Sunday, October 30, 2011

Salvation Costs Nothing. Discipleship Will Cost You Everything.

Posted By: Steph Albright
As a little girl, I told Jesus I wanted a relationship with Him and wanted to give Him my life.

I understood, to the extent a five year old could, that Jesus loved me, I was (am) a sinner in desperate need of someone to save me from myself. That Jesus came to earth, died a terrible death that He did nothing to deserve and rose again to save me from my penalty- Hell, and to give me a purpose and relationship with Him in this life, and Heaven in the next.
But, honestly, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. No idea the weight of that moment. The reality that Holy Spirit had just come to live inside me. Changed everything about who I was. The commitment that He made to me, all His promises suddenly applied to me. Promises He made that He would never break. Promises that He'd never leave me. to complete His good work in my life. Promises of desire for me, desire for my affection and blessings, if I just trust and follow His will. Promises of eternal life, a place He was preparing that I would see when this life passes away. He gave the ultimate sacrifice of dying for me two thousand years ago, and yet Jesus commits Himself to me daily.


The God of this universe condescends to my level. my world. Commits Himself to a sinful, often rebellious, petty, human being and steps into my life. Isn't that crazy!? But just like any relationship- any good, healthy, exciting, fruitful relationship, it must not just be one sided. If its going to work, there must be commitment on the other side as well. We don't get to just take salvation and peace out, doing whatever we want till we die, expecting Jesus to make good on all his promises, while having done nothing to hold up our end of the relationship. So often we treat God like a pinata instead. We expect him to give us anything we want, beat him with prayer and requests for our lives and if we hit him enough, He's required to spill out blessings on us, fulfill requests, follow our every whim, while not doing anything ourselves.

I've been thinking about this subject a lot the last few weeks. I've given my life to Christ but what does that look like. Am i really doing it? Living totally for Jesus? Because, really, I do know what it looks like. I know what the Bible says about what my life should be. seen it lived out in the godly people that are around me. But can I say, in absolute honesty, confidence, that I've walked in a manner worthy of my calling (Ephesians 4)? as a bondservant of Christ? I was so convicted by a sermon I listened to the other day. This is a paragraph from the transcript. It hit me in a way no other analogy has talking about giving your life to the Lord:

"Do not quit. Do not quit. Otherwise, you’re like a woman who is all about a wedding, but not about a marriage. You’re like a woman who really enjoys her wedding day, and then once it’s completed, tells her groom, “We’re getting a divorce today.” The groom’s bewildered. “What do you mean?” “Well, I look good in white, I really enjoy getting my photo taken, I have an affinity for cake, and it was nice to see everyone, but fifty years seems like a long time.” And see, the metaphor of the Bible continually is that we’re like a bride and Jesus is like our groom, and some of us just want to have a wedding, but we don’t want to have a marriage. Getting married is easy. Fifty years is hard. Right? You raised your hand for Jesus at youth camp, you came forward, got baptized, you prayed the sinner’s prayer. Great, you got married. Now it’s fifty years of working it out."

Dang, thats crazy! I dont want to give up. I dont want to quit!
I'm so thankful for the grace of God in my failures.
He's faithful when im faithless (2 Timothy 2:13)

There are a million ways this can be applied specifically to my life. but basically i think it comes down to being committed to discipleship. Being a disciple (follower, bondservant) of Christ and discipling (serving, loving) people.

But this commitment is not to be taken lightly.
I thought Mark Driscoll put it so well. He said,
"Salvation costs you nothing, but discipleship will cost you everything. Salvation occurs in a moment, discipleship takes a lifetime. Salvation is something God does for you, discipleship is something you do with God." [Watch the Message Here]

This discipleship thing, it will cost you your life. Everything. It's hard and frustrating - full of suffering and trials but also so full of joy, excitement and purpose. A life spent with the God that loves you and who has given us a mission to do while we're here. If God is who He says He is, done what He says He's done, loves us the way He says He does, I believe He is worth giving my life completely to and for.

First, we must give our lives to Christ. Become followers of Him. Jesus bought us to make us free. The ultimate servant giving the ultimate sacrifice - we must recognize He served us!

Philippians 2:5-8 says:
"Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross."

It's for this reason Paul, over and over in the New Testament, calls himself a bondservant of Christ. For years bondservant has been one of my favorite words. It's crazy! It's the perfect picture of what the life of a Christian is supposed to look like. Back in biblical times, slaves were required to be released after 7 years and at the time of release if a servant had been treated well, had formed a relationship with the master, loved his master, he could choose to stay and serve the kind master for the rest of his life. When the decision had been made the master would take the now bondservant over to the door and pierce his ear with an aul. From the moment someone would walk into the master's house they know who was there out of love. out of devotion. The Greek word for bondservant is δούλος (doulos) it means the lowest scale of servitude but highest devotion of one bound by love; one who gives himself wholly to another's will.

Man, I want that said of my life. Bondservant. I've been set free but I chose to stay and serve my loving, perfect master for the rest of my life, with all I have. Not because I have to but because I'm so in love with Jesus for what He's done in my life.

The second part of this life of a disciple is giving your life to people. To take part in the mission of telling people about what Jesus has done and then to build them up in the faith. encouraging, loving, serving those around you.

This world daily tells us what success it, what greatness should look like, but Jesus had the real answer. The true definition of greatness. In Mark 10:35-45 the disciples are arguing over who will be greatest in the kingdom of God. and this blows me away. Jesus doesn't rebuke them! Never says their desire for greatest is wrong. Instead, He redirects it to what godly greatness looks like. It's countercultural not only back then but today!

"But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

He tells them the standard and sets the example for them to follow. This is true greatness! Laying our lives down for one another. For people who need to the hear the gospel and our fellow believers. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 9 that "though i am free from all i have made myself a servant to all, that i might win more of them." Why?? To win people to Christ! He goes on to describe how he became like a Jew, a Greek, he became like the weak, why "that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel..." Convicting much?? I want that said of my life. But the thing is, it's not easy. Making yourself a slave... to all? That requires inconvenience, laying aside preferences, giving up time, money, comfort. It takes humility. Giving up your very life to serve the lost. Sounds really difficult, huh? But when our eyes are on the goal, on reality - that people need to hear about Jesus, that people are dying and according to the Bible, will spend eternity in Hell if they don't place their faith in Him - seems worth it. Seems necessary. Makes us really understand 2 Corinthians 5:14-15 when Paul says that it's Christ's love that compels us. Makes us feel as Peter did in Acts 4 when he tells the council that "we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard." That reading about all that the disciples went through to spread the gospel, the mockery, the torture, beatings, and eventual murders of these men and possibly our fate if we truly give ourselves to this mission was/is a small price to pay for the souls of men.

Not only should we serve the lost but also serving and loving those standing with us in the cause of Christ, for the unity of the body. Paul says in Romans 12:9-13, "love one another with brotherly affection, outdo one another in showing honor... contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality." I love that. Outdo one another in showing honor. I just picture all of us literally tripping over each other to serve the other. How awesome! Think, if that's how we really sought to serve, love, build up, encourage in our bible studies, in our churches. I feel like things would radically change. and in the cycle that it is how much greater our testimony of God's love to the lost by our crazy love for each other.

This is a commitment. a life given to the Lord. so difficult but so worth it.
When it gets hard, don't turn around and quit.
Do NOT quit!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

A Sprinting Toddler

Posted By: Graham Gardner
In recent weeks, I've been giving a bit of thought about what it looks like to really be 'in the Spirit'. I spent some time, found some verses, and asked around to get a full idea of how "Walking in the Spirit" is truly carried out. Being that my brain is wired the way that it is, I came up with the title above for this installment. An awkward picture, right? A tiny little baby just movin' their chubby legs as fast as they can to get to the finish line. This would strike most as odd, being that toddlers most likely wouldn't have a ton of experience getting places upright. Not exactly an awesomely descriptive and meaningful picture, but hey, I'm no Daniel. No metal and clay mixtures in this example.


In thinking about walking in the spirit, a few things came to mind. In Proverbs 19:2, it says "It is not good to have zeal without knowledge, nor to be hasty and miss the way." In a lot of ways, when I decided to follow Christ, that initial decision was difficult, but not nearly as difficult as it's been to follow moment by moment, day by day. In looking upon what has taken place in my walk with the Lord so far, I see a lot of times where I have been hasty, and subsequently...missed the way. The battle here is that when I miss the way, I historically have struggled to accept grace, praise God for who He is, and keep on walking. In Galatians 5:26, Paul says "Since we live by the Spirit, we must also follow(walk in, keep in step) with the Spirit." It's interesting that Paul says walk. Not run, not crawl, not sprint, not roll (ok, that'd just look funny)...but walk. I've had a number of conversations lately where in the midst of difficulty, the only advice I've been able to give is "Keep going. One front of the other..repeat."

I read this recently from Francis Chan: "That's why I find the concept of walking by the Spirit so helpful. There's nothing about the term walking that suggests speed, style, fluency, or consistency. You just have to put one foot in front of the other. If you stop walking, all you have to do is take another step to get going again. If you fall down, you can keep walking. You just have to get up and take another step. Like a young child learning to walk, walking by the Spirit is something that becomes more natural over time."

I find the times it's hardest for me to walk in the Spirit is when I've been leaving an area of my life out of submission to God, or when I draw away from community. It's almost as if I go "Hey, crawling requires a lot less about just a day or two of crawling?" If you've ever done this, you know it's way harder to get used to walking again if you've been taking the snail's pace approach. The good thing is, God doesn't forget His promises. Invariably, as we step out in faith to do things we've never done before..there will be opportunity for..well..refinement. I struggle to see the work God is doing when I'm really having to push through something. Paul says this in Philippians 2:12-13: "Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose." Fear and trembling are a part of this. God is at work. He will fulfill His good purpose.

What I'm driving at is there is a time where we are just beginning to learn how to walk. If we were to try and jog, run, or sprint as an infant..we'd probably fall. If we're not super experienced in walking, it might be best to start hanging with someone who is. When we want to know how to run, it's a good idea to take notes from those who run well..and eventually join the race with them.

In Galatians 5:16, Paul writes: "I say then, walk by the Spirit and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh." He goes on to talk about how the Spirit and flesh are opposed to one another so that we don't do what we want. This strikes me as pretty wild. Our natural behavior is not to walk in the Spirit, which implies we have to make a decision. If you read on in Galatians, Paul goes on to specifically name the fruit that will come as a result of (the choice of) walking in the Spirit. So, it seems we have two choices. Give into our flesh..or..walk in the Spirit. As a result, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, and self control become more and more a part of our lives.

Which of these do you wish you had more of? Which ones have you seen the Lord grow like crazy? What verses really push you through the times where the next step is the hardest yet?

I know I could use more patience and love to freely give in my walk. I think that in conjunction with aiming to see this chunk of Galatians 5 applied more in my life, I've often referenced this from Philippians 3:12-14 as a piece of encouragement.

"Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. "

I pray that we'll see these things change in each others lives, and that we'll be able to build one another up when it comes to taking the next step. Here's to marching on.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Praying on Rocks, Hills and Mountaintops

Posted By: Robin Wadle
I‘ve been thinking a lot about prayer the last few weeks and what a great thing it is.  I just first want to say that God is so good and he is so faithful in answering prayers. How do I know this? Well… I pray. Am I perfect? No. I have learned that if you really want to see the goodness and the faithfulness of God you must pray. Pray specifically, pray often and pray expectantly. Now has God answered all of my prayers exactly as I have prayed them in the exact way that I want Him to. No. Hardly ever does that happen but what I see the most is God answering prayers in better ways. Sometimes this leads to more difficulty in my life but it also leads me to love Him and know Him more. I have my go-to verses for prayer that have drastically shaped the way I pray and what I pray for and who I pray for. 

If you know me you know that I have some struggles with anxiety. Prayer is a way that helps me to deal with anxiety (see Phil 4). But it has also been a struggle to see God the way he is and not be anxious that He is going to answer some prayer in the worst way possible. A good friend of mine shared this verse with me a couple years ago and something just clicked. 

For the Lord will not cast off forever, but, though he cause grief, he will have compassion, according to the abundance of his steadfast love; for he does not willingly afflict or grieve the children of men. (NIV)

This verse helped shape my view that God is NOT out to get me. I know this may sound basic but I have found myself being scared to pray for certain things thinking “oh no what is God going to do to me?” The thing is, God loves me so much and sent his Son to die for ME. He took on the punishment. Now that I have accepted the gift of salvation through Christ Jesus and put my faith in him., that punishment is gone. Now all God wants to do is make me into his son! (see 2 Cor. 3:18)

Another thing God teaches through prayer is how to be faithful with something. My natural personality is not faithful. Naturally I don’t really care about much but God has used prayer as a way to teach me to be faithful. (again… I am not perfect). Because God is faithful he wants us to be faithful. Just like how God is loving, he wants us to be loving. Now I am NO expert on the ins and outs of how exactly prayer works and how it works with God’s will or what not but something I do know is that God uses prayer one way or another. 

At the end of Philemon Paul states “One more thing- please prepare a guest room for me, for I hoping that God will answer your prayers and let me return to you soon.” (v.22) I think it’s so cool that Paul wanted to act in such a way that lined up with their prayers. By preparing a guest room they were acting in faith that Paul might one day come back to them. 

I LOVE the verse Colossians 4:2 - "Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving." Isn’t that amazing? God wants us to watch to see him working AND to watch for things and people to be praying for! All with a thankful heart towards God no matter what happens."

Also in Ephesians 6:18-19 it says - "Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere. And pray for me, too. Pray Ask God to give me the right words so I can boldly explain the mysterious plan that the Good News if for Jews and for Gentiles alike. I am in chains now, still preaching the message as God’s ambassador. So pray that I will keep on speaking boldly for him, as I should."

So those are some of my thoughts on prayer. I could go on but I have found these verses to be an encouragement in my prayer life and I hope they can encourage you too!