A Springboard for You

For a better life and a better eternity

Three Questions for a Real Disciple Learned from Someone Who Was Only Almost a Disciple

The Rich Young Ruler

We’ve all heard of him. The man presented himself as a great disciple who had kept God’s law from his youth. But in the end, we find out that really he was only almost a disciple. I don’t want to be in that boat. I want to be a really, truly, totally and all the way a disciple. How about you? 

When I examine his story in Luke 18:18-23, I find three questions that will force us out of the shallow end of discipleship and push us into the deep end of true discipleship.

Three Questions

Question #1: Do I live as though Jesus is merely good or truly God?

The Rich Young Ruler called Jesus “good teacher” and Jesus called him on it. Jesus wasn’t questioning His own deity. Rather, He was highlighting a problem the man had. He called Jesus good, but did he really believe Jesus was the ultimate good? Did he recognize that Jesus was actually more than a good teacher and that He was God in the flesh?

We listen to a good teacher when we want to. We listen to a good teacher when we like what he says. We listen to a good teacher as long as we still think he is good. We take a good teacher’s words as advice, something to do when we get around to it. That is not how we take God’s words. Jesus’ words are not just good advice, nice suggestions or possibilities. Jesus was more than a good teacher. He was and is God. Therefore His word is law. 

When we live as though Jesus is truly God, then we surrender to His word. When He says, “He that believes and is baptized will be saved,” we believe and get baptized. When He says “Don’t let the sun go down on your anger,” we don’t let the sun go down on our anger. When He says “Treat others as more important than yourself,” we treat others as more important than ourselves.

Why do we do this? Because we know Jesus is not just a good teacher. He is the Great God.

Question #2: Who is my God?

The Rich Young Ruler said he had followed all the 10 commandments since his youth. He had not committed theft, murder, false witness or adultery. He had honored his father and mother. What a great man he was. How could he not possibly be a great disciple and inherit eternal life?

As we study this text, we realize this poor man actually was lying to himself. One of those commandments said, “Do not have other gods before Me.” Yet the Rich Young Ruler clearly had a god before Jehovah. His God was his material goods. He couldn’t possibly sacrifice them to have the eternal life God offered. Through that, he demonstrated who his real god was.

So, who is your God? Learn the lesson of the Rich Young Ruler. We can easily lie to ourselves and tell ourselves that Jesus is our God and runs our lives. Instead of just trusting what we’ll say when put to the test, let’s examine our lives. Where do we spend our time? Where do we spend our money? Who are best friends? What would we not give up if God asked? These questions can help us cut to the chase.

Or ask a friend. Ask your spouse. If you have kids, ask them. “What do you see is most important in my life?” They’ll be able to tell you and that can help you determine who your God really is. Don’t be like the almost disciple and simply trust your intellectual answer to the question. Dig deep and examine with rigorous honesty.

Question #3: What do I value?

At first glance, the Rich Young Ruler appeared to value eternal life. He came asking about it. Further, he claimed to have scrupulously kept the law since his youth. Even more, he was willing to go beyond that asking what more he needed to do. 

However, as we see the story unfold, we find out that he did not truly value eternal life. Eternal life was not a driving core value. It was merely an aspiration. He would like eternal life if he could get it but not at the expense of his material goods. Through we find out what was his driving core value–Money. He valued money and material goods. That drove his decisions. He would be happy to keep God’s law until God’s law told him to give up his goods. 

What do you value? Again, don’t just accept whatever you say when asked this intellectual question. We all know the right answer and can give it whenever asked. Instead of looking at this intellectual answer, we need to examine our lives. What drives our choices? Is it the pursuit of God’s kingdom and righteousness or is it the pursuit of wealth, fame and influence? 

 

Be careful. As we can see in the Rich Young Ruler, these are tough questions because we can so easily deceive ourselves. Don’t just ask them once. Ask them repeatedly. Question yourself like this regularly. Question your choices with these questions, especially those big life decisions like where will you work, who will you marry, where will you live, with what church will you work. 

Don’t be only almost a disciple like the Rich Young Ruler. Be all the way a disciple.

ELC

October 27, 2008 Posted by | A Springboard for Your Spiritual Life, Christian living, Discipleship, Growth, Spiritual Growth | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Amputation (an excerpt)

The Gospel of the Kingdom: Studies in the Sermon on the Mount

 

Check out the book today!

Check out the book today!

 

from Chapter 13, “Morality and Marriage: Matthew 5:27-32”

 

Amputation

On April 26, 2003, Aron Ralston was trapped between a rock and a hard place. Hiking and rock climbing alone in Easter Utah, his right hand was crushed between a shifting boulder and the rock wall o the gorge he was navigating. Over a period of five days he made various attempts to free himself. He chipped away at the boulder. He tried to construct a pulley with his ropes to move the boulder. Nothing worked. When he ran out of his water supply, he was certain of death. Since no one knew where he was and they would not find him any time soon, he tried one final desperate plan. He broke both bones in his forearm. Then, using what was left of his dulled cutting tool, he amputated his own right arm. He repelled into the canyon and hiked out to meet searchers. Nobody wants to lose an arm. However, when the choice is lose an arm or lose a life, the arm is not so bad.

If we would take such drastic measures to extend our temporal life a few years, how much more ought we do them to preserve our eternal life? Jesus said if our eye or hand makes us stumble, we should amputate and throw them from us. It is better to lose a body part than our soul. Many who struggle day to day to lead pure lives would find immense success in spiritual growth if we would employ spiritual amputation.

To be sure, this is about spiritual amputation and not physical. Hands and eyes do not really make us stumble. The part of our body with the biggest problem regarding purity is the brain. If we take Matthew 5:29-30 at its most literal regarding the body part with the biggest problem, well…you see where that leads.

Consider what these verses teach us to do. When we sin, we must not simply confess our sin, but consider what led to it. How did the fall begin? Do we see a pattern? Because jesus made this statement in the context of sexual morality, I will keep my illustrations there; but the point applies to all sin–from outbursts of anger to lying to gossip to stealing.

When you have fallen into sexual immorality, whether physically or mentally, ask how you got there? Where did it begin? Did it begin with a magazine ad? did it begin with a song on the radio? did it begin with unlimited access to the internet? did it begin with a character on a tv show? did it begin with an emotional relationship at work? What led to the sin?

How many Christians have returned again and again to an affair with a co-worker after repeatedly repenting, mourning and committing themselves to sexual purity? What needs to happen? A spiritual amputation. They need to quit the job. “But Edwin,” someone will say, “I need the money. I won’t be able to find another job that pays as well. And I have to eat. I have to have a roof over my head. If I give up this job, I will lose my house.” This job is your hand caught between a boulder and a rock wall. It is killing you and destroying your eternal life. It is better for you to lose your house and even miss a few meals than to be thrown into hell.

How many Christian men, even preachers, have returned again and again to the sinful world of internet pornography after repeatedly repenting, mourning and committing themselves to purity? What is needed here? A spiritual amputation. At the very least they need to limit their internet access with strict filters and accountability parameters. They might even need to get rid of internet access entirely. “But Edwin,” some will say, “there is a lot of good stuff on the internet. Plus, when I use those filters, there are some good sites I can’t access. After all, Biblical research and finding pictures for my PowerPoint presentations are so much easier with full internet access.” But the internet is killing you and destroying your eternal life. It is better for you to lose access to the decent stuff, it is better for you to have to research the old fashioned way, it is better for you to have boring PowerPoint presentations than for you to be thrown into hell. 

How many Christians have returned to lustful passions because of magazines, movies, tv shows or particular songs on the radio after repeatedly repenting, mourning and committing themselves to mental purity? What is needed here? A spiritual amputation. They need to discontinue their subscription to the magazine. They need to avoid those kinds of movies or stop watching that show. They need to quit listening to that song (perhaps even the entire cd or radio station). “But Edwin,” some will say, “this is just entertainment. I can’t live in a box. I have to live a little and have some fun. Aside from that, everybody is reading, watching and listening to these things. If I quit, I will be behind the times and look like an oddball.” These things are killing you and destroying your eternal life. It is better for you to look like a behind-the-times oddball who can’t join in on the conversations about the latest music, movies or magazines than for you be thrown into hell.

Please notice the little word beginning both of the verses under consideration. jesus began both statements with “IF.” IF your eye causes you to stumble, tear it out. IF your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off. Jesus did not command everyone to tear out their eyes or cut off their hands. Aron Ralston cut off his right arm to survive. That doesn’t mean all rock climbers must.

In our efforts to lead morally pure lives, we all have different struggles. I may have to spiritually amputate something you don’t and vice versa. Just because my eye causes me to stumble doesn’t mean everyone has to tear out their eye, nor should I try to make them.

Allow me to illustrate. When I first watched CSI, I became addicted. I loved the mystery. I loved the detective work. I loved watching how they figured out who was guilty. It was great. Then came CSI: Miami. It was awesome too. However, at some point I realized the repeated sexual themes were impacting my mind. Many times, i was no longer entertained by the detective work but defiled by the immodestly dressed characters  and caused to stumble in my mind because of the sexual scenes. Eventually, I had to excise CSI and CSI: Miami from my life. Does CSI cause everyone to stumble? Probably not. Can I say that because it made me stumble everyone has to amputate it? Of course not. However, if it causes you to stumble, get rid of it.

We must be honest. It would have been pointless for Ralston to say, “I don’t think the problem is my arm caught between these rocks. I’m not going to amputate.” In the same way, it is eternally pointless for us to hang on to the very things that make us stumble.

When we think about Ralston’s story, most of us wonder if we could do what he did. “I just don’t think I could cut off my own right arm,” many of us say. Sadly, there are too many Christians saying the same thing when faced with Jesus’ words. Let’s buck up. Jesus will give us strength. Let’s amputate what will destroy our eternal life.

October 13, 2008 Posted by | A Springboard for Your Spiritual Life, Christian living, Overcoming Sin, Spiritual Growth, Success | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

3 Attitudes and 4 Questions for Life Changing Bible Study

We can study our Bibles for all kinds of reasons. We may want to teach a class. We may want to answer a question. We may want to prove our point. We may want to have a little encouragement to make it through our day. We may want some comfort. We may want to win a debate. At various times, these are all great goals for our Bible study. Sometimes, these are exactly the things we need to do as we study.

However, if these are the only things we do with our Bible study, we haven’t allowed God’s word to be all it was meant to be in our lives. You see, God didn’t give us the Bible so we could teach others. He didn’t give us the Bible so we could prove our point. He didn’t even give us our Bibles merely to comfort us. No doubt, we can use it for these things, and should at times. But God gave us the Bible to change our lives. He gave us the Bible so we might not be conformed to the world but transformed by the renewing of our minds (cf. Romans 12:2). 

How should we use our Bible so it will change our lives? II Timothy 3:14-17 provides the pattern.

But as for you , continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work (ESV).

Proper Attitudes

First recognize three attitudes you need to have as you come to the word of God.

  1. The Scriptures are sacred and holy writings. The pages, binding and cover are not holy. We shouldn’t establish rules about how to treat the bound volume we call a “Bible.” However, the message within is holy and sacred. It deserves our respect as we read and study it.
  2. The Scriptures are a source of wisdom (perhaps “the” source). If I turn to the Scriptures to receive wisdom, I am admitting that I am not all wise and I need help. If I can’t come to the Scriptures with this attitude, then the Scriptures will never help me.
  3. The Scriptures are from God. We don’t like people telling us what to do. When we read the Bible, we are not reading what people tell us to do. We are reading what God has told us to do. We need to remember God is our creator. He knows how we work. We need to understand His way works. We don’t read the Bible to argue and bicker about every little nuance because we need to figure out all the rules in order to make the cut. But we do need to make sure we are simply submitting to the Word because God’s way works.

 

Life Changing Bible Study Questions

  1. What do I learn from this study? If the Bible is profitable for teaching, I should ask what I learnfrom every study I conduct. Whether I’m conducting a text study, a book study, a topical study, a character study or whatever kind of study, I should ask what do I learn. I answer this by asking all kinds of subordinate questions like who was being addressed, who was writing, who was speaking, what was the historical context, etc. Perhaps one of the best ways to answer this question is to study with the view to teach. If you were going to teach someone about this study and have to field questions about it, what would you say. Sadly, this is where most people end their study. This is a very important part of study, but it is not the end. It is not even the main goal. It is only the beginning.
  2. Where do I fall short according to this study? A reproof is a gentle admonition. A reproof is proving or testing something to bring about conviction. It really has the idea of admonishing because of error and proving the error so change can occur. If the Scriptures are profitable for reproof, they are profitable for convicting us where we need to change. If we are going to have life changing Bible study, we have to ask where we are falling short. I know we don’t like this. Most of us want Bible study that simply says where we are doing things right so we can be pumped up to move on with our day. However, we need something to expose where we are falling short so we can grow. If we want life changing study, we have to begin by seeing what we have learned says about how we measure up and where we fall short.
  3. What must I change because of this study? Now we are starting to let the rubber hit the road. If we are falling short, what must we do to correct it? I’m told the word for correct here carries a picture of taking something that is toppled over and setting it upright again. This is where we plan to change what we have been doing. This is where we figure out what needs to be adjusted. We can only have life changing Bible study if we ask this very hard question. What needs to change? How do I fix what has fallen over?
  4. What habits must I develop based on this study? Now we are getting to a life change, because we do not simply answer this question with a pencil and paper. We answer it with action. The Scripture can train us and discipline us. It can show us the habits and lifestyle we need to adopt to be right with God. Having figured out where we fall short and having made a plan to correct it, now we bring it into our daily lives by living out the habits Jesus is encouraging in His word.

When we have done these things, our lives have been changed. It is not an easy process. But it is a worthy process. Don’t just let the Bible be a decoration in your home. Don’t let it simply be something you carry around. Don’t even merely let it be something you use to convince others you are right. Use it first and foremost to be God’s tool to change your life.

 

 

I think this process is so powerful, I highlight in my book “Give Attention to Reading” a simple plan for studying through the New Testament in six months. In every reading, I encourage the reader to ask these questions so every reading can be as deep as you need it to be. Learn more about “Give Attention to Reading” at my daily reading blog. Or purchase the book to have a practical help in having life changing Bible study. Whatever you do, make sure you don’t just read your Bible, but you let it change your life.

 

Have a great week and remember to let God’s word change your life this week.

ELC

October 6, 2008 Posted by | A Springboard for Your Spiritual Life, Bible Study, Christian living, Spiritual Growth | , , , , | Leave a comment