Monday, January 25, 2010
Discipleship Considered 4
Disciples Need Guidance
Along with gift there will be guidance. An old but acceptable definition of faith is, 'stepping out on the revealed will of God'. In other words, while there are general rules that apply to everyone, individual guidance will depend on individual revelation. Many of those identified in Hebrews 11 are of this type.
For example, God said to Noah, "Make yourself an ark of gopherwood" (Gen.6.14). Noah did so - he acted on the revealed will of God and built an ark. The author of the Hebrew letter has a succinct style of writing, and he summed up Noah's experience and testimony in forty one words. "By faith Noah, being divinely warned of things not yet seen, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his household, by which he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith" (Heb.11.7)
Similarly Abraham, "By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going" (Heb. 11.8). This aspect of the revealed will of God is crucial. Without guidance we would be adrift in an ocean of choices without a compass. The Christian life if not easy, and every person needs divine help to direct their lives into the areas that will be the most beneficial. Such guidance will also serve to motiviate and energise their work for the Master.
Examples from the Book of Acts
The first historical book of Church history gives us several examples of gifted people who received particular guidance in the performance of their ministry. Philip, the evangelist, was guided by the Spirit to Samaria; and the beginnings of an awakening were soon evident. Later he was directed to a traveller on the road to Gaza. As a result of the exposition of Isaiah 53, the African statesman was converted and baptised, and the Church in Ethiopia begun. In the course of time the home of Philip became a place of comfort and blessing to the Lord's people, including Paul.
Then there was Ananias, who was directed to commission Saul of Tarsus (Acts 9.10 ff). He delivered his message faithfully, laying hands on him and restoring his sight. Ananias, like others, received guidance to aid him in the discharge of his gift. He was instructed to go to a particular house in a street called Straight, and although reluctant, he responded to the persuasions of the Lord. There he found a blind Rabbi praying; it was Saul of course. Soon the blind man could see, and filled with the Holy Spirit preached Christ in Damascus.
And we cannot overlook the gifted Peter who was guided to go to Caesarea to speak to Cornelius. He too was reluctant but the instructions were very particular. The Spirit of God said to him, "Behold, three men are seeking you. Arise therefore, go down and go with them, doubting nothing; for I have sent them" (Acts 10.19,20) Peter obeyed and the door of salvation was opened to the Gentiles, an important event that was critical in the progress of the gospel.
Each of these disciples was guided individually by the Spirit of God to areas where their gift was of maximum use.
Next Time: Along with Gift and Guidance there will be Grace.
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
Discipleship Considered (Continued)
Disciples will be People with Gift (Ability)
Disciples will be People with Gift (Ability)
Those that are commissioned will be equipped, they will be gifted. It may mean that they have an aptitude for a particular service that the Lord enhances and consecrates, or it may mean a special ability given above and beyond natural expertise. In any case, it will be evident that it is a spiritual capability provided by the Spirit of God. Of course, not all disciples will have the same gift, but each will be equipped to do the service that God has called them to do. Some will be gifted to the degree that they themselves will be God's gift to the Church, as it is recorded in Paul's letter to the Ephesians. "And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ." (Eph. 4.11-13)
There are other ministries also recorded in the New Testamant, important ministries, that we may be called upon to fulfil. In Romans Paul mentions some of them, describing both their diversity and unity. Diversity inasmuch as he list different gifts: and unity declaring they are all part of the one body, the body of Christ, the Church. "For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them; if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness." (Rom. 12.2-8)
And he would remind us that these are gifts that are granted by the Spirit of God; therefore there is no room for the gifted to think more of themselves than they should. - they did not earn the gifts, they received them through the grace of God. No place for unsanctified pride here! And for the gifted there is always the one caution: God expects them to be faithful in the exercise of that gift.
Next time : 'Along with gift there will be guidance'.
Posted by Mountjoy at 7:13 PM
Monday, January 11, 2010
Discipleship Considered (Continued)
A Disciple Must Have a Commission
A Commissioned Disciple can leave the future safely in the hands of Jesus
The aspect of knowing the end from the beginning is a particular quality of deity, for the Lord declared, "I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like Me, Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things that are not yet done, Saying, 'My counsel shall stand, And I will do all My pleasure'" (Isa.46:9,10)
For some privileged disciples, like Peter and Paul, there is given an indication of their future; but for most of us we must serve without knowing what tomorrow will bring, but secure in the knowledge that the ultimate outcome is in the hands of Jesus, and we must be obedient to Him who has a long-term aim that will be successful.
Jesus, in His position as the eternal Son of God and Coming King has titles that reflect this quality of deity. He said, "I am the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End" (Rev.1:8) and "I am the ... First and the Last" (Rev.1:11). The language of Scripture is always precise, and here it states that the One that John saw while in the spirit on the island of Patmos encompassed the past and the future all in the present.
While the immediate future is important, it needs to be a strategy that is longer term. The successful chess player has an end-game strategy in mind from an early staage and there comes a point when most of his moves are made with the end in mind. Those in the service of the Lord can be confident that He is working with the end in mind, that is, He is working toward a goal that will ultimately display the many-faceted wisdom of God.
Next Time: Disciples will be People with Gift
Posted by Mountjoy at 6:59 PM
Monday, January 4, 2010
A Disciple must have a commission
The Particular Commission
The Particular Commission
Last time we considered the disciples general commission. This time we need to consider if a disciple can expect a particular commission, that is, a word from the Lord to point him/her in a particular direction.
It has been said, 'if you aim at nothing you will surely hit it'. Having a commission means we have been given something to aim at. But the general must encompass the particular. The 'great commission' is very wide ranging, and is directed to the Church in totality, but each individual must find their place in the greater scheme of things. The 'greats' of the Bible were given particular commissions and we must follow in their steps.
Paul's Damascus Road experience included an indication of his future service. This was re-enforced by Ananias, an agent of God, who had been instructed to welcome and encourage him. Ananias, knowing the reputation of Saul as a persecutor of believers protested, but the Lord said to him, "Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear my name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel". (Acts 9.15) This commission was going to be fraught with danger and the Lord prepared his servant accordingly. "I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name's sake." (Acts 9.16) The knowledge that his suffering was for the sake of his Saviour was a great help to the apostle as he trod the road of persecution. Knowing it was within the will of God gave him confidence that there would be a good outcome. He wrote: "For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us." (Rom.8.18)
Similarly Peter - Before he denied His Lord, as was foretold by Jesus, he was given a particular commission: "when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren". (Luke 22.32) This was in addition to the stewardship of the keys given to him in Matthew chapter 16. There is no doubt that Peter knew his particular place in the spread of the gospel, being described as the apostle to the Jews, which was confirmed by the used of 'apostle' as a personaltitle in his letters to the Jews of the dispersion.
Moreover, Jesus encouraged Peter by intimating that he would remain strong in the face of persecution and would not deny his Master in the same way as he did before the crucifixion. At the time he was restored and re-established in the ministry for which he had been chosen, Jesus gave him a glimpse of the end. "Most assuredly, I say to you, when you were younger, you girded yourself and walked where you wished; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish. This He spoke, signifying by what death he would glorify God." (John 21.18,19) Jesus told Peter that whatever he had to face he would not die until he was old, and that when the time of his decease arrived his conduct would glorify God. How this must have been a help for him, all the years that he travelled telling others of the person and work of the Messiah.
More next time ...
Posted by Mountjoy at 6:51 PM