Friday, March 31, 2017

Practical Teaching on Self-Examination

Practical Teaching on Self-Examination
     Self-examination is what a believer should do in order to make salvation sure, to reveal sin or negative trends, and to promote growth and maturity. Christians ought to make sure of their salvation because death awaits (Heb. 9:27, Ecc. 3:19), consequences for a life lived are eternal (Rom. 2:9-10, Matt. 25:31-46, 2Thess. 1:9-10), and because the soul is precious (Ps. 49:7-8, Gen. 2:7, Mk. 8:36).
     Self-Examination also promotes growth and maturity in the Christian's life. When believers examine themselves, areas that need improvement are revealed, sin and the need for daily repentance is discovered, joy of salvation is increased, God is honored, and it leads to assurance. Some areas for improvement might include: a renewed mind (Rom. 12:2), increased desire to pray (1Thess. 5:17), the need for humility (Jms. 4:10), mortification of the flesh (Rom. 6:5-14), the necessity of reading and meditating on the word of God (1Pet. 2:2), a closer walk with Christ (Ps. 42:1-2), and the need to grow in Christlikeness (Rom. 8:29).
     The daily need for repentance will also be revealed when a believer examines himself. Self-examination unveils tendencies and sin (Rom. 7:7), unmasks temptations and weaknesses (Rom. 7:13-25), heightens the awareness that believers are to die to sin (Rom. 6:11), develops hatred of sin (Rom. 7:17), teaches to treasure the grace and forgiveness of the Lord (1Tim. 1:12-17), and leads to cherishing the imputed righteousness of Christ (Is. 61:10).
     The joy of God's amazing salvation is increased upon examination. A Christian learns to enjoy Christ, his person, and his work (Rom. 5:11, Jn. 15:11, 1Pet. 1:8). When salvation is assured and believers are growing and repenting, then even trials and hardships can be endured because of the joy they produce and the lessons they teach (1Thess. 5:16, Col. 1:11-13). This leads to worship. Reflecting on God and his gifts moves one to worship and praise (1Pet. 2:9, Eph. 1:6, 12, 14).
     When a believer examines his life, and sin is revealed and repented of, and growth happens, and joy is increased, God is seen as worthy. After all, it is God who is at work. It is God who saved us. It is God who is keeping us saved. It is God who is sanctifying us. It is God who is causing us to grow and who is filling our hearts with praise. It is God who gives assurance, guides through the difficult times, teaches us during those times, and fills us with joy.
     Is self-examination taught in Scripture? It is. It is actually commanded and assumed. “Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall” (2Pet. 1:10). “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?-unless indeed you fail to meet the test” (2Cor. 13:5)!
     If the word of God instructs believers to examine themselves, then why don't most Christians practice it? There are any number of reasons. It may be that some believers are self-righteous. They may not see the need for looking at themselves, measuring themselves according to God's standard, and repenting. This happens often when people compare themselves to other people instead of God and his word. Some are simply legalistic and hypocritical. They do not need to examine themselves because they are “following all the rules.”
     Others who do not examine themselves may be deceived by sin. Self-deception reigns in the hearts of many today. Some people are just deceived about their condition. They do not think of themselves as sinful, or “as bad as everyone else.” They may also be deceived about the consequences of sin. Since their sin is not that bad, there are not any devastating consequences that need to be feared, so all is well. Even more sad, and perhaps heart wrenching, may be the fact that some people are deceived about the way of salvation. It may be that a person accepted Christ and then led to believe that that is it. Once a person gets “saved,” it is smooth sailing. Or so they think.
     Other reasons for the lack of self-examination may be self-flattery, they simply have never been taught or shown the need for looking at one's life and fruit, they may be lazy or apathetic, or pride may be involved. Self-examination is humbling and difficult. It takes time and effort to examine and criticize oneself.
     With all this in mind, how do you examine yourself? Prayerfully. Christians ought to be bringing everything to the Lord in prayer. Ask God to give you grace, to illumine you, and to speak to you through his word. Read the word of God and apply the text to your life. Beg God for conviction and sorrow for sin and then the grace to repent.
     Look at your life and ask a series of questions. Be willing to change. Am I bearing fruit? What kind of fruit am I bearing? What motivates me? Are these proper motivations? Am I growing in Christlikeness? Am I convicted when I sin? Do I quickly repent of sin? Do I desire communion with the Lord? Do have a desire to love and fellowship with the people of God? Do I long to be in the word? Is my hatred of my sin growing? Do I have joy? What robs me of my joy? Do I have goals? Are these goals being obtained? Can I worship the Lord no matter the circumstances? Do I recognize pride in my heart? Do I see the ever increasing need for the grace of God? Am I growing in humility? Am I a good steward of the many gifts and blessings that the Lord has given? Do I depend on myself or the Spirit and word of God? Do I pray? Do I have a desire to pray? What am I praying for? Our my prayers selfish and one-dimensional? Do I witness for Christ? Do I have a zeal to glorify God in all things. Am I evangelistic? Am I accountable to another mature believer? How do I treat other people?
     These are just a few of the many questions that believers can ask themselves. This is a good place to start. The main point is this- Christians are saved from the penalty of their sin by the person and work of Christ, but it is our responsibility to grow more like Christ. To do this, we must look at ourselves. We must examine our lives, motives, speech, desires, etc. according to Scripture. When we find something that does not align with the word of God, we are to repent, thank God for revealing this to us, ask God for forgiveness, pray for grace and strength, be more discerning, and learn from our sin and mistakes. Praise God- he has given us his word and Spirit. He does not give up on us. He even has a plan in all of this. Examine yourself and give God the glory.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Practical Teaching on Discipleship

Practical Teaching on Discipleship
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matt. 28:19-20)
     What is discipleship? Discipleship is the growth of Christians in Christlikeness by the grace of God, through the word of God, for the glory of God, in order to replicate themselves for the good of families, churches, communities, and the world. Jesus met with Peter, James, and John and taught them valuable lessons that echoed into eternity (Mk. 1:29, 5:37, 9:2, 13:3; Matt. 17:1, 26:37). So, discipleship is biblical. It is also commissioned, as the verses quoted above demonstrate. Jesus sent his disciples into the world to make disciples. Discipleship, therefore, is not optional. Believers are expected to be discipled and then to disciple others. Disciples are made, they are not born!
     Discipleship is walking with Jesus. There is a purpose, direction, and a destination. It is personal and intimate, instructional and intentional. Something of this magnitude takes effort and discipline. Make no mistake, discipleship takes time, patience, and endurance.
     Discipleship is necessary. It empowers and enable believers to do the work of the ministry (Eph. 4:11-12). Cultivating a deeper and closer walk with the Lord and developing mature and faithful believers who can multiply are other results. That is the goal of discipleship, Christlikeness. Christlikeness manifests itself by growth and maturation, doing the work of the ministry, and growing in faithfulness.
     There is a cost. Discipleship is an investment. It takes time and resources, sacrificing and giving, in order to lead, teach, mentor, and train others. Nothing that is worth it in the end ever comes easy. But, there is the reward of glorifying God, growing yourself, and the satisfaction in knowing that the Lord used you in the life of another Christian.
     What does discipleship look like? When sinners are saved, they need to be taught and nurtured. They are spiritual babies and need to be fed a steady diet of the word of God. They need to be encouraged and taught in order for them to grow and mature in Christ. New believers are dependent on the church and other believers. Discipleship is vital and must not be ignored.
     The church is only one place where discipleship takes place. Obviously, believers will grow sitting under the preaching and teaching of God's word from the pulpit and in Sunday School or small groups. But, it must not end there. Discipleship is not confined to the church. It may take place anywhere and in any number of situations and circumstances. It may be structured meetings over a period of time, or encounters at different times and locations. Whatever it is, it is to be intentional, scriptural, edifying, purposeful, and fruitful. Praying and reading Scripture is a must. Outside of these, discipleship is not overly complicated. It is simply teaching believers how to live and act as believers.
     The key is to be intentional. Look for opportunities to teach someone something. This could be done through a phone call, having lunch, shopping together, watching a game, hunting, driving in the car, etc. Be aware of teachable moments. Look for ways to disciple friends and family. It never ends- there is always room for growth!
     Discipleship is not about programs, steps to success, or curriculums. It is about building relationships with other believers centered around Christ in order to aid them in their growth in Christlikeness. This then is a process. It takes time to build and cultivate relationships. Growth takes time. It is ongoing. Discipleship is exposure to other believers, the development of spiritual disciplines, and encouragement. It is also teaching. This includes: the gospel, authority of Scripture, a biblical worldview, contentment, how to deal with suffering and trials, how to read and interpret the Bible, doctrine, how to resist temptation, functions within the church, and many other things.
     The importance of biblical discipleship cannot be overstated. The lack of it in churches today is evident and reveals why the church is in the shape that it finds itself. Biblical ignorance and illiteracy seems to be at an all-time high. Why is this? Perhaps, it is because the church has dropped the ball when it comes to discipleship. It seems that the church, at least at one time, was only interested in numbers. People were rushed through the doors, told to recite a prayer, declared believers, and then allowed to walk right out the back. This is a generalization, but there is some truth to it.
     Believers, churches, need to get back to the Bible and biblical discipleship. It is imperative. We are commanded to make disciples. Again, this must be intentional. Disciples are made. They do not make themselves!

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Practical Teaching On Evangelism

Practical Teachings on Evangelism
     Evangelism is the proclamation of the gospel to the lost and the exhortation of sinners to repent of their wickedness and to trust in Christ alone for salvation from the just penalty of their sin- the wrath of the holy God. The Christian church and believers are to evangelize. We all have the responsibility, the privilege really, to share the gospel with the lost. This is to happen everywhere and anywhere. Evangelism takes place in a church setting, but also in the community, at work, in the home, in another country, at the bank, in the line at Walmart- anywhere!
     Pastors or evangelists are not the only people that are to evangelize. It is expected of every believer. Allow me to quote at length biblical passages that teach the responsibility of believers to evangelize. I cannot expound on all these passages, but the truth is there either directly or by inference.
Matthew 28:19-20, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you...”
Mark 16:15, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.”
Luke 24:47, “And that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.”
2 Corinthians 5:20, “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.”
1 Peter 2:9, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.”
     Evangelism is necessary. It is expedient that we tell others of the good news because the Bible teaches that mankind is lost and dead in sin (Eph. 2:1-3; Col. 2:13). They stand condemned before a holy God. Unless man repents and embraces Christ for deliverance, they will suffer an eternity of God's wrath in hell.
     What then are some practical teachings and guidelines on evangelism? What does evangelism look like? To begin, share the gospel. Tell of Christ and his willingness and ability to save, his death and resurrection, of man's sinfulness, of God's grace and mercy, of mankind's responsibility to repent and believe on Christ, and the judgment that awaits the unrepentant. Then, call for a response. Sinners are commanded to turn from their sin and trust in Christ.
     After this, pray. Pray that the Lord open hearts and work effectually to convert those who heard the gospel. Follow up, if possible, with those you shared with. Build a relationship, ask and answer questions, and show the person that you genuinely care for them. Invite them to church. Ask how you could pray for them or minister to them. Pray with them. Show the love of Christ. And then, repeat if possible or if necessary.
     Relax. Just be obedient to God. You cannot convert a sinner, change a person's heart, or change someone's mind. That is God's work. You just be faithful in sharing the good news and calling for a response and leave the rest to God.
     Remember, it is a privilege and a joy to proclaim the salvation of our great God. It ought to be a joy, not a burden, to share the grace of God in the person and work of the Son on the cross for sinners.
     Make it a habit to pray in relation to evangelism. Pray for boldness. Pray that the Lord open your eyes to the many opportunities to share the gospel that present themselves daily. Pray for pure motives, humility, love, and patience. Pray for a merciful spirit. Pray that the Lord give you a burden for the lost. Pray that God rain down his grace, bear fruit, and bring forth a harvest of souls.
     Read the word of God. Believers need to be familiar with the gospel in order to share the gospel. Study the examples of Christ, Peter, Paul, and John. Notice how they approached different people and different circumstances and contexts. The gospel message never changed but how they addressed people did. Learn from their examples. Also, read and know your Bible and doctrine. Those we evangelize often have questions. If you know the word of God, you may be able to answer questions and use them to point back to the work of Christ. But realize that you do not have to have all the answers. There is no shame in admitting that you do not know something.
     The primary way to evangelize is through the scriptures. The word of God is to be preached and shared. Faith comes by hearing the word of Christ (Rom. 10:17). The gospel may be communicated in other ways, however, such as passing out tracks, giving away Bibles, and handing out gospel-saturated and scriptural books.
     Evangelism is a discipline of the Christian life. Like all other disciplines, evangelism needs to be practiced. The more we do it, the more comfortable we will be. As other disciplines, it is also a means for us to grow in Christlikeness. The more it is practiced, the more growth will be experienced.
How does this work? When believers evangelize they are being obedient. It demands and teaches reliance upon the Spirit. When believers evangelize, it is often them that receive a blessing or are filled with joy. Evangelizing is doing the Father's work and brings glory to God. It is worship. When we share the gospel, we are obeying, telling of God's work, and this brings him honor.
    Believers grow by evangelizing because they are in the word and praying. Believers who evangelize are reminded of the gospel, their own sinfulness, God's amazing grace, Christ's sacrifice, the work of the Spirit, and their need of continual repentance.
     Also, when believers evangelize they are often humbled and broken by the sinful condition of man, ignorance of the true God, the amount of false idols that mankind worships, the amount of false gospels that sinful men believe, and the universal dilemma of trying to please God by works. This in turn, produces joy of being delivered and worship of our gracious God and Savior and motivates us to evangelize more.
     It is really quite simple. God sent Christ. Then he sent the church to proclaim Christ to the nations and our neighbors. This is how God chose to call sinners to himself. We have the responsibility and privilege to share in the work of God! We get to tell of his excellent greatness. We get to share the earth-shattering truth of Christ and his atoning death and victorious resurrection. We get to share the hell-crushing message of deliverance from the wrath of God. We get to urge sinners to repent and believe in Christ. We get to! Now, get to it.