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.

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