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Note from the editor: This post by Jared Wilson originally appeared here at The Gospel-Driven Church July 29, 2013.

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But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves.

John 17:13

My friend Godwin Sathianathan preached at Middletown Church yesterday morning onMark 12:28-34, and one particular thing he said in his introduction landed on me especially heavily. He was talking about an old friend of his who was very strong for many years in church activities, discipleship groups, Christian conferences, and the like, but who ultimately left the faith, deciding Christianity was no longer for him. Godwin said that one thing that stood out to him about his friend was that his faith always seemed so burdensome to him.

Should it always be so? We all usually agree that to follow Jesus is to take up one’s cross, to constantly be doing battle against the flesh, to constantly be denying one’s self and resisting temptation and pursuing repentance. This is all hard work. Cross-carrying is not “happy go lucky” stuff. And yet, the love of Christ — love for Christ — for the Christian is seen as a more delightful experience than all the world’s charms and flesh-feedings. The very reason we take up our cross is not because dutiful religion is more fun than no religion but because we have tasted and seen that the Lord is good, that taking up our cross is better; it’s more freeing, not less. The yoke and burden Christ offers is easy and light.

Discipleship to Christ is very difficult. But it is incomparably joyful. Or ought to be. And the more we walk with Christ, the more sin we find to repent of, but the more joy we experience too. There is fullness of joy in him. The Spirit actually grows joy in us! So if my Christian life has no joy in it — ever — perhaps it is not the Christian life I’m living.

Note from the editor: This article by James Harvey originally appeared here at Ligonier Ministries.

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If you ask a Christian how to grow as a disciple, you may hear a wide range of suggestions: personal Bible study, one-on-one discipleship, small-group discipleship, men’s and women’s groups, attending conferences, campus ministries, community Bible studies, and so on. Within the past two decades, the Internet has grown to offer an abundance of additional resources. Audio and video presentations of sermons, seminary courses, and entire worship services are at our fingertips. We can all be grateful to God for these resources. To the degree that faithful, doctrinally sound study of God’s Word is taking place, all these endeavors will bear spiritual fruit. We are able to share in the gifts and graces of the church universal like never before.

A word of caution is in order, however. While God’s providence affords us unprecedented access to the teaching of the church universal, God intends our discipleship as Christians to be expressed in the church particular. When Jesus told His disciples that baptism was integral to the Great Commission, He was establishing the priority of the local church and Lord’s Day ministry in discipleship. Baptism signifies entrance into the visible church, and the most fundamental activity of the visible church is worship on the Lord’s Day. If we are not committed to a particular church, we cannot receive ministry nor give ministry as the New Testament envisions.

Consider some of the unique discipleship blessings that we find in committing to worshiping on the Lord’s Day with the local church:

A Foretaste of Heaven

It is wonderful to stream your favorite teaching with a cup of coffee in the comfort of your own home. It is sweet to meet at a friend’s home and study the Bible together. But neither private listening nor small-group study give the foretaste of the world to come as corporate worship does.

The corporate worship of the church is a foretaste of the future glory that awaits us in Christ. We hear God’s Word read, sing His praises, confess our sins, receive His grace, join our hearts in prayer, receive the Lord’s Supper, and place ourselves under the proclamation of His Word. And we do this together. What is happening spiritually when we gather like this? “[We] come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God” (Heb. 12:22). In this corporate worship, the church is like a mother, providing weekly shelter and refreshment from the wilderness of the world until the Lord Jesus Christ returns and makes all things new. Without this weekly gathering, we shrivel and die in the wilderness.

A Context for Love

An abundance of solid food does not ensure that any of it will be digested and used for nourishment. We need commitment to the local church to grow spiritually.

The goal of Christian discipleship is love (Mark 12:29–311 Cor. 13:1–132 Peter 2:5–7). The local church is the place where we grow in love over the long haul. Being a faithful church member is difficult. The people are not all like you. But, you grow to accept one another in love. If you spend any time among the same group of people, they will eventually disappoint you in some ways, or perhaps positively harm you. But you grow to forgive one another in love.

If you leave a church because the people are not like you or because you have been wounded, you have cut short the discipleship process before it has begun. The only legitimate lure that Jesus says we have for the world is the love that we manifest in our corporate life as a church: “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). This visible expression of love is rooted in gathering on the Lord’s Day as one body.

A Place to Give and Receive

God puts us in a local body of believers to share in the gifts and graces of that body, and this sharing (communion) is essential to discipleship. The local church is your spiritual family; you share mutually in burdens and blessings with one another. The local pastor is your pastor-teacher. He is God’s gift to you, and God will use him uniquely in your life when you receive his ministry regularly with faith and prayer. The elders and deacons are your elders and deacons. They are God’s gift to you to care for your body and soul. All these gifts are from God. How dare we say to any, “I have no need of you”? (1 Cor. 12:21).

I don’t think many Christians actually intend to neglect Lord’s Day worship. It just happens as we let other things draw us away from God’s people and God’s worship on Sunday. Before we know it, we are missing half of the corporate services of worship, waning in our love for Christ, and feeling disconnected from the church.

Pastors can be reticent to speak about the Lord’s Day, fearing perceptions of legalism or self-aggrandizement. But we need to be reminded through teaching and the example of church officers of the importance of the Lord’s Day for Christian discipleship. As Jesus said, “The Sabbath was made for man” (Mark 2:27). The Lord’s Day is designed by God to bless us. It is foundational to our Christian discipleship.

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Rev. James L. Harvey III is senior pastor of Evangelical Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Newark, Delaware.

Note from the editor: This blog post by Robby Gallaty originally appeared here at Replicate Ministries on October 7, 2013.

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2 Timothy 2:1-2:

“You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what

Imageyou have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.”

The second step in the Discipleship Process is to Implement the Principles of Christ

We must not only abide in the power of Christ, but we must also accept the principles of Christ. Paul tells Timothy to pass on “what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses.” The word witness here actually means, “martyr.” It’s the word for someone willing to die for his or her faith.

Paul is saying, “You can test what I’m saying by the witnesses. These men don’t just speak the Word or listen to the Word; these men are going to die for the Word of God. They are not just church attendees; these men are literally willing to die for their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.”

It’s one thing to stroll into church on Sunday morning and hear an uplifting word from God through the pastor. It’s another thing to live faithfully from Monday through Saturday. Are you putting the words you hear on Sunday into your life? Paul wanted to be sure that Timothy didn’t just hear the Word, but applied it faithfully to his life.

Deuteronomy 4:1 says, “Hear now, O Israel. The decrees and the laws I am about to teach you. Follow them so that you may live.” And in Deuteronomy 5:1, Moses summons all of Israel and says, “Hear, O Israel, the decrees and laws I declare in your hearing today. Learn them and be sure to follow them.

Scripture always makes a strong connection between hearing and doing or obeying. But there is a heresy being taught in churches today. It’s reflected in this attitude: “I can choose to get saved by Jesus today but put off obedience to Him until I die and go to heaven, right? Hey, I don’t really want to be like Jesus! I just want fire insurance, pastor. I just don’t want to go to hell.” I’m sorry but you cannot choose Jesus as Savior without acknowledging Him as Lord of your life.

A few years ago, I spoke to a youth group, and I told the students, “You don’t have to tell me what you believe; just let me watch what you do and I’ll tell you what you believe. Your life will prove (or disprove) the case for the faith you attest to. The way you live will show me if you are a believer or a disciple in Jesus Christ.”

Many relinquish parts of their Life to Christ, but not everything. It reminds me of the life changing night in the life of  theologian and historian F. B. Meyer. One evening he was invited to heard C. T. Studd, the famous cricket player (equivalent to an NFL Athlete today) share his testimony of why he abandoned the sporting world to serve alongside Hudson Taylor in the China Inland Mission. Studd spoke a phrase in his message that pierced Meyers’ heart:

“If Jesus Christ be God and died for me, then no sacrifice can be too great for me to make for Him.”

After the service, Meyer approached Studd and said, “It’s obvious that you have something I lack, something that I need. What is it?”

Studd responded, “Have you Surrendered Everything to Jesus Christ?”

Without thinking, Meyer replied, “Yes I have.” But he knew deep inside that he hadn’t.
The interaction with Studd caused great anguish in his heart that evening. During his prayer time that night, he logged in his journal the interaction with God. Meyer felt as if the Lord speaking directly to him, “Meyer, I want all the keys to your Heart.”

All the Keys?

“Yes, Meyer, I want all the Keys.”

That night, he took a ring of keys and offered them to the Lord, symbolizing his commitment to God. But he couldn’t fool God. There was still one key that was missing. It was as if the Lord rebuked him, “There is one key missing, and If I am not Lord of all, I am not Lord at All.” As the Lord turned from him, he yelled, “Lord don’t Leave! Why are you Leaving?”

“Meyer, If I am not Lord of All, I am not Lord at All.”

But Lord, its just a small key, a very insignificant place in my Heart!

For the third time he heard, “If I am not Lord of All, I am not Lord at All.”

Meyer’s life would never be the same from the experience that night. Before he stood up, he wholly surrendered his life to the Lord Jesus—his career, his desires, his future,  his thoughts, his dreams, his plans, his heart, and his mind.

Have you Done that? Have you given him all the Keys to your Life?

What could God do with your life if you surrendered it to him?  

Next week, we’ll get into the Nuts and Bolts of Making Disciples.

Stay tuned for part 3…

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Robby Gallaty (Ph.D.) is the Senior Pastor of Brainerd Baptist Church in Chattanooga, TN, and the Founder of Replicate Ministries. He is the author of Creating an Atmosphere to Hear God Speak, Unashamed: Taking a Radical Stand for Christ, and Growing Up: How to Be a Disciple Who Makes Disciples (Coming November 2013).

“Just do something.”  Those words where ringing in my ears as I took my seat on the plane from Beijing to Tokyo.  I conveniently changed seats with one of my traveling companions, which put me in the unfortunate middle seat!  Not only did he subject me to the middle seat but he also made sure I was aware that God might use my new situation as a gospel opportunity.  This was obviously his way of making himself feel better!  I’m not sure he or I knew at the moment how prophetic that comment truly was.

I sat down with one thing on my already jet-lagged, sleep-deprived mind, “I just want to get some sleep.” Well, it turns out that God did have other plans for the three-hour plane ride.  Sleep would have to wait.  The seat beside me was soon occupied by Sam; a kind, friendly, and talkative individual from D.C. who works in the space industry.  Needless to say, based on his line of work, Sam is quite intelligent.  This is where those words “just do something” come into play.  About 24hrs earlier I sat and observed a Q&A with David and Francis in Beijing.  During that time they were asked some questions concerning making disciples and spreading the gospel.  To one question Francis gave a somewhat comical, but entirely serious answer, “just do something.”

As those words rang in my ears I knew I wasn’t going to be able to sleep on the plane.  I was going to do something and engage Sam with the gospel.  One simple question, “Are you are follower of Christ?” led to a three hour discussion of the Christian faith.  Sam asked me just about every hard question one can think to ask.  Over the next three hours I did the best I could to give evidence for the existence of God, to answer the problem of evil, and even to address whether or not Sam was going to hell apart from Christ.  It was not easy, and I know my answers were inadequate at times, but Sam politely listened.  I think I was given the opportunity to correct a lot of misunderstanding in Sam’s mind concerning Christianity, and even help offset the stereotype he had regarding Christians. For that I’m grateful. I’m grateful for Sam’s willingness to engage with me in conversation, and even appearing to be open to being wrong.  I’m grateful for what Francis said the day before that God used to compel me in this situation.

The reality is, I’ve been given this same opportunity many times, and many times I’ve gone to sleep or devised some other rationale for not doing something.  In this situation, by God’s grace, I did something. I can’t express the joy that comes with simply being obedient in that moment; a joy I’ve experienced many times but tend to easily forget. Do you feel stuck?  Do you feel like you don’t know where to begin? Let me urge you, just do something. You won’t regret it.

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This story was written by Cory, one of the members of the Multiply team traveling with David and Francis in Asia.

Join us on November 8 for Multiply.  We will live stream our gathering from Austin, TX.  It’s free and easy for churches, small groups, and families to participate.  Register by going to MultiplyMovement.com.

Francis, David, and the team have been privileged to meet with pastors and leaders from China and Japan this week.  Here are some of the pictures from their time in Asia thus far.  Please continue to be in prayer for them and for the Church in Asia as they are making disciples who are making disciples…

Register for Multiply in November  – If you haven’t registered for the Multiply Gathering from Austin, Texas, we encourage you to join us.  Registration is free and easy to do on our website.

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David preaching outside of Beijing, sharing how God has used the people of China to shape his life.

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House church leaders speaking with the team about the challenges that face the Church in China. The Church is growing due to evangelism but there is a great need for ongoing discipleship.

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David and Francis had the privilege to meet with many believers in Japan to encourage them through the Word and in prayer.

The Lord of Grace

multiply-emblem1.jpgSalvation is all about the grace of God. There is absolutely nothing that you can do to save yourself or earn God’s favor. Paul said, “By grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Eph. 2:8–9). No one can brag about his or her good deeds because our works cannot save us. Salvation comes through the grace of God as we place our faith in Jesus Christ. All salvation requires is faith: Do you believe that Jesus is who He says He is?

But keep in mind that while this is simple, it’s not easy. Faith in Jesus Christ means believing that He is Lord (according to Rom. 10:9). Have you ever thought about what that word Lord means? We sometimes think of it as another name for God, but it’s actually a title. It refers to a master, owner, or a person who is in a position of authority. So take a minute to think this through: Do you really believe that Jesus is your master? Do you believe that He is your owner—that you actually belong to Him?

Paul is so bold as to tell us: “You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body” (1 Cor. 6:19–20). The same Lord who by His grace set us free from sin and death now owns us. We belong to Him, and He calls us to live in obedience to His rule.

The problem is, many in the church want to “confess that Jesus is Lord,” yet they don’t believe that He is their master. Do you see the obvious contradiction in this? The call to be a disciple of Jesus Christ is open to everyone, but we don’t get to write our own job description. If Jesus is Lord, then He sets the agenda. If Jesus Christ is Lord, then your life belongs to Him. He has a plan, agenda, and calling for you. You don’t get to tell Him what you’ll be doing today or for the rest of your life.

It All Comes Down to Love

But don’t get the impression that following Jesus is all about joyless sacrifice. More than anything else, following Jesus boils down to two commands, which He said were the most important commandments in the Old Testament Law:

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets. (Matt. 22:37–40)

It all comes down to love. Peter expressed it well for people like us, who didn’t see Jesus on earth but follow Him nonetheless: “Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory” (1 Pet. 1:8).

Following Jesus is not about diligently keeping a set of rules or conjuring up the moral fortitude to lead good lives. It’s about loving God and enjoying Him.

But lest we think that we can love God and live any way we want to, Jesus told us very clearly, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15). The love for God in the first commandment is made practical in the love for our neighbors in the second commandment. John actually told us that if we don’t love the people that we can see around us, then we don’t love God, whom we can’t see (1 John 4:20).

True love is all about sacrifice for the sake of the ones you love: “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers” (1 John 3:16). When we Multiplyunderstand love in this light, it’s not difficult to understand that love for God and obedience to Jesus Christ cannot be separated. God’s love changes us from the inside out and redefines every aspect of our lives.

This excerpt was taken from Part 1, Session 1 of the Multiply material. You can purchase it wherever books are sold, or you can download it from the Multiply website.

Screen Shot 2013-06-24 at 4.10.04 PMAs much as we can, we like to point you to other voices that offer different, but like-minded perspectives on disciple-making. Barry Cooper is one such voice. Currently, he is in the middle of a five-part series on the 9Marks blog. In each of the five posts, Cooper discusses a different reason that churches and individual Christians may not be discipling well.

The point is not to be negative or focus on weakness, but Cooper realizes that unrealized problems are rarely ever fixed. So take his reasons we don’t disciple and make them starting blocks from which you and your church can begin to disciple better.

You can access part 1 here. Be sure to keep up with the rest of his five insights for more eye-opening aid in your struggle to persevere as a faithful disciple-maker.

9Marks is a great ministry that focuses on building healthy churches. For more about them, explore the rest of their super helpful website.

Multiply EmblemHope is making disciples in Canada, but it isn’t going exactly like she expected. Outmatched, overwhelmed, and underprepared, she is being hit with the reality of her own inadequacy and desperate need for God. Here’s her story, in her own words.

I’d like to share my discipleship story and ask you to pray for me.  Last fall, I began to ask the Lord to bring people into my life that actually wanted to be discipled. I live in a “religious” part of our Canadian province, and many people just don’t want to be discipled.  Life is just too busy for that!

So, around Christmas time, I felt a gentle nudge to befriend a lady who had tragically watched her husband drown while saving their only child and, as a result, suffered from post traumatic stress.  We connected, and God has greatly blessed both of us in our friendship.  But, it hasn’t been what I thought it would be.  It’s slow going and certainly requires lots of grace and patience.  She seems to be seeking God and searching, truly hungry for love, but is presently looking in earthly relationships to fill this void.  She is also being pursued by a married “Christian” man. 

Then, shortly after Christmas, a friend that I hadn’t been connected with for a long time was brought back into my life.  She apologized to me for the way she had treated me and then proceeded to tell me her story, which she had been attempting to suppress for years.  She had been sexually abused for many years, starting when she was four years old.  Currently, her “Christian” husband is being unfaithful to her and telling her that she is the reason he is doing this.  She believes this and is broken-hearted that she is the cause for “ruining” a godly man.  SO much pain and damaged emotions wrapped up in this precious lady’s life.  Amazingly, God has opened the way for her to accept a few truths from me.  However, she does not believe that God is good right now, so trusting Him is an issue.

I truly believe that God has answered my prayer by giving me these two ladies as disciples, and I believe He is going to do great healing and bring them into His Light and Life.  Will you please pray that I will abide in Him and have wisdom, love, patience, and grace in the process. 

This is not what I expected discipleship to be like at all, but it is amazing to know that Christ is living through me.

Screen Shot 2013-06-06 at 4.25.58 PMIn our last post, we highlighted a story about two young engineers who have their sights set on reaching people in their community with the good news of Jesus. How are Mitch and Cory engaging the community they live in? By being Cub Scout leaders. However, another true answer would be, in the context of a missional community. If you read their story, you may have noticed this phrase, and you may or may not have been familiar with it. If it seemed peculiar or mysterious to you (and for that matter, even if it didn’t) we’d like to draw your attention to an article written by Texas pastor Todd Engstrom in which he explains.

Engstrom’s article is titled, “What Makes a Missional Community Different?” Different than what? A community group, a Bible study, and a small group, for starters, though he’s not saying that those terms are wrong or that the term “missional community” is right. Yet generally, Engstrom also shows how the ideas behind missional communities are different from the idea that someone should attempt to make disciples lone-ranger-style. The difference is huge, and if we are seeking to effectively make disciples as the body of Christ, we would do well to consider some of the vital truths and practical help that Engstrom offers as he encourages missional communities… whether we call them that or not.

Screen Shot 2013-05-28 at 10.44.39 AMMitch and Cory work as engineers in Huntsville, Alabama. However, you may not peg them as young professionals from seeing where they live or what they do in their free time. Through God’s providential hand, they are now making disciples where they least expected to.

“It all started with a simple question, ‘Would you guys be interested in helping out with Cub Scouts?’ I think we literally laughed in Keri and Shellie’s face,” says Mitch.

What began as doubtful laughter turned into grace-drive service. Let me introduce you to Mitch and Cory – not the engineers, but the Cub Scout leaders. Here’s their story.

For more information about Shattered, the magazine that published this article, be sure to check out their website.

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