The Discipline of Discipleship

US Air Force 061029-f-8789C-041 Chuck Norris v...
US Air Force 061029-f-8789C-041 Chuck Norris visits the 386 AEW (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Last night at church we had a Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) demonstration followed by some teaching.  It was a great time.  I got some great notes from the speakers.  The first speaker was Carlos Machado who is friends with Chuck Norris, the demi-god that is said to start fire by rubbing ice cubes together, can count to infinity, and has a living grizzly bear as a rug in his room; too afraid to move.  He also did some work on the show Walker, Texas Ranger.

The second was from Victor Marx (http://www.victormarx.com/) who tells the story of his tragic life growing up, and how he fully embraces Romans 8:28 when it says “all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”  You should really check out his story and documentary.

I will be talking more about these guys and some of the stuff they taught me soon, but for now I want to talk about something that comes from just the foundation of martial arts.

When you hear of martial arts, what do you think of? Fighting? Mr. Miyagi?  Martial arts is not just about getting strong and fighting to beat people up.  It is a discipline; it teaches discipline.

dis·ci·pline

  • training to act in accordance with rules; drill
  • activity, exercise, or a regimen that develops or improves a skill; training
  • the rigor or training effect of experience

The word discipline is a heavy word.  If you want to be really good at something it takes a lot of personal discipline to get good at it.  This goes with anything. Martial arts, musical instruments, carpentry, or programming.

To be good, to be effective, you must discipline yourself. You must work hard, and not just from time to time, but all the time.  These guys that are good at martial arts are good because they do it, every day.  Hours a day of training and dedication to get good.

I can speak from experience with this point, but from the other side.  I have tried to play multiple instruments in my life, and tried various disciplines of martial arts, but for one reason or another (or for one knee giving out or another), I had to give it up.  Sure, I had a couple months of training, but it never became a part of my life.  Nothing that I ever became dedicated about long enough to get good.

I do remember a few things though.  Like how to break some simple wrist holds (if you hold my wrist in just the right way) and I can, with a lot of effort, play part of Fur Elise on a keyboard still, but I’m not good at it.  I did not, or was not able to, stick with it enough to let it become a discipline in my life.

Ever wonder why the followers of Jesus called themselves disciples?

This thought crossed my mind last night while thinking on these things.  Is it a coincidence that these words sound like they have the same root word?

Is it possible to be a disciple of Jesus Christ without having the same kind of discipline towards Him that martial artists have in training?

If you have followed this website for any amount of time it is no surprise to you that I am a fan of Leonard Ravenhill.  Leonard Ravenhill was a preacher with a great ministry. He was able to reach people for Christ and encouraged a lot of people to be bold preachers, to be prayer warriors, and to long for personal revival in ones life.

But the ministry he had did not come to him easily, it was not something that he just participated in occasionally and one day something just clicked and he was deeply spiritual.  On the contrary, every part of his life and ministry had the impact it had on others’ lives only because he was disciplined.  It was only because he treated prayer like a discipline that he was effective at all.  His son, David, said this about him.

My father was a powerfully anointed preacher who could bring down the convicting presence of God in a way that very few can. People would begin making their way to the altar even before any type of invitation was given, their hearts pierced by the Word of God. His preaching was superceded only by his passion for prayer. Like the apostle Paul, he carried “the daily pressure of concern for the church.” Prayer was his life. Prior to his death in 1994 he told me he had received a number of requests from seminary students who wanted to come and see him for the sole purpose of having him lay his hands upon them in order to receive his “mantle.” With his typical dry British humor, but at the same time deadly serious, he said, “Everyone wants to have my mantle but nobody wants my sackcloth and ashes.”

Leonard Ravenhill. Why Revival Tarries (Kindle Locations 21-26). Kindle Edition.

1 Corinthians 9:24-25 tells us that we are to train in the same way, with the same intensity that an athlete trains.  Not training to run, but to win.

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.

I remember being amazed during the Olympics that just ended at the athletic ability of each of these athletes.  It never came easy to them, well, maybe for Phelps (just kidding).  They gave their life to their sport, to not just doing a good job at it, but at being the best.  None of them trained for last placed, or trained for the bronze; they trained to win the gold.

The self-discipline required to do that was amazing.  Hours a day at the gym and training for years on end, giving up many of the pleasures of life we enjoy like deserts or watching tv and playing games.  Why did they do it? For a medal and for fame.

How much more, my brothers and sisters, how much more should we be training spiritually to take the gold.  Not for fame and fortune, but to know God, to draw closer to God.  To have more faith.

Faith comes from God

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, – Ephesians 2:8

And through reading scripture

So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. – Romans 10:17

It makes us strive to live Holy before God, while Jesus works on completing our faith

Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. – Hebrews 12:1-2

Being a Christian is not a weekend adventure, or morals we consult occasionally, it is a lifestyle of following Christ, a discipline of putting Him first in our life.  In every part of our life.

After all, this IS the call that Jesus gave to those who want to be His disciples.

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. – Matthew 16:24

Oh father, please forgive me for the lukewarm attitude I have had towards you.  Help me to have the discipline to put you as a priority in my life every day, and to stop living a life that ignores you.  Father, give me a renewed vision of the goal, and give me an increase in faith.  Only you are worthy of the pursuit of my life.

Amen.

What is Spiritual Warfare?

Machew is a guest writer to ETM, and as such the views expressed in this article may not be the views of ETM and its staff.

It is incredibly important for the church as a whole to understand spiritual warfare.  Too often Christians delegate their struggles to their flesh not realizing that much of what you think and feel doesn’t originate from you at all.  We have a very real enemy that will stop at nothing to get you to convince yourself with his lies to undermine your walk with Jesus and to make destructive decisions in your life.  For this reason, I write this article.

Before I start with Spiritual Warfare, I need to lay down some Biblical Context:

We will start in Genesis:

Genesis 1:26-30 (NASB)(emphasis mine)

26Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.

27God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.

28God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.

29Then God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree which has fruit yielding seed; it shall be food for you;

30and to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the sky and to every thing that moves on the earth which has life, I have given every green plant for food”; and it was so.

So what is the point I want to make in this passage? God gave Adam and Eve delegated authority to rule over the Earth. We all know how this story ends, the devil comes in the form of a serpent and Adam and Eve eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, and they fall because of sin. The devil had no authority over the Earth before the fall. So how did he get his authority?

When Adam and Eve came into agreement with the devil’s assessment of reality, they sinned. And because there was no atonement for sin at the time, they were separated from God and their agreement with the devil essentially handed over their delegate authority over the Earth to the devil. (John 12:31, John 14:30, 2 Corinthians 4:4, Matthew 4:8-10)

Next I will give some basic groundwork to what spiritual warfare is.

2 Corinthians 10:3-5 (NASB)(emphasis mine)

3For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh,

4for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses.

5We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ,

So according 2 Corinthians spiritual battles happen in our mind and thought life. Why is this the case?

In Matthew 4:8-10 Jesus is tempted by the devil, as the devil offers Jesus all of the kingdoms of the world if he bows down to him and worships him. The devil still had the authority and rulership over the Earth from Adam and Eve. But after the resurrection of Jesus, He says to His disciples in Matthew 28:18 “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me

If Jesus now has “all authority” over the Earth, this means that the devil now has no authority. Jesus took back Adam and Eve’s authority from Satan. He was able to do this because their sin was now completely atoned for.

So the question you probably have now is: “How then is the devil able to do so much evil on the Earth?”

The question to ask is: How did the devil gain authority in the Garden of Eden?

He hasn’t changed his strategy at all. Look at 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 again. The battle is in our mind. The weapons formed against us are thoughts and speculations that exalt themselves above the knowledge of God. Why are these weapons used? Because the devil needs your agreement in what he wants to do before he has authority to do it. Jesus gave back authority over the Earth to humans. Before Jesus dies on the cross He states the following to His disciples:

Matthew 16:19 (NASB)

19I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”

So the devil is able to steal, kill, and destroy when humans come into agreement with what he says (thoughts, emotions manifested from thoughts).

This is what 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 is talking about when it says the weapons of our warfare are not carnal. The fortresses that it is referring to are areas in our thought life that we are in agreement with the devil. The devil builds on your current agreements with him, to bring in more deception into your life. Essentially the agreement with the devil (fortress) is a place where he can hide in your life and have authority in that area of your life. This fortress is what the enemy hides behind to assault you with more lies, to try to gain more ground in your life.

So to review: The devil is only able to operate on the Earth through human agreement.

So what does this mean?

The devil is only able to operate in your life through your agreements with his lies, and the agreement of lies that the people in authority over you believe (ie: parents, teachers, government authorities).

This is why it is so important to constantly be studying and filling your heart and mind with the Word of God. The Word of God is what reveals deceptions you are believing, that allow the enemy into your life, and the lives of those under you.

Hebrews 4:12 (NASB)(emphasis mine)

12For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

For this to work though, you need to be born again and filled with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit’s help is a necessity in understanding the Bible and to know how it applies to everyday life.  Only through the Holy Spirit does the truth of the Bible penetrate your heart and actually change you (2 Corinthians 3:6, John 16:13, John 14:16-17, Romans 8:27, Isaiah 11:2, Ephesians 1:17).

The current situation we face is having a whole world of people where most people are not born again, and the devil is able to wreak havoc over the Earth because people are constantly in agreement with him. But God has given believers the keys to His kingdom. God’s Kingdom is superior to this kingdom(the Earth), and Jesus tells us to model our prayer like this:

Matthew 6:9-10 (NASB)(emphasis mine)
9″Pray, then, in this way:

‘Our Father who is in heaven,

Hallowed be Your name.

10’Your kingdom come

Your will be done,

On earth as it is in heaven.

So then we are to bring the dominion of God’s Kingdom to Earth (God’s government/way of doing things), whether it be through the salvation of others, loving the unlovable, giving all of your possessions, or worshiping Him through praise. In the words of Matthew 6, His “…Kingdom Come…Will be done…On Earth As it is in Heaven.” So if it is happening in heaven it should be happening here. If it is not happening in heaven it shouldn’t be happening here. When God’s kingdom is brought to Earth it enforces what Jesus did on the cross and destroys the work of the devil in our lives, and in the lives of others. Spiritual warfare cannot be won by human strength as 2 Corinthians 10 tells us, but as indicated, only by divinely powerful weapons. And we have no divinely powerful weapons by ourselves. But we do have God’s Word; whether it is from the Bible, something God has spoken to you recently, or something God told you before. God always backs up His Word with the resources of His superior Kingdom. But just reciting God’s word isn’t enough!

His Word Becoming Who We Are:

When we read the Bible, have relationship with Him through prayer (conversation), and meditate on what He has said or is saying, it opens our hearts to receive His Word and Truth. Truth that we only believe conceptually or intellectually will falter when tested. But Truth that has become a part of us deep down in our core, our very being, and heart can never be shaken. This is why we are not only supposed to hear and read the Word but receive it implanted into our hearts (James 1:21). And as James 1 describes the Word of God given to us will be tested but proven true to us by experience through perseverance in the testing trial. Once we have God’s Word truly implanted in us, because it has proven to be true under testing and trial, no argument, emotion, or lofty thing will ever be able to get us to doubt what God has said. And we are then able to stand firm, in boldness, and in confidence against the devil’s lies. When we are able to fully believe God’s Word deep in our very being, we are finally actually fully capable to “Submit…to God” which is when God uses His divinely powerful weapons, giving us what we need to “Resist the devil” causing him to “flee from you” (James 4:7) Until we truly believe what God has said and have the faith to believe it, it is impossible to submit to God(specifically submitting to what He has said to us). As Hebrews 11:6 says it is impossible to please God without faith.

God brings every believer through this process for our benefit, that His Word would literally become a part of us, so that we would become the walking Word of God. God’s plan is that we would literally become the image of the Living God. The devil has no weapon that works against this kind of believer.

Blessings,

Machew

Do you have as much passion for Jesus as you do for football?

Written by Jon Zenor

Have you ever seen a person who is fanatical about football? They sit in the bleachers in a blizzard with nothing covering them but pants and paint.  What is it that makes a person go to such lengths to show support for their team?

It’s passion, or in this case extreme passion.  But you don’t have to have an extreme passion for something to make it number one in your life.  Most football fans don’t go to those extremes, but they do spend as much time as they can involved in the sport.

A football fan spends hours a week watching football, even throwing parties to get others together to watch the game.  You talk about it all day at work, spend time looking up news on how well various teams did that week and on trades or injuries.  You wear jerseys that show support of your team, even if they lose all the time.  You even create your own fantasy teams.

Your life, as a football fan, is consumed by football.  There is not anything wrong with being a fanatical fan at all, I just have one question for you.

How does your passion for Jesus — your Lord and Savior, your creator, the one who died to have a relationship with you — compare to your passion for football?  It may not even be football for you, it could be video games, baseball, programming, martial arts, planes, motorcycles, or any number of things that consume your every thought.

Jesus must come first!

Matthew 13:44 says “the kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.

As Christians Jesus must come first in our life.  Not because it will please God, but because God deserves it, it is the least we can do, and the Bible says we must do it.

Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” – Luke 9:62

It is even written in the Ten Commandments when God says to Moses “You shall have no other gods before me.” (Exodus 20:3)  Leonard Ravenhill reminds us that “Anything you love more than Jesus Christ is an idol, I don’t care what it is!”

If you think that is harsh look at what Jesus himself said.

If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” – Luke 14:26

Jesus is saying that your love for Him MUST be first in your life, and nothing goes above that, not your own life, and not even family.  And if you think this is selfishness on God’s part, just remember that He is God almighty, the creator, the one who holds all of existence in his hand, you are just a created thing, a sinful man who rejects God every chance you get.

Please do not misunderstand what I am saying here.  I am not saying all entertainment is bad and you should do nothing but read the Bible and sing praise songs.  What I am getting at is that when we become a Christian, a Christ-follower, we are saying we are putting God first in our life, above everything, including entertainment.  Where you spend your money and how you spend your time show what is first in your heart, Jesus or something else?

Imagine the impact YOU could have

Imagine what the impact would be like in the lives of those around you if you treated Jesus with as much time and energy you spend on football.  You would go to work talking about what God has done in your life, sharing the gospel, talking about God and what is going on in the church.  You would let the world know that Christians are not just hypocrites that live like the rest of the world but they are actually out there doing things!

You would remind them that when disasters happen and the government has its hands tied to help, like FEMA did when Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, it was our churches that were out there giving food and aid to the people.  In fact, instead of going to football games you would go on a missions trip to somewhere that needs the help and help others.

Instead of looking up news for football stats you could look up what news there is on martyrs around the world and pray for them.  Every week I get an email from Voice of the Martyrs with information on those being put in prison, who are losing their homes, who are being outcast from their families and beaten because they are the ones on the front lines putting Jesus first in their life.

You would attend church no matter what the weather was like outside, or how much air conditioning worked or how comfortable the chairs at your church were.  Your focus would be more on fellowship and worship than on comfort.

We don’t even need everyone to do this, just you.  If just you would start putting Jesus first in your life, and having a passion for Jesus, then you alone could change a huge part of the world, everyone you interact with.  Those that look up to you would catch that fire and it would spread.

Del Tackett of Focus on the Family, teacher of The Truth Project, said if just a few of you would really believe what the Bible says is true, you would change this world for Christ.

Being a Christian is not a game or a hobby. It is not something we do just once a week.  Being a Christian is a life long commitment that changes your daily life, putting God first in everything you do.

When you don’t have the passion

If you find that you do not have the passion for Christ that you should there is hope for you.  The first and most important thing is to test your salvation, make sure you are saved.

Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith.  Test yourselves.  Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? — unless indeed you fail to meet the test!” – 2 Corinthians 13:5

Study the Word of God, what does it mean to be a Christian?  This is an important enough topic to spend the time studying for yourself.  When I went through this last year it took me a couple of months of searching scripture, comparing what I was reading to my life, and most importantly praying, a lot.  Being saved is not based on works, but if you are saved, if you do have Christ living in you, then you cannot help but manifest the fruit of God living in your life.

A major thing that will get in the way of a Christian’s passion for Jesus is sin.  If you are living in sin then you will not be passionate for God, you can’t be.  You will avoid the Word of God, and the things of God.  Search your life for any unrepentant sin and repent of it, turn every area of your life towards God.

“Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. You know that he appeared to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. – 1 John 3:4-6

Jesus wants all of us, not just our leftovers

And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.” – Matthew 10:38

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” Matthew 16:24

Jesus wants, and deserves every part of you to follow Him.  He knows that we are most satisfied personally when we are bringing glory to Him, it is what we were created for.  Don’t waste another day putting garbage in the place of God in your life.