Discipleship 201 #2 – Small Group Questions

Here are some verses and questions for when you are getting together with your small group.

Transformed Mind
Read: Colossians 2:8; Colossians 3:1-4; 2 Corinthians 10:4-6

  • What are some of these philosophies or human traditions that we have to deal with?
  • What kind of weapons has Jesus given to us to destroy these arguments?

Transformed Character
Read: Matthew 4:1-11

  • What does Jesus’ reaction on the three temptation say about His character?
  • How do the three temptation relate to 1 John 2:16, and what does that mean for us?

Transformed Relationships
Read: 1 Corinthians 13:4-8, Jude 1:20-21

  • How does 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 relate to the Fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23)?
  • What does it mean to “keep yourself in the love of God”?

Transformed Habits
Read: 2 Timothy 2:3-6; 1 Corinthians 9:24-27

  • What do the three analogies of the soldier, athlete and farmer mean?
  • How do you exercise self-control in all things?

Transformed Service
Read: Matthew 6:24; Titus 3:14

  • What are possible masters in your life that you need to get rid off?
  • What are good works that are needed in your city or neighborhood?

Transformed Influence: Lead the Way Jesus Led
Read: John 13:1-11; Acts 4:5-13

  • What does Jesus’ washing of the disciples’ feet tell you about influence and/or leading?
  • How did the apostles’ discipleship by Jesus affect their mission?

Discipleship 201 #1 – The Marks of a Disciple

These are my teaching notes of yesterday evening.

Back in March I gave a teaching called “Discipleship 101” where I tried to provide a definition for what it means to be a disciple of Jesus. The teaching notes for this can be found here:

In summary, a disciple of Jesus can be defined in the following five points:

  • A disciple is a reborn follower of Jesus (Matt. 4:18-20; Matt. 8:18-22; Jn. 10:27);
  • A disciple submits to at least one other person who teaches him how to follow Jesus (1 Pet. 5:5; 2 Tim. 3:10-11; 2 Tim. 2:2; 1 Cor. 4:15-16; Eph. 5:21);
  • A disciple learns Jesus’ words (Jn. 18:31-32; Ps. 19:7-8; Ps. 1:1-3; Ps. 119:11);
  • A disciple imitates Jesus’ life and character (2 Cor. 3:18; 1 Tim. 4:7; Gal. 5:22-23,25; Lu. 14:25-27,33);
  • A disciple finds and teaches other disciples who also follow Jesus (Matt. 28:18-20; Matt. 9:36-38);

This teaching can be considered the follow-up, Discipleship 201, and discusses the transformational aspects (or marks) of when you imitate Jesus’ life and character.

Beholding the Glory of the Lord
According to John 15, we need to be abiding in Jesus, in order to bear fruit, we so we can become like Him, be transformed in His image. Since we are in Christ, we have a new regenerated heart from which we can live, with the help of the Holy Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3:18 says it like this: “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

I think there are three questions that Paul wants to answer for us here:

How are we being transformed? – “with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord
We are transformed into His image by looking at His glory. How do we get an unveiled face? Paul tells us two verses earlier: “But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed” (2 Corinthians 3:16). You become what you constantly behold. It is about fixing our gaze on Him, look at Him, think about Him, and put Him before us again and again. This is key to becoming like Him.

To what are we being transformed? – “transformed into His image
As we look into God’s mirror, we will be changed into the same image of the Lord. When we spend time beholding the glory of the God of love, grace, peace, and righteousness, we will see a transforming growth in love, grace, peace, and righteousness. We are being transformed – progressively, degree by degree – into the image of Christ the Lord. This work of transformation is a process. We are becoming like Christ. We are growing in our capacity to show Christ by being like Christ. That is God’s will for us. That we be progressively be conformed to the image of Christ.

Who is doing the transforming? – “For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit
With these last words, Paul is emphasizing two things. First, this access to God and His transforming presence is ours by the new covenant, because it is through the new covenant we are given the Spirit of the Lord. Secondly, this work of transformation really is God’s work in us. It happens by the Spirit of the Lord, not by the will or effort of man. We don’t achieve or earn spiritual transformation by beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord. We simply put ourselves in a place where we can be transformed by the Spirit of the Lord.

So if we are to be transformed into the image of Jesus, what is it that will be transformed:

  1. Transformed Mind: Believe What Jesus Believed
  2. Transformed Character: Live the Way Jesus Lived
  3. Transformed Relationships: Love as Jesus Loved
  4. Transformed Habits: Train as Jesus Trained
  5. Transformed Service: Minister as Jesus Ministered
  6. Transformed Influence: Lead the Way Jesus Led

Transformed Mind: Believe What Jesus Believed
We need to be transformed to have the same mind as Jesus. Believe what He believes. It’s one thing to believe in Jesus. It’s quite another to believe what Jesus believed. And the first cannot be what it should be without the second. The key verse here is Romans 12:2: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” The world (in other words, the popular culture and manner of thinking which is in rebellion against God – will try to conform us to their pattern, yet we need to resist this process. Renewing the mind has not as much to do feeling nor with doing. A life based on feelings says: “How do I feel today? How do I feel about my job? How do I feel about my wife? How do I feel about worship? How do I feel about the preacher?” A life based on doing says: “Don’t give me your theology. Just tell me what to do. Give me the four points for this and the seven keys for that.” It is not that God is against either feeling or doing, but rather we should ask “What is true here? What does God’s Word say?” It also not necessarily mean to get more knowledge (or better knowledge), for Ephesians 4:23 says that we should “be renewed in the spirit of your minds,” but it is the ability to set our mind on the right things.

Some more verses for personal study on the mind: Psalm 26:2; Proverbs 28:26; Matthew 16:23; Luke 24:45; 1 Corinthians 2:16; Philippians 2:2, 4:7; Colossians 3:2; 1 Peter 3:8.

Transformed Character: Live the Way Jesus Lived
We need to be transformed to have the same character as Jesus. Character being defined best in this case as maturity. The key verse here is Romans 5:3-4, which says, “More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope” From suffering to endurance to character to hope. This is sort of a golden chain of Christian growth and maturity. One virtue builds upon another as we grow in the pattern of Jesus. We build character through endurance (or perseverance) which comes through suffering (or trial). James says it like this: “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (James 1:2-4). When it comes to daily worldly opposition trials fall under the three categories of the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the boastful pride of life (2 John 2:16). And if you think this is a new thing, consider that these three were exactly what caused Eve to sin in the garden. We read in Genesis 3:6, “So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food [lust of the flesh], and that it was a delight to the eyes [lust of the eyes], and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise [boastful pride of life], she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.

Some more verses for personal study on character: Matthew 4:1-11

Transformed Relationships: Love as Jesus Loved
We need to be transformed to show the same type of love in our relationships as Jesus did. The key verse here is John 13:34-35: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” The Greek word for new (kainos) here implies freshness rather than recent or different. It’s for instance also used in 2 Corinthians 5:17 (“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation“). It’s not that Jesus just invented this command, but that He presents it in a new and fresh way. So what’s so fresh about it? Whereas the Old Testament demanded that men should love their neighbors as themselves (Lev. 19:18), the New Commandment is that they should love the brothers better than themselves, and die for their friends. The command to love wasn’t new, but the extent of love just displayed by Jesus was new, as would be the display of the cross. Love was newly defined from His example.

Some more verses for personal study on love: 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a; 1 John 4:7-21; 1 John 5:3-4; Jude 1:17-21

Transformed Habits: Train as Jesus Trained
We need to be transformed to incorporate the same habits as Jesus. The key verse here is Luke 6:40: “A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher.” Training is not trying. We must not try, but train. Training means that we commit to rearrange our lives around the practices of Jesus. We don’t try to practice spiritual disciplines, but we train ourselves to implement them into our lives because Jesus did. And over time, through a patient process, we allow the positive effects of discipline to change us. We need to train hard, be disciplined, so that we will be perfected in unity with Jesus Christ (John 17:23), perfected in holiness (2 Corinthians 7:1), perfected in patience (1 Timothy 1:16), perfected in faith (James 2:22), perfected in love (1 John 4:12). We get encouragement for training and discipline by reading Paul’s statement in Philippians 1:6, “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

Some more verses for personal study on training: Proverbs 22:6; 1 Timothy 4:7-8; 2 Timothy 2:3-4; 2 Peter 1:5-7; 1 Corinthians 9:24-27

Transformed Service: Minister as Jesus Ministered
We need to be transformed to have the same servant heart as Jesus had. The key verse here is Galatians 5:13-14: “For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’.” Clearly, we can choose to use freedom as an opportunity for the flesh. That option (or danger) is open to us. We can take the glorious freedom Jesus has given us, spin it, and use it as a way to please ourselves at the expense of others. This is the antidote for using freedom as an occasion for the flesh. The flesh expects others to conform to us, and doesn’t care much about others. But when we through love serve one another, we conquer the flesh. This is exactly the pattern set by Jesus. He had more freedom than anyone who ever walked this earth did. Yet He used His liberty to through love serve one another. The idea is that as we naturally take care of ourselves, we should also take care of others.

Some verses for personal study on serving: Matthew 6:24; Mark 10:45; Luke 22:24-27; John 12:26; Romans 12:11; Romans 14:18; Hebrews 9:14; 1 Peter 4:10, Titus 3:14

Transformed Influence: Lead the Way Jesus Led
We need to be transformed to have the same influence as Jesus had. The key verse here is Matthew 5:13-16: “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” Disciples are like salt because they have a preserving influence. Salt was used to preserve meats and to slow decay. Disciples are like salt because they add flavor. Christians should have a preserving and flavorful influence on their culture. We are not only light-receivers, we are also light-givers. Jesus never challenged us to become salt or light. He simply said that we are – and we are either fulfilling or failing that given responsibility. The world will see the light of the kingdom through the good works done by Jesus’ disciples (and believers today), with the result that the Father who is in heaven will be glorified.

Some more verses for personal study on influence: Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 26:9-23; Philippians 2:5; Acts 4:5-13

What I Mean By Preaching

John Piper in a recent sermon “God So Loved the World, Part 2” explains preaching.

What I mean by preaching is expository exultation.

Preaching Is Expository
Expository means that preaching aims to exposit, or explain and apply, the meaning of the Bible. The reason for this is that the Bible is God’s word, inspired, infallible, profitable—all 66 books of it. The preacher’s job is to minimize his own opinions and deliver the truth of God. Every sermon should explain the Bible and then apply it to people’s lives. The preacher should do that in a way that enables you to see that the points he is making actually come from the Bible. If you can’t see that they come from the Bible, your faith will end up resting on a man and not on God’s word.

The aim of this exposition is to help you eat and digest biblical truth that will:

  • make your spiritual bones more like steel,
  • double the capacity of your spiritual lungs,
  • make the eyes of your heart dazzled with the brightness of the glory of God,
  • and awaken the capacity of your soul for kinds of spiritual enjoyment you didn’t even know existed.

Preaching Is Exultation
Preaching is also exultation. This means that the preacher does not just explain what’s in the Bible, and the people do not simply try understand what he explains. Rather, the preacher and the people exult over what is in the Bible as it is being explained and applied. Preaching does not come after worship in the order of the service. Preaching is worship. The preacher worships—exults—over the word, trying his best to draw you into a worshipful response by the power of the Holy Spirit. My job is not simply to see truth and show it to you. (The devil could do that for his own devious reasons.) My job is to see the glory of the truth and to savor it and exult over it as I explain it to you and apply it for you. That’s one of the differences between a sermon and a lecture.

Preaching Isn’t Church, but It Serves the Church
Preaching is not the totality of the church. And if all you have is preaching, you don’t have the church. A church is a body of people who minister to each other. One of the purposes of preaching is to equip us for that and inspire us to love each other better. But God has created the church so that she flourishes through preaching. That’s why Paul gave young pastor Timothy one of the most serious, exalted charges in all the Bible in 2 Timothy 4:1-2: “I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word.

What to Expect from My Preaching and Why
If you’re used to a twenty-minute, immediately practical, relaxed talk, you won’t find that from what I’ve just described.

  • I preach twice that long;
  • I do not aim to be immediately practical but eternally helpful;
  • and I am not relaxed.

I standing vigilantly on the precipice of eternity speaking to people who this week could go over the edge whether they are ready to or not. I will be called to account for what I said there.

That’s what I mean by preaching.

Acts #3 – The Healing and the Reaction

The Healing of the Lame Beggar
We read in Acts 2:46 that they were attending the temple every day. On one day when Peter and John were going to pray at 9 pm in the evening (which is apparently the hour of prayer) they saw a man lame from birth at the temple gate. We read that the beggar asks for alms, not healing, but that Peter replies that he will give him something far better instead. There are two ideas here to be identified. First, we need to recognize that this is a natural continuity of the work of Jesus Christ. In this case through the Holy Spirit through Peter and John. It is a continuation of what Jesus started in the Gospels. Secondly, this event could be considered the first miracle of the Church period. Both of these are comforting ideas. Another idea is that the lameness of humanity is the Church’s opportunity. Christianity came to give men life, to put them on their feet and to enable them to do without alms. They did not just give him an handout, they empowered him. They gave him a gift that canceled disability, communicated ability and created worship.

Peter’s Second Sermon
Peter’s second sermon is a response to the fact that all who witnessed the healing of the lame beggar were “were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.” (Acts 3:10). Again, like in his first sermon, Peter is addressing the Jews. He starts off by asking why the Jews are so amazed at this for Jesus performed all sorts of miracles when He walked the earth. Thereby saying that this miracle should not be ascribed to them but to Jesus. Again, he addresses that the Jews denied and killed Jesus (remember, Pilate tried to let Jesus go, but the crowd wanted Barabbas). Pharisees are the legalists, the literalists. They, to a fault, tried to take every detail of the Law and make a burden out of it. They were the extremists. The Sadducees were the opposite kind, they were the modernists, the liberals. They did not believe in the resurrection, and did not believe in angels, and did not believe in the supernatural. So during the life of Christ His conflict seemed to be in large measure with the Pharisees, because that was the power ruling block at the time. In the time shift here between that era and now, the primary power group were the Sadducees in the Sanhedrin. They were the ones that got unglued with a display of the supernatural. Certainly, the healing was a problem; but even more so the presentation that Jesus Christ rose from the dead was something that the Sadducees clearly could not handle. It went completely contrary to their whole position.

But then Peter says that the Jews “acted in ignorance” (Acts 3:17), although they were responsible and held accountable. Remember that Jesus says on the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34). The significance behind this idea is that ignorance makes the difference between premeditated murder and manslaughter. For manslaughter the remedy is the City of Refuge (Numbers 35:9-34). The principle here is that in ancient Israel there were no prisons or police force, and so six cities were appointed to where one could flee in case of manslaughter. A close relative thus became responsible to serve as the “avenger of blood,” (verse 12) and execute the divine sentence on a murderer. The cities of refuge were necessary, for fear that an angry relative take revenge on a person who killed a loved one inadvertently. This wise and humane system not only protected the innocent, but also secured Israel from the dangerous rounds of blood feuds common in many societies. One could hide in a City of Refuge until the High Priest died. Remember that all of Scripture talks about Jesus? Put Jesus in the center here and you will see that we all by our sins are responsible for the manslaughter of Jesus, that we should be kept safe from the Avenger of Blood (God the Father), and are in need of a City of Refuge. Who is our City of Refuge? Jesus. Who long can we stay there? Until Jesus (our High Priest) dies. When is that? Never! Once you are in the City of Refuge you are kept safe forever from the penalty of sin. Wow, what a security!

Peter then promises three results of repentance: (1) forgiveness of sins; (2) times of refreshing from the presence of the Lord; and (3) the sending of Jesus Christ, which refers to His Second Coming of which Peter then continues to talk about. In Luke 4:16-20, at the start of His ministry, Jesus quotes from Isaiah 61:1-2, but notice that when you read Isaiah 61:1-2 that Jesus does not finishes the second verse, but stops at the comma. Jesus did not include “and the day of vengeance of our God” because the display of his wrath awaits Christ’s second coming. But to “proclaim liberty to the captives” is a reference to the Year of Jubilee (Leviticus 25:10). The Jubilee year is very important to God. The Sabbatical year was so important the God put Israel into slavery for 70 years for not obeying the law. (2 Chronicles 36:21). In any case, Peter makes it clear that Jesus will remain in heaven until the times of restoration of all things, and since the repentance of Israel is one of the all things, there is some sense in which the return of Jesus in glory will not happen until Israel repents. Peter is essentially offering Israel the opportunity to hasten the return of Jesus by embracing Him on a national level, something that must happen before Jesus will return (Matthew 23:37-39; Romans 11:25-27). The main thrust of Peter’s sermon is that this is the natural outcome of their history. To the extent that they understood the Old Testament, they should not be surprised.