Oh, the Places You’ll Grow

Sermon delivered at Lakeview Church on 5/20/19.

A disciple is someone who is actually following Jesus. Discipleship happens when the Spirit applies the Word to our lives in the context of the church to help us follow in Jesus’ footsteps. In this message, we dig into the context of the church and discover that discipleship happens in three places: a gathered place, a scattered place, and a close place.

Does This Offend You?

Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, “Does this offend you?” … From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him. (John 6:61, 66, NIV)

In our society, one of the worst possible sins you can commit is offending someone. We think we have the right to not be offended, but at some point in our walk with Jesus, He will say something to us that offends us. It happens to every disciple, there is no avoiding it. Jesus told the rich young ruler to sell all he had and give it to the poor. Jesus told Peter to put away his sword. Jesus told Ananias to go pray for a man named Saul who was actively persecuting Christians.

When Jesus offends us, it is the true test of our faith. It’s easy to follow someone you agree with, but much harder to devote your life to someone who challenges your convictions. There are things the Bible talks about, whether directly or implicitly, that we try to avoid because they make us uncomfortable. Perhaps it’s the Bible’s teaching about human sexuality that we find offensive because of a friend or family member whose life doesn’t align with that standard. Maybe it’s something like the story of creation in Genesis 1-2 that we think is outdated and has been “proven wrong” by science. It could be a hot-button political issue, like how we should treat immigrants or what we should think about abortion. Whatever it is, it forces us to decide what we actually believe about Jesus and evaluate why we’ve been following Him. By putting us on the spot, Jesus brings us to a crossroads where we have to decide what or who we love more.

So, rest assured, if you are following Jesus there will come a time when He turns around and says something that cuts to the heart, offends you, and requires a decision. In John 6, after Jesus’ hard saying, “many of His disciples turned back and no longer followed Him.” When Jesus offends you, what will your decision be? My prayer for the week is that when you and I face the test, we choose Jesus.

Childish Hearts

“Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline will drive it far away.”

Proverbs 22:15 (NIV)

If ever there was a verse that seemed outdated in today’s supposedly “progressive” society, this is it. Most parents of young children I know don’t spank their kids and consider spanking to be borderline abuse. It seems like the popular parenting strategy these days is “empower the child” to make decisions they are unable to make and become ever more entrenched in the belief that the universe really does revolve around their precious little faces.

However, this blog post isn’t about spanking, or even how we should raise our kids. When I read Pr. 22:15, God plucked a string in my soul that harmonized with several other things I’ve recently been learning–but not about parenting.

A few weeks ago I read The Emotionally Healthy Church by Peter Scazzero. His thesis in the book is “it’s impossible to be spiritually mature while remaining emotionally immature.” This is a simple, yet profound truth. God is not just interested in my (or your) spiritual growth, but in my growth and development as a whole person. If I only focus on spiritual development, yet remain emotionally immature, I become a Christian full of knowledge with the appearance of being a mature disciple, but I am prideful, petty, selfish, insecure, passive-aggressive, and filled with vain ambition. In many ways, I have only been empowered to think that I’m indispensable and the church bubble really does revolve around my precious little face. I am childish in my faith (childish faith is not the same as childlike faith, but that’s a different post).

While children can be sweet and funny, we all know how embarrassing it is to see a teenager act like a toddler. A little discipline helps our kids learn and grow, and teaches them to make wise decisions. It’s no different with us. Childish Christians abound in churches today, but our Father loves us too much to let us stay the way we are. Unfortunately, this often involves disciplining us to make us aware of the folly bound up in our childish hearts, and to help us mature not just spiritually, but emotionally, intellectually, and socially.

All of us will be disciplined at some point if we are indeed God’s children. My prayer for the week is we will learn and grow, even when it hurts.