Posts tagged ‘disciples’

The Value of Denominations

I love having denominations, especially in my wallet! My favorite denomination is the $100 bill, although the $20 is easier to spend. But the extra effort to spend the $100 is one of its better qualities. in spite of my preferences, all too often my wallet is nondenominational. Sometimes it gets so bad that it seems my pockets fear change, too. In a pinch, like for a parking meter, noisy denominations are handy to have around. But for the long term, I prefer the quiet type that only occasionally makes a crinkling noise. But after enough time, even those become silent and just lay there folded in small groups, just waiting to be used by their master.

There are other pieces of paper in my wallet, some of which are still recognizable. They are not, however, denominations of anything, no matter how much they try to be. Even if they are play money or bills from a copy machine made to replicate real money, they have no true value. Unless something changes, they will one day be thrown away.

But whether a denomination is crisp and new, or aged and malleable, its value does not change. A new one is fresh off the presses has the same power as one that was printed 20 years ago. The used one may have been wadded up, stepped on, and bent out of shape multiple times, but that is not what determines how valuable it is. For a $100 bill have inherent value because of what it is, not because of what it may or may not have endured.

The same applies to disciples of Jesus. A Christian has value to His Master and Savior because of what he or she is, regardless of what they have been through or how much of a mess they are in. And you can’t become a Christian by just wanting the eternal or temporal benefits that they have. You must be born from above (John 3). Just as denominations of the dollar have no value unless the U.S. Mint makes them, you are not a Christian unless God makes you one. To quote the Jesus Christ, “you must be born again.”

In the end there will be three types of people:
1. Those who have been doing religious stuff like going to church or giving to worthy causes and speaking Christian words, but were never born again. Like counterfeit bills, they will be rejected and destroyed by the Grand Inspector.
2. Those who are not Christians and make no pretense to be ones. Just like spare pieces of note paper, they will be cast off and destroyed.
3. Those who have been born from above, and are true disciples of Christ. Just like the blank sheets of special paper at the mint before printing, they will start off just like the other two categories of people. But then they were changed, just like the paper at the Mint, into something of worth by the Master Maker into a something new, and uniquely valuable. In many ways they are just like the other bills, but each will have its unique characteristics as well. And they will all have the signature of the Spirit that lets everyone know who they are, what the are, and to whom they belong. Remember that when you are going through trials, being folded over or stepped on. Your value comes from the One who turned you from a piece of paper into something of value, not from those around you who look pristine. You are still useful to the Master for every good work.

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Da’ Vine Is Divine

A well kept, fruitful vineyard can be a thing of beauty. The meticulously dressed rows and the lush fruit require careful pruning and cultivation. It is no job for an amateur, that’s for sure. Vineyards were common in the agriculture of the ancient Near East, Jesus used them as analogies for teaching spiritual truths.

“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples. (John 15:1-8 NASB)

What causes a branch to bear fruit? It’s connection to the vine. If a branch is not bearing fruit, it is because it is dead. And Jesus makes a very strong point about fruit bearing. A branch will bear fruit, not by sheer will, but by staying connected to the vine. If we are not bearing fruit, it is a sign that we are no longer connected. Bearing fruit doesn’t keep you connected; being connected produces fruit!

Another fact of life that Jesus draws attention to is that in a vineyard, there is a season where there is a whole lot of cutting going on! The dead branches are cut off because they take up space needed for the live branches. But even live branches get pruned so they can produce more fruit. Why is that? It’s because fruit is only produced by new growth. The point is that we cannot rest on old fruit. Pruning keeps us from thinking that we are the ones producing the fruit. Apart from the vine, we can do nothing.

So what is this life giving flow that comes from the vine to produce spiritual fruit? His Words abiding in us! As we stay in Him, and His word keeps abiding in us, we WILL bear much fruit. I want to be clear in this. Just as we cannot bear fruit apart from Him, we cannot help but bear fruit if we are abiding in Him. Real fruit proves we are disciples, and a lack of fruit proves we are not disciples. How serious is this? Well Matthew 28 says our mission is to make disciples, and Acts 11 says the disciples were first called Christians at Antioch. If we have no fruit, we are not disciples, and thus are not Christians!

Again, this is not something you can accomplish by your own effort. You are either connected or you are not. And the proof is in the spiritual fruit. It is fruit from a divine source, because da’ vine is divine!

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Keeping It Simple

I like keeping things simple and easy to understand. There is a virtue in making sure we make things understandable for people, especially when it comes to salvation. We are not Gnostics with some special knowledge that is only for us. We have a life giving message that our Lord commissioned us to proclaim to everyone on earth. We don’t have time for a 1000 page dissertation on what it takes to become a Christian. So let’s break it down to three essential questions and answers we can give to someone who would ask us about what is required to be a Christian.

1. How much am I required to know?
You have to know something, but you don’t have to know everything. The Apostle Paul summarized it well in his letter to the church at Corinth.

“1 Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. 2 By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. 3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,”
(1 Corinthians 15:1-4)

You must believe that Christ died, was buried, and rose again. That is the Gospel message. But that leads to the next question,

2. What must I do about what I know?
You must participate in that death, burial, and resurrection, too. It’s called baptism. It sums up what you believe and shows that you have turned from your old way of life (called repentance). Again, Paul illustrates it for us, this time in Romans 6.

Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, (Romans 6:3-5 NASB)

In effect, we are participating in what we know.

3. What happens after that?
We gather with other believers and remember that death, burial, and resurrection and encourage one another as we strive to follow Jesus.

Is not the cup of blessing which we bless a sharing in the blood of Christ? Is not the bread which we break a sharing in the body of Christ? (1 Corinthians 10:16 NASB)

This walk of faith is not designed to be done alone. We gather to remember what Christ has done and to be equipped to share that message with others.

I realize this is very basic, but we must all begin somewhere. If we focus our evangelistic message on the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus, we also make sure that the message is not about us — it’s about Jesus. We are not commanded to convert people to us; we are commanded to make disciples of Jesus.

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; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19, 20 NASB)

There are our marching orders. He tells us to make disciples and also tells us how to do it. Let us go forth in the simplicity of devotion to Christ with the truth of Jesus’ death burial and resurrection as our message. Amen.

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