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Facts of the Matter

A weekly letter of encouragement and challenge to business and professional men and women

Archive for February, 2017

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

WHAT DOES A TRUE DISCIPLE OF CHRIST LOOK LIKE?

WHAT DOES A TRUE DISCIPLE OF CHRIST LOOK LIKE?

 

Dear Colleague,

Jesus commanded us to make disciples of all nations. (Matt. 28:18-20) But what does a true disciple of Christ look like? How do I know I am on the right track in my efforts to “make disciples”? Is there a way to measure such a person?

Does it have to do with “standards of performance”? Or a certain degree of church involvement? Or the length and intensity of one’s prayer life? Who decides the criteria? Following are several Scriptural definitions of a disciple. We are on safe ground in our definition of a disciple if we stay with these basic, yet profound meanings:

A Disciple of Christ has forsaken all to follow Christ : “In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.” (Lk. 14:33) (See Lk. 14:26-33) (Also see Luke 18:22,28-30; Phil. 3:7,8; 1 Jn. 2:15,16)

QUESTION : Has your disciple, in his quest to follow Christ, surrendered control of his rights?

A Disciple of Christ is a serious adherent of God’s word : “…Jesus said, ‘If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.’” (Jn. 8:31,32) (I Sam. 12:14; Matt. 7:24-27; Jms. 1:22-25)

QUESTION : Has your disciple made the decision to build his life on the authority of God’s word?

A Disciple of Christ loves others unconditionally and sacrificially as Christ loves us: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (Jn. 13:34,35) (See Jn. 15:13)

QUESTION : Is the life of your disciple characterized by selfish indulgence or sacrificial service?

A Disciple of Christ is growing in Christ likeness: “A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher.” (Lk. 6:40) (See Jn. 15:20; 2Cor. 3:18)

QUESTION : Is the fruit of the Spirit increasingly operative in the life of your disciple? (Gal. 5:22,23)

A Disciple of Christ bears much, lasting fruit: “This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples… You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit–fruit that will last…” (Jn. 15:8,16) (See Prov. 11:30)

QUESITON : Are the lives of people being changed into Christlikeness through the influence of your disciple?

May you experience His grace, peace and protection this week.

R. Dwight Hill

* (Original release date March 29th, 2006)

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Dear Colleague,

#1 Life Investment : Discipleship is not a short term program of weeks or months. We tend to think in terms of herding people in mass through prescribed programs, expecting them to pop out the other end “mature” and ready to change the world. No, discipleship is more like a parent investing in a child as he nurtures him through the various stages of growth. “…We were gentle among you, like a mother caring for her little children…We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us. For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God…” (I Thess. 2:7b,8,11,12a) Bringing a person to a healthy level of spiritual maturity where they will consistently bear fruit usually takes 3 – 5 years.

#2 Transferability : One of the most challenging tests in the discipling process is to go beyond the first generation. Often the person discipled fails to catch the vision, or feels ill-equipped to replicate it in others. Note Paul, as he urges Timothy to reproduce his experience of being discipled, “… The things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others.” (2 Tim. 2:2b) As a discipler, I must guard against developing in my disciple an unhealthy dependence on me. One way is to view myself more as a guide than a teacher. Another is that from the inception of the discipling relationship I inculcate in him the idea that he is, at some future point to begin discipling another person.

#3 Purposefulness : Measuring your disciple’s spiritual progress is difficult at best. If he is practicing the disciplines (consistent intake of God’s word, prayer, etc.), and applying Biblical truth that effects a change in lifestyle, it is reasonable to assume that he is growing. The process of discipling is best served when a prescribed set of materials is generally followed on a reasonably consistent basis. This gives the disciple a sense of progress and direction. It gives him material he in turn can use in discipling others. “…The Lord will spell [His truth] out for them again, repeating it over and over in simple words whenever he can…” (Isa. 28:13b)

#4 Flexibility : Jesus’ metaphor of fishing for men (Matt. 4:19,20) suggests an art form requiring flexibility and creativity. As disciplers, we are co-laboring with the Holy Spirit in bringing this person to spiritual maturity. As such, we need to be sure we are tuned into how the Holy Spirit is currently working in his life. What issues is he grappling with? Where does he need direct help? What role am I to play? It important to bear in mind the fact that we are participating with God in crafting godly people, not religious drones.

#5 Life-on-life : By its very nature, discipleship is best accomplished (in many cultures) through a fair amount of individualized attention. Paul to the Thessalonians: “ …We dealt with you one by one, as a father deals with his children, appealing to you by encouragement, as well as by solemn injunctions to live lives worthy of…God…” (I Thess. 2:11b NEB) Paul reminded Timothy of their intensely personal relationship, “You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance.” (2 Tim. 3:10) Thus, it is essential that we engage our disciple at a level of relationship where true authenticity and transparency will transpire, both in his life and in ours, the discipler. The disciple also needs to observe in us a model of what he can become. Jesus, John, and Paul understood the force of example, “ To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps…Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did…Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ. ” (I Pet. 2:21; 1 Jn. 2:6; 1 Cor. 11:1)

May you experience His grace, peace and protection this week.

R. Dwight Hill

1. Some of the key ideas in this “Facts” were derived from Greg Ogden, Discipleship Essentials (Inter-Varsity Press, 1998) Appendage (Original release date Sept. 7th, 2005)

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

A LESSON FROM CHESTY PULLER- Part #2

Dear Colleague,

 

In last week’s “Facts” we discussed four steps toward winning the lost: (1) Take little initiatives, (2) begin praying for them and responding to them, (3) serve them, and, (4) partner with others. Three more steps:+

#5 Converse the faith: Our job is to promote the search for Christ and to capitalize on the lost’s curiosity. Notice how naturally evangelism transpired in this passage: “Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who heard what John had said and who had followed Jesus. The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, ‘We have found the Messiah’ (that is, the Christ). And he brought him to Jesus…Jesus…finding Philip…said to him, ‘follow me.’ Philip found Nathaniel and told him, ‘We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote–Jesus of Nazareth’’…Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?’ Nathaniel asked. ‘Come and see,’ said Philip.” (Jn. 1:40-42a,43,45a,46) No evidence here of a “canned” approach to evangelism. Just natural spontaneity!

#6 Guide them into the Scriptures: As you cultivate acquaintances and develop new friends, you might consider trying this or a similar approach: “ My wife and I have a custom of reading the Bible because we find that it helps us order our lives. We are not doing it right now, but we are going to start, and when we do, we’ll let you know.” Then change the subject before they have the opportunity of responding. Recognize the fact that generally people reject a new idea. Therefore, allow some time to pass (a few weeks or so), before again mentioning the idea that at some future date you and your wife will begin the Bible reading group. Again, change the subject. In time they may well go from rejecting the idea to tolerating it. And then to embracing it, and actually to anticipating your invitation. Their curiosity and sense of need can prove to be strong motivators.

When, in time you do meet for the “Bible reading” session, take a small portion of one of the Gospels – say John 1:1-5 and ask “who”, “what”, “when”, “why”, and “how” type of questions. Questions that cannot be answered by a “yes” or “no.” For example, “Who is the Word referring to in verse 1?” (defined in verse 14). “Who/what is the source of life?” (The answer is in verse 4) Etc., etc. The idea of the “Bible reading” sessions is to expose them to the Person of Christ in an unrushed, non-pressured environment of grace. Keep the meetings casual, non-religious, and relatively short (1 hour?). Avoid “God talk”, or religious cliques, or a “churchy” environment. Rather than teaching or proclaiming the truth of the Scriptures, create an atmosphere where they can grapple with the word of God in discovering the truth for themselves. Observe Jesus as he interacts with the downcast disciples on the road to Emmaus, after the resurrection: “…Beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself…Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.” The disciples’ response to Jesus’ teaching? “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” (Lk. 24:27b, 44,45, 32b)

#7 Mid-wife the new birth: As you help people delve into the Scriptures, work through such passages as John 1:1-5; John 3:1-8; John 4 [perhaps divide this long section into two studies]; John 8:1-12; John 9 [perhaps divide into two studies]; John 9:1-21, etc., etc.) Don’t choke them with too much material. Leave them hungry at the end of each session. View each exposure to the Bible as part of a process that transpires over an unrushed period of time. In all probability, somewhere along the line, without pressurizing them, they will either invite Christ into their lives, or ask you to help them cross the line to the new birth.

May you experience His grace, peace, and protection this week!

R. Dwight Hill

+Adapted from seed thoughts by Jim Peterson of the Navigators in a series of lectures, 01/’02 in Malaysia (Original release date December 29th, 2004)

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

A LESSON FROM CHESTY PULLER- Part #1

Dear Colleague,

During the Korean War, Marine General Chesty Puller, along with his men of the First Marine Division were surrounded on every side by hoards of invading Chinese troops at Chanqjin Reservoir (November 27, 1950). To his men Puller announced, “The enemy is on every side. They can’t escape!”

 

Perhaps at times you have felt that the “enemy” has surrounded you, putting you in a defensive, defeatist posture. In fact God may well have placed you behind enemy lines, so to speak, to win them to Christ. Surrounded as you are, you have unique access and opportunity as an “insider.” Following are a few suggestions on how you can bring these “outsiders” to faith in Jesus Christ:+

#1 Take little initiatives: Make an effort to greet your neighbor across the street, or the person on the elevator in your office building. Converse casually with people at the health center, or in the grocery store. In time, get their name. Develop the acquaintance. Cultivate a friendship.

#2 Begin praying for them and responding to them: Now that you have their name, begin praying for them by name. Ask God to give you compassion for them, and also to work in their hearts in giving them a hunger for himself. When you engage them, be sure you are not guilty of answering questions they are not asking, or talking long after they are finished listening. As an “insider fisherman”, learn to bait the fish rather than dynamite them out of the water. That is, restrain your urge to “hit” them with the Gospel. Wait, pray, and practice the principles found in Colossians 4:5,6, and James 1:19: “ Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders [the lost]; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone…Be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry…”

#3 Serve them: Isn’t it intriguing that the Good Samaritan felt no pressure to give a “commercial” for Jesus after serving the needs of the injured man? (Lk. 10:25-37) Perhaps he understood the power of love and Jesus’ injunction to let one’s light shine through good deeds (Matt. 5:16). By the way, the Biblical idea of a neighbor has little, if anything to do with geography, but has everything to do with serving those who need us.

#4 Partner with others: In seeking to win the lost, “Lone Rangerism” usually is not the best approach. The Scriptures are replete with the idea that evangelism is primarily a group or team effort: Jesus: “I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor.” (Jn. 4:38) Paul: “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow.” (I Cor. 3:6) So involve some of your believing friends in helping you with the planning and execution of your outreach to the lost. You will find strength, courage, and the blending of gifts in a group/team effort.

In next week’s “Facts” we will conclude the discussion with points 5 – 7.

May you experience His grace, peace, and protection this week!

R. Dwight Hill

+Adapted from seed thoughts by Jim Peterson of the Navigators in a series of lectures, 01/’02, Malaysia (Original release date Dec 22nd, 2004)