The Shape of Our Faith

Path2

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

The Loyalty of Ittai

Loyalty2 Samuel 15:21 – But Ittai replied to the king, “As surely as the Lord lives, and as my lord the king lives, wherever my lord the king may be, whether it means life or death, there will your servant be.”

Meet Ittai

Who was Ittai? He was a foreigner. He was an exile. He had barely even been with David. And so David, right before the going got tough, told Ittai to leave while he could; this wasn’t his fight. David even sent Ittai and his countrymen off with a blessing.

But Ittai’s loyalty ran deep. We don’t know why, and I’m not sure it even matters. Ittai responded to David with these words,

As surely as the Lord lives, and as my lord the king lives, wherever my lord the king may be, whether it means life or death, there will your servant be.”

David clearly recognized and appreciated this loyalty and so honored Ittai by permitting Ittai, including his men and their families, to stay on.

This kind of loyalty seems rare today. Whenever I see such displays in a movie or book, they virtually jump off the screen or page at me, demanding to be noticed and honored.

Loyalty to Christ

I wonder how many followers of Christ would follow their Lord wherever he may go and to whatever end. What makes this so difficult is our Lord goes everywhere. He goes into our families, homes, workplaces, thought-lives, churches, TV rooms, cars, grocery-store checkout lines, cultural battles, conversations, and on and on and on. Not only does he go to those places but he claims Lordship over them. And his claim is not an empty one. He has been given authority in those places. Ephesians 1:22 says,

And God placed all things under [Christ’s] feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church…”

Christ is the King over all things, the Lord over every sphere of life. That’s simply a fact about reality. And yet there is a sense in which, in this present age, he is still seeking to extend his Kingdom into every sphere of life. It’s part of the “already and not yet” nature of his Kingdom. What is so astonishing is that he calls those of us who are his followers to be the very ones who extend his Kingdom. Through us! Truly amazing!

You Will Have to Die

The question is, will we be loyal and faithful to our Lord as Ittai was to King David? Will we follow our Lord to whatever end? We don’t have to guess as to whether or not there will be death. There will be. That’s an up-front promise by our Lord himself.

First and foremost there will be death to self. For there to be fruit a seed must die. For Christ’s followers to bear fruit for our King, we must die – to ourselves, our sin, agendas, self-centeredness, egos, idols, and so forth. Make no mistake about it, this is death and it can be quite painful.

And yet there is also the promise of life – real life, everlasting life, fullness of life. And this promised life is just as guaranteed as our death. For just as we die with Christ so too are we raised with him, to be and become as he now is.

The beauty of all this is found in the truth that our King has already been where he calls us to go. Furthermore, he has promised to travel with us to encourage, strengthen, and guide us along the way, the narrow way. That’s a comforting thought indeed.

Will you be loyal to your Lord and King? Will you follow him to whatever end?


Walking Points

• What’s your favorite example of loyalty from the movies or literature?
• Why is that your favorite example?
• What makes loyalty to Christ so hard in our world?
• What are three ways you can grow in your loyalty to Christ?
• What would such loyalty look like in your everyday life?
• Share your answers to these questions with a friend, and ask him what his answers are. Pray for one another.


Prayer

Ever faithful and loyal God, I praise you that you are steadfast in your commitment to me. You have promised you would never leave me nor forsake me. I ask you to please forgive me that I am not as committed to you. I have forsaken, disobeyed, and even been ashamed of you too many times to count. This realization and admission grieves me, though not nearly as much as it should. But I am grateful for your grace and your forgiveness and for another day to loyally serve you and your Kingdom. I’m clearly not up to it in my own strength, so please fill, direct, and empower me through your Spirit to be your man, your faithful ambassador in every sphere of my life, and to follow you wherever you may lead. 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

• Spiritual Warfare
• Growth in Christlikeness
• Increasing faithfulness in the spiritual disciplines
• My health
• For my ordinary appointments and activities to become divine appointments and activities.
• Other needs

Intercession – prayers for others

• My Family
• Mercy for those who are poor and hungry
• Justice for those who are oppressed and persecuted
• Love for those who oppress and persecute others
• Peace for those in the midst of war, crime, and violence
• Other needs

Dying So They May Live

John 12:24-26 – 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. [25] The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. [26] Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.

Hold On Loosely

In our scripture Jesus teaches his disciples he is going to die, but that he must if they would live. A kernel of wheat must die if it would produce many seeds.

Have you ever wondered why reformation and revival has not broken out across the church at large or yours in particular? There are perhaps many reasons, but one reason is we are holding on too preciously and tightly to our own lives, unwilling to die. Jesus said in order to reproduce many seeds we must die. Do we love our lives too much in this world?

The Rule

My life for yours. Genuine, substitutionary, and sacrificial living. Following and serving our King wherever he may lead, to whatever end. This brings honor from the Father. This glorifies the Father. This universal principle is the rule, not the exception, because it reflects the very character of the Lord we worship.

My life for yours. God calls us as Christian parents to train and nurture our children in the Lord – when they rise, when they go to bed, as they live throughout the day, when it’s convenient, when it’s inconvenient. We must make sure our children are not merely “taught at” but saturated in the things of God each day, all day, because they are eternal beings and heirs of the King. “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.”

Your Legacy

Are you leaving a godly legacy to and for your children and your children’s children for a thousand generations? Are you dying so they can live – really live? Can you think outside your individual life to see how your own death will extend the Kingdom of God by producing many seeds? Will you believe the promises God has made regarding faithful, covenantal parenting? Your life for theirs and for a thousand generations after them. Talk about a payoff!

But this is hard. That’s why it’s called death. Death to self. It is intentional, committed, disciplined. It’s every day, all day. It’s the discipling of your children because it is your joy, blessing, and responsibility before God to do so. Your life for theirs. The Kingdom of God grows in such ways. Darkness is engulfed by light through such ways. Reformation and revival are ushered in through such faith and obedience. God promises blessings to such as these.

But First You Must Die

Do with less stuff if it means more time with your family. Play with your children at the end of the day, even when you are tired. Discipline your children, even when you would rather not. Cast a God-glorifying vision before your children of who they could be for Jesus. Read great stories to your children so their imaginations are ignited as they put themselves in the places of the characters in the stories. Tell them about the heroes of the faith who have gone before them, so they might see how others have given themselves for Christ and his Kingdom.

Teach your children who God is – his person, plan, power, and purpose. Drive home again and again what the gospel is and is not (after all, we’re not trying to merely make better citizens or “behaviorally correct” robots). Teach and show them God’s grace. They must learn what it means to know, love, and follow Christ. They have to understand that the Christian faith is a total world and life view that addresses every sphere of life.

Create A Christian Culture

We are called to create Christian cultures in our homes through the power of God’s Word and Spirit, so our children will bring that salt and light influence into every other sphere of their lives for Christ. This is first and foremost the responsibility of Christian parents, not others, not even the church. Our lives for theirs. We must die so they can live.

Can we let go? Of our wants, things, desires, passions – our very lives? We must if we would find real life – abundant life – eternal life. Life in service to the King is not our own. It’s better. Only in dying are we raised. Only in dying are more seeds produced, and therefore, more fruit. Our lives for theirs.

Faithfulness Now

From our commitment and hard daily labor now, what might God do later in response? Might he use one of our children, (or one of our children’s children), to bring many to Christ, transform the culture, usher in reformation and revival in the church, extend the Kingdom of God as never before? We have every reason to believe he will! But we must die. We must fall to the ground and die. We must give our lives for our children’s lives, and for their children after them, so God may be pleased and choose to honor us by blessing those for whom we gave our lives.

My life for yours. Our lives for theirs. This is biblical faith.


Walking Points

• What makes dying to self so difficult, even for your children?
• What are some practical ways you can give your life for theirs?
• Write down some ideas of new things you can do to produce fruit in the life of your children.
• Discuss these ideas with two or three other men who will hold you accountable for putting your ideas into practice and who will pray for you and your children. Don’t wait to do this… start today.


Prayer

Heavenly Father, it’s hard for me to die to myself. And when I see all that my Lord Jesus sacrificially did on my behalf, it makes me feel even more ashamed that I’m not willing to do a fraction of that for those I love most in this world. Please forgive me. Create within me, by your grace-giving Spirit, a deep desire to pursue this sacrificial life and give me the strength and direction to live it out the rest of my life. I want to love and glorify you as well as lovingly bless my children. Give me a sanctified self-forgetfulness so I may truly put others, my children included, before myself. Remind me often that, “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.” In the name of the One who gave his all that I might live. 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

• My personal mission field
 Help me to identify those people who make up my personal mission field.
 Enable me to begin sharing the gospel with those who do not yet know you.
 Empower me to disciple those who are young in their faith.
 Allow me to encourage those who are struggling in their faith.
 Please give me perseverance in all areas of ministry.
• Today’s events and interactions with others, planned and unplanned
• Other needs

Intercession – prayers for others

• My family
• For missionaries throughout the world
• For those seeking to faithfully minister to loved ones at home
• For those who share the gospel in the inner city
• For those who bear witness to Christ in places of power
• Other needs

Starting Points (New Book)

Starting Points2The purpose of Starting Points is to introduce new Christians to the foundations they need to better know Christ and faithfully follow him as his disciples throughout their lives.

This introduction to the life of Christian discipleship focuses on six key components: Meet Jesus, New Life, Becoming More Like Jesus, A Disciple’s Life, Help for the Journey, and A Disciple’s Call.

This book was written with new membership classes and other small groups in mind. However, it can also be a helpful resource for one-on-one discipleship, sharing your faith with others, or for your own personal devotional time.

You can order it by clicking here.