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Learn Live Lead

The Authenticity of Disciple Making

Month: August 2015

Called by a New Name 1

Study 1                                      CHRISTIANS

(Scripture Portion: 1 Peter 4:12-19)

 

One word we are all familiar with is the word ‘Christian’. Most of us possess a Christian name, and many people in a very broad and nominal sense would call themselves Christians, but are they Christians in the New Testament sense of the word?  Some think that because they are born in a ‘Christian’ country or have received a ‘Christian’ education, or have affiliated themselves to a Christian church and adopt Christian principles, that this is all they need to do to become a Christian. The fact is that we can do all these things and still not be a Christian, for these things are external. It is possible to be a church member, good, moral and kind, and still not be a Christian.  What, then, is a Christian? In the New Testament we find the answer to this important question and we discover that the word ‘Christian’ is used only three times – in Acts 11:26; Acts 26:28 and 1 Peter 4:16. It is significant that in the New Testament Christians are called ‘saints’ about sixty times, ‘believers’ about eighty times, and ‘brothers’ about two hundred times, but they are called ‘Christians’ only three times.  What, then, is a Christian?

 

  1. 1.     A Christian is someone who BELONGS TO CHRIST (Acts 11:26)

We read, “the disciples were called Christians first at Antioch…”  But who called them Christians? Was it the people of Antioch who called them Christians as a kind of nickname, or was it God who called them Christians? It is significant that the word ‘called’, a word that is used repeatedly in the New Testament, indicates that God did the calling. But whether it was man-made or God-given, what does it signify? Why would the people of Antioch call them Christians, or why would God call them Christians? Surely because of their obvious attachment to the Lord Jesus Christ. They owned Him, followed Him, loved Him, served Him – they belonged to Him.  We refer to an Englishman, an American, a Russian, an African – and we know what that means. A Christian therefore is a Christ-man, one who belongs to Christ. So how does anyone become a Christian?  The answer is by birth. A Christian is one who is born of God (1 Peter 1:22-23); born again (John 3:5); and who thereafter belongs to Christ.  If you refer to Acts 11:19-21 you will see that God’s servants came to Antioch, they preached the Gospel, and the Lord blessed their ministry in a wonderful way so that the Holy Spirit performed the miracle of the New Birth in them – they “turned to the Lord” and “believed” on Him, and they were born again (John 1:12-13). Now that is the first mark of a real Christian – someone who has heard the Gospel, turned from his sin, believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, and has been born into God’s family – someone who now belongs to the Lord Jesus Christ.  Are you a Christian?

  1. 2.     A Christian is someone who WITNESSES FOR CHRIST (Acts 26:28)

Here Paul is making his defence before King Agrippa, and notice that he is also pleading for the soul of this man. He is witnessing to him of the power of the Lord Jesus Christ who has saved and satisfied him. If you and I were arrested and in danger of death, and were given an opportunity to speak, what would concern us most – our defence, or evangelism? Read verses 27-29, and notice that this was not just an odd occasion when Paul burst out in a passionate appeal for the salvation of the soul of some man or woman. Wherever he was he was seeking to win others.  In Acts 9:20 we read that after his conversion and open confession of the Lord, “at once” he began to preach the Lord Jesus; and all through his life, whatever situation he was in, he was making known the gospel of the grace of God.  Nor was Paul unique in this ministry of evangelism. The early Christians were all characterised by the same soul-winning zeal. Compare Acts 1:8 with Acts 8:4. These first followers of the Lord Jesus were bold, witnessing Christians, and surely this is the second mark of a real Christian – someone who not only belongs to Christ but who witnesses for Him.  Why is it that we are so slow, so reluctant, to speak for the Lord and to set out to win others? The early Christians had to face much opposition, but they did it joyfully (Acts 5:41).  Is it true to say we lack a deep, burning conviction of the greatness and the reality of our salvation? –  but what thrilling surprises we would get if we would really step out in faith and witness boldly for the Lord!

 

  1. 3.     A Christian is someone who SUFFERS WITH CHRIST (1 Peter 4:16)

Verses 12-16 make very helpful reading, and Peter is in effect saying, ‘Now you are a Christian you must expect suffering, simply because you are a Christian’. You see, a Christian is identified with the Lord Jesus Christ and must therefore suffer for His sake. Look up and compare Matthew 10:22-25; John 15:18-21; John 16:33 and Philippians 1:29. Why is it that a Christian must suffer? It is because he is markedly different from the non-Christian. The early Christians suffered because they were so completely different from the pagans around them. They were completely transformed men and women. They had to be one thing or the other. The trouble is we do not like being different, and many of us are Christians in name only, and the people we work with and live with would hardly recognise that there is any difference between us and those who do not profess to be the Lord’s people. What a challenge this is!  We must recognise the fact that when anyone really dedicates his all to Christ and begins to live a separated life, that he will adopt the Lord’s standards in every area of his life.  It may mean suffering the taunts and scoffing of the world, or even worse, the threat to our very life if we are prepared to be identified with Christ.  But remember that it was Christ Himself who suffered scoffing and the threatening of stoning and death itself for us.  So, a Christian is someone who belongs to Christ, who witnesses for Christ, and who suffers with Christ.  Are you a Christian? What kind of a Christian are you?

 

WORDS OF LIFE MINISTRIES

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Called by a New Name 2

Study 2                                          SAINTS

(Scripture Portion: Ephesians 1:18 – 2:22)

 

Over and over again God describes His people as ‘saints’. Many of the New Testament letters are addressed “To the saints…” (Romans 1:7; Ephesians 1:1; Philippians 1:1). The word ‘saint’ simply means ‘holy one’, and it occurs over one hundred times in the Bible; for instance, 1 Samuel 2:9; Psalm 116:15; Romans 8:27; 1 Corinthians 6:2.  But who are the ‘saints’? Every Christian is a saint. It’s impossible to be a Christian and not be a saint. What is a Christian? – he is someone into whose life the Lord Jesus Christ has entered (John 1:12;

2 Corinthians 13:5; Galatians 2:20; Colossians 1:27; Revelation 3:20).  In the same way a saint is someone into whose life Christ Himself has come to live.

 

There is a great difference between God’s way of making a saint and man’s way. Man chooses someone who has lived a good life or performed good works, and years after death that one is canonised. We have no scriptural authority for this. On the other hand, when a sinner comes to Christ, abandons his old way of living, and trusts in the Lord Jesus alone for salvation, God makes him a saint. Take a Concordance and go through the Bible to study this.

 

What then does being a saint mean? What are the characteristics?  Three are mentioned in the Letter to the Ephesians: Ephesians 1:18; 2:10 and 2:22.

 

  1. 1.     THE SAINTS ARE GOD’S PROPERTY (Ephesians 1:18)

This verse could read, ‘We are God’s possession…’ or ‘God’s investment’. In a sense this is true of all people everywhere, as Ezekiel 18:4 tells us. But God has a great deal of lost property, and there are many who belong to Him in that He is their creator, provider and sustainer, who have never returned to Him and acknowledged His ownership.  All men are God’s property in a creative sense, but the saints belong to Him in a redemptive sense as well.  A little boy made a boat and then lost it. Later he saw it in a shop window and went in and bought it.  He was then heard to say to his boat, ‘You’re twice mine – first because I made you and then because I bought you!’  This is exactly what the Lord says of all His saints. We are doubly His – His by creation and His by redemption – look up and compare Genesis 1:26 with 1 Corinthians 6:19-20.

 

  1. 2.     THE SAINTS ARE GOD’S WORKMANSHIP (Ephesians 2:10)

God is working in our lives, and four pictures are suggested from the Old Testament:-

(1)   A picture of the METAL WORKER (Exodus 39:3), where we read, “They hammered out thin sheets of gold…” That is exactly what God is doing with us. He is taking our lives and making them into something useful and worthwhile.

(2)   A picture of the CORN GRINDER (Leviticus 2:14). How very worthwhile it is to grind the corn to make flour! In the same way God is working in our lives to produce something worthwhile for His glory.

(3)   A picture of the EMBROIDERER (Psalm 45:14). God is seeking to put a pattern upon our lives. When He first makes saints the material of our lives is very plain, but as we yield to Him He puts His pattern upon us, stitch by stitch, and so He forms the design which will one day be completed (Philippians 1:6).

(4)   A picture of the POTTER (Jeremiah 18:1-5). He sits at the wheel with the shapeless clay in His hands, intending to make an article that is both useful and beautiful that He may possess for His glory. We are the clay and He is the Potter and He wants to shape us into something beautiful and useful.

 

  1. 3.     THE SAINTS ARE GOD’S DWELLING (Ephesians 2:22)

Every saint is one in whom God lives. Look up John 14:23; Ephesians 2:21-22, so what is the practical result of all this?

(1)   If I am God’s property I must take great care of it. My life, my body, all that constitutes ‘me’, belongs to the Lord now, so I must not wilfully or carelessly damage or hurt it because I am only the tenant and He is the owner (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). Notice the word ‘therefore’ and the words which follow. You see, there are usually certain restrictions with property! When you buy a house there are things you cannot do with it, and this is also true with God’s saints. There are restrictions of love He imposes on all who belong to Him, and our desire should be to do only those things that please Him (John 14:15).

(2)   If I am God’s handiwork I must not hinder His work in me. He may be working in my life as the Metal Worker: this surely will involve a good deal of hammering which might not be pleasant;  He may be working as the Corn Grinder, and this will be a very humbling experience. His particular work just now may be more like the Embroiderer – gentle and quiet.  Or, it may be that the pressure of His hands is upon me as He works as the Potter at the wheel…  It is not pleasant to be beaten out, to be ground, to feel the pinpricks of the needle, or to be moulded – but it is always so worthwhile when the Lord Himself is the worker!  Are we completely yielded to Him so that we may work out His good design in us and upon us?

(3)   If I am God’s temple I must keep it clean and give Him full access to it. Look up 2 Corinthians 6:16-17. God’s temple is holy and must not be polluted.  Is there any pollution in you? Do you have a clean heart for worship (Psalm 51:10); clean feet for walk (Isaiah 52:11); clean hands for work (Psalm 24:4); and clean lips for witness (Isaiah 6:7)?

 

WORDS OF LIFE MINISTRIES

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Called by a New Name 3

Study 3                                             SONS

(Scripture Portion: 1 John 3:1-10)

 

There is a company of people in heaven and on earth whom God calls His children – “the sons of God” – and we shall confine this study to some of the things we read about these favoured people in 1 John 3:1-3.  It is important to recognise that John’s writings were particularly for the Family, whereas Peter, James and Jude wrote about the Kingdom, and Paul about the Church. In this study we have clear teaching for members of God’s family, God’s children.

 

But are not all people the children of God? No, not in the sense that John points out. In a creative sense we are all the children of God, that is, we are His offspring (Acts 17:28-29); but in a spiritual and redemptive sense we only become the children of God when we have received the Lord Jesus Christ and are born into His family (John 1:11-13). Compare 1 John 3:1-2.  When John wrote his letter he addressed a particular class of people, those who had become “sons of God” by faith in Christ (Galatians 3:26). We can only become the children of God by the miracle of the New Birth, and the moment we believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and receive Him as our personal Saviour we are born from above (John 3:7). Look up 1 John 2:29; 3:9; 4:7; 5:1; 5:4 and 5:18.  In       1 John 3:1-3 we are told four things about the children of God.

 

  1. 1.     Our DIGNITY is Great

Notice the note of wonder in John’s words (verse 1)!  We know that God loves everybody, as John 3:16 assures us, but it is true that as our loving heavenly Father He has a special love for His own children. Do you ever sit down and meditate on the place and position of dignity, privilege and honour into which the Lord has brought you as His child? – you, who were a child of wrath (Ephesians 2:3) and a child of disobedience (Ephesians 5:6), He has raised up and made a son of God, a member of the Royal Family of heaven (Ephesians 3:15)! You are His child now, if you are a true believer in the Lord Jesus Christ.  Verse 2 tells us this.  What a royal, heavenly dignity the Father has given to us!  As you think about this wonder, say to yourself, ‘I am a child of God!’ – and let the full glory of your high calling take possession of you and enable you to cast off your fears and troubles and to rejoice for your dignity is so great.

 

  1. 2.     Our DISTINCTIVENESS is Marked

Verse 1 tells us that “the reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him”. It is perfectly true that when Jesus was here the world did not recognise Him, and no more will it recognise us. We are a distinctive people, but the world does not recognise us or understand us or our way of life. How mystified they are when we do not share their pleasures (1 John 2:15-17); because we have a conscience that will not allow us to tell lies (Acts 24:16); because we seek to be completely honest (Romans 13:7); because we prefer a prayer meeting to worldly entertainments; or because we prefer to give up a lucrative job so that we might serve the Lord in some needy part of the world (Matthew 6:19-20)! The unbeliever very quickly misunderstands us because we are a distinctive people, and we can be persecuted in some measure. See what John says in 1 John 3:13 and compare Jeremiah 12:9.

 

  1. 3.     Our DESTINY is Fixed

Verse 2 tells us something of what the future holds for the child of God:-

(1)   The Lord Jesus is coming again. John speaks of the time “when he appears” – look up John 14:3; Titus 2:13 – and note in the Bible all the signs of the times, the religious, the Jewish and the commercial signs, all point to the fact that the coming of the Lord must be very near indeed – James 5:8!

(2)   We shall see Him as He is. What a wonderful thing it will be to see the Man Christ Jesus, the one who came and lived and died for us, who rose again and who is ascended now in the place of glory at God’s right hand! He first came in weakness, but the second time He will come in power and great glory.  “Every eye will see him” – Revelation 1:7.

(3)   We shall be like Him.  We read that in a moment “we will all be changed – in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye” (1 Corinthians 15:51-52); and compare 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17. What a wonderful prospect! We are so unlike Him now, but “when he appears, we shall be like him” (1 John 3:2).

 

Yes, our destiny is fixed! But notice that we have a duty to perform.

 

  1. 4.     Our DUTY is Clear

In verse 3 John says, “Everyone who has this hope…” (that is, the assurance that Jesus is coming back again, and that when He comes we shall be like Him), “…purifies himself, just as he is pure”.  If we live in the light of the Lord’s coming we shall live very carefully, by purifying ourselves (2 Corinthians 7:1); having a tender conscience about sinful things in our lives, homes or businesses; wanting to live in ways pleasing to the Lord, so that if He comes suddenly we will not be ashamed when we meet Him (1 John 2:28).

 

Is there any adjustment that you should make in your private life, with your home or your daily work, or in relation to your service for the Lord? If you knew the Lord would return tonight, is there an urgent matter you would attend to, so that you would be ready to meet Him and not feel ashamed? He may be here tonight! See to that matter now – for “everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure.”

 

WORDS OF LIFE MINISTRIES

PO Box 334, EASTLEIGH, SO53 2UB, UK

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Called by a New Name 4

Study 4                                       DISCIPLES

(Scripture Portion: Luke 14:26-35)

 

Many times in the New Testament believers are called ‘disciples’ – a disciple being one who learns of Christ, who follows Him and obeys Him.  Broadly speaking, of course, every Christian is a disciple, and yet it is possible to be a Christian, to be saved and to know that your sins are forgiven, and yet not to tread the path of discipleship – because to be a disciple means to be a disciplined Christian.  Discipleship is a costly business. So with this thought in mind we begin by asking the question which was asked of Peter so long ago, when he was out of touch with his Lord and Master: “You are not one of his disciples, are you?” (John 18:17).

 

The Man referred to is the Lord Jesus;  the questioner was a young girl who was at the outer door of the High Priest’s house. The question is pointed, personal, challenging, disturbing and decisive. What is your answer to it? Perhaps it will be easier to give a definite ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ after we have considered some of the clearly defined conditions of discipleship which Jesus laid down. If we are meeting these conditions we can justly claim to be His disciples in the true sense;  if on the other hand we are not meeting them, we are not disciples in a practical and experimental sense.  What, then, are the conditions of discipleship?  What are the marks of a true disciple of the Lord Jesus?

 

  1. 1.     The first condition of discipleship is HATING

This sounds strange, but a reference to Luke 14:26 assures us that it is true.  This is our Lord’s first condition of discipleship, and notice how emphatic it is – “If anyone…does not hate…he cannot…”  But surely our Lord taught that we should love, and that we should not hate anyone!  Must I hate my parents, husband, wife, children, or other loved-ones, if I am to be the disciple of Christ? What does this mean? It means that the Lord Jesus must come first.  If a choice has to be made between my relatives and what they want, and Christ and what He wants, then He must come first.  I must choose Him, and if necessary (and in contrast) hate all others! If the test comes – Christ or mother…Christ or father…Christ or son…it must be Christ first.  Look up and compare Matthew 10:37-38. Is Christ really first in your life, your heart, your home, your business?

 

  1. 2.     The second condition of discipleship is CROSS-BEARING

Look at Luke 14:27. Notice again how emphatic these words are – “Anyone who does not…cannot…”  Anyone who does not “carry his cross” cannot be a true disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ.  This is not referring to all the daily trials we have to bear – that is not the meaning here. To bear the cross and follow Jesus is voluntarily to share in His suffering and death, and to do it for His sake. If we are to be His disciples we must be willing to share these things with Him – to be hated, persecuted, misunderstood, as He was; to take up the cross means that we are willing for all this out of love for Him. How do we measure up to this test? Have you taken your stand openly for Christ? Do others know you are a Christian?

 

  1. 3.     The third condition of discipleship is GIVING UP EVERYTHING

Luke 14:33 reads: “Any of you who does not give up everything…cannot…”  To be His disciple must I forsake all that I have? Yes!  It means I must abandon all claim to all that I have. It means “hands off” my life, my home, my loved-ones, my money, my possessions – all that I have looked upon as ‘mine’ – I will now no longer have any claim to it.  That is the meaning of true discipleship, and what a difference it makes to us when we come to this fulfilling place of renunciation, for if the Lord should take our loved-ones or our property away from us we at once recognise that He has only taken, in His wisdom and love, what is after all His own!  How do you measure up to this standard? Will you always remember the precious truth embodied in Matthew 20:15?

 

  1. 4.     The fourth condition of discipleship is CONTINUING

The scripture for this is John 8:31. Notice again how very clear it is – “If you hold to (continue in) my teaching, you are really my disciples”.  To continue means to rest in Christ, to grow up into Christ, and to shape our lives in conformity to His Word and His will. It means to let His Word be the final authority in our lives and to seek every day to live in submission to that Word and in obedience to Him. Here is a very good test to apply when we are in doubt as to whether to take a certain course.  Ask yourself, ‘Will it help me to continue in His Word?  Will it help me to demonstrate in a greater way the reality and the sincerity of my discipleship?’  How do you measure up to this?  Are you reading, meditating and feeding on His Word, and are you running to obey Him? – look up Psalm 119:97 and 103.

 

  1. 5.     The fifth condition (or mark) of discipleship is LOVING

We read about this in John 13:35. Love is the badge of discipleship that the world will recognise.  Notice that it says – “…if you love…” – not, ‘If you pretend to have it, or talk about it, or sing about it’!  It is hard to be a real Christian, a true disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ, as these scriptures show, but how wonderful it is to be whole-heartedly His, altogether His, a committed and determined disciple of the Lord!

 

“You are not one of his disciples, are you?”  Can you say, “Yes, I am!”

 

WORDS OF LIFE MINISTRIES

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Called by a New Name 5

Study 5                                          JEWELS

(Scripture Portion: Malachi 3:7-18, KJV)

 

In Revelation 21:19-22 the Lord tells us that the heavenly city is ablaze with jewels; and in Malachi 3:17 (KJV) the Lord speaks of His people as His jewels.  Are you one of the Lord’s jewels? The dictionary defines a jewel as – “a precious stone, or anything or anyone highly valued.”  This leads to our first point:-

 

  1. 1.     The Lord has a company of people He calls His Jewels because they are very precious to Him.

Malachi 3:17 (NIV) translates ‘jewels’ as “treasured possession”;  so the Lord has a people who are a treasured possession to Him. Who are these highly valued ones? Every Christian, everyone who is born again, is a treasured one, so what amazing grace that the Lord should make us His jewels and should tell us we are very precious to Him!  Why are we so precious?

(1)   Like jewels, we are God’s creation. No man can make a jewel; no chemist has ever been able to make a diamond, a sapphire or a ruby. These are the amazing productions of our Creator – and so is the Christian – God’s creation from beginning to end (2 Corinthians 5:17).  Of course, there are imitation jewels, not the genuine article, and there are Christians that are only so-called: they are not real Christians at all.

(2)   Like jewels, we are a very rare people. Why is it that jewels are so rare? If you could dig up diamonds in your garden they would no longer be precious.  We have to remember that there are comparatively few who love the Lord and who are keen to follow His ways. Notice Jesus’ words in Matthew 7:13-14 and compare Luke 12:32. At the time of Malachi’s prophecy there were only a few, a small remnant, who were God’s jewels. The majority were just like common stones.  Are you part of the “remnant”?

(3)   Like jewels, we are very beautiful – not beautiful in ourselves, but God has crowned us with His salvation (Psalm 149:4). He has placed within us His own divine life, and we have been filled with heavenly brilliance.

(4)   Like jewels, we are very varied – in size, shape, colour and texture. So are Christians!  Some Christians are like diamonds, some like sapphires, some like emeralds, while others are like pearls.  We are not all alike. We were all made in the same laboratory (Ephesians 2:10), but we all show the divine life in different ways.

(5)   Like jewels, we are precious because of our value. Some jewels are worth a fortune  – but think of the cost of redemption (1 Peter 1:18-19)! No money could redeem us, for only “the precious blood of Christ” could do that.

 

 

  1. 2.     What are the characteristics of the Lord’s Jewels?

Verse 16 gives us the answer: “Then…”  When?  When the majority of God’s covenant people were out of touch with Him and were sinning against Him, there were some who did three things, and these tell us the marks or characteristics of those who are the Lord’s jewels:

(1)   They feared the Lord. This was not a slavish fear but the reverential fear of a child for its parent. It is the fear of holy worshippers. Instead of acting as those did who are mentioned in Malachi 3:13-15, these who are called ‘jewels’ feared the Lord.  Do we fear Him?  Look up Psalm 34:9-11.

(2)   They talked with each other (verse 16). Their lips were full of praise to God and of testimony before others (Psalm 66:16). Is that the testimony of your heart and soul?  If you are His jewel it should be.

(3)   They honoured His Name (verse 16). Their meditation was centred on the Lord Himself – upon His Name, that is, His Person and work. What is His Name?  Twenty-four times in this prophecy He is called “the Lord Almighty”, which indicates His great power and might.  Now we think of Him in terms of repentance, faith and love, and we meditate upon His might, His power, His grace and His glory.

Are these marks or characteristics of God’s jewels true of us?

 

  1. 3.     What is the Lord’s attitude towards His Jewels?

Notice that in verses 16-17 we are told three things that indicate the Lord’s loving interest in His jewels:-

(1)   He listens to them.  “…the Lord listened and heard…” – that is, He bent down from heaven and listened to the holy conversations of His precious ones. Compare Jeremiah 8:6 with Luke 24:15.  As the Lord draws near to us what does He hear from our lips?

(2)   He records the history of His Jewels. Verse 16 tells us that the Lord has “a scroll of remembrance”!  In this book every detail is accurate. Is it the Lamb’s Book?  No.  It is the book in which the Lord records the faithful service of His people.  What surprises we shall get when we look into that book on that day! We shall see that God did hear our prayers, that He did bless our faithful service, and that even the little things that were done in His Name were blessed of Him and recorded – look up Matthew 25:35-45.

(3)   He assures their eternal security. Verse 17 tells us that the Lord says, “They will be mine, says the Lord Almighty, in the day when I make up my treasured possession.”  What day? – in the day when the Lord Jesus comes again (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17).  Not one treasured possession will be lost or missing.  All the elect will be gathered safely in (compare Psalm 87:6 with John 6:37; John 10:28-29; 2 Timothy 1:12; 2 Timothy 2:19).  He welcomes them as “sons”.  Verse 17 tells us that the Lord gives to His jewels all the privileges of sonship.  How wonderful the grace of God is!  Look up and compare Romans 8:16-17 with Hebrews 1:2.

 

WORDS OF LIFE MINISTRIES

PO Box 334, EASTLEIGH, SO53 2UB, UK

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Called by a New Name 6

Study 6                                        SERVANTS

(Scripture Portion: Acts 20:17-38)

 

In this passage of Scripture, which contains the record of Paul’s charge to the Ephesian elders, we have the portrait of a true servant of the Lord.  God has not only made us members of His family, calling us His children (Romans 8:16), but He has called us into His service and He delights to call us His servants (Philippians 1:1). In Acts 20:19 Paul says, “I served the Lord”, and this gives us the key to our present study.  What are the characteristics of a true servant?

 

  1. 1.     The first mark is A SURRENDERED WILL

The word ‘served’ in verse 19 contains the whole idea of being a slave, or as Paul says in Ephesians 3:1: “…the prisoner of Christ Jesus”.  If a man is a prisoner of Christ it means that he has laid down his own will, and now the supreme thing in his life is to do the will of the Lord Jesus and to please Him.  Is that true of us? Has there been a time when we have handed over our will to the Lord? Look up Psalm 40:7-8, and compare Acts 9:6 with Romans 12:1-2.

 

  1. 2.     The second mark is A HUMBLE MIND

In verse 19 Paul tells us that he served the Lord “with great humility”. Compare Matthew 11:28. If there is one company of people on the earth who should be entirely free from pride it is those people who are the servants of the Lord Jesus.  There is no place for self-seeking in the life of the true servant of the Lord. Notice that Paul says that he served the Lord with humility – compare Matthew 20:26-27; John 13:1-15; Philippians 2:3-8. In the Christian worker humility is the greatest virtue.  Meekness is not weakness but Christ-likeness, and where there is a humble mind the Devil can gain no ground;  but where this gift and grace of humility is missing he very soon gains a place in our hearts and lives.

 

  1. 3.     The third mark is A COMPASSIONATE HEART

In verse 19 Paul also tells us that he served the Lord “with tears”. Compare verse 31 and Romans 9:2-3. How this man of tears puts us to shame! How cold we often are! How few know what it means to weep over the sins of others and over the souls of others! – yet Paul knew what it was to shed tears of penitence, of love, of fellowship with the Lord in His sufferings over sinners, and over saints.  A Salvation Army officer wrote to General Booth about the hard task that he had in his sphere of service and how he seemed to see no results at all from his labours.  The General sent back a message which consisted of two words – “Try tears!”  Look up Psalm 126:6, and compare Ephesians 4:32.

 

  1. 4.     The fourth mark is A STEADFAST SPIRIT

In verse 19 Paul tells us he was “severely tested by the plots of the Jews”. Did you ever know a servant of the Lord who was not tested, and when reading your New Testament been impressed with the great testings that Paul experienced? We have a powerful Enemy whose whole aim is to get us down, and if we are honest, we admit that one of our chief handicaps is ourselves; so as servants of the Lord we need grit as well as grace! See what Proverbs 24:10 says, and compare 1 Corinthians 15:58.  Notice how many times in scripture the Lord says, “Fear not!” and “Be strong!”  Why does He say this so often? Because we are often fearful, and when we are fearful we are weak and have no strength.

 

  1. 5.     The fifth mark is A CLEAR CONSCIENCE

In verse 20 Paul tells us, “I have not hesitated to preach anything that would be helpful to you”. This was a great thing to be able to say, but all of us who serve the Lord should be able to say it; compare Acts 23:1 with Acts 24:16. Paul was not perfect;  he made many mistakes and often failed in one way or another, but no-one could justly point a finger at him and accuse him. He could look these elders in the face and say, ‘I have done my best’, and they could not prove or say otherwise – see verse 18.  Paul had a clear conscience!

(1)   Paul had a clear conscience EVANGELISTICALLY, that is, he discharged his responsibility towards the lost. See verse 20 (second part), also verses 21 and 26. What an amazing claim he made!  Look up Ezekiel 33:6 and compare 1 Peter 3:15-16. Have we a clear conscience regarding the lost?

(2)   Paul had a clear conscience DOCTRINALLY, that is, he was faithful in his proclamation of the truth. Look at the first part of verses 20 and 27. Nothing “helpful” was withheld, and “the whole will of God” was declared. Look up and think about the relevant statement in 2 Corinthians 4:2.

(3)   Paul had a clear conscience FINANCIALLY, that is, he was not doing God’s work for personal gain (verses 33-34). No doubt there were many wealthy people in Ephesus, but rather than be in a position where he could be criticised and where God’s Name could be brought into disrepute, Paul would work for his living making tents so that no-one could ever say he was in the Lord’s work for personal gain.  See Hebrews 13:18.

(4)   Paul had a clear conscience EXPERIMENTALLY, that is, so far as he knew, he was living out before the Ephesians the truth that he taught to them. Look at verse 35: does our conduct agree with our creed? Does our belief behave?  Look up 2 Corinthians 1:12.

(5)   Paul had a clear conscience SPIRITUALLY, that is, his personal relationship with the Holy Spirit was all that it should be. Verse 22 might be rendered, “I go to Jerusalem under the binding force of the Holy Spirit”. Compare Romans 9:1. Are we utterly abandoned to the Holy Spirit? Are we filled and dominated by Him?  Is ours a Spirit-led life?

 

WORDS OF LIFE MINISTRIES

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Called by a New Name 7

Study 7                                       STEWARDS

(Scripture Portion: 1 Peter 4:1-11)

 

God calls us His servants, but He also calls us His stewards. There must therefore be a distinction between a servant and a steward. A servant is one who serves (Romans 1:9), or a worker (Matthew 9:37). A steward is a servant but in the word ‘steward’ there is the added idea of responsibility. God has entrusted certain things to us and we are responsible to Him to use them properly. Eliezer was the steward of Abraham’s household (Genesis 15:2, KJV); Abraham had placed all his household affairs in Eliezer’s hands, and Eliezer was accountable to his master, Abraham. Compare also Genesis 43:19. Look up and read also Luke 19:12-13. These ten servants were stewards and their job was to administer and dispense their master’s goods and to ‘trade’ the money he had given to them. This raises the question: What has God entrusted to us that we are to administer and dispense, and for which He will hold us responsible?

 

  1. Our whole Life. What an amazing gift this is that God has given to us! Think of our bodies, with minds to think, hearts to love, wills to choose! Do we recognise the responsibility of stewardship with regard to our lives, our bodies?
  2. Our Influence. God has given this to all of us and He holds us responsible as to how we use it. See Romans 14:7. We influence others by the way we live, the way we talk and how we react in different circumstances. How are we influencing others? Do we recognise that in our daily living we are the Lord’s stewards?
  3. Our Money and our Possessions. Of course, we should not say ‘our’ at all, for everything we have is God’s – we are only stewards. Do you have a bank balance and investments? You are only a steward of these things. Do you own a house? Do you have a car? Do you own a shop or a business? You are only a steward because you are managing these things for Him.
  4. Our Children. Those who are parents have been entrusted with the gift of children. Do we recognise the responsibility of stewardship in the home?
  5. Our Time. Think how much time we have! How are we using it? Are we using it in the light of eternity, or are we wasting time? Ephesians 5:16 literally reads, “buying up the opportunities”!
  6. Special Talents and Gifts. God has endowed all of us with these, and they are a trust from Him. Perhaps it is a gift of speech or of music; perhaps we have a home we can use for hospitality to God’s servants. Do we recognise that we are stewards of these talents that God has entrusted to us?
  7. The Gospel of the Grace of God. Look up 1 Corinthians 4:1 and compare  1 Thessalonians 2:4. These verses mean that we have a responsibility to live the Gospel, to preach it, and to send it out to the ends of the earth.

 

Notice the following scriptures which refer to this matter of stewardship:-

 

  1. Every Christian is a steward. Look up these references and compare them – Luke 19:13; 1 Corinthians 12:7 and 11; Ephesians 4:7; 1 Peter 4:10.  If we are Christians then we are stewards and we are accountable to God.
  2. We may be good stewards or bad stewards. Notice in 1 Peter 4:10: “…administering God’s grace in its various forms”. There are two kinds of Christians – spiritual and worldly (1 Corinthians 3:1-4); two kinds of servants – faithful and unfaithful (Luke 16:10); two kinds of saints – vessels which are honourable and those which are dishonourable (2 Timothy 2:20-21); and two kinds of stewards – good and bad!  Which are you?
  3. The period in which we are to exercise our stewardship is until the Lord comes.  Look up Luke 19:13: “…until I come back…”, and compare   1 Peter 4:7 and 10, where Peter says, “The end of all things is near…”, therefore faithfully administer God’s grace.  See John 9:4 and 1 Corinthians 7:29.
  4. We must exercise our stewardship in the light of the coming of Christ and of the Judgment Seat of Christ. Compare Luke 19:15 with Romans 14:12 and 1 Corinthians 3:9-15. Every Christian will be rewarded or suffer loss according to whether he has been a good or a bad steward. If we lived in the light of this fact, how different our giving would be! How much more zealously we would serve the Lord if we remembered that we shall have to give an account before Him of the way we have served! – and how differently we would view missionary work!
  5. The special characteristic of the steward’s work is faithfulness. This is made clear in 1 Corinthians 4:2 – compare Matthew 25:21. God will not reward us on the ground of our success, but of our faithfulness. We need to ask ourselves the question that God will ask on that day – ‘Have you been faithful in discharging your responsibility towards Me?’
  6. The special mark of the steward’s life and character is blamelessness. Study Titus 1:7-9. God does not expect us or provide for us to be perfect or without fault in this life, but He requires us to be blameless. There is all the difference between being blameless and being faultless; thank God that, by His grace, we may and should live blamelessly!
  7. Faithfulness in our stewardship here qualifies us for greater responsibilities in service in the life to come.  Look up Luke 19:16-17. When He comes again “and so we will be with the Lord for ever”                     (1 Thessalonians 4:17), our service will not end, it will just be the beginning. All our service here is a preparation for our service there (Revelation 22:3). May God make us good stewards!

 

WORDS OF LIFE MINISTRIES

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Called by a New Name 8

Study 8                                       WITNESSES

(Scripture Portion: Acts 1:1-11)

 

One of the great and deeply significant names given to Christians is the name ‘witness’. The word appears many times in the Bible, particularly in the Book of Acts. In Isaiah 43:10-12 the Lord twice says of His people, “You are my witnesses”, and just before His ascension the Lord Jesus said – Acts 1:8. We shall confine our study to this verse and it will help us to understand something of the privileges and responsibilities of witnessing. There are five lines of truth:-

 

  1. 1.     THE PEOPLE GOD CHOOSES

Who does the Lord choose to be His witnesses? It is most encouraging to notice that He does not choose angels or supermen, but ordinary men and women – “You…you…you…” (Acts 1:8). In the first instance He chose Peter, James and John, and other ordinary men and women from the rank and file of life. How often we come face to face with the principle made clear in                 1 Corinthians 1:26-29!  God does choose noble and mighty people to be His witnesses, but “not many…” Most are ordinary people like ourselves, and this brings us to the important point that God expects every Christian to be a witness; God has, or should have, witnesses everywhere – in the home, in business, in hospitals and factories – wherever there is a Christian there should be a witness. The people He chooses are those who He saves by His grace.

 

  1. 2.     THE PLAN GOD ADOPTS

What is the function of the witness? What is a witness? To witness means to give a testimony that is based on personal knowledge. He must tell not what he thinks or supposes or overhears, but what he knows from personal experience. He must give first-hand evidence – look up and compare John 3:11; 9:25; Acts 22:15. God’s plan, therefore, is that every one of us who loves Him and belongs to Him should tell what we have seen and heard and what we know of Him and of His grace. But notice that our testimony must centre on the Person of Christ Himself – “You will be my witnesses…”  We are not to witness to a denomination, a movement, a society, a system, a creed, but to the glorious Person of our Lord Himself.  Notice also that witnessing should not be only a matter of telling, but primarily it is to be a matter of living. We should of course use our lips in the service of our Saviour – after all, we so easily talk about everything else and everyone else. Why not about Him? – look up Psalm 107:2, and compare Mark 5:19. But it is our consistent lives that are to witness for Christ – “You will be my witnesses..”  What we are is more important than what we say, but if our lives are witnessing for Him then our saying will be powerful.

 

  1. 3.     THE PLACE GOD INDICATES

Where are God’s witnesses to go? We have already noticed that He wants them everywhere, but in Acts 1:8 a very definite geographical setting is indicated – “in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” – compare Matthew 28:19. This means that some witnesses must leave their homes and go to other places, other lands, in order that they may obey the Lord’s commission.  Notice the following:-

(1)   In the light of Acts 1:8, as His witnesses every one of us should be willing to go anywhere for the Lord. Whoever we are, whatever our age and whatever our circumstances, we should be willing to be the Lord’s witnesses in the place of His choice.

(2)   In the light of Acts 1:8, people of any age should be exercised about being the Lord’s witnesses. The need is great and there are millions of people who have never heard of Christ.  On every continent the Lord needs His labourers, and those of us with health and strength should be challenged.

(3)   In the light of Acts 1:8, all who would be His witnesses must begin in Jerusalem.  That is to say, we must begin at home by living consistently for the Lord where we live or work.  Going abroad will not make us witnesses!

 

God’s great heart of love yearns over the whole world, and His method for evangelising it is to send out living witnesses (Romans 10:13-15).

 

  1. 4.     THE POWER GOD SUPPLIES

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and you will be my witnesses…”  No-one can be an effective witness without the power of the Holy Spirit. Look up and compare Luke 4:18 with Luke 24:49 and Acts 2:4. How did Hudson Taylor become such a bold witness in China? How did William Carey labour for the Lord so effectively in India? What is it that has sustained Billy Graham in his ministry throughout the world? How was it that Peter and Paul were such vital witnesses? How does anyone witness effectively for the Lord? – look up and compare Zechariah 4:6 with Acts 1:8.

 

  1. 5.     THE PERIOD GOD GIVES

How long do we have left to evangelise the world? – until the Lord Jesus comes again! Compare Acts 1:8 with verses 9-11.  All the signs of the times tell us that His coming is very near.  If you and I would be His effective living witnesses we must be ‘on the job’ at once;  the matter is urgent, the time is short, the need is great, millions are lost, and the Lord Jesus says to each one of us – Acts 1:8!

 

WORDS OF LIFE MINISTRIES

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Called by a New Name 9

Study 9                                          FRIENDS

(Scripture Portion: John 15:1-15)

 

One of the greatest gifts that God has given to us is the gift of friendship. How great it is to have a true friend.

 

As Christians we rejoice in the fact that the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, our Saviour, is our Friend. He is the best Friend of all (Proverbs 18:24); and He is our Friend because He is first of all our Saviour.  In the light of John 15:14-15, are we His friends? Undoubtedly He is a true Friend to us, but are we true friends to Him? (see James 4:4). We should be perfectly clear that in these verses in John 15 our Lord is speaking to saved men and women. In the Old Dispensation the Law said, “Do this, and live”; but under Grace the Lord says to us, “Live, and do”. We are not saved by doing, but having been saved by the Lord He says to us – John 15:14. In other words, to be a true friend of His carries the responsibility of full obedience to Him.

 

  1. 1.     The NATURE of this Friendship

(1)   It is absolutely unique. This is not the friendship of man with man but of man with God and God with man, and therefore it is the only friendship of its kind.

(2)   How condescending it is! Think who this Friend is who wants to call us His friends! It is as though a mighty and an exalted king came to the lowest commoner in his realm and asked for his friendship, and yet it is more wonderful than even that.

(3)   It is a personal friendship. Notice the words in verse 14: “You…my…”  Surely nothing could be closer than that, and the wonderful thing is that He is just as much your friend as He is my friend. So unique and so gracious is He that He can be a friend to us all at the same time.

(4)   It is constant and enduring. This Friend is always with us – compare John 13:1 with Hebrews 13:5-6.

(5)   Our Friend has done something for us to prove that He wants our friendship. We read this in verse 14, and when we remember that the Lord Jesus, the Friend of sinners (Matthew 11:19) has given His life for us out of love for us, surely we want above everything else not only to acknowledge Him as our Friend but to be in that position where He is glad to acknowledge us as His friends.

 

  1. 2.     The PRIVILEGE of this Friendship

There are many privileges in a true friendship, but there is one very special privilege indicated here in verse 15, and it can be summed up in two words – intimate fellowship. You see, the servant is not taken into his master’s confidence; he does not know all his personal interests and plans; but with a friend it is so different.  To be a friend of Jesus means to be taken into his confidence, and it therefore means to share in his trials and joys.  It is a great privilege for a servant to be in the kitchen of the royal palace, but it is a far greater privilege to have an audience with the king.

 

Notice that Abraham is referred to again and again as “the friend of God” – look up 2 Chronicles 20:7; Isaiah 41:8; James 2:23.  Why is this? For the very reason that he shared the secret things of God. He was taken into God’s confidence. Look up and study Genesis 18:17-22. What a privilege!

 

See what Psalm 25:14 says, and notice how this very thing is illustrated in the life of Noah, to whom God revealed His plan to send judgment in the form of a flood (Genesis 6:12-13); Moses, to whom the Lord spoke many times about His plans and purposes, with and through the Children of Israel (Exodus 33:9-11); to Paul, to whom the Lord revealed so many of the ‘mysteries’ of the Gospel (Colossians 1:24-29) – and it is the same today.  If we would know God’s plans for the present and for the future we must qualify for His friendship, because it is only to His friends that He reveals these things.

 

  1. 3.     The CONDITION of this Friendship

What is it? Verse 14 tells us very clearly – “You are my friends if you do what I command.” This indicates full submission to the Lord’s authority.  This Friend, who calls us His friends, is after all our Lord – look up and compare Luke 6:46 with John 2:5.  Verse 14 speaks of complete and unqualified obedience.  Does this mean keeping the Ten Commandments? Does this mean keeping all the commandments that are contained in the Word of God?  Which ones should we keep, then? What about verses 12 and 17 in this chapter?  Always remember the truth that is brought before us in 1 John 5:3.

 

  1. 4.     The CONSTRAINT of this Friendship

The very thing that proves His friendship for us is the thing that constrains us to be His friends.  What is it?  Verse 13 tells us – “Greater love has no-one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.”  Look up and compare Isaiah 53:5; Galatians 2:20 and 2 Corinthians 5:14.

 

Real friendship must of course be mutual.  That is, it must come from both sides – His side and ours.  His friendship is unquestioned.  What about ours?

 

WORDS OF LIFE MINISTRIES

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Called by a New Name 10

Study 10                                 AMBASSADORS

(Scripture Portion: 2 Corinthians 5:1-21)

 

In Proverbs 13:17, Isaiah 18:2, 30:4; 33:7 and Jeremiah 49:14 we find the word ‘envoy’, meaning an ambassador. In the New Testament the Apostle Paul speaks of himself as Christ’s ambassador (Ephesians 6:20), and of all Christians as the ambassadors of the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:20).

 

What is an ambassador? In 2 Corinthians 5:20 Paul says, “We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors…”  An ambassador is a REPRESENTATIVE – one who represents another. He goes to a foreign country and represents the Throne and the Government of his own people. Now this is true of ambassadors for Christ – representatives of the King of heaven and of heaven itself in a foreign country – this world.  His position is one of great RESPONSIBILITY, so think of this in its spiritual significance. Christ is our representative in heaven (Hebrews 9:24) and we are His personal representatives on the earth (2 Corinthians 5:20). However, none of us can truly represent the Lord in our own strength, but when He sends us out we go with all the RESOURCES of heaven behind us.  He is our sufficiency, and we go in His Name.  Compare 2 Corinthians 6:1.

Let’s notice the Marks, the Message and the Motive of God’s ambassadors.

 

  1. The MARKS of an Ambassador of God

(1)   He must be a citizen of heaven. No alien can ever represent our Queen or her Government in a foreign Court. Now look at 2 Corinthians 5:17, because a true ambassador must be “in Christ…”, “a new creation…” and “redeemed…with the precious blood of Christ…” (1 Peter 1:18-19).

(2)   He must be above reproach. Our Queen would never send out a man of doubtful character; and the Lord requires that His ambassadors should live lives that are above suspicion. Notice again in 2 Corinthians 5:17: “…the old has gone, the new has come…”, and compare Philippians 2:15. He is the object of the closest scrutiny, and in every relationship he must be blameless.

(3)   He must be selfless. He must be willing to put aside completely his own interests so that he might do the will of his king.  Is the whole determined attitude of our lives, ‘Not I, but Christ’? Do we “die every day”? – look up 1 Corinthians 15:31. Have we entered, by faith, into the experience of John 12:24 and Galatians 2:20?

(4)   He must be in constant contact with the Throne.  He will make use of every modern method of communication. In the same way, by prayer we can be in constant contact with the Throne of God – how necessary for a true ambassador!

(5)   He must be steadfast and loyal. Look up Ephesians 6:20. The Apostle Paul is in prison, but how willingly he suffered these “chains” for Christ’s sake! How faithful and how utterly loyal he was to his King!

(6)   He must be diplomatic.  Diplomacy is the art of negotiation.  We have no wisdom of our own and we certainly do not have the wisdom needed to win souls and to represent the Lord before men;  but we have a great promise that God will fulfil in us if we ask Him (James 1:5).

(7)   He must know the language of the people among whom he lives.  How important it is for the ambassador to be able to communicate in a foreign country.  The language that we, as ambassadors, need to learn is the language of love.  Look up Luke 10:33-35.

 

  1. 2.     The MESSAGE of an Ambassador of God

This is clearly defined in 2 Corinthians 5:19-21. We are to proclaim the fact that at infinite cost to Himself God has made a way of reconciliation possible;  that He has done this by sending His own Son to die for sin;  and that through His sacrifice the barrier of sin has been removed and God and man have been brought together in Christ, by His at-one-ment.  The ambassador is to proclaim this message and to tell men and women that these are God’s terms for reconciliation, and he is to press them to accept these terms and to be reconciled to God. The ambassador’s message is therefore one of absolute certainty;  it is one of great heavenly and spiritual authority – for it has been “committed to us” (verse 19), and we proclaim it “on Christ’s behalf” (verse 20); and its proclamation calls for great loyalty on the part of the ambassador.  Philip was a good ambassador – look up and compare Acts 8:5 and 35.

 

3.   The MOTIVE of an Ambassador of God

(1)   The love of Christ (verse 14). His great love for us, and in us (Romans 5:8) compels us to go out with His message of reconciliation.

(2)   The Judgment Seat of Christ (verses 9-10). One day our King will recall us, then – Romans 14:12; 1 Corinthians 3:13.

(3)   The dire need of the lost (verse 11). The fact that men are lost and bound for a Christ-less eternity should stir us, not only to live so that we truly represent our Lord, but to proclaim with passion the message that He has committed to us.  This passion was in the heart of the Prophet when he wrote – Isaiah 62:1, and it was certainly in the heart of the great Apostle himself when he wrote – Romans 9:2-3. It is the passion of our beseeching God that burns within us, that becomes a part of us and that finds its expression as we pray for men and women “on Christ’s behalf” that they will be reconciled to God.

 

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