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Spiritual Discipline

Friday, April 07, 2017

TEXT: 1 Corinthians 9.24-27

Sunday, we’re going to move out of Matthew’s gospel and spend our time examining two very well known passages of Paul: one in Romans 12 and the other in 1 Corinthians 9. In Romans 12, Paul writes about the need for personal transformation. 

  • How is this accomplished? 
  • How can we no longer be conformed to the world? 
  • How can we get started on the path to everyday discipleship?

It begins with self discipline. In 1 Corinthians 9.24-27 Paul explains three keys for effectiveness in the process of personal discipline. We’ll cover these main ideas in our worship assembly this week.

  • 1 Corinthians 9.24-25 - Self Control
  • 1 Corinthians 9.26 - Decisiveness
  • 1 Corinthians 9.27 - Effectiveness

Join us Sunday at 9.30 & 10.45 at Kettering Church of Christ!

For Your Thought and Reflection

  1. How would you define self-control? What are some areas you are struggling with in this matter?
  2. What type of crown is the Christian competing for? (1 Peter 1.4)
  3. Why is everyday discipline so important in the Christian life?
  4. What happens if you are not clear on a goal you are pursuing?
  5. Does any successful spiritual life come by accident? What can you do to be more effective?

- Matthew Allen

Mercy, Not Judgment

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

 

If you had known me twenty years ago, I often came across as a brash and confident young man who saw matters mostly in black and white. As a young preacher, I spent a year training with a mature and experienced preacher who was presented with and willingly accepted the great challenge of molding and shaping me. He tried hard and planted some seeds, but after I started out on my own in my early years I would often revert back to my old self. And, I got myself into trouble in a few situations because of my tendency to render judgment first in situations where a good dose of mercy was in order. 

Thankfully, people were patient with me and trusted that I would grow and mature. I moved back to the congregation where I trained eight years before. There a good set of elders came up beside me and worked hard to teach by example on how to work with people. Later, as the new decade began, I've spent the past seven years working with another set of elders in a different state who, like the others I worked under before, truly know what it means to shepherd. Over the last fifteen years, I've sat in many meetings and learned first hand what elders go through as they struggle with real people handling monumental problems that have often metastasized to unbelievable proportions. I've seen grown men in tears as they expressed their love and sadness for the travails of sin. I've witnessed incredible amounts of time and mental energy being spent in search of solutions to the problems people deal with. And, I've seen shepherds, after hours of preparation, prayer, and study provide advice to the sheep who came to them for help - only to be rebuffed with anger and resentment. Not once in those situations, did I ever see a shepherd respond in kind, but only with grace and mercy. Those have been huge moments of learning for me.

So, when addressing someone caught in sin, struggling with a major mistake in judgment, or coping with a recurring human weakness, how should we respond? On which side should we err? Mercy or judgment? I hope we can all say we would fall on the side of mercy, grace, and compassion. Sometimes, it will run against every possible human emotion. There will be temptation to let the person(s) know just how much they've messed up and that the consequences they're about to suffer are a result of their own action. Our human side will press us to question their intelligence and why they acted the way they did. And, if we've been personally affected by their sin, the greater our tendency to let emotion dictate what we say or do. If the person is unrepentant, the likelihood for trouble goes up even more.

These were the things I struggled with as a young man, and have to be on guard against now that I'm in my middle age. I figure I'm not alone. So as we all move forward on the road to Christian maturity, I hope we're learning the meaning of these passages: 

    • Matthew 5.7 - Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
    • Matthew 7.12 - So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.
    • Matthew 18.33 - And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?
    • Luke 6.36 - Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.
    • Galatians 6.1 - Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.
    • James 2.13 - For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.

The principles here should speak for themselves. These passages should define our first response when confronted with someone else's outright sin, lapse in judgment, or failure in weakness. Jesus revealed the heart of His father in the story of the prodigal son, Luke 15.11-32. Remember how the father ran to his son, shielded him from the shame, and brought him back into the family. Mercy, not judgment.

There might come a time, where a severe rebuke is called for and must be issued. Unrepentant sinners need to see the treacherous nature of their actions and the spiritual danger upon which they have embarked (Jude 22-23). But this should never be done because of how the sinner's actions personally affect me, but because it is an affront to our loving and merciful God who has given so much to provide for our salvation.

As we move forward on the road of spiritual maturity, let us become more like our Savior and His Father who loved us before we loved Him. But, the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And, a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. James 3.17-18.

- Matthew Allen

Right Here. Right Now.

Friday, March 31, 2017

TEXT: Matthew 10.40-42

Christian living is not only the knowledge that Jesus now lives in us, but that He also directs our life. Our life is to be lived out each day with Jesus in our mind and heart (Colossians 3.15-17). This will be revealed both in the words we say and in the things we do. This is what we mean by everyday discipleship. Your spiritual life is not just a part time or weekend pursuit. It’s not a hobby. It is a daily pursuit of becoming like Jesus. 

On Sunday, we’ll look again at Matthew 10.40-42. This passage is a great transition from what we studied during March leading into the practical considerations we want to look at as we go through April. Our lesson will focus on:

    • The need to serve God now with what we have.
    • A biblical example of the cup of cold water principle.
    • Ways that we can serve right now.

For Your Thought and Reflection

  1. What are some of your biggest spiritual dreams? What plans are you making to achieve them?
  2. Do you ever discount the talents and abilities you have today? Are you waiting to serve until some future time when you envision you’ll be where you want to be?
  3. Did Paul call for Philemon to do something that would generate great notoriety among his peers?
  4. What are some talents and abilities you have presently that you can be using for the kingdom?
  5. Read John 12.26. Are there things holding you back today from going to where Jesus is?

Qualities of Real Discipleship (3)

Friday, March 24, 2017

TEXT: Matthew 10.34-42

When Jesus called you to be His disciple, He did not call you to a life of ease. He is calling you to self-denial and self-sacrifice. It is a commitment to follow the divine will at any cost. This is what reveals the real disciple. One who is Christlike will not be afraid of the world. When the heat is on, he or she will choose Jesus rather than deny Him. 

On Sunday, we’ll examine Matthew 10.34-42 and learn about three other important qualities of discipleship. We’ll see that:

  • Real Disciples Will Forsake Family, 10.34-37
  • Real Disciples Will Sacrifice Their Life if Necessary, 10.38-39
  • Real Disciples Will Bring Favor to Others, 10.40-42

For Your Thought and Reflection

  1. Think back to when you become a Christian. How were you received? 
  2. Do you find 10.34-37 shocking? Are you prepared to follow through?
  3. What imagery would Jesus’ audience have thought of when He said Take up your cross?
  4. What do you find encouraging in 10.40-42?
  5. Through sharing the gospel, how do you become a blessing to others?

Qualities of Real Discipleship (2)

Friday, March 17, 2017

The goal of a true disciple is Christlikeness. It was the apostle John who said, whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked, 1 John 2.6. If you follow Jesus, you’re becoming more and more like Him. And, as you become more and more like Him, you’ll be treated as He was, Matthew 10.25b. This means that increasingly, you’ll find yourself in a hostile environment. You need to be prepared.

Beginning in Matthew 10.26, and continuing through verse 42, Jesus identifies three qualities of real disciples:

  • 10.26-31 - Real disciples don’t fear the world.
  • 10.32-33 - Real disciples choose the Lord.
  • 10.34-42 - Real disciples forsake their family.

Last week, we looked at 10.26-31 and talked about why disciples don’t fear the world. They trust in God’s promise of vindication. They are conscious of God’s power. and, they rely on God trusting in His protection. A true disciple doesn’t fear the world, he’ll stand up and boldly speak. He’ll be confronted by the evil system and he’ll confess Jesus. True disciples choose Jesus, see 10.32-33. These verses:

  • Tell us what confession means, and, what it will bring, 10.32.
  • Tell us what denial means, and what it will bring, 10.33.

For Your Thought and Reflection

  1. What does it mean to confess Jesus?
  2. How can you make Matthew 10.32b more personal? Can you imagine the scene of Jesus confessing you before the Father?
  3. What does it mean to deny Jesus?
  4. What are some ways Christians can deny Christ today? Why should we be aware of this?

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