New Testament Discipleship

This message called, New Testament Discipleship, comes from 2 Timothy 1:3-12.

Christianity is not a solitary sport, it is a team effort. When we come to faith in Christ, we join a global and a local community, in essence, this community is a timeless spiritual family. When you join a family, you are not alone. People look out for one another. So, how are lives connected in corporate worship? In this room we are all pretty much spectators. It is in a small group that we become participants.

I love small groups and I always encourage people to get involved and join one. It is easy to shop around here at King’s Grant because we have so many groups from which to choose. If you want to explore a group in which to get involved, let me know.

I can talk a whole lot about why small groups are important, but time is limited and I want to go through this text. While Skip used this text two weeks ago, I plan to go in a total different direction. We can talk about timothy and his family, but I prefer to talk about Timothy’s and Paul’s connection through being a part of a faith community. Let’s get started…

1. Reassurance (2 Timothy 1:3) – I thank God, whom I serve with a clear conscience the way my forefathers did, as I constantly remember you in my prayers night and day.

The text tells us that Paul was praying for Timothy, and that he likely had confidence in him. The first thing you notice is the relational aspect of these to followers of Christ. Those who are connected to Jesus pray for one another. In a small group, we are pilgrims on the same journey, giving support, encouragement, and challenge to those in the group. It is a blessing to be involved with fellow believers on a similar journey.

Speaking of blessing, we have the potential to bring out the best in those whom we bless. From the very beginning, God intends for his people to bless others (Genesis 12:1-3, Galatians 3:8). (Smalley and Trent, The Blessing, 1986). What does a blessing entail? How do we bless others? Imagine doing all of the following in a small group…

  1. Expressing Unconditional Love: agape is God’s kind of love, you cannot earn it nor can you lose it. It is not a love that says, “I love you because…” or “I will love you if…” – it is a love that says, “I love you anyway.” There is security in this sort of relationship.
  2. Uttering Spoken Words: a blessing is only a blessing when it is spoken. It matters not how much you care about someone if you never let them know about it. When you invest into other people, you cannot keep silent.
  3. Articulating High Value: Perhaps you saw the movie called, “The Help.” The main character is a black maid who worked for this 1960’s white southern household. This strong woman had a great statement that she repeated in the film, and the little white girl was able to quote it back to her, “you is kind, you is smart, you is important.”
    1. It is like a family reunion, people are usually speaking to each other and talking all over the place but in that final hour people preparing for their goodbyes and are expressing the most important things that need to be said.
    2. Picture the undeveloped traits or habits or qualities in other people that can grow in their heart. Our desire is for them to be the best they can be for the kingdom’s sake.
    3. When we value others, we bring out their best.
  4. Picturing a Special Future: You can do this and thereby bring joy to people. You will make an impact on the kingdom of God and will be encouraging them to make a difference as well.
    1. Picturing a special future is like how Jesus encourages us by mentioning a wonderful statement at the end of time, “well done good and faithful servant,” which bring out the best in our lives, a desire for transformation into godly men and women.
    2. Kim is a hospice chaplain and I often remind her, usually when she leaves the house in the morning, or after a long and difficult day or week, that she is making a difference in the lives of people, especially at this critical stage in their lives, and the lives of their family members and staff.
  5. Disciplining When Needed: You may be thinking that I am just talking about parents and children, but discipline is greater than just a family because as followers of Jesus, we will fail many times in our lives. We need God’s discipline, and often that will come through fellow believers whom we trust and we know they have our back. We are to balance praise and correction. God deals with us rather than ignoring the wrong behavior; the same is true for our brothers in Christ. We cannot ignore behavior that goes against the teachings of the Bible. Ok, let’s move on to…

2. Reminiscence (2 Timothy 1:4-5) longing to see you, even as I recall your tears, so that I may be filled with joy. 5 For I am mindful of the sincere faith within you, which first dwelt in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am sure that it is in you as well.

Two things are noticed here…

  1. Tears (2 Timothy 1:4) What Paul desired, (he longed to see Timothy again).
  2. Testimony (2 Timothy 1:5) What Paul described…
    1. The Reality of Timothy’s faith (2 Timothy 1:5a) (mindful of the sincere faith he had).
    2. The Roots of Timothy’s faith (2 Timothy 1:5b) (which came through his mother and grandmother)
    3. The Reinforcement of Timothy’s faith (2 Timothy 1:5c) (I am sure it is in you as well). It is important to think about from where we have come, and how faith entered our lives. It is very good to share with others in your small group about how you came to faith in Christ, and reaffirm the faith we see in others.

3. Refocus (2 Timothy 1:6-7a) For this reason I remind you to kindle afresh the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands. 7 For God has not given us a spirit of timidity…

  1. Stir up the Gift of God (2 Timothy 1:6) (Kindle afresh the gift of God) Small groups are training ground for living life on purpose, being on mission, and living a missional life.
  2. Suppress the Fear (2 Timothy 1:7a) (we don’t have a spirit of timidity or fear). There is strength in numbers, so your small group will give you the encouragement you need to stand strong in the face of the struggles of life. Finally, we are to

4. Remember (2 Timothy 1:7b-12) Remember what, you ask?

  1. Spirit (2 Timothy 1:7b) (not a spirit of fear, but of power and love and discipline). The Spirit is the one whom Jesus promised to send that would fill us with the power to change the world (Acts 1:8). We must remember that in a small group, we do not depend upon our own power, creativity, teaching, or anything, but we allow the power of the Spirit to flow through us.
  2. Son (2 Timothy 1:8) Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord or of me His prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God,
    1. Don’t be Ashamed (2 Timothy 1:8a) – of the testimony of Jesus. We know what Jesus did to secure our salvation, so never be ashamed of the gospel story. We don’t need to apologize to unchurched people about what we believe, especially when it goes against what the intolerant left mainstream culture promotes.
    2. Don’t be Afraid (2 Timothy 1:8b) – of Paul or Prison. When our society labels us intolerant and narrow-minded, and they come after the church and Christians, don’t be afraid to join with Paul in the suffering for the gospel. We stand stronger with a small group to help us navigate through the dark waters of modern culture.
  3. Salvation (2 Timothy 1:9a-b) who has saved us and called us with a holy calling,
    1. Our Conversion (2 Timothy 1:9a) It is important to understand that the purpose of a small group is to know Christ and make him known. The goal is not just a place to study the Bible, but to share life together, on purpose, with an intentional missional mindset. How can we get one more person to be a part of our group? One we get to a certain size, when will we birth another group where we can both continue reaching and teaching people? It is all about life transformation, and conversion is a great target. After conversion, we embrace our calling…
    2. Our Calling (2 Timothy 1:9b) Paul wrote about a holy calling. What does God want from you? What mission or purpose has he planted in your heart that only you can achieve? How will you walk in a manner worthy of the calling of Christ, and therefore make an eternal impact on the kingdom of God? BUT, our calling leads to service…
  4. Service (2 Timothy 1:9c-10) not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity, 10 but now has been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel,
    1. Our Commission (2 Timothy 1:9c). We don’t do any of this in our own strength or according to our own works, but according to the power of Christ. Remember that the body of Christ works together to accomplish the will of God. Each small group has the potential to embrace the commission and seek ways to be on mission together, and encouraging each of us to make an eternal impact.
    2. Our Commander (2 Timothy 1:10). We recognize that the Great Commission comes from our Great Commander. Jesus is the Savior, who abolished death and brought life and immortality through the gospel. Jesus causes our service to make sense. Non-Christians serve in order to give back (it is ME focused), but we “give back” with a purpose (because is it God focused). Serving can lead to…
  5. Servants (2 Timothy 1:11) for which I was appointed a preacher and an apostle and a teacher. This verse reminds us that Paul was a Preacher and Apostle.
    1. What is a Preacher? It is not just someone who stands up here and delivers a sermon. The preacher (kay’-roox) really means, “a herald or messenger” or God’s ambassador (2 Corinthians 5:20). THAT is something that we all can do. We have a story to tell.
    2. What is an Apostle? The apostle (a-po’-sto-los) means, “a delegate, a messenger, one sent forth with orders.” The church is made up of believers, and we are literally “sent-out-ones.” Understanding this fact awaken us to the great possibilities of impacting the kingdom of God. Don’t limit God in what he can do in your life. Be open to go in whatever direction he has set before you!
  6. Suffering (2 Timothy 1:12) For this reason I also suffer these things, but I am not ashamed; for I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day.
    1. Confidence (2 Timothy 1:12a) “For this reason” expresses Paul confidence. All that he has gone through makes sense when he had the proper perspective. Remember this letter was written at the very end of Paul’s earthly life. He was expecting execution any day. In the midst of this uncertainty, Paul expresses solid confidence.
    2. Conviction (2 Timothy 1:12b) Paul is convinced, and knows for certain that he is in the hands of Jesus. What has Paul entrusted to Jesus until THAT DAY?Perhaps it is either the day of Christ’s glorious return or maybe the day of Paul’s execution. His life. Jesus is able to guard his life, so what have we to fear?

All throughout this passage I see the blueprints for small groups. The purpose of today is to discover what it takes to encourage sticky faith in our kids and in the lives of other people. Small groups encourage stick faith, and the family is God’s original small group. Get involved in one and live life in the community of faith.

The next steps at the bottom of your outline will help you to remember what community has been in your life in the past, and perhaps you will recognize the need to have a more connected community in your current situation.

Next Steps: Make it practical…

1. For whom do you pray on a regular basis? (2 Timothy 1:3)
2. Who has had the biggest role in your spiritual development? (2 Timothy 1:3)
3. What gift has God given to you? (2 Timothy 1:6)
4. How is the Spirit’s power, love, & self-discipline shown in your life? (2 Timothy 1:7)
5. Why has God called you to a holy life? (2 Timothy 1:9)
6. In what ways are you called to be a preacher and apostle? (2 Timothy 1:11)
7. When was there a time that you suffered for the gospel? (2 Timothy 1:12)

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How to Bless Others

This is a very simple strategy to influence those around you. In community, we hold each other accountable to actually DO one of these five things every day.

B – Begin with Prayer.

L – Listen, to hear people’s hurts, dreams, hopes, fears, and desires.

E – Eat, share a meal with someone, creating community and conversation.

S – Serve, after listening and eating together, it is easy to discover ways to serve others.

S – Story, seek those opportunities to tell YOUR story (testimony) or HIS story (the gospel).

Where God is at Work

We do not always know where God is at work, so how can we tell where God is working. First there are some things that only God can do, so identifying these are a good place to begin:

  1. God draws people to himself (John 6:44)
  2. God causes people to seek after him (Romans 3:10-12)
  3. God reveals spiritual truth (1 Corinthians 2:14)
  4. God convicts people (John 16:8)
    1. Of sin
    2. Of righteousness
    3. Of judgment

No one will seek after God or pursue spiritual things unless the Father is at work in his life. If someone is interested in spiritual matters, the Father is at work in their life. The great thing is that we have the Holy Spirit to help guide us through the spirituality of our lives (John 14:15-17, 26)

A great example is that of Zacchaeus. Jesus left the crowd that day and focused on one man in particular, and salvation came to that house (Luke 19:5). Jesus looked for the activity of the Father and joined him in that work.

So what can we do to put ourselves into a position of hearing a word from God, and see where God is working?

  1. Start by praying.
  2. Then get off your knees and watch to see what God does next.
    1. Watch for people with needs.
    2. Discover people who might be interested in spiritual matters.
  3. Ask questions to people around you.
    1. How can I pray for you?
    2. Do you want to talk?
    3. What do you see as the greatest challenge in your life?
    4. What do you see God doing in your life?
    5. What is God bringing to the surface of your life?
    6. What burden has God put on your heart?
  4. Then listen to people.

Here is a convicting part: we often don’t join God in his work because we are not really committed to God. We are more interested in his blessings that in his work. How many times have you prayed for God’s blessing? I am convicted that prayer needs to change from focusing on God blessing us to God’s revealing to us where he is at work. When we focus on God working through us, the blessing will follow.  I intend to stop asking God to bless me, and my church, and will ask him to reveal to us where he is at work, and to work through us.

God speaks when he is about to accomplish his purposes, and we can be assured that what God initiates, he will complete (Isaiah 14:24, 27, 1 Kings 8:56, Philippians 1:6).

When we say that we have a “word from the Lord” be careful. We need to stick with that leading until God brings it to pass. Abraham waited 25 years for the son of promise, and Moses was in training for 40 years before God sent him back to Egypt. If your “word from the Lord” does not come to pass, you are in danger of being a false prophet (Deuteronomy 18:18-22, Jeremiah 28:9, Ezekiel 12:24, 25).

Strangers in This World

All of us have experienced times when we did not fit in: arriving overdressed (or underdressed) for a social occasion, not knowing the language spoken around us, being in a setting as a minority race or minority, gender, holding a single dissenting opinion in a hotly debated topic. But underneath these embarrassing and painful moments sometimes lurks a pervasive sense that maybe we don’t fit anywhere.

  1. Think about a time when you felt out of place, like a stranger who did not belong.
  2. If you knew you were about to enter a difficult time in your life that would test your faith, how would you prepare yourself?

Early Christians were subject to many kinds of isolation. Although their faith originated in Judaism, the Jews rejected them because Christians saw Jesus as Messiah. Romans would eventually use Christians as scapegoats, blaming them for all sorts of political problems. Pagan Greeks saw Christians as atheists because they insisted on worshiping only one God rather than their pantheon of deities. Here comes Peter offering first-century Christians (and us) a different kind of belonging.

Read 1 Peter 1:1-12

1. Imagine you are one of the early Christians receiving Peter’s letter. After studying this opening section, what would motivate you to keep reading?

2. Study Peter’s description of the people who were about to receive his letter (1 Peter 1:1-2). How does his description of them help explain why they were “strangers in the world?”

Notice the source of our salvation (1 Peter 1:2).
The Father elected us – we still have responsibility (John 3:16, Romans 10:13, Revelation 22:17).
The Spirit sanctified us – he convicts of sin (John 16:8) and points to Christ (John 16:13, 14).
The Son redeemed us – blood sprinkled signifies cleansing (Leviticus 14:1-7), ratification of a covenant (Exodus 24:3-8) and set apart holy items (Exodus 29:20-22)

3. How does the introduction to Peter’s letter help you appreciate the three persons of God? The word blessing is the same root word for eulogize.

4. Peter says that God has given his people “new birth.” What does he say grows out of that new birth (1 Peter 1:3-5)?

Notice the blessings of our salvation
A living hope (1 Peter 1:3) living word (1 Peter 1:23) living stone (1 Peter 2:4)
A lasting home (1 Peter 1:4) which is perfect (incorruptible), pure (undefiled) and permanent (does not fade away)

5. Peter says in verse 6, “Now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.” If you were to hear that kind of message, what information in this paragraph might help you through the suffering (1 Peter 1:3-9)?

Notice the trials of our salvation
Attitude – greatly rejoice (1 Peter 1:6)
Duration – for a little while (1 Peter 1:6)
Evidence – proof of authentic faith (1 Peter 1:7)
Blessing – belief in the unseen (1 Peter 1:8)
Effect – bringing salvation (1 Peter 1:9)

6. How does the future as Peter describes it here offer you hope in your own setting?

7. What did Peter believe to be true of genuine faith (1 Peter 1:7-9)? Proof of faith rests in the fact of the ability to give God praise, glory and honor in the midst of suffering.

Notice what Peter describes as precious:
Precious trials of faith (1 Peter 1:7)
Precious blood (1 Peter 1:19)
Precious cornerstone (1 Peter 2:4)
Precious spirit (1 Peter 3:4)
Precious promises (2 Peter 1:4)

8. Peter complimented his readers because they believed in Jesus and loved him, even though they had not seen him (1 Peter 1:8). What questions do you think people today have to cope because they have not personally seen Jesus?

9. When have you seen Jesus (through a person or event) in a way that increased your faith?

10. By what different routes did news of salvation come to the readers of Peter’s letter (1 Peter 1:10-12)? Old Testament prophets did not always understand their messages. Prediction would be understood at a later time (Matthew 13:17).

Notice suffering compared to glory (1 Peter 1:11)
Clothing (Luke 2:12 – Psalm 93:1)
Possessions (Luke 9:58 – Hebrews 1:2)
Rejection (John 1:11 – Isaiah 9:6)
Grief (Isaiah 53:3 – Hebrews 1:9)
Crown (John 19:5 – Revelation 14:14)
Appearance (Isaiah 53:2 – Psalm 27:4)

12. In what ways are Christians special, even when compared to Old Testament prophets and angels (1 Peter 1:12)? Angels don’t understand salvation!

13. Peter refers to new birth, or salvation, throughout this passage as a central difference between Christians and the world. What tensions have you experienced because of this difference?

14. How does God’s gift of salvation help you cope with these tensions?

Right now, thank God that you belong to him and that you have an eternal home with him and his people. If you have not yet come into God’s family, ask that he continue to guide you on your spiritual journey.

For Further Thought

Review some of the people who came to mind as you considered question 9, people who have increased your faith. Write a letter of appreciation to one of them. If this is not possible, write a prayer of thanks to God for that person’s influence in your life.

Suffering and joy are mixed in this section of Peter’s letter (a lot like right life). Consider the people and events that have brought you pain; consider sources that have brought you joy. Are some perhaps the same sources? In prayer, share all of this with your loving God, who understands the mixture far better than we do.

Read again 1 Peter 1:8-9. Meditate on love and joy as Peter describes them. Thank God for offering a joy that cannot be diminished by earthly events. Then, as much as possible, enjoy!

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A Father’s Blessing, Part 2

All of chapter 49 of Genesis records the individual blessings Jacob gave his sons. Each one is an example of a father’s careful observation of his son’s character and potential.

“These are the twelve tribes of Israel, and this is what their father said as he told his sons good-bye. He blessed each one with an appropriate message.” Genesis 49:28

Blessings were serious business in Old Testament families. What about today? Could we make a huge impact on our children if we made it a point to voice a parental blessing as part of our regular family life? Authors Gary Smalley and John Trent have written extensively on this subject and their books have a lot of practical suggestions.

One change we can make in our family thinking is to expand the way we treat occasions like birthdays, graduations, holidays, weddings, and other special events. How can we add to these occasions an intentional moment of blessing? Can we find a way to include an “appropriate message” and if so, where can we start?

Some blessings involve tangible gifts (that’s probably where the idea of giving gifts originated), but most blessings are precious, thoughtful and truthful words. A parent’s heart speaks into his or her child’s heart. We often subconsciously attempt to do this by the cards we choose to give. We find one with a message that seems to “fit” how we feel or what we see in our child. These messages can become blessings.

I read about a father who decided that he wanted to influence his kid’s lives on the occasion when each one left home. In his case one left for the military and the other two left for college. In the days before each child’s departure he wrote a small note where he told them it was his “wallet blessing.” On the paper he wrote out his observations regarding their character qualities, his hopes for their future, and a verse of Scripture that reminded him of them. He gave them with little fanfare; and in the middle of all their departure details, he wasn’t sure if the notes had made any impact.

Almost a decade after giving out these blessings, he asked his sons about the notes during a lunch together. Each boy immediately produced his note from his wallet. One had a Xerox copy because the original had gotten worn from use. The men shared a bonding moment around the table that day. Blessings make a difference in our kids’ lives. They are valuable expressions of a loving parent’s heart.

This summer I intend to introduce a letter writing process called, “Letters from Dad” where we will write four intentional letters; one to our wife, children, parents and one for after we depart this world. I hope to include dozens of men from the church and our friends in the community. Imagine the impact we can have on our families.

Then in the fall, we will have a special emphasis called, “To Save a Family.” There are a lot of great things happening at KGBC, hold on for a wild ride.

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