Mentoring Minutes

Wise as Serpents, Gentle as Doves

(Matthew 10:16)

We have been spending nearly a year in these posts looking at God’s Covenant Order…His salvation and Lordship in our lives; our discipleship response; building every relationship on His Love & Lordship; honoring marriage as the highest of human relationships; family as the foundation of society and building block of Christ’s Church; loving and relationally servant-leading our families and then Christ’s Church…Now that we’re serious about following His Word and making disciples who make disciples in His Covenant Order, He equips us to do what He’s called us to do…

Taking His Gospel message to a lost and dying world and it won’t be easy. Let’s quit fooling ourselves and trying to do it our way. It hasn’t worked. We are making weak church converts rather than strong disciples with a very family-like resemblance to Christ! This is a statement based on both working with individuals, couples and families and the general state of our culture…both the world and our churches.

In our microwave, convenience store, fast food, Internet-driven world, discipline and patience are almost afterthoughts. We “train” our new church converts in a four to eight-week class, call it discipleship, and send them out to show others how much God loves them, how much we love them, and to win their souls for Christ!

We are sending out “empty infants” in Christ!

On the other hand, Jesus, knowing His time for ministry was short, was not willing to send out His disciples until He knew they were ready. Ultimately He spent two of the three years of His public ministry training His disciples before sending them out. He then gave them the encouragement and warning found in Matthew 10:16 (KJ21), “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.”

How are we doing when it comes to sending out wise and shrewd messengers and disciples? What are we exporting?

We have not, cannot, and will not be able to do this with programs and systems alone…we must prioritize the difficult, but eternally rewarding work of making disciples in loving relationships!

There are many issues that we as a country, and even through our churches, have exported around the globe with horrific consequences. As we have removed or compromised the Biblical Truths and perspectives the results have been lacking at best and devastating at worst. The culture, through our education, media and government, has co-opted the Gospel message for some time, couching it in familiar terms but exporting death and destruction. Abortion couched in human rights language, contraception in terms of health, well-being, sexual rights, and pornography labeled as free speech. The Church has done little in many cases to counter the messages and efforts, and in others cases has helped to spread the demoralizing and devastating outcomes. (2 Timothy 4:2-4; Romans 1:18-32)

Much of what has been shared from the western culture progressivism has elevated unhealthy relationships and sexual immorality disguising them as education and legislation. Not content to let others decide for themselves we have forced other cultures and countries to comply through financial incentives or held them hostage with financial restrictions, such as withholding government funding for HIV-AIDS or other program funding if they will not agree to teach and promote the destructive and devastating condom and contraception-based sex education.

When we comply, by consent or silence, we are allowing the enemy to attack the very foundations of God’s creation and order from the beginning.

The reason I’m focusing on porneia and sexual sin as we discuss taking His message to a lost and hurting world is because this is the core issue and the greatest ammunition the enemy has in destroying the foundations that God laid down at creation. In His design, male and female were created for marriage in a lifetime monogamous covenant commitment and sex is reserved for this union only. When porn is disguised as “education” and deceitfully marketed as “safe,” it goes directly against all that is God and His Truth and Love. (Philippians 2:12-16a)

As stated previously, porn/porneia is the greatest destroyer of love and relationship and the only thing that will overcome it is the power of the Gospel lived out through His families and Church. Loving relationships is the currency of Christ’s Kingdom!

If we are going to re-establish the foundations of God’s Word in marriage, family, and His Church then we must expose and stand firm against this evil. We must be as wise as serpents and as gentle as doves. And we must not be afraid to proclaim His whole Truth regarding relationships, marriage, family and sexuality.

Look at the root of the sin, porneia, which the enemy uses to destroy lives, relationships, and communities through relational brokenness, sexual perversion and immorality, divorce and broken families. The result is that we hinder our ability to serve the Church, and ultimately cripple its ministry. Most of it is exported from a pornified culture rooted in Churchianity!

How can our churches survive if we continue to placate the culture? What was and is being exported is what is far too prevalent in our churches today. (1 Corinthians 6:9-11, 18-20; 2 Corinthians 12:21; Colossians 3:4-6)

C.S. Lewis says it this way in The Weight of Glory, “It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

Only in Christ and by the blood and body of His sacrifice can and have we overcome. May we walk in His overcoming!

In our modern day culture, it is obvious that there are several issues that we need to address in order to come against what the world and enemy of our souls is pandering and boldly, yet graciously, step up and proclaim God’s Truth. As Abraham Kuyper stated, “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, Mine!”

Why have we, as Christ’s Church, allowed the world to dictate when and where His

Truth can be spoken and applied? It is the only thing that will set people free, but we claim graciousness in withholding His Word in politics, schools, media, and more while Satan continues to enslave and destroy.  (John 15:18-19; 1 Peter 3:15)

Here are current issues and outcomes that give evidence to our fear and timidity, and Paul said: “For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.” (2 Timothy 1:7 NASB)

CURRENT OUTCOMES/POTENTIAL STRUGGLES

  1. Emotionally-driven salvation
  2. Very lacking in obedience-based discipleship
  3. Spiritually immature, fleshly driven service
  4. Focus on people above God
  5. Churches/Christians that look and act like the culture – Conformed to the world

The Father seeks those who worship Him in Spirit and in Truth (John 4:23-24). This is not those who just attend church, give and serve and their idea of worship is a 15 minute song service during the weekend. These are those who give all of their lives as a living sacrifice in realizing the incredible grace and mercy that we’ve been given in Christ (Romans 12:1-2).

All of the issues of conforming to the world listed in yesterday’s devotional have been addressed throughout this series as a response to Jesus’ own prophecy of Judgment Day in Matthew 7:21-23: “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.’”

The only thing that we have any control over in this prophecy is whether we are contributing to the “many” whom Jesus refers to or working to diminish the “many” that don’t really know Him and add to the souls that do! Are we conforming to the world thinking we’re doing a great job…or are we living as Christ’s true disciples and helping others know Him?

“When the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?” (Psalm 11:3)

Will He find us faithful and fruitful for His Kingdom as we building loving relationships and make disciples? Or are we content to make church members and converts? (Ephesians 5:1-4)

There are many problems facing our churches today but the greatest and most blatant, and yet most hidden, is the issue of porneia or sexual immorality. This permeates our culture and directly attacks the foundations for marriage, family and loving relationships upon which God created the world and that symbolically point to Christ and His Church.

We have been looking at the current state of marriage, family and the churches. The lies and deception permeate our systems, destroying God’s design for gender, relationships, sexuality, marriage, and family, and cripple His Church. All the while we keep up the facade through numbers, giving and serving that help to hide this destroyer of Kingdom currency – loving relationships!

Love and Lordship…Food for Thought – Let us repent and confess so these issues are brought into the light, forgiveness is received and then move forward in Christ’s Authority and the power of The Holy Spirit to impact our world for His Glory!

Love and Lordship…Action Item(s)

  1. Read the Scriptures in this article and ask The Holy Spirit to teach you.
  2. Check school curriculum in your community, media and legislation to determine where you can stand up and expose and potentially shut down the information and teachings that go against God’s Word.
  3. Step up and make your voice heard where you can.
    1. School committees and boards
  4. Legislators – Contact The Family Foundation; American Family Association; Kentucky Right to Life

Practical Solutions for Loving and Leading

  (2 Timothy 2:15 AMP)

We’ve been looking at what God says in His Word to overcome our own flesh and pride, the world and the enemy, to love and lead in line with His will and Covenant order. Let’s now look at the practical and expected outcomes as we apply them in our lives, families, and in His Church.

As families and churches focus on the following in obedience-based discipleship, these will become more prevalent in our lives, homes, and relationships and in His Body:

1) The Lordship of Christ (Truth) will be our top priority. (Luke 14:25-35)

We must begin to see true discipleship in our lives as much more than just attending church, giving some money and serving others. We must make Christ Lord of all of our lives, with all our hearts, as we die to self and take up our cross to follow Him! Attending, giving and serving will be in line with what He has called us to and how we lovingly obey Him in all things!

Discipleship is a heart surrendered to Him and a life of maturation in Him.

Hopefully you notice the intentional repetition from previous posts. We looked at the Scriptural Truths that we’re called to in order to truly love and lead as Christ taught and modeled. Now we’re looking at what our loving obedient responses need to be in order for these Truths to become actual solutions and lifestyles in a world that increasingly calls them radical.

With that said our next practical application in obedience to His Word…we need to be taught and to:

2) Teach disciples to first know God’s love for us, followed by loving Him with all we are and then loving who we are in Christ so we can love others. (Mark 12:29-31)

Again we assume that salvation equals maturity and yet God’s Word tells us that when we are saved we are “born again”…an infant in Christ. We need to be taught/discipled as to what it means to know God’s Love and to love Him with all we are before we can know and love ourselves and then love others. These are the clear priority commands in His Word. Let’s obey accordingly and love like He does!

This is how it is to look in our lives and relationships for His Kingdom and Glory…

3) Obedience-based discipleship and maturity in Christ will be the priority and be evident in Church teaching, in our relationships and serving others, beginning in the home and family.  (Ephesians 4:14-16)

Often as I share and speak I will have pastors or church leaders ask me if what they’re doing is discipleship? I want to be clear as to what they’re asking so I have them share with me what they mean and they always point to their weekend or Sunday preaching and their classroom or small group teachings (if they have these).

My response is that while these are certainly part of God’s design and can lay a foundation for discipleship, in and of themselves they are not discipleship. I then ask  2 questions crucial for any and all discipleship…and where we fall so far short of making disciples who make disciples:

1) What is the Kingdom fruit of relationships and maturity from the preaching and teaching?

2) What accountability do you have for obedience to the preaching and teaching to ensure folks are maturing in The Lord?

Preaching and teaching are necessary but discipleship goes much deeper and we are all called to be disciples who make disciples. Do you love God in obedience to Christ’s Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20)?

The discipleship of all peoples begins in our homes, churches and communities!

As we continue to follow the Truth of Scripture in how we are to make disciples of Christ in loving relationships, the following will occur…

4) We will begin to revalue and rebuild a Kingdom marriage and family culture that emphasizes:

– Teaching/accountability in agape relationships and sexual purity (Hebrews 13:4);

– Relational servant-leadership modeled/taught in the home (Matthew 20:24-28);

– Generational discipleship beginning in the home and reinforced in churches (Deuteronomy 6:4-9).

This has to be more than just making church converts that attend, give and serve…it has to be those who are sold out to Christ!

He’s called us and will see us through…to be like Him and help others do the same!

The next application from God’s Word flies in the face of our flesh and culture. We could entitle this “The Discipline of Love” as the world hates to see those 2 words together…discipline and love. They want love to be all about feelings, pleasure and satisfying their own desires. God’s Word and Son show us a completely different Love rooted in Truth…selfless, sacrificial, unconditional and self-giving! (John 15:12-13, 17; 13:34-35)…

5) Building relationships is taught as part of Spiritual Disciplines and Discipleship rather than deferring to the culture’s concept of relationships occurring naturally:

– Discipling and mentoring, Serving and relational servant-leadership flows from applying Scriptures with the understanding that good relationships are formed in the discipline of The Holy Spirit and in line with God’s Word rather than just according to our natural, selfish flesh and desires.

We can only do this by The Holy Spirit in our lives in the power of The Risen Christ!

As we follow God’s Word and continue to grow in faith, love and obedience as disciples of Christ, abiding in Him, we will see the following:

6) Our maturity in Christ focuses on and builds a family-based Church rather than a corporate, business-based model driven by goals and outcomes. (1 Timothy 3:4-5)

Instead of worldly success defined by numbers, He produces Kingdom fruit through patience, perseverance and pruning (John 15:1-11). This is what we are called to, what discipleship looks like, and what will build His Church that the gates of Hell cannot prevail against!

Continuing in loving obedience to God’s Word for building relationships that reflect His Love and making disciples who live in and share His Truth in love, we find…

7) The Biblical emphasis of discipleship in loving relationships as Kingdom fruit is prioritized and drives decision-making with regard to programs, growth, finances, service and other elements rather than the reverse. (Galatians 6:7-10; 1 Peter 4:17)

Living in His Word of Truth is the only thing that sets us free from the tyranny of a worldly success model of church!

The final solution from God’s Word regarding how we are to love and lead is actually the conclusion and outcome of disciples making disciples in loving relationships. This is not only for individual salvation and sanctification but collectively we mature as Christ’s Church that can reach and impact a depraved, broken and hurting culture for His Kingdom and Glory…

8)  A familial and relational Church develops disciples who serve, give, share, and lead as a result of priority principles of Christ’s Lordship and our discipleship rather than service opportunities and programs masquerading as discipleship. Beginning in our marriages and families, loving service is essential in discipleship and Church growth but should predominantly flow from study and maturity, personally and relationally, and expectation of, and growth in, obedience rather than preceding it. (1 Timothy 3:4-5)

For far too long we’ve come up with ways to “love and lead” that actually put the cart before horse as we’ve not made disciples but church converts. In so doing much is done out of serving in the flesh rather than maturity in The Word, The Spirit and loving relationships. This happens easily in a broken world but it is not in line with God’s Word. May we not be deceived but rather follow His Word in making disciples in our families and in His Church so the world will know and desire Christ as Savior and Lord. (Matthew 7:21-23)

Loving Relationships and Disciple-making  (John 13:35; 15:12)

As we’ve walked through God’s Word and Covenant Order in these posts over the last year it leads us to some provocative questions:

Who’s your Lord or lord? Either it is the God of Salvation and of all of Creation…or it is satan. There is no in between of our own little kingdom that God is okay with!

Every motive, thought, decision, action and relationship reveals who’s your Lord.

God Word tells us to think on those things we can’t see as they are Eternal rather than dwelling on what we can see which is only temporal (2 Corinthians 4:18)? What do you spend your time dwelling on, responding to and building toward?

How are we really doing when it comes to making disciples, and building loving relationships in our marriages and homes that can stand against the cultural tide and help build the fellowship of believers that is Christ’s Church?

This is Christ’s command.  He has given us all we need to be His disciples and make disciples as we trust in Him and are obedient to His Word. (Philippians 4:13, 19)

As we walk in loving obedience as Christ’s disciples, first and foremost in our marriages and families, and as His Family, The Church, will a world that needs it really hear and see His message of grace, Truth, Love and salvation/sanctification.

They will probably not like it initially; but those with eyes to see and ears to hear cannot help but answer one way or another that they desire to be His or want no part of Him. Let’s show them His Love & Lordship so they can know. (1 John 2:3-5)

“I’ve often wondered what Jesus’ “Sermon on the Mount” would have looked like if He would have had to run it through most modern-day church boards.”

— Ronald Reagan

“If a church offers no truth that is not available in the general culture…there is not much reason to pay it attention.”                             — Richard John Neuhaus

Love and Lordship…Food for Thought – There has to be a clear difference in our lives, relationships and message about Christ and the culture for the world to know they need Him.

Love and Lordship…Action Item(s)

  1. Read the Scriptures in this article and ask The Holy Spirit to teach you.
  2. Determine what you need to do to be Christ’s disciple in line with His Word.
  3. Begin today to obey His Word in every part of your life. 

Scriptural Solutions to Loving and Leading

(John 13:14-17)

We’ve been looking at the obstacles in our flesh that make it difficult to love and lead as Christ did.  His Word gives us clear commands in His Covenant Order as to how we are to love and lead as His disciples in all loving relationships in our homes and churches and beyond for His Kingdom and Glory.

I’m going to briefly share Scripture for training disciples, building Christ-like character and healthy loving relationships that honor marriage and family that reflect His Truth and loving image. I’m including the principles and related Scriptures for your personal study and growth as His disciple, as a spouse, parent and brother/sister in Christ…also so you can disciple others in Him.

We will look at seven Scriptural solutions and follow up next week, Lord willing, with practical application of these. We can and are called to trust and walk in Him and His Truth as it is the only way we can accomplish these:

1) Above all else, we need to seek to know the Love and Lordship of Christ and His model of relational servant-leadership as Authority (Truth)–1 John 4:19; Matthew 6:33; 20:24-28; Mark 12:29-31; John 13:1-17, 34

This begins by recognizing that we can only love because He first loved us. We then can start to grow by seeking Him above all else and learning to love Him with all we are. As we do so He shows us who we are in Christ and how we can love ourselves as He does.

As we are discipled to grow in these priority commandments, we mature to serve and disciple others in these same Truths by grace in faith and love.

Continuing with how we are to love and lead according to God’s Word…

2) Discipleship is our response to His Lordship and how we mature in Him–Ephesians 4:13; Hebrews 5:14; James 1:2-4…by bearing fruit and growing in the knowledge of God–Colossians 9:1-11; Galatians 5:22-24

We can only grow in Christ by sharing and receiving His Truth in Love. In so doing we mature individually as His disciples and collectively as His Body, The Church.

Much of today’s discipleship is defined and lived out as: 1) Attend church; 2) Give some money, and; 3) Serve. Study and prayer are optional and you can do these in a class or small group.  These are all good things and needed but they fall far short of Jesus’ definition to be His disciple in Luke 14:25-35…1) He must take priority in our lives in all things; 2) We must do it wholeheartedly as halfhearted surrender is really no surrender at all and becomes a laughingstock both of our lives and our faith, and; 3) We must deny our self, take up our cross and go to our death (die to our own fleshly desires and pleasures) and totally follow Him.

The first trio of actions above mean very little in and of themselves. Only as they are an overflow of the second three actions listed above are they in line with His Word and worthy of being called His disciple…as Jesus defined discipleship.

Our next Biblical solution is…

3) As we are created in His image, we are to live out our discipleship in loving relationships and community with one another. We do this by prioritizing our relationships in His Covenant Order: Christ–>Marriage/Family–>Church–>World – Genesis 2:24; Matthew 5:19; Hebrews 13:4; Proverbs 22:6; Ephesians 6:1-4

God’s design began with and always includes the building of loving relationships in His Truth so we can show the world His Truth and Love. He began with a marriage and family and from there called us into the family of believers in Christ as His Church. Disciples are made in loving relationships and that has never changed.

All the programs and systems in the world, including many of the church programs that have conformed to the world, fall short because they assume the world’s “natural” love and relationships which are rooted in the flesh and bring destruction. Only those relationships formed in Christ declare His Love and make His disciples.

Continuing with what God’s Word has to say about how we learn to love and lead…

4) As we are willing to follow His Word and Covenant Order this enables us to mature in discipleship and mentoring and in building loving relationships with Him and others through studying and serving according to His Word–2 Timothy 2:15; Matthew 28:18-20; Hebrews 5:11–6:6

As we study and grow according to God’s Word and will, we learn to love and lead in our families, our churches and in the world according to His Authority, which is always invited influence. He never demands, He simply instructs and sets the example and leaves the choice to those who would lovingly obey Him. I pray that we will love and obey so that we will mature in our love for Him and others and lead them accordingly.

Our fifth Biblical solution is crucial in that it is the reason why we are called to love and lead first in our families and the fruit then is seen in Christ’s Church…

5) As we mature in Christ He builds a relational or family-based Body of believers rather than corporate and business-based–Ephesians 2:11-22; Ephesians 4

Isn’t it interesting and hopefully compelling that the Scriptures above in Ephesians 2 and 4 are followed in Ephesians 5 and 6 by His Covenant Order of loving and leading in marriage and family with marriage representing Christ and The Church, His Bride!  We must not continue to conform to the way of the world!

Moving along with our sixth solution that The Lord has provided in His Word for building healthy and Godly relationships that strengthen the love and servant-leadership in our homes and in Christ’s Church…

6) We are called to His Covenant priorities and throughout His Word these are familial and relational, rooted in character above performance, growth, financial, and numbers served; business acumen and ability are assumed and needed but not prioritized over family and relationships in selecting leaders and in decision-making (1 Timothy 3:1-13 (emphasis vv. 4-5); Titus 1:5-9)

We can only do this in His strength by His grace!

As we wrap up with these solutions for loving and leading our families and Christ’s Family, we look at the outcomes of walking in His Truth…

7) In following through His Covenant Order, we can and will build an Acts 2 familial Church that makes and grows disciples who serve, give, and share as a result of His priority principles—His Lordship and our discipleship—rather than service opportunities and programs masquerading as discipleship leading to shallow faith and lives as Jesus warned us about in Matthew 7:21-23.

Please don’t hear me saying we shouldn’t serve and share but rather that it must be an overflow of our relationship with Christ first and then with one another in Christ so that we humbly serve and love in His Spirit and Truth, not in our flesh.

Love and Lordship…Food for Thought – Let us know for certain that our lives and service are a result of truly knowing and loving The Lord so we can love who we are and love others accordingly in the power of The Holy Spirit all for His Glory! 

Love and Lordship…Action Item(s)

  1. Read the Scriptures in this article. Ask The Spirit to show you where you are with regard to God’s Covenant Order and priorities in your relationships.
  2. Describe the ways you are loving and leading in conformity to the world.
  3. Describe the ways you are loving and leading in line with God’s Word. 
  4. List those areas in your life and relationships that you need to work on to align with Christ’s teaching and modeling and how you will follow through.