Disciplined and Equipped

Hello Ladies! It’s been awhile since we talked about IDEALS, so let’s do it!

In the last post, we considered what it means to be Immersed in the Word—to live a life in which the truths of Scripture determine how we think and act because we are hiding the Word in our hearts (Ps. 119:11) and meditating on it continually (Ps. 119:97).

At our March ladies gathering, we looked at why it’s important to cultivate a supreme view of the Word—and the God of the Word—and how we can put that conviction into practice. (The handout from the gathering is attached here, in case you missed that time of sweet fellowship.)

Today, let’s look at the “D” and the “E” of the IDEAL Christian life: Disciplined in Our Walk and Equipped for Every Good Work. These two principles go together like peas and carrots.

If the term “discipline” makes you scrunch up your nose in an eat-all-your-veggies sort of way, taste and see that discipline is a good thing! Biblical discipline is not harsh or rules-driven, as some might think. Rather, it is training in godliness.

In the first of two inspired letters that the Apostle Paul wrote to his protégé in the faith, Paul warns him in 1 Timothy 4:7-8 to avoid false teaching (error) and to instead “discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness; for bodily training is just slightly beneficial, but godliness is beneficial for all things.”

In the nearest context, Paul is addressing Timothy, a young preacher; but in the broader context, this call to godliness is extended to believers of all ages, vocations, and eras.

Godliness can be defined as reverence or respect toward God—possessing a high view of God.  The godly person adores God and has a practical awareness of God in every area of life. A godly person puts God in His proper place. The undisciplined person puts something else in God’s place. This is referred to as idolatry. [1]

A disciplined walk generates and sustains a right view of God (godliness) that permeates the very fiber of the believer’s being—mind, heart, attitudes, and behaviors. Now that we have considered what godliness is and recognize that it stems from a disciplined life, let’s contemplate the meaning and composition of spiritual discipline.

In his excellent book, Disciplines for the Christian Life, Donald S. Whitney defines spiritual disciplines as “those practices found in Scripture that promote spiritual growth among believers in the gospel of Jesus Christ.”[2]

To be disciplined in our Christian walk, then, means to obey Scripture as a routine way of life and as a natural response to our saving faith. It involves doing those activities that Scripture commands us to do, such as reading and meditating on the Word, praying, worshipping, and serving. A disciplined walk results in knowing and experiencing God and growing in Christlikeness—it results in godliness.

Godliness is beneficial for all things, Paul says to Timothy. It influences how we view the world and our circumstances. It determines how we use our time (Eph. 5:15-16). It shapes our understanding of God, and it impacts our earthly relationships as we consider them from the perspective of eternity. It affects how we carry out the Lord’s work. It authenticates our Christian witness. In short, it makes us more like Christ, and it is profitable for this life and the next.

In her equally excellent book, Disciplines of a Godly Woman, Barbara Hughes gets to the heart of the matter by providing a definition that addresses some misconceptions. She distinguishes true spiritual discipline from letter-of-the-Law- legalism, the latter of which might give the outward appearance of a disciplined Christian walk but falls short of a heartfelt hunger to grow in godliness. Put succinctly, “legalism is self-centered; discipline is God-centered. [3].

Let’s chew on this a bit.

Legalism is the use of human effort to achieve or maintain a right standing before the Lord (Gal. 3:3). For the legalist, discipline has a self-centered goal in mind: to gain merit with God.

Legalism inevitably results in adding rules and commands where there are none and twisting the ones that actually are there in God’s Word. Legalism is rooted in pride and often consists of judging others for not living up to the man-made moral standards the legalist has determined meritorious.

Can you think of some examples of legalism disguised as spiritual self-discipline?

One need not look further than the Pharisees to find a few illustrations, but let’s get even more practical—and perhaps look a little closer to home. One example that comes to mind is the desire to read the Bible every day.

It is a good thing to read the Bible every day. A very good thing! However, if reading the Bible every day produces a sense of self-accomplishment—or perhaps feelings of drudgery—the point (and the Person) has been gravely missed. As well, if the intent of reading the Bible is to merely gain knowledge or to impress others, the point (and the Person) has been gravely missed. In these examples, the effort has moved from spiritual discipline to counterfeit godliness.

If the purpose of reading the Bible is a desire to gain the Lord’s approval, to feel accomplished, or to impress others, isn’t it likely that missing a day will result in guilt feelings, despair, a sense of failure, or fear that God is angry? Do you see, then, how such motivations and responses are self-centered, driven by emotions, and the opposite of spiritual self-discipline?

In terms of God’s approval of us, our right standing before Him is achieved only through Jesus Christ, who died for our sins, was raised from the dead for our justification, and even now intercedes for us at the throne of grace (Ro. 4:25; Heb. 7:25). Where our efforts have been tainted in full or in part by any variety of legalism, let us repent, trusting that “if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)

Since Jesus’ work on the cross covers our sins past, present and future, and the Father can never love us any more or less than He does now, we are unencumbered to pursue godliness.

In Colossians 1:10, the Apostle Paul instructs the believer to “walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.”

Paul is effectively saying that good works flow out of godly living. A truly godly person can’t help but do good works! In other words, a disciplined walk produces genuine godliness, which is pleasing to the Lord, and equips us for every good work. See? Peas and carrots!

A disciplined walk is not a short jaunt down a well-manicured path—it is a lifelong pilgrimage of faith through hills and valleys, around twists and turns. It’s an invigorating journey, because the Lord is with us and is making us more and more like Him. At the same time, the passage and the perils along the way often push us to near exhaustion. Nevertheless, we must press on and do the hard walking! Ladies of Grace, “…work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” (Phil. 2:12b-13)

There is so much more that could be said! Fortunately, we are being offered a couple of ways to grow in our reverence of God and to consider more deeply the spiritual disciplines which will better equip us to bear fruit in every good work.

The Elders at Grace Hill are offering two Equip classes on Wednesday evenings this summer, beginning May 5th at 6:30PM. The first 6-week class will provide a study of God’s incommunicable attributes—those characteristics that only He possesses.  The second 6-week Equip class will offer instruction on the spiritual disciplines of the Christian life. The timing of these classes could not be more ideal!

Until next time, keep pressing on in the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, encouraging one another to do likewise.

Bibliography:

[1] Virtue and Assurance, Part 1, Grace to You; August 19, 1990

[2] Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life by Donald S. Whitney; page 4

[3] Disciplines of a Godly Woman by Barbara Hughes; page 14

Immersed in the Word

Woman of Grace, Immerse Yourself in the Word!

Do you frequently wonder how to respond biblically to what’s happening in your life—whether it’s an unexpected occurrence, a crisis event, or part of your day-to-day routine? Do you find yourself asking, “What’s the ‘how-to’ for the situation I’m in?”

Do you know and trust that the Bible has the answers?

God’s Word is truth (John 17:17); and it equips us to handle every situation in a manner that glorifies Him. From Genesis to Revelation, we have the teaching, instruction, warnings, and encouragement we need to put off the old self and to put on godly thoughts, attitudes, and behaviors (2 Timothy 3:16-17; Ephesians 4:22-24). Just think: We have within our grasp the complete and sufficient words of God, written down for us and for all generations!

To faithfully apply the Word of God to our lives, we must know it. (You can’t apply what you don’t know!) In his New Testament commentary on Romans, John Macarthur states, “The transformed and renewed mind is the mind saturated with and controlled by the Word of God.” To put it in terms of the “I” in our IDEALS, we must immerse ourselves in the Word.

Being immersed in the Word means living with reliance upon it for wisdom, trusting that it provides both help and hope. Not only that, being immersed in the Word involves thinking on the precepts of the Bible moment by moment throughout the day, not just when we find ourselves in trouble, or sit down to read it, or gather with the local church body. Being immersed in the Word involves looking at every aspect of life through the lens of Scripture.

Psalm 119 beautifully portrays the need for the Word—and the God of the Word—in our everyday lives. For example, the psalmist says:

“I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” – Ps 119:11

“Your word, Lord, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens. Your faithfulness continues through all generations; you established the earth, and it endures. Your laws endure to this day, for all things serve you.” – Ps. 119:89-91

“Oh, how I love your law. It is my meditation all the day.” – Ps. 119:97

“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” – Ps. 119:105

“You are my hiding place and my shield; I hope in your word.” – Ps. 119:114

“The unfolding of your words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple.” – Ps. 119:130

God’s Word is as essential (arguably, more essential) than the air we breathe or the food we eat. Jeremiah, who served as prophet and priest to the kingdom of Judah, regarded God’s word as daily bread for his soul in Jeremiah 15:16:

“Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by your name, O Lord, God of hosts.”

By now, you may be thinking that a Word-consuming life requires work (and a stomach of iron). Yes, it does! Being immersed in the Word is a 24-7 commitment, but it’s not one we can do alone. The Holy Spirit residing in us brings the truths of Scripture to bear on our hearts and minds, and it is by His enabling power that we can apply these truths to our lives (Luke 24:45).

The Apostle Paul, who tirelessly proclaimed Christ alone for the forgiveness of sins, delivered this exhortation concerning the Christian walk in Philippians 2:12-16 (emphasis mine):

“Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

 Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.”

Whether you have twenty minutes or two hours to regularly read, study and memorize Scripture, I encourage you to redeem every moment the Lord has given you (2 Timothy 2:15; Ephesians 5:16). Over time, your knowledge of the Word will grow and grow. A fruit of that diligent work will be an increased ability to see circumstances and trials in your life through the lens of God’s Word and to respond according to His wisdom and instruction.

Pray that the Holy Spirit calls to mind what you are learning and helps you apply it to the situations in your life. Teach it to your children (Deuteronomy 6:4-9). Seek out like-minded ladies in order to encourage and sharpen one another in light of the Word (Proverbs 27:17).

In love and obedience to our great God, let us be known as women of the Word!

Helpful resources to aid in studying and applying the Word:

When You Fear Your Faith May Fail

One of my favorite hymns to sing is “He Will Hold Me Fast.”[1] The first lyrics are:

When I fear my faith will fail
Christ will hold me fast
When the tempter would prevail
He will hold me fast
I could never keep my hold
Through life’s fearful path
For my love is often cold
He must hold me fast

Do you ever feel like your faith may fail? Does life ever seem like a fearful path? Do you feel like you are not strong enough to continue to hold onto Christ? Does your love for Jesus grow cold?

Yes, we all certainly walk through seasons where our love is cold, our faith is weak, and our strength wanes. As a Christian, we are weak and in desperate need for Christ (John 15:5). There exists in our life dark, trying, and depressing times that seem to rise as frequent as crashing waves upon the ocean’s shore. In those days, we may wonder about our ability to persevere and to keep hold of Christ by faith.

In the book of Jude, Jude writes, “Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy (verse 24).”

God keeps us from stumbling. God keeps us from falling away. God secures us. Our surety is not in our strength to keep hold of Christ, but in Christ’s strength to keep hold of us. We will fail to hold on to Christ. Yet, God “who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil 1:6).

Jude 24 doesn’t say that God might keep you from falling. God isn’t going to try really, super-duper hard to keep you from falling. No, He is able to keep you from stumbling. God is able to save to the uttermost (Heb 7:25). Christ Jesus has made you his own (Phil 3:2). God is mighty with a strong hand and an outstretched arm, for his steadfast love endures forever” (Psalm 136:12).

As found in Jude 24, God also keeps his people with great joy. He does not begrudgingly hold onto you. A verse that is a constant reminder of this truth is Psalm 149:4, “The Lord takes pleasure in His people.” It pleases God to save. It pleases God to keep his people saved. In verse 2 of “He Will Hold Me Fast,” the opening line is “Those He saves are His delight.” God the Father is delighted to save those He has promised to His Son (John 6:37). We do not have to complete tasks for God to delight in us, but we look to Christ’s life, death, and resurrection to understand that the task has been completed. God takes pleasure in us because of His Son. Christian, God takes pleasure in you and holds you fast.

It is in God’s promise and pleasure the Christian presses on, pursues God, and perseveres in the faith. It is from the safety of our heavenly Father’s compassionate love that we keep ourselves in that love (Jude 21). We operate out of God’s sovereign grace toward us which makes us eager to make our calling and election sure (2 Peter 1:10). He has supplied all we need and continues to supply all we need in Christ His Son. It is in Christ, we see God’s unfailing love and eternal pleasure that rests upon His people.

Your faith may fail, but God doesn’t. It is not the intensity of our faith in which we find security but the object of our faith – – Jesus Christ. God is able, and He alone is able. God keeps those that are his from falling away solely by his grace and because of His good pleasure. We have a promise to cling to! For those in Christ, He will hold us fast!

 

Listen to “He Will Hold Me Fast”

[1] vv. 1-2 Ada Habershon (1861-1918), Public Domain. Alt. words, new words (v.3), and music: Matthew Merker

Forgiven and Forgiving

Matthew 18:23–35
[23] “Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. [24] When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. [25] And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. [26] So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ [27] And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. [28] But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ [29] So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ [30] He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. [31] When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. [32] Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. [33] And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ [34] And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. [35] So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”

Immediately preceding this parable, Peter asks Jesus a question. He asks, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Peter wants to know how many times he must forgive someone who sinned against him.

The common teaching of the day would instruct that someone was required to forgive three times. So, for Peter to say seven times was quite forgiving of him. It is double plus one! Jesus responds to Peter by saying, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.” The number seven has symbolic significance throughout the Bible, and it is usually identified with something being complete, finished, or whole.

The point here is not for us to keep detailed records of how many times we have forgiven someone. There is no forgiveness quota, no point after which we are no longer required to forgive. Jesus’ point is this: you are to forgive without keeping count. Infinitely. Jesus then launches into teaching this parable about the unforgiving servant.

I’m sure we have all been hurt by someone before. Hurt in such a way that it required us to forgive our offender. Perhaps needing to forgive an absentee father, critical mother, a wayward child, abusive spouse, unfair boss. The list could go on. We have all experienced a time where we needed to forgive someone.

What can we learn from this parable? Why should we forgive? How does the gospel teach us about forgiveness?

We owe an unpayable debt to God (verses 23-25)

The debt owed by the slave was ten thousand talents. This amount is roughly equivalent to $6 billion dollars today. I’m not sure how many of us have $6 billion under our mattress! Think about that. This master has brought this slave in who owes him an inordinate amount of money. A sum in which he could never pay back. In fact, the text says as much (v. 25).

The debt the slave owed was unpayable. He accumulated an amount of debt that could never be repaid. He could not work it off, there is no way he could earn or borrow enough money to pay back his debt.

This is a picture of the debt in which we owe God because of our sin. Our sin has offended a holy God. Our debt to God is insurmountable, it is unpayable, and there is no way we can work off our debt to God. Apart from Christ, there is no way our account can be settled. You can’t be a good enough person, and you can’t do enough good things to balance out the scale. Your account will always have an outstanding balance. There is simply nothing that you can do to pay back the debt that sin has accrued. Outside of Christ, our sin debt will forever be outstanding.

However, in Christ, we have been unquestionably forgiven by God (verse 26-27)

The servant realizes he can’t pay back this debt. He understands that he is standing there in front of the king with no hope of settling his debt. Therefore, he does the only thing he can do, he throws himself at the king’s feet. Pleading with the king to forgive him. He can only ask that the king be merciful.

You and I must throw ourselves upon the kind arms of a merciful savior. Surrender our lives and plead with God to be merciful toward us. It is in Christ, that we can be forgiven by God. If we would come by faith alone to God through Jesus Christ alone. Transfer our trust away from ourselves and place it in Jesus Christ’s righteous life, His death for sinners on the cross, and His resurrection.

Our sin debt transferred to Jesus Christ. He takes on our sin, and his righteousness is transferred to us. He pays our debt through his death. It is in Jesus Christ that we have the forgiveness of sins and our debt wiped clean.

We are no longer under the obligations of our debt because Christ has settled our account. He has paid it off. He has pardoned us from the debt that we accumulated. We are completely forgiven of all offenses toward God in Christ Jesus. Jesus paid it all.

Now, we keep in mind that we have sinned undeniably greater against God than anyone has ever sinned against us (verses 28-31)

In these verses, another debt is introduced. Another servant owes a hundred denarii to the first servant in the parable. This debt would be equivalent to about $12,000. This is the sharpness of this parable: how can someone who has been forgiven of so much be so resistant to forgiving someone else?

This is not to say that whatever happened to you isn’t significant or that it didn’t hurt. Your pain is real, and I am in no way trying to minimize that. You really might want to choke your offender just like the servant in the parable! After all, twelve thousand dollars is still a lot of money, but it is pocket change relative to $6 billion.

But to quote John MacArthur, “Compared with our sins against God…our debt is unpayable.  The other debts we incur with people are easily payable. The point is when we have received forgiveness so vast, so far-reaching, so comprehensive, how can we be so small as not to forgive another?”

When we think about the fact that God has forgiven us of our sin by giving us His Son, our grudges, bitterness, and lack of forgiveness can seem trivial in light of the gospel.

Where is God calling you to forgive today? Who is God calling you to forgive today?

Therefore, we should display unlimited forgiveness toward others (verses 32-35).

This servant forgot what he had been forgiven of and he didn’t show the same compassion that had been shown to him. When we will not forgive others, we are saying that we are forgetting what Christ has done for us!

We don’t forgive someone because they deserve our forgiveness. We didn’t deserve forgiveness. We were pardoned by God through Jesus Christ alone, and because we are living in light of the gospel, we can forgive others. In Christ, we have been forgiven of a far greater offense than what someone committed against us. We forgive because we know what it is like to be forgiven.

So, in light of the good news of Jesus Christ, we should not ask how often we must forgive, but tell ourselves when we are offended, how can we not forgive?

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask God to enable you to forgive and to view forgiveness in light of being forgiven in Jesus Christ.

For Further Study

Memorize Ephesians 4:32 as a reminder of God’s marvelous grace to you.

VALUE 5 – MISSION

God is a missional God. An understanding of the grand storyline of the Bible provides us with this reality. God promises that he would send a rescuer from the seed of the woman that would crush the serpent’s head (Gen 3:15). God, instead of obliterating the human race after the Fall, seeks to redeem a people for Himself. We believe that “through Adam sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned” (Rom 5:12). He sends a second Adam – Jesus Christ to save (Rom 5:19). Now, since all humans are under the right condemnation and judgment of God, every person apart from Christ is destined for His wrath (Eph 2:3). An eternal hell and just punishment await people here and everywhere as payment for their sins. It is through Jesus Christ in which we can be saved from the penalty of our law-breaking.

God does not take pleasure in the condemnation of the wicked but calls them to repentance and faith (Ezek 33:11). We also know Heaven will be filled with such a great multitude that cannot be numbered from all nations, tribes, peoples, and languages (Rev 7:9). As the church, we go out with great assurance and promised success as we go into the nations and our neighborhoods to proclaim the gospel.

Missions is much more than social activism. It is more than making other’s life better but changing their eternity. Yes, in part, missions meet the practical, physical, and immediate realities of hurting and broken people, but something much grander is going on than that. Why? God has determined the mission, and his mission is about redeeming people. And God redeems people through his message. Mission is tied to God’s message, and that message is “that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve” (1 Cor. 15:3-5). Christ died for and redeemed a multitude of people.

He calls us as his disciples to go out in all the world and makes disciples of all nations. Disciples make disciples through the proclamation of the gospel. It is by faith that people are justified. We believe everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Rom 10:13). We do this by sharing the goods news of Jesus Christ – “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent?” (Rom 10:14-15). We must go to our neighbors and to the nations armed for our mission with the gospel – “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Rom 1:16).

We seek to live with gospel intentionality locally and globally. We desire to play our part in God’s mission through evangelism, equipping and developing leaders, and sending them to plant other like-minded churches in Chatham County and to the ends of the earth. As the church, we partake in an unstoppable mission.