A Model Disciple

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Ezra 7:6 – this Ezra came up from Babylon. He was a teacher well versed in the Law of Moses, which the Lord, the God of Israel, had given. The king had granted him everything he asked, for the hand of the Lord his God was on him.

Ezra 7:9-10 – He had begun his journey from Babylon on the first day of the first month, and he arrived in Jerusalem on the first day of the fifth month, for the gracious hand of his God was on him. [10] For Ezra had devoted himself to the study and observance of the Law of the Lord, and to teaching its decrees and laws in Israel.

Ezra, A Model Disciple

You may not know much about Ezra, though you’ve probably heard of him. He has a book in the Old Testament named after him. He exemplifies much of what I believe my own purpose is as a pastor. Yet more important than that, he is a model for all Christians.

Ezra was a descendent of Moses’ brother, Aaron, the chief priest. Ezra was a teacher, we’re told, who was well versed in the Law of Moses (Ezra 7:6). The end of verse 9 tells us the hand of God was on Ezra. Why? Because, according to verse 10, Ezra “devoted himself to the study and observance of the Law of the Lord as well as to teaching its decrees and laws in Israel.”

In other words, Ezra passionately studied God’s Word, lived God’s Word, and taught God’s Word to others.

Study, Live, Teach

Every Christian must first study God’s Word. This is obvious. This is where the pump is primed and fresh water is poured into the soul. This is also where the mind is renewed so it will become fertile ground for transformation later.

This leads to the next point – living God’s Word. If you don’t believe the teachings of God’s Word, nor trust in the God of those teachings, nor practice them each day, then one might ask why you are studying Scripture in the first place. The Word of God makes us wise for salvation, teaches us, rebukes us, corrects us, trains us in righteousness so that we may become thoroughly equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:15-17). We don’t study it to win Bible trivia contests or to impress our congregations. We study it so we may become more and more like Christ.

But Ezra did more than study it and live it – he taught it to others. He passed along his knowledge to those entrusted to his care. He taught them about their covenant God, how they could rightly relate to that God, and how they should live in light of that covenantal relationship. And it’s the fact that he faithfully studied and lived it that brought credibility and integrity to his teaching. You see, the goal of any disciple of Jesus Christ is to reproduce the life of Christ in the lives of others. This is accomplished through learning what it means to be a disciple of Christ, faithfully living that calling out each day, and then passing it along to others. It is sometimes described as, “pouring your life into another person.” Jesus put it this way in the gospel of John,
I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. (John 12:24)

For the Sake of Others

In a sense, we die to ourselves as we diligently study God’s Word, conform ourselves to its standards, trust in its promises, and then pass it along to others, even at personal cost. But any sacrifice offered is more than worth it because, as Jesus put it, it produces many seeds.

How do we pass along God’s Word to others? This can be done in a variety of ways. It can be shared with others from the pulpit, in a classroom, in a hospital room, in a counseling session, over lunch with a friend, around the family table at breakfast or dinner, or written correspondence. The list could go on and on.

Devoted

Finally, I love the spirit in which Ezra did all of this. The text says he devoted himself to it. He gave his life to it. He was committed to God’s Word in all its life-transforming fullness. And because he was so devoted, we learn that God’s hand was on him. God has appointed his Word as a primary means of grace (as it works with his Spirit) whereby we are enabled to intimately know God and his Son Jesus Christ, know about the character, attributes, and works of God, learn how to love and serve God and others, discover how to become more Christlike in our daily lives, as well the path to spend eternity with him.

God’s Word: Study It – Live It – Teach It to Others. Not a bad purpose statement for all of us. I want to be more like Ezra. How about you?


Walking Points

• Which of the three – studying Scripture, practicing it, or teaching it to others – do you find easiest for you? Why?
• Which is the most difficult? Why do you think that is?
• What are three ways you can grow in your weakest area?
• What are three ways you can help a fellow Christian grow in their weakest area?
• Write down the name of one person you can help learn God’s Word. Pray first and then contact that person today and set up an appointment to get together.


Prayer

God of all grace, I know I should regularly be reading, meditating upon, and studying your Word. When I have done so I have seen good fruit being produced in my own life. I know the better road to walk on this topic, and yet, all too often, I find myself acting lazy at best and willfully apathetic at worst. Both are testimonies of my sinfulness and I ask you to forgive me. I treasure time spent with you in your Word which causes me to wonder why it’s not something I regularly and joyfully spend time doing. Please, Lord, fill me with your Spirit and conform my desires to match your will for me. Give me an obedient heart that not only wants to spend time in your Word, but faithfully does so, even when I don’t “feel like it.” Thank you for the example of Ezra. I pray my life would be marked more and more by those same three marks that describe him: Studying your Word, living it out each day, and teaching it to others. Please help me Lord, for I will fail without you. For Christ’s sake and your glory I pray. Amen.


This Week’s Prayer Guide

[You can use this prayer guide in your own personal prayer time. However, I encourage you to use it with a group of Christian men. Each week you should spend time praising God for who he is, confessing your sin to him (be specific) as well as expressing gratitude to him for his gracious forgiveness. Also, don’t forget to thank God for the many ways he has poured out his goodness in your life. Then, focus on the following areas of supplication, which will change from week to week.]

Petitions – prayers for yourself

• Give me greater knowledge, depth of insight, and understanding of God’s Word.
• Remind me daily of who I am in Christ. Let me be defined by who God says I am, not the world around me.
• Guide me into greater understanding and faithfulness of God’s call in my life.
• This week’s events and interactions with others, planned and unplanned
• Other needs

Intercession – prayers for others

• My family
• My pastor(s), church staff, and missionaries
• Those struggling with anger, anxiety, or the overwhelming desire to please people at all costs
• Other needs

The Shape of Our Faith

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John 8:23-24, 31-32 – But [Jesus] continued, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. [24] I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins.”

To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. [32] Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

To the Point

Jesus rarely, if ever, beat around the bush. Time was precious to him, so he usually cut straight to the chase. He knew how to get the attention of his hearers. In our Scripture, Jesus shared with those to whom he was speaking several important facts about them and the world in which they lived.

  • They were worldlings (i.e., they operated under the dominion of Satan and the patterns of this sinful, fallen, enslaving world.
  • Jesus lived in the world but was not under its influence as they were. (in vs. of)
  • As such, they were going to die in their sins.
  • They must believe Jesus’ claims about himself if they were going to be rescued from dying in their sins.
  • To “believe” means more than (though not less than) simple intellectual recognition, or even acceptance of data.
  • To those who professed to believe in him (verse 31), Jesus said they must also “hold to his teaching.”
  • Therefore, only by genuine faith in Christ – which “holds to” (i.e., obeys) his teaching – can a person know the truth (Jesus is the truth, John 14:6, and so is God’s Word, John 17:17). It is also by this means of believing or faith that a person will, therefore, be set free from both the bondage and condemnation of sin.

We Have to Show Our Pearly Whites

True, biblical, and God-glorifying faith in Christ has teeth to it. It’s got a practicality that demands to be noticed. It’s unlikely the early church was so heavily persecuted and martyred simply because they intellectually accepted particular truth-claims about Jesus and then told others they needed to do the same.

Instead, because they believed Jesus was who he claimed to be and thus loved him, they therefore obeyed him. Put another way: They put their faith into practice.

As their faith in Christ permeated every sphere of their lives they began to be noticed by the worldlings around them. It was this authentic non-conformity to the world around them that led to their persecution. They refused to be “squeezed into the mold” of this world.

The Shape of Discipleship

If we would be people of the truth, we must be Christ’s disciples. If we would be his disciples, we must believe in him, trust him, and obey him. Nothing less is worthy of the One who is the true Lord and King of the universe, which includes this world.

The “Pretenders to the Throne” notwithstanding, (their reign, after all, is temporary), our allegiance must be to Christ alone. And that allegiance has a shape to it. It is not mere intellectual ascent of a few doctrinal propositions (though it includes that). It is not simply a warm-fuzzy feeling in the pit of your stomach. It is far more. Allegiance to Christ is incarnational. It has skin on it. It has teeth to it. If we would be his, we must submit to his Lordship – his absolute authority – by obeying him in every sphere of our lives. Only then can we rightly claim to be his disciples.


Walking Points

· How is obeying Jesus after you have placed your trust in him different than seeking to earn your salvation?
· In what areas of your life is it hardest to live faithfully as a Christian? Why do you think that is?
· What are three ways you can equip yourself to more faithfully “hold to” Jesus’ teachings in the various spheres of your life? What would faithfulness in each area look like?
· Take a minute to pray right now and then share your ideas with a friend who will also pray for you and hold you accountable.


Prayer

Heavenly Father, I know I cannot earn my salvation. I cannot, by my own efforts, merit your favor. I do not deserve the wonderful relationship with you that you have graciously called me to. And yet, O Lord, protect me from believing the lie that I don’t have to grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ. Please lead me away from thinking joyful obedience to your commands is not a sign of my love for you. To increasingly become more like your Son will mean conformity to his likeness in my thoughts, words, and deeds. Yet, in and of myself, I cannot move in that direction. I humbly ask you to fill me more and more with your Spirit so I can become the man you have created, redeemed, and called me to be. In Christ’s name I pray. Amen.


This Week’s Prayer Guide

[You can use this prayer guide in your own personal prayer time. However, I encourage you to use it with a group of Christian men. Each week you should spend time praising God for who he is, confessing your sin to him (be specific) as well as expressing gratitude to him for his gracious forgiveness. Also, don’t forget to thank God for the many ways he has poured out his goodness in your life. Then, focus on the following areas of supplication, which will change from week to week.]

Petitions – prayers for yourself

· Help me to grow in wisdom and become who you created and redeemed me to be.
· Renew my mind and enable me to cultivate a godly perspective and attitude regarding the various spheres and circumstances of my life.
· Today’s events and interactions with others, planned and unplanned
· Other needs

Intercession – prayers for others

· My family, immediate and extended
· Those struggling with sin, illness, or relational difficulties
· Other needs