Blog

We are being transformed!
November 7, 2016

In a previous posting I have argued that it is essential that we have a good grasp on what a disciple is if we hope to be effective in making them.

I proposed this definition:
Disciple (definition.) A follower of Jesus, who is being transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit and becoming equipped with the Word of God, in order to live in increasingly consistent obedience to it, and who is in turn equipping others so that they too will come to follow Jesus as disciples.

Each element of this definition is important and each presents the fact that our journey of discipleship is a process of continual growth.

The first essential characteristic of a disciple is that we are being transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit.  When we respond to the invitation of Jesus and come to saving faith in Him, at that very moment we are justified and made righteous before our holy God.  We are forgiven of our sins and adopted into His family.  As the Apostle Paul declares in 2 Corinthians 5:17, Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.  It is a singular, instantaneous event in which we are delivered from the domain of darkness and transferred into to the kingdom of his beloved Son (Col 1:13).  But while all this happens at the very moment of our coming to faith in Jesus Christ, the New Testament is abundantly clear that we are now, as followers of Christ, being sanctified.  That is, we are being transformed in increasing measure into the image and likeness of Christ (2 Cor. 3:18; Phil. 1:6).  The Holy Spirit is working out in us the life of Christ.  Gradually, day in and day out, He is prompting us, and leading us, and teaching us.  Sometimes in powerful and dramatic ways, often in subtle and gentle ways, the Holy Spirit convicts us of sin, uproots the old self, brings healing to our brokenness and produces in us His fruit.

You may not be able to recognize the fruit of God’s transforming work in your life at first. It sometimes seems to come painfully slowly. Nevertheless, as you walk with Christ and look back a year, 5 years, 10 years, you will be able to trace His hand and see the good work that He is accomplishing in you as He molds you increasingly into the image and likeness of Christ. Spiritual fruit testifies to you and to others of the transforming power of God in your life and the genuineness of your salvation.  Transformation is an essential hallmark of the true disciple. 

Where in your life are you experiencing God’s transforming power?

Tim Beavis
Sr. Pastor
The Orchard Church
www.OrchardMcHenry.org

 


 

How Should We Vote?

We are less than 3 weeks away from the election and I have yet to have a conversation with anyone who is actually happy with the choice of candidates for the office of President.

With all the at best foolish and at times utterly disgraceful things that have been said and done, many followers of Christ are still scratching their heads and trying to decide how or even if to vote. To complicate matters still further one group of otherwise respected Christian leaders have lined up to support a candidate (appealing in particular to the issue of Supreme Court Justices) while still another group of respected Christian leaders plead with us to consider that a vote for the “lesser of two evils” is still a vote for evil.

I do not want to step into the fray of telling others who to vote for. But, with the election looming, I do believe that it is necessary for those who are disciples of Jesus to consider how we should vote. Here are 8 principles that the disciple of Jesus ought to take into account as they determine before God how to vote and who to vote for.

 

  1. We should vote!

We have a right, privilege and responsibility to vote as citizens of these United States. As Christians we are called repeatedly in the pages of Scripture to work for the good, for the peace and for the prosperity of the nation in which God has Sovereignly placed us. Even though our true citizenship is in heaven, we are called to be the very best of citizens here and within the context of our nation good citizenship is inextricably linked with participation in the process of government.

  1. We must remember we are first and foremost Christ followers therefore how we vote and the issues that we consider should reflect the heart of our Lord.

Everything we do ought to be bathed in prayer and rooted in the changing truth of God’s Word. We are not our own, we belong to Christ, and as such we must seek to do all things, including voting to the glory of God. That means that when we vote we must vote for people who most closely align to the heart of God. Search the Scriptures and see what God is passionate about and vote for those who will seek to uphold these things. There are no perfect candidates but as a follower of Christ we cannot support and endorse with our vote someone who clearly stands in opposition to the heart of God. As we seek to honor Christ it is appropriate that we examine all the candidates, including those that are lesser known so that after prayerful consideration we can stand with a clear conscience before the Lord having aligned ourselves as best as we can, not with a political party, but with God Himself.

  1. We must remember that Politics is not the hope of the world, Jesus is!

As followers of Christ we need not fear or be shaken by the results of an election because our hope does not reside in the Whitehouse, the Statehouse or Wall Street.

  1. We must be careful not to allow our political views to damage our witness for Christ.

Perhaps more than in any other election the name of Jesus has been dragged through the mud by the attitudes and behaviors of those claiming to be God’s people. Some of this has reared its head through the anger and lack of compassion that has been shown. Some of it has been cause by the unwillingness even of prominent Christian leaders to call sin sin, and call to repentance. When we try to align Jesus with any political party we dishonor Him and we put up barriers to the spread of the gospel.

  1. We should be informed voters and do our homework prayerfully -not simply on the office of the Presidency but all the way down the ticket applying these same principles to every office.
  1. We must show appropriate honor to whoever our leaders are, and we should regularly pray for them.

Consider these Scriptures:

Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, 14 or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. 15 For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. 16 Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. 17 Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor. (1 Peter 2:13-17)

Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people. (Titus 3:1-2)

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
(1 Tim 2:1-4)

  1. We must remember that God is on the throne, and He still will be on November 9! God and He alone rules the nations and lifts up and brings down rulers and kings.

God is not glued to CNN or Fox News biting His nails over the results of the election.

Our God is working out His purposes and nobody can ultimately thwart His plans.

  1. We must seek God on behalf of our nation. We must come in repentance and we must plead for revival.

Whatever your view of the candidates for the office of the Presidency, this election has revealed what many of us have known for some time – this nation is Spiritually bankrupt. These candidates represent the heart of the nation. That they should be chosen at the will of the people out of over 300 million citizens, stands as a reminder of our desperate need to turn once again to God. Just as when the nation of Israel rejected God as their king and said, “we want a king like all the other nations” –so God allowed them the king they desired in Saul. So we ought not be surprised when as a nation we reject God, that we find ourselves not with the leaders we need, but with those we want – and indeed if these are who we want, then we have indeed turned from God. Check out the prayers of Nehemiah 1 or Daniel 9, and let the Holy Spirit lead us to stand in the gap and repent on behalf of our nation in prayer.

 


 

Defining Discipleship
Tim Beavis
September 20, 2016

Most Christians are probably aware that Jesus’ last words before ascending in to heaven, as recorded in Matthew’s gospel were a commission to His disciples, and to those who would come after them.

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20.

 The task to which those first disciples were called, was to go in the authority of Jesus and make disciples of others. How? By baptizing them in the name of the Triune God and teaching them to live in obedience to the Lordship of Christ. And as they did so, they could be assured of the empowering presence of Jesus with them. That is still our task, our commission today.

Yet it often seems like the Church is stumbling haphazardly in its mission. I believe that the problem, at least in part, is that we have largely lost a concept of what Biblical “discipleship” actually is. Even when we attempt to do “discipleship” it can easily be relegated to a program, a book or a class to be completed. There is nothing wrong with programs, books or classes, in their proper place. But discipleship is something bigger. It is something more. One of the biggest difficulties that many followers of Christ today face when thinking about discipleship is that we have lost a sense of the definition as to what a disciple is. As the old saying goes, if you don’t know what you’re aiming at, you’ll hit it every time. As such there are all kinds of things that pass for discipleship, but don’t necessarily line up with the Biblical definition.

Discipleship in in the Jewish culture
The word disciple (mathetes) literally means to “learn from” or “follow after.” It was used to refer to those who were taken under the training and tutelage of a Rabbi (teacher). In most instances young Jewish men would receive a foundational education up to the age of about 15. At that point many would go into their family trade, but the educational elite would be eligible to apply to study under a recognized Rabbi. If accepted, a new disciple would often leave the family home and go to live with or in some cases travel with their Rabbi. He would enter in to an intense journey of study with him. When Jesus called his disciples however, he didn’t call the educational elite. He invited those who hadn’t measured up or qualified to study under other Rabbi’s. What’s more, rather than accepting applications, he extended the invitation, “follow me.” And His invitation was not simply to learn from Him but to join Him in His work, “I will make you fishers of men.” The level of commitment and dedication that he called his disciples to was no less than that of other Rabbi’s, in fact it was far greater (Luke 14:25-33).

His is a call to follow after Him and learn from Him so that we can call others to follow after Him and learn from Him. When we respond to the invitation of Jesus and receive His free gift of salvation we are committing ourselves to Him as Lord and submitting ourselves to obey His teachings. We are not merely adding Jesus on to our lives, we are giving up our lives, our agendas, our everything in submission to Him.

So how do we define discipleship?
At our church we talk about the fact that we believe God has called us to be about making fully functioning followers of Jesus who are rooted in hope and branching out to the world. I want to suggest that a disciple is one who is becoming a fully functioning follower – but what exactly does that mean? Here’s how I define what a disciple really is:

Disciple (definition.) A follower of Jesus, who is being transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit and becoming equipped with the Word of God, in order to live in increasingly consistent obedience to it, and who is in turn equipping others so that they too will come to follow Jesus as disciples.

I believe that this definition (while probably not complete), captures some of the essential and primary characteristics of a Biblical disciple. It offers enough of a target to help us to effectively measure whether we are in fact doing the work of “making disciples,” because unless all of these elements are present, true discipleship is not happening.

In future posts I will unpack the different elements of this definition, but for now, notice that it gives us a sense of recognition that discipleship is a process. It is a journey. It is about being transformed, becoming equipped, living in increasingly consistent obedience, and it is about equipping others.

 

 


 

Discipleship & Community
Lisa Beavis
September 1, 2016

When Jesus instructed his followers to “Go into all the world and make disciples” He made it clear that making disciples is the main mission of all of his followers. This journey of being on mission with Jesus and showing others how to be on mission with Him as well is called discipleship. Jesus gave 2 steps that were to be included: 1) baptism – making a public declaration of your faith in Jesus for the forgiveness of your sins through His death, burial and resurrection; 2) teaching the disciples “to obey everything that I have commanded you.”

The life of a disciple is a life of increasing surrender and obedience to God from infancy to maturity. It is important to have a disciple-maker walking this journey with you in order to overcome the schemes of our enemy and the pull of our natural flesh to draw us away from God. The disciple-maker can help the younger believer to stay grounded in God’s Word, to rely on the help of the Holy Spirit, and to use prayer as a means of accessing God’s gracious provision for our lives.

This type of discipleship requires the ability to live continually in Christian community. It requires trust and vulnerability in order to share our deepest struggles with one another. God has instructed us to “bear each other’s burdens.” This can only happen as we are able to understand and empathize with one another. As we live in community and walk in love, we will become more like Jesus because we will be able to exhort and encourage one another. We will also begin to learn to be accountable to one another without judgement. In community a person’s spiritual gifts come to light and can be strengthened.

We are far less susceptible to straying from the path of discipleship in community because there are others who can warn us of the dangers. The community can rally around the one who is weak to strengthen and sustain them in times of weakness. The journey of discipleship is about endurance and perseverance in Christ’s mission until He comes.

It is easy to become discouraged on the journey of discipleship because it may feel like you’re not making a difference. You may feel like the only one who has chosen to surrender their life fully to God. Living in community can keep discouragement at bay. We can cheer each other on.

In order to be a follower of Jesus we have to know what it is that He has commanded us. Having a disciple-maker to teach and equip you with God’s Word is essential to the Christian life. This requires admitting that we need someone else’s help and the humility to receive it. For the disciple-maker it takes courage to believe that God will use you, and the willingness to face your fear of rejection.

The journey of discipleship is invigorating and exciting. You get to witness God at work changing lives, especially yours. There is no purpose or calling more fulfilling than being on mission with Jesus. It’s what you were created for.

“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.” (Titus 2:11-14)