Pursuing God’s Culture of Discipleship (Pt 2 The Gospel)

 “Let us always remember that Christ calls men and women not only to trust Him as Savior, but also to follow Him as Lord. That call to discipleship must be part of our message if we are to be faithful to Him.” Billy Graham

If we want to personally embrace, and help guide people towards Jesus’ call of discipleship, it must touch our identity.  We have to first see ourselves and our calling to both become and help make disciples.  If this identity isn’t in our foundation, any attempts at discipleship will become another dead religious work.  It will be going through motions without an inward Spiritual drive motivating them.  A dead work can be defined as doing religious things without real ongoing connection with, and direction from Christ.

Foundations are so important. The way people come into Christ and the church usually determines how they will walk once they are there. What are they committed to by being there? Are their lives actually being transformed by Jesus? A. W. Tozer said it well, “We can know the right words yet never be changed. This is the difference between information and transformation.”

” We can know the right words yet never be changed. This is the difference between information and transformation.”

Biblical traits that will be found among people who are following Him as disciples.

  • Following Jesus and being led by the Spirit (Romans 8).
  • Bearing the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5).
  • Pursuing and exhibiting the mind of Christ (Philippians 2).
  • Living out the characteristics of Love according to God’s definition (Jn 3:16, 1 Jn 3:16, 1 Cor. 13 and 1 John 4).
  • Pursuing the Biblical practice “putting off the old person and putting on the new, Jesus” (Colossians 3, Romans 13:8-14).
  • Engaging in His mission every day, everywhere, all the time as we are sent out by Jesus  (Jn 17:18, 20:21).
  • Continual pursuit of a Spirit filled life through which we make progress and move in His power (John 7:37:38, Acts 1:8, Ephesians 5:18).

Proper Foundations Begin With The Gospel

Shallow or incomplete presentations of the gospel will produce shallow Christians. A wrong perspective of what Christianity is all about will affect discipleship. Progress is often blocked because it is tied by the background assumption of what people believe the gospel is about and their understanding of what it is to be a Christian.

Often Christianity and salvation are reduced to confessing your belief that Jesus died on your behalf. That is all there is to it. Salvation is free and nothing else needs to happen but accept it. Is that really all the gospel is? We tend to treat the experience of conversion as something entirely separate from the process of following Him as a disciple (Mt 28:18-29).

 What are some of the incomplete versions of the gospel?

  • The prosperity and affluence gospel.  In this gospel, the right to prosperity and happiness IS the cause. The things of God exist for me to have the best life now in terms of personal dream fulfillment and an affluent lifestyle.  The great quest for our lives is to develop our faith in order to claim our rights to prosperity and affluence.  It produces an entitlement mentality and a subtle motivation of managing the things of God towards personal ends.
  • The forgiveness for heaven gospel.  This tends to foster a type of person that is much like the old vampire movies I watched as a young unbeliever.  People aren’t that concerned about a real relationship. Like the vampires, they just relate enough to get the effect of the blood in their lives.   Once they get the effect of His blood in them they want little more to do with Jesus until they get to heaven.  This tends to create Christians who are not disciples.  The message is “be forgiven.”  Following Christ is optional.
  • Liberal gospel of moral therapeutic deism.  Conversion is about improving the quality of your life by feeling better about yourself, doing good works, becoming a better person, working for justice, and helping needy people.  Absolute truth and clear standards are optional.  The goal is to have a better feeling about our life and its meaning.  In this gospel, instead of following Jesus and exhibiting the culture of heaven, there is more of an accommodation of the earth’s culture to stay relevant and appealing.
  • The consumer gospel.  God exists to fulfill our lives in a variety of areas and give us a sense of personal self-worth and fulfillment.  The church and religious programs are simple means to get what we need to make our dreams come true.  God is happy if we are happy. It promises to provide everything a person on the go needs: convenience, speed, sound-bite theology, and instant results.  Since impatience is the besetting sin in the west, the consumer gospel replaces the slow and difficult path of authentic spiritual maturity with methods and programs that give fast and easy results.  Our sins are taken off the table and the deeper life of discipleship is optional, something we can pursue if we have time.  This gospel creates people who become finicky consumers who shop for churches and programs that quickly and efficiently meet their needs. If they can find an easier or better one they go to that one.
  • The religious rightness gospel.  This gospel tends to prioritize correct doctrine, adherence to a narrow behavioral and moral code, and an exclusiveness of truth. The goal is that we become more right than everyone else so we feel better about our faith.  It forms a mentality that we are better than others, like the Pharisees.  Why, because we have THE truth.
  • The gospel of the Kingdom.  This is the Biblical gospel (Mt 4:23, 9:35, 24:14, Lk 16:16).  It is the proclamation of the loving rule and reign of Christ over all of life.  Through Jesus’ incarnation, perfect life, death (bearing our sin and suffering God’s wrath for us in order to justify), and His resurrection triumph, we have the opportunity to live in Him.  We are accepted by God, set free from sin and wrath, and brought under the loving Lordship of Jesus.  This was the first message that the early church proclaimed, “God has made Him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified” (Acts 2:38-42).

As we confess Him as Lord and come under His loving rule we are delivered from the bondage and power of sin. As we believe, follow, and begin to obey (put into practice) His word, we are progressively set free from the damaging effects of sin and enjoy life in Him.  The entrance has always been the same. Jesus is the door (entrance) to the Kingdom (Jn 10:7-9).

As we continue to follow and obey, we continue to be set free  John 8:31-36 So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine;  (32)  and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free…(36) who the Son sets free is free indeed.

Unfortunately, we can cheapen the gospel to the point people buy in without selling out to Jesus. 

Sin at its core is selfishness.  It is enthroning you, your desires, your needs, and your plans, then worshipping them.  Unfortunately, we can cheapen the gospel to the point people buy in without selling out to Jesus.  It becomes believing without following.  It is comfortable, convenient, and me-centric.  It becomes more about Him following us to fulfill our desires rather than us following Him in order to fulfill His desires.  This is not the gospel.  This type of gospel will not have the effect of people following Him, being truly set free, and living for His sake.

Enter the text or HTML code here

Share

God’s People Pursuing A Culture of Discipleship (Pt 1)

Discipleship isn’t learning more information about Jesus. It is knowing and following Him in the context of His people as we progressively put His commandments into practice while pursuing His mission.

John 15:8 My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples.

3 John 1:4 I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth.

Many churches and leaders believe that they are succeeding if they can produce a Sunday morning service which both appeals to people and motivates them to attend. What about the people who sit in the audience week after week? What about their ongoing motivation in following Jesus and maturing? Meeting attendees are often left to themselves when it comes to following Jesus, growth, and maturity.

The things we experience on Sunday morning should produce a change on Monday Morning.

There is often little motivation in the cultural atmosphere of the church for people to go forward and make progress. For those serious enough to want to go further there are Bible studies and various other groups provided for “discipleship,” but what about the motivational atmosphere in the church culture? Is there an atmosphere that motivates people to follow Jesus, put His words into practice, and live as a family of disciples on His mission?

Having quality Sunday morning services are important but those gatherings can never take the place of people walking together in real everyday life following Jesus, and helping each other put His words into practice while pursing His mission. This is essential to becoming and making disciples who progressing towards maturity (Eph 4:16, Col 2:19).

Gods people are not called to merely attend services. They are called to follow Jesus They are called to become and help make disciples.  Matthew 28:18-20, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. (19) “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, (20) teaching them to observe (put into practice) all that I commanded you.

This was how the early Christians lived. So much so that they were labeled disciples way more than Christians. Acts 11:26…the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch. The designation of “disciple” was used 269 times in the New Testament while the designation “Christian” was used only 3 times (Acts 11:26, 26:28, 1Pet 4:16)

What does the term “disciple” mean? According to Bible dictionaries, a disciple is “a follower, learner, and an adherent.” The Biblical idea is increasingly loving, following, and obeying Jesus in all areas of life.  We are called to both become and help others become disciples who follow Him and put his words into practice.

We need more than discipleship programs in the church. We need to see a discipleship culture. If discipleship doesn’t reside in the culture of a church then the Great Commission becomes a great option leading to the great omission.

We need more than discipleship programs in the church. We need to see a discipleship culture. If discipleship doesn’t reside in the culture of a church then the Great Commission becomes a great option leading to the great omission.

What would it be like if we had a church culture where becoming and making disciples was a natural part of what everyone did? What if discipleship wasn’t just a program or strategic plan but a culture involving shared values, language, vision, and a common life centered around helping people walk as disciples of Jesus.

We need to be intentional and have a passion for becoming and making disciples. We need a Spiritual inward drive and a cultural motivation in the church to see God’s people live as a relational family of disciples walking together on God’s mission. It is a culture where every person is involved in the process of helping each other as God’s family on God’s mission.

Cultural change starts with the gospel we embrace and proclaim.

The way people come into Christ and the church usually determines how they will walk. What are they committed to by being there? What participation do they exhibit that leads to what the Bible considers growth and maturity? Are their lives actually being transformed by Jesus? AW Tozer said it well, “We can know the right words yet never be changed. This is the difference between information and transformation.”

” We can know the right words yet never be changed. This is the difference between information and transformation.”

Are these Biblical traits of maturity being developed among God’s people?

  • Are people following Jesus, being led by the Spirit (Romans 8)?
  • Are people bearing the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5)?
  • Are people exhibiting the mind of Christ (Philippians 2)?
  • Are people actually taking on the character of love according to God’s definition (Jn 3:16, 1 Jn 3:16, 1 Cor. 13 and 1 John 4)?
  • Are people pursuing “putting off the old person and putting on the new, Jesus” (Colossians 3, Romans 13:8-14)?
  • Are people engaging His mission as they are sent out every day, everywhere, all the time (Jn 17:18, 20:21)?

Shallow or incomplete presentations of the gospel will produce shallow Christians. A wrong perspective on what Christianity is all about will affect discipleship. Progress is often blocked because it is tied by the background assumption of what people believe the gospel is about and their understanding of what it is to be a Christian.

Often Christianity and salvation are reduced to confessing your belief that Jesus died on your behalf. That is all there is to it. Salvation is free and nothing else needs to happen but accept it. Is that really all the gospel is? We tend to treat the experience of conversion as something entirely separate from the process of following Him as a disciple (Mt 28:18-29).  More next time.

Enter the text or HTML code here

Share

Discipleship in the Midst of Busy Lives

discipleshipEveryone serving Jesus is called to both become and help make disciples.  This is the Great Commission.  Matthew 28:19-20  “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit,  (20)  teaching them to observe (put into practice) all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always.

Becoming and making disciples of the Lord is different than making decisions for the Lord.  It is more than simply deciding to believe that Jesus died for our sins.  Even the demons believe that (James 2:19). Disciples are those who follow Jesus and are learning to obey (put into practice) His word in every area of their lives.   Discipleship isn’t simply gaining information about Jesus but learning how to put into practice all that He said in our everyday life.

How can we really do that in the midst of lives that are already too busy?   We live in a fast-paced world where we can hardly find time for God or our families.  We can barely get everything done before collapsing in bed at the end of an overwhelming day.

It is helpful to consider the way Jesus did it.  Making disciples wasn’t a program. Discipleship was a relational way of living.   His grand strategy was simple.  In the course of living everyday life and facing everyday situations, He modeled, taught, spoke about the Kingdom, and helped shape God’s life in the people who were around Him. As he shared life with them God’s word rubbed off on those who followed Him. Unplanned events were often Diving opportunities to learn how God’s Kingdom works in everyday life.

Jesus’ strategy for discipleship wasn’t classroom or curriculum-based, it was relational based.

American Christianity often thinks of discipleship in terms of programs (“Discipleship Training Night, Discipleship Class, Discipleship Huddle Groups etc.), but Jesus did it in the midst of everyday life.   Mark 3:14  And He ordained twelve, that they should be with Him, and that He might send them out. Jesus’ strategy for discipleship wasn’t classroom or curriculum-based, it was relational based.  It was mostly unplanned opportunities that came up in the everyday rhythms of life that became the impetus for “teaching them to obey” God’s commands.

Jesus' strategy for discipleship wasn't classroom or curriculum-based, it was relational based. Click To Tweet

Here are some important things to keep in mind so we don’t see discipleship as a program or another busy chore in the midst of lives that are too busy.

  • Opportunities for discipleship are everywhere and anytime.

The way Jesus lived among His disciples included both planned and unplanned opportunities for discipleship.  In the course of everyday life serving God together, unplanned people and events came along and Jesus was able to bring God’s Kingdom perspective in them.

  • Discipleship is relational.

People aren’t projects they are friends.  Discipleship is about helping our friends learn to follow and obey what Jesus said.  It takes living life among people.  It is about being who we are and showing the Kingdom perspective in every area of life.

  • Include people in your everyday life.

It is having people join you, or you join them in real life stuff instead of just a meeting or a program.   The best way to help people put into practice His word in everyday life is to have examples from everyday life.  If you have to run an errand or work on something around the house include people in it.  If you have to go serve someone take them with you.

  • To learn how to obey Jesus in real life we have to live real life.

We aren’t rushing off to a discipleship class or program.  It is people being around us in the course of real life. It is where people see our successes, failures, and responses to challenges in the everyday life of being a husband, wife, son, daughter, employee, and steward of our resources.   Learning how to confess sins, repent, and restore relationships when we falter is an important part of discipleship.  I like how Jesus said in Matthew 11.  The MSG translation uses the term “unforced rhythms of grace.”  This takes the pressure off in the midst of busyness.  Mt 11:28-30 “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

  • Learn how to work from rest, not always striving to rest from work.

When we work from rest we actually find life in God’s work. This is how Jesus, in the midst of physical exhaustion, engaged with the woman at the well and found God’s life in the midst of it.  Out of rest He joined the Father in His work finding fresh life to which He replied to His disciples when they returned from getting food for Him,  John 4:34 Jesus *said to them, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to accomplish His work. We actually gain life when we work with what God is doing instead of feeling a burden of trying to produce it ourselves.

If we approach discipleship from a place of rest then it isn’t more work we need to do.  It is a life-giving thing we get to do.    Hebrews 4:10-11  For the one who has entered His rest has himself also rested from his works, as God did from His.  (11) Therefore let us be diligent to enter that rest.

 

Enter the text or HTML code here

Share

When Did We Separate Being a Christian From Being a Disciple?

Acts 11:26…the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.  

When did God’s people get the permission to separate the idea of being a Christian and being a disciple?  If we consider the Great Commission Jesus gave His people in Matthew 28 the idea of discipleship is at its core.  Jesus’ call was to “make disciples who are learning to put into practice everything He said.”

Matthew 28:19-20  “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit,  (20)  teaching them to observe (put into practice) all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always.

Unfortunately, the church has substituted the idea of making disciples with making decisions.  The church has separated believing in Jesus from following Him as a disciple.  We tend to measure the success of any evangelistic effort, crusade, or event with the question, “how many decisions were made” or “how many people believed or attended?”  What about discipleship?

We must be careful that we are not substituting the idea of making a decision with becoming a… Click To Tweet

What is a disciple?  Bible dictionaries define the word disciple with ideas like “a follower, learner, or an adherent.”  If you look at discipleship in light of the Great Commission it is following Jesus and learning how to put into practice everything He has said.   It is a way of life following and learning to obey Him. This is way different than simply deciding to believe in Jesus. Consider some of the Biblical statistics concerning discipleship.

  • Jesus called people to “follow Him” 25 times in the Gospels while calling them to “believe in Him” only 4 times.  The emphasis is clearly on being a disciple.  Even James despairingly says that “you believe God is one, that’s fine, but even the demons believe that and tremble” (James 2:18).  God’s people should have a little more faith than demons.
  • The New Testament refers to God’s people as “disciples” 269 times while it uses the designation “Christian” only 3 times.  One of the 3 says, “the disciples were first called Christians at Antioch” Acts 11:26.  The Biblical emphasis is clearly on discipleship.

All through the Bible God asked people questions to get at the root of false ideas they had embraced.  Here are some crucial questions we need to ask ourselves to get at the heart of God’s design for discipleship.

“Christianity without discipleship is always Christianity without Christ.”  Bonehoeffer

  1. When did we separate the Matthew 28 Commission into two completely separate parts, being baptized and being made a disciple who follows Him? 
  2. How did we arrive at a salvation that makes room for believing but not following and obeying? 
  3. How do we think that we can be servants of Jesus without following Him? Jn 12:26 “If any of you wants to serve me, then follow me. Then you’ll be where I am, ready to serve at a moment’s notice. 
  4. When did we allow for a state in which we believe in Jesus but do not continually follow and seek to put His word into practice?  Jesus seems to indicate that this produces false disciples instead of true ones.  John 8:30-32  As He spoke these things, many came to believe in Him.  (31)  So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine;  (32)  and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”

Christianity that doesn’t follow Jesus

Over the past 200 years, American Christians have fostered a brand of Christianity centered around offering programs in order to attract people to a meeting.  The Sunday service is the main point of attraction.  This approach fosters a mentality that church is an audience of spectators and consumers rather than a group of people who are following Jesus and seeking to put His word into practice.

Attractional Christianity fosters a consumer mentality that is always looking for the best deal for personal interest.   Commitment is rare in this model.  The focus becomes the consumer’s needs, wants, and desires rather than Jesus’ desires.

…Christ did not appoint professors, but followers. Soren Kierkegaard

In the consumer model, people attend in order to have a better week, better life, better family, better finances, and more feelings of satisfaction and happiness.  They rarely live or serve in the sacrificial way that Jesus consistently called His people to.  He wasn’t looking for members who casually join an organization or attend meetings, but people who would “lay their life down to follow Him together with others.”

Mt 16:24-26 MSG Then Jesus went to work on his disciples. “Anyone who intends to follow Me has to let Me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self. What kind of deal is it to get everything you want but lose yourself? What could you ever trade your soul for?( Mk 8:34-37 Lk 9:23-27)

We need a revolution of discipleship

One of the greatest Ameican theologians of the past 150 years, H Richard Niebuhr said something very important that we need to seek God for today.

“The great Christian revolutions came not by the discovery of something that was not there before. They happen when someone takes radically something that has always been there.”  H Richard Niebuhr

As I have studied church history for almost 40 years I have seen this played out over and over among God’s people.  One generation discovers something in a fresh way that had previously been neglected and God brings about great advancement through it.   I believe we are in need of a fresh revolution of discipleship.  Without  God’s design for discipleship being in the fabric of the church then Great Commission will become the great omission that leaves discipleship out. The 21st-century church desperately needs a restoration of God’s calling for everyone to be disciples.

What would the church look like if all of its members were following Jesus and seeking to put into practice everything He said?  This may sound like a pipe dream but it really is God’s design!  What would the church look like?  Just like what Jesus said it would, the salt of the earth, the light of the world, a city set on a hill that radiates the glory of God.

 

 

Enter the text or HTML code here

Share

God’s Bigger Purpose for Prayer

A godly man is a praying man. As soon as grace is poured in, prayer is poured out. Prayer is the soul’s traffic with Heaven; God comes down to us by His Spirit, and we go up to Him by prayer.” Watson

When the disciples asked Jesus to teach them how to pray (Luke 11:1, Matthew 6:5-13) He used the phrase “when you pray” over and over.  Matthew 6:5-7 “When you pray...(6) “But you, when you pray…”And when you are praying.  He didn’t say IF you pray but WHEN you pray.  Prayer is to be a normal part of our life so much so that Paul said we are to never stop praying 1Th 5:17 pray without ceasing.  

Prayer is our ongoing means of encountering and communicating with God.  It is like oxygen to our inner man.  It is the continual breathing in of the life of the Living God. 

When Jesus was teaching His disciples on prayer the first order of business was the glory of God and His purposes being done “on earth as it is in heaven.” This was before specific daily needs and guidance.  The focus is on God’s greatness and His will.  It is the continual reminder that He is God and we are not.

A story that highlights this important truth 

The priority of God and His will is in contrast to the way many Christians learn to pray.  Their individual needs, will, and desires are often first and foremost. Here is a story that illustrates this.  Suppose there is life on another planet and the aliens found out that there are people on earth called Christians who have found the God of all creation.  If He is the God of all creation then our alien friends obviously want to find out what this God is all about.

They decided to send an envoy to observe Christians in both their habits and their interactions with God (prayer).  He was invisible so he was able to get an accurate account as he observed.  He watched and listened in on their communication with God.  He listened to their personal prayers.  Some hardly prayed at all while others prayed a little more frequently.  He also attended several varieties of Christians meeting together.  Most of the meetings had “prayer request times” or points in the gatherings where they prayed for each other.

Most of what he heard went something like this.

Pray for my second cousin Bill, he lost his dog and is heartbroken.  Pray that he will be comforted and find his dog.  Pray for me that I have the will power to lose some of those winter pounds so I can fit into my bathing suit for the cruise God helped me win in the drawing at work.  Pray that God would get the devil off my back, he has really been harassing me.  Pray that my daughter does well with her grades so she can get that scholarship to the school she really wants to attend.   Pray that my uncle Bob will feel better.  Pray that I find my favorite shoes I misplaced so I have something to match my new outfit.  I am feeling a little nervous about the challenges of the new job.  Pray that my cranky boss will either change his attitude about me or be removed and cause me to get a better boss.  How about making me the boss.

As the envoy not only observed the way Christians lived but listened to their prayers He was able to quickly determine what this Christian God is about.  He reported to those who sent him, “Christianity is all about the Christian God following His people around to be at their beckoned call.  He exists to give them the kind of life they want (fulfillment and personal happiness). He is always there to remove all obstacles to their happiness and make them feel better about their life and future.  The sum total of His existence is to serve them.  The response of the officials who sent him was both chilling and revealing,  “THIS DOESN’T SOUND LIKE MUCH OF A GOD TO ME.  IT SOUNDS LIKE THE PEOPLE ARE IN CHARGE AND GOD IS THEIR SERVANT ”

Spurgeon, “We should pray when we are in a praying mood, for it would be sinful to neglect so fair an opportunity. We should pray when we are not in a praying mood, for it would be dangerous to remain in so unhealthy a condition.”  

Three things prayer brings to our life

We must understand that prayer has a much broader effect than simply coming to God and asking Him for things.  Scripture speaks of three broad roles that prayer plays in our lives that are critical to living for God.

  1. Prayer first affects our inner life, attitude, and outlook as we come under the force of His gaze.  Through prayer, we become more Christ-like and we become more inclined to do God’s will.  As we come under the force of His gaze (sight) we become softened towards repentance in the things that are hindering Him working in us.  We are also stimulated to do the things of God that may be dormant in our lives.  Through prayer, He works in us what is pleasing in His sight.  Heb 13:20-22…, even Jesus our Lord,  21  equip you in every good thing to do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever.
  2. Prayer affects our revelation and understanding. By praying and seeking God He is able to influence our thinking and sharpen our grasp of His will.  “In His light, we see light” (Ps 36:9).
  3. Prayer intertwines us with God’s heart and we are influenced to live for His will.  The Bible never implies that we can manipulate God through prayer. It does emphasize that God purposely chooses to connect much of what He does with prayer. Our hearts also become intertwined with His causing us to progressively live more for “His sake” nor ours.

Through prayer, there is an important sense of partnership and co-labor with Christ in what He is doing.

If you want help in having a more Christ-centered and less self-centered prayer life here is a resource you can download called “The Theology of Apostolic Prayer.”  It lays out the understanding of praying for God’s will then gives us examples as a guide to every prayer in the New Testament that the writers prayed.  This will help get us on track in co-laboring with God according to His will in prayer.

Enter the text or HTML code here

Share

Keeping Alert in Relating with God

alert-prayerThe things that often cause God’s people to avoid or quit praying is dullness, sluggishness, and drowsiness. There is a great need for alertness in prayer.  Paul says we can do this with “thanksgiving,” and in the Bible, thanksgiving is often associated with shouting.

Shouting is an act God prescribes over and over in His word.  It is something often forgotten or undiscovered in many circles. Many Christians don’t realize how often it is mentioned in the Bible.  Shouting and lifting our voice is by far the most prescribed expression towards God.  Shouting, lifting our voice, crying aloud is mentioned 265 times in the Bible.

Psalms 95:1-2 O come, let us sing for joy to the LORD, Let us shout joyfully to the rock of our salvation.  (2)  Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving, Let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms.

This is in contrast to only about 11 times “silence” is mentioned (most of which are about meditating on things).  Only 3 mentions of silence are in terms of direct interaction with God.  These statistics are amazing when you see them in light of the other physical expressions God encourages His people to express in response to Him.

  • Shouting, lifting our voice, crying aloud 265 times
  • Playing music and instruments 58 times
  • Singing 29 times
  • Lifting our hands 14 times
  • Clapping our hands12 times
  • Bowing or kneeling 12 times
  • Dancing 9 times
  • Standing 7 times.

“We would worry less if we praised more. Thanksgiving is the enemy of discontent and dissatisfaction.” Harry Ironside

According to the Bible, shouting can break the power of fear, doubt, heaviness, barrenness, sluggishness, and grief. Circumstances and/or the devil often turn up the volume of the difficulty and hopelessness in our minds.  We must not be buried under these attacks but retaliate by lifting our voices in high praise.

Shouting and lifting voices are usually associated with Pentecostal or Charismatic tradition, but according to the Bible, it is associated with the Spirit’s activity in reminding us of our adoption by Christ.  The only two verses that speak about the Spirit reminding us we are adopted through Jesus are associated with shouting.

  • Rom 8:11-16...15  For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a Spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out (to croak or scream, call aloud, shriek, cry out), “Abba! Father!”  16  The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God,
  • Gal 4:6 Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying (to croak or scream, call aloud, shriek, cry out), “Abba! Father

When the enemy comes to lie to us about God’s love and Fatherhood towards us we need to let the Spirit “cry out” through our lips with thanksgiving.

My wife has taught grammar for many years.  Exclamation marks should be used only when conveying extreme emotions or important points.  She says that they are way over used in emails and texts. Often it is used to try to get people to pay attention, but they were intended, according to the dictionary, “to indicate strong feelings or high volume (shouting), and often marks the end of a sentence.”  In the Bible, exclamation marks appear over and over, especially in the Psalms.  The reason, to elicit strong emotions.  I like how the Message Bible portrays these truths.

  •  Ps 47:1″Shout God-songs at the top of your lungs!”
  • Ps 95:1 “Come, let’s shout praises to God, raise the roof for the Rock who saved us! Let’s march into his presence singing praises, lifting the rafters with our hymns!”
  • Ps 98:4 “Shout your praises to God, everybody! Let loose and sing! Strike up the band!”

3 reasons shouting can help us in prayer and worship.

  1. Shouting awakens us to God’s great power and authority. Many times the voice of the enemy and our own doubts and fears have turned up the volume in our mind and emotions. Shouting turns up the God volume.  It can break off the power of fear, heaviness, and doubt.  Sometimes we need more than just silent prayers, we need to shout.
  2. Shouting is a means to break us out of barrenness into fruitfulness.  Isaiah 54:1-3 (Gal 4:27) Rejoice, O unfruitful one that never bore; break out a song and shout… For more are the sons of the desolate than the sons of the married woman…(2)  Make the place of your tent larger and let them stretch out the curtains of your dwellings. Do not spare, lengthen your cords and strengthen your stakes;  (3)  for you shall break out on the right hand and on the left. 
  3. Shouting can release victory. The story of the walls of Jericho is a good example.  God used the shout to bring them down (Josh 6:20).  God released a great earthquake through Paul and Silas’ late night praise that set them free from their chains and began a move of God that resulted in the planting of the church in Philippi (Acts 16:22-26).

Self-dignity and Self-consciousness leads to Spiritual Barrenness

Christians are often too embarrassed to lift their voice and shout. Some think it is embarrassing to be around others who do.  Unfortunately, this was the same attitude Michal had towards David when he danced, sang, and shouted wildly when bringing God’s presence (the Ark of the Covenant) back to Jerusalem.  Scripture reveals the results; David was fruitful while Michal was barren for the rest of her life (2 Samuel 6:14-23 ).   

Some mistakenly think that shouting is a cultural or personal preference.  It is a Biblical preference!  Shouting is encouraged twice as many times as all other expressions combined, and over 4 times as much as the second most frequently mentioned expression (playing musical instruments mentioned 59 times).  Shouting is encouraged over 9 times as much as the third most frequently mentioned expression (singing mentioned 28 times).

Shouting saints are more like David, Jeremiah, Isaiah, and many others, including those right now around the throne in heaven than those who choose the self-dignity route.  David was a shouter and even shouted while alone in his tent Ps 27:6 “I will offer in His tent sacrifices with shouts of joy.”  We can do the same.

If you are dull, drowsy, sluggish, spiritually barren, or full of doubt and fear, don’t let it drive you from the place of prayer; shout your way past them into God’s presence Ps 47:1 Shout unto God with the voice of triumph.   

Enter the text or HTML code here

Share