with others because of the overwhelming love with which God has showered upon us.  We want to tell sinners of Christ’s forgiveness. We want to tell sinners that they can be accepted by God like we have. We can rely on the power of the Holy Spirit to open our mouths and declare the gospel.

We share with our MOUTH and serve with our HANDS not out of duty or obligation or guilt, but out of joy, love, and our identity in Christ. Why wouldn’t we want to share with others what God has marvelously done for us!

Living as a sent missionary flows out of our identity in Christ!

Spend some time asking God to give you opportunities to share the gospel. Pray for boldness. Pray that he would open your eyes to being intentional as you are “going”. Pray that you would make the most of your time.

Exalted Father,

You own my life and have absolute rights over my time! I want to be intentional as I live as a sent missionary to the people you’ve specifically placed in my life. I want to be bold. Please grant me boldness to share the gospel. Please enflame my heart with a fresh view of my identity in You and let that compel me to share with others. I want to glorify you today with my MOUTH and my HANDS!

For Jesus’ sake,

Amen