What is Discipleship? – Part IV: Obeying Him

By Brian Walters, Director of Discipleship & Biblical Training @MBCLoudoun

“A disciple is a follower of Jesus Christ who lives in biblical community and is committed to becoming like Him by obeying Him, serving Him and sharing Him.” – MBC’s definition of a disciple.

Are you obedient to Christ? Do you ignore the Holy Spirit’s guidance? Do you even know what it means to be obedient to God? These are all very important questions that each of us should ask of ourselves as disciples because obedience is the essence of authentic saving faith (Matt. 7:21; James 1:22-25). Additionally, the obedience God loves is the obedience of faith.

“God’s delight in obedience is good news because the obedience he loves is the obedience of faith. And faith means banking our hope on the mercy of God. And mercy means that our obedience does not have to be perfect; it only has to be penitent. ‘If you confess your sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive your sins and cleanse you from all unrighteousness’ (1 John 1:9) – John Piper.

What great news, that God doesn’t expect us to be perfect in every aspect of obedience as long as we are penitent when we aren’t. Also, let me be abundantly clear that works of obedience play no part in terms of our salvation. We are saved by faith in Jesus Christ alone (Eph. 2:8-9).

Walking in God’s ways is shorthand for doing the will of God. God uses our obedience to eradicate sin from our lives. God is our loving Father and just like I teach my children to be obedient for their own good, God does the same for us out of His great love. Being obedient to God is a matter of your personal holiness as “through the obedience of the One (Jesus) the many will be made righteous” (Rom. 5:19). Through our obedience to God our hearts are molded and shaped into Christ likeness. The apostle Paul said,

“Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, 6who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Phil. 2:5-8).

You see, Christ stands as our ultimate model for obedience. Walking in obedience means we say, “no” to the sinful desires of the flesh, the desires of the eyes, and our pride in possessions (1 John 2:15-17) and that we aim to please God in His sight (Heb. 13:20-21) through all we do.

I know it’s tough to completely turn every aspect of our lives over to God, but God doesn’t leave us alone to do this. He gives us His Spirit (John 16:13) and His Word to guide us in this endeavor. This is why it is imperative that we stay connected to the vine (John 15:5) by reading, memorizing and meditating on God’s Word. Without the Word, how will we know right from wrong? How will we know if we are being obedient to God? If God’s Word is profitable for teaching, reproof, correction and training in righteousness (2 Tim. 3:16) then shouldn’t we be in it on a daily basis?

We must also remember that God’s commandments are not too hard because we have His Word and Spirit to guide us. They are only as hard to obey as his glory is hard to cherish and his promises are hard to believe. Deuteronomy 30:11 says, “This commandment which I command you this day is not too hard for you.” And 1 John 5:3 says, “This is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.”

Friends, a disciple first and foremost needs to seek to be obedient to God. As we seek Him we are changed from the inside out, thus allowing us to disciple others out of the overflow of His love. If we are not being filled up, how can we expect to pour into others? If our cup is empty, how are the people we disciple going to receive anything from us. A disciple first and foremost strives for complete obedience to Christ and through that obedience everything else is an out pouring of our commitment and love for Him.

As disciple-makers, if we are striving to demonstrate to others how to be a disciple – follow me as I follow Christ – then it is of utmost importance that we are first and foremost obedient to His Word. And in order to be obedient to His Word, we must know His Word. Obedience begins by spending time in God’s Word.

What is a Disciple? – Part III: Is Comitted to Becoming Like Him

 By Dave Kroeze, Director of Outreach at MBCLoudoun

A disciple is a follower of Jesus Christ who lives in biblical community and is committed to becoming like Him by obeying Him, serving Him and sharing Him.” – MBC’s definition of a disciple.

The last major component of MBC’s Discipleship definition is that a disciple is “committed to becoming like Him.” There are three ways that you can do that, which will be discussed in future entries, but I really want to focus on being committed to something. If I look at different areas of my life, there are very few things I am committed to. I am committed to my wife, but we’ve been married for 2.5 years, so I am hardly an expert on that. I have, though, been a committed Chicago Cubs fan since I was old enough to love baseball. My commitment runs deep, to say the least. When I was in 1st grade, my dad bought tickets to a White Sox game for my brothers and me. It hardly went over well. I was so angry that I would have to go to a White Sox game that I threw the tantrum of all temper tantrums until I was left behind at home with my mom. This was a calculated act of my volition and not merely a random action that held no bearing. I was committed to Chicago Cubs baseball.

I have never been confronted with what “commitment” looks like for the Christian until recently. In late April, I returned from a 10-day trip to India. I witnessed and heard some heartbreaking things that Christians are forced to endure for the sake of Christ. When an individual desires to leave Hinduism and follow Christ, there is a process that generally takes place. There is an application process to the government that can be accepted or denied. In the event this particular application is accepted, then you receive a new birth certificate relegating this individual to the “dalit” caste – untouchable. This may not mean much on the surface, but to them this means that you lose your family, you lose your wealth, your ability to go certain colleges, your ability to work, your community, and your identity. You see, a birth certificate is much more than a piece of paper throughout India. It bears ones entire life in one word or phrase. The caste system largely controls the trajectory of your life.

I say this, not to speak poorly of India as a nation, but to illuminate the commitment that Indian Christians have to following Christ. They understand the cost of following Christ, they understand what is expected of them, and they have committed themselves to that cause.

The last piece of this phrase that I want to talk briefly about is what we should be committed to. We believe that a disciple of Jesus Christ should look like Jesus Christ. Please do not read me saying that you should do your best to look like Jim Caviezel. Our character, behavior, personality traits, and the way that we love people should carry a certain flavor to it that would be consistent with the way that Jesus loves people. I test myself constantly against three passages of Scripture. First is Galatians 5:22-23 where we see the fruits of the spirit. How am I doing today on being joyful? How am I doing today on being kind? How am I doing on self-control? Yikes! Secondly, the armor of God in Ephesians 6. An individual who is being transformed into the image of Christ carries the belt of Truth (God’s Word) because they read God’s Word. A person who is being transformed wears the breastplate of righteousness because he cares about fleeing from evil and sin. The last piece of Scripture I test myself against is the Beatitudes in Matthew 5:3-11. Blessed is…then this passage tends to describe something that is very different from me.

As disciples, it is vital that we commit our lives to becoming like Christ. Commitment demands that we are passionately pursuing or following something. As a disciple, we passionately pursue Christ-likeness in all that we do. As you think about Jesus’ disciples, there are many aspects where they behaved and acted in a manner that is totally different from Christ. But, as they learned, grew, taught other people, and were transformed by the renewing of the mind they began to look more like Jesus Christ.

Discipleship, Our Way of Life

By Dave & Karen Howard, MBC Arlington Attendees

Our decision to attend MBC Arlington was a lengthy, sometimes bewildering process. We had been members at MBC Tysons for several years and were serving in Marriage Mentors and City Impact. However, when we moved to Crystal City as empty nesters in 2011, it became more difficult to be involved in events at the Tysons campus outside of the worship services. We loved MBC but felt called by God to plant ourselves in Arlington; unfortunately for us, the only MBC ministry in Arlington at that time (Frontline) was for those in their 20s & 30s! We did a search and visited some other churches in Arlington, yet our quandary was that our heart was for MBC and also to serve closer to our new home; it just didn’t seem possible to do both

Then God revealed what He was doing. In early 2013, Lon Solomon (MBC’s Senior Pastor) announced a new focus on discipleship and the opening of all campuses of MBC to be multigenerational, including MBC Arlington! We saw that God had been preparing us for this new direction and we attended MBC Arlington one Monday night to check it out. Immediately we felt at home there and set up a meeting with campus pastor Nate Keeler that week. Nate told us that the church did not have much to offer in the way of services targeted to our generation, but could use some mentor couples to help the church grow. This perfectly lined up with what we felt the Lord had called us to do and we assured Nate that we did not come to be served, but to serve in any way the Lord directs.

Soon we were asked to lead the first small group for couples. Over the years of our marriage we have often been involved as a couple in discipling others in various ways, especially in helping young couples with preparing for and establishing their marriage on a strong footing; this is why we had been drawn to serve as Marriage Mentors while we attended the Tysons campus. Intentional discipleship has always been the main focus of our ministries together as a couple and even when we have served individually. So this role fits right in with what God has been doing in our lives!
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Since transferring to MBC Arlington we have been welcomed by the leadership team and by so many others in the church family. We enjoy the fellowship with both singles and couples in the church—our friendships and relationships within the church are a great joy. We love facilitating our small group and seeing the growth among the couples involved, and they give so much back to us by inviting us to walk with them on their journey. Just as we have seen over and over during the many years of our marriage, each couple in our group is uniquely gifted and blessed, with their own strengths and struggles. As we journey together with them, God blesses us and He ministers to all of our marriages. Involvement with other small group and ministry leaders in the church is also a blessing—iron sharpening iron as we work to smooth out the rough spots in each other, sharpening and polishing the strong areas for the Lord.

Discipleship is intended to be a way of life for every Christian. It is the natural process of growing and maturing together. Discipleship is sometimes thought of as a specific process to be accomplished in a small group or in a personal one-on-one relationship between two believers. However, just as with parenting, we have found that discipleship is not a certain set of actions or a course of study but rather the right word boldly and lovingly spoken, seasoned with grace; an offer of a listening ear and praying heart; the willingness to speak out and hold others accountable in love; learning from each other as we pass through trials and joys; and drawing strength and encouragement from seeing our brothers and sisters walk faithfully through life. Discipling occurs in and through us as we honestly live our lives for God in context with those around us. And we believe that life lived this way makes the Father’s heart sing.

 

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Avatars of a Father

By Peter P. Lackey, Jr., MBC Tysons Attendee & Founder, Man’s Ultimate Challenge

“Your real, new self will not come as long as you are looking for it. It will come when you are looking for Him.” – C.S. Lewis

One of the things I like to do with my kids is play video games like Call of Duty. Now, I am from the Atari generation where my friend would actually have to come to my house to play a maximum two-player game. The game would have only one map or play surface, and each of us would be equipped with a controller made up of a joystick and one red button—that’s it! I can actually hear the gasp from my millennial brothers, “say it isn’t so.” Oh, it is so. With Xbox or PlayStation4 there are more colored buttons on the controller than I know what to do with.  Which of course means that I go down plenty of times in the game at the hands of my skilled children, and my avatar “respawns” on the map without much forward progress.

Of all the roles I play in the game of life, it is my role as a father where I most feel like my poor Xbox avatar. Some days I feel ill equipped, not in control, and I often go down at the hands of my skilled children only to “respawn” another day on the map of life, seemingly without much forward progress. I know that if I am not careful, many days can turn into a season of life, and many seasons of life can turn into a defeated battle-weary life where, by choice, I begin to put on avatars of a false self.

There are many avatars of a father so I will just name two. There is the avatar of passivity; he comes in handy when a father gives up the battle and gets into the defeated routine of menial “dad tasks” of drive here, get the trash, get the yard, and every kid’s favorite: get the cash! Then there is the avatar of inadequacy, who is spawned when an important family decision is needed, and mom—equipped with “Google it”—appears to have arrived at the answers before dad even knows there is a question.

We are not called to daily put on the fatherly avatars of defeat, but the Christ of victory. I know it sounds “spiritual,” and it is, but God’s spiritual truth is meant to impact our practical reality because, Dad, it is God’s map of life that we are playing on. Furthermore, it is God who gave us the roles we are to play and they are not designed to be played with avatars of a false self, but with expressions of our true self who is only found when we put on Christ. C.S. Lewis said it best when he wrote, “The more we let God take us over, the more truly ourselves we become. He invented all the different people that you & I were intended to be”.

Of all of these roles we play, our role as a father is at the center of God’s battle strategy for winning the world for Christ. Why do you think the enemy spends so much time working his strategy of knocking out fathers as leaders in the home and minimizing the need for a father in the first place? At McLean Bible Church, we have been openly discussing the need for revival and praying for God to use us to bring it to Washington, D.C. I believe God will bring revival to the people in the church after he brings revival to the fathers in the home. After all, this has been our heavenly Father’s strategy from the beginning. Let me explain.

The first book of the Old Testament begins with the family; the last book in the Old Testament ends with a promise to the father of the family, and the preparation for the Gospel of Christ begins with the preparation of the heart of the father of the family. The first man is lonely; even though he lived in a perfect world of organic food and pets that he named personally, he still needed a woman made in the image of God to cure his loneliness. It was not until this moment that Genesis 1:31 records God saying His creation, “is very good” as the husband turned his heart toward God’s best gift, his wife. In the very last verse of the Old Testament, before the “silent years” when Israel had no prophet, God announces that the father’s heart is the first “hill” He will take: “Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the Lord. He will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers…” (Malachi 4:5-6). This very heart preparation was announced by the angel of the Lord to Zacharias the father of John the Baptist, “ It is he [John] who will go as a forerunner before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers back to the children…” (Luke 1:17).

The head of the Church begins His entry into the world with revival in the heart of the head of the home. Dad, don’t let anyone rob your identity and minimize the impact that you can have in the lives of your children. Most of all, don’t hide your true identity by faith in an avatar created by fear.

So how do we stop these avatars of the father from spawning, so that we can put on Christ and have the revival our house, our church and our city needs? It begins with a “turn” of the Dad’s heart back toward his children! Did you catch that in Luke 1:17? A turn back of a father’s heart! When a father’s heart turns toward his children the world changes. How do you feel about the importance of your role now? Dads, we need this turn; and together we can make this turn. Here is a practical battle plan to embrace this spiritual truth and bring it into reality:

#1 Realization:  Realize that you are not adequate in yourself by design. God designed the map of life in such a way that He is needed—it is His war, but your battle. I kill my avatar of inadequacy by realizing that this is part of the plan. I need God, and I can find His guidance in the Bible and through godly counsel.

“Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God” (2 Corinthians 3:5)

#2 Reconciliation: Redeem the battles by turning losses into wins. This requires looking back and stepping up!

“Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.  Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation…”( 2 Corinthians 5:17-18)

God gave us the ministry of reconciliation where we carry the Good News that God reconciled us to Himself by making the first move. I kill my avatar of passivity by imitating Christ and initiating reconciliation in my home. Our heavenly Father initiated forgiveness by offering it openly, and He left it up to us to receive it. As earthly fathers, though, we have the additional task of seeking forgiveness for our sins against our children. Those losses will remain losses until you initiate—leaders always initiate!

Battle Intel: Is there a child that comes to mind today or every Father’s Day that you need to forgive? Initiate and tell him!

Battle Intel: Is there a child that comes to mind today or every Father’s Day that you need to ask forgiveness? Maybe it is long overdue. Well, do it!

Dad, can I tell you something that you already know, if this battle intelligence report bothered you? You are stuck on #1 aren’t you? You feel inadequate and put on an avatar. Your unit is dispersed and you feel alone in a foxhole clothed in the avatar of your choosing. It may be comfortable, but it is lonely. This right here, fathers, is why there is no revival. Get Up! Go! Go! Go! Throw off the avatar and take this ministry from the Father, and as a father, “TAKE THAT HILL!”

#3 Restoration: This is the rebuilding piece. Every battle leaves behind damage. There is beauty in the process as you see it come together.

#4 Repeat:  Yes, repeat over and over and watch God use you, Dad, to take your life and your unit back.

So, fathers, let me ask you a question: are you battle-weary or battle-hardened? If you are battle-weary, then take this battle plan and implement it daily. I certainly do, so let me give specifics from just this past month. With all three of my children I have implemented this battle plan several times because I was irritated, quick to yell, impatient, and blind to a need. Realization occurred as I properly felt guilt because I was guilty and inadequate. I went to my children to ask for forgiveness for my specific sin against them; i.e., I named it. They forgave me, so reconciliation completed and a battle lost became a battle won. I spent time with them restoring their heart by meeting their needs. The “repeat” in the battle plan is for next week, and the next week, and the next.

#5 Reclaim:  Now that God has your heart’s disposition He wants you, clothed in Christ, in position. If you are a father with your kids in your home I have a few things that you can do right now to “step up” your game.

  1. Text your children wisdom. I have three kids. Two of them have phones, so I send my kids text messages of famous quotes, Bible verses, or random funny pictures like below. Why? My heart is turned toward them so I connect with them in a way that is relevant to them, not me. Where do I get quotes and pictures? The Bible, famousquotes.net (I signed up on Twitter), a historical quotes book, C.S. Lewis Daily on Twitter. I collect them on my phone using notepad.
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  2. Rite of Passage or Manhood Ceremony for sons. Robert Lewis has a program called “Raising a Modern Day Knight”that uses the concept of a knighthood ceremony. I have a program called “Man’s Ultimate Challenge” that uses the concept of the US Military Challenge coins designed around the classic virtues and vices. Either ceremony can be done at any transition period where you as a father grab some men and step into your son’s life to acknowledge him as a man. For example, when his body is in transition at age 13, or when he is a high school graduate heading out into the real world on his own as a man. Both programs come with all that is needed to do your own. Here is a photo of my son’s ceremony:
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I pray you will celebrate today, knowing that God, the church, and your family need you.
Happy Father’s Day!

What is a Disciple? – Part I: A Disciple is a Follower of Jesus Christ

By Brian Walters, Director of Discipleship & Biblical Training @MBCLoudoun

A disciple is a follower of Jesus Christ who lives in biblical community and is committed to becoming like Him by obeying Him, serving Him and sharing Him.” – MBC’s definition of a disciple.

Over the next 6 weeks here on the blog, we are going to unpack McLean Bible Church’s definition of discipleship so that you may clearly understand the true meaning of becoming/being a disciple according to the Word of God. We will divide the definition above into segments, beginning this week with, “A disciple is a follower of Jesus Christ…”

So what does it mean to be a follower of Jesus? First and foremost, a “follower” is one who actively seeks a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Without a personal relationship with Jesus, discipleship cannot exist because disciple making is rooted in God’s plan of redemption and it begins with teaching others about God (Matt. 28:19-20).

To start this relationship we need to repent of our sins and receive God’s forgiveness and grace through placing our faith in Jesus’ atoning work on the cross (Mark 1:15). Mike, our Silver Spring Campus Pastor explains why we need a relationship with Jesus and how we can do that in just about a minute’s time. Now watch the video below.

Friends, the gospel you just heard requires a response. Not responding is a response, whether you believe that or not. There is no single greater choice or decision you will ever make here on earth than deciding what you believe about Jesus Christ, and if He is your Lord and Savior. Your eternality depends upon it. We have no idea when our time is up here on earth. It could be tomorrow, 2 weeks from now, or even 20 years from now, so don’t put off saying “yes” to Jesus as it may just become too late for you to do so. The only living hope that can sustain us now and for eternity (1 Pet. 1:3-4) is Jesus and placing your faith in Jesus is the first step in becoming a “follower” of Jesus.

You may think that you are a disciple because you believe in Jesus and trust him for the forgiveness of sins and eternal life; but friend, this is only the beginning. A true disciple of Christ not only believes in Jesus, but also actively submits to the sanctification process – the transforming power of the Spirit that lives within us as believers – by  putting faith into practice (James 1:22). In other words, disciples seek to be like Christ in their daily lives by modeling Christ’s example in everything they do, by willingly laying down their lives in service to others, taking up their crosses daily and following God’s leading no matter the personal cost (Luke 14:27). Over the next five weeks, we will break down this concept of putting your faith into action.

Following Jesus is a lifelong process where we are continually shaped to look more like Christ. Christ has left us with one mission until He returns: to make disciples. Thankfully he doesn’t leave us alone to do the task, “he is with us to the very end of the age” (Matt. 28:20) and we have His Word, to teach, rebuke, correct and train us in righteousness (2 Tim. 3:16). So have you taken the first step?

6 Questions to Ask Yourself Before a High School Reunion

By Bethany Goodman, MBC Tysons Attendee

Ten years can fly by in a flash.  That realization hit me recently when the invitation came for my 10-year high school reunion – via Facebook, of course, which was just coming into existence in 2004! Times certainly change.

I began thinking about not only my senior year, but my entire high school experience. Was I living for the Lord or what other people thought of me? Did I treat everyone the way God sees them or according to their social group? Did my fellow students and my teachers see Christ in me? Even more deeply, I started to think about who I was as an 18 year-old kid versus a 28 year-old woman. Had I matured? Did I regret any decisions I’ve made? Most importantly, had I grown in my walk with the Lord?

Then my thoughts shifted to what the reunion might be like – the conversation would surely revolve around the answers to where do you live?, what do you do? and what’s your relationship status?  I wondered how my answers to those questions would reveal what’s most important to me – my faith.

I was exhausted just thinking about all the questions! But times of reflection are necessary in the lives of disciples so that we can invite the Holy Spirit to speak to us, convict our hearts and show us the path forward. King David realized this when he wrote Psalm 139: “Search me O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”

To examine my thoughts and heart, I boiled down my many high school reunion questions to six reflections that get at the heart of how I’m living and can be applied to every disciple at every stage of life:

Is my identity firmly grounded in God?

Am I making the most out of every opportunity to serve people and serve the Lord?

Do I treat every person I come in contact with the way Christ would?

Am I growing in knowledge and wisdom of the Lord?

Am I living for eternity or temporal things?

Am I living as a true disciple of Jesus?

We can’t change our past, but God gives us a fresh start each and every day. Not to mention that He paid the price for our sins and failings on the cross and conquered death through his resurrection!  Gratitude and devotion to Him should overflow in my every waking moment.

Whether we have a high school reunion coming up or not, it’s necessary to take inventory of our lives.  As we’ve been reminded throughout Multiply, discipleship is a 24/7 business! Asking ourselves questions and listening for the Holy Spirit’s answers are practical and important ways to “walk in the way everlasting” each and every day.

The Ultimate Good Neighbor

By Stephanie Green, MBC Staff Application Analyst and MBC Tysons Attendee

Have you ever noticed how many components of the Gospel are represented in the parable of the Good Samaritan?

And a lawyer stood up and put Him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” And He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How does it read to you?” And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” And He said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this and you will live.” But wishing to justify himself, he said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

Jesus replied and said, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among robbers, and they stripped him and beat him, and went away leaving him half dead. And by chance a priest was going down on that road, and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. Likewise a Levite also, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, who was on a journey, came upon him; and when he saw him, he felt compassion, and came to him and bandaged up his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them; and he put him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn and took care of him. On the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper and said, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I return I will repay you.’ Luke 10:25-35 (NASB)

Sin

      …and fell among robbers, and they stripped him and beat him, and went away leaving him half dead.

John 10:10a says, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.” Satan delights in robbing, stripping and leaving us for dead. Sin leads to death. Romans 5:12 states, “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned.” Romans 3:23 makes it clear that no one is exempt from the consequence of Adam and Eve’s choice in the Garden, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Without an atoning payment for our sins we would all be left for dead like the traveler in this parable.

Man’s Helplessness

A priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.

Neither the law, religion, nor our social status is effective to save us from our sinful nature. There is nothing we can be or achieve that will save us. Romans 7:18 states, “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.” Like the priest and the Levite, despite how honorable and moral we may look on the outside, we are incapable of perfectly keeping God’s law of love.

Christ

And by chance a priest was going down on that road, and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. Likewise a Levite also, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.

There is Another who, out of compassion, came to rescue the dying. Luke 19:10 explains, “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” Jesus freely gave Himself to heal and restore us who would otherwise die.

Our Response

On the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper and said, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I return I will repay you.’

The Samaritan instructs the innkeeper to continue caring for the traveler, and he promises to provide for whatever is needed.  This reminds me of Matthew 28: 18-20 – The Great Commission – when Jesus boldly instructs His disciples to go and continue making disciples as He had done because He is with them and has given them all that they need to imitate Him.

To drive home the meaning of this parable, Jesus answers the lawyer’s earlier question regarding who is his neighbor with a return question. “Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the robbers’ hands?” And he said, “The one who showed mercy toward him.” Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do the same.” Luke 10:36-37

God calls us to reach out to the broken – not to shy away from them. He asks us to take the time to care for others around us, be hospitable, and to bear one another’s burdens. He has given us every skill, gift and circumstance we might need to carry out His commission to spread the Gospel.

Are you focusing your attention and efforts towards reaching out to those who are dying in their sins?

What can you do this week to imitate Christ and continue His mission to your neighbors?

 

Two challenges this week:

For your believing neighbors…

Call a friend, ministry leader or fellow volunteer and ask to pray for them. Emails are nice, but it’s especially encouraging to hear and witness prayers being presented to God for you by another believer.

For your nonbelieving neighbors…

Send a letter or card expressing what salvation through Christ means to you personally and how Jesus’ love has redeemed you. Be creative with poems or song lyrics, but most importantly, be yourself. Your story is powerful and impactful. God designed it and wants to use it.

 

Getting to the Heart, Part 2

By Mike Kelsey, MBC Silver Spring Campus Pastor

Self-pitying comparisons. Outburts of anger. Refusal to share the Gospel. What do all of these have in common?

Our hearts.

While we are all influenced by different factors (e.g. past history, physical causes, etc.), Scripture teaches that our behavior ultimately flows from the heart. This is why Proverbs 4:23 warns us, “Watch over your heart with all diligence for from it flow the springs of life.” In Luke 6:43-45, Jesus gives us a picture that illustrates the relationship between our behavior and our heart (cf. Mark 7:20-23). Just as roots that are hidden beneath the surface produce observable fruit, our hearts produce our behavior. In other words, if we really want to understand our habits, reactions, and emotional responses, we need to trace them inwardly to the condition of our heart. And in order to do that, we must understand what “the heart” is and how it works.

Addressing the heart means getting beneath the surface of our actions and emotions, down to what motivates us.

What is the Heart?

Human beings have an outer, material person (body) and an inner, immaterial person (soul/spirit). In Scripture, the inner person is often referred to as “the heart”, the control center of human behavior. For practical purposes, the most succinct way to understand how the heart works is with the word motives. Addressing the heart means getting beneath the surface of our actions and emotions, down to what motivates us. It means learning to identify the desires and beliefs that drive us to do what we do.

Here are two questions that may help you evaluate your struggles, sins, and habits,  or help someone else do the same:

  1. When you do or say _______________, what are you really wanting?
  2. When you do or say _______________, what are you really believing?

Once you determine your motives, you can test whether they are pleasing to God.  If not, allow the Holy Spirit to truly change your heart despite whatever else may be going on in and around you.

 

Peacemaking and the Gospel, Part 1: Where Does Conflict Begin?

By Joey Ruyter, MBC Prince William Discipleship Pastor

I am going to go out on a limb here and say that if you’re reading this, and you have a beating heart, then you’ve probably faced conflict in your life.  It’s happened to the best of us, whether it’s between you and your parents, your spouse, your children, your boss, your siblings, a friend at church, or even your pastor. If you are engaged in any type of relationship, you have probably experienced it.

WHERE DOES CONFLICT BEGIN?

James 4:1 says “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you?”

I have found in my counseling encounters—and even in my own personal life—this one thing to be true: the surface issue is normally not the issue at all. In our interactions where conflict arises, we typically wage war over minuscule things. For example, how many times have you said or heard someone say, “Last week, my wife and I started arguing—but I can’t even remember what it was about!”?

We so often focus on the symptom instead of the disease that lies below the surface. The reality is that James 4:1 is so true in our lives: our passions (natural, physical pleasures) dictate what we’re willing to fight over. The New Testament word for “heart” is “the desire maker” [1] Our inner self is constantly lusting after something.

OUR DESIRES WAGE WARS

This concept of wanting is best explained by Ecclesiastes 3:11b – “he has put eternity into man’s heart.” God set into each of our hearts the taste of Eden, what pure perfection tasted like. Imagine, pure shalom (perfect peace) with God and one another. Because Adam and Eve sinned, the “perfect peace” that was in the Garden was corrupted on earth, and can only be restored through hope and faith in Jesus. As we see laced throughout Scripture, man is now chasing after that peace, trying to fill a God-sized hole, with the fleeting, natural, physical pleasures of this world.

Since the pleasures of this world can never satisfy us, they wage war within our hearts, our souls, and our lives. This wreaks absolute havoc in our relationships with not only those closest to us, but everyone we encounter. We are chasing the taste of Eden, and making everything about our own selfish desires.

SO, WHAT DO WE DO?

1. “IT’S NOT YOU, IT’S ME.” It’s cliché but it’s so profound. We need to understand, first, the concepts presented to us in James 4:1 and Ecclesiastes 3:11b. This helps us put things into perspective. I’ve never seen a conflict where one person had to own 100% of the issue. Both parties are going to have things to own in the disagreement, and the only way to achieve true restoration is to understand you’re not perfect, and you have selfish motives. Becoming self-aware is a must!

2.) “I’M SORRY, GOD.” We often focus on which person needs to apologize. We need to understand, though, that in conflict we grieve the Holy Spirit and sin against God. Our sin is, as John Piper puts in his, book, Future Grace:sin is what you do when you are not fully satisfied in God.” We engaged in the battle because we sought the passions of our heart, instead of devoting a heart of worship toward God.

3.) REPEAT THE FOLLOWING OVER & OVER: “GRACE, LOVE, FORGIVENESS, RESTORATION, REDEMPTION, PEACE.” Those words are simply the words etched on our Father’s and our Savior’s heart. We will cover this concept a lot in the next couple posts, but when engaged in conflict, it’s so imperative to understand our God’s desire instead of focusing on our own. The above-italicized words are just a few of the many beautiful facets of the Gospel. Knowing them, understanding them, and reciting them will set you on solid ground in approaching the conflict you face in your life.

I am praying for everyone who reads this post—that God would work in our hearts and satisfy our desires. Check back for my next post, where I will discuss negative narratives and the damage they can cause.

Father, help us understand that conflict originates when we are trying to fill our hearts with earthly, abominable passions that are worthless and fleeting. And as a result, God, please help us replace the desires of our own heart with the desires of Your heart. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

[1] http://biblehub.com/greek/2588.htm