Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Army of Spears

Last Sunday, our pastor spoke of the origin of his last name. My wife did a little research and found the origins of our last name on It is English from a Norman personal name composed of the Germanic elements hari, heri ‘army’ + gar, ger ‘spear’, ‘lance’. In other words, we are an army of spears, only our spears are the word of God!

“For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword” Hebrews 4:12 (New International Version).

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Just Do It!

Continuing with our look at Spiritual Discipleship

The second chapter in Sander’s book is “Conditions of Discipleship.”

“Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple” Luke 14:27 (ESV)

Oswald opens this chapter discussing how Jesus seems to be “intent on alienating [the crowd’s] interest and actually discouraging them from following him.” He goes on to say, “The line Jesus took with the impressionable crowd was the exact opposite of much evangelism today.” Rather than focusing on the benefits of following him as a disciple, he spoke of the “difficulties and dangers” and “sacrifices.” Jesus was not interested in the number of people who followed him; he was interested in the quality of those who chose to make the necessary sacrifice to be disciples (pp. 19-21).

We must challenge not only ourselves, but also those around us to “bear [our] own cross” and be true disciples of Jesus Christ. It will be difficult. It may be dangerous. It will definitely demand sacrifice. However, as Oswald writes, “following Christ is not a joyless experience” (p. 24). True joy and happiness come to those who follow Jesus Christ. And if that is not incentive enough, try following the popular directive, “Just do it!”

Holy Bible. (2001). English standard version. Wheaton, IL: Standard Bible Society.

Sanders, J. O. (1990). Spiritual discipleship: Principles of following Christ for every believer. Chicago: The Moody Bible Institute.

Monday, July 27, 2009

The “Rest” of the Story

Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall by following their example of disobedience. For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account. Heb 4:11-13 (New International Version)

As with many books of the Bible, Hebrews is one I have read many times, yet each time I read it I glean more knowledge and insight. This morning is no exception.

My daily reading led me to chapter 4. I have been reading from different translations over the past few days, and this morning I read from the NIV Study Bible. The wording and study notes helped me understand what it means to enter into the rest of God, and how our faith determines our ability to do so. As I often do, I pulled out another translation to compare.

This morning I reached for the ESV Study Bible and read the same verses and accompanying study notes. The ESV study notes are a bit more cumbersome to read and understand, but well worth the time and effort to work through. This morning, however, it was not so much the study notes that sparked the “ah-huh” moment for me as it was the grammatical structure of the text.

In the NIV (and several other translations), the paragraph on God’s rest ends with verse 11, and a new paragraph begins with verse 12. In the ESV (and the NASB), the paragraph ends with verse 10, and a new paragraph begins with verse 11. You may be asking, “So, what’s the big deal?” Well, the fact that the paragraph in the ESV begins with verse 11 ties that particular verse in with 12 & 13; and in so doing helped me to understand the context of verses 12 & 13 in relation to verse 11.

In other words, there is more to entering the rest of God than simply taking a day of rest; we must also be faithfully obedient. Moreover, we cannot fool God if we try to deceive ourselves by our actions. “The word of God is living and active…discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” Hebrews 4:12 (ESV). God knows if we are living our lives in faith or not; we cannot fool him. In order to enter the rest of God, we must strive to live our lives in faith and obedience to God. We must understand and accept what Jesus Christ did for us, and place our trust in Him. Only then are we truly able to enter into the rest of God.

Holy Bible. (2008). The ESV study Bible: English standard version. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

Holy Bible. (2002). Zondervan NIV study Bible (Fully Revised). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Blessed are the Merciful…

Continuing with our look at Spiritual Discipleship, J. Oswald Sanders discusses the Beatitudes in the chapter, The Ideal Disciple.

He begins the chapter with the statement,

The Old Covenant of law could pronounce only a curse on those who failed to fulfill its demands. The New Covenant, which was sealed with Christ’s blood, does not reduce the law’s demands but imparts the desire and the dynamic to fulfill them. The “thou shalt, thou shalt not” of the Old is replace by the “I will, I will” of the New. (p. 11)

What a great way to put it. Rather than being a list of rules to follow, the New Testament is an inspiration to follow the example of Jesus Christ.

Sanders goes on to outline the Beatitudes into eight conditions of life. The first four are passive personal qualities: spiritual inadequacy, spiritual contrition, spiritual humility, and spiritual aspiration. The next four are active social qualities: compassionate in spirit, pure in heart, conciliatory in spirit, and unswerving in loyalty.

The quality that strikes a chord with me is compassionate in spirit. Sanders writes, “It is possible to have a passion for righteousness and yet lack compassion and mercy for those who have failed to attain it” (p. 15). He goes on to write, “To become mercy, [pity] must graduate from mere emotion to compassionate action.” In other words, to be merciful, we must be willing to do more than just feel pity; we must be willing to do something. More than that, we must be willing to encourage those who have fallen into sin to turn away from sin and turn to Christ. Perhaps if we were less inclined to judge, and more inclined to show mercy we would see more come to know Christ. “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy” Matthew 5:7 (English Standard Version).

Sanders, J. O. (1990). Spiritual discipleship: Principles of following Christ for every believer. Chicago: The Moody Bible Institute.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Do we practice the doctrine of “easy believism?”

In the introduction of his book, Spiritual Discipleship, J. Oswald Sanders discusses the meaning of the word discipleship. He gets right to the heart of the matter when he says, “It is one thing to master the biblical principles of discipleship, but quite another to transfer those principles into everyday life” (p. 8). In other words, there is more to discipleship than just knowing God; we must live what we know. “It means living with the purpose to obey what is learned. It involves a deliberate choice, a definite denial, and a determined obedience” (p. 8); otherwise, we are only practicing what Sanders refers to as the doctrine of “easy believism.”

Jesus Christ is looking for disciples who will commit to a lifelong walk of learning, loving, and living the teachings of Jesus Christ. Are you willing to make such a commitment? It is not always easy, but the rewards are eternal.

Over the next few days, as I read Spiritual Discipleship, I will share with you my thoughts and comments of what he writes in this book. The first chapter is “The Ideal Disciple.” Until then…

Sanders, J. O. (1990). Spiritual discipleship: Principles of following Christ for every believer. Chicago: The Moody Bible Institute.