What is a Disciple?

What does it mean to be a disciple of Jesus? Being a disciple means being a follower of Jesus. In Luke 9:23 NIV, Jesus says, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me.”   Jesus allowed Himself to be led to a place where He would suffer greatly. He humbled Himself so that He could die. He did not boast in Himself. He did not seek His own. He did not remember a wrong suffered. Instead, He loved. He taught. He healed. He forgave. This is what He meant when He said to pick up our cross and follow Him. He wants us to follow Him to the place where we die to ourselves, live with humility, do not boast, forgive, love, are kind and bring glory to God. This is what He is asking of us because this is what He exemplified. We cannot serve two masters. Either Jesus is Lord of our lives or we are.   Being a disciple may not come naturally for many of us. But, Jesus lets us grow and learn from our successes as well as our mistakes. He allows us the opportunities to die to ourselves and grow in Him. He provides the means for us to put others first.   Every day can be an opportunity to be a true disciple of Jesus. Whether or not someone else knows we are a Christian or knows the motives of our heart, we are instructed to “walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing forbearance to one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace,” Ephesians 4:1-3 NIVUK. It is a high calling. Are we being true disciples of Jesus?

Disciples Make Disciples

An old Cherokee legend tells of a grandfather talking with his grandson about a battle that wages within people. He said, “My son, there is a battle between two wolves. One wolf is evil, it represents anger, jealousy, greed, envy and arrogance. The other wolf is good, it represents love, peace, hope, compassion and faith.” The grandfather continued, “These two wolves living inside of us are constantly in battle with each other.” The young grandson pondered these words for a few minutes, then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf wins?” The old grandfather answered wisely and simply, “The one we feed.” Leading people to Jesus is what we as Christians have been instructed to do, but we can’t stop there. We must be Christian examples and live our lives immersed in the Word of God—studying it, praying over it and obeying it. That way, we can mentor and teach new believers; in other words, feed them. It’s not enough to lead someone to Christ, see them baptized and then disappear from their lives. We must be ready to share our testimony with others. “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.” 1 Peter 3:15 (NIV)

Life in the Church

Have you ever thought “I get a lot from the sermon each week but why go to the trouble of going to church Sunday morning to hear it? I can just stay home and watch it online at my convenience. Who needs all that other stuff—the worship service, seeing all those people or joining a life group?” This may seem to be a shocking admission to some of you but others completely understand that thought. Just as reading only the front page of the newspaper or reading just the first and last chapters of a book or attending a basketball game where you are the only spectator doesn’t give you a true picture of that particular activity, pursuing a walk with the Lord based only on the sermon will not give you a true picture of what being a disciple is. We are told in Hebrews 10:25 NIV “Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another.” Our responsibility as a Christian disciple doesn’t begin and end with what we get out of the Sunday morning activities at church but should include how we can help others grow in their walk with the Lord. That means we need to get to know our fellow believers. Not only do we need to participate in the worship service and absorb what the sermon is telling us, we need to engage others in conversation. We need to be that disciple who encourages others in their walk with Christ. You can’t do that in front of a computer screen!

The Local Church

Last Sunday many First Christian members were out of the church building serving others while many remained in the building packing meals for Haiti, compiling goody boxes for college students and writing encouraging notes to those who can no longer attend church on a regular basis. You were being the “light of the world” regardless of where you chose to serve.   While what we receive each Sunday morning by participating in a life group and in the worship service is vital to our Christian growth, we are told In Matthew 5 that there is more to be done. We must let our light shine not only as we greet one another, teach or serve in some capacity each Sunday morning but we must also focus on getting that light out of the church building to shine it on others. “You should be a light for other people. Live so that they will see the good things you do and praise your Father in heaven.” Mathew 5:16 ERV. Shining this light must not be restricted to this one Service Sunday. We must shine His light on those we meet every day of the year.   This is so important that Jesus empowered us through prayer. He said in John 17:22-23 ERV “I have given them the glory that you gave me. . . .I will be in them.” He will be with us each time we reach out to serve others through a smile, a kind word and a selfless deed. He’s given us that glory so that others will see His light as we serve.   Whether you were able to participate in the Service Sunday or not, opportunities still await you. How will you be the light of the world today . . . tomorrow . . . Tuesday . . . Wednesday . . . Thursday . . .Friday . . . Saturday?

The Global Church

As important as the local church is, God’s plan extends way beyond E’town and Hardin County. Yes, God calls us to reach the people in our community, but he has no intention of stopping there. Until our vision of the church encompasses the entire globe, we don’t have an accurate view of God’s church or His plan of redemption. Many Christians are surprised to hear that there are still countless ones around the world that have never heard the name of Jesus. We take it for granted that people nearly everywhere have access to the gospel but there are many who have never heard the name Jesus or what He offers them. They desperately need hope, healing and salvation. The Apostle Paul’s ambition in life was to take this message of redemption and bring it to those who had never heard it. His passion was an essential part of the mission that Jesus gave to the church. How will those in need of a savior call on Him in whom they have never heard? How are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are missionaries to preach unless they are sent? These questions should burn in our minds and hearts. At First Christian Church we regularly support a number of missionaries in various parts of the world from your regular giving. We make short term mission trips available to our members. We encourage our members to financially support missions. Designating a special offering to support an upcoming FCC mission trip is one way you can help FCC be a global church.

Why Study the Bible?

Many of us may have asked the question at some point in our life: “Why should I read and study the Bible?” It is actually quite simple. We should read and study the Bible because it is God’s Word to us. The Bible is literally “God-breathed,” 2 Timothy 3:16 (NIV). In other words, it is God’s very words to us. There are so many questions that philosophers have asked that God answers for us in Scripture. What is the purpose of life? Where did I come from? Is there life after death? How do I get to heaven? Why is the world full of evil? Why do I struggle to do good?We should read and study the Bible because it is totally reliable and without error. The Bible equips us to serve God, 2 Timothy 3:17; Hebrews 4:12 (NIV). It helps us know how to be saved from our sin, 2 Timothy 3:15 (NIV). God’s Word helps us see sin in our lives and helps us get rid of it, Psalm 119:9, 11 (NIV). The Bible keeps us from wasting years of our lives on that which does not matter and will not last, Matthew 7:24-27 (NIV). The Bible is not just for reading. It is for studying so that it can be applied. The more we make an effort to really dig into it, the more reward we will gain for our effort. If we make the time in our life to study, we will see that there is power in it to change our life and become the person God wants us to be. Once we do this, we will experience the peace to enjoy every day of our life!

The Tithe

As Christians giving should be important to us, not talking about it but actually doing it. Often a natural question to ask is “How much?” Here again we can find the answer in the scriptures. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 9, “Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion for God loves a cheerful giver.”   Giving is your heart in action. Giving fuels the world of ministry and mission, both near and far.   Giving often means sacrifice but yields a great, priceless bonus. To give is rewarded by the love of God, an incredible return on an investment!   “Giving back involves a certain amount of giving up.” – Colin Powell

The Grace of Giving

“My father said there were two kinds of people in the world: givers and takers. The takers may eat better, but the givers sleep better.” —Marlo Thomas   Our generosity can be a window to our heart. What you give and to whom you give speaks about you, describes you and demonstrates where your priorities live. To proclaim support for ministries and missions is helpful, giving to those efforts truly meaningful.   In Luke 12:34 we read, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Luke didn’t say where you think your treasure is or where you want others to believe your treasure is located. Rather he said where your treasure is actually located, there is your heart. In a simple old phrase, actions speak louder than words.