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Daniel of Doulogos Name:Daniel
Home: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
About Me: I used to believe that evolution was reasonable, that homosexuality was genetic, and that people became Christians because they couldn't deal with the 'reality' that this life was all there was. I used to believe, that if there was a heaven - I could get there by being good - and I used to think I was more or less a good person. I was wrong on all counts. One day I finally had my eyes opened and I saw that I was not going to go to heaven, but that I was certainly going to suffer the wrath of God for all my sin. I saw myself as a treasonous rebel at heart - I hated God for creating me just to send me to Hell - and I was wretched beyond my own comprehension. Into this spiritual vacuum Jesus Christ came and he opened my understanding - delivering me from God's wrath into God's grace. I was "saved" as an adult, and now my life is hid in Christ. I am by no means sinless, but by God's grace I am a repenting believer - a born again Christian.
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Daniel's posts are almost always pastoral and God centered. I appreciate and am challenged by them frequently. He has a great sense of humor as well.
- Marc Heinrich

His posts are either funny or challenging. He is very friendly and nice.
- Rose Cole

[He has] good posts, both the serious like this one, and the humorous like yesterday. [He is] the reason that I have restrained myself from making Canadian jokes in my posts.
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This post contains nothing that is of any use to me. What were you thinking? Anyway, it's probably the best I've read all day.
- David Kjos

Daniel, nicely done and much more original than Frank the Turk.
- Jonathan Moorhead

There are some people who are smart, deep, or funny. There are not very many people that are all 3. Daniel is one of those people. His opinion, insight and humor have kept me coming back to his blog since I first visited earlier this year.
- Carla Rolfe
 
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Sunday, August 10, 2008
The Missing (Discipleship) Link...
The sermon today was a call to [1] contrast how we think of discipleship with how discipleship looked in scripture (inviting people into our lives, rather than inviting people out to [a] bible studies or [b] our weekly services. Not that there is anything untoward about either having a study, or inviting someone to a study, or a weekly service - for such things are certainly "okay" - we just mustn't imagine that this is how we make disciples. The charge was to first understand that discipleship is an real commitment/investment in someone else's life - to lead them in the way they are to go - not merely through formal (or informal) methodologies such as a weekly bible study, or an "accountability group" - or some other weekly appointment (again, not that there is anything untoward in any of these in an of themselves, but that these by themselves, regardless of how well structured, or established, do not constitute "discipleship" unless they are part of a sharing of one's life.)

I think the message was apropos for our congregation, and very likely for yours as well, since you're reading this and we serve a providentially sovereign God.

Here I think is where the Lord is so beautiful, for He gives different gifts to the same body, and expresses the same desire through many gifts at the same time. To that end, as I listened to the sermon I was burning with the understanding that while this is all true and good, the reason the members in our congregation, as a broad rule, do not each produce a brand new, mature-and-ready-to-reproduce disciple every two years is because, frankly, they don't have "it" in them.

What?

They don't have "it" in them? What -is- this "it"? The Holy Spirit? Grace? What is lacking?

I will tell you what I think it is - the one thing most professing Christians lack ...is that God is their treasure in words only. I mean, they pay lip service to the notion that God *is* their treasure, and they may even -believe- that God is their treasure; but that's only because they believe themselves to be something by default and not by examining themselves.

Don't get me wrong - These will certainly regard God as a very -big- treasure, one of their biggest - but He isn't the pearl of great price to them, His worth, however ultimate in theory, is quite limited in their personal practice. Their "big treasure" is getting to heaven and avoiding hell.

You see, if you come to God in order to avoid hell and get into heaven, then the moment you begin to feel that you really will go to heaven when you die - that is the moment that your faith begins to dry up on the vine.

It isn't that you stop "believing" - for you continue to believe that you will go to heaven, it is that this belief hasn't helped you with the *real* sin problem in your life. Don't get me wrong - you have done a good job cleaning the outside of your cup - I mean, you probably stopped swearing, and maybe you have even overcome some bad habits - smoking, drinking, and even course joking and, well, and sorts of obvious sin. People see you in church and they see the holy Christian sheen that everyone is expected to wear. You all take your places in the pews week by week - and nothing changes.

Now when I say that nothing changes, I don't mean that you aren't learning how to act the role - you are! You may even love to pray, or read the bible, or maybe you are particularly insightful or clever, and your grasp of scripture is more firm than most - and you *love* to talk about doctrine, because you're good at that, and you love the praise of others almost as much as you love to be right, and love the sound of your own voice. But religion is not unlike a good stout beer - the more you drink it, the more you acquire a taste for it, and I suspect that a great many who walk right past God in their affections, and look forward either with hope or with certainty to heaven - these have missed the boat...

You see, as I said, if all you came to God for was the ticket to heaven, the moment you feel you have a lock on that ticket, God is no longer useful to you, and though you give a nod in His direction, by prayer and religion, and whatever activity you do in order to maintain your grip on the "prize" - it is all, I say, empty and sad.

There is an old Johnny Horton tune called, "The mansion you stole", that goes like this:
The mansion I own has captured your heart
You said it was love dear but you lied from the start
I wanted true love but you wanted my gold
Someday you'll be sorry for the lies that you told

You've stolen my heart and you cheated on me
But someday my darling I know that you'll see
A house without love can make you so cold
And you will be lonely in the mansion you stole
The song is, of course, about a gold-digger who marries some guy for his mansion, pretending to love him in because that was the means to the ends - to get the prize - the mansion and the gold. The marriage was just not one of love, but one of conniving deceit - a mockery and a farce.

There are some who come to the Lord, not to be reconciled to Him, but because that is what you do in order to avoid going to hell. There are some who came originally to be reconciled to God, but whose love has over time grown cold (c.f. the rebuke in the book of revelation against the congregation at Ephesus [Rev 2:4]), whatever the cause - they either have never sought God (having sought religion or heaven), or have stopped seeking after God, and for that reason they have never grown in their faith.

I am talking about sitting in a pew for ten years, and slowly drying out, if ever there was life, or slowly running out of their own strength. Their faith becomes a burden to them, and they grow colder, and more distant inside, regardless of how vibrant a show they put on every Sunday.

Now, I am painting a picture with some dark colors here, in order to capture what is going on. If it comes across as over the top, I am sorry about that, but I write that way in order to make the point plain. Here then is where a great many people are confused, twisted, stunted, or drowning in their faith.

Do you know how many times I have heard earnest believers question how it is they are supposed to obey God? They know they are suppose to obey, and they know that the yoke is supposed to be easy and the burden light - they know that God is supposed to be working in them to will and to do His good pleasure, but they cannot for the love of them find out how that goes.

Now I spent a lot of time in this nowhere land, and in my shame and pride, I prefer not to mention how long I spend thus - but God was gracious one day in lifting me out of this mire, I believe, and whenever I get the opportunity I like to pass on practical advice.

I say practical, because I believe that there are enough people attending church Sunday to Sunday, who have never been instructed in how to walk in the faith - they have never learned how God works in them, and where to draw the line between "what we do, and what God does" - and since this is really the very *heart* of discipleship, I want to go over it for anyone reading who has never been taught this...

First - there is no way that someone who is living in the flesh week after week is ever going to want to "go out into the harvest". They are still trying to make sure they are saved, and frankly, even though they have filled the pews of some church for years, or decades (as may be), they have never rounded first base in their faith. They don't know --how-- to be obedient. They reject the idea that you just "keep the law" - knowing that would make you no better than a Jew - but they try and keep the law anyway, because they have to do something. Likewise, they reject the notion that because Christ died for our sins, anything we do, even if formerly it was considered sin, is not "not" sinful, because we are in Christ - that is, they reject the notion of using their "salvation" as a cloak for vice. But they cannot find the in-between place that they know is there, and no one has ever explained how it works.

Have I primed this pump long enough? We will see.

Here it is. The purpose of genuine faith is reconciliation with God. Unless/until one desires to be reconciled to God the Father (through Jesus Christ the Son!), all religion and religious activity is external, carnal, and temporal. One can go a whole life pursuing moral excellence in the strength of their own flesh and conviction, in the hope that doing so will secure them a place in heaven, and spare them a place in hell - but pursuing this liberty is not the same as pursuing God, and redemption is not about us going to heaven, it is first and foremost about us being reconciled to God.

I think that some mess up the gospel sorely on this point - using the fear of hell to draw people into wanting to be reconciled with God. They try to make people want to be reconciled to God, by vividly portraying the consequences of failing to be reconciled - and for those who have an eternal care for their soul - this draw is often enough to cause them to cry examine the promises of God seriously. The one who is convinced of their eternal damnation is certainly open to hearing the promises of heaven...

The first commandment is to love the Lord your God will all your mind, soul, heart and strength. We can seek God all we want, but we will only find him when we seek for him with -all- of our heart. Christ said, if you love Me, you will obey my commands.

I want to piece together for you the way of the yoke, if you will - the yoke of love.

It works this way:

If I find that my faith doesn't really want to know God, or care about Him, so long as I go to heaven when I die - there is something categorically, and devastatingly wrong about my faith, and before I even try anything else, I need to examine myself and see how my faith is an affront to God. I cannot use God to get into heaven - as though heaven were the goal. God is the goal, and until that is the baseline, there is no Christian walk - no walk of faith - there is only an illusion - or rather a delusion.

When I realize that it is all about knowing God through Christ, I then need to go about "seeking God" so that I can "find Him". He isn't lost, but I am unholy, so that in order to ascend His holy hill, I must have clean hands. Now, here is where some people go off the road. They get that far and say to themselves - "OH! I get it, I am supposed to obey because if I do it enough, I will start to have clean hands, then I will get to experience God in some bigger, better, more affirming and realistic, experiential way - and I am all for that, so I will start to obey now!" - and what they do is they try to look to some future reward as the impetus to their obedience. The trouble is that no matter how marvelous a future reward may be - we are so sinful that even a great reward will not long motivate us to obey. We just get slack, and we get there fast.

We need clean hands - but here is where people need understanding - to avoid the mess. You see, God calls us to obey, because -that- is where we find Him.

I am tempted, even sorely tempted to end this post right there - because the rest of it is just restating that last line. God doesn't command us to obey Him in order to make our lives miserable, he commands obedience because the only way one can obey God is to seek Him in the obedience. Does God give grace to the humble? What is humility - it is surrendering one's will to God's will.

You must understand -ONE- thing, if you are going to be a disciple, that is that you cannot go halfway. You are either seeking God with all your heart, or you are not seeking Him at all. You are either in the game, or you are playing another game.

That is why it is so important to understand that God sent Jesus to us in order to reconcile us to Him (God the Father). If we do not want that reconciliation, that is, if we want heaven, but not God, we can't grow in our faith because we are not walking in the light, we are in darkness. If I want to be reconciled to God, I will not stop seeking Him until I find Him - and if God tells me to be obedient, then I reason that God is not leading me away from Him, but towards Him - that is, the path to God is through obedience.

Do you see that if I truly want to be with God, and if the path to God is through obedience, then I will view every act here on earth as an opportunity to draw near to God, that walking in the path that God sets beneath my feet is the path to God - and I will not regard obedience as an unfortunate kill-joy in my earthly sojourn as I wait patiently for death to bring me into a godless heaven. Look: the only motivation you will ever receive for obedience is because that is the path to God - if you refuse to walk it, it is because God is not your treasure.

If God is not your treasure, you need to prayerfully re-examine your faith before the Lord, and stay there until God -is- your treasure, not until He is -a- treasure, as being perhaps one amongst many other treasures - but until God is all in all, that is, until God is God. When God is not your treasure, it isn't God, it is a facsimile, a doppelganger - an image that looks like God, but is not. For God has no rival, and when you see Him for the treasure He is, you will desire no other treasure.

So in order for discipleship to get off the ground, one must desire God, for desiring God is the way in which the burden is light and the yoke easy - if every act of obedience becomes an opportunity to draw near to the one you desire to be near - the struggle with the sinful flesh has a way out - a way of escape, and that way is the way of love - the love of God. Walking in that love is the way one is supposed to be a Christian, and discipleship is all about learning to walk in that love consistently.

If that helps, let me know.

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posted by Daniel @ 12:58 PM  
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