Make Disciples – but who am I?

 

To begin, an excerpt from Bob Diffinbaugh

“Apart from His sacrificial work on the cross, the most significant thing our Lord did upon the earth was to make disciples. Our Lord had written no books, He had built no organization; there were no physical structures or monuments left to commemorate Him. He had placed the future of His earthly work entirely in the hands of His disciples. Had they failed their task, humanly speaking, the church of Jesus Christ would not exist today.

In the last decade, discipleship has become a popular subject in Christian circles. The great difficulty is that when we use this term we frequently mean something entirely different from that denoted by the biblical term. For instance, we hear much talk about discipling others or being discipled. Being in close proximity to a great seminary, I have seen many young and enthusiastic theologs come and go …..

We almost completely fail to grasp the biblical concept of discipleship. It is interesting that we never find the term ‘disciple’ used with reference to the relationship between Paul and Timothy. As a matter of fact, we find the two primary terms for discipleship employed very frequently in the Gospels, sporadically in the book of Acts, and almost never in the rest of the New Testament. …… What was so important in the life and ministry of our Lord should be very clear to us today who wish to be known as His disciples.”

 

To repeat the quote above – “ What was so important in the life and ministry of our Lord should be very clear to us today who wish to be known as His disciples.”

 

But Who Am I?

How would I like to be defined?

A Disciple , a Christian, a Believer in Christ, or a Saint?

Which identity describes my blessedness?  How would God name me?

whoami

 

Does the term disciple best describe me? Does it allude to my intention or does it characterize my faith?

Does the term disciple suggest or hint of my noble pursuits?

Should my identity point to my intents and integrity as one who follows and learns from Jesus or should it point to my God Who set me apart, cleanse me, sanctified me and qualified me to be His ?

If the apostles were to write to a group of us, how would they address us?

Or does the term “saint” best describe the love of God and His sole initiative and awesome and amazing grace to set me apart and give me the gift of repentance and gift of faith to be incorporated into His glorious kingdom?

 

 

“Personal Commitment to Jesus. During Jesus’ earthly ministry the disciple was to “follow” Jesus, an allegiance to his person regarded as the decisive act, whether a literal or figurative attachment. Jewish disciples would follow their master around, often literally imitating him. The goal of Jewish disciples was someday to become masters, or rabbis, themselves, and to have their own disciples who would follow them. But Jesus’ disciples were to remain disciples of their Master and Teacher, Jesus, and to follow him only. Following Jesus means togetherness with him and service to him while traveling on the Way.”

(Michael J. Wilkins)

 

And lastly to quote Jerry Bridges again –

I believe grace motivates a person to obedience. I use Isaiah’s experience – the vision in Isaiah 6 – as a paradigm. At the conclusion of my sermon on Isaiah 6, I said that passage can be summed up in four words: God, guilt, grace, and gratitude. God’s holiness, our guilt, the gospel of God’s grace, and Isaiah’s gratitude is expressed. When God said, “Who shall I send?” Isaiah didn’t ask where he would go and what he would do. Instead, he answered, “Here am I.” And I believe that when we read of Jesus’ experience with the sinful women in Luke 7, we are seeing only the tail end of the story. The only way we can understand that story is to assume she had a prior encounter with Jesus and had become acutely aware of her sin and received his forgiveness. So now she comes out of gratitude to wash his feet. The parable of the debtor brings that out, of course. I define grace these days not just as unmerited favor. I say without guilt there’s no grace. So I define grace in this fashion: it is God’s blessings through Christ to the people who deserved his curse.

 

Thank you Heavenly Father for calling me and saving me, cleaning me up so that Your Holy Spirit can indwell me, and sealing Him in me, never to leave, and making me Your child – yes a saint, called, set-apart and sanctified.  Indeed You are Great, Good, full and overflowing with Grace to me!

Disciples are made, not born (according to a bestselling author.)

But Saints are Born, nod made!

 

Make Disciples (5) – more of Jerry Bridges

Kristen Wetherell, reporting on an interview with Jerry Bridges in 2016 wrote :-

If you’ve become discouraged by your Christian life; if you often feel the weight of condemnation; if you think God has a low opinion of you or is often frustrated by your efforts; if you believe your good works get you higher marks on his judgment scale, you need to preach the gospel to yourself!

Performance is the default mode of every human: thinking we have to do good works to please God (and even other people). Our identities have become wrapped up in our own accomplishments, the opinions of others, and even the spiritual disciplines we practice, rather than the once-for-all saving work of Jesus Christ.

Author Jerry Bridges wants us to remember the gospel by preaching it to ourselves on a daily basis.”

http://unlockingthebible.org/how-to-preach-the-gospel-to-yourself-an-interview-with-jerry-bridges/

 

So I need to preach the Gospel to myself everyday!  I must return to the Gospel of Grace, the power of God to sozo me totally.  My identity is not wrapped up in my performance and discipleship, not even my spiritual disciplines and service to make disciples!   (more of this in the next post – what does it really mean?)

 

And again from the previous post –

http://www.signetringministries.org/2009/10/25/breakfast-with-mr-bridges/

Bridges preaches and teaches Gospel-driven sanctification. The call of conformity to the image of Christ is given throughout the Scriptures. However, it becomes easy for us to become, in Bridge’s words, “duty-driven” rather than “gospel-driven.” To further define, we often see the pursuit of sanctification as something we must do to earn or remain in God’s favor. This thought may be a subtle thought in the believer’s mind. Yet, we still can fall into this erroneous way of thinking. Bridges clearly and boldly established that we are called to pursue conformity to the image of Christ because we are saved. We are totally pure in the eyes of God because what Christ has done on the cross. We are totally secure in the love of God because of what Christ is doing right now—interceding for us at God right hand. We are destined for the resurrection because of His promise to raise us up with Christ when He returns. These are the truths that should be spurring us on to good works, and causing us to pursue holiness.”   

 

Jerry Bridges influenced and impacted many – notable is his call to return to the Gospel of Grace.  Appended are articles and interviews by various people –

 

http://www.booksataglance.com/author-interviews/interview-with-jerry-bridges-on-his-autobiography-god-took-me-by-the-hand-part-2/

“Shortly after The Pursuit of Holiness was published a large evangelical church in our city asked me to teach it as one of the electives in a 10-week Bible study program. Preparing for these lectures forced me to go back to the book. Toward the end of the 10-week series I thought to myself, “There is not enough gospel in this book. ……. I spent the next 10 years thinking about the role of the gospel in the pursuit of holiness. Finally, in 1991, what began as the chapter I wish I had written became a full-fledged book entitled Transforming Grace. This was followed in subsequent years by two other books The Discipline of Grace and The Transforming Power of the Gospel.

 

with C.J. Mahaney

(http://www.cjmahaney.com/blog/an-interview-with-jerry-bridges/)

Jerry: Well, I preached the gospel to myself in light of the fact that I was coming here to teach and one of my favorite phrases, which is not a biblical phrase, but it is based on the Bible, is from the old hymn “Christ the Solid Rock.” This says, “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.” And I just said to the Lord, “Lord, my hope for any blessing on my ministry today at The Pastors College is based on Jesus’ blood and righteousness. His death to pay for my sin, his righteousness imputed to me.”

CJ: Well, let me add my own recommendation. The Discipline of Grace is, I think, a must read and I recommend and have recommended for years that individuals read, in particular the first three chapters, although I commend the entire book, but the first three chapters every day for the rest of your life.

 

And from the Spurgeon Fellowship Journal

(http://www.thespurgeonfellowship.org/journal/int_sp09.pdf)

JB: So there was this barrenness, and I suspect it was due to the modernist/fundamentalist debate. They lost sight of the gospel and the fundamentalists took the theological and moral high ground, becoming very self-righteous. Of course, when you’re self-righteous, you don’t need the gospel because the gospel is only for sinners. Even though I’m a saved sinner, I am still a practicing sinner which means I must preach the gospel to myself everyday. But if you’re looking down your nose at other people then you don’t recognize your own need for the gospel. So that’s my suspicion; that is where it started. I was born in 1929 so I grew up in that era. The first 15 years of my ministry could be described as an “ought-to” ministry. I was always saying, “you ought-to do this.” Thankfully, by God’s grace, I recognized the error of my ways. Now I would like to describe it as a “want-to” ministry. I hope people “want-to” to obey because they have been motivated by the gospel.  

JB: I believe grace motivates a person to obedience. I use Isaiah’s experience – the vision in Isaiah 6 – as a paradigm. At the conclusion of my sermon on Isaiah 6, I said that passage can be summed up in four words: God, guilt, grace, and gratitude. God’s holiness, our guilt, the gospel of God’s grace, and Isaiah’s gratitude is expressed. When God said, “Who shall I send?” Isaiah didn’t ask where he would go and what he would do. Instead, he answered, “Here am I.” And I believe that when we read of Jesus’ experience with the sinful women in Luke 7, we are seeing only the tail end of the story. The only way we can understand that story is to assume she had a prior encounter with Jesus and had become acutely aware of her sin and received his forgiveness. So now she comes out of gratitude to wash his feet. The parable of the debtor brings that out, of course. I define grace these days not just as unmerited favor. I say without guilt there’s no grace. So I define grace in this fashion: it is God’s blessings through Christ to the people who deserved his curse.

AA: So we’re not un-meriting; rather, we are ill-meriting.

JB: Yes; we are ill-meriting and ill-worthy.

AA: Right!

AA: If you were asked to address a group of pastors in a conference setting and given complete freedom to preach your passions, what subjects would you address and why?

JB: Living by the gospel. I would eventually get into progressive sanctification but I would start with the gospel. At Sinclair Ferguson’s church I am going to preach on 2 Corinthians 5:14-15. We are constrained by the love of Christ. I spent too many years preaching “ought-to” and that’s the way I lived. And I can recall one day when I was going through 2 Corinthians and the Holy Spirit arrested me with the phrase “Christ’s love compels me.” I asked myself, “What compels me?” And my answer was “duty.” Duty is a high virtue for me. I realized, however, that my sense of duty would not last a lifetime. I prayed, “God, will you begin to compel me by your love?” He led me back to the gospel. AA: It’s the performance treadmill you talk about in Transforming Grace, right? JB: Yes. But you see, the way to the cross is through our sin. We don’t need the cross until we see our sin. The gospel frees you up to be honest about your sin. Without the gospel you have to live in denial. Otherwise, you can’t take it. AA: You mean, as a self-righteous person? JB: Yes, as a self-righteous person you live in denial. But when you see the gospel and when you see that Christ really has died for your sin and you really have been forgiven, then it’s okay to be honest. When the Holy Spirit convicts of sin you don’t fight with it; rather, you say, “Okay Lord, that’s true. That’s the way I am. But thanks be to God for the gospel.

 

 

In March 2016, the Logos Bible Software blog put up a “in memory of Jerry Bridges – with a roundup of articles and quotes” –

https://blog.logos.com/2016/03/in-memory-of-jerry-bridges-a-roundup-of-articles-and-quotes/

The fourth great truth that I learned was the necessity of preaching the gospel to myself every day. I learned to look to Christ as my righteousness rather than to my own performance. Early in my Christian life, I had gone from one extreme, what I call self-effort — this is what the Bible says, so just obey it — to the opposite extreme — you can’t do anything, just trust Jesus to live his life through you. . . . I am responsible to deal with sin, I am responsible to grow in the fruit of the Spirit, but I am dependent on the enabling power of Christ through the Holy Spirit to enable me to do that.”

 

(Next – what does it mean to be a disciple)

Make Disciples (4) – Breakfast with Jerry Bridges

Jerry Bridges went to be with his savior in 2016, after working for nearly 60 years with the Navigators – THE disciple-making ministry.  In his lifetime, a few of his books became classics – The Pursuit of Holiness, The Practice of Godliness.  Less well-known are his other powerful books which steers readers back to the indicatives of the Gospel of Grace – Transforming Grace, The Discipline of Grace and The Gospel for Real Life. (I’ve highly given and recommended these 3 books to others to remind ourselves that it is all by HIS Grace, and not be MY discipleship.)

Jerry Bridges reminds me of the Navigators with the mission to “spread the Good News of Jesus Christ by establishing life-on-life mentoring—or discipling—relationships with people, equipping them to make an impact on those around them for God’s glory.”

Indeed not only a prolific writer, but one who is profound and perceptive – in the ways and workings of God! I am grateful and glad that the Lord has raised him to remind ‘disciples’ and ‘disciple-makers’ that we must anchor our efforts and energy on Jesus, and the Holy Spirit Whom He sent, lest we lose sight of Jesus and His good news of grace, the power to sozo us in all ways, always.

 

Appended below is a Ryan Habbena‘s account of his breakfast with Jerry Bridges, followed by excerpts from J Bridges’ books.

 

Bridges preaches and teaches Gospel-driven sanctification. The call of conformity to the image of Christ is given throughout the Scriptures. However, it becomes easy for us to become, in Bridge’s words, “duty-driven” rather than “gospel-driven.” To further define, we often see the pursuit of sanctification as something we must do to earn or remain in God’s favor. This thought may be a subtle thought in the believer’s mind. Yet, we still can fall into this erroneous way of thinking. Bridges clearly and boldly established that we are called to pursue conformity to the image of Christ because we are saved. We are totally pure in the eyes of God because what Christ has done on the cross. We are totally secure in the love of God because of what Christ is doing right now—interceding for us at God right hand. 

http://www.signetringministries.org/2009/10/25/breakfast-with-mr-bridges/

 

From “Transforming Grace”

The grace of God is one of the most important subjects in all of Scripture. At the same time it is probably one of the least understood.

The realization that my daily relationship with God is based on the infinite merit of Christ instead of on my own performance is a very freeing and joyous experience. But it is not meant to be a one-time experience; the truth needs to be reaffirmed daily.

My observation of Christendom is that most of us tend to base our personal relationship with God on our performance instead of on His grace. If we’ve performed well—whatever “well” is in our opinion—then we expect God to bless us. If we haven’t done so well, our expectations are reduced accordingly. In this sense, we live by works rather than by grace. We are saved by grace, but we are living by the “sweat” of our own performance.

Moreover, we are always challenging ourselves and one another to “try harder.” We seem to believe success in the Christian life (however we define success) is basically up to us: our commitment, our discipline, and our zeal, with some help from God along the way.

Here is a spiritual principle regarding the grace of God: To the extent you are clinging to any vestiges of self-righteousness or are putting any confidence in your own spiritual attainments, to that degree you are not living by the grace of God in your life.

 

From “The Discipline of Grace”

.. the day when your spiritual disciplines are all in place and you are reasonably satisfied with your Christian performance. Have you thereby earned God’s blessing that day? Will God be pleased to bless you because you’ve been good? You are probably thinking, Well, when you put it like that, the answer is no. But doesn’t God only work through clean vessels? To which I reply, “Let’s assume that is true. How good then do you have to be to be a clean vessel? How good is good enough?”

When one of the Pharisees asked Jesus, “‘Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?’ Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself'” (Matthew 2236-39).

Using Jesus’ response to the Pharisee as a standard, how good has your good day been? Have you perfectly kept those two commandments? If not, does God grade on a curve? Is 90 percent a passing grade with God? We know the answers to those questions, don’t we? We know that Jesus said, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). And we remember that James wrote, “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it” (James 2:10).

The point of this good-day-bad-day comparison is this: Regardless of our performance, we are always dependent on God’s grace, His undeserved favor to those who deserve His wrath.

 

(I am like the Ethiopian –  Acts 8 30 So Philip ran to him and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” 31 And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him”

Jerry Bridges is my Philip!