Wednesday, June 28, 2017

The Greatest Challenge

What is the most difficult task you have ever attempted?

Perhaps the task is easy for others or perhaps it is difficult for most anyone. For instance, only about 4,500 have reached the summit of Mount Everest (although it has been reached about 7,700 times because many have accomplished the feat multiple times. Conversely, nearly 300 people have died on Everest trying to reach the summit.

But not everything needs to be that grand of a task. For instance, one accomplishment I never achieved was doing a pullup. I was an athletic boy, but I did not have the upper body strength to do that and had to watch others do 10, 15, 20 or more in elementary school each year. I knew what to do, but could not do it.

Personally, I believe that is one of the most challenging aspects of life. When we know what to do, but cannot do it, we often get frustrated. On the other hand, we might watch others be successful at something even though they do not really know what they are doing. For me, it was my ability to conduct music as a young child. I mimicked the music leader in our church and the choir and/or congregation seemed to do just fine.

The reality is that when we cannot do something, we usually feel inferior. But many times, pull-ups for me excluded, when we imitate what others do, we learn to do what was previously impossible, or at least difficult. And as the old adage goes, “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” If this statement is true then not only can our imitating others help us learn new skills, but we show others that we value what they can do.

However, flattery can be defined as “insincere praise.” If we consider this definition, then per the old quote, we could make it “Imitation is the sincerest form of insincere praise.” I am not quite certain what to do with that thought. But while we leave the thought behind, we must cling to the idea of imitation for that is the essence of the message this week.

Again, imitating others is a way we can learn, but not all imitation will be successful. Thus, some individuals are not willing to imitate others at all for fear of failure. The idea is that no matter how much I try, I am inferior, and do not want to be made a fool. Thus, if I make no attempt, then I am safe. But are we really safe? Or are we just duping ourselves?

As we focus on our need to make disciples, the idea of imitation is one important piece of how Jesus trained His disciples. In Mark 3.14, it says Jesus appointed the Twelve so He might be with them and send them out. Being with them allowed Him to teach the disciples and show them what to do. Sending them out allowed them to put their knowledge to the test. Thus, we have a model for discipleship, given by the One who told us to make disciples.

At this point, I want to remind us about our three overarching reasons we do not make disciples. But, today I want to add a fourth as well.
  • We don’t understand Jesus  (it is our responsibility too, not just 1st Century disciples)
  • We don’t believe God   (He is greater than the problems we will face)
  • We don’t love Jesus  (If you love me, you will obey my commandments – make disciples)
So, what is the fourth?
  • We don’t know how.

This issue is real and is partly our fault and partly not. It is not our fault because when Christianity was widely accepted and people went to church because it was the cultural thing to do, few focused on discipleship. Therefore, most were not taught to be disciples and therefore were ill-equipped to make disciples. Today, we are experiencing a lack of fruit because of that lack of attention to discipling.

However, we must take responsibility because the Bible clearly commands us to make disciples. In your job, if you are required to do something and don’t know how to do it, you figure out a way. In Christianity, we often don’t figure out a way because someone else will do it, or my favorite, that’s why we pay the pastor.

I could dive deep into this thought here, but I will only make this statement. The Bible never teaches that the pastor is to do the work of ministry. Rather, it says that the pastor, and other church leaders are to equip the saints to do the work of ministry. As a fellow saint, the pastor should be involved in the work, but nowhere is the pastor expected to do it alone.

With that said, let us take a moment to talk through our GPS. Join with me as we recite our Vision, Mission, Strategy, and Steps.

To be A large church in a small town. (Matthew 5.13-16)

Exalt the Savior (John 12.32).
Equip the Saint (Ephesians 4.11-13).
Evangelize the Sinner (Acts 1.8).

Jesus (Matthew 16.18-19) – The One worth following.
Observe (Colossians 1.28-29) – Following the commands of Jesus.
Unite (1 Corinthians 1.10) – Being one in fellowship with other believers.
Revere (John 12.32) – Worshipping God in all aspects of our lives.
Nurture (Eph 4.12-13) – Building up others for the work of ministry.
Engage (Acts 1.8) – Stirring the hearts of all people with the Gospel.
You (Matt. 15.15-16) – The one who decides to follow.

Learn With Each Other (Acts 17.10-12)
Live For Each Other (Rom 15.1-2)
Love God and All Others (Matt 22.37-39)
Lead One Another (to Follow Jesus) (2 Tim 2.2)
(Leave) When Called by the One True Other (Acts 13.1-3)

Now, before we get to our Teaching Moment, let me quickly summarize Ephesians for us so we are prepared to unpack chapter 5.

Ephesians 1-3 How to Believe 
Ephesians 4-6 How to Live

Ch 1: Our identity is in Christ
Ch 2: “But God” saved us so we are one because of Christ
Ch 3: God’s plan for all time was revealed through Christ
Ch 4: Our walk with God should match our faith
Ch 5: Our walk with God should reveal our love
Ch 6: Continue Chap 5 (love); be prepared to face the enemy


Let us now turn our attention to Ephesians 5. As we do, we will immediately begin to understand why I have used the title I did. In the first five words of this chapter, we are told to be imitators of God. Is Paul serious? Is this possible? Well, I do believe Paul is serious, and I do not believe God would ask us to do it if such a command were not possible. Now, imitating God is not possible in our power, but as we are reminded elsewhere in Scripture, “With God all things are possible.”

But look at the verse a little more closely. Paul doesn’t say, “Andy, imitate God.” He says, “children” (plural). We, as the church, are to collectively imitate God. How can we do that? What are we supposed to do? Let’s see what Paul says.

A disciple-making church walks in love. (vv. 1-2)

In Ephesians 4, Paul uses the word “walk” three times. In chapter 5, he uses walk another three times. The word literally means “to walk” but Paul’s usage relates to how we live our lives, specifically as Christians. So, first, we, the church, are to walk in love. We cannot make disciples if we do not have a love of people. Ambivalence towards others is not to directly condemn someone to hell, but may effectively do the same. On the other hand, to actively help someone grow in their knowledge, service, and love of Christ requires love.

Paul shares the reality that this kind of love is not easy. We are to love as Christ loved. Christ was beaten and battered because of His deep love for us. During our study of Mark, I talked about the ointment that was put on Jesus less than a week before He died. I mentioned that the stench of His body after being tortured would have carried a whiff of that ointment as well. But to God, the fragrance mentioned in verse 2 here is not a literal smell, but an expression of the obedience Christ showed when He was offered as a sacrifice.

If we shift to the end of our passage today, we find, in verse 21, another reference to the work of Christ. To make disciples we must submit to one another because of our place in Christ. Paul is writing to two groups who distrusted one another to great ends. The Jew thought the Gentile detestable and the Gentile wanted nothing to do with the Jew. But in chapter 2, Paul says the work of Jesus broke down “the wall of hostility” and they should live accordingly. Why? Because they share one Father.

Fairfax Baptist Church, do we carry animosity towards one another? Our imitation of God must begin with love. We are to unite together as fellow members of Fairfax Baptist Church. But we are to unite together with fellow members of the body of Christ. As I mentioned last week, we must stand strong for God’s truth – as that is an important element in making disciples, but to follow Christ is to walk in love. To follow Christ is to sacrifice our desires for the good of others. It is to extend our boundaries beyond our Jerusalem to the end of the earth. Let us make sure to love our brothers and sisters within our congregation and then extend that love to fellow Christians, and ultimately to those who need to know about Christ as well.

A disciple-making church walks in light. (vv. 3-14)

Paul provides a little more detail here. Walking in love is a bit ambiguous. But when discussing walking in light, Paul provides some specifics that we should avoid.

Sexual Immorality
In our culture today, people will have different definitions for this idea, but trust me when I say that the culture in Ephesus was probably as bad, and likely worse, than ours is today. Regardless, it is difficult to escape sexual references in television, movies, advertisements, etc. But if we are to imitate God, we must seek to avoid finding ourselves in compromising situations – according to God’s standards, not ours.

Impurity – All Impurity
Paul means to be pure in thought and in deed.

Of course, this is the tenth commandment, but to isolate the command here shows the problem was real. It may not have been about the neighbor’s new car, but like Paul says in verse 4, we should be thankful for what we have, not jealous for what we don’t.

No Foolish Talk or Crude Joking
Paul has just mentioned in Eph. 4.29 not to let any unwholesome talk come from your mouths. Now, he reiterates. In James 3, James asks how can a tongue praise God and curse people. How can the same mouth produce such a drastic difference in speech? I am afraid many Christians have used their tongue in far more damaging ways than in ways that have been beneficial for the sake of the Kingdom.

Being Deceived
How can this be? By knowing the truth? Remember last week, the people of Corinth had been deceived by some false leaders. Why? They didn’t stand firm in the truth they already knew. We are responsible for one another. Let us encourage one another in, by, and for the truth.

Don’t Partner with Darkness
Such a statement may seem obvious, but we do it all the time. This week, I faced a situation where I had a chance to provide an opportunity for someone to do something they wanted, and I could probably have made it work so that no one would have found out. It wasn’t illegal, but if I had chosen to do it, it would have been immoral, and would have been partnering with darkness in an opportunity that is designed to glorify God.

Before continuing, take a moment to read the warning in Ephesians 5.5.

Instead, Paul tells us what a God-imitator would do.

Walk as Children of Light
Our walk and our talk should be evidence of our faith. In Romans 10, Paul wrote that the gospel comes by hearing, but people will be deaf to our words if our walk does not match our talk. Do your actions match your voice?

Discern What Is Pleasing to the Lord
In some manner, this step can be difficult. But in reality, we often make it far more difficult than it really is. Paul is writing to believers, that is important to remember. Most believers know what God wants, but most of us often find ways to forget or make excuses for doing something else. If we are spending time with God – which is what a good imitator has to do – then we should find it easier to not only know what God finds pleasing, but we should find it easier to do it as well.

Expose the Darkness
Light exposes darkness. Without light, we would not know what darkness was. The first recorded words in the Bible are “Let there be light.” Why? So that we could see once we were created. And our job now is to expose the evil, to expose the darkness. Why? Because that is what God does and we are to imitate Him.

Fairfax Baptist Church, how is our walk?  Do you encourage others in their walk as they are challenged by some of these areas? Are you exposing darkness and seeking to please the Lord? Again, Paul is not writing to the individual, he is writing to the church? We are to help one another, but for some reason we have concluded, “Well, that is none of my business.” But it is! If we are to make disciples, we must make it our business, because making disciples was the Lord’s command and thus doing so will be pleasing to Him. We don’t need to be rude about it, but we must be willing to offer correction as well as being open to correction as well.

A disciple-making church walks in wisdom. (vv. 15-21)

Paul closes this section with a very direct statement – make the best use of the time.  What does that mean? Does that mean you can never have down time? That you can never have alone time (or “me time” as it is often called)?

No, but Paul definitely equates our use of time with both the Lord’s will and with being wise. Take a moment to read verse 15 then verse 17. Now, read verse 16 and see how that verse ties the other two together.

Paul is saying we need to make life count. Our walk is not to be wasted. We are to do God’s will and God has too much for us to do. What God has for you and what He has for me may not be the same. BUT, whatever He has for you – make it count. Just like I need to “make it count” whatever He has for me.

Paul then makes a comparison with that which we fill ourselves – being drunk with wine or with the Spirit? One, excessive drinking, is unwise and leads to indulgence and sensual pleasures. The other, being filled with the Spirit, leads to pleasing God. Then Paul makes an odd statement – he was we should not only sing to God, but we should sing to one another. Some debate exists if Paul is using three terms to mean the same idea (psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs), but I believe he is writing about three different forms of songs or music. Regardless, he writes that we are to sing – again, to one another as well to God expressing our thanks to Him.

Fairfax Baptist Church, are we making our time count? Is our walk reflecting the will of God for us collectively? If our walk considered wise by God? How do you use your time? Do you know how you spend your time or do you just live day to day and wonder what has happened to the first-half of 2017. Without a doubt, life seems to get busier and busier each year. But that is our fault, not God’s. God gave us all 24 hours in day. Recently, I had a conversation about how people often wish for more time in a day. However, if we cannot handle 24, what makes us think we can handle more? That is a very good point. But what are you doing with your time? What am I doing with mine? What are we doing together to advance God’s cause? Those are the questions we must consider if we are to be effective in fulfilling His will.

I began this message with the idea of imitation. Paul wrote that we are to imitate God. We have seen a glimpse of what that could mean, but the reality is that learning to imitate God is likely the greatest challenge any of us could ever face. And, this I promise you, you cannot do it alone. You were not designed to do it alone. That is why Jesus said, “I will build my church” and it is why He told His church to make disciples. That task is to be our business. That task is our purpose. To accomplish that, we must engage with one another, with other believers, and with all people – whether they are within our Jerusalem or if they are as far away as the ends of the earth.


NEXT STEP(S):  Live:  Last week, I asked you to write down the name of someone you would contact to begin or continue to disciple them. Did you do it? If we are to be a disciple-making church, we must get past good intentions. Disciples are not made by good intentions, they are made with intentionality. This week, make the best use of the time, and turn your intentions into action.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

“Engage”, A Closer Look by Andy Braams

Jesus statement in Acts 1.8 meant for His disciples to follow the lead of the Holy Spirit and go to the various locations He mentioned. Unless you live in Jerusalem, then the idea must be applied to your location. Thus, share the gospel and make disciples locally, then regionally (perhaps a county or even state), then nationally, and then throughout the world.

It is paramount that Christians follow Christ’s command as He gave it. However, I want to show you a new way of looking at Acts 1.8. This will cover the idea of Engage, not only from sharing the gospel, but in participating in Kingdom initiatives as well. In other words, the second idea is like a progression of our discipleship.

Consider the following table. In a real way, Jesus meant for us to go. However, not every Christian will go to the ends of the earth. Perhaps some are unable to go to their Samaria because of a lack of health, funds, or something similar (though a lack of funds is often more of an excuse than reality because many people will generously share to help others serve where God is calling). We need to reach those who are lost, and thus, if we cannot go, we often pray for, or give to, others who can.

95% of the lost people in the world, live with no access to the gospel!

Let me put this into perspective of a growing disciple? Certainly, exceptions exist – many new Christians jump at an opportunity to go to the ends of the earth, but for the sake of this teaching, let us use a natural progression. I realize I am spiritualizing this verse, and again, that is why I mentioned we must first apply Jesus’ words as He meant them.

Let us use Kenya as our example.

Last year, at this time, our church took up a collection for a printer (pic) for the church at Archer’s Post. I believe it cost something like $300. The money was raised, but contributions were only from a couple of people. Then, I went to Kenya, and you all prayed for me on the trip. When I returned, I mentioned that Benson needed a motorcycle because he had to walk so far each day. And Michael had a bike, but needed gas. The church responded within two weeks with the funds to purchase the bike and had enough left for $200 worth of gas. Now, we take up a monthly collection. Then, I announced a plan to return to Kenya and several inquire about going and three others (names of the four) from this church are next January.

Let me show you what happened to us as a church. As I do, realize the same is true of individuals.

First, you heard about an opportunity to get involved. Most didn’t at that time, but it began by hearing.

Second, you prayed about the situation. Not so much about the printer, but for me and the teaching I was able to do.

Third, your praying became action – most everyone has given something to the piki piki fund. We have collected well over $500 to date. That is awesome! Now we have a box here to collect coloring books and crayons and other supplies that we will take with in January.

Fourth, you are involved. Again, four of us are going in January. But each of us have wives, so they are directly involved. For many of you, Kenya became quite real with Linus was here last month. Now, when you hear Kenya on a news report, you mind registers a thought when it likely did not before.

Do you see the progression?
Hear –> Pray –> Give –> Involved

That is a process of learning to Engage. We hear about a problem, but we don’t worry about it too much. The next time we hear about something similar, we take time to pray. Then perhaps an opportunity to give some financial or other assistance takes place. And finally, you are personally involved in the situation.

Such is the nature of humanity in many cases. Such is the nature of churches. And such is an evolution of a disciple who becomes more and more involved with God’s plan for themselves, the church, and others – beginning in Jerusalem and eventually extending to the ends of the earth.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

A Commendable Initiative

About fifteen years ago, a book about prayer created a bit of a craze in the Christian world. The book is based upon 1 Chronicles 4.10 and is entitled The Prayer of Jabez. The prayer is a request that God would be bless him, enlarge the territory of Jabez, be with him, and keep Jabez from evil so that Jabez might not cause pain. God grants the request which is somewhat amazing because the prayer appears to be all about Jabez and not about God.

The reality is that Jabez showed initiative and was rewarded for it. It may seem bold, and it is. But if it seems especially bold it is because somehow over the years we have equated Christian qualities such as gentleness and meekness with the idea of being passive. Yet the greatest king in Israel’s history had songs sung about him for having killed tens of thousands. Jesus went into the temple complex and turned over tables and cracked a whip. Of course, we must consider Daniel who went into his chamber to pray alone. However, don’t forget he prayed near his window for all to see. A bold move indeed.

Last week, I talked about the idea of autonomy. Our will is important, but it must be yielded to God. The same is true with taking initiative. God does not want people who are passive. He wants people who are bold – people who take the initiative. But that initiative must be within the will of God for it to be proper. And the reality is that we all understand God and His will a little differently, so that is why the foundational issue of trust is so important. Thus, I began with trust two weeks ago, autonomy last week, and this week we will look at initiative.

The problem with initiative is that oftentimes those who show initiative are confronted by others with a measure of guilt. Within our passage this week, I will discuss the need to confront self-serving initiative, but as I hopefully have already proved (albeit briefly), initiative itself is not wrong. So, for instance, as we discuss the idea of being a disciple-making church, we will have to take initiative to make that happen. Jesus said to make disciples. We can’t just wish people to be disciples. The word “make” means work must be done and work requires initiative.

I will unpack this next thought further in the coming weeks, but this current series is a modified version of the work I did for my dissertation a couple of years ago. (My dissertation compared Erikson’s theory of Psychosocial Development against the letters of Paul to the churches.) I mention this now, because a survey my church filled out in late May / early June of 2015, showed this step (Initiative vs Guilt) to be this church’s biggest issue with regards to making disciples. Trust was the highest score (so we have a good foundation), but this score was lowest.

As I consider the idea of Initiative and Guilt, I am reminded of the 3 overarching reasons people and churches do not make disciples:

  • We don’t understand Jesus  (it is our responsibility too, not just 1st Century disciples)
  • We don’t believe God   (He is greater than the problems we will face)
  • We don’t love Jesus  (If you love me, you will obey my commandments – make disiciples)

Not understanding Jesus is one thing, not seeking to understand is another. Not believing the promises of God is one thing, not learning to trust Him is another. Not keeping Jesus commands is one thing, refusing to learn to do so is another. In other words, these three reasons may be valid, but with the proper initiative, a person or a church can overcome each of these issues and be about the business of making disciples!

Per Erikson, the foundational issue is trust. In our look at 1 Corinthians a couple of weeks ago, I stated we must be united in Christ, trust one another, and emphasize the gospel.

Then, last week we turned to the idea of autonomy. By reviewing Paul’s life as recorded in Philippians, I stated we must focus on Christ, the future, and setting an example for others.

Today, from 2 Corinthians, we will review how our trust, and a proper focus of our will, allows us to understand that taking initiative for God is not only necessary, but expected.

Before we recite our GPS, let me provide a brief outline of 2 Corinthians so we have the context for our passage today.

Ch 1-2: God comfort us so we can comfort others providing hope because we are triumphant in Christ.

Ch 3-4: We are all ministers of and in the new covenant
Ch 5-6: We are created anew to reconcile others to God
Ch 7-9: Godly grief produces repentance which leads to being generous as we realize His generosity to us
Ch 10-12: Paul defends his ministry as a true apostle
Ch 13: Concluding remarks

Now, join with me as we recite our Vision, Mission, Strategy, and Steps.


To be A large church in a small town. (Matthew 5.13-16)


Exalt the Savior (John 12.32).
Equip the Saint (Ephesians 4.11-13).
Evangelize the Sinner (Acts 1.8).


Jesus (Matthew 16.18-19) – The One worth following.
Observe (Colossians 1.28-29) – Following the commands of Jesus.
Unite (1 Corinthians 1.10) – Being one in fellowship with other believers.
Revere (John 12.32) – Worshipping God in all aspects of our lives.
Nurture (Eph 4.12-13) – Building up others for the work of ministry.
Engage (Acts 1.8) – Stirring the hearts of all people with the Gospel.
You (Matt. 15.15-16) – The one who decides to follow.


Learn With Each Other (Acts 17.10-12)
Live For Each Other (Rom 15.1-2)
Love God and All Others (Matt 22.37-39)
Lead One Another (to Follow Jesus) (2 Tim 2.2)
(Leave) When Called by the One True Other (Acts 13.1-3)

As we prepare to transition directly to the text, let me share one more thought about 2 Corinthians as a whole. A major purpose for Paul writing this letter was because other leaders had come to Corinth and took the initiative to disrupt Paul’s ministry. The text does not give us any indication of who these leaders were, but we can surmise that they were apostles because Paul calls them super-apostles in chapter 11. This could mean that they had lived with Jesus, but that does not necessarily mean just the Twelve, because Barnabas is called an apostle in Acts. So, whomever these individuals are, they have come to Corinth and have frustrated the work of Paul while he has been away starting other churches. With that extra background, let us turn to Chapter 10.

A Disciple-Making Church Is Equipped for Battle (vv. 1-6)

Many (perhaps most) people who go to church do not realize that a war is happening all around them. We may not see the actual battle though we may sense it at times. Nevertheless, we can be certain the battle exists. We can also be certain of the Victor. In fact, the war is over – Christ won (see 2 Cor 2.14-16). But the enemy is still engaged in battle until he is finally bound and chained.

Paul begins chapter 10 by having fun with their claim that he is meek and gentle when in their midst, but bold in his writing when he is away. But then he goes on the attack against those who are spreading such claims in Corinth. Notice the words and phrases Paul uses in verses 3-6: Waging war; weapons; warfare; power; destroy; strongholds; destroy;raised against; captive; punish

These are all terms related to war as he uses them. Again, a very real war is occurring all around us. The war in Corinth was an attack on the credibility of Paul. Paul showed initiative by creating a great work in Corinth and had greater hopes as we will see shortly. But this new group of leaders came in and sowed confusion as to the gospel as well as towards who Paul was and/or what he represented.

But as the overall letter reveals, Paul cares deeply for the people of Corinth. He wants them to not only realize they need to stand up for themselves, but he wants them to eradicate the evil around them. Instead, they put up with a false gospel because they have been easily deceived. See (2 Cor 11.1-6.)

As I shared a couple of weeks ago, Paul stated the gospel in its most succinct form at the end of his previous letter to Corinth (1 Cor 15.3-5). Paul knew that the battle against the enemy is a battle for the truth. When Satan appeared before Eve in the Garden, what did he do? (He asked, “Did God really say…?”). When Satan confronted Jesus in the wilderness, what did He do? (He showed Jesus a power that could be known if he renounced truth.) Eve’s response was partial truth. Jesus response was full truth. Which one withstood the temptation?

Fairfax Baptist Church, do we know God’s truth? A part of being a disciple is not only knowing God, but knowing His truths. One of my goals in standing here each week is to expose us to the truth of God from His word. Again, I make no apologies for my intent. My approach may not always be the best, but my goal is to equip you with an understanding of the Word of God so that you can not only live for Jesus, but you are better prepared to withstand the attack of the enemy while doing so. Being prepared, and having others to help you, is why we are exhorted not to forsake meeting together as the writer of Hebrews tells us. Do we need organized religion to be a Christian? No. But we cannot have a true relationship with Christ unless we are in relationship with others as well. And, as we are better equipped to handle the challenges around us, we can lead others to navigate life’s challenges as well. In fact, that is what we are called to do. That is what Jesus commanded us to do – teach others to observe all that He commanded. Why? Because as we do, we realize life is not about our thoughts but, rather, they are about His. He wants to equip us so we can equip others.

A Disciple-Making Church Embraces God’s Standards (vv. 7-12)

Equipping others (or Nurture as Rick shares here) is not about our desires though. The equipping and nurture must be about God’s business. In this middle set of verses for this chapter, Paul, again, writes with a bit of sarcasm. In verse 7, Paul implores them to not think too highly of themselves – that they are better than he. But then in verse 8, Paul writes that he exercised the authority given to him for their benefit – to build them up (nurture). Alternatively, Paul again refers to these “others” who challenge Paul’s authority by suggesting he is bold in writing, but weak when with the Corinthians. Paul boldly refutes this notion, but then gives us a hint as to the thinking that must be the real issue. (See 2 Cor 12.12-13.)

Paul suggests that these other individuals make themselves look good by comparing themselves to others. Specifically, from what we can gather, they tear others down. Again, as Paul says in verse 8, he was busy building up the people of Corinth. But now, evil has spread, and it is time to tear down (or destroy) these false leaders (remember the war imagery from verses 3-6).

The tendency is for all of us to think in a way similar to this faulty leadership group. But notice what Paul said at the end of verse 12 – those that think this way are without understanding. Why? Because they are so busy comparing themselves to others that they have lost focus on what God wants. The standards of God are what counts – not what other people or other churches are doing. Consider it this way, if people are not doing as much as we are, we feel good about ourselves and consider it a shame that they can’t be like us. But if people are showing initiative and are making us look bad, we make them feel guilty and bring them down a size or two. This is not the mark of a disciple, but unfortunately, it is the mark of many a Christian. And most of us may be guilty of this, but remember, Jesus died for that sin too. However, we must repent and change our standards – embracing God’s not ours.

When we embrace God’s standards, we find that we are well short of the mark and that is why we need a Savior. And that is why we must not only seek to equip others, but seek to be equipped ourselves.

Fairfax Baptist Church, do we find ourselves measuring success by our size or activities related to other churches in Fairfax or NW Missouri? Or do we measure our success based upon our individual, and collective faithfulness to God? Do we hurt when our sister churches in Fairfax hurt or do we look for cracks to expose the churches in some way? I have said before and I will say again: Our competition is not any other Bible-believing church; our competition is the culture. Yes, a war exists in Fairfax and beyond, but let us be careful not to engage in a battle with one another. Too many Christians have been wounded by so-called “friendly fire” and have left their churches because of it. Let us choose to embrace God’s standards and rise to meet them – and encourage our true brothers and sisters of this, and any, church to do the same.

A Disciple-Making Church Expands Its Influence (vv. 15-17)

Do you appreciate arrogant people? Paul has used the word boast a few times in our passage today. Again, it is natural to understand his usage of the term as an affront to these individuals who were boasting about themselves – making lofty comparisons wherever possible. Paul, on the other hand, says that he will not boast beyond limits. But instead of focusing on the boasting, I want to review the idea of measurement here. The idea of war was so prominent in the first section of chapter 10, and now Paul uses a play on several words relating to making an improper boast, but also relating to advancing into new territory as a victorious army: Beyond limits; area; overextending; come all the way; beyond limit; increases; area; greatly enlarged lands; beyond you; area.

Paul is expressing his primary concern in these verses. While Paul is concerned for the church in Corinth, he shares his  concern regarding what could be done from Corinth (vv.15-16).

Map of Corinth

Map of the New Testament Churches

The location of Corinth was centralized for his operations. He could travel north by land to Europe or sail to Italy or Spain through the Gulf of Corinth or around the southern tip of Greece. His goal was to extend the influence of the gospel throughout the region and he was taking the initiative to make that happen.

But again, notice the difference of Paul’s boasting in verses 17-18. He may want to boast about this, but any boasting should be about God because this initiative is the work of God. Paul is going to the end of the earth to make disciples – which was Jesus command. Thus, Paul says, let the glory-mongers commend themselves. I will give glory to God.

Fairfax Baptist Church, is our initiative to bring glory to God? We should be driven each day to determine how we can bring glory to God. That should be my goal. That should be your goal. And most importantly, as a church, that should be our goal. And, in fact, it is – at least, formally. Compare the words of our vision statement to what Paul says about Corinth here. Our Vision statement is “to be a large church in a small town.” After our first year together, I introduced this idea as the vision for our church and from that day forward I have expressed that the meaning is about our influence not our size. That is what Paul says here. He wants the church of Corinth to allow the gospel to influence more people in the surrounding area. Why? So God will commend the work done. That is, God will show His approval of the initiative taken. Why would God do this? Because He gets the glory? And now, tying this all back to our vision statement again, (See Matthew 5.13-16.)


In 2 Corinthians 10, we see that initiative is good and often necessary. Paul took the initiative to help the church at Corinth to see they had been duped and asked them to engage in the battle for truth in order that the truth might then reach more people.

Paul had a goal. And Paul had the initiative to work for that goal which means at some level he had a strategy. But as Peter Drucker says, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” What Drucker means is that the values of any organization will overcome any stated ideas or goals. So, to change the goals, the values must be aligned with the goals. So, let me ask a few questions:

Do you value Jesus? 

Do you value the Bible? 
Do you value people? 
Do you value people being born again?
Do you value seeing people grow in their faith?

If you answered yes to those five questions, then you value making disciples. If enough of us answered yes, then our church values making disciples.

I suggest that we do value making disciples. But are we? More specifically, are you? Can we do a better job? Can you?

Does our culture suggest we are a disciple-making church? If so, how does our strategy of JOURNEY help? If it doesn’t help, we must ask ourselves if the reason is because our culture is eating the strategy of JOURNEY for breakfast?


NEXT STEP(S): Lead: Write down the name of someone you will contact this week to begin or continue to disciple them. Imagine what this church would be if each of us did this for just one person. If we truly value making-disciples like the questions I asked earlier, then we should not have to imagine very long.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

“Nurture”, A Closer Look by Rick Sons

Jina langu ni Rick Sons
Mimi nizaliwa tena
Mimi ni hapa kukupa neon                    
Mungu ni mwema
Yesu anakupenda

Nurture: to care for and encourage the growth or development of.

Today we will learn about Nurture as it fits in our JOURNEY.  The Scripture we use for Nurture in our JOURNEY is:
“And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ,” – Ephesians 4:11-13

What is discussed in these verses is the follow-up of what God has done on the cross through Christ. We would expect the resurrected Lord Jesus to remain on earth, but He didn’t. Instead, we know Christ’s Spirit came upon His people and lives through them. Christ is living Himself out through our lives. So Christ, in a real way, is living His life out on earth through our lives.

The first thing that is mentioned is how God, through Christ, has made it possible for all of His people to receive the truth they need to live right and good lives. God gave certain gifts and associated them with certain key positions in the church. These men are not called leaders here but certainly play that influential part. There are five categories: apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers.

While on our JOURNEY as disciples, we are to see that the Word of God is passed on to build the body of Christ. In a few short months, four of us will be going to Kenya to do just that. When I opened my lesson today I spoke to you in Swahili. Which along with English, is the main language of Kenya. I said,

Hujambo – “Hello”
Jina langu ni – “My name is Rick Sons”
Mimi nizaliwa tena – “I am born again”
Mimi ni hapa kukupa neno – “I am here to give you the Word”
Mungu ni mwema – “God is good”
Yesu anakupenda – “Jesus loves you”

These are simple phrases alone but together they form the beginning of a powerful and true statement. I have been working on some of the Swahili language for the past month so that when I go, the people will know that I am serious about being there to help them. To nurture their love of Christ, to equip the people of Kenya, to nurture their walk, so that they too can build the body of Christ – this is our main goal as believers and disciples of Christ. This may not be done in a faraway country, as not everyone can take on this type of ministry.  Still, it is out the comfort of the doors of our congregation. We say, “I am saved and I am a disciple” (as long as I can do it from the comfort of my pew). My friends, a JOURNEY is traveling from one point to another and if we stay put in the pew our JOURNEY will stop.

God will be calling and raising leaders from among our congregations to these positions. Are you one of them? Are you so burdened down by misconceptions that you cannot seek God’s best for our congregations?

If we start opening our eyes in faith to the God who is serious about equipping the church, then He indeed will bless us. We must not fall into the mindset of doubting our need for any of these gifted men. 

We need to pray that God all the more equips us, like the Antioch church. God is serious about training His people. We need to get with it and start recognizing those He has gifted around us, otherwise we will never get where God wants to take us.

Asante sana – “Thank you very much”

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Wants Vs. Will and Why It Matters

I want to begin this week by asking you to write down three things you want to do, but may not be able to accomplish. You can write down anything, but it has to be your want, not someone else’s.

After you have done that, for each of your wants, I want you to write down two reasons why you can’t do it (if you cannot).

As you review your list, I am certain most every one of your wants that you cannot do will fall into one of three categories:

1. The reason relates to personal limitations. (Too young, too old, not enough resources (money, time, etc.))
2. The reason relates to changing the past. (Undoing something you said, something you did or didn’t do, even seeing someone who has died)
3. The reason relates to what others will think about you. (Doubts, even Shame, foolishness, immature, etc)

The beauty is that our passage this week can help us to think differently about each of these three categories. But it is important to realize that a part of our failing is that we have plenty of wants, but we lack the will to make our wants a reality. Now before you dismiss the human will as evil, let me make sure you understand I am referring to the Christian here. Someone who has not been born again, can will to do good, and can even do some good, but they cannot make their will align with God’s will. On the other hand, the person who truly believes in Christ can align our will with God. We have a true choice – our way or God’s way. In a very dramatic sense, Jesus prayed that prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane. But we must each pray that prayer daily, hourly, even second by second sometimes.

Some may still object at allowing our will to take such a large role. But you do it every day. When mealtime approaches, your body wants food. But food does not just appear from nowhere. So, you will to prepare your meal. But the food didn’t just show up in a cabinet or refrigerator, so you willed to go to the store to purchase food even if you did not want to.

Likewise, we have wants in life. But do we plan to make them happen or do we let them just dissipate? James 4.13-15 reminds us that making plans is fine, but we must make sure it is the Lord’s will too. Proverbs 16.9 says a man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps. The heart – the wants – help us plan our direction, but our will must yield to the Lord.

With that in mind, some matters are beyond us. For instance, no matter how much you will the want for salvation, you cannot earn it. You can do nothing to gain it. It is a gift. Alternatively, the want to live a life more devoted to the Lord is up to your will. Certainly, God desires that for you, so if it is not happening, we cannot blame Him.

What is true for people is also true for churches. In the introduction for this series, I gave three overarching reasons why people and churches do not make disciples. Without elaborating again, let me remind us of those reasons.

3 overarching reasons people and churches do not make disciples:

  • We don’t understand Jesus  (it is our responsibility too, not just 1st Century disciples)
  • We don’t believe God   (He is greater than the problems we will face)
  • We don’t love Jesus  (If you love me, you will obey my commandments – make disciples)

Last week, I talked about our need to trust one another and be united as a church. This week, we add the idea of autonomy. Autonomy is just a fancy word for the will. For instance, Baptists believe in the autonomy of the local church. That is, our church partners with a lot of different churches in different areas for different reasons. But we make our own decisions. That is, we are not a part of a hierarchy of churches or other form of church governance. But because we are autonomous as a church, we, as members, should be active and involved in the affairs of the church – in unity as we talked last week. This week, for a discussion on autonomy we turn to the life of Paul in Philippians 3. Before we extrapolate principles from His life for the church, let us quickly review the letter as a whole.

Ch 1: Our autonomy defers to Christ – Jesus completes the work begun, we partner for the gospel, to live is Christ
Ch 2: Our autonomy does not mean unbridled liberty – have the mind of Christ, Timothy & Epaphroditus did
Ch 3: Our autonomy in Christ > autonomy apart from Him – Paul – focus on this below
Ch 4: Our autonomy will cause us to be concerned for others

That is a brief overview of this letter to the church at Philippi – a church that had much going for it, but was being challenged by a group called the Judaizers which we will hear more about in a few weeks. For now, let us take the time to recite our Vision, Mission, Strategy, and Steps as a reminder of where our focus needs to be as a Kingdom-focused church – a church which follows Jesus and, therefore, is making disciples.

To be A large church in a small town. (Matthew 5.13-16)

Exalt the Savior (John 12.32).
Equip the Saint (Ephesians 4.11-13).
Evangelize the Sinner (Acts 1.8).

Jesus (Matthew 16.18-19) – The One worth following.
Observe (Colossians 1.28-29) – Following the commands of Jesus.
Unite (1 Corinthians 1.10) – Being one in fellowship with other believers.
Revere (John 12.32) – Worshipping God in all aspects of our lives.
Nurture (Eph 4.12-13) – Building up others for the work of ministry.
Engage (Acts 1.8) – Stirring the hearts of all people with the Gospel.
You (Matt. 15.15-16) – The one who decides to follow.

Learn With Each Other (Acts 17.10-12)
Live For Each Other (Rom 15.1-2)
Love God and All Others (Matt 22.37-39)
Lead One Another (to Follow Jesus) (2 Tim 2.2)
(Leave) When Called by the One True Other (Acts 13.1-3)

Leon provides a closer look at reverence and worship in this week’s teaching moment. Our need to revere God must be the fundamental understanding  as we reflect on our passage for this week. For while we may be autonomous, our wants AND our will must be conformed to God if we are to truly accomplish all that He has for us to do. And what He wants for us is to make disciples. Let us turn to Philippians, and specifically chapter 3, to see how Paul’s life and autonomy can help us understand our own, and more importantly ours as a church.

A Disciple-Making Church Is Focused on Christ (vv. 1-11)

As we begin in Philippians 3, we have three different parties represented, Paul (who is writing), the Philippian brothers and sisters (the letter’s recipients), and the Judaizers (the dogs, v. 2). As we begin the chapter we see Paul was originally focused on his achievements, the Judaizers were focused on circumcision, and the Philippians did not know where to focus. Fortunately, Paul clarified the matter for the people of Philippi and, by doing so, clarified matters for us as well.

The issue is that the Judaizers have come to Philippi with a claim that to truly be a person of God meant you had to be circumcised. The idea was that God required all Israelite males to be circumcised, and Israel was God’s chosen people, so if the Philippians were really to be called chosen, then circumcision was necessary. Remember, Paul was a Jew, but was sent to the Gentiles, and the Gentiles, like those in Philippi, had no reason to be circumcised.

So, Paul begins his argument by showing how special he really was. If the Philippians wanted to be special, they would have to compare themselves to him – and they would fall far short. He gave all of his credentials as a Jew – some of which he had no control (e.g. to which tribe he was born, v.5), and others which he did (being zealous for God, v.6). Paul was autonomous and willed himself to become a leader among the religious elite of the Jews. But then something happened – Paul met God. Specifically, he met Jesus on the road to Damascus. What happened that day changed his life. Rather than willing himself to see what could be achieved, He willed himself based upon what he had received.

In verse 7, we see this change clearly. Paul cast aside all that he was and desired to be for the person of Jesus. Everything was rubbish to him compared to knowing Jesus. But it was not enough to simply know Jesus. In verse 8, Paul says he wanted to gain Christ. This is the same Paul who wrote that we cannot earn salvation, so what does he mean here? He wants to know more of Jesus…specifically, Paul wants his identity one with Jesus, which is the only way his true goal – resurrection with Christ – is possible. Verse 9 continues that he wants to be found in Him to know the true righteousness that comes from God, not a false one based upon works and a date of birth. But then, comes the kicker. Paul wants to know Jesus so intimately that he suffers like Jesus and even dies for Jesus. Why? Because Paul wants to experience the resurrection of Jesus. For, as Paul said in 1.21, “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”

Fairfax Baptist Church, do our wants align with this type of thinking? Do you personally want to know Christ more, to know the true righteousness of God, to know Jesus so intimately that you want to suffer for Him and die for Him? I have a note in my Bible next to these verses from when I first read this passage from this Bible in 2010. It simply asks, “Do I want this? Why not?” If we do not want Jesus, then how can we be a disciple-making church? So, the question for us today is the same that I wrote nearly seven years ago: “Do you want Jesus this badly? If not, why not?”

I admit, I often am not consistent in my thinking regarding this matter. But when I truly reflect (which is a good translation of the word translated in verse 7 for “counted”), I realize that my true desires are for Jesus. I just allow myself to get distracted by life’s demands sometime. So, let us all reflect for a moment, realize that Jesus is truly our goal, and then see what we should do about it.

A Disciple-Making Church Is Focused on the Future (vv. 12-14)

The next couple of verses are where the rubber meets the road. Remember, at the beginning of this message (post), I asked you what you wanted, and then why it cannot happen. Paul had just expressed his wants, but instead of settling for what cannot be, he focused on what only God can truly do. Paul wrote that he had cast everything aside because of the “surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” But setting aside the bad is not what Christianity is about. Christianity is about embracing the good. In embracing the good, we will set aside the bad, but Jesus did not die for moral reform, Jesus died that the dead could live. And Paul wants to live. So, now Paul turns from his wants to his will. His autonomy had gained him much as a Jew, but now as a Christian, he had to “make himself nothing taking the form of a servant.” Yes, those are the same words ascribed to Christ in Philippians 2.7, but for Paul to accomplish his goal, he had to do the same.

Notice his words in chapter 3, verses 12-14, they are future oriented. He has already listed his wants, now he begins to express his will in order to achieve the wants. First, he realizes that he has not yet obtained his goals – more work must be done. He must press on (v.12, 14) and forget what is behind in order to move ahead (v. 13) which is the only way he will ultimately receive his prize – standing face to face with Jesus (v. 14). The phrases “press on” and “straining forward” both have a future focus. They also focus on the will. If one is “pressing on” it is because they will to overcome a challenge or obstacle. If one is “straining forward” it is because the challenge is difficult. For Paul, the difficulties could have been the rejection he faced in many of the places he visited (after all, he was writing this letter from jail (Philippians 1.14)), the beatings he suffered, the lack of response from the Jews, etc. But Paul knew his wants and because his wants aligned with those of God, he knew the only way to accomplish his goal was to persevere. That is, he had to will his way to realize his true wants rather than succumb and give in to find short-term relief. This is the exact same idea of the will that Jesus faced in the Garden – long term desire over short-term relief.

Fairfax Baptist Church, are we more focused on the successes and/or failures of the past or on what God wants from us now and in the future? Is it challenging to make disciples? Absolutely. But a little short term sacrifice now can yield benefits in the lives of countless others down the road – and not just on earth, but for all of eternity. Are we more focused on the short-term or the long-term of this church? Are we more focused on our short-term comforts or on our long-term co-workers – those who will serve alongside us as we worship and serve the King for all of eternity?

A Disciple-Making Church Is Focused on Setting an Example (vv. 15-17)

Paul concludes this section by writing of those who need to follow closely. In a very real sense, he is writing to people like you and I? It is quite likely that some of you may disagree with what I am saying. Notice that Paul expected some of the original readers of this letter not to agree. So, like Paul (in v. 15), I will say that in time, you will come to see the need to strive for your goals more clearly as you mature in the faith.

Paul then reminds the church to watch for people who are already living according to the example Paul set for them. While none of us are Paul, some in this church are very worthy of being seen as an example of living for Jesus. The reality is that some in the church will say they are not worthy of being followed as an example, and that is part of the reason they should be followed. Paul clearly states that this type of humility is an important part of knowing Christ and remaining true to Him. We do not worship these people, but we learn from them. Ladies and gentlemen, such is the nature of making disciples. Sure being a disciple includes what we know, but Paul writes here that our example in living is of utmost important as well.

Fairfax Baptist Church, who are you following? Who are you leading? Even Paul had someone who helped and encouraged him – Barnabas. But Paul then set the example for Timothy and Epaphroditus (mentioned in Chapter 2), and over thirty other individuals named in his letters. You may not feel ready to set an example, but that is why we have E.Q.U.I.P. on Sunday nights – to talk, discuss, encourage, and grow together to help us all better know what are to do, but also to better live what we have already learned.


Before I conclude, let’s look at the three main reasons most wants “cannot be done.”
1. Personal limitations.
2. Changing the past.
3. What others will think about you.

Compare those reasons to what a disciple-making person, and thus a disciple-making church must do.
1. A Disciple-Making Church Is Focused on Christ
2. A Disciple-Making Church Is Focused on the Future
3. A Disciple-Making Church Is Focused on Setting an Example

Now, look at the list you made at the beginning of this post. What do you want to do? How many of those things are focused on Christ? How many of those items are about the future? How many of those items set an example for others to follow? How many of your cannots are self-limitations? Or involve changing the past? Or relate to what others will think about you?

The truth is that we do have limitations personally, but collectively, we have far fewer. The truth is that we cannot change the past, but we can learn from it to make a better future. And the truth is that people will judge us individually, and collectively, as we determine to make disciples. People judged Jesus for making disciples. People judged Paul for making disciples. And people will judge us as well. And that is why we began with trust last week. Regardless of what others may say about what happens among the people of Fairfax Baptist Church, we must trust one another in what we are doing for the sake of the Kingdom.

Therefore, the reality is that we, as a church, must choose to exercise our autonomy together. Again, Christian autonomy does not mean complete freedom, but rather freedom in Christ. Our freedom is to exercise our collective will, in this case, to make or not to make disciples. The reality is that people will doubt, people may even resort to shame, but as Paul wrote in verse 15, in time, they will come to understand as well.

Take a look at the list you wrote at the beginning of this message. Now, let me ask you the big question, what WILL you do about each of those wants? What will you do to overcome each of the reasons you believe you cannot have your wants? That is, do you have the will to make your wants happen? I am not talking about “name it” / “claim it” theology or some half-truth. I am saying that when our wants align with God’s wants, He promises to give them to us (Psalm 37.4). But He expects us to do our part too because God is not a genie.

JOURNEY: RRevere (as Leon shared for us earlier)

NEXT STEP(S): Live: Don’t just focus on your wants, focus on God’s. As you do, God promises to grant you the desires of your heart because your heart is aligned with His. (Psalm 37.4). And God commanded that we make disciples, so as you consider this in your heart, consider who can set an example for you, and for whom you can serve as an example as well.