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Discipleship and Discernment

Intro, the importance of discipleship

Discipleship must be the one permanent theme in all Christian teaching. Jesus last words were “make disciples.” He told us to “teach” disciples “the glory of obedience to all of God’s commands.” Moreover, He told us to disciple all the nations, which means not only calling everyone to faith in Jesus (Animists, Buddhists, Hindus, Sikhs, Muslims, Communists and Socialists, Jews, Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Atheists), but also instilling in them a specific world view, a Biblical understanding of life, its meaning and purpose.

Why a Biblical world view is so important

We live in a world that is rapidly losing all meaning and purpose as it turns away from God and embraces pure materialism (science). Are you noticing the rapid rise in suicides these days? Chef Anthony Bourdain and designer Kate Spade were in the news this week because they killed themselves, but the other news this week was that suicide rates right across North America are rising rapidly.

The U. S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported this week that over the past two decades suicide rates have increased an average of 30%, and that they have increased to some degree in every state but one. Suicide has become the tenth leading cause of death in the U. S., and one of only three leading causes of death that are still rising. What’s more, a growing number of these suicides are done by people with no previous history of depression or mental illness. Nor is it about guns. I’m not saying that some people don’t end their lives with guns. Of course they do. But both Bourdain and Spade hung themselves, and the fact is, every form of suicide is on the rise.

The glory of life in the Spirit

I want to say two things about life in the Spirit just now. (1) It is almost  impossible to be living a Christ-believing, Spirit-filled life informed by a Biblical world view, and at the same time seriously entertain thoughts of suicide. (2) There is no more satisfying, no more fulfilling life than life in the Spirit, communing with God in the Spirit, knowing the joy of the Lord through the Spirit, serving alongside your Lord, experiencing the power of the Spirit making a difference in your life and in the world through you! Please don’t ever settle for less than life in the Spirit, don’t settle for less than all God has for you in the Spirit.

John 7:37 On the last and most important day of the festival (of booths), Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone is thirsty, he should come to Me and drink! 38 The one who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, will have streams of living water flow from deep within him.” 39 He said this about the Spirit.

Paul wrote I Corinthians 12-14, in part, to say, “In the church, this is the form taken by those streams of living water.” We are given spiritual gifts, charisms, grace gifts that uniquely qualify us for life in the body of Christ. Believe me, there is nothing more joyful, more meaningful than finding yourself able to use your spiritual gift to enhance the life of the body of Christ—nothing more joyful for the Christian, at least. But there’s something greater than mere happiness at stake here. The ultimate goal is to know that our service for Christ will receive an eternal reward.

Paul’s goal, and ours

I Cor. 15:58 Therefore, my dear brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the Lord’s work, knowing that your labour in the Lord is not in vain.

Text (amplified and expanded)

Remember, the subject here is not tongues (languages). The real subject is mature discipleship. Tongues, languages, as used in Paul’s letter to the church at Corinth is just a negative example of immature disciples. The Holy Spirit inspired Paul’s writing on tongues to underline the importance of bringing Christian maturity to every part of our faith walk, including our use of spiritual gifts.

Principle: If we are called to be adults in our thinking about tongues, we need to also be adults in our thinking about all the spiritual gifts.

Scripture read with commentary inserted

I Cor. 14:20 Brothers, don’t be childish in your thinking, but be infants in regard to evil and adult in your thinking. 21 It is written in the law:

I will speak to these people

by people of other languages

and by the lips of foreigners,

and even then, they will not listen to Me, (Isaiah 28:11-12)

says the Lord.

22 It follows that speaking in other languages (tongues) is intended as a sign (of the fulfilment of the prophecy in Isaiah 28:11-12), (and is therefore) not for believers (Jews and Gentiles who receive Jesus as Messiah, Saviour and Lord) but for unbelievers (Jews who reject Jesus as Messiah, Saviour and Lord, and who are therefore under the threat of the judgment that within ten years will fall upon Jerusalem and its temple).

But prophecy (speaking a known language in the power of the Spirit for edification, encouragement, and consolation, I Cor. 14:3) is not for unbelievers (unbelieving Jews) but for believers (Jews and Gentiles who are born again through faith in Jesus the Messiah).

Edification = Education (teaching) in a Godly, Biblical understanding of life (world view). Isaiah 28 constantly refers to the need for learning a Biblical world view, and provides the first negative reference in the Bible to spiritual babies who can only digest spiritual milk, who are not ready for the meat of the word. Paul makes the same comparison in I Cor. 3:1-4 and the same thought is echoed in Hebrews 5:11-14.

23 Therefore, if the whole church assembles together and all are (showing off their spirituality by) speaking in other languages and people who are uninformed (Gentile outsiders) or unbelievers (unbelieving Jews) come in, will they not say that you are out of your minds? (Even when tongues were properly used in Acts 2, the speakers were accused of being drunk)

24 But if all are prophesying (teaching, encouraging, consoling in the power of the Spirit) and some unbeliever (unbelieving Jew) or uninformed person (Gentile who is a stranger to the Judeo-Christian understanding of life) comes in, he is convicted by all and is judged by all. 25 The secrets of his heart will be revealed, and as a result he will fall face down and worship God, proclaiming, “God is really among you.”

Prophesying, gospel preaching, is always the goal

  1. Notice the goal of all public worship is conviction and faith.
  2. No matter what the subject may be in I Corinthians, Paul can never forget the goal he established at the beginning of his epistle:

I Cor. 2:1 When I came to you, brothers, announcing the testimony of God to you, I did not come with brilliance of speech or wisdom. 2 For I didn’t think it was a good idea to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.

Even in chapter 14, Paul still thinks it is a good idea to focus on Jesus Christ and Him crucified.

  1. The crucifixion of the Son of God for the sins of the world is the great central fact of history! If someone (an outsider, a stranger) comes into one of our meetings, we dare not let them go until they have heard the message that Christ died for our sins.
  2. This is the one message that Jesus promised to support by the power of the Spirit.

John 16: 7 Nevertheless, I am telling you the truth. It is for your benefit that I go away, because if I don’t go away the Counsellor will not come to you. If I go, I will send Him to you. 8 When He comes, He will convict the world about sin, righteousness, and judgment: 9 About sin, because they do not believe in Me; 10 about righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you will no longer see Me; 11 and about judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged.

  1. Our message is that there is no greater hope than that which is offered by the Christian world view. God, the Creator, so loved the world (His creation), that even in the face of rebellion by those who were created in His image, He gave His only eternal Son to become one of us, to represent us, to live a sinless life for us, to become a substitute sacrifice for us, to die on the cross for our sins, so that whoever believes in Him need not face eternal judgment, but have eternal life!