Following Jesus.

We live in a world that embraces superficial things, is always looking for whatever is “new and next,” and will ultimately follow things that are only important to them. The moral compass of what is right and wrong is ever-changing and it seems that every time we turn on the TV something is going wrong. In the middle of this we do see things that excite us and things that are good. Maybe its our kids achieving a goal they have worked really hard on, our team excels and is in the state playoffs, we get a promotion at work, we find out that “the news” at the doctor’s office is not as bad as it could have been.

In the middle of all these ups and downs is the prominent priority that is on every Christ followers heart, following Jesus. As a pastor, I get asked all the time, “How do I know if I’m truly following Jesus?” For the most part, at the bottom of this, is a sincere heart that desires to make the name of Jesus famous. While it may not be announced from a stage with a microphone, it seems that many Christ followers, at the same time, feel as if they are consistently wondering what God thinks about them. “Man, I messed up this week” or “Wow, that didn’t go like I had hoped, how did that go so wrong” fills our minds. This leads us to wonder if our commitment to Jesus is genuine. While the enemy is masterful at “getting in our head” and lying to us in order to take eyes off of Jesus, I believe there are at least four indications that we can tangibly see that affirm we did have a genuine relationship with Jesus, the Savior.

The pursuit of God in His Word. A follower of Jesus Christ is simply this: A person who admits they are a sinner, in need of saving. They believe in their heart that Jesus can forgive them of their sins and have confessed Jesus to be the LORD and Savior of their life (Romans 10:9). It is not a speech given, it is a life lived. After making this life-changing commitment to Jesus, the pursuit of God in and through His Word is the desire of the heart. Each and every day we wake up and crave to be washed in the Word, wanting to know Jesus more, and leaning into His promises. It is absolutely impossible to follow Jesus apart from His Word. It simply cannot be done. If you claim to follow Jesus then you should be able to comfortably answer these two questions, “What are you reading in God’s Word right now?” and “What is God teaching you as you read His Word?”

The people around us. The people that we allow to influence our lives and the people we in return influence is a great indicator if you are following Jesus. If you claim to follow Jesus then you should be able to comfortably give exact times, groups, and locations in which you are in biblical community. What local church are you a member of? What small group are you apart of? How are you serving the body of Christ? This whole idea that “My relationship with Jesus is private” is simply not biblical. When you read the book of Acts, you see the early church on fire for Jesus and you see them accomplishing it together (Acts 2:42-47). While a relationship with Jesus is a personal, individual decision, the Christian life is not a solo act. A Jesus follower has people praying for and encouraging them while they are doing the same thing for others. They also have people in their life they trying to reach with Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Our perception of life and eternity. A true follower of Jesus has an eternal mindset on all things. When Jesus changes a heart and life, how we deal we conflict, how we react to situations, and how we view what is most important all changes. We do not simply live for the here and now. A Christ follower knows that eternity is at stake. They simply do not go to work with the goal of making money. While bills must be paid, we go to work and view it as a mission field. A Jesus following high school football player is not simply on the team to break records and get a scholarship. He views his team as a mission field. A Christ follower wakes up with this on their mind, “Jesus, how can I love and pursue you more today than I did yesterday?”

The manner in which we pray. The more we follow Jesus, the more we will be conformed to His ways and thoughts. I love to hear a genuine, heartfelt, prayer of a faithful saint. In this you will hear struggles, victories, and a heart for the nations. A true Christ follower rarely prays for something that will only benefit themselves. A key question to consider here is, “Do I tend to pray more selfishly or sacrificially?” Your prayers and your “Christmas wish list” should not sound the same. While it is definitely appropriate and encouraged to pray for your walk with Jesus and things on your heart, a Christ follower is always others-focused.

John 15 is an incredible chapter in the Bible. It has great words of wisdom from Jesus about abiding in Him. John 15 shows us that if we are truly connected to the True Vine, others will be able to see it. Can others see this in you?

John 15:8 (CSB), “My Father is glorified by this: that you produce much fruit and prove to be my disciples.”

Click HERE to download the Following Jesus Worksheet which will practically help you evaluate if you have a genuine walk with Jesus.

Advertisements

Community is not the Problem… Biblical Community is.

Community is not the problem, biblical community is. Let me explain. Lets take college football for example. I personally love college football. I wake up on Saturday mornings and watch commentators and analysts talk about the day’s games, predicting wins, loses, and upsets. I have my favorite college football team’s schedule on my calendar. I talk with other fans about my team, what is going well and how we are blowing it. I buy apparel to wear to outwardly support my team. I invite others to know more about my team and connect with those that are like-minded. When I can, I go to games to support my team. Basically, I am a passionate fan and a part of my favorite team’s community.

It is not just me, this happens all over the nation. Passionate fans gather with others to cheer on, support, and encourage the hometown team. And for the most part, as long as it does not cross into becoming an idol, this is a good and exciting thing. The main takeaway from this is people really aren’t scared of community. Why is it Christ followers may not be just as excited about biblical community? Gathering together to cheer on, support, and encourage in making disciples of Jesus Christ.

One might ask, what is biblical community and how does it differ from any other community effort?

Biblical community is when you leverage your influence to lovingly invite others to lean into the instruction that transforms our lives. (Acts 2:42-47)

1. Leverage your influence. Who is in your circle of influence? These are the people you spend the most time with. How do you identify who they are? These are the people you go to sporting events, concerts, and school functions with. These are the people you invite over to your house in the summer for a grill out. These are the people you celebrate life’s victories and struggles with. Simply put, the people you are in close relationship with. When there is relationship their is friendship, trust, and accountability. When these things are evident, you have influence in their lives and they have influence in your life. The question becomes what do you with this influence? Christ followers, do you leverage it for the Kingdom of God or do you waste it? Do you speak eternal Truth into the lives of people you know or do you just talk about last Saturday’s game?

Acts 2:44 (ESV), ” And all who believed were together and had all things in common.”

2. Lovingly Invite. When there is an atmosphere of friendship, trust, and accountability , this creates the window to invitation. What is the invitation? The invitation is to be a part of and invite others to something that is bigger oneself, the mission of God. To not only connect with each other but to connect with each other connect in biblical community with the purpose of discovering who God is and how He is continually changes lives.

Acts 2:46 (ESV), “And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts,”

3. Lean into Instruction. The main difference in Social Groups/Clubs and Biblical Community is the Bible. Without the Bible, small groups don’t exist. This is why it is called biblical community. The Bible is the story of God: what He has done, what He is doing, and what He will do. It, very simply put, it a life-changer. Our mission as Christ followers should be to leverage our influence to lovingly invite others to discover the greatest story ever told. To sit with each other on a couch in a living room, with open Bibles, open hearts, and willing to do whatever to make the name of Jesus famous.

Acts 2:42 (ESV), “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.”

What is the bottom line, the end result? Souls are saved and sanctification is strong. Acts 2:47 (ESV), “praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.”

Small Groups and Student Ministry

The fall semester began this week for many students all over the nation. This means getting back into regular routines that seem to go away during the summer months. Parents are waking up their kids in the early morning hours, school teachers are preparing lessons, coaches are lining the fields, and you can hear the marching bands once again as they prepare for Friday nights. All of these things are exciting things to look forward to and be a part of.

In the life of the local church, student ministries all over the nation are gearing up for their fall launches as well. Student pastors and leaders have the incredible opportunity to partner with parents in developing students to be salt and light on their school campuses. To take what they learned during the summer months through camp, retreats, and mission trips, and leverage it for Gospel influence.

Also, new small groups are gearing up to launch and existing ones are beginning to get back into their regular routines. Whether these are on campus groups or off campus groups, these are crucial in the life of a Christ follower. Of all the things student ministries do, small groups are one of, if not the most important, aspects we can build into. Allow me to give you a few reasons why I believe this.

Biblical small groups faithfully engage in the Word of God. Students have the incredible opportunity to engage in God’s Word on a more intimate level with a caring adult. While the preaching of God’s Word in a worship service is very important, it is almost impossible to digest the content of God’s Word outside of a small group community. When we sit down with a group of people to read and study Scripture, we have the opportunity to get to know God, our Heavenly Father, more intimately. It is important to remember that without the Word of God small groups are simply social clubs. Discipleship is key.

Biblical small groups give students a safe place to ask questions and seek Truth. Students have hard questions about life issues and what the Bible communicates to these issues. To many times in the local church we want to avoid hard issues and answer with the typical, “Read your Bible and pray more.” While these are definite spiritual disciplines, small groups are an incredible opportunity for students to ask questions and seek Truth on a deeper level. Students should not feel inferior or “lesser” of a Christian because they have doubts. We all have doubts, every single human being. Small groups also allow students to see caring adults as they walk through life, with their own have struggles and victories. Within this, the accountability factor is a huge part of small groups. Relationships are key.

Biblical small groups give students an intentional place to be known. Students thrive on having small group leaders they know they can trust and are available to them. Parents love that they can have other trusted adults impacting their kid’s lives. It is a win-win situation. “What is God teaching you through His Word right now?” “How are you making Jesus famous in your circle of influence?” “How are you glorifying God in your thoughts, words, and actions?” These are great questions for a caring small group leader to ask students they are in a discipleship relationship with. When the local church loves on the next generation and reinforces the truths of God’s Word to them, we see students sent out to make a difference and invest in younger believers with the same passion. Intentionality is key.

May student ministries all over be purposeful in developing healthy small groups for students to engage in. When leaders and students dive into the mission of God together, incredible Kingdom work takes place.