Welcome to the Mountjoy Ministries Blog

This blog was authored by Bryan W. Sheldon, author and Bible teacher. His books are listed below. The studies in the blog are offered in the desire that they may be helpful in directing readers to the truths contained in the Bible.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Discipleship Considered 6

Discipleship Considered

Continuing in our series where we consider what constitutes discipleship, we again focus on discipline - this time the discipline of the mind.

Have the Mind of Christ

The Christian who makes a difference is called upon to have 'the mind of Christ', a mind that is not so much concerned with intelligence and fact gathering (although that is involved) as it is with character. Indeed, we are encouraged to exercise mental discipline, not simply to acquire information but to increase in wisdom to humbly walk with the Lord. Paul wrote:

"...whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy - meditate on these things" (Phil. 4:8)

'True', 'noble', 'just', 'pure', 'lovely'', 'of good report', these are the qualities that must stand out. Let this mental discipline be habitual.

Paul speaks of coming up against those who, with a worldly point of view and ungodly rhetoric, oppose the gospel and the servant of God. But those with the mind of Christ and the Word of God are able to resist and overcome such opposition.

"For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ" (2 Cor. 10:4,5).

In the Philippian letter, the importance of the inner self, summed up in the words 'heart' and 'mind', is highlighted even further by the offer of the help and protection of God. Paul advised:

"Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made know to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus" (Phil.4:6,7).

This is protection none can do without, and this promise is of the highest quality - a real five star provision. The heart and mind of the believer under the protection of God - that's the kind of insurance money cannot buy!

Read Your Bible

Although the Bible is the work of many different authors over many centuries, nevertheless it is clear that it is a special collection of books. Those who wrote the histories, prophecies and biographies were inspired by God Himself; therefore God is the real author of the Bible. This claim has been tested time and time again and found to be true. So if God has taken the trouble to write to us, then the least we can do is to read it. And if we are to have the mind of Christ, then there is no more important resource at our disposal. There is no other record of the teaching and actions of the incarnate God that that recorded in the Scriptures. And let's be frank, if the Bible has been authored by the Omniscient One, it must mean that it is the most important book that has ever been written and we neglect it at our cost. A crisis in the early church put a strain on leadership resources but the apostles said, "It is not reason that we should leave the word of God" (Acts 6:2). They knew the importance of the Scriptures. The book of Acts describes the progress of the preaching of the Word in the following terms:

"... they spake the word of God with boldness" (4:31).
"And the word of God increased" (6:7).
"Samaria ... received the word of God" (8:14).
"... the Gentiles had ... received the word of God" (11:1).
"... the word of God grew and multiplied" (12:24).
"... they preached the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews" (13:5).
"Sergius Paulus, a prudent man ... desired to hear the word of God" (13:7).
"And the next sabbath day came almost the whole city together to hear the word of God" (13:44).
"And he continued there (Corinth) a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them" (18:11).
"So mightily grew the word of God and prevailed" (19:20).
The progress of the gospel was measured in terms of the progress of the knowledge of the Word of God. How can we be true disciples, to witness to the Word, if we are weak in our knowledge of it? Let it be our meat and drink - let us read and digest it - let us obey and witness to it.
Read Christ-Glorifying Literature
How privileged we are in this current age. We have a larger and better supply of good Christian literature available to us now than any other generation of people at any other time. Men who walked closely with the Lord have written of their experiences and recorded them for our benefit. For a small sum of money we can purchase the written record of the wisdom of godly men and women. Let us not neglect the Bible, but also let us not neglect the words of discerning Christians who have trodden the path before us. We don't have to re-invent the wheel - we can learn from those who have preceded us. All of us stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before. But let us weigh up our reading matter. An application of Paul's advice surely applies, "avoid foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing they generate strife" (2 Tim.2:23). By that I mean - let us turn to those authors who speak well of the Saviour.
Next time we will examine the subject 'Discipline of the spirit'.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Discipleship Considered 5 (Continued)

Discipleship Considered

We continue with examining what can be called 'the Discipline of the Body'. We have suggested that to maximise the use of our physical resources we should eat right and exercise right. In addition, it is important to rest, that is, we should rest right.

Rest Right.

Where possible, sleep enough hours each night to allow the body to recover from the exertions of the day. Proper rest is not wasting time - it is a vital ingredient in the management of your physical resources. And, if possible, rise early in the morning and begin serving the Lord while you are still fresh. When God gave a task to Abraham the patriarch "rose up early in the morning" (Gen.22:3) to fulfil it. Give God the best hours of the day. And take a holiday now and again. These periods of rest and recreation can be used to sharpen up for God. You will accomplish more for the Saviour if you are not always tired. Joshua's army did not travel from battle to battle, but after each victory returned to Gilgal to rest and recover, where they cleaned their armour and sharpened their swords.

During a study of the ministry of the Messiah I thought it would be helpful if I used Watchman Nee's three key words, 'Sit, Walk, Stand', albeit in a slightly different way, to divide up the ministry of the Saviour. The amount of the gospels that is devoted to the Saviour's ministry while He was seated is quite a large percentage. For example, it would include the Sermon on the Mount and the Upper Room Discourse.

Edwin R. Roberts of Princeton Seminary once sat under a pastor who concluded his announcements, "I am not going to take a vacation this summer; the devil never does!" Roberts went home and re-read the Gospels to see what Jesus' attitude is. He found that of the Saviour's three years' active ministry, there were mentioned ten periods of retirement. Whose example are we following - Jesus' or the Devil's?

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Discipleship Considered 5 (Cont.)

Discipleship Considered

Exercise Right

We continue our study by speaking of the exercise of the body. Beyond the matter of diet is the matter of physical perseverance. Discipleship is not a short sprint - it is more like a marathon. Each day you have to say - I am ready to face anything the Lord puts in front of me. This is where the discipline of the body come in. Paul had to face physical deprivation and weakness on many occasions. But he was always ready and so should we be. He wrote:

"Do you know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things," following it with, "Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified" (1 Cor. 9:24-27).

The image of the athlete is repeatedly used in the New Testament. In the twelfth of Hebrews the competitor is running in a stadium with a great company of other athletes watching.

"Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us." (Heb.12:1)

It is an endurance race that will be won by the competitor who has followed a training schedule that brought his physique to top condition.

While these various pictures drawn from the games, are used to illustrate and emphasize spiritual truths, it seems to me that they might also have an application in respect of the need to maintain the body in good condition. I repeat, bodily exercise is profitable - maybe not as much as godliness, but it is profitable. I would repeat my word of caution. No-one should embark on a course of exercise that would cause physical distress. If there is any doubt, let us not be afraid to take medical advice; this is especially important for those with physical limitations.

Next time: 'Rest Right'.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Discipleship Considered 5 (Cont.)

Discipleship Considered

Dear friends, thanks for your consideration during the time I have been away from my desk, but now it is time for us to return to considering something of the subject of 'discipleship'.

A Matter of Discipline

We come to discipline next. The word has many negative connotations, but we are not concerned with that side of the subject. We are looking at that part of the training of a disciple of the Lord that is expected to produce a particular pattern of behaviour, expecially that which is expected to produce moral or mental improvement (that is one of the dictionary definitions of the word). Our interest is in self-discipline that will improve our ability to serve the Master.

Discipline of the Body

We begin with discipline of the body. While this area of discipline in not the most important, it is not unimportant. Keeping our physical frame in the best condition we can seems to be common sense. It is our first and most obvious resource and we will accomplish more for the Lord if we are not limited by physical problems. This does not mean that those who are disabled are disqualified from serving the Lord. It just means that for them also, they must do what they can to use what strength they have to fulfil His will in their lives.

But please note - all we are considering are general rules. Do not embark on a course of action that will bring about any level of distress. If there is any doubt, please seek medical advice first.

The Bible says, "Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For your were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body" (1 Cor. 6:19,20). Among other things, this means we should eat right, exercise right and rest right.

Eat Right
We should eat right. In this area of the physical the largest issue, certainly in western culture, is what and how we eat. It seems to me that food has a part to play in this area of discipline of the body. The diets of some of those who have been used of God are described in the Bible; Elijah's and John the Baptist, for instance.

On the principle expressed by practical James, if you cannot love your neighbour whom you can see, how can you love God whom you cannot see? By that, I mean that if you cannot exercise discipline in the physical realm (that which is visible), it is very unlikely that you will be one of God's wrestlers in the spiritual realm (that which cannot be seen). If a disciple of Christ does not eat correctly, then it is unlikely that he/she is exercising right discipline in the secret place. In one sense, our eating habits could be considered a visible barometer of the state of our commitment. That some of those who were delivered from Egypt longed for the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic that they had left behind indicated their lack of commitment to the Exodus and the purposes of God. Certainly the Scriptures expect our dining habits to be to the glory of God.

But we will not make more of it than we should. Remember, God always meets us where we are, not where we should be - you don't have to wait until you look good before you can serve the Master - get started, whatever your weight or appearance. Nevertheless, from now on, eat as if you were in table fellowship with the Saviour. The plaque 'Christ is the Head of this house' has the line that indicates He is the unseen guest at every meal.

Next time - 'Exercise right'