The treasure shaping your life

 

IMG_8464 - Version 2

1I want you to know how much I have agonized for you and for the church at Laodicea, and for many other believers who have never met me personally. 2I want them to be encouraged and knit together by strong ties of love. I want them to have complete confidence that they understand God’s mysterious plan, which is Christ himself. 3In him lie hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

4I am telling you this so no one will deceive you with well-crafted arguments. 5For though I am far away from you, my heart is with you. And I rejoice that you are living as you should and that your faith in Christ is strong. Colossians 2:1-5

On three occasions when Jesus wanted to describe the Kingdom of God and how people who know Him live, He used references to treasure. There was a treasure buried in a field (Matthew 13:44), a pearl of great price (Matthew 13:45-46), and a treasure in the storeroom (Matthew 13:52).

So it is a beautiful thing when the Apostle Paul declares that in Jesus Christ lie hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.  You and I have not exhausted the treasure that remains in Him. This treasure will shape our lives and our loves. It will shape how we think and how we live. It will bring us into the very knowledge of God. It will bring us into the fellowship of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Here’s a strange thing about our treasure and the affections of our heart: they really do shape our identity. Treasure the applause of people and your character will be shaped by that pursuit. Treasure external beauty over strength of character and you will be shall like that. Treasure security through the accumulation of wealth or stuff over the wealth of relationships and friendship and your life will be empty like that. Many “treasures” disappoint, but Jesus will not.

Why is Paul agonizing for the church? Well I think he knows how easily the disciples of Jesus get drawn away from Him. Paul knows how quickly we look for bright and shiny, or simple applause over the applause of Heaven and the treasures of the narrow road with Jesus. And so, Paul’s delight in their lives and faith when its full on with Jesus is great too. Even though Paul is far from them, he delights in the news that they are walking with Jesus! That’s what disciple makers do: they agonize and they delight till we are fully valuing and treasuring Jesus.

 

 

Walking treasure chests… full of glory!

 

IMG_1218

24I am glad when I suffer for you in my body, for I am participating in the sufferings of Christ that continue for his body, the church. 25God has given me the responsibility of serving his church by proclaiming his entire message to you. 26This message was kept secret for centuries and generations past, but now it has been revealed to God’s people. 27For God wanted them to know that the riches and glory of Christ are for you Gentiles, too. And this is the secret: Christ lives in you. This gives you assurance of sharing his glory.

28So we tell others about Christ, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all the wisdom God has given us. We want to present them to God, perfect in their relationship to Christ. 29That’s why I work and struggle so hard, depending on Christ’s mighty power that works within me.  Colossians 1:24-29

 

I love the window Paul creates for his readers here. We get to see his internal motivations. Why would he suffer for the beginning of the church in each city he visits? Why would he persist to preach the Gospel even when it seems to cost him so much?  What vision continues to fuel his passion?

Well, for one thing, Paul treats the Gospel as a precious treasure contingent the secret and mystery of God.  And two, he treats the Gospel as a that gateway to most tremendous vision of our lives:  “Christ lives in you. This gives you assurance of sharing his glory.”

Some translations read: Christ in you, the hope of glory.

Wow! So this is why Paul labours and struggles so much in prayer, in teaching, in preaching, in disciplining his own life, in working to clearly communicate the truths of the Gospel. Paul has a vision of what people fully displaying the greatness and glory of Jesus. And that’s what motivates every disciple-maker. That’s what is going to motivate you someday as you care and take interest in another person who is following Jesus and trying to figure Him out!

You are walking treasure chest… full of the glory of Christ Jesus!

Who cares for the church?

IMG_2637

…the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.

24Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church, 25of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, 26the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints. 27To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. 28Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. 29For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.  Colossians 1:23-29
I have a friend who says, “Disciple-making is largely unappreciated at the time.” The Apostle Paul knew what it was like to be unappreciated. Yet, Paul says he has joy in his assignment from Jesus. Joy! But, its not been easy. Following Jesus has brought him into:

Sufferings.

Stewardship.

Struggle.

Sufferings. There are seasons in which Paul suffered physically and psychologically for the advancement of Jesus’ church.

Stewardship. Paul had a persistent sense of responsibility to proclaim the word of God to people, making Jesus known through the Gospel.

Struggle. Paul tapped into all the resources of mind, body, and soul that the Lord made available to him so that people would grow up as Jesus’ disciples.

There is nothing like the Gospel ministry to which we have been called. It has its highs and its lows. It’s rich! It’s glorious! It’s messy! No one else but the church is promised the incredible hope of glory: Christ in you!  Disciple-making is not an easy journey, but it has its joys! There is nothing like being in the company of Jesus, the King of Creation, when He touches the life of a brother or sister.

These joys can be ours when we lean into Jesus with His people and willingly accept some measure of sufferings, stewardship, and struggle for the sake of Jesus and His church. Gospel ministry is not a matter of full-time or part-time vocation. Instead its a relationship and a labour of love. Will you venture into relationship with at least one other person to flame the hope of our glory—Christ in us?

 

 

 

Not a project. I hold you in my heart.

IMG_57506And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. 7It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. 8For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:6-8 

I’ve always loved the promise held in verse 6: He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion. Jesus will complete what He has started. Its a promise for each one of us.

Its also the longing of the servant of Jesus who has poured her or his heart into the life of another. “Ok, Jesus, that’s the end of me. I’m not there 24/7. You keep doing your work from start to finish, its all about you.”

Notice Paul’s affection for these followers of Jesus, “I hold you in my heart!” “We have a share in the same grace!” “You have been part of my struggle.” “I long for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus.”

The Disciple-making lifestyle let’s people get under your skin. In fact, you let them into your heart. Who is Jesus giving you? Who are you making room for in your heart?

For years I have prayed, “Lord, enlarge my heart for loving people.”

This kind of life is a matter of prayer.

Disciple-Making Intentionality

Disciple-Making is an intentional practice.

It requires us to keep up with Jesus and what He is doing in the life of another person. There is not one equation, recipe or formula; disciple-making is an art. In the artist’s mind is a vision. And our vision is of Jesus.

Every follower of Jesus can be a disciple-maker in response to Him. Joining Him in His Kingdom mission is the outcome of being with Him and being changed by Him. You don’t have to become a pastor, priest, or minister. Our disciple-making dream as disciples of Jesus does not require a position or an office. It requires intentionality.

A Disciple-Stages Grid

Disciple-making requires the intentionality of being a “parent.” The elder John clearly had it in mind when he wrote:

12I am writing to you, little children,

because your sins are forgiven for his name’s sake.

13I am writing to you, fathers,

because you know him who is from the beginning.

I am writing to you, young men,

because you have overcome the evil one.

I write to you, children,

because you know the Father.

14I write to you, fathers,

because you know him who is from the beginning.

I write to you, young men,

because you are strong,

and the word of God abides in you,

and you have overcome the evil one.

1 Peter 2:12-14

 

At our huddle meeting this past week Young Tae illustrated the passage.

IMG_7344

IMG_7345

 

I believe the elder John had a “stages of discipleship” grid in mind. He desired movement or growth in the lives of Jesus’ followers that went from being children, to being young men, to being fathers/ parents. As well I believe he dreamed of a church served by men and women who fulfilled the reproductive impulse of the Kingdom of God by becoming disciple-makers. Their knowledge of God, “Him who is from the beginning,” generated interest, love, sacrifice, and intentionality with those who were new and growing in the faith.

With those new in their walk with Jesus its important for us help them know Jesus and His forgiveness, such that their identity as His beloved children is established.  For those who are growing more in their walk Jesus its important for us to help them discover their strength in Christ, to become deeply familiar and engaged with the word of God, and to experience victory over the evil one in their character, land passions.

The Erosion of Discipling Communities

When I study these kinds of texts I’m often haunted by what its like to be a church or a disciple that takes no interest in the disciple-journey of others. God calls it a foolish shepherd. For the last twenty years I have had this text in Zechariah in front of me when it comes to erosion of discipling communities.

14Then I broke my second staff Union, annulling the brotherhood between Judah and Israel.
15Then the Lord said to me, “Take once more the equipment of a foolish shepherd. 16For behold, I am raising up in the land a shepherd who does not care for those being destroyed, or seek the young or heal the maimed or nourish the healthy, but devours the flesh of the fat ones, tearing off even their hoofs.
17 “Woe to my worthless shepherd,
who deserts the flock!
May the sword strike his arm
and his right eye!
Let his arm be wholly withered,
his right eye utterly blinded!”
Zechariah 11:14-17

They lose their intentionality for the heart of the Father. In fact, they lose their way because unity and favour have been broken. Their shepherds become foolish; they do not care for the young, bind up the shattered, seek the lost or feed the healthy. This is a discipling community that has lost its vision. These kinds of communities devour people!

The apostles were intentional, just as Jesus was intentional. They were intentional to not only pour their lives into others. They were intentional to cooperate with the Spirit of Jesus in the building of HIs Church. They knew they needed a healthy discipling community formed around a vision of Jesus, The Disciple Maker.