Pastor David is teaching a class on Friday nights called the Foundation Stones. It's based on Hebrews 5:12 through 6:2. That's a hard passage to read all by itself, and I'm really feeling like I'm getting some good grounding that I never got all these years, even at North. I'm actually learning how pieces of the Bible fit together, and that is so important!
David's been on a sabbatical of sorts for a month, and someone else has been teaching the class. David is back now, and last night we reviewed the things covered up to this point. I was following along in the book and making notes as I went. I had two sections of notes: "catch up notes" and notes on what was actually said last night. I thought I'd share a few quotes and notes here. (Hmm, nice name for a blog or something.)
If we fall after we have been born again, we have a deficiency in our foundation. Through these experiences, God is exposing the deficiencies in order to reveal the truth.
Hold to the teaching, and *then* you will know the truth, and *then* the truth will set you free.
The foundations built in many churches today have two main deficiencies. They not only hinder our walk with Christ but often render it useless because we don't understand God's heart and will for us.
Churches often take our initial small flame of desire for God and apply it to works instead of allowing the Lord to consume and strengthen it. (p. 5)
I've been falling a lot over the years. Part of me is grieving the foundations I either didn't get or didn't know how to hear and build as a child growing up in a "Christian home" and attending church. I know the church leaders did the best they could with the tools and resources they had, but I wonder what kind of foundations some of them had. I chose to begin my journey with Christ 20 years ago! By this time I certainly ought to be a teacher, but I really do need someone to teach me! I do grieve, and grief has to be a starting point for hearing truth and building that foundation.
- Why does God love me?
- Who am I?
- What is my purpose in life?
Hmm... Where have I seen things like this before? Lots of places: PDL, Emotional Freedom Workbook, my journal... These really are very basic issues that I have to have a grasp on in order to build a healthy relationship with God. I've determined to stop using the term "spiritual life." God doesn't just want my spiritual parts. He wants everything. He wants to permeate every aspect of my life.
Spend 1 hour with Jesus each day - go before the Lord for nothin else but Him. Read the following scriptures for understanding of His heart for you.
- Psalm 100 (expressing our gratitude for His love)
- Psalm 91 (understanding yourr relationship with God)
- Psalm 149 (worshipping God)
- Psalm 63 (describing His consuming love)
- Psalm 23 (describing His protective love)
I'm going to do these starting tomorrow.
"You dilligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life."
Wow! Churches make such a big deal about "having your quiet time," reading the Bible. These are not optional things, but they can't be at the center of anything. They're tools to get to know Jesus!
The book talks about learning the "plan of salvation," although not with just specific verses. It emphasizes praying for God to reveal verses that speak to the various issues. Something we talked about last night was that salvation isn't a one-time experience. It's a way of life. There will be times we stumble in that way of life; but it's still a way of life. The answer isn't speaking words that "invite Jesus to live in your heart." The answer is experiencing him living in your heart by making changes in our thinking and lifestyle. What a concept! This isn't how most churches teach. I think they try, but they miss the mark so often! The focus is on seeing people "come to Christ" and then referring them to a local church.
I'm now launching into my own interpretation and I wanted to make that clear. This is never how it was done in the Bible. It's not even what Jesus commanded. He didn't say, "Go and lead people to an initial confession of faith in Jesus Christ." He said, "Go and make disciples." And--something that was pointed out in class--a disciple is "a disciplined learner." If I'm going to make a person a disciple, I need to pour my life into that person and nurture his/her growth! I'll have notes on the discipleship process in a bit. This is an area where I failed kevin. I walked him all the way to the door, and from there I let our discussions lapse when I should have been keeping them going and nurturing his growth.
So what's the plan of salvation? Here are the basic ideas.
We all need to be born again. John 3:1-21 discusses this.
All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Romans 3:23 says this, and other verses back it up, talking about the fact that people are not righteous apart from God's work in their lives. The book gives a lot of sample verses, and I wrote down some initial thoughts. We are unable to save ourselves. Grace has saved us, not works. Our righteousness is as filthy rags. If I break part of the law, I have broken it all.
Jesus came into the world to save sinners. The book notes here refer to Hebrews 2. I also wrote down another note to dig in to the Messianic prophecies! They tell us things about why Jesus was the one to bring salvation.
We are born again by a three-step process: believing, repenting, and receiving him. My notes on this:
Repentance is the only way to receive him. Otherwise we do not become new. We continue to walk down the path that leads to death. This is what it means to "work out salvation with fear and trembling." Works don't save, but faith leads to works that lead to the walk with Jesus that does save!
Confessing is vital. When we love someone and experience something life-changing, the most natural thing is to confess.
Go and make disciples. If it's so good, why wouldn't you want to share it? This is part of the "plan of salvation," that it would be shared!
Elements of discipling:
- Prayer (teacher prays for the person and person prays for his/her own heart)
- Faithfulness (teacher faithful to present, disciple faithful to study, obey, and participate)
- Truth (Teacher communicates and disciple seeks truth not only from hearing the teacher but by praying and asking God to reveal truth.)
Before I can make disciples, I need to ask myself questions:
Can people see Christ in me?
Do I have the tools I need to release others into the fullness of the vision of God for their lives?
More notes on beginning to build foundations in Christ:
The thing to remember when considering your investment in this relationship with the living God is that He created you for a purpose - a divine purpose. True success in the eyes of God is the extent to which you allow His life to flow through you. We are not called to be imitators of Jesus, and we are not merely required to pass on a message. God desires to pass it on THROUGH us. Only God can bring life to a dead and dying world. In John 6:53, Jesus tells his disciples: "...unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you". God's purpose for you is the life of Jesus lived through you and overflowing to others.
Regarding the words of Jesus, "I will say to them, I never knew you. Depart from me..."
The keys to understanding this verse are found in two places. First, it is important to note that Jesus does not cast them out because of what they did or did not DO, but because there was no relationship between himself and them. God does not call us to perform our way to heaven. We must KNOW Jesus Christ if we are to legitimately call him "Lord". The second thing to take note of is the verse preceding these two. Jesus says in Matthew 7:21," Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does The will of my Father who is in heaven. " Although this may appear to refer to works, there is a subtle but dramatic difference.
Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is The one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him. (John 14:21 )
If you look closely at this verse, you will see the connection between relationship & obedience. Jesus is telling us that obedience is the natural result - and thus the proof - of a loving relationship with God and Christ. We are never rejected because we fail to DO but because we cast God aside in our determination to make it on our own. We are designed to be motivated by His love in all things. The most important question we have to face is one that Jesus asked his disciples: "...Who do you say I am? "(Matthew 16:15). Who is Jesus to you?
How important is Christ to me? Important enough to put him before everything else that demands my time?
Taking Up the cross is a requirement for being a disciple of Christ. The cross marked the place of death for Jesus in the literal sense, and it is similarly set before us as our goal in this life - only in a different way. We are called to die to ourselves (specifically, our own desires, rights, and agendas) and surrender our wills to God on a daily basis.
Jesus encouraged people who said they wanted to follow him to count the cost. Make an informed choice. I did not have the information to do that as a 12-year-old. Here is a turning point in my life. I know what it will cost me. Am I willing?
Our purpose as disciples is to learn our identity in Christ and walk in it. God's Word clearly and repeatedly warns us about the schemes of the enemy in our lives. Satan's greatest deception occurs in the minds of the children of God. As long as he can keep us ignorant of our identity in Christ, we will allow ourselves to be stolen from and believe we are paupers. Some Christians never realize that God has made them rich (peace, hope, joy, etc), and they struggle through each day as victims of this world. But the disciple walks in the authority God has given and in victory. How are we to reclaim what has been stolen from us if we don't know what it is and what right we have to it?
Our tendency as humans is to fear what we cannot see and especially the spiritual forces of evil that are bent on destroying God's people. We can recognize Satan's handiwork in our lives, and we wonder why he has the power he does. Christians do not fail because God is not strong enough to save them. We are not vulnerable to the enemy unless we choose to be ignorant to the truth of God's Word. 2 Peter 1:3 tells us, "His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness...", but it finishes with a condition - "...through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness." We must KNOW Him deeply and understand His heart for us in order to stand. (p 25)
... maturity in our walk with Christ does not come with time necessarily. Just as with the Hebrews Paul addressed in this verse, we can remain as spiritual babies for as long as we choose to. Maturity in Christ comes only through the WORD and EXPERIENCE working together.
God's Word is "living and active" in the spiritual sense. It was created to cut through, to set free, and to give life. In short - it is to be experienced. When it is not, it becomes as common and lifeless as the things of this world. Why is this the case for most people? Because we do not LIVE the truth. In John 7:17 Jesus says, "If anyone chooses to do God's will, he will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own." And in John 8:31 & 32, Jesus tells believers, "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." As we CHOOSE to walk in the truth (the Word of God), we begin to experience it. (p. 31)
Oftentimes Jesus used the phrase: "He who has ears, let him hear...', which is an important directive for us. In saying, "he who has ears", Jesus is implying that only those who have a relationship with God have been given ears to hear Him (by the Holy Spirit). The phrase, "let him hear" tells us something even more important - that hearing God is a choice we must make. We may not be accustomed to hearing and following our Shepherd, but, as believers, we all have the ability and the responsibility to do so. (p 32)
There is a section in the book that talks about "shadows and substance." There are things that point to God, and these are what he calls "shadows." Experiencing God is the "substance."
The shadows are not innately bad or harmful - they are necessary to lead us to the substance. Consider how this compares to marriage. There is a necessary legal aspect of becoming husband and wife, but we would be foolish to believe that marriage was no more than the ceremony itself. A marriage is a living, growing connection between two people, and it is to be lived and experienced every day. In short, it is the earthly model of God's desired relationship with us. We can be a child of God technically and live in the coldness of the shadows all of our lives just as a couple can be married by law but never experience a loving relationship. In both cases, what is lost is the purpose behind it all. (p. 32)
That's just the "catch up" notes I took as I read through the parts of the book we were reviewing. I have more notes on what was actually said last night.
I can't be exposed to God's Word without it revealing. That's the point. It reveals things in me, and it reveals Christ. When the fear of God departs from my heart, I start to lose the sense of the nearness of God. I start acting any old way I want to. That nearness *is* my salvation! Why would I want to throw it away by becoming complacent in my relationship with God?
My responsibility is to actually think about what I'm hearing. Use discernment. Test everything.
If I hold on to the Word and make it my own, I will get even more understanding. If I let it go (treat it trivially), I will stop understanding.
It's painful to grow up, and in fact we don't want others to grow up in the church. If they grow up, they won't be dependent on the leadership of the church. Hmm... The entire church is codependent!
Truth comes to us in three ways: revelation, transformation, and manifestation. The truth is first revealed to it. We hear and we hold on to it and it transforms our thinking. Our transformed thinking leads to changes in the ways we live our lives.
We must be willing *and* obedient. Neither one by itself works. God will sometimes have me do things to make sure that I am willing *and* obedient.
I need to ask God for the desire to follow and obey and also the power. It's not about my willpower. It's about His ability to keep me from falling!
Sin is living apart from God.
There are two responses to sin: godly repentance and worldly penance.
Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation. The word "salvation" means complete deliverance from sin. Godly sorrow means the reversal of the decision, changing one's mind. Worldly penance is to regret because of consequences.
Living in bondage to guilt is not repentance. We crucify ourselves and reject the gift of Christ.