Another Conclusion That Wasn’t

discipleship 101

No, I’m not planning to make a habit of this.

The member family meeting we called for after the service today caused me to trim some things.

As promised, here is the way I planned to land the plane had the runway been longer:

Let me close this message with these eight principles in mind with nine no-brainer steps of application:

One, get equipped to disciple. Get a copy of Trellis and the Vine and read it.

Two, use means. Grab some of the Randy Pope discipling plan packets and get busy. We’ve got a bunch of these for free at the office.

Three, become a member in your local church. Membership solidifies your commitment to be a discipler somewhere and gives you the ideal outlet for it.

Four, become a sanctified busybody. Determine to be the kind of believer that gets in somebody else’s face – IN LOVE! Someone paid our church the best compliment a while back. “I’ve never been in a church where the people are so involved in everybody else’s business.” And she didn’t mean gossip!

Five, take initiative. You have not because you ask not. Reach out to others; don’t wait for them to reach out to you.

Six, get help. Ask your elder or somebody to assist in matching you up with others. Don’t expect everyone to comply. Not everyone has the bandwidth for an ongoing relationship given their season in life.  Some folks don’t want this, even though they claim to be followers of Jesus.  Also, be a discipleship matchmaker without being asked. Look to connect people wherever you can.

Seven, keep on growing in your own walk by the Word and Spirit so you have something to offer to others.

Eight, train others you disciple to do the same things with others. Multiply yourself. Plan to attend one of the new Equipping Hour classes this fall starting September 7 WITH someone else.

And, nine, mediate daily on the gospel of grace that you might not live for yourself but for Him who died for you and therefore gladly spend and be spent for others (2 Cor. 5:14-15; 12:15).

The Conclusion That Wasn’t


This morning I reversed field rather abruptly at the close to my message about discipleship, defined by me this way: mutual investing by Word and Spirit for growth in Christ-likeness to the glory of God. You can listen to the audio of “A Restoration like Many Others (Part Three)” here.

Battling the clock, as always, I opted to omit a devotional piece by John Piper from Desiring God with which originally I intended to finish. As promised, here it is on the blog:

Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” (Luke 22:31–32)

What about the other ten apostles (not counting Judas)?

Satan was going to sift them too. Did Jesus pray for them?

Yes he did. But he did not ask the Father to guard their faith in the very same way he guarded Peter’s.

God broke the back of Peter’s pride and self-reliance that night in the agony of Satan’s sieve. But he did not let him go. He turned him around and forgave him and restored him and strengthened his faith. And now it was Peter’s mission to strengthen the other ten.

Jesus provided for the ten by providing for Peter. The strengthened becomes the strengthener.

There is a great lesson here for us. Sometimes God will deal with you directly, strengthening your faith alone in the wee hours of the morning. But most of the time (we might say ten-elevenths of the time) God strengthens our faith through another person.

God sends us some Simon Peter who brings just the word of grace we need to keep on in the faith: some testimony about how “Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning” (Psalm 30:5).

Eternal security is a community project. Whenever God encourages your heart with the promise that in Satan’s sifting your faith will not fail, then take that encouragement and double your joy by using it to strengthen your brothers and sisters.

This pastor calls that discipleship – our priority obligation – if we love Jesus more than life itself.

The Flourishing Life


It was a delight to climb back into the pulpit at OGC this morning after our sabbatical. To get to preach again, particularly on a passage in Psalm 92 that so thoroughly expresses my desires for this next season in my life and ministry, gave me great pleasure. If you care to, you can access the audio here.

I blew through the the eight takeaways at the conclusion of the message. Someone in the body asked me for them. Decided it would make for an easy blog post. Here they are:

  1. One, offer praise to God as the tenor of your life.
  2. Two, gather with God’s people on the “Sabbath” and more. Be a fixture in God’s church. No fellowshipping, no flourishing. Be a churchman and churchwoman.
  3. Three, reject the lie of our materialistic culture and its flourishing-only-for-a-brief-while ways and invest in life-long flourishing commitments that will serve you well to the end of your days.
  4. Four, beware the American retirement dream in terms of having earned endless days in front of the TV or on the golf course. Have a robust theology of leisure to be sure but believe in “rehirement” not retirement. My thanks to David Sims for that play on words.
  5. Five, treasure a church body with multiple generations not just a bunch of folks your own age.
  6. Six, if you are young, badger some old saint until they own you in a mentoring, discipling kind of way. If you are old like me, give yourself away. Invest in the next generation. Declare that he is your Rock to all who come.
  7. Seven, speak up and announce the praise of God when given the chance. Regularly testify to His faithfulness.
  8. Eight, pray this text for me and the rest of our elders as long as you are a part of OGC. I beg of you.

First Quarter 2014 Featured Resource

Holland Michigan Tulip Festival - Windmill and Tulip Flowers

Books change lives. I believe that with all my heart. Over forty-one years of walking with Jesus now, I have experienced over and over again the power of God unleashed in my life through an extra-biblical resource devoured at just the right time.

That’s why we have a resource center at OGC. And it’s why we feature various works from time to time in order to commend them to folks. For the first quarter of 2014 I have decided to draw attention to Richard Phillips’ excellent volume called “What’s So Great About the Doctrines of Grace.” For my previous review of this primer on the doctrines of grace click here.

Doctrines of Grace

Why beat the drum for a book for a second time? Couple of reasons. First, new folks to OGC will profit immensely from reading these pages, especially if the grid of reformed theology is something of a new concept. You won’t find an exhaustive treatment of TULIP within, but you will get a first-rate introduction to glorious truth.

Second, the volume will accompany quite nicely one of our new Equipping Hour (9:30-10:30 AM) classes starting this Sunday, January 5. Deacon Matt West will teach an introduction to reformed theology (meets in W1). If you have yet to take this core class in our three-year discipleship scope and sequence, I urge you to do so this time around. Of course you won’t go wrong with either of the other two offerings, namely biblical finance (F4) and New Testament (G0spels, Acts, & Hebrews – W5), but for a church with our confession of faith, everyone needs to take the reformed theology intro at least once.

I am happy to say that we have nearly a dozen or so copies in the resource center for the low price (our cost) of $7.00. Pick up a copy this Sunday!

Demythologizing Discipleship

To demythologize a subject is to reinterpret it so it is free of mythical or heroic elements.

This needs to happen with our concept of discipleship in the local church.

This occurred to me recently in a conversation with someone at OGC about his need for a discipler. Try as he might, he has failed to enlist the help of another believer in teaching him all that Christ has commanded – the essence of discipleship (Matt. 28:18-20).

I empathized with the disappointment. The harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few. This applies to discipling as it does to evangelizing (though both concepts actually fall under the command to make disciples). Chronic shortages seem to apply on both fronts.

But after resonating with the frustration in this regard, I summoned the courage to ask a question. Whom are you discipling? I was working off a concept I read recently by Randy Alcorn in an article in the current edition of Eternal Perspectives. In dealing with the challenge of depression he writes:

Hurting Christians increasingly complain about the treatment they’ve received from other church people. If you’ve had a bad experience, write out a list of what you wish church people had done for you and what you wish they hadn’t done. Then follow your own counsel and use it as a guideline to reach out today and minister to others who need your wisdom and encouragement.

My brother immediately responded, “I can’t disciple anybody. I’m not spiritually mature enough. Discipleship means somebody further down the road spiritually taking someone less mature under their wing and helping them grow in the faith.”

That certainly can be the case. Consider yourself blessed if you’ve got someone like that in your life. But must we limit our definition of discipleship to such narrow parameters?

I think not. Jesus commands all His followers to make disciples, as referenced in the Great Commission passage mentioned above. A disciple (the Greek word is mathetes) means simply a learner. The moment I cast my allegiance with Jesus as Savior I instantly became a learner of all His teachings. I will never outgrow that definition until I go home to glory. He commands me to own the identity as discipler – helper of others in the learning process. John MacArthur puts it this way:

There are only disciplers and we are all disciplers. It’s only a question of the availability to God to be that wherever we may be. It’s irrelevant. It’s immaterial where it is. It’s only material and it’s only relevant that it is that we are disciplers. You’re not a discipler because you went to Bible school. You’re not a discipler because you went to seminary. You’re not a discipler because the church pays you to do it. You’re not a discipler because you joined a missionary organization. You are a discipler because you’re saved, because you’ve come to Christ.

I pressed in the conversation with my reluctant discipler friend with another question. If you had another Christian come to you confessing a struggle with worry, where would you take them in the Bible to help them with the problem? Now admittedly he felt put on the spot by a pastoral pop quiz. But he eventually got to Phil. 4:6-7. I tried to bring home the concept that discipleship isn’t a super-spiritual believer helping a not-so-spiritual one get with the program. It’s brothers and sisters in relationships bringing the Word of God to bear on one another’s lives in the power of the Spirit.

Are you looking for someone to disciple you? How about reaching out and discipling somebody you know? Friendship with a compass, our recent women’s retreat speaker called it. If the principle what you sow you will also reap (Gal. 6:7) is true, and I believe of course that it is, then you may get closer to having a discipler if you determine to live like one yourself.

Good Time to Be Sixty

I turned sixty last September. I welcomed it.

Now I have another reason to do so.

Nice to know I have something in common with two of my favorite evangelical heavyweights.

From D. A. Carson’s foreword to the book Don’t Call it a Comeback: The Old Faith for a New Day, edited by Kevin DeYoung, we read this:

A year or so ago, in a private conversation, John Piper and I agreed it was a great time to be sixtyish. For—surprise, surprise—the generation below us actually wants to be mentored, wants to hear and read the expositions and theology of quite a number of sixty-year-olds. In the West, it has not always been like that, but it is now. It’s a great time to be sixty. But it would be a huge mistake to imagine for one moment that everything depends on the sixty-year-olds. God is raising up a remarkable generation of twenty-somethings, thirty-somethings, and forty-somethings who are articulate, eager to be faithful to the Lord Jesus and his gospel, hungry to teach the Bible rightly and with unction, eager to use their minds while loving with their whole being, and struggling both to believe and to do the truth. The contributors to this book represent only a small fraction of them.

Don’t I feel relieved? Indeed, I do, as so many of those twenty-forty somethings are covenant members at OGC.

Piper Passion 2013 Disclaimer & OGC Equipping Hour

Wondering how those two things connect?

Let me explain. Pastor John Piper spoke in Atlanta this week at Passion 2013 just as he always does. His message was vintage Piper – a call to Christian hedonism from Hebrews 10, 11, & 12.

The next day, Louie Giglio, Passion’s host, gave a Piper disclaimer during the announcement time. He recalled at the first Passion so many years ago how Piper spoke on the deep things of God in that unique and challenging way he typically does. He told us after that first message somebody came to him and said something to the effect of “All that stuff Piper said last night went right over our heads.” To which Giglio replied, “Isn’t that great!” He then went on to exhort the 60,000 plus of us in the Georgia Dome not to settle for the trend today in some teaching to dumb down the great mysteries of the sovereign God by putting them on the lower shelf. Rather he would have us reach high for those same things with careful, rigorous thought through teaching like Piper’s that fosters it. It was a good, solid word for all to hear.

Now for my connection to our equipping hour. Tomorrow we start a new quarter in our discipleship scope and sequence during the 9:30 hour with three offerings that will challenge us to reach high for the mysteries of God and His word. Scott Devor will teach Systematic Theology Two – Spirit, Church, and Last Things. Will Powell will tackle Old Testament 1 – Creation to United Kingdom. And Ted Herrbach will lead an extremely practical class called How to Study the Bible. I guarantee you, without apology, that these offerings will stimulate us with careful, rigorous thought as we pursue the deep mysteries of God, His Word, and His church.

Here’s one very practical way that we get to love God with all our mind (Luke 10:27).

Hope to see you in one of these classes tomorrow morning as we go deeper by reaching higher.

A Disciple's Renewal

At our Recharge men’s retreat this past weekend, our speaker closed with asking us to meditate upon this penetrating Valley of Vision prayer.

I pass it on to us all for our edification.

O My Saviour, help me.
I am so slow to learn, so prone to forget, so weak to climb;

I am in the foothills when I should be in the heights;
I am pained by my graceless heart,
my prayerless days,
my poverty of love,
my sloth in the heavenly race,
my sullied conscience,
my wasted hours,
my unspent opportunities.
I am blind while light shines around me:
take the scales from my eyes,
grind to dust the evil heart of unbelief.
Make it my chiefest joy to study thee,
meditate on thee,
gaze on thee,
sit like Mary at thy feet,
lean like John on thy breast,
appeal like Peter to thy love,
count like Paul all things dung.
Give me increase and progress in grace so that there may be;
more decision in my character,
more vigor in my purposes,
more elevation in my life,
more fervor in my devotion,
more constancy in my zeal.
As I have a position in the world,
keep me from making the world my position;
May I never seek in the creature what can be found only in the creator;
Let not faith cease from seeking thee until it vanishes into sight.
Ride forth in me, thou King of kings and Lord of lords,
that I may live victoriously, and in victory attain my end.

Disciples Make Disciples

For my anniversary message a couple of weeks ago I preached from 2 Tim. 2:1-2 a sermon entitled A Call to Be Strong in Grace.

I articulated the big idea for the text this way:

The strong in grace transmit the treasures of grace to other trophies of grace.

I mentioned at the end of that sermon a resource called the Multiply Movement and promised that I would put that link on the blog.

Today I am finally getting around to that. It does no good to challenge folks to make disciples and then not give them resources to help them figure out how to do that.

Check it out. Be sure to watch the nine-minute video with these two guys warning not to be deceived on this matter.