The Discipleship Equation Factor
Hey, ho, marathoners in and for Christ. (1 Corinthians 9:24; Hebrews 12:1; 2 Timothy 4:7) Exhausted, depleted from running the Godly, good, and being-a-blessing-to-others race? Welcome. Sit. Relax. Let’s feast.
Feast of the Heart exists to help bring about Christ-centered “reformation, revival, and constructive revolution” (Francis Schaeffer, Death in the City) so that God will be glorified and people blessed.
Reformation… we seek to abide by and serve up the true truth, pure doctrine of the Bible
Revival… we seek to model biblical Christians living in word and deed
Constructive Revolution… we seek to spread the true gospel right where God has planted us with urgency, compassion, and radical self-abandonment
I’m so mathematically challenged… that the ONLY reason I got through Math at the H.S. level was because my Math/Geometry “Master” [as we called a teacher in Prep School] was my Crew/Rowing coach. Warren Riley, a Dartmouth grad with 800’s on three Board exams and lightest rower in the Stroke position in the “Dartmouth 8 Heavyweights”, got me through… or actually failed me through. I was in Salisbury’s First Boat at the time; Master Riley and I were close friends; and there was no way I was gonna fail out.
But get this: Even I’m not “mathematically challenged” enough to misunderstand, and unable to apply, what “The Discipleship Equation Factor” adds up to! Check it out:
Above the Line: The Fruit of the Spirit [Make It Big!]
Below the Line: Inherited and Habitual Sin [Make It Small!]
= EQUALS = Conformity to the Likeness of Jesus Christ! [Make It Real… For Time and In Eternity!]
Let’s Break It Down:
Above the Line: The Fruit of the Spirit — which we chewed on at length last week.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.“ (Galatians 5:22-23; Mark 12:29-31; 1 Corinthians 13:4-8)
1. Love. This word for love doesn’t refer to warm feelings but to a deliberate attitude of good will and devotion to others. Love began with God’s unmerited love for us, and then gives love freely without looking at whether the other person deserves it, and it gives without expecting anything back.
Question: Am I motivated to do for others as Christ has done for me, or am I giving in order to receive something in return?
2. Joy. Unlike happiness, joy is gladness that is completely independent of the good or bad things that happen in the course of the day. In fact, joy denotes a supernatural gladness given by God’s Spirit that actually seems to show up best during hard times. This is a product of fixing your focus on God’s purposes for the events in your life rather than on the circumstances.
Question: Am I experiencing a joy of life on a regular basis, or is my happiness dependent on things going smoothly in my day?
3. Peace. It’s not the absence of turmoil, but the presence of tranquility even while in a place of chaos. It is a sense of wholeness and completeness that is content knowing that God controls the events of the day.
Question: Do I find myself frazzled by the crashing waves of turmoil in my life, or am I experiencing “the peace that passes all comprehension” (Philippians 4:6-7)?
4. Patience. Other words that describe this fruit are lenience, long-suffering, forbearance, perseverance, and steadfastness. It is the ability to endure ill treatment from life or at the hands of others without lashing out or paying back.
Question: Am I easily set off when things go wrong or people irritate me, or am I able to keep a godly perspective in the face of life’s irritations?
5. Kindness. When kindness is at work in a person’s life, he or she looks for ways to adapt to meet the needs of others. It is moral goodness that overflows. It’s also the absence of malice.
Question: Is it my goal to serve others with kindness, or am I too focused on my own needs, desires, or problems to let the goodness of God overflow to others?
6. Goodness. While kindness is the soft side of good, goodness reflects the character of God. Goodness in you desires to see goodness in others and is not beyond confronting or even rebuking (as Jesus did with the money changers in the temple) for that to happen.
Question: Does my life reflect the holiness of God, and do I desire to see others experience God at a deep level in their own lives?
7. Faithfulness. A faithful person is one with real integrity. He or she is someone others can look to as an example, and someone who is truly devoted to others and to Christ. Our natural self always wants to be in charge, but Spirit-controlled faithfulness is evident in the life of a person who seeks good for others and glory for God.
Question: Are there areas of hypocrisy and indifference toward others in my life, or is my life characterized by faith in Christ and faithfulness to those around me?
8. Gentleness.Meekness is not weakness. Gentleness is not without power, it just chooses to defer to others. It forgives others, corrects with kindness, and lives in tranquility.
Question: Do I come across to others as brash and headstrong, or am I allowing the grace of God to flow through me to others?
9. Self-control. Our fleshly desires, Scripture tells us, are continually at odds with God’s Spirit and always want to be in charge. Self-control is literally releasing our grip on the fleshly desires, choosing instead to be controlled by the Holy Spirit. It is power focused in the right place.
Question: Are my fleshly desires controlling my life, or am I allowing the Spirit to direct me to the things that please God and serve others?
10. Walk by the Spirit. While not a fruit of the Spirit, the final item on the checkup produces all nine qualities listed above. When we follow the Spirit’s lead instead of being led by our self-focused desires, He produces the fruit.
But even when we don’t walk by the Spirit, He is the very one who convicts us that things are not in proper order in our lives.
God promises that if we are willing to admit that we have been walking our own way and ask for His forgiveness and cleansing, He will empower us through His Spirit to live above ourselves and live the abundant life for which He has created us.
Question: Am I actively depending on the Holy Spirit to guide me in God’s ways so I don’t get wrapped up in myself? If not, am I willing to confess to God that His ways are better than mine, and that I need the Spirit’s guidance to live above the fray?” (Copyright © 2008 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.)
Below the Line: Inherited and Habitual Sin
“Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” (Galatians 5:19-21; Genesis 3; 1 John 1:8-10; Mark 7:20-23; Romans 1:18-32)
The Mortification of Sin
Several passages come to mind for study: Romans 8:13; Romans 13:8–14 (Augustine’s text); 2 Corinthians 6:14–7:1; Ephesians 4:17–5:21; Colossians 3:1–17; 1 Peter 4:1–11; 1 John 2:28–3:11. Significantly, only two of these passages contain the verb “mortify” (“put to death”). Equally significantly, the context of each of these passages is broader than the single exhortation to put sin to death. As we shall see, this is an observation that turns out to be of considerable importance.
Of these passages, Colossians 3:1–17 is probably the best place for us to begin.
But as in our evangelical sub-culture of quick fixes for long-term problems, unless the Colossians had a firm grasp of Gospel principles, they were now at risk! For just at this point young Christians can be relatively easy prey to false teachers with new promises of a higher spiritual life. That was what Paul feared (Col. 2:8, 16). Holiness-producing methods were now in vogue (Col. 2:21–22) — and they seemed to be deeply spiritual, just the thing for earnest young believers. But, in fact, “they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh” (Col. 2:23). Not new methods, but only an understanding of how the Gospel works, can provide an adequate foundation and pattern for dealing with sin. This is the theme of Colossians 3:1–17.
Paul gives us the pattern and rhythm we need. Like Olympic long jumpers, we will not succeed unless we go back from the point of action to a point from which we can gain energy for the strenuous effort of dealing with sin. How, then, does Paul teach us to do this?
First of all, Paul underlines how important it is for us to be familiar with our new identity in Christ (3:1–4). How often when we fail spiritually we lament that we forgot who we really are — Christ’s. We have a new identity. We are no longer “in Adam,” but “in Christ”; no longer in the flesh, but in the Spirit; no longer dominated by the old creation but living in the new (Rom. 5:12–21; 8:9; 2 Cor. 5:17). Paul takes time to expound this. We have died with Christ (Col. 3:3; we have even been buried with Christ, 2:12); we have been raised with Him (3:1), and our life is hidden with Him (3:3). Indeed, so united to Christ are we that Christ will not appear in glory without us (3:4).
Failure to deal with the presence of sin can often be traced back to spiritual amnesia, forgetfulness of our new, true, real identity. As a believer I am someone who has been delivered from the dominion of sin and who therefore is free and motivated to fight against the remnants of sin’s army in my heart.
Principle number one, then, is: Know, rest in, think through, and act upon your new identity — you are in Christ.
Second, Paul goes on to expose the workings of sin in every area of our lives (Col. 3:5–11). If we are to deal with sin biblically, we must not make the mistake of thinking that we can limit our attack to only one area of failure in our lives. All sin must be dealt with. Thus Paul ranges through the manifestation of sin in private life (v. 5), everyday public life (v. 8), and church life (vv. 9–11; “one another,” “here,” that is, in the church fellowship). The challenge in mortification is akin to the challenge in dieting (itself a form of mortification!): once we begin we discover that there are all kinds of reasons we are overweight. We are really dealing with ourselves, not simply with calorie control. I am the problem, not the potato chips! Mortifying sin is a whole-of-life change.
Third, Paul’s exposition provides us with practical guidance for mortifying sin. Sometimes it seems as if Paul gives exhortations (“Put to death…,” 3:5) without giving “practical” help to answer our “how to?” questions. Often today, Christians go to Paul to tell them what to do and then to the local Christian bookstore to discover how to do it! Why this bifurcation? Probably because we do not linger long enough over what Paul is saying. We do not sink our thinking deeply into the Scriptures. For, characteristically, whenever Paul issues an exhortation he surrounds it with hints as to how we are to put it into practice. This is certainly true here. Notice how this passage helps to answer our “how to?” questions.
1. Learn to admit sin for what it really is.Call a spade a spade — call it “sexual immorality,” not “I’m being tempted a little”; call it “impurity,” not “I’m struggling with my thought life”; call it “evil desire, which is idolatry,” not “I think I need to order my priorities a bit better.” This pattern runs right through this whole section. How powerfully this unmasks self-deceit — and helps us to unmask sin lurking in the hidden corners of our hearts!
2. See sin for what your sin really is in God’s presence.“On account of these the wrath of God is coming” (3:6). The masters of the spiritual life spoke of dragging our lusts (kicking and screaming, though they be) to the cross, to a wrath-bearing Christ. My sin leads to — not lasting pleasure — but holy divine displeasure. See the true nature of your sin in the light of its punishment. Too easily do we think that sin is less serious in Christians than it is in non-believers: “It’s forgiven, isn’t it?” Not if we continue in it (1 John 3:9)! Take a heaven’s-eye view of sin and feel the shame of that in which you once walked (Col. 3:7; see also Rom. 6:21).
3. Recognize the inconsistency of your sin.You put off the “old man,” and have put on the “new man” (3:9–10). You are no longer the “old man.” The identity you had “in Adam” is gone. The old man was “crucified with him [Christ] in order that the body of sin [probably “life in the body dominated by sin”] might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin” (Rom. 6:6). New men live new lives. Anything less than this is a contradiction of who I am “in Christ.”
4. Put sin to death (Col. 3:5).It is as “simple” as that. Refuse it, starve it, and reject it. You cannot “mortify” sin without the pain of the kill. There is no other way!
But notice that Paul sets this in a very important, broader context. The negative task of putting sin to death will not be accomplished in isolation from the positive call of the Gospel to “put on” the Lord Jesus Christ (Rom. 13:14). Paul spells this out in Colossians 3:12–17. Sweeping the house clean simply leaves us open to a further invasion of sin. But when we understand the “glorious exchange” principle of the Gospel of grace, then we will begin to make some real advance in holiness. As sinful desires and habits are not only rejected, but exchanged for Christ-like graces (3:12) and actions (3:13); as we are clothed in Christ’s character and His graces are held together by love (v. 14), not only in our private life but also in the church fellowship (vv. 12–16), Christ’s name and glory are manifested and exalted in and among us (3:17). (Sinclair Ferguson, Ligonier Minsitries, TableTalk Magazine)
= EQUALS = Conformity [More and More Over Time] to the Likeness of Jesus Christ!
“For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.” (Romans 8:29; 12:1-2; 1 Peter 1:13-25; Psalm 1:1-6)
“But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts.” (Romans 13:14; 1 Corinthians 11:1; Ephesians 5:1-2; Philippians 2:5; Romans 6:3-10; John 13:15; 2 Corinthians 4:10; Romans 8:10-11)
NOTE: Do the Math! And Is the Divisible Visible Only to YOU?
Marathoners in and for Christ, I have a challenge for ALL of us: Will we be as urgent, explicit, real, intentional, systematic, continuous, and COMMUNAL as is impossible to get after this… WITH the help of the Holy Spirit and some Saints in our life to:
- List and know The Fruit of the Spirit and begin the process of rating ourselves and our progress of Christlikeness in EACH one… IN A COMMUNITY OF FAITH?
- List and know The Sins of the Flesh and begin the process of rating ourselves and our progress of Christlikeness VIA MORTIFYING THEM in EACH one… IN A COMMUNITY OF FAITH?
- Be real about “the divisible of your discipleship”: Is The Fruit of the Spirit a real and measurable part of our Christian life? Is our God- and self-awareness of our sinful state and habits real? If the Fruit is unknown, distant, foreign, and pithy… AND our level of our Sin Nature is equally foggy… Guess what? Christlikeness isn’t going to be real, happening in our life. Period.
- And lastly, will we KNOW, in the deepest realms of our heart, that the above is a vitally important representation and process of our DISCIPLESHIP JOURNEY because of this: The WORLD, the FLESH, and the DEVIL… HATE IT… and will do any and everything to prevent us from getting into this process!
This is absolutely the most important realm of our life as a Disciple of Jesus Christ: It’s the full meal deal! And this is why is it absolutely impossible to do without a born again and mature FAITH and ALONE.
Lots of love and truth from a fellow sinner saved by grace and marathoner at The Training Table,