Loving Your Enemies

Jesus said a lot of countercultural things when he walked on this earth, but near the top of that list has to be when he told his followers to “love their enemies.” It’s hard enough to just love our neighbor—which is something else that Jesus told us to do—but to love our enemies—for many of us, that’s just a bridge too far. Why should I love my enemies?

Many people will recall that in 2012 the whole idea of same-sex marriage was in the media almost every day. It’d be another three-years before the Supreme Court would make same-sex marriage the law of the land, but in 2012 the movement was already gaining widespread momentum.

In May of 2012, President Obama addressed his “evolution” on the issue—he was for it, then he was against it, and then he was for it again. The whole country was in an uproar. There wasn’t any middle ground. There wasn’t a safe space to hide and avoid the controversy.

That summer, Dan Cathy—COO of Chick-fil-a—announced his opposition to same-sex marriage, and as a result of his announcement, Chick-fil-a was immediately thrown into the cultural firestorm.

There were those who adamantly disagreed with Chick-fil-a’s stance and they threatened to boycott Chick-fil-a, and there were those who equally as adamantly agreed with Chick-fil-a’s stance and they rushed to Chick-fil-a in droves. It was—if you will—a political stalemate.

But maybe you wonder, what did Dan Cathy do? What did Cathy do while some were threatening boycotts and others were cheering support?

According to media reports, here’s what he did. He decided to move toward his “enemy.” Cathy decided to reach out to Shane Windmeyer—the founder and executive director of Campus Pride, a pro-LGBT campus group. Windmeyer was a gay activist and an openly gay man.

Cathy reached out to him because Cathy wanted to hear more about LGBT concerns regarding Chick-fil-a. Cathy said this about why he reached out to Windmeyer.

“We don’t have to agree with our enemies but we still have to honor and love them.”

Not long after that meeting, Windmeyer told the Huffington Post that he considered Cathy a friend.

How might our lives—how might our culture—look different if instead of cutting off relationships, we chose to say, “I don’t share your convictions on such-and-such topic, but I would like to hear more about why this is so important to you.”

How might our lives and our culture look different if we began to be civil to one another again? How might our lives and our culture look different is we began to love our enemies?

Kathy Litton, a pastor’s wife in Mobile, Alabama, wrote this profound statement. “As long as I think of my enemies as ‘bad’ people, they will remain my enemy. The moment I choose to see them with a gospel lens, is the moment I can truly love my enemies.”

Jesus has called us to live counter-cultural lives. There are any number of ways we can live a counter-cultural life for Jesus, but we can start by loving our enemies (see Luke 6:27b). Straight away we notice the counter-cultural nature of Jesus’ call to discipleship. He tells us that we’re to love our enemies.

The word that used here for “enemy” means to “hate someone and wish them injury.” This isn’t just someone with whom you don’t get along. This is someone who wants to see you get hurt. And Jesus tells us that we’re to love that individual or that group of individuals.

There are several different Greek words that are variously translated as “love.” Some of these words are more powerful words for love than others. The word used here is the most powerful of all of those words. It’s agape love. Agape love is a love that seeks the best interest of the other. It’s the kind of love that God has for us.

When God so loved the world—in John 3:16—he “agaped” the world. That’s the type of love that we’re to have for our enemies. That’s the type of love that we’re to have for those who want to bring us harm.

To love someone with agape love is to delight yourself in them. It’s a love that’s not motivated by what the other person can do for you. Agape love is volitional. It’s making a decision of the will to love another.

If we “love” only because we know that we’ll be loved in return, friends, that’s not what Jesus is talking about here—or anywhere else in the New Testament, for that matter. In Luke 6:32, Jesus says, “If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them.”

Here’s what Jesus is saying.

If I love my wife (and I should love my wife and I do love my wife), it’s a pretty safe bet that I know my wife is going to love me back. And if I love my children (and I should love my children and I do love my children), it’s a pretty safe bet that they’ll love me back.

There’s nothing counter-cultural about that kind of love. Jesus tells us here that even “sinners” love those who will love them back. And by “sinners” here, he’s not referring to the fact that we’re all sinners (cf., Romans 3:23). He’s using sinners here in a more designated sense. He’s talking about those who consciously choose not to follow Christ.

Even they have no problem with loving someone who will love them in return. In essence, he’s saying, “Give me a break. Everyone does that. Everyone loves the person who will love them back.”

So Jesus asks, “what benefit is that for you?” The word translated here as “benefit” is the same Greek word that’s elsewhere translated as “grace” or “favor.” In essence, here’s what Jesus is saying.

“Why should God show you any grace, why should he show you any favor for loving those who love you in return?”

Christians—those who follow Jesus—ought to be different. We ought not to just blend into the crowd. There should be something distinctive about the way we live.

When we see racial injustice, we ought to reply in a way that’s distinctively Christian.

When we see oppression, we ought to reply in a way that’s distinctively Christian.

And here’s why that should happen. When a Christian grasps—I mean when she really begins to understand—what Jesus accomplished on her behalf on the cross, it’ll change everything.

When she begins to understand that it wasn’t because she was such a lovable person that Christ loved her, it’ll change everything.

When she begins to understand that before she came to Christ, she was God’s enemy (cf. Romans 5), and that while she was still God’s enemy, God sent his only Son to die for her, it’ll change everything.

The reason many of us aren’t regularly amazed at God’s great love for us is that we think that we somehow deserve his love. We think we had it coming. It’s almost as if we say to ourselves, “It’s the least God could have done for me.” That seems to be the attitude that many people have.

But no, no, no, friends, listen. We don’t deserve God’s love. We deserve God’s wrath. But listen closely, friends. Here’s the glorious news. Even though we deserve God’s wrath, God sent his wrath on his Son Jesus as he hung on that cross. Jesus took the wrath that we deserve. And in return God sent his love to us.

It’s what Martin Luther called the great exchange. Jesus takes our sin, and God gives us his Son’s righteousness. And why did he do that? For the joy set before him (Heb 12:2)—because he loved us.

And because he loves us, his love transforms us. John the apostle said it this way. “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19).

His love transforms us. Because he loved us, we’re able to love even the vilest of sinners. Because he loved us, we’re able to love our enemies.

Do you see? Because of his love for us, our attitude toward others is changed. We now have an attitude of love for others—and not just those who love us in return.

So, why should we love our enemies? Because the love of Christ has transformed our hearts and his love for us compels us to love our enemies.

When to Stand Your Ground

We’ve all met them. We’ve all met the people who will “fight to the death” over every biblical doctrine—no matter how obscure.

They cry out, “Jude told us that we are to ‘contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints’” (Jude 3b).

Now, please don’t hear me wrong. I’m not suggesting that we should be soft on our doctrine. Who are we to argue against Scripture? After all, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Tim 3:16). The Scriptures are “sharper than any two-edged sword” (Heb 4:12). The Scriptures are given to us by God (2 Pet 1:19–21).

Yes, yes. We agree with all of that, but was Jude arguing that we should “fight to the death” over every biblical doctrine—no matter how obscure the doctrine? Are some doctrines more important than others perhaps? Should we weigh the doctrines and contend for those that are most central to the faith?

Several years ago, Albert Mohler, the president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, in Louisville, Kentucky, introduced me to an idea called “theological triage.” I’m not sure if he was the first to write on this, but I learned it from his writing.

Here’s the concept of triage in a more traditional medical sense.

When a medical doctor goes into a hospital emergency room, she may see all types of patients with all manner of injuries. She may see a mother holding her toddler who had cut his forehead open after tripping into the coffee table. She may see a construction worker who broke his arm when a heavy piece of equipment struck his arm. And she may see a middle-aged man who shows no outward signs of injury, but who is complaining of tightness in his chest and a sore left arm.

Her job, as the doctor, is to assess which person needs the most urgent care. Does she choose the toddler whose shirt is stained with blood? Does she choose the burly construction worker who is agonizing in pain as he holds his arm? Or does she choose the man with no “outward” physical symptoms but who is complaining of tightness in his chest?

Most of us know that the doctor will choose that last person first. Why? Because he is experiencing classic symptoms of a heart attack. If he isn’t seen soon, he may die. The other two patients are in pain, but there’s no immediate threat to their life.

This is emergency room triage.

Theological triage works in a similar way. Here’s an example of how this works.

One person is denying the deity of Christ, a second person is arguing for paedobaptism (infant baptism), and a third person is disagreeing over the order of events in the end times (eschatology). In this scenario, you have different levels of theological concern.

The first person is denying doctrines that are central to Christianity itself. The person who denies the deity of Christ isn’t even a Christian. This is a first-level doctrine. This is life and death! This demands a bold response. The gospel itself is at stake here. We must contend earnestly for this doctrine.

The second person is debating a doctrine that would make a difference about where you have your church membership. If you are an avowed paedobaptist, then you shouldn’t join a Baptist church where only credobaptism (believer’s baptism) is practiced. And, likewise, if you’re an avowed credobaptist, then you shouldn’t join a local Presbyterian church and cause a stink when they baptize infants. The Baptists aren’t saying that the Presbyterians aren’t Christians, nor are the Presbyterians saying that the Baptists aren’t Christians. We are both saying that we think the other is wrong in their practice of baptism, but we’re not denying their faith. This is a second-level doctrine.

The third person is debating a doctrine that makes for interesting discussion and lively debate, but it’s not a doctrine that’s central to the gospel. Yes, it’s an important doctrine, but it’s one over which many Bible-believing scholars differ. It should little impact on the polity of the church and the unity of the fellowship. It is a doctrine over which we may differ and still go to the same church.

Not every theological doctrine is a hill on which to die. We should know what we believe and why we believe it. We should rightly handle the Word of God and study it to show ourselves approved. We dare not minimize the importance of doctrine, but we need to show grace to others when we disagree of lesser doctrines.

Discipleship Manifesto

Potomac Heights Baptist Church exists for the glory of God and to make Christ known by making disciples who make disciples to the ends of the earth. Jesus said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt 28:18b–20).

A disciple is a forgiven sinner who is becoming more like Christ as he learns Christ.

Disciple-making is a prayerful work of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God which is accomplished as God’s people work through a life-on-life process whereby we serve one another by helping each other progress toward Christlikeness—moving from spiritual darkness through spiritual infancy and toward spiritual maturity—to reproduce our lives (Rom 8:29; 2 Cor 3:18; 2 Tim 2:2). Disciple-making is a lifelong process that is marked by progress, not perfection. It is not a program, a class, a production line, or a Bible study.

There are many reasons why we should be about disciple-making. First, a Christ-centered reason, we make disciples because our Lord told us to do so (Matt 28:18–20). Second, a God-centered reason, we make disciples because this bring glory to God (Rev 7:13–17). And third, a human-centered reason, we make disciples because this is God’s means of rescuing those who are perishing (Titus 2:11–14; Col 1:13–20).

The making of disciples is ultimately God’s work, but it is accomplished as his disciples, who are prayerfully dependent on the Holy Spirit, persevere in proclaiming his Word into people’s hearts. As such, God’s people must be thoroughly saturated in prayer and with God’s Word. This disciple-making endeavor should happen wherever and whenever Christians are present (e.g., in the home, in the church, in the workplace, in our communities, in our state, in our nation, and any place in the world). Wherever Christians find themselves, they should be making disciples.

All Christian disciples should be disciple-makers. We should all play our role in helping one another learn Christ and grow toward Christlikeness. This should happen on multiple levels. It should happen as we engage non-believers with gospel truths. It should happen as we proclaim the gospel and urge non-believers to trust in Christ (i.e., evangelism). It should happen as we help new believers become established in their faith. And it should happen as we equip believers to better equip others (i.e., training trainers).

Was I Born This Way?

Depending on who you talk to, you’ll get a number of different answers about why some people are attracted to people of the same sex.

Some attribute this desire to the results of the fall (Genesis 3).

Some claim that unnatural maternal hormonal levels cause the fetus to gravitate to same-sex attraction.

Some claim that sexual attraction itself isn’t fixed. Sexual attraction is endlessly fluid. Today a person may be attracted to individuals of the opposite sex and tomorrow they may be attracted to individuals of the same sex, and then the next day they are simultaneously attracted to both sexes.

Because we live in a fallen world, there may be any number of reasons why people are attracted to individuals of the same sex. So, how are Christians to think about this? This topic is far too complex to address in a short blog post, but here are some principles through which the Christian should think.

First, we must be firmly committed to recognizing the dignity of life in every human person. To be “pro-life” is more than taking a stand against abortion. To be “pro-life” is to recognize the image of God in every human person—from the time of conception until natural death.

This means that we treat all people with dignity and respect. While Christians should rightly conclude that same-sex sexual activity is a sin (see below), we nevertheless treat those who are engaged in this lifestyle with dignity and respect. They bear the image of God. We don’t treat them as “untouchables” because of their sin any more than we treat a gossip or a liar or a person prone to angry outbursts as “untouchable.” These individuals need to know that God sent his Son for those engaged in every manner of sin.

Second, we must recognize that same-sex attraction by itself isn’t sinful. We live in a fallen world. The fallenness of this world has affected people in any number of ways. Many of our desires have been affected in negative ways. For some, there are inappropriate desires for food (i.e., gluttonous). For others, there are inappropriate heterosexual desires. And for others, there are inappropriate homosexual desires. But the desire itself isn’t sinful, just as temptation by itself isn’t sinful. Jesus was tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin (Heb 4:15). Just as it’s possible for a heterosexual to live a chaste single life, so to can a homosexual live a chaste single life.

Third, we should acknowledge that the vast majority of individuals who experience sexual attraction to individuals of the same sex did not choose this lifestyle for themselves. They have genuine feelings for same-sex individuals much as heterosexual individuals have genuine feelings for opposite-sex individuals.

Fourth, the Bible clearly condemns same-sex sexual behavior as sinful. There are a number of biblical passages that address homosexuality (e.g., Lev 18:22; 20:13; Rom 1:26–28; 1 Cor 6:9–11; etc.). With any honest reading of the pertinent texts, one will see that, without exception, the Bible condemns homosexual behavior.

We can’t allow individuals to make reasoned excuses for why it is acceptable to engage in sinful behavior. God’s Word must stand as supreme over cultural pressure. There may very well be biological or cultural reasons for why some people engage in same-sex relationships. Again, the fall has affected us in ways in which we may not even understand. But this does not give us license to engage in what the Bible clearly calls sin.

For example, there is ample scientific evidence that the brains of individuals who view pornography are essentially “rewired.” This “rewiring” of the brain causes the individual to want more pornography, not less. But just because a person’s brain has been “rewired,” it doesn’t then follow that it’s now OK for that individual to view pornography. No, pornography is a sin every time and all the time.

Let’s not make biological or cultural excuses for why it’s OK for some to engage in sinful behavior. The Bible calls us to walk in holiness, forsaking all sin.

Fifth, the only answer for all of humanity’s sinful choices is the gospel of Jesus Christ. This is as true for the homosexual sinner as it is for the heterosexual sinner. We are all sinners (Rom 3:23) in need of the grace and mercy of God. We all need Jesus (John 14:6).

What Are We to Make of President Trump’s Transgender Ban for the Military

President Trump is no stranger to controversy. This was true long before he became our nation’s 45th president. And now, President Trump has once again stepped into the firestorm. In three successive tweets on July 26, POTUS wrote,

After consultation with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow . . . . . .

. . . . Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military. Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming . . . . .

victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail. Thank you

The political and media firestorm that has erupted from these tweets was to be expected. While the firestorm on this issue has since died down, a church member asked me how Christians should think about transgender individuals in general and about the proposed transgender ban in the U.S. military in particular.

First, it may be helpful to clarify what is meant by transgender. Here is a commonly accepted definition. A transgender person is someone whose sense of personal identity and gender does not correspond with their birth sex. According to this system of thought, gender and birth sex are not the same. Indeed, according to this system of thought, gender is not even binary. Gender is fluid, and it exists along a continuum.

A related, and some say, synonymous concept is gender dysphoria. By definition, gender dysphoria is the condition of feeling one’s emotional and psychological identity as male or female to be different than one’s biological sex. This dysphoria would manifest itself with an “intense desire” to have a physical body that corresponds to one’s perceived gender identity. According to medical experts, this dysphoria would also be accompanied by feelings of dissatisfaction, anxiety, and restlessness, so much so as to interfere with a person’s normal life.

As Christians, we should have compassion for those who struggle with gender dysphoria. We should acknowledge that these individuals did not choose this struggle for themselves. They are often deeply torn, and they are men and women created in the image of God. They deserve to be treated with love and compassion.

Furthermore, we acknowledge that mankind’s fall into sin has affected all of creation. This does not mean that every person struggles with gender dysphoria, but the fall has manifested itself in the lives of some people in this way. We may or may not struggle with gender dysphoria, but we have all been born into this world under the burden sin, and as Christians, we recognize that the gospel is the only answer for our sin (see Romans 6–8). So, we dare not cast stones, rather we show love and compassion and proclaim the gospel.

But also as Christians, we should not accept the current cultural thinking regarding gender identity. We recognize the inherent sinfulness in rejecting God’s good gift of gender and pursuing our own gender identity. We must not encourage people to be their “true selves.” We must acknowledge that God made us in the beginning male and female (Genesis 1:27). Gender was created by God, and God called his created order “very good” (Genesis 1:31).

Now, what are we to make of the military ban? Let’s rehearse a bit of recent U.S. history.

The ban on transgender individuals openly serving in the U.S. military was lifted in the waning months of the previous administration’s term (specifically, June 20, 2016) so the practice of allowing transgender individuals to openly serve in the U.S. military has not been in place for a long time. This fact, in and of itself, does not argue for the “rightness” or “wrongness” of any policy decisions. This is mentioned only because some on the “progressive left” portray those on the “conservative right” as intellectual Neanderthals for disagreeing with the “new sexual norm,” when, in reality, this “new sexual norm” is a brand new development and even most of those who identity with the progressive left did not believe the things they are now saying just a matter of months ago.

As for a Christian response to transgender individuals openly serving in the U.S. military, arguments can be made on both sides of the issue.

Perhaps the strongest argument to allow transgender individuals to serve is the anti-discrimination standard. Our country is not a theocracy. While Christians desire men and women to live holy lives that honor God, we recognize that the only way to make this happen is through gospel-transformation. We do not keep people from serving in our nation’s armed forces just because they are sinning. For example, while adultery is a sin, we do not forbid adulterers from serving in the U.S. military. Since this is obviously true, why should we ban transgendered individuals from serving their country in the military?

If, however, the “sin” keeps the individual from properly carrying out his duties, then individuals could be banned from service in the military. It could be argued that by the very definition of gender dysphoria that transgender individuals are not suited for service in the U.S. military. Would it be prudent, for example, to give weapons to individuals (who by current medical definition) have strong psychological desires that include anxiety and depression?

There is a second argument that is often put forward against transgender military service. This second argument is a fiscal argument. The medical treatment (e.g., hormonal treatment and gender-reassignment surgery) and psychological treatment (e.g., counseling) for transgender individuals is often extreme. Two questions arise as a result. First, is it right to spend an inordinate amount of our limited defense budget to care for such a small population of individuals? And second, is it right to use taxpayer funds to pay for things that many find morally questionable?

These are questions that must be carefully thought through before reaching to a conclusion. May Christians allow the gospel to shape our hearts and minds, and may we have the wisdom to navigate these questions with clarity and compassion.

 

*** Albert Mohler posted an audio podcast discussing the current administration’s military transgender policy on August 25. See here to listen.

Imitate Me as I Imitate Christ

“Do you want to know what it is to follow Christ? Then follow me.”

Have you ever said that to anyone? It may sound like a bold claim—perhaps even an arrogant claim. But the scriptures clearly teach us the importance of living our lives in such a way that others can follow our example. (See this cute 4-minute video)

Consider these scriptures.

1 Corinthians 4:16
I urge you, then, be imitators of me.

1 Corinthians 11:1
Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.

Philippians 3:17
Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us.

1 Thessalonians 1:6
And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit,

1 Thessalonians 2:14
For you, brothers, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea. For you suffered the same things from your own countrymen as they did from the Jews,

2 Thessalonians 3:7
For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us, because we were not idle when we were with you,

2 Thessalonians 3:9
It was not because we do not have that right, but to give you in ourselves an example to imitate.

Hebrews 6:12
so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.

Hebrews 13:7
Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.

3 John 11
Beloved, do not imitate evil but imitate good. Whoever does good is from God; whoever does evil has not seen God.

In these passages, the authors (i.e., Paul, John, and the author of Hebrews) express the importance, even the necessity, of imitating the faith of others. This is how the faith is delivered from one generation to the next. This is how disciples are made.

It’s not enough to tell someone what to do. That’s a good place to start, but we also need to show them what to do.

I like to work around the house and on my car. When I don’t have experience fixing a particular problem, I’ll often “YouTube” a video to see how to fix the problem. After watching the video, I will imitate the person in the video.

If “YouTube” is helpful for fixing a leaking toilet, how much more should imitation be helpful for walking obediently with Christ! How much more should we be making disciples by giving others an example to imitate.

Let me leave you with these two questions.

Are you living your life in such a way that you can encourage others to imitate your faith as you follow Christ? This doesn’t mean that you need to be perfect, but are you trying to walk in obedience to Christ?

Are you watching others and imitating their faithful obedience? Are you following the example of men and women who faithfully following Christ?

A Country Full of Idols

When Paul visited Athens, his spirit was provoked within him because the city was full of idols (Acts 17:16). As I write this, I am in a country full of idols—more than 300 million idols to be precise! Each day as I drive down the streets through the flood of humanity, my heart is broken to know that 999 out of every 1000 people I see are pursuing these false idols.

More than one-sixth of the earth’s population lives in this one country. They are a beautiful people. They are all image bearers of God (Genesis 1:26). Yet they are a people who are far from Christ. They are a people who need the gospel of Jesus Christ.

When questioned about Jesus before the Jewish authorities, Peter said,

“And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”
Acts 4:12

Without the gospel of Christ, we are all without hope. I hope you will join with me in praying for these people. Pray that the gospel message will make it to them in time and pray that the Lord would open their hearts to respond to the gospel.

“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? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”
Romans 10:14–15

Disciple Making Isn’t Lawn Care

When I was a teenager, I didn’t like yardwork. I lived in South Carolina where the summers were always hot and my parents had a very large yard. It wasn’t that the yardwork all that bad. My dad had a riding mower so it didn’t take long to mow the grass, but I still didn’t like it. It was a never-ending pattern. I would mow the grass and then, like clockwork, 5-days later it was time to mow again.

One of the things that led to my teenage frustration, however, was this. I lacked perspective. I wanted immediate satisfaction, and I “couldn’t get no satisfaction” from yardwork (my apologies to Mick Jagger and The Rolling Stones). I found my satisfaction in doing other things. There were other things in my life that provided me with immediate, positive feedback. Yardwork, at the time, wasn’t one of them.

Now, decades later, I’m faced with a similar frustration. As a Christian, I know that I’m called to make disciples, and making disciples can be tremendously rewarding. But it’s a slow process that doesn’t always provide immediate gratification. Now, decades later, I find that yardwork provides me with the immediate gratification for which I long. Let me explain.

When I go out into my yard with my lawnmower, weed-eater, and hedge-trimmers, if I work hard for two- or three-hours, when I finish, my yard will provide me with immediate, positive feedback. Earlier in the day the lawn was long and unkempt. Now, the lawn has a uniformed height. Earlier, I couldn’t tell where the lawn ended and my sidewalk began. Now, my lawn and my sidewalks have a nice, crisp edge. Earlier, my hedges were overgrown, now, they’re neatly trimmed. In just a few hours, my lawn has undergone a complete transformation.

But making disciples isn’t like caring for your lawn. You control many of the variables in caring for your lawn. You know when to water, when to apply the fertilizer, when to mow, etc. There’s a formula for mowing the grass. If you follow that formula, depending on the size of your yard, in just a few hours you will have a beautifully manicured yard.

Well, there’s a “formula” for disciple making as well, but in this formula, you don’t control the most important variables. The formula for disciple making involves people, the Word of God, and the Holy Spirit. Of those three variables, the only one that we control is the Word of God, and we only “control” it in the sense that we can read it and study it and apply it to our lives.

The formula for disciple making doesn’t prescribe an “amount” of the Word of God to apply into someone’s life before Christlike transformation begins to take place. The formula for disciple making is dependent both on the person and on the work of the Holy Spirit.

But allow me to state the obvious. Making disciples is infinitely more important that lawn care! Jesus commanded his followers to make disciples (Matthew 28:18–20). In his final letter, Paul urged young Timothy to be patient in the work of disciple making. He said, “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching” (2 Timothy 4:2; emphasis added).

So, if you need some immediate gratification, if you need some immediate satisfaction, grab your mower, your weed-eater, and your hedge-clippers, and get out in your yard and work hard for a few hours. But if you’re interested in eternal work, if you’re interested in eternal rewards, grab your Bible and grab a friend and give yourself to the work of making disciples.

Making Disciples who Make Disciples, Part 6 (final)

Where to make disciples?

Where are we to make disciples? Here’s the simple answer. Wherever the church is, disciples are to be made. But I’m using the word “church” here in a biblical sense—not in a modern sense. The church doesn’t refer to a building. The church refers to God’s people.

  • So, when God’s people gather on Sunday mornings, we ought to be about disciple making.
  • When God’s people gather in a mid-week home growth group, we ought to be about disciple making.
  • When God’s people share a meal with other, we ought to be about disciple making.
  • When God’s people enjoy recreational activities together, we ought to be about disciple making.

Wherever we find ourselves we should be about making disciples. Whether we’re at home, at work, at school, or just hanging out, we should be about making disciples.

We should be helping other people to grow toward Christlikeness—moving towards Christlikeness. And at the same time we ought to be growing toward Christlikeness ourselves.

But notice this as well. Disciple making doesn’t just happen in our immediate locale, wherever that may be. We’re to make disciples of all the peoples of the world as well. That means that we’re supposed to be strategic and intentional in our disciple making.

It’s not enough to only make disciples in your home town or in your home state. It’s not enough to only make disciples in North America (or whatever continent you live on). Jesus told us to make disciples of all nations.

That word that’s translated “nation” in Matthew 28:19 is the word from which we get our English word “ethnic” or “ethnicity.” So, we’re to make disciples of every ethnic group all over the planet. Not just those who look like us and act like us.

God is greatly glorified when people from diverse backgrounds gather and worship him.

So, where are you going? Are you willing to go as far as the other side of the world to make disciples? Are you willing to go to the other side of the street to make disciples?

Wherever we go—wherever God’s church is—disciple making should be taking place.

Making Disciples who Make Disciples — Part 5

Who makes disciples?

In an ultimate sense, God is the one who makes disciples, but when we take a step back from that picture, we should understand that God uses ordinary means to accomplish that end.

Allow me to illustrate. If I were to use a shovel to dig a hole, and then I asked, “How was that hole dug?” One might answer, “You dug that hole,” or “The shovel dug that hole.” In a sense, both answers would be correct.

I was in control of the shovel. I could have used other means to dig the hole. If I had access, I could have used a backhoe to dig the hole. I could have used a pickaxe to dig the hole. But I chose to use the shovel.

One might say that I was the creator of the hole, but the shovel was the means by which the hole was dug.

Similarly, God is the creator or maker of all disciples, but God chooses to use human beings as his means by which he accomplishes this task.

And which human beings does God use to make disciples? Well, he uses those who are already disciples. Consider Matthew 28:18.

Matthew 28:18
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me.”

Jesus came and said to “them.” Who are they? Who’s the “them”?

They’re his disciples. They’re the ones who have already trusted in Christ. So, Jesus takes those who are already his disciples and then he tells them to “go” and make other disciples (Matthew 28:19).

In other words, the task of disciple making isn’t given to a select few Christians. The task of disciple making isn’t given only to those who are seminary trained. The task isn’t given to those who have certain spiritual gifts. The task of making disciples is given to ALL Christians!

All disciples are supposed to be disciple makers. Listen to the word of God.

Acts 4:31
The place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness. (emphasis added)

And Paul to the Christians in Rome.

Romans 1:12
That we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine. (emphasis added)

Mutual encouragement. Paul to the believers in Rome and the believers in Rome to Paul. Discipleship is happening both ways. And then later in that same letter Paul writes this.

Romans 15:14
I myself am satisfied about you, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able to instruct one another. (emphasis added)

“To instruct one another.”

This idea is conveyed throughout the New Testament. We’re supposed to be so involved in each other’s life that we speak God’s word to each other and we grow in our relationship with Christ as a result.

  • This speaking the word to one another might happen in a mid-week home growth group.
  • It might happen in a one-on-one setting as two people read the Bible together.
  • It could and should happen as the Bible is regularly preached every Sunday.

The point is simple. This isn’t something only a select few Christians do. This is something all Christians should be doing.

Who makes disciples? Everyone who’s already a disciple should be involved in the process of disciple making.