Posts tagged ‘growth’

Preaching, Teaching & Discipling

One of the things we discover in the art of education is the difference between types of learning and methods of instruction. In many subject areas, there is a set progression of instruction, and often one that involves changes in delivery and interaction as the student progresses. The same is true of the truth found in the New Testament. There is, I believe, a discernible pattern of instruction that will be helpful to grasp so that we are doing the things that are most beneficial to ourselves and those who hear us.

The first type of instruction is preaching. This is different than teaching, which is why the Holy Spirit inspired the writers to use a different Greek word for each. The word translated “preach” is kerusso, which means “to herald (as a public crier), especially divine truth (the gospel):–preacher(-er), proclaim, publish.”
This involves the initial public proclamation of the Gospel message. Like a herald, we preach Christ (1 Corinthians 1:23) to a lost world. This preaching is evangelistic, and calls people’s attention to Jesus Christ and what has been done to bring them to God.

but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. (I Corinthians 1:23, 24 NKJV)

This is the work of an evangelist, like the young Timothy, and is a never ending obligation of believers as we go about in the world.

As the message goes forth, there will be the need to teach those who respond to our preaching. Paul links the two nicely when giving instruction to Timothy.

I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. (II Timothy 4:1, 2 NKJV)

There is no hint here of getting people saved and leaving them to fend for themselves. Rather, there is the sense that after preaching, people need to be taught “all things whatsoever I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19). The word for teaching is different than for preaching (didacho). This teaching incorporates instruction and example as a means of learning spiritual truth. But in order to be effective, teaching must be done to those who have responded to the preaching and been saved. An unsaved person cannot understand spiritual things, so we are wasting our time teaching without first preaching.

But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. (I Corinthians 2:14 NKJV)

The most in depth level of instruction is discipling. The Greek word is matethouo. This is the ultimate goal for everyone we encounter. In the Great Commission, Jesus didn’t stop at preaching or at teaching, but at “making disciples”. This includes hearing the truth, seeing it lived out, and then internalizing it by personal practice. Discipleship can only be fully learned by doing. That is one reason that those who teach must be careful, not only of what they say, but what they do.
Meditate on these things; give yourself entirely to them, that your progress may be evident to all.

Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you. (I Timothy 4:15, 16 NKJV)

This is the way to make mature Christians, who will be able to go and make disciples themselves.

And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. (II Timothy 2:2 NKJV)

Only by following this pattern of instruction will we practice biblical spiritual growth. We must not be like those who preach, but do not teach or disciple. That is a recipe for weak Christians who are dependent on someone keeping them alive by feeding them nothing but milk. They are unable to teach others and will never have the fruit of being or making disciples.

For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. (Hebrews 5:12 NKJV)

May this never be said of us! But instead, may we follow the pattern of preaching, teaching and discipling that results in many saved and bearing much spiritual fruit, as we exercise the gifts which Christ has given for our benefit.

And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ— from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love. (Ephesians 4:11-16 NKJV)

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Spiritual Veal

Have you ever eaten milk-fed veal? I personally do not eat it because of how it is made. Once the calf is born, it is restrained on the floor so that it cannot move. It is then fed nothing but milk for its entire life. After all of this, it is butchered and sold. I am not writing this as a condemnation of veal (although I could), but instead to ask a question. Are you spiritual veal? Here is what that would look like.

After the new birth, they choose to remain inactive. Whether this is through fear or a lack of conviction, they never get busy with the obedience that their faith was designed to produce. By keeping themselves weighed down, the never develop their spiritual muscles.

“but refuse profane and old wives’ fables. And exercise thyself unto godliness: for bodily exercise is profitable for a little; but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life which now is, and of that which is to come.” (1 Timothy 4:7, 8 ASV)
We must exercise ourselves to godliness. The time to develop spiritual strength is before trials come. In the middle of a spiritual battle is not the time to begin getting ready.

We also need to have the proper diet. Veal calves are fed nothing but milk, which makes the meat very soft and light. But it means that the muscles never get what they need for further development. The Hebrew writer put it this way:

“For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant. But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.” (Hebrews 5:12-14 NASB)

While it is important that when we are new Christians we “as newborn babes, long for the spiritual milk which is without guile, that ye may grow thereby unto salvation;” (1 Peter 2:2 ASV) we cannot stay that way! Just as it is necessary for a baby’s diet to change while growing, we must take in nourishment appropriate to our spiritual age.

So is being spiritual veal a big deal? I mean, does it really matter? YES!
The devil is prowling about as a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour, (1 Peter 5:8) and a weak veal Christian is likely to be exhausted and fall away. Do not be deceived. Satan wants you dead and being spiritual veal makes it easier for him.

And since we are engaged in a spiritual battle, your fellow soldiers need you to be strong. A weakened veal Christian makes those around him or her more vulnerable to attacks of the enemy.
“Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.” (Ephesians 6:13 NIV)

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We All Have A Heart Condition

Despite accumulating more medical knowledge than any generation before us, heart disease is still the number one killer of adults. A variety of new advances have come about which has enabled doctors to do intricate surgery on hearts and fix them, or even transplant in a new one! Things are being done now which would have been science fiction 50 years ago.

But God has been in the heart transplant business for thousands of years!
He sent Jesus to “heal the broken hearted” (Luke 4:18). Way back in Ezekiel’s day, God promised that someday He would be performing spiritual heart transplants.
“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” (Ezekiel 36:26 NKJV)
Then how do we check on our heart health? How do we know what kind of shape our hearts are in? By the way we hear and receive the Word of God, and by looking to see if it is bearing fruit in our lives.

Jesus Christ described different heart conditions in Matthew 13 in He called the Parable of the Sower.

Then He spoke many things to them in parables, saying: Behold, a sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell by the wayside; and the birds came and devoured them. Some fell on stony places, where they did not have much earth; and they immediately sprang up because they had no depth of earth. But when the sun was up they were scorched, and because they had no root they withered away. And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up and choked them. But others fell on good ground and yielded a crop: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. He who has ears to hear, let him hear! (Matthew 13:3-9 NKJV)

Unfortunately, there is a problem with this parable. Actually, the problem is with us. We have heard this parable so many times that there is a tendency to say, “okay, I know this part” and skim over it without digging deeper for more. For there surely is more for us here. So let’s try to take a fresh look at tis parable and find some things to apply to ourselves.

I believe that one major mistake we have traditionally made with the parable is to only apply it to those who are hearing the Gospel for the first time. We use it to show why not everyone responds to the salvation message, or to show why they do respond but then fall away. But Jesus does not limit the interpretation to salvation, and neither should we. This parable applies to the heart condition every one of us have on a daily or weekly basis when we read the Word or hear it preached and/or taught! So with that in mind, let’s take a fresh look at the explanation Jesus gives for the symbols and apply them to ourselves instead of others.

Therefore hear the parable of the sower:
When anyone hears the word of the kingdom, and does not understand it, then the wicked one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is he who received seed by the wayside. But he who received the seed on stony places, this is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no root in himself, but endures only for a while. For when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he stumbles.
Now he who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful.
But he who received seed on the good ground is he who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and produces: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. (Matthew 13:18-23 NKJV)

In this short discourse, Jesus reveals the heart conditions of those who hear His message.
Hard heart = characterized by the habit of hearing the message but refusing to take it in and apply it to ourselves. Doing this for an extended period may cause you to lose the ability to understand the message and how it applies to you at all. Can you remember the last time a Bible passage or a sermon changed something in your life? If not, or if you do remember and it was awhile ago, you have symptoms of a hard heart. This can only be cured by repentance, so that your heart soil is prepared to have the Word planted in it.
Heart Stones = also a dangerous condition. This is caused by not preparing your heart to receive the word by growing deeper in your walk with God. Only by prayer, diligent study of the Word, and the encouragement and fellowship of other believers can we put down deep roots. The more we practice these things, the more the Word becomes a part of us and we do not stumble when trials and tribulation comes. Ever read something in the Bible or heard a truth and said, “that’s okay, but no need to get radical about it”? One big symptom of this condition is a string of enthusiastically learning things, but just trying them out to see if they work instead of totally trusting God and doing what His Word says for us to do.
Distracted Heart = also known as spiritual ADD. This happens when we hear or read the Word and say that it is great, but are afraid of what people will think of us if we put it into practice. Or even hearing the truth about something and refusing to change because it might cost us wealth or position if people found out we were sold out to Jesus. A warning sign of this is when you see the truth but the first thought that goes though your mind is, “what would people think if I did that?”. The cure for this condition is the fear of the Lord. Our first thought, upon understanding the truth, should be one of joy at the opportunity to be obedient to God. It should not occur to us to disobey the commandments of God because we love Him more than anything on earth, and even life itself.
Healthy Heart = this is characterized by striving to find something about ourselves in every message and Bible reading that we can change to become more like Christ. Or to find something new that we had not known that will equip us to love and serve Him more fully. Results of this condition will be fruitfulness in our walk with God and ever increasing growth in our spiritual lives.

So how about it? What kind of soil do you have right now? Does your heart seem to go through different phases of soil quality and preparation? Mine does. Let’s be ever diligent to keep our hearts right, and in so doing keep our lives healthy and our doctrine sound, that we may be fruitful in His Kingdom!

“Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.” (1 Timothy 4:16 NIV)

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