Tag Archives: discipleship

The Holy Spirit Part III: No Root, No Fruit!

Last week, I explained that the Spirit of God is our heavenly equipper. He enables capabilities through skills and dynamic heavenly gifts such as divine and human languages and interpretation, wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, miracles, prophecy, and discerning spirits. The Father still gives Christ-followers His Spirit for service by way of the gifts I just mentioned. The Spirit also helps us in our transformation. What kind of transformation? A changed heart (mind) that drives changed behavior according to God’s ways. This is what God desires – not empty belief-only. “But Ron – if the Spirit is at work in a Christ-follower’s life, shouldn’t he or she look and act differently?” Yep!

Some people in Christian communities work according to the Spirit, and some don’t. Those who do walk by the Spirit of God produce loving action out of their faith. And, their behaviors and demeanor reflect the Spirit at work within them. The Bible calls those fruit-producing, Spirit-driven Christ-followers children of God (e.g., John 1:12; Acts 17:29; Romans 8:16-17; Matthew 13:38). They love, house, feed, clothe, sow peace, grow in faith, and make disciples who do the same.

On the other hand, many people are Christ-believersonly, producing nothing of value for God. His Spirit is not at work in their lives, as shown by the lack of fruit – manifestations of a Spirit-enabled faith. The Bible calls them spiritual ‘weeds’ (Matthew 13:24-30 & 41-42), and their fate is inevitable.

“Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink; I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me.’”Matthew 25:41-43.

“Alright, Ron – I get it. True followers of Jesus can be identified by what they do, how they live, and how they love because of their faith. What kind of behaviors and activities should we see from them?” Here are the fruits (manifestations) of a Spirit-enabled Christian according to the Apostle Paul (notice that they are action-related in some way!):

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. —Galatians 5:22-25.

In summary, no root (Spirit), no fruit (Godly behaviors and output). Pray that the Father will give His Spirit to produce fruit that will stand the test of time! Next week, we’ll explore lying and empty promises in Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire!

Blessings and peace,

Ron Braley

The Way it Is (Discipleship, Part III)

Over the last several weeks, I’ve written that a disciple of Jesus Christ is to be a copycat who makes more copycats and offered three essential tips for effective discipleship:

Tip #1: Be a Sold-out Copycat (of good stuff)!

Tip #2: Follow Jesus’ Model to Make More Copycats!

Tip #3: GO!

Together, we’ve also explored how the earliest Church discipled using Jesus’ approach. Now, let’s talk about how you can be and make disciples today.

First, it’s essential that we continuously develop ourselves spiritually through Bible study, prayer, accountability, and discipleship. After all, we can’t live, model, or share what we don’t know!

Second, we must be incarnational. What I mean is that we must be integral in our communities, whether at work, play, or anything else. That way, we can develop trust-building relationships that will allow dialogue about what we believe and why.

Third, we must be contextual. “Say what??” Exactly! We must be and communicate in the same ways as others so that they’ll understand what we’re showing and telling. Think about it: Jesus spoke in farming terms and figures of speech when He taught the good news of God’s Kingdom to farmers. And he used fishing sayings when talking to fishermen. He used examples to make His points more apparent and applicable.

Without being incarnational, there’s little chance of building the kind of relationships that will allow ongoing, deep and personal discipleship. Without being contextual – meeting and communicating with people where they are instead of expecting them to come, our modeling and evangelism will likely fall on blind eyes and deaf ears. “But Ron – how can I be incarnational and contextual?” Great question!

One way to build relationships incarnationally is to be involved in the lives of others by following a BELLS principle: Bless, Eat, Listen, Learn, and Sent. Make friends, not numbers. Bless multiple people each day. Eat with others (it’s a great way to show care and deepen relationships!). Listen to the Spirit of God as He directs your discipleship steps. Learn about God and His ways, so that you’ll have something to model and tell those people with whom you’re building relationships. And make sure you GO (sent)!!

To be contextual in your modeling and telling, understand the dress, traditions, figures of speech, customs, and desires of those you hope to witness to and disciple. Show interest. Use terminology familiar to them, not Christianese. Finally, consider an ongoing Life Transformation Group of 2-3 people of the same sex for weekly prayer, accountability, and Bible study.

The Way it Was (Discipleship, Part II)

In the last blog, I wrote that a disciple of Jesus Christ is to be a copycat who makes more copycats and offered three essential tips for effective discipleship:

Tip #1: Be a Sold-out Copycat (of good stuff)!

Tip #2: Follow Jesus’ Model to Make More Copycats!

Tip #3: GO!

Now, let’s explore how the earliest Church discipled using Jesus’ approach.

Early Christians didn’t have programs, bills, a different language (Christianese), or an expectation that people should come to them or their church. Instead, they lived life well in the community with everyone else, according to the words of God and ways of Christ. The yet-to-be-churched saw the gospel at work and observed consistent good works and Godly behaviors. What they saw built trust and made them curious. So, the earliest Church grew because God-fearing Christ-followers met people where there were. Here’s part of a letter written to the tutor of Emperor Marcus Aurelius in the 2nd century, which reflects this approach, especially the modeling aspect of discipleship:

Christians are not different from the rest of men in nationality, speech, or customs; they do not live in states of their own, nor do they use a special language, nor adopt a peculiar way of life. … they follow local custom in the matter of dress, food, and way of life; yet the character of the culture they reveal is marvellous … They share in all duties like citizens and suffer all hardships like strangers. … They marry like the rest of men and beget children, but they do not abandon the babies that are born. They share a common board, but not a common bed. In the flesh as they are, they do not live according to the flesh. They dwell on earth, but they are citizens of heaven. They obey the laws that men make, but their lives are better than the laws. … They are maligned, and yet are vindicated. They are reviled, and yet they bless. They suffer insult, yet they pay respect. They do good, yet are punished with the wicked.

In the third of three discipleship blogs, I’ll offer a few tips for being light and the Kingdom of God by meeting people where they are today and ministering in ways they understand. As you can imagine, we must get out from behind church walls, or the building becomes the most expensive ‘lampshade’ on the planet! And there’s no point in bringing others the gospel of God’s Kingdom if they don’t trust or understand us! Don’t worry, though – I’m here to help!

Don’t forget to join me on October 3rd for Disciple-Con 20/20 Vision! For more information, or to purchase tickets, visit http://www.findingdiscipleship.org/disciplecon2020

Questions or comments? Email publisher@taylorpress.net.

Blessings and peace,

Ron Braley

Covenantal Anesthesia

Today, we prevent unwanted pregnancies not by abstinence but contraception. No discipline; no problem. Do whatever feels good. Promises made in the dark remain unkept in an age where words and actions are disconnected and often in complete opposition.

Today, we avert the consequences of other ungodly acts such as homosexuality through medicine and contraceptive methods. Lying and litigation are acceptable means by which to achieve objectives. These aren’t God’s ways or representative of His love, which equates to justice and mercy. His speech results in action; He has always done what He says He will do. This was the posture of the early Church: speech-action that mirrored their faith and produced good works accordingly. Their speech and actions were indistinguishable.

Second-century Christian and Church leader Justin notes this of his contemporary Christians: “… community doesn’t consider people true Christians if they simply quote Christ’s teachings but don’t live them.” (Justin, 1 Apol. 16.8 by Alan Kreider, The Patient Ferment of the Early Church, 15). He also lists the saying of Jesus under four categories: sexual ethics, actionable/charitable love, patience, and truth-telling. (ibid.) Many early Church leaders reported that the Christians lived among the non-Christians in community eating, drinking, and working beside them. However, their charity, honesty, and purity as well as patience under trials and hardships set them apart and made an impact that attracted those around the Christians to desire to learn of God’s kingdom and join the faith. Not so today in a world of watered-down preaching full of funny stories and anecdotes framed by entertaining music, coffee, and donuts; no so in a world where churches become the most expensive light-killing lampshades on the planet by hiding and entertaining consumers.

Today, the Western Church looks mostly like the world: same behaviors and worldviews; similar lack of patience, unrepentance, unforgiveness, divorce statistics, selfish driving habits, litigation, financial irresponsibility, and so-on. Why? In my experience as a minister, researcher, and writer, a driving factor is the lack of choice where a covenant with God is concerned.

Removing the consequences of immorality, lying, etc. through contraception, litigation, and ungodly laws can lure us into believing that the lack of consequences imply acceptance. Similarly, and in my experience, Western Christians are lured into believing that God exists to serve them and that prosperity is the goal because covenant and consequences have often been removed in the Church. Churchgoers are anesthetized by receiving a half-baked gospel where, if anything, a silent and personal ‘sinner’s prayer can save them without reciprocation. They are told there’s nothing they have to do – Jesus did it all! No self-discipline, no charity, no sacrifice, no two-way marriage-like covenantal response. No consequence for the pleasure-seeking individual uninterested in communal care who practices behavior antithetical to God’s ways. No accountability. No ongoing spiritual formation or discipleship (Barna, The State of the Church, 2016, for instance: https://www.barna.com/research/state-church-2016/). What to do?

There can be a fix – a positive change that once again draws others to our faith. Turn off the anethsiea of a covenantless gospel; stop entertaining and teach. Hold Christians accountable for ungodly behavior and gently train through discipleship. Move out of the church buildings and live out faith among others in our communities whether at work, play, or dwelling so that they may see our good works, patience, and purity and wonder just as the ancients did.

Blessings,

rb

http://www.ronbraley.com

http://www.findingdiscipleship.org

Soul Food, Anyone?

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!” resonates with those of us who understand the value of caring for what we value from home and car maintenance to finances. Care of the ‘soul’ should get no less attention and upkeep; spiritual formation points us in the right direction and can help us remain healthy in body, soul, and mind.

Because I understand the soul represents what the spirit doesn’t (e.g. body, mind, intent, etc.,) spiritual formation (soul-care) makes perfect sense to me as the ounce of prevention needed to be faithful, obedient, and healthy. The lack of attention to relative formation elements introduces the risk of stress, anxiety, poor physical and mental/emotional health, and limited or non-existent faith – all of which can become roadblocks to spiritual effectiveness!

Here are a few standard disciplines related to spiritual formation and the reduction of the risks I just mentioned:

  • Bible Study & Prayer. The Bible makes clear that our faith (belief/confidence) is formed largely through exposure to the Scriptures (e.g. Romans 10:17; 2Timothy 3:16-17). The learning provides boundaries and guidance, builds our ability to follow, and reduces the chances of deception (cf. Colossians 2:7-8). Most Christians (more than 98%, statistically) don’t read the Bible regularly. And, although prayer is our communication with God through the Spirit, we don’t do that regularly or effectively either. Setting aside at least one period each day (ideally at the same time) for prayer and Bible study will allow us to ‘renew our minds’, avoid deceptions (g., equip to train others, and petition or thank our God.
  • Physical Exercise. Physical exercise reduces stress and illness. And, the better we feel, the more efficient we’ll likely be in our walk as Jesus’ followers. A regiment of at least 30 minutes or so several times a week in some cardio and physical exercise would be an excellent start.
  • Mental Exercise. The brain needs stimulus too. Engaging in educational pursuits, intelligent conversations or debates, reading, etc. will help keep you mentally healthy and productive in your work, play, and witness.
  • Financial Stewardship. Financial problems provide much stress and distraction from important and healthy pursuits. Stress over financial trouble strains relationships and physical health alike. God calls us to be good financial stewards as shown by the Bible throughout the Old and New Testaments (e.g. Psalms 37:21; Proverbs 22:7 & 26; Matthew 25:27; Luke 20:20-25; Romans 13:8). Following biblical advice will aid greatly in keeping us healthy and financially stable.
  • Relationship Maintenance. Finally, we’re social creatures and must maintain our relationships to reduce stress and loneliness. Relationships are also critical to our ability to evangelize and disciple others. Therefore, we should make time to maintain our connections to family and friends.

In conclusion, my challenge to all followers of our Christ is that we continually engage in spiritual formation – ‘soul care’ – to ensure we’re active participants in our covenant with God.

Blessings,

rb

Adopt a Bible!

Disappointingly, our plea for Bibles for Africa recently yielded no results despite the knowledge that most Africans have no Bible (including most Christian teachers and leaders!).

How can the people learn about God or become disciples effectively with no guide?

How can we who are wealthy by comparison and have an abundance of Bibles and Christian literature be obedient to Jesus’ commandment to ‘tell’ and ‘make disciples’ without doing our part to rectify this incredible disparity?

So, I thought I’d take a different approach by asking everyone to ‘adopt a Bible’. A donation of only $10 will buy one Swahili Bible. Obviously, Africa needs more than one Bible but if everyone buys at least one, we win in our obedience and Africa wins by being able to learn and teach their Faith.

Will you adopt a Bible for Africa by donating here? http://findingrevelation.com/FindingDiscipleship/Africa%20Bibles.htm

Blessings!

Ron Braley, findingdiscipleship.org & ronbraley.com

 

Evangelism: Playing the Detective

As we’ve already learned, evangelism is absolutely critical to our salvation and that of others we witness to . . . or don’t.

“Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven.” —Matthew 10:32-33.

“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you” —Matthew 28:19-20.

One great way (but not the only way!) to evangelize the Gospel message is to build a relationship between yourself and those you to whom you express the good news. This will build trust and present opportunities to share and teach. Building that trust and seeking those golden opportunities will require you to get to know the other person. What is their background? What are their fears – especially regarding God or Christianity? What are their perceptions around religion? What physical, financial, emotional, or spiritual needs do they have? ‘Playing the detective’ will help you learn the answers to these questions and more in your relationship-building exercise.
Playing the detective requires that you ask open-ended questions, listen carefully to the responses, and then respond with additional questions as you ‘build their story’ and then relate your experiences and the Gospel to it. For instance:
“What do you think about God?”
“I don’t know. I’ve heard a lot of stuff and think he’s probably some higher power somewhere.”
“I know what you mean. The concept of God can be confusing – especially when so many people seem to have personal opinions about Him or be involved in different manmade religions. Tell me more about what you’ve heard.”

Well, I think you get the idea . . . Additional help in playing the detective can be found this highly-effective habit expressed by Dr. Stephen Covey: “Seek first to understand, and then to be understood”.
The following biblical advice can also help you treat your fellow man appropriately as you build evangelistic relationships:

Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus —Philippians 2:4-5.

Keep an eye out for “Finding Answers to Stuff Churches Don’t Discuss!” scheduled for a mid-2015 publication. There, you’ll find roughly 60 topics related to daily life (such as sex, religion, finances, tattooing, and everything in between!) along with practical application of God’s guidance for navigating those difficult waters!
And, for a very comprehensive and detailed study of the very important topic of God’s judgment to come and being rescued from it, feel free to read my 2011 guide titled, “Finding the End of the World” available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and from http://www.ronbraley.com in paper and e-book formats. In the guide, you’ll find roughly 500 pages of building blocks to help you do your own complete and unbiased study based on Scripture and history!

Back from mission ‘Disciple Africa’

Back from mission ‘Disciple Africa’ and, as Joanne says, “Our eyes have seen things our minds can’t comprehend“.

Please check out a summary of the trip and some photos at

http://findingrevelation.com/FindingDiscipleship/Africa%202015.htm

Remember: We’re ALL called to preach the good news of salvation, and some are called to teach. Those who don’t/can’t travel to evangelize or teach can still be obedient to the commandment for the Church to do so by funding those who can!  Will you consider partnering with us to return to Kenya and Uganda in 2016 to ‘train the trainer’ as we’ll teach nearly 300 pastors to train their villagers in discipleship and evangelism?

Blessings,

Ron Braley

The “A-B-C’s” of God’s Judgment

God will judge everyone in the last days for reward or punishment. We, as followers of Jesus, are to judge the behavior of the Church – police ourselves, if you will (more on that in a future blog).

All will be judged by God at the end of our current age – even Jesus’ followers (see Romans 14:10-12 and 2Corinthians 5:10). The names of the obedient and faithful throughout time will be found in the Book of Life. For them, eternal life and unimaginable reward await. The rest (those whose names won’t appear in that Book) will be thrown into hell – the lake of fire punishment created for Satan and his fallen angels.

He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. —John 3:18.

Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead. —Acts 17:30-31.

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. —2Corinthians 5:10.

And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. —Revelation 20:12-15.

Eternal life and reward await those who choose reconciliation with God through the Christ. All others will be judged and dealt with accordingly regardless of whether they’ve chosen to reject God or just not bothered to choose.

Life or death. Which is your choice?

 

Keep an eye out for “Finding Answers to Stuff Churches Don’t Discuss!” scheduled for a mid-2015 publication. There, you’ll find roughly 60 topics related to daily life (such as sex, religion, finances, tattooing, and everything in between!) along with practical application of God’s guidance for navigating those difficult waters!

And, for a very comprehensive and detailed study of the very important topic of God’s judgment to come and being rescued from it, feel free to read my 2011 guide titled, “Finding the End of the World” available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and from www.ronbraley.com in paper and e-book formats. In the guide, you’ll find roughly 500 pages of building blocks to help you do your own complete and unbiased study based on Scripture and history!