TEACH THEM TO REPENT AND BELIEVE
Welcome to the Commands of Christ blog series where we will examine together the nine foundational commands given by Jesus which are essential for new disciples to understand and obey.
Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:14-15).
The first command of Jesus’ public ministry was to repent and believe. He spoke this command indiscriminately to all who would listen and it was a call for radical inward change toward God and man.
When Jesus said “Repent,” He was talking about a change of heart toward sin, the world, and God; an inner change that gives rise to new ways of living that exalt Christ and give evidence of the truth of the gospel.
What does it mean to repent? The New Testament Greek word translated as “repent” is METANOEŌ. It has two parts: META and NOEŌ. The second part, NOEŌ, refers to the disposition of your inner self, your “default setting” toward reality. The first part, META, is a prefix that means movement or change. META, or “change,” plus NOEŌ, or “disposition” equals “to change your disposition towards life and reality, to have a transformed default setting about what’s important.”
Jesus explained that when our default setting is changed by the Holy Spirit, it shows, as we “bear fruits in keeping with repentance” (Luke 3:8). Genuine repentance is an inner change of heart that produces the fruits of new behavior. Acting differently, speaking differently, and living differently (these are the fruits) are the inevitable outward result of being made completely different on the inside (that’s repentance).
An excellent example of this inner change producing fruits of new behaviour is Zacchaeus.
Zacchaeus was a chief tax-collector by profession. This was a job synonymous in people’s minds with deceit, theft and lies. At that time, the chief tax-collectors were reliable servants of Rome. While they ensured that taxes were paid, they managed to enrich themselves in a number of legal and illegal ways, at the expense of Jews who were poor. By this method, Zacchaeus became rich and acquired lots of material goods. He wasn’t a person for whom other people felt admiration, love and respect. He was someone who exploited his fellows. His relations with them were hypocritical and based on his own advantage.
But something sparked inside of him when he heard that Jesus was coming to Jericho. Perhaps he was having a crisis of his soul, realizing that the riches and possessions did not lead to the happiness he so desperately wanted. Perhaps he had heard that Jesus had granted the wish of the blind beggar at the city gate and hoped that he might do the same for him. So he decided to see who this Jesus was. But the crowd was big and Zacchaeus was small and he couldn’t possibly see Jesus. So he climbed up into a sycamore tree near where Jesus would need to pass by.
As He entered the town, Jesus saw the crowds of people with a look that was full of authority, yet loving and merciful. His eyes came to Zacchaeus, who was up the tree. The Lord called him by name. This personal call from Jesus to Zacchaeus indicates his personal preparation for salvation. He climbs down from the tree, full of happiness and joy, and welcomes Jesus into his home. He publicly acknowledged the sinfulness of his ways and began ‘bearing fruits in keeping with repentance’, by giving half his substance to the poor and restoring fourfold to anyone he had wronged. ‘Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have defrauded any one of anything, I restore it fourfold’. This is what repentance and faith look like.
Jesus made it clear that repentance and faith are like opposite sides of the same coin. Mark 1:15 records the inspired summary of Jesus’ message as He began His ministry: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” Repentance and faith go together because if you believe that Jesus is the Lord Who saves (faith), you have a changed mind about your sin and your self (repentance); and if you repent, it’s because you trust that Jesus is the Lord Who saves.
That’s because faith, as Scripture defines it, is trusting that Jesus is who He said He is and that He does what He said He would do. The important thing about this biblical definition of faith is that it focuses on who Jesus is, not on you or your efforts. Here’s what that means for you. Think of faith as having three parts: knowing, agreeing and relying.
The knowing part of faith means that you learn from the Word of God Who Jesus is and what He has done to save sinners. That why the Bible says, “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of Christ” (Romans 10:17).
The agreeing part of faith comes as the Holy Spirit convinces you of the truth about Jesus. You agree with God’s testimony and admit, “What God says is true.” This is one of the primary ministries of the Holy Spirit. In John 16:13, Jesus said, “When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all the truth…”
The relying part of faith means you stake your life on the truth you know and agree with. This is where faith becomes personal, as you entrust your eternal soul to Jesus only.
The first two parts of faith — knowing and agreeing — are like going to an airport, watching people get on airplanes, and seeing the airplanes take off. By observation, you come to know that these big winged objects can carry people thousands of miles at amazing speeds; and you agree that it happens all the time. The third part of faith, relying, is like you boarding an airplane. It’s one thing to know and agree that planes can take people to faraway places. It’s another thing to get on a plane yourself.
Biblical faith is just like that. You come to know from God’s Word the truth about Who Jesus is and what He has done for you. Then, the Holy Spirit convinces you of the truth of God’s Word, and you agree that the gospel is true. And then you take it personally: you renounce reliance on your own efforts to achieve salvation, and place your life in the hands of Jesus, trusting that Who He is and what He did are sufficient to save you.
Romans 3:23-26 says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God has passed over the sins that were previously committed, to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.”
Repentance and faith are absolutely essential for the disciple of Jesus. Have you repented? Have you placed your faith in the gospel, believing that what Jesus did in his death, burial and resurrection cleanses you from your sin and secures a relationship with the God who created you?
If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)
Let’s be encouraged to come boldly before God not only to confess our sins, but also to repent and believe.
NOT BY MIGHT, NOT BY POWER
Have you ever been asked to do something you felt you were not qualified or equipped to do?
I’m sure we have all felt like that at one point in life, so today we are going to talk about living our lives through the power of the Holy Spirit. Let’s start by looking at God’s Word and see what the Bible says.
“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My Name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.” (John 14:26)
In this passage, Jesus is promising the disciples that the Holy Spirit will come. Jesus was also preparing His disciples for when He would no longer be with them physically. The Holy Spirit would come to teach and remind them about Jesus and everything He had taught them.
This is a very important and significant promise for us today as well because we need to constantly be reminded about all that Jesus said.
So what about living through the power of the Holy Spirit? What does that mean exactly?
We must first realize that we cannot do anything through our own power or strength. We need to live our lives through the power of the Holy Spirit.
“Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,” says the Lord of hosts.” (Zechariah 4:6)
Our might and our power gets weak and tired, so as children of God we need to remember that we cannot do it on our own strength. When we choose to be obedient to God’s Word, we start to see a wonderful move of God happening.
Let’s look at 3 things that happen when we choose to be obedient and live our lives through the power of the Holy Spirit:
1. The Holy Spirit helps us Pray
“Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.” (Romans 8:26)
Many times we don’t know what to pray for or how to pray. Thank God for His Holy Spirit, who helps us pray. This is such an encouragement to know that no matter how we may feel at times, we always have the Holy Spirit to help us.
2. The Holy Spirit comforts us
“Then the churches throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had peace and were edified. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, they were multiplied.” (Acts 9:31)
God comforts us through His Holy Spirit. We all go through different challenges and seasons in our lives and we need to be comforted. We can always be assured that God will never leave or forsake us, and that He will give us great comfort. Let us be encouraged by this today and let us also encourage someone else.
3. The Holy Spirit leads us to a life of righteousness
“If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.” (Galatians 5:25)
The Holy Spirit sanctifies and enables us to bear good fruit. It’s a constant battle between our flesh and the Spirit, but as we surrender to the Holy Spirit and allow sanctification to occur, we begin to start bearing good fruit and our desires change, which then changes our behaviors and actions.
Connection to Missions
“But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)
It’s not by our own might or power, but by the power of the Holy Spirit. We need power from God especially when we are reaching out to others. The Holy Spirit helps us to pray for others, reminds us of God’s Word which is truth, and enables us to be patient with others, and to love, forgive, and be kind to them. These things are sometimes not easy to do with some people, but we need to remember that it’s not by our own doing and in our own strength; it’s through the Holy Spirit who lives in us.
Let’s be encouraged to live our lives through the power of the Holy Spirit. At OMS Canada, we have wonderful missionaries who have been obedient and committed to share the Good News of Jesus Christ. They need our constant prayers, encouragement, and support. Please click here to learn more about them and how you can offer your support.
“May the Lord bless you and keep you; The Lord make His face shine upon you, and be gracious to you; The Lord lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace.” (Numbers 6:24-26)
TEACHING THEM TO OBEY
Okay, so most of us reading this blog will be familiar with the Great Commission. We know that discipleship is an important part of God’s plan for the church and the kingdom. But how many of us have actually stopped and thought through a strategy for how we could implement an intentional process to see people who are far from God become disciple-makers themselves? Perhaps not many of us have.
And, when Jesus tells to teach them to obey every command he gave, what does that involve? How many commands are there? Are some more important or more critical for a new Christ-follower to master?
Now, I think that we need to acknowledge that obedience-based discipleship is generally not a popular topic in the Canadian Christian context. We have transformed our Christianity into something that is about us and for us and intended to give us a comfortable feeling. Being confronted about obedience or our lack of obedience certainly does not give us a comfortable feeling, so we usually reject it.
However, obedience is exactly what is required, even demanded. So, what are we to do?
I must first acknowledge that I was created by God and He can require of me whatsoever He pleases and I have absolutely no grounds for argument.
The apostle Paul speaks to this reality in Romans 9:20 when he says, ‘Who do you think you are, talking back to God? Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, 'Why did you make me like this?’’
Second, I need to evaluate how I am doing with my own obedience. I mean, honestly assess where I am. The reality is that there is no way I can move from point A (where I am right now) to point B (a position of obedience) unless and until I know where point A actually is. Unless and until I determine where I actually am, I am lost in terms of obedience.
Third, I need to systematically begin to do a better job of obeying the commands of Christ. John Piper, in the book What Jesus Demands from the World, states that when you account for repetition within the four gospels, there are recorded about 250 commands of Christ. How do I handle these in a way that contributes to the discipleship process and leads to healthy church members and healthy churches?
And finally, I need to make sure that as I make disciples, this process of intentionally working on obedience to the Commands of Christ is implemented from the very beginning. I need to begin the process of implementing a culture-shift within my sphere of influence away from a comfortable Christianity to one that is committed to increasing obedience to everything that Jesus commanded.
I have been researching the topic of discipleship for some months now and I have come across a list of nine commands of Christ that can form the foundation upon which a movement can be built. These nine commands will be the subject of a new series of blog posts. I hope you will take the time to read each post and ask God to help you to be more obedient to it.
So what are the nine foundational commands? Here is the list and the date each will be posted.
What do you think about obedience-based discipleship? Does this make you uncomfortable? Are you doing this already? I would love to know what you think. Leave a comment and let me know.
And, if you would like to be involved in a group that can help you do this kind of discipleship and don’t know where to turn, send an email to email@example.com and I can help you find the help you want and need. We are in this together.
WE WALK BY FAITH
What is Faith?
“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”
Let’s focus on 4 key words in the verse: hoped for and not seen.
When we hope for something that we have not seen, we are exercising our faith. And this is what faith is all about.
The Bible is filled with many different examples of people who exercised or practiced their faith. Let’s look at 2 today:
1. The Woman with the issue of blood (Mark 5:25-34)
Most of us have heard this story before. Here we read about a woman who has had this condition for 12 years and not only has she tried everything, but the condition seems to be worsening. She had heard of all the miraculous things that Jesus was doing and when she knew that He would be passing by, she just knew she had to go to Him. She actually believed that all she had to do was touch His clothes, and she would be healed. And that is what happened.
Verse 34 says, “And He said to her, “daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace, and be healed of your affliction.”
It doesn’t say faith has made you well, it says that your faith has made you well. This is key because it tells us that faith is something that is personal, something that we have as children of God. And through different situations, we can exercise our faith and it can grow.
2. Noah and the ark (Genesis chapters 6-9)
This is another great story that most of have heard even as a child. God was not pleased with how people were choosing to live their lives but Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord. He was a just man who walked with God.
“By faith Noah, being divinely warned of things not yet seen, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his household, by which he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith.”
Noah was obedient to God; despite what he didn’t see. He listened to God’s specific instructions to build the ark and exercised his faith by doing that. There were likely people who ridiculed him and maybe even laughed at him, but it didn’t stop him from doing that which God called him to do.
The Importance of having Faith
“But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.”
Having faith is so important because if we don’t have it, we cannot please God. As children of God, our hearts desire should be to please God, to bring glory to His name, to give Him all of the glory.
Growing up, faith was more of a religious thing and out of obligation, and not a lifestyle. So today, as a child of God who has been redeemed and set free, faith in Jesus Christ is not only a lifestyle, but it’s a journey where faith continues to grow.
“So Jesus said to them, “Because of your unbelief, for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.”
Even with the smallest amount of faith, we will experience miraculous blessings in our lives. Not because of us, but because of the One who blesses us. We must focus on our source, who is our Lord.
Let’s share our faith with others, let’s encourage others to have faith, let’s grow in our faith. There are many ways this can happen and here at OMS Canada a new blog is posted every week to encourage, challenge, and build us up. Please click here to go to our blog page.
How has your personal faith grown? Do you remember a time when you had to exercise your faith in a particular situation? Feel free to comment below. We would love to hear from you.
THE HABIT OF SERVING
In this week’s blog post, we are considering the habit or discipline of serving. In past posts, we have considered Bible intake, prayer, worship, and evangelism.
If you have not seen these posts yet, go ahead and click on the following links to catch up:
And remember that the primary motivation for these spiritual habits or disciplines is taken from Paul’s instruction to Timothy in 1 Timothy 4:7, where he says, exercise or discipline yourself toward godliness. This applies to us just the same today and makes it clear that, if we wish to be godly, it will take work, discipline, and exercise. Just as an athlete, musician, or artist must exercise disciplined practice to become more proficient at their chosen field, so a disciple must exercise disciplined practice in these activities as means’ of grace to become more proficient at being godly. That is to say, as we become more disciplined in the practice of these habits, more of God’s grace is available to us which will change us.
And one very powerful way to become more proficient in godliness is through serving God and others. The act of serving can be as public as preaching or teaching, but more often than not it will appear as hidden as nursery duty or cleaning the kitchen after an event.
Serving usually looks as unspectacular as the practical needs it works to meet.
And that’s why serving must become a Habit of Grace. The flesh schemes against its hiddenness and sameness. Two of the deadliest sins – sloth and pride – hate serving. So, if we don’t discipline ourselves to serve for the sake of Jesus and His kingdom and for the purpose of godliness, we will serve only occasionally or when its convenient or self-serving.
However, not every act of service should be disciplined serving. Much of our service should flow naturally from our love for God and love for others. Like our worship and evangelism, our service should also often just flow from inside of us as a result of the life-transforming presence and work of the Holy Spirit.
But because the Spirit of Jesus within us causes us to yearn to be more like Jesus, and because of the persistent sinful tendencies toward selfishness in our hearts, we must also discipline ourselves to serve. Those who do will find serving one of the most certain and practical means of growth in grace.
Every Christian is Expected to Serve
When we are called to God, none of us is called to idleness. When we are born again and our sins are forgiven, the blood of Jesus cleanses our conscience according to Hebrews 9:14 in order for us to “serve the living God.” Every believer’s Bible tells him or her to “serve the Lord with gladness” (Psalm 100:2, NASB). There is no place for spiritual unemployment or spiritual retirement. And the believer should find ample motivation because God mentions at least six in the Bible.
Every Christian is Gifted to Serve
In 1 Corinthians 12:4 and 11 we read about the different varieties of spiritual gifts given to believers and that the Holy Spirit determines by His sovereign will which gift goes to which believer. “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit…All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as He wills.” And Peter makes it clear in 1 Peter 4:10, “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace.”
So every Christian has received at least one gift and that gift is given for service.
Let’s diligently practice the discipline of service. And your service is no doubt needed more now during this time of pandemic.
Are there particularly vulnerable people within your network who need your service? Are there those who might be susceptible to depression?
Who could you call and encourage?
So let’s be about the business of serving.