Lord, I really want my own house. I want to make a home and get to know my neighbors and have get togethers to reach them with love and the Gospel. I want to have a library and a cute kitchen and slumber parties with my small group girls. I want my home to be a place where people are well loved, well fed, and well treasured. A place where people feel safe, accepted, welcomed, and warm. Where they receive cookies, gratitude, encouragement, love, and the Gospel. Where they can come to relax, to be quiet, to talk, to praise, to read, to cry, to laugh, to sing.
I want a home.
A home not just for me but for my girls,
Lord, in Your time, would You give me a home? A semi-nice one, not for luxury but so more people can squeeze in and be squeezed by Love?
According to Scripture, we do not have anything that hasn’t been given to us from the Lord, and from His Word we know His gifts were not intended to find their eternal home with us. It is clear we have received all we have in order to leverage all we have for the joy of all people and the worship of our Savior (1 Peter 4:10-11).
If our lives, lips, talents, and gifts are to be used for God’s honor, why should our living situation be any different?
How can we use our homes to make God famous? How can we strategically use our dorms, apartments, houses, and yards in such a way as to make God look as good as He is?
The goals of my (future) home are simple. I pray it will be a place of refuge for people to gather, celebrate, weep, struggle, pray, and feast on good food and the Gospel.
What are the goals of your home? Do they line up with the Gospel message? Are they in line with Jesus’ mission? How can we redeem the home from self-itis (selfishness, self-gratification, and all things “mine”) and instead glorify the One who has given us a spiritual and earthly home?
When we remember the Gospel, we see the truth in vibrant color: we are not our own, we have been bought with a price (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). In light of that glorious reality, we now live to glorify the One who redeemed us from the curse of sin by employing every resource we have for His exaltation.
Our homes should be a refuge for our own souls but it doesn’t stop there. Because of the Gospel, we see this life is not about us. Therefore, counter-culturally, our homes are not just for us. Do you see your living space as an instrument entrusted to you by God for the purpose of loving Him and loving others?
Because Jesus has paid our debt, we now exist for His glory and the joy of everyone around us, so we are driven to unlock our hearts, doors, and lives to others, ready and eager to share with them the storehouses of God’s grace and kindness.
But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children. So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us. -1 Thessalonians 2:8
Do we extend the Gospel with our lips and lives?
“Be a pipeline not a puddle.”
“Be a fountain not a drain.”
Be a giver of God’s goodness not just a receiver.
Do not hoard the gifts of the Savior as if they were intended for you alone. If God is anything, He is a divine multi-tasker who has given us what we have to be a blessing for others.
As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life. -1 Timothy 6:17-19
Because I was bought with a price, what I once claimed as “mine” has been laid down before the King who saved me and therefore I am at His disposal to do with as He chooses (as are all my resources). The way my life and home are stewarded should reflect that.
Are we stingy with what we own or do we recognize the gift of the Gospel that reveals the way we have been undeservedly loved and, as a result, equipped to love others and live in the surplus of the Gospel?
Living to impress others is like walking into a prison cell, locking the door, and asking the guard to burn the keys. You’re enslaving yourself.
Love doesn’t seek to impress. Love lays itself bare and serves another, come what may. As Dustin Willis said in Life in Community,
The Gospel says the pressure is off. You’re freed to love people because there’s no need to impress them. You don’t have to give people Disney World every time you open the doors of your home. Give them you.
People don’t need to see the illusion of perfection. That includes the illusion of a perfect soul, personality, or home. You are not Chip and Joanna Gaines. You do not have to give your guests a Magnolia-worthy atmosphere. They don’t need your “perfect” aesthetics. They need Jesus.
No one benefits from seeing perfection unless they are seeing the perfection of Christ. In the Gospel, we have been freed from any lingering pressure to self-promote or appear better than we are. People need to see real, raw, honest faith that repents quickly and welcomes all into the lavish generosity of the Gospel.
Are you laboring with the people God has placed around you? Are you serving and inviting them to your table as a way to glorify the One who invited us to the greatest table of all time?
In a world of words that slice and dice, strive to represent the Word by creating a space where ours are used only to build up, heal, and edify.
Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits. –Proverbs 18:21
Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. –Ephesians 4:29
We serve a God who speaks and in whose words contain the power of eternal life. Do our words reflect and point to the Word made flesh?
Making much of the Lord and having open doors can happen regardless of the size of your apartment, dorm, or home. Upon examination, one may realize the one-two punch combo command to “show hospitality without grumbling” (1 Peter 4:8) and to “make disciples ‘as we go’” (Matthew 28:19) is not contingent on a luxurious environment.
Our home is a tool, not a trophy. –Jani Ortlund
Because of what Jesus has done for us, we are to reject any inclination toward selfishness and instead use our homes as catalysts for ministry, creating spaces for retreat and refuge for others to receive the Gospel demonstrated in real life.
It was surreal to think I was in the same area where one of the greatest Old Testament characters was and died. I’ve always wondered about that. Why did God seem so severe with Moses’ indiscretion?
I certainly don’t want to demur the Lord God or insinuate that He has some questions He needs to answer. God doesn’t give an account of Himself to anyone, much less me. But why was Moses not allowed to enter the promise he labored 40 years to achieve? It does make you pause when you think of his illustrious career as a deliverer. He was 80 years old when God called him to redeem the people of God from Egyptian bondage. Moses resisted God’s call as much as he could. He wanted nothing to do with the task. Repeatedly, the people challenged, contested, and rebelled against Moses personally. On a couple of occasions they would have stoned Moses, had not God intervened. Leading hundreds of thousands, if not a million or more, stubborn and unbelieving ex-slaves in a barren wasteland called ‘wilderness’ was not the dream job of any Hebrew man. Here was a person that withstood and brought to its knees one of the greatest civilizations of history. In one of Israel’s rebellions, God had told Moses that He would make a great nation from his descendants. But Moses argued against that privilege, and as a faithful mediator interceded for the deliverance of the people’s sins.
It wasn’t that Moses opposed doing what God told him, but in a moment of anger with the people’s unbelief and constant complaining, he forgot the method God had prescribed to fetch water out of the rock.
He was told to speak to the rock, but having done this once before, Moses did as he had done years earlier: he struck the rock. And even though Moses didn’t do it exactly as God prescribed, the Lord did not withhold the blessing. He still gave plenty of water to the nomadic nation as a gushing fountain poured out of the rock.
After all the sacrifice, hardship, and grief, Moses was not allowed into the land flowing with milk and honey. He had not obeyed the specific instruction and thus failed to glorify God before the people. All of this flooded my mind as I stood there that day on the summit of Nebo. Why not let old Moses into the land? Where was the hope of redemption for Moses? Who was there to intercede and mediate for his sin? There seems no deliverance for the great deliverer.
The lawgiver of Israel could not enjoy the thrill of entering the land, for this reason: Moses represented the Law, and by the Law, there is no hope of entering the promise of God’s rest. The Law could not grant access because the Law brings no one salvation, not even Moses. The Law cannot save; only by grace through faith are we delivered. Redemption is not the work of the Law; it is the work of grace.
For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. –John 1:17
The Bible says if you have kept all the commandments but one, you have violated the entire law. Moses simply did not do what God said and, therefore, he was guilty of breaking all the Law. “Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight” (Romans 3:20).
Redemption is by the blood of another, Jesus Christ. He is our Redeemer. But too many of us are not okay with leaving our reclamation totally to someone else. We want Jesus to save us from sin and self and the world. We want Him to rescue us from our problems—sickness, financial ruin, marital storms, rebellious children, stubborn parents, anxiety, and rejection by others. We cry for His help, but His help must come on our terms. Like Moses, we will seek the miracle from the rock, but we will do it our way. Whatever the dilemma we are in, we are not too eager to simply “trust Jesus.” We want Jesus’ power but our control. Yet, the key to redemption, whether the need is liberation from our sin or suffering, is simple faith in our Redeemer.
Once again, Jesus is our Redeemer, or to put it another way, Jesus is our redemption. It is He, and not we, that has done the work of our deliverance. It is not our faith that redeems us but Christ Jesus Himself that redeems His people. Not until we truly believe this can we enjoy the freedom that is ours.
There is only one Redeemer, and He needs no help from us.
What is the essence of redemption? Is it the forgiveness of sin, or is it the prospect of an eternity free of wrath and torment? Surely, both forgiveness and the escape of eternal punishment is involved in redemption; yet redemption exceeds these and takes us to the very heart of God and His presence with us.
If you were kidnapped and held for ransom, then the person who paid your ransom would be your redeemer. The payment would secure not only your freedom from your captors, but it would restore you to the presence of the redeemer. This is the heart of redemption—restoration to the relationships and residence you enjoyed before your abduction.
Sin ripped man away from relationship with holy God and the residence of His glorious presence. While forgiveness is hugely important, it is not the sum of redemption.
The Redeemer loved you and desired your presence with Him. But something held us in captivity and kept us reserved for everlasting judgment. That something was God Himself. His pure justice demanded our separation from Him. We stood barred from the life of God. His goodness, which ended up saving us, was the gatekeeper that turned us away as the cherubim’s flaming sword kept Adam and Eve from the garden.
Redeemer Jesus paid not a kidnapper’s ransom but a prison warden’s required payment to set us free and restore us to Himself. No one abducted us; we voluntary were co-conspirators in the vilest coup in human history. We willfully rejected our Creator and Father and renounced His sovereign goodness. To His justice, we were in debt. To His righteousness, we were marked as prisoners eternally incarcerated.
From the portals of Heaven’s throne room, the Son of God came, “born of a woman, born under the law.” He sought us and His pursuit is called the demonstration of love. Unlike the story of the prodigal son, we did not come to our senses and return to the Father. The real Elder Brother found us and carried us away and brought us to the very throne He left, where He robed us with His righteousness, sealed us with His Spirit, and seated us on His throne.
What was His currency? What would He give to ransom the elect bride? What medium of exchange would He use to satisfy Heaven’s integrity? It was “nothing but the blood of Jesus.”
For my cleansing this I see—
Nothing but the blood of Jesus!
For my pardon this my plea—
Nothing but the blood of Jesus!
His life’s blood was traded for our presence with Him, restored in communion and love. We are free to come to Him in full acceptance. We enjoy access to Him; it’s no longer barred or banned. Indeed friendship with Jesus is fellowship divine!
Only God’s grace in the person of our Lord Jesus could lead us out of our bondage and sever the flooded waters that kept us out. He has led us into the paradise of His spiritual presence and will soon bring us over into His physical reality. The redeemed restored to the Redeemer in the land of eternal milk and honey. Oh, what a Savior!
“Excitement for this new chapter filled with opportunities and fulfillment, and fear because this next chapter will last the next 40 years of their life,” he said. “There is a great trepidation of entering the ‘rat race.’”
Though both feelings are valid, Dennis said they must be guided, lest we end up falling into the same pitfalls as the rest of the world.
“Those are the two fallacies we must guard our hearts against lest work becomes either an idol or it becomes utterly toilsome,” Dennis said.
He gives two pieces of advice to do so.
“Fear that excitement and be guarded,” he said. “Be excited for the God-given joy to derive from work, but beware the danger of work becoming your life pursuit. An ambition for earthly greatness and finding self-worth in work has been the downfall of many Christians.”
“Work is frustrating and toilsome, there’s no sugar-coating that,” he said. “The flip side of the temptation to make work an idol is the temptation to think work is meaningless and should be avoided.”
Guard your heart from pursuing freedom from work.
Guide your fear into a realization that work is cursed not a curse.
Invited to a feast, a banquet of epic proportions, to celebrate the greatness of this God who redeemed us from our sin and separation from Him. The festivities have begun and the appetizers are being served so we can taste and see that the Master of Ceremonies is indeed as good as He claims, but we’re not yet to the main celebration.
No, the doors to this eternal marriage supper have yet to fling open and we haven’t been granted full entrance to the reception, but until then we’ve been issued a divine edict and a high privilege.
A few days later, His Spirit exploded on the scene and His followers were given power and authority to bring as many people as possible to the party that will (literally) end all parties.
Jesus enlisted us in this amazing mission, giving the command and the ability to carry it out. What could possibly keep us from joyfully obeying?
Well, as it turns out, lots of things.
When the Gospel is nothing more than a list of facts, we won’t see the need to participate in the mission. We might not even realize or remember the mission is for us.
Do we remember what we’ve been rescued from? Do we remember how Jesus came to us at our darkest and spoke light into our self-built cave of sin and shame?
Not remembering, not having our lives saturated in the truth that saved us, will hinder us from fulfilling Jesus’ command because the importance and urgency will be drowned out by our day-to-day routines.
When we don’t know the Gospel for ourselves and we forget what Jesus has done for us, there is little to no motivation to get into the messes of others in order to snatch them from the fire (Jude 23). But when we remember how Jesus laid aside His dignity and got into our miry pit to lift us out, it propels us to do the same for others so they can know the hope and rescue we’ve been given.
This life on life stuff is no joke.
Discipleship, as Jesus defined and demonstrated, takes work. It would be so much easier to do other things (or nothing) rather than invest in others for the long haul, but Jesus didn’t rescue us from the wrath of God to give us an easy life.
Running the race, fighting the fight of faith, waging war on sin, and pouring our lives into others are action verbs for a reason. When Christ saves us, He doesn’t call us to a passive existence but to an abundant life of activity where we forcefully discard self-gratification (including our inclinations to laziness) and intentionally pursue holiness.
Laziness sets in when we forget that extending party invitations is a joy and privilege, not a depressing duty from a harsh taskmaster. When we remember what the Gospel has done for us and called us to, we will be willing to lay aside our desire for ease and comfort and actively pursue Christ and others for His glory.
“What do you have to offer anyone?”
“You don’t know enough.”
“You’re not equipped for ‘ministry.’”
“If people spend time with you, they’ll see you’re not as holy as you claim to be.”
The lies rattle in our brains with compelling force. And you can be sure of this: Where two or more lies are gathered, fear is there in the midst of them.
Fear hinders disciple making because it’s an anesthetic, a potent tranquilizer that numbs us to our responsibilities and to the truth that God has called, equipped, and will continue to equip us to fulfill His mission.
But fear can also serve us because it exposes where our dependence is.
Fear arises when we imagine everything depends on us. –Elisabeth Elliot
When dependence is on what we can do not what God can do through a jar of clay yielded to Him, our hearts will be tossed to and fro by the turbulent fears. But when we remember the Lord is the One who chose us and has provided all things that pertain to life and godliness, which includes providing the grace necessary to make disciples who make disciples, confidence rises and action will be taken.
Do you believe that when God saved you, He gave you everything you needed for this situation? Your life will reveal what you believe.
The religious answer is “get baptized,” or “ask Jesus into your heart,” or “join the church,” or “keep the sacraments,” or “be good.” These are all forms of performance indicating a works-gospel.
Jesus actually answered the question different ways.
To the Pharisee who came to Him under the cover of darkness, Jesus said, “You must be born again.” The new birth is not something accomplished by the sinner but something given to him or her. The sinner is passive while God does the work of salvation.
To the rich young ruler, Jesus said to sell all that he owned, give the proceeds to the poor, and then tag along with Him. Surely this was something that the young man could do. Jesus called upon activity and not passivity. The question was, would he do it? Would he obey Jesus and give all of his wealth away? Sadly, he didn’t.
The answer is: becoming a Christian requires something to be done to you—“you must be born again,” but being a Christian requires you to do something—be a disciple of Jesus. Jesus said if you are to be a Christian, you must deny yourself, pick up a cross, and follow Him.
But what about Jesus’ answer to the young rich ruler? Did it negate the miracle of regeneration? No, in fact, it did just the opposite. It showed him his need for it. Apart from the new birth, we cannot keep the commandments of God. That was what Jesus was trying to show him. He could not save himself by his works because there was something fundamentally wrong with his heart that would not allow him to trust and obey Christ. Had he believed the Lord’s answer, he would have obeyed.
Thus, to be a disciple of the Lord Jesus, one must experience the gracious activity of God converting the heart, which is to turn it toward righteousness. But that is not the sum of salvation. After regeneration, the new convert can start being and doing what Christ demands. What does He demand? He demands discipleship.
Discipleship is the heartbeat of Jesus’ Christianity. It does not save the Christian, but it is for those whom God has saved. It is not an option. There is no Christian faith without some form of discipleship. For several decades, the churches in Europe and America have not required discipleship as a condition of being a Christian. No longer does Christianity demand discipleship, but we see people remaining in the church without any signs of progress in it. This is so remote from Jesus’ explanation of being His follower.
With the plethora of information on discipleship, you would think we would not need to discuss the definition. Yet, a great deal of confusion exists about the subject. I do believe we see much improvement with a new enthusiasm for discipleship by certain groups. These ministries are going a long way to make the necessary changes in our discipleship paradigms. But it has yet to gain steam and roll through most of conservative evangelicalism.
To understand the New Testament view of discipleship we need to know how discipleship was done in the first century, since this would have been the context of how Jesus defined it. In our Lord’s era, rabbinical discipleship meant more than academics. It was much more than having weekly Bible studies. A rabbi and his pupils would live together for as long as the rabbi deemed necessary. They would eat together, travel together, and study together. There were structured formal times of study, but for the most part, the discipleship process was very informal, and mostly came by the disciple observing the way the rabbi lived.
The relationship of the student to the teacher was so full of respect that the pupil would even walk behind the master. His entire life was in submission to the discipler. That is why the disciples often called Jesus “Master.” It was the title a disciple maker would receive from students and non-students alike.
Another way you could describe first-century discipleship is much like a father/son relationship. The teacher viewed his disciples as sons and he cared for them, provided for them (usually the education was at the rabbi’s expense), and praised or admonished them as a father would a son.
I had the privilege of meeting Jaquelle last year at a writer’s workshop at The Gospel Coalition Women’s Conference and my soul immediately connected with hers. She is a light in this generation, full of humility-cloaked wisdom and grace, and a gentle but fierce warrior for the Gospel. Out of the overflow of God’s work in her life, she has written This Changes Everything: How the Gospel Transforms the Teen Years (Crossway, 2017).
And it is a necessary gem for the church.
If you could potentially encounter a teen at some point in your life, you should read it. It’s that important. This is for teens, yes, but also for parents, teachers, and the entirety of the church.
As a youth leader, I’m grateful for Jaquelle’s beautiful heart and her desire to see this generation of teenagers changed and motivated by the only thing worth living and dying for. Within this book, she powerfully speaks truth as a peer, honors her parents who have modeled the Best Story in front of her, and drives readers toward the one thing that will give them eternal incentive to swim against the tides of the culture: the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
It really does change everything.
Sophie McDonald: Why is it important for teenagers to be involved in a local church? What’s their role and function?
Jaquelle Crowe: The Bible is pretty clear about calling every single Christian to be involved in a local church—and nowhere does it exclude teenage Christians. Teenagers have the same role in the local church as any other Christian—to be servant-members who worship, sacrifice, give, love, fellowship and are held accountable in the context of covenant community. How they actually function will look different because of their age, but it won’t change their fundamental role or position. The church doesn’t have an age limit.
SM: Life for a teenager is primarily a self-focused time (picking colleges, classes, friend groups, activities, etc.); how does the Gospel change that?
JC: Without the Gospel, everyone lives a purely self-focused life, dictated by our own selfish desires, dreams, and motivations. But the Gospel strips us of this idolatry and gives us an identity as submissive slaves to Jesus. For teenagers, He is Lord of our lives now, so in a radical act of counter-culturalism, we pick colleges, classes, friends, activities, and everything with the ultimate purpose of honoring God first and submitting our lives to His word.
SM: You say teenagers don’t have to rebel. Why? Expound on that.
JC: Culture expects teenagers to rebel. It’s become more than just a stereotype; it’s a pervasive assumption. But the Gospel calls teens to submit to Scripture’s expectations, not the world’s. The Gospel actually gives us a reason not to rebel—because we serve a faithful, peace-making God.
SM: How can teenagers join the greater Story and push back the darkness, or, as you say in the book, reject the status quo?
JC: Teenagers face overwhelming pressure and temptation to conform to culture. But the Gospel invites us to join this greater, bigger, happier Story by trusting in the redeeming work of Jesus. Living for this Story means we fight the temptation to be accepted by the world and all that it believes in and choose instead to stand for the truths of the Gospel.
Three church plants in this region are countering the spiritual decline with the life-changing Gospel of Jesus Christ. One Monday, May 15, Brother Mack Tomlinson and I pulled into the driveway of lead pastor and senior church planter, David Storey. David and his gracious wife Lisa welcomed us into their home and hearts. We went to be a blessing to them but ended up the ones greatly blessed by God’s activity in New Brunswick.
Eleven years ago, the Lord brought David and Lisa back to his hometown of Doaktown to plant a church. David burdened for the perishing in the area, would pray and weep over a long list of people he knew. In the ensuing years, God has done a steady work of saving sinners. Although Doaktown has a population of 793, the church runs on average 175, with visitors almost every Sunday.
This fervor for evangelism has spread to many of the converts in the churches and believers are sharing with families and friends the Gospel that can transform them.
Each night, but Thursday, we were in one of the church plants in Doaktown, Fredericton, or Richibucto. In each church, we found vibrant New Testament Christianity. The majority of the folks in the churches range in age from 20s to 40s, and every service has unconverted people attending.
On Sunday morning, I preached at Cornerstone Church of Richibucto, a two-year-old church plant pastored by Brother Chris Sippley. Chris is a young pastor advanced beyond his years. Many unbelievers were in attendance and, as I preached, the Spirit of the Lord pierced many hearts. Many people wept as the word of God was declared. I counseled some after the service who admitted that God had exposed their hearts and they knew they were lost and needed His mercy. Please, join me in praying that the seeds Brother Mack and I planted and watered will germinate and produce much fruit for the Lord.
A cabin nestled in a pine forest overlooking the Miramichi River was our backdrop. There were nearly 20 of us there and the Lord blessed us all. Both Mack and I spoke to the pastors, Mack about the theology of pastoring, and I about the importance of personally feeding on Christ so that we, as pastors, can feed Christ to our sheep. The Q &A times were especially rich and valuable. We can only thank the Lord for how He conducted our time with these dear brothers.
What we found in the budding spring of New Brunswick is one of the strongest works of God that I have seen in years. Please lift these churches under David’s leadership in prayer. Pray for pastors David, Chris, and Corey, as well as the other elders who serve the churches. Their hearts burn to see many more churches planted throughout the New Brunswick province.
Mack and I ministered in Redeeming Grace Fellowship Church in Portland, Maine the weekend before our trek north into Canada. While there, Mack performed pastoral visits and counsel to this church plant of Providence Chapel, Denton, Texas, where Mack is an elder. On Sunday, he and I both preached to an eager and hungry fellowship. I preached evangelistically on The Righteousness that Saves, from Romans 10:3-5. Brother Mack preached on the Theology of Singing and encouraged the saints with why God has given us the gift of singing to each other and Him.
This is a wonderful group of saints serving Christ in Portland under the leadership of Jeff Hebert. Please pray for them as they desperately desire to sow and reap the Gospel harvest in New England.
Even though you were not there physically with Mack or me, you were there in spirit by your prayers. I only hope you truly know how much work is done by prayer and not to be credited to our efforts alone. I remind you and my heart of what the Apostle Paul said to the Corinthians, “So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase” (1 Corinthians 3:7). To God be the praise for the great things He has done and is doing!
Come on in and experience Christian writing committed to the old paths and ancient ways of apostolic Christianity that still believes Sola Scriptura.
This edition focuses on discipleship. And although you may think you already know all there is to know about it, we invite you to join us as we look at discipleship through the lens of both the discipler and the discipled. I’ll never forget when it dawned on me that what I thought about discipleship was not true and that I actually had no clue about it. I had been pastoring Oak Grove Baptist Church for about seven years when this realization occurred. Then, for the next several months, I studied the life of Jesus in the Gospels and observed how He made disciples. It was revolutionary; a turning point in my ministry.
Frankly, systems of discipleship assume that all persons are the same and will fit the cookie cutter mold. But that is false. All of us are distinct persons, which means each of our personalities, life experiences, environment, and education will resist systems and require individuality. Jesus did not deal with Peter as He dealt with John, and He didn’t disciple John in the same way He did Bartholomew. There were things He did with all the men at the same time, but I’m sure that if we could see His individual time with each of the twelve, it would not have been similar.
In fact, Jesus still doesn’t develop us in the same ways. My experiences with Christ will not be like your experiences with the Master Discipler. He meets us where we are and, more importantly, He meets us as we are. His approach and manner with you would probably not work with another. What an amazing Jesus we have!
We define discipleship, share insights on discipling children—especially teens—and wisdom from modern discipleship pioneers.
Please help us distribute this magazine by encouraging others to download the RTM app. We do not spend money marketing this ministry or magazine; therefore, we need readers like you to tell other potential readers about us. Thank you so much and “go and make disciples.”
If so, how do we go about searching out the nuances of life’s most vital matters without falling into the sin of unbelief?
God spoke through His prophet Isaiah and gave Israel this invitation:
Come now, let us reason (or dispute) together. –Isaiah 1:18
As we grow in the knowledge of God—His character, how He works, His will for us, etc.—there will be natural theological questions that arise. “Just have faith” will not be a sufficient answer. Hard questions require more than bumper sticker answers. These inquiries are not inherently sinful; they are the result of mortal people attempting to understand the immortal God as He has revealed Himself. The questions surrounding this immortal God of ours get quite complicated.
With that stated, a devious trap must be avoided when wrangling with many deeper theological concepts. Our thoughts can easily lead us beyond simple inquiry to doubt, or even further progress into outright unbelief. We must be careful how we navigate these issues.
The Bible shows us that God is sovereign, independent, self-governing, autonomous. The Bible also reveals that God has chosen to work in concert through real people, accomplishing His grand purposes through—not independent of—His people. On the surface those two sentences seem paradoxical, impossibly inconsistent. How can God be completely in charge and at the same time choose to work—or choose to risk His work—through sinful, stubborn people?
I can ask those questions and attempt to find what God has revealed in His Word. I could also regress, however, into trusting my questions— questions that sow seeds of unbelief—more than God’s revelation. One approach seeks out a matter in order to know God’s answers; the other criticizes revelation on the basis of fallen intellect. Reasonable questions that lead to a greater knowledge of God glorify Him. Unbelief reeks of pride.
In answering the question of how God’s sovereignty is married to His determination to work with fallen people, we admit that much of the answer has yet to be uncovered for us. However, there is a key to reconciling these two truths. God has sovereignly chosen to use particular means of grace to accomplish His greater purpose, and His greater purpose will be accomplished. God hasn’t risked His work at all. He has planned out the details of His intricate plan, not just the result.
In other words, God doesn’t simply choose the end destination for us; He has determined the road we’ll take and the vehicle that gets us there. The two principles of God’s sovereignty and human responsibility do not create a paradox; they work in tandem. God’s plan is so complete that He doesn’t just decide what should happen; He knows how to make it happen in the perfect way.
This is why the God who controls all things, who never has His purposes thwarted, who designed all, sees all, knows all, controls all, and needs nothing from us in order to accomplish His will, looks at us and says “you do not have because you do not ask (James 4:2).” God uses prayer. He has determined to use prayer as a particular means of grace to accomplish His greater purpose.
In the same way, God has determined to use faith. We make a mistake if we talk about God as if He were not able to do something because we don’t exercise enough faith; this tends to miss the point of God’s supernatural ability to do all that He pleases. However, the Scripture is clear that God has determined to work through faith; and God has chosen to limit or cut off what He blesses in the absence of faith. A quick study of Scripture bears this fact out.
Jesus didn’t do many miracles in His hometown because of the unbelief of the people (Matt. 13; Mark 6). The disciples couldn’t cast out demons because of their unbelief (Matt. 17). Israel fell as a nation and were “broken off” because of the people’s unbelief (Romans 11). The original generation of Israelites who left Egypt did not get into the Promised Land because of unbelief (Hebrews 3 and 4). And the admonition to the reader is for us to not make the same foolish mistake that inevitably leads to the same horrible consequences.
The sin of unbelief is more than having doubts, and it is certainly more than posing legitimate questions. Unbelief looks at God’s revelation and says, “I don’t trust You.” It criticizes God’s promises with a skeptical “I hear You; but it’s not enough. Your Word isn’t enough for me.”
Unbelief casts doubts on God’s character—His trustworthiness, His goodness, His honesty. A humble approach will prove God’s character to be all the more dependable. Faith takes God at His word. Faith takes our questions and searches out the mysteries of God’s revelation so we will believe in Him all the more.
In the preface of his spiritual autobiography, Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners, Bunyan, who was born in 1628 in Bedfordshire, England, said, “It is profitable for Christians to often call to mind the very beginnings of grace in their souls.” It is the Giver of that grace whom Bunyan seeks to magnify as he recounts his journey of salvation.
In that journey, we find Bunyan no stranger to unbelief but rather one who wrestled extensively with heavy doubts, guilt, and condemnation, often arguing that God could not save him.
Sin and corruption would as naturally bubble out of my heart as water would bubble out of a fountain. I thought now that everyone had a better heart than I had; I could have changed hearts with anybody. I thought none but the devil himself could equalize me for inward wickedness and pollution of mind. I fell at the sight of my own vileness into deep despair, for I concluded that this condition that I was in could not stand with a state of grace. Sure, I thought, I am forsaken of God; sure I am given up to the devil and to a reprobate mind. And thus I continued a long while, even for several years.
In full disclosure I admit that as I read Bunyan’s story, I found myself getting so impatient (and sometimes frustrated) with the length of his conviction period that I would catch myself subconsciously praying that God would save him and relieve him from the weight of his doubts and paralyzing unbelief. Then I saw myself in his place. Praise for a God who is patient and forbearing with the frailty of our flesh. What a Savior.
During his years of battling for belief, the already vulnerable Bunyan was constantly plagued with the Accuser’s taunting, torments, and distortion of the truth. As you read the following excerpts, perhaps you will see, as I did, that the enemy of our souls has no new material but continues only to repackage the same lies he’s used for centuries. “Same cake, different party,” as my dad says.
However, because he still remained in the flesh the battle with unbelief never ended but victory was gained.
I leave you with two final quotes from the book. These were penned while Bunyan was in prison for not conforming to the Church of England. All glory to our Conquering King.
I have never in all my life had so great an inlet into the Word of God as now. The Scriptures that I saw nothing in before are made to shine on me in this place and state.
I never knew what it was like to have God stand by me at every turn and every offer of Satan to afflict me as I have found Him since I came here. For as fears have presented themselves, so have support and encouragement.