Thursday, January 31, 2013

1 Chron 12:32 report, 108: Understanding and working under our call to discipleship through the Great Commission, in light of the Fulness vision in Eph 1 and 4, (and with some resource materials)

A few days ago, I had an interesting email, on discipleship initiatives.

This brought my mind back to the centrality of discipleship to the task in front of us as handed on to us in the Great Commission, and so our need to understand it and address it with adequate capacity and effort in our region.

First, let us recall the Great Commission in the classic text in Matt 28, using the Amplified Bible which tends to bring out shades of meaning that a more smoothly rendered version may not quite capture:
Matt 28:18 Jesus approached and, [a]breaking the silence, said to them, All authority (all power of rule) in heaven and on earth has been given to Me.
19 Go then and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them [b]into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 Teaching them to observe everything that I have commanded you, and behold, I am with you [c]all the days ([d]perpetually, uniformly, and on every occasion), to the [very] close and consummation of the age. [e]Amen (so let it be). [AMP]
Under the Lordship of the risen Christ, we are tasked to go forth -- actually, this is more assumed -- and as we do so, we are to disciple people from the nations, baptising them and teaching them to walk in the way Jesus taught. This of course implies the four R's of reformation:

We need to bring that out a bit: Discipleship is more of a buzz word than a well worked through strategy and pattern in our live, but that simply highlights how -- for centuries -- we have had a major challenge of drawing together and effectively teaching a coherent, dynamic framework for systematically understanding, being transformed by and living out the gospel in family, church, community and world.  

This has actually made it into our vocabulary, as we can see from how, too often, we miss the subtle force of Acts 11:26b : "The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch. " 

That is, discipleship lies at the heart of what it is to be a Christian.

By sharp contrast to our want of emphasis, our Lord gave discipleship pride of place in his great commission to the church,as we already saw.  
 Similarly, when Paul counselled Titus on his task in Crete, he laid out a clear agenda for how such discipleship should transform our lives based on the power of the grace of God manifested in Christ and coming to us through the gospel:
Titus 2:11 For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. 12 It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, 13 while we wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.  15 These, then, are the things you should teach . . . [NIV '84]
So, if a central task of the church is to disciple people from the nations -- if we are to understand the church and its task aright -- we must build a systematic, practically useful understanding of discipleship. One, that is tightly integrated with the gospel and which effectively addresses the serious business of how lives can be so transformed by God's grace that in our communities and cultures we ever more and more become "a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good."

In that context, I responded to the email as follows, as clipped and augmented:

>>Our mandate is indeed discipleship, but too often we are unsure of what that is or requires, and we are not being shaped by that perspective and focus. I recall, in the 1984 CONECAR, seeking a clear definition from the leadership assembled. . . .

In subsequent years I have come to hold that Eph 4:9 - 24 [with applications following] defines the operational form of the church's mandate, with the Pauline Mission to Greece -- especially the churches in Corinth and Ephesus -- as a good case study. Subsequently, I have seen the case of the church in Antioch as a prototype. I have especially been impressed by the one year period probably c AD 46 - 8 that marked the transformation of that church through the visit of Barnabas and the fetching of Paul to teach the church. Antioch played a pivotal role for the next several hundred years, starting with becoming the second main base for the church, projecting and supporting the Pauline mission through the prophetic word in Ac 13:1 - 5. 

{The Antioch timeline is:

The key thing to note, is that B to D took about a year. That is, strictly speaking, strengthening a church so that it can support full participation in the global missionary mandate should not take a very long time. That speaks to us, and not so happily in too many cases.}

Eph 1 and 4 as highlighted, point to a fulness theme and vision that indicates that God has purposed in Christ to restore all things under one Head. 
Accordingly, Jesus came, descending and ascending to fill all things, and operationally this works through the sending of Apostles/church planting/renewing missionaries, prophets, evangelists, and pastors-teachers [I think this is a spectrum gift, you cannot be one without some aspects of the other, but but may find oneself at some point along a spectrum]. The church is equipped and mobilised for action as the body of Christ the fulness of him who fills, and as two key characteristics we see unity in love and truth, and an ability to stand in the face of the cumming craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming [Ac 17 and 27 are key cases in point]. 
Thus, members fill their lives, families, work or studies, art, music, entertainment, sports and recreation, community, professions, institution, businesses, politics, media etc -- everything -- increasingly with the grace, blessing, word and glorious power of Christ in love and truth, power and purity.  Thus there is a transforming impact that moves across the four R's of repentance, renewal, revival proper and reformation that impacts the wider culture. Though, there is also usually resistance that must be graciously confronted.
{The text reads:
Eph1: 15 . . .  because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, 16 I do not cease to give thanks for you when I remember you in my prayers.
17 I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you spiritual wisdom and revelation in your growing knowledge of him, 18 – since the eyes of your heart have been enlightened – so that you may know what is the hope of his calling, what is the wealth of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the incomparable greatness of his power toward us who believe, as displayed in the exercise of his immense strength.
20 This power he exercised in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms 21 far above every rule and authority and power and dominion and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.

22 And God put all things under Christ’s feet, and he gave him to the church as head over all things.

23 Now the church is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all . . . .
4:4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you too were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

 7 But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of the gift of Christ.
8 Therefore it says, “When he ascended on high he captured captives; he gave gifts to men.” 
9 Now what is the meaning of “he ascended,” except that he also descended to the lower regions, namely, the earth?
10 He, the very one who descended, is also the one who ascended above all the heavens, in order to fill all things. 
11 It was he who gave some as apostles, some as prophets, some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, that is, to build up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God – a mature person, attaining to the measure of Christ’s full stature.
14 So we are no longer to be children, tossed back and forth by waves and carried about by every wind of teaching by the trickery of people who craftily carry out their deceitful schemes.
15 But practicing the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into Christ, who is the head. 16 From him the whole body grows, fitted and held together through every supporting ligament. As each one does its part, the body grows in love. [NET]
Immediately, the apostle applies the fulness theme to the transformation of not only the individual, but by direct implication of a growing number of the transformed, the reformation of the community and culture:
 Eph 4:17 So I say this, and insist in the Lord, that you no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking.
18 They are darkened in their understanding, being alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardness of their hearts. 19 Because they are callous, they have given themselves over to indecency for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness.
20 But you did not learn about Christ like this, 21 if indeed you heard about him and were taught in him, just as the truth is in Jesus. 22 You were taught with reference to your former way of life to lay aside the old man who is being corrupted in accordance with deceitful desires, 23 to be renewed in the spirit of your mind, 24 and to put on the new man who has been created in God’s image – in righteousness and holiness that comes from truth. 
 25 Therefore, having laid aside falsehood, each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members of one another. 26 Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on the cause of your anger. 27 Do not give the devil an opportunity. 28 The one who steals must steal no longer; rather he must labor, doing good with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with the one who has need. 29 You must let no unwholesome word come out of your mouth, but only what is beneficial for the building up of the one in need, that it may give grace to those who hear. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.
31 You must put away every kind of bitterness, anger, wrath, quarreling, and evil, slanderous talk. 32 Instead, be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ also forgave you.
5: 1 Therefore, be imitators of God as dearly loved children 2 and live in love, just as Christ also loved us and gave himself for us, a sacrificial and fragrant offering to God. 3 But among you there must not be either sexual immorality, impurity of any kind, or greed, as these are not fitting for the saints. 4 Neither should there be vulgar speech, foolish talk, or coarse jesting – all of which are out of character – but rather thanksgiving. 5 For you can be confident of this one thing: that no person who is immoral, impure, or greedy (such a person is an idolater) has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. 
 6 Let nobody deceive you with empty words, for because of these things God’s wrath comes on the sons of disobedience. 7 Therefore do not be partakers with them, 8 for you were at one time darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of the light – 9 for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness, and truth – 10 trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. 11 Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. 12 For the things they do in secret are shameful even to mention. 13 But all things being exposed by the light are made evident.
14 For everything made evident is light, and for this reason it says:
       “Awake, O sleeper!
       Rise from the dead,
       and Christ will shine on you!” 
 15 Therefore be very careful how you live – not as unwise but as wise, 16 taking advantage of every opportunity, because the days are evil. 17 For this reason do not be foolish, but be wise by understanding what the Lord’s will is.
18 And do not get drunk with wine, which is debauchery, but be filled by the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making music in your hearts to the Lord, 20 always giving thanks to God the Father for each other in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 and submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. [NET]}
 We need to confront ourselves on where we are today, and where we need to be headed.

Discipleship must not be seen in isolation from community or world.
{That means we have to reckon with the two tidal waves issues, and with our own challenge to be a wave under the commission;

I am convinced that we have to resist the onrushing waves and form centres of refuge, renewal and resurgence, similar to the college of Adullam's cave. 
To equip and mobilise a David generation . . .>>

Just thought I would like to share these clips.

For some resource materials:
Let us reflect on our potential and opportunities, asking ourselves how we may build the required capacity. END