How America Can Survive–Psalm 2

Do you ever worry about America? A few decades ago America was the world’s only true superpower. We were far ahead of our closest competitor for military strength and technological superiority. But times have changed.

Today Russia and China have weapons that are superior to ours. North Korea also makes use of this technology. China’s navy surpasses our navy in terms of the number of its ships. China’s army is far larger than ours.

How can America survive? Well, the Bible’s answer to that question lets us know how America can survive. We must rely on God and God’s power. The Bible records this statement from God in Zechariah 4: : ‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the LORD of hosts. Psalm 2 endorses the same solution.

Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain?
The kings of the earth set themselves,
And the rulers take counsel together,
            against the LORD and against his Anointed, saying,
“Let us burst their bonds apart
          and cast away their cords from us.”

He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision.
Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury, saying,
“As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.”

People have this shortsighted habit of thinking they are in charge. Leaders especially personify this shortsightedness. They boast and shout and threaten others. They actually think their posturing makes a difference. But it’s all noise. They think they are in control but control is only an illusion.

God is in charge and, at times, He reminds us of this fact. For example, God controls politics. Consider this one example.

God Is Sovereign Over Politics

“We will bury you!,” Nikita Khrushchev boasted. This Soviet First Secretary shouted this alarming statement on November 18, 1956, while he was attending a reception for Western ambassadors at the Polish embassy in Moscow. The phrase appeared the next day in the leading newspapers in America.

Khrushchev was known for making extreme statements. He also predicted that religion would be extinct in Russia by the year 1965.

Nikita Khrushchev

Although Western newspapers were impressed by Khrushchev’s audacity, God, apparently, was not. In 1964, Khrushchev was removed from power and replaced by Leonid Brezhnev. This took place one year before the year of Khrushchev’s failed prophecy concerning Christianity.

Khrushchev died of a heart attack in Moscow on 11 September 1971, at the age of 77.  He was denied both a state funeral and interment in the Kremlin Wall. Although Khrushchev may have ranted and raved, God has the final word. Khrushchev is “kaput.”

God is sovereign over politics. However, can we really say God destroyed Khrushchev’s credibility as a prophet? Actually, we do not know what role God played in Khrushchev’s fall from power. However, we can believe one fact about Khrushchev’s fall: Khrushchev was not in control.

God Is Sovereign Over the Nations 

Does God take direct action in the affairs of nations? You bet He does! Let’s consider an example from the Bible. The example is the victory of Judah over the Assyrian King Sennacherib at the walls of Jerusalem (see II Kings 18: 13 to 19: 37 also II Chronicles 32: 1-21 and Isaiah 36: 1 to 37: 38).

What do we know about Assyria? Archaeology contends that evidence for this group of people indicates their existence as far back as the 25th Century B.C. They lived in the middle area of the Tigris River. Today this area is primarily the northern half of Iraq.

As with several other people-groups in this area, Assyria passed through several cycles of empire building and decline. Our historical example took place during the Neo-Assyrian Empire which lasted from 911 B.C. to 609 B.C. During an expansion phase of the Neo-Assyrian Empire, the Assyrians destroyed the northern Kingdom of Israel. Israel’s capital, Samaria, ceased to exist in 722 B.C.

The affair at Jerusalem took place during the Levantine War of 701 B.C. After establishing his hold on the throne, King Sennacherib of Assyria (705-681 B.C.) turned his attention to the southern Levant, including the Kingdom of Judah under King Hezekiah.

So, what happened? In 701 B.C. the Assyrian army invaded Judah. They besieged Jerusalem. The Assyrian leaders told Hezekiah that his best course of action was to surrender. Hezekiah sought counsel from Isaiah the prophet. After seeking God’s guidance, Isaiah returned to Hezekiah with this message from God.

“Therefore thus says the LORD concerning the king of Assyria: He shall not come into this city or shoot an arrow there, or come before it with a shield or cast up a siege mound against it.  By the way that he came, by the same he shall return, and he shall not come into this city, declares the LORD.  For I will defend this city to save it, for my own sake and for the sake of my servant David.” (II Kings 19: 32-34 (ESV)

The Bible says on that very night an angel of the Lord struck down 185,000 men in the camp of the Assyrian army. The Assyrians were forced to withdraw. They never invaded the Kingdom of Judah again.

What’s the deal? Who’s in charge on the battlefield? Psalm 2: 7-9 continues with a surprising answer.

I will tell of the decree:
The LORD said to me, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you.
Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage,
and the ends of the earth your possession.
You shall break them with a rod of iron
and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.”

God is in charge on the battlefield. God also is in charge in political back room deals today.

What’s the Answer?

OK, then, what’s the answer? Have you ever been part of an argument or a disagreement or a fight? What is the first decision you want to make before the fighting begins? You want to be on the winning side, don’t you? And who probably will win? The side with the best, strongest, smartest leaders most likely will come out on top.

Of course, the best, strongest, and smartest leader is God. With God at your side, how can you possibly lose? But how can you get God to support you? How can you get God on your side?

First, you must realize that God does not come over to your side. He is totally sovereign. You come over to Him. You submit to God. The Psalmist tells us this in Psalm 2: 10-12:

Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth.
Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling.
Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way,
for his wrath is quickly kindled.
Blessed are all who take refuge in him.

The answer is that we must submit to God.

How Can We Submit to God?

Knowing that God is sovereign, what actions should we take to submit to God? How can we insure America’s survival? Let’s consider the words of God that are quoted in II Chronicles 7: 13-14

When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people, if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. (ESV)

If we want God’s favor, we must get right with God. This Bible verse is not aimed at non-Christians. God is speaking to us, that is, to born again Christians. What is God telling us? God wants us to stop playing church games and holier-than-thou games. Also we must act toward our neighbor as Jesus tells us to act. We must stop lying and cheating others. We must put God in first place in our lives–even above football.

Psalm 2 tells us how America can survive. Christians must turn theirs hearts totally toward God. Will America survive? Christian, that depends on you.

Bible Power to Transform Lives

Why is the Bible special? What makes the Bible different from all other books? Yes, there are many ways to answer that question but for this blog entry one word stands out: “power.” The Bible introduces us to a power that is unknown from any other book.

But does the Bible have the power to transform lives? Atheists loudly protest this claim. “A leopard cannot change its spots,” according to atheists. But for two millennia the Bible has shown the part it takes in transforming lives.

What I mean is, the Bible itself does not have the power to transform a person’s life. When a person becomes a Christian, he is transformed through the blood of Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit. However, the Bible does play an essential part in this conversion. The Bible provides us with the knowledge of Christ necessary for salvation. After conversion, the Bible gives the Christian guidelines for following Jesus and living as a Christian.

But is this claim for real? Does the Bible play an essential role in a Christian’s transformation? Let’s look at two examples of this change — John Newton and Charles Colson. These lives were totally transformed through the knowledge of Jesus Christ. And the Bible exists as the only authoritative source for this knowledge

Transformed From Slave Trader to Abolitionist

Did you ever hear of a man named John Newton? Perhaps you have heard of the hymn “Amazing Grace.” You may have heard this hymn played on bagpipes at the funeral of a policeman or fireman. So people think it is the best known hymn in the world.

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost, but now am found, Was blind but now I see.

But John Newton did not start life as a writer of hymns. He started as a rather wretched person.

Newton He was born on August 4, 1725. Then his mother died when John was seven years old. At age 11 he began his life on the sea. In 1744, Newton was “press-ganged” into the Royal Navy.

Newton became known for his “unsettled behavior and impatience of restraint.” He deserted from the Royal Navy but was arrested and returned in irons. In 1747, he joined the crew of a slaver ship. The ship was the Greyhound out of Liverpool. On its journey home from delivering slaves, the Greyhound was overtaken by an enormous storm. Newton turned to Jesus during this storm and was converted.

Be aware that, during this time, serving on a slaving ship was considered an honest profession. Newton saw nothing wrong with continuing to serve on these ships even after becoming a Christian. He felt he could prevent the excessive violence and suffering taking place the ships where he served. But his exposure to the Bible gradually transformed his attitude toward slavery.

In 1755, he left the seafaring life and took an office job. He began leading Bible studies in his home. Finally, Newton was ordained an Anglican priest in 1764. He became known for his pastoral care and for the help he gave to the poor.

Over time, Newton became convinced that slavery is wrong and must be stopped. In 1788, his book Thoughts Upon the Slave Trade exposed the horrors taking place on slaving ships. He wrote, “It will always be a subject of humiliating reflection to me, that I was once an active instrument in a business at which my heart now shudders.” 

This slave trader was transformed into a leading abolitionist through Jesus Christ. The Bible played and important part in his transformation.

A Prisoner Goes Free

Does the name Charles Colson stir any memories? People who lived through the Watergate Investigation in 1973 remember well the name Charles Colson. He was known as President Nixon’s “hatchet man.” He was considered the source of Nixon’s “dirty tricks.”

But Colson began as a lawyer. He graduated with honors from George Washington University Law School and founded a law firm serving Boston and Washington D.C. In January 1969 he left his firm and joined the Nixon administration.

On June 17, 1972, five burglars were caught breaking into the offices of the Democratic National Committee in the Watergate Hotel. After the 1972 presidential election mounting evidence revealed a connection between the White House and the Watergate break-in.

The Nixon administration took steps to conceal evidence. Eventually, several members of the administration were charged with obstruction of evidence. Colson was charged with conspiracy to cover-up the Watergate burglaries.

While waiting to be arrested, Colson read a copy of C. S. Lewis’ book Mere Christianity. After additional study of the Bible, he accepted Jesus Christ as his Savior. Critics immediately expected this was a trick. Colson, they said, pretended to “get religion” in order to receive a lighter sentence from his trial. He was convicted and spent seven months in prison.

However, contrary to the predictions of naysayers, Charles Colson’s Christian life-change continued. After his release from prison, he started a religious organization named Prison Fellowship. This prison ministry resulted in thousands of prisoners accepting Jesus Christ and their Savior and Lord.

Colson became a leading evangelical. He received many honorary doctorates. In 1993 he received the Templeton Prize. This award features the world’s largest cash gift (over $1 million). It is awarded each year to the one person in the world who has done the most to advance the cause of religion.

Charles Colson was transformed by the saving power of Jesus Christ as introduced through the Bible. .

The Power of a Restored Relationship

The real power in the Christian’s life comes from a restored relationship with God and the indwelling Holy Spirit. But the Bible remains an essential resource in promoting this change.

The Bible has the ability to accurately and authoritatively introduce us to God and to bring us before the throne of God. So, the Bible provides us with the information we need to be saved. The power comes from God.

Discipline by a Loving Father–Hebrews 12: 5-6

Did you ever hear someone say, “God disciplines those He loves?” Really. God disciplines me out of love? Where does someone get such a strange idea? Probably from Hebrews 12: 5-11.

When I think of God’s discipline, I think of the loving discipline a father gives to his child. Remember when you were a child. Did your father discipline you? One of the responsibilities of a father is to teach his child self-discipline. To this end the father gives his child chores to do, such as mow the yard or wash the dishes after supper.

If the child does not obey, the father must take harsher measures to teach his child self-discipline. For example, he might send his child to his bedroom or make him sit in the corner of a room with his face to the walls. Continued disobedience may result in stricter measures to teach the child discipline.

Does the father want to teach the child to be cruel? Absolutely not. Such lessons in discipline help prepare the child to live as an adult. Responsible adults need self-discipline for regularly perform essential “grown-up” responsibilities, such as getting a job and going to work, paying taxes, and honoring commitments. Lessons in self-discipline are an essential part of life as an adult.

What About Godly Discipline?

What does this have to do with godly discipline? First, please understand that God uses discipline to help you grow. God wants you to grow and mature to the place where you are conformed to the image of His son (see Romans 8: 29 and II Corinthians 3: 18). Discipline helps move us toward that goal.

Second, God’s actions as a Father do not compare to the actions of an earthly father. Some people grew up and never even met their father. Others had fathers who were abusive or cruel. And some of us had fathers who were kind and intelligent and self-sacrificing. They wanted their children to have the best father possible. This last example of a father faintly mirrors God’s kind of fathering. But God is perfect love. Love is the key to His fatherhood. Love also is the key to understanding Hebrews 12: 5-6:

And you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons,
            “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor faint when you are reproved by Him;
            For those whom the Lord loves He disciplines, and He scourges every son whom he receives.” (NASB 1995)

Hebrews 12: 5-6 helps us understand God’s loving discipline. How do these Bible verses do that?

Four Greek words

These two verses use four words describing discipline: discipline and reproved (in verse 5) and disciplines and scourges (in verse 6). Let’s look more closely at these words in the Greek.

  • discipline (noun) — Greek paideias (παιδείας) — properly, instruction that trains someone to reach full development (maturity)(taken from the Discovery Bible’s Word Study HELPS)
  • reproved — Greek elenchomenos (ἐλεγχόμενος) — properly, to convince with solid, compelling evidence, especially to expose (prove wrong, correct) (from Discovery Bible’s HELPS)
  • discipline (verb) — Greek paideuo (παιδεύω) —  to train children, to chasten, correct (Strong); paideúō (“to instruct by training“) is the root of the English terms, “pedagoguepedagogy.”
  • scourges — Greek mastigoi (μαστιγοῖ) — properly, to whip (scourge) with a mastigos; to “flog (scourge) a victim, strapped to a pole or frame” (from Discovery Bible’s HELPS).

Notice that the positioning of these words indicates a progression of godly discipline. First, God uses training to improve our ability to obey and to follow Jesus. If we resist or ignore godly training, God tries to correct our behavior by reasoning with us. Following the failure of correction through convincing arguments, God must chasten us, that is, He must use mild punishment to correct. If this fails, God must resort to punishment that is not mild.

Sadly, the last two categories of discipline (chastening and punishing) causes some people to question God’s goodness and love.

Discipline With Love

Does God discipline with love? Let’s consider some additional thoughts from Hebrews 12.

A Father’s Close, Personal Presence During Discipline

Let’s look again at the opening phrase from Hebrews 12: 5: “And you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons.”

The writer of Hebrews used a special Greek word “parakleseos” (παρακλήσεως) for the English word “exhortation.” The Greek words means “a calling to one’s aid for encouragement, comfort, exhortation, or comfort (Strong’s Concordance).

Another form of this word is “parakletos” (παράκλητος). English Bibles translate this word as Comforter or Counselor. Jesus speaks this word when He tells His disciples about the Holy Spirit in John, chapters 14, 15, and 16.

There is one important aspect of “parakletos” that deserves special mention. The word describes a counselor or comforter who stays very close to the person he is helping. In other words, “parakletos,” in this context, refers to God as a heavenly Father Who remains very close to His child during discipline. Our God never leaves us or forsakes us, even during discipline.

Reasons for a Father’s Discipline

Hebrews 12: 7-11 further explains the important similarities between a father’s discipline and God’s discipline.

It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. (ESV)

Four similarities between a father’s discipline and God’s discipline:

  1. Fatherly discipline confirms the relationship between father and son. Godly discipline also validates your relationship as a child of God.
  2. Children respect their father when he rightly disciplines them.
  3. God disciplines us for our own good that we may share His holiness.
  4. Discipline “yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”

Discipline With Love

Why does God discipline His children? Because He loves us. Believe this if you can because it is the truth.

The Bible’s Power to Create a Culture

Why is the Bible special? What makes the Bible different from all other books? Yes, there are many ways to answer that question but for this particular blog entry one word stands out: “power.” The Bible has power that is unknown from any other book.

OK, I realize that if an atheist read those words, he would be rolling on the floor in laughter. “The Bible? Power?” He would say with a chuckle. “Give me a break. That’s the most ridiculous statement I’ve ever heard.” But wait! Let me explain. During the last 2000 years the Bible has shown its ability to transform lives and to civilize cultures.

The Bible makes changes in partnership with the Holy Spirit of God. That’s right, the third member of the trinity. How can the Bible do this? Well, the Bible begins by showing us the values and standards needed for transformation. Then the Holy Spirit gives individuals the power to transform. Finally, when a civilization becomes dominated by transformed individuals, the civilization undergoes change.

In other words, the Bible provides the blueprint and the Holy Spirit builds the house. Changed lives provide the basis for changed cultures. For more than two thousand years, God has used the Bible as the basis for civilization. But how does this process begin?

The First Step — Change the Man

All Christian growth and discipleship start with a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Why? Because if you do not have a living, loving relationship with God, you cannot know or understand the things of God. The apostle Paul wrote about this connection in I Corinthians 2: 10-12, 14.

“For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. . . . The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. (ESV)

Thus, the relationship with God begins. Now the process can be guided by the Bible and empowered by the Holy Spirit. This relationship with God enables the Christian to read and understand the Bible in a whole new way. The Christian for the first time can appreciate biblical standards.

Biblical Standards

God’s standards for human behavior are completely different from the standards mankind sets for itself. Why? Because God’s standards help us strive for holiness. The world’s standards leave us to wallow in a swamp of sin. The Bible speaks of the superiority of God’s standards in Isaiah 55: 8-9:

For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts. (ESV)

OK, if a Christian wants to live for God, then he must adopt God’s standards for his own life. And where do we find God’s standards? By reading and studying the Bible. And according to Psalm 119: 7, 9, 11, we should store up God’s word in our hearts.

I will praise you with an upright heart,
when I learn your righteous rules. . . .
How can a young man keep his way pure?
By guarding it according to your word. . . .
I have stored up your word in my heart,
that I might not sin against you. (ESV)

As the Bible begins to show us God’s standards and expectations, the Holy Spirit provides us with the power to change.

Power From the Holy Spirit

This change does not happen all at once. Change begins when we accept Jesus Christ as our Savior. In II Corinthians, chapter 3, the Bible uses the metaphor of a veil to describe this change. Before we accept Christ, a “veil” covers our eyes and prevents us from seeing the Lord clearly. However, according to II Corinthians 3: 16, “when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed.” Thus begins an incredible change described in II Corinthians 3: 18:

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. (ESV)

What is the extent of this change? How far will God change us? Romans 8: 29 states that God’s intention is that we be “conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.” God wants us to become just like Jesus Christ.

As more people are transformed, they begin to have an effect on their society.

Transformed People = Changed Societies

The real power in the Christian’s life comes from a restored relationship with God and the indwelling Holy Spirit. The Bible has the ability to accurately and authoritatively introduce us to God and to bring us before the throne of God.

History provides many examples of the Bible’s power to transform society. The laws in the Old Testament provide the basic structure for the laws of many societies today — including the United States. The words of Jesus help us learn compassion and kindness toward others. When the rule of law is paired with a culture of kindness and compassion, the transformation of a society is inevitable.

The Bible provides the support needed for the foundations of our government and our society

Eighteenth century philosopher Immanuel Kant provided a good summary statement. “The existence of the Bible, as a book for the people, is the greatest benefit which the human race has ever experienced. Every attempt to belittle it is a crime against humanity.”

Evidence of Biblical Authority

What is authority? Google’s dictionary defines “authority” as “the power or right to give orders, make decisions, and enforce obedience.” How does this fit into biblical authority?

During the twentieth century the Bible lost much of its credibility. Secular scientists battered the Bible through attacks on the Creation story in Genesis 1. Other “intellectuals” tried to destroy the Bible’s authority by saying there is no historical evidence to support the biblical account of history. Additional “experts” tried to plant a seed of doubt regarding prophecy in the Bible.

Belief in the Bible is an exercise of faith. Of course it is! However, belief in the Bible can be affirmed and bolstered based on evidence of the Bible’s correctness. After all, if the Bible really is God’s book, it should be accurate when compared to physical evidence. In this way we can test for evidence of the Bible’s authority. Two often used “tests” are historical accuracy and fulfilled prophecy.

Historical Accuracy

Is the Bible a storybook or a reliable record of historical events? This is very important. If the Bible is a storybook consisting of made-up stories, then it is not any better than fiction. But the Bible has proven again and again that it is not fiction. Archeological discoveries continually confirm the historical accuracy of the Bible.

Archaeologists have found hundreds of examples of historical accuracy. Let’s look at a few examples.

(1) The Tel Da Inscription — Archaeologists doubted the existence of King David, the second king of Israel. But in 1993 an inscription was found in Tel Da. The inscription contained the phrase “house of David.” This simple inscription helped confirm the existence of King David.

(2) Moabite Stone — In 1868, archeologists discovered a tablet written in the Moabite language. This tablet described the Moabite account of a battle that took place between Moab and Israel during the ninth century before Christ. This battle is described from the Israelite perspective in II Kings, chapter 3. The Moabite Stone provides extrabiblical evidence for the historical accuracy of the Bible.

(3) Nebi Yunus in Nineveh — The ruins of Nineveh were discovered Austin Henry Layard in 1846 and 1847 AD. One site is known as the Nebi Yunus (translated as “Prophet Jonah”). Both Christians and Muslims believe this is the tomb of the prophet Jonah. For several centuries the Nebi Yunus mound was untouched. It was covered by an Islamic shrine to the prophet Jonah.  In 2014 the mosque was destroyed by ISIS. Archaeologists finally were able to examine the site. Recent excavations confirm the dating of the site to the time of the Assyrian Empire.

(4) The House of Omri — This royal house ruled the Northern Kingdom of Israel during the ninth century BC. A reference to “the house of Omri” appears in three ancient inscriptions. First, the Mesha Stele bears a Moabite inscription of “the house of Omri.” It was written about 840 BC by Mesha, ruler of Moab. Second, King Hazael of Damascus wrote on the Tel Dan Stele that he killed the two kings, one from the house of Omri. Third, the Black Obelisk of Shalmaneser names Jehu as a “son of Omri.”

These are only a few examples where archaeology verified the accuracy of the Bible. What about prophecy? How does it affect biblical authority?

Fulfilled Prophecy

The Bible is packed with prophecy. Experts estimate there are more than 1800 prophecies in the Bible. More than 300 of these prophecies were fulfilled by Jesus Christ. Let’s look at a couple of these prophecies.

(1) God’s Promise to Abram — In Genesis 12: 2-3, God gave the following promise to Abraham, the father of the Hebrew nation: “I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. . . . and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (ESV) Jesus Christ fulfilled this prophecy. (see Galatians 3: 8)

(2) Jesus’ Death on the Cross — Psalm 22 contains several prophecies that were fulfilled by Jesus on the cross.

  • verse 1 — [Jesus said] “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (ESV) (Matthew 27: 46; Mark 15: 34)
  • verses 7-8 — “All who see me mock me; they make mouths at me; they wag their heads, ‘He trusts in the LORD; let him deliver him; let him rescue him, for he delights in him!’” (ESV) (Matthew 27: 39-42; Mark 15: 29-32)
  • verse 15 — “my strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to my jaws; you lay me in the dust of death.” (ESV) (Matthew 27: 33-34; Mark 15: 23)
  • verse 16-17 — “a company of evildoers encircles me; they have pierced my hands and feet . . . they stare and gloat over me;” (ESV) (Matthew 27: 39; Mark 15: 16-20)
  • verse 18 — “they divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.” (ESV) (Matthew 27: 35; Mark 15: 24;)

(3) The Place of Jesus’ Birth — Matthew 2 : 3 “And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.” (ESV) (Micah 5: 2)

(4) The Voice Crying in the Wilderness — Matthew 3: 3 “For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord; make his paths straight.’” (ESV) (Isaiah 40: 3) (see Matthew 11: 10-11)

There is a difficulty arising from these examples. Skeptics can say, “These are set ups. You either find a passage of Scripture that describes an historical event or you change the event to fit the passage of Scripture.” Can we find an answer to this criticism?

(5) “Jew” As a Byword Among the Nations — We can find several Bible verse as examples of this. Zechariah 8: 13 says, “you have been a byword of cursing among the nations, O house of Judah and house of Israel.” (ESV) “Byword” is defined as “a notorious and outstanding example or embodiment of something.” (see also Deuteronomy 28:37; Psalm 44: 14; and Joel 2: 17)

So, in other words, Zechariah 8: 13 says the name of Judah and Israel shall be used as a curse word. Does this prophecy match the evidence? Yes. Sadly, many people around the world use the word “Jew” as a curse word. This prophecy came true. No one could “manipulate” this byword into existence.

Conclusion

Even in this age of secularism, science, and skepticism there is evidence of the Bible’s continuing authority. As Billy Graham said, “The Bible has stood the test of time because it is divinely inspired by Almighty God, written in ink that cannot be erased by any man, religion, or belief system.”

The Bible — God’s Word

The Bible contains the mind of God, the state of man, the way of salvation, the doom of sinners, and the happiness of believers. Its doctrines are holy, its precepts are binding, its histories are true, and its decisions are immutable. Read it to be wise, believe it to be safe, and practice it to be holy. It contains light to direct you, food to support you, and comfort to cheer you. It is the traveler’s map, the pilgrim’s staff, the pilot’s compass, the soldier’s sword and the Christian’s charter. Here too, Heaven is opened and the gates of Hell disclosed. Christ is its grand subject, our good its design, and the glory of God its end. It should fill the memory, rule the heart and guide the feet. Read it slowly, frequently and prayerfully.  It is a mine of wealth, a paradise of glory, and a river of pleasure. It is given you in life, will be opened at the judgment, and be remembered forever. It involves the highest responsibility, rewards the greatest labor, and will condemn all who trifle with its sacred contents.

Gideon Bibles Have This Statement on the Cover Page
The Word is part of discipleship

Many people in all countries around the world believe the Bible is a special book. The Bible has been translated into more languages than any other book (more than 3000 languages). In addition, more copies of the Bible exist than any other book.

Why? Christians believe the Bible is God’s truth and contains God’s plan for the salvation of every person on earth. God is the source of the Bible, that is, the Bible is divinely inspired. The Bible also provides the information needed to become a Christian, to grow and mature as a Christian, and to live the Christian life according to God’s standards. The Bible says this in II Timothy 3: 16-17, which says,

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. (ESV)

Divine Inspiration of the Bible

What does the Bible mean by “breathed out” or “inspiration?” The Greek word for “breathed out by God” (that is, inspiration) is “theopneustos” (θεόπνευστος). This word is used only one time in the entire New Testament. Some scholars believe the apostle Paul invented this word. Many translations render that word as “inspired by God.” In other words, God wrote the Bible. And because these words come from God, they have divine authority over our lives.

In addition, verse 17 states the purpose of Scripture. Scripture (the Bible) provides everything we need to make a Christian complete and equipped for the Christian life.

The Battle for the Bible

But many people choose not to believe that the Bible exists as God’s uniquely inspired Word. These people often rebel against the teachings of the Bible. They do not like the Bible. They feel the Bible intrudes on their free will. Therefore, they oppose the Bible. Their opposition includes inventing arguments designed to destroy the credibility of the Bible.

Is the Bible the word of God? Of course, we answer this question only by faith. We can neither prove nor disprove that the Bible is the divinely inspired Word of God. However, we can provide evidence to support our claim that the Bible is of divine origin.

What sorts of evidence can we provide? The answer to that question fills dozens of books on Christian apologetics. But for this blog we will briefly examine evidence in three areas.

  • Authority — What gives the Bible authority? If the Bible contained examples of events in history and these events were verified again and again by the latest archeological evidence, would truth like this provide the Bible with some authority? And if the Bible contained prophecies that came true centuries after the prophecy was made, would true prophecies demonstrate biblical authority?
  • Power — If the Bible really exists as God’s special book, should it not have some kind of special effect over the people who read it? But the Bible, in fact, does change people who read it and believe its teachings. The Bible also has a positive effect on societies that follow it.
  • Transmission — Can we trust the words of today’s Bibles? How can we know the text of the Bible matches the text of the original manuscripts? Skeptics claim the original texts were changed by scribes either by accident or on purpose. Is this true? In addition, how do we know if the words and deeds of Jesus really took place. Let’s look at some of the evidence.

Providing evidence cannot prove the Bible is inspired by God. However, if a divine book from God does exist, we would expect the history contained in its pages to match the facts discovered by archaeologists. Right? And if the book contained prophecy of future events, would we not expect some of those prophecies to be fulfilled?

In addition, shouldn’t we expect the ethics in God’s book to have power to change our society? God’s book also should have the power to transform lives and bring people back to God. And if this Book had such power, wouldn’t we want the accurate transmission of this book across the centuries?

Evidence and Faith

As I wrote earlier in this blog, no one can prove or disprove whether the Bible is the Word of God. And this evidence does not prove divine authority for the Bible. But this evidence can silence the critics and give people reason to believe. But the final step for believing in the Bible remains your step of faith.

Prayer Is Talking with God

How difficult it is to write about prayer. Why? Because there is so much to say. For example, American author E. M. Bounds wrote more than six hundred pages on the subject of prayer. So, of course, this post only can touch on a few areas regarding prayer.

First of all, prayer is talking with God. Do not forget this. Prayer is not about me. It is not about you. Prayer is all about God. But God is holy and almighty and so far beyond our ability to comprehend. We are insignificant as we stand before Him.

How Can We Approach God?

So how can we approach such a holy and powerful God? We approach Him with awe, and reverence, and confidence.

Awe — Moses said in Exodus 15: 11, “Who is like you, O LORD, among the gods? Who is like you, majestic in holiness, awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders?” The presence of God should fill us with awe and wonder.

Reverence — Isaiah 6: 3 says, And one [seraphim] called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” When this happened, the temple was filled with the glory of God. Strange creatures (seraphim) flew around the room. Isaiah fell to his knees in reverence. Reverence means “deep respect” or “veneration.”

Confidence — Did you expect to see this attitude? How can we draw near to God with confidence? This is contrary to reverence and awe, isn’t it? Well, God wants our respect and worship but He does not want us filled with fear and panic when we come before Him. The Bible says in Hebrews 4: 16, “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (ESV)

Why confidence? Confidence is the feeling or belief that one can rely on someone or something. It is having firm trust in this Someone. How can we know we can trust God? Because God is our loving Father. He sent Jesus to die for you and for me. By this we are assured that God loves us.

The apostle Paul spoke of this assurance in Romans 8: 31-32, which says, “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us?  He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?” (ESV) To Paul, this logic confirmed God’s care for us. If God did not spare His own Son but sent Him to die for our sins, it makes sense that God will freely give us all good things.

Tips for a Consistent Prayer Life

OK, God wants to hear from us. We know this. How can we come to Him regularly and consistently? Here are a few practical suggestions:

Have a set place and time — Setting aside a specific prayer time can help to create a regular and consistent prayer life. King David prayed in the morning. In Psalm 5: 3 David wrote, “O LORD, in the morning you hear my voice; in the morning I prepare a sacrifice for you and watch.” (ESV)

Also have a designated place for prayer. Your prayer space should be quiet and secluded. It should be a place when you will not be interrupted. Jesus selected a quiet, secluded place to pray on the night before He chose the twelve disciples. The Bible says in Luke 6: 12, “In these days he went out to the mountain to pray, and all night he continued in prayer to God.” (ESV) The Bible also tells us that Moses (Exodus 24: 18), Elijah (I Kings 19: 8-9), and Peter (Acts 10: 9) met with God in secluded places.

Designate a space that will become your special meeting place with God. And get in the habit of praying at the same time every day. The power of a habit helps to reminds you to come to God in prayer.

Use a prayer list or organizer — For a long time I resisted using prayer lists. But I have found no better way to remember my responsibility to others when I pray. Prayer lists also help you get organized. However, you must resist the tendency we have to turn the prayer list into a mere list of names. As you pray for each person or item on your list, think of that person or item and of their prayer need. Remember, you are presenting that person by name to the holy God of heaven and earth.

The apostle Paul kept long lists of the people for whom he prayed (see Romans 16: 3-16). He asks the churches to pray for their fellow Christians. Ephesians 6: 18 says, “praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints.” (ESV) Supplication means asking or begging for something earnestly or humbly.

The Old Testament prophet Samuel also took prayer very seriously. He said to the people of Israel in I Samuel 12: 23, “Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD by ceasing to pray for you, and I will instruct you in the good and the right way.” (ESV)

Listen for God’s voice — Listening earns the reputation of being the most important and least remembered part of prayer. After presenting your requests to God, continue quietly in a prayerful mood for a few minutes. Remember, God often speaks in the quiet voice of peaceful stillness. Quietly and reverently wait upon God.

Much more will be said about listening for God’s voice in future blogs. But remember, prayer is talking with God. It is a conversation with the Lord God Almighty. However, a place before His throne is reserved for us by Jesus Christ. Approach God with reverence but also with confidence. The Lord God Almighty exists also as your Father who loves you.

Basics of Prayer

Prayer is important. Every Christian knows that. But how should we pray? Prayer is our opportunity to talk with God. Our relationship with God grows as our prayer life improves. And although God can answer any prayer, a regular prayer format serves as, perhaps, the best way to pray on a daily basis.

Many discipleship programs suggest the following framework for prayer. This framework for regular prayer format consists of six basic parts or principles. Christian disciple makers also developed an illustration to help us remember these six basic parts of prayer. This illustration is known as “The Hand Illustration.”

The six basic principles of prayer are praise, thanksgiving, confession, intercession, petition, and listening.

  • Praise — Words of praise fill the Bible. Revelation 4: 8 says, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!” (ESV) Another example follows in Revelation 4: 11, which says, “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.” (ESV)

So, what is praise? Praise declares to God the truth about His mighty actions and attributes. Praise is focused totally on God. Why do we praise God? Not because God needs to hear it. Rather, we need to acknowledge and verbalize our belief that God is mighty and great and good.

The Hand Illustration
  • Thanksgiving — The Bible tells us again and again to be thankful to God. Why? According to Psalm 100: 5 “For the LORD is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.” (ESV)

Thanksgiving celebrates God’s goodness to us. We have so many reasons to give thanks to God. In the Old Testament, the people of Israel thanked God for His steadfast love and faithfulness. The authors of the New Testament give thanks to God for sending Jesus to die for our sins. I Thessalonians 5: 18 expands our basis for thanksgiving, saying, “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (ESV) Giving thanks is God’s will for us.

  • Confession — Confession of sins endures as a Christian concept. And what is sin? Sin is lawlessness — rebellion against God. I John 3: 4 tells us, “Everyone who make a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness.” (ESV) But what actions are considered sinful? You can discover some examples of sin by reading the Ten Commandments found in Exodus 20.

Why do we need to confess our sins to God? Because sin hampers our ability to draw close to God. According to Isaiah 59: 2, “your iniquities [AKA sins] have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear.” (ESV)

Does everyone sin? Yes. Every person who ever lived has committed sins. Romans 3: 10-12, 23 says, “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one. . . . for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (ESV) Everyone has sinned — except Jesus. Jesus is without sin (see Hebrews 4: 15). Jesus never rebelled against God.

We cannot draw close to God if we are beset by sin. We cannot stay close to God until our sins are forgiven. The Bible promises in I John 1: 9, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (ESV)

  • Intercession — Intercession is praying for others. The Bible teaches that intercession has great power. According to James 5: 16 “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” (ESV)

The apostle Paul believed in the power of intercessory prayers over events in our lives. For example, in I Timothy 2: 1-2, Paul reports the impact of our prayers for “kings and all who are in high positions.” “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.” (ESV) 

The prophet Samuel from the Old Testament reveals the importance of intercessory prayer. Failure to pray for others can even be considered a sin against God. Samuel says in I Samuel 12: 23, “Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD by ceasing to pray for you, and I will instruct you in the good and the right way.” (ESV) Intercession is far more important than we can imagine.

“Prayer is not simply getting things from God, that is a most initial form of prayer; prayer is getting into perfect communion with God.” — Oswald Chambers

  • Petition — Look at that quote from Oswald Chambers. What does it mean? To me it identifies the initial form of prayer for most of us. When a person says his first prayers, he usually is asking God for something. Many first prayers consist of pleadings to God for help. For example, notice Psalm 28: 1-2, 6: “To you, O LORD, I call; my rock, be not deaf to me, . . . Hear the voice of my pleas for mercy, when I cry to you for help, when I lift up my hands toward your most holy sanctuary. . . . Blessed be the LORD! For he has heard the voice of my pleas for mercy.” (ESV)

Petition differs from intercession. Intercession makes prayer requests for others. Petition shifts the focus of the prayers to the person making the prayer.

  • Listening — The goal of listening is to gain communion with God. Google’s online dictionary defines communion as “the sharing or exchanging of intimate thoughts and feelings.” Sharing involves both persons. In prayer we usually focus on talking to God. We must spend time learning to listen to God.

How do we listen intimately? Keep your focus squarely on God. Stop your mind from wandering. Don’t daydream. Stay awake! At first this may be difficult, especially early in the morning. Listening to God requires discipline.

Why is listening important? It gives the Holy Spirit time to “teach you all things.” As Jesus said in John 14: 26, “The Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.” (ESV)

Listening also puts you in a quiet situation. God speaks with a still, small voice. Quiet is an important part of listening.

Does God speak to us? That possibility is too complex to discuss here. However, Jesus said in John 10: 27-28 “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand.” (ESV)

These are the six basic parts of prayer.

Prayer should help us grow and mature as Christians. Eventually, we come to understand that prayer should not focus on me or on the other person. The best, most mature prayers focus on God. The heart of prayer is communication and communion with God.

Abiding in Christ

Let’s start at the very beginning. First, you must accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior. You cannot be a Christian disciple unless you, first, are a Christian. And you cannot follow Jesus as a disciple unless you have a personal relationship with Him.

Next, in order to become a disciple, you must learn to abide in Christ. When I was a new Christian, I had problems understanding the meaning of “abiding in Christ.” Jesus did not abide in me before I accepted Him as Savior. The Greek word μένω simply means “abide, remain, stay” so that was not much help. How can I stay close to Jesus?

[Jesus said] “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.  I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. . . . If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. John 15: 4-5, 10 (ESV)

What does it mean to abide in Christ? Does it mean to stay close to Jesus every moment of your life? OK. But how do I do that? By keeping your mind set on spiritual thoughts and by filling your life with wholesome friends and spiritual activities. How can you do that? Here are a few suggestions.

Keep Your Mind Set on Christ

In the early years of computers, programmers referred to the acronym GIGO when discussing some of their computer problems. GIGO means “garbage in, garbage out.” In other words, if you put bad data into a computer, you will get bad data back from the computer. This concept also applies to our minds. If I fill my mind with bad or negative thoughts, my mind will not produce good thoughts.

But what happens when a Christian fills their mind with thoughts of Jesus Christ? According to Romans 12: 2, filling our minds with Jesus results in mental and spiritual transformation. “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (ESV)

How can you keep your mind set on Jesus? First, lay aside all crude or nasty books, immoral or unhealthy websites, porn, negative social media sites, questionable television shows and movies, and anything that can turn your mind away from Christ.

Then, second, fill your mind with thoughts of Christ. The Bible is a good place to start. Also check out Christian books and movies. Listen to Bible studies, both recorded and in person. As you fill your mind with good things, then, over a period of time, you will become transformed. But what about choosing your friends?

Choose Your Friends Wisely

Who are your friends? With whom do you hang out? What do you do when you spend time with others? Where do you go?

Abiding in Christ may result in some old friendships fading away. The Bible says having good friends does matter. I Corinthians 15: 33 says, “Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company ruins good morals.’ ” (ESV) Proverbs 13: 20 agrees, saying, “Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.” (ESV) So choose your new friends wisely.

After you become a Christian, some of your old friends may abandon you. Why? Because if they do not know Jesus, you will hold fewer things in common. Your paths may slowly drift apart. But this is normal. You should be drawn to participate in new activities with new friends who share your new life in Christ.

Participate in Wholesome Activities

As a Christian you may discover that you no longer enjoy some of the activities in which you took part before accepting Jesus. When you learn about being a Christian, you will set new standards of behavior. This will cause you to abandon some of your old activities. The Bible says in Ephesians 5: 11-12, “Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.  For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret.” (ESV) Some of your old activities were “unfruitful works of darkness.”

In addition, some of your former activities may disgust or offend you. Why? Your life is becoming reoriented. You are turning away from darkness. Jesus Christ is filling your life with light. According to Ephesians 5: 8, “At one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light.” (ESV)

Abiding Is Staying Close

What is abiding? How would you abide with a physical friend? You would stay close to that person. When you are in their presence, you are abiding with them.

Abiding with Christ closely resembles abiding with a physical friend. There is one major difference. Jesus is spirit. How can you abide in Christ’s spiritual presence? By filling your minds with thoughts of Jesus and by spending time in activities that are centered on Jesus.

The Bible conveys this idea well in Colossians 3: 16, which says, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” (ESV)

This is abiding in Christ. And abiding in Christ is the most important first step in Christian discipleship.

The Basics of Discipleship

What are the basics of Christian discipleship? Well, let’s start at the very beginning. First, you must accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior. You cannot be a Christian disciple unless, first, you are a Christian. You cannot follow Jesus as His disciple unless you have a personal relationship with Him.

How can you begin to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ? You must accept Jesus Christ into your heart as your Savior.

If you never accepted Jesus Christ as your Savior, then pay attention to the outline in the column on the right.

  • Admit to God that you are a sinner.
  • Believe in Lord Jesus Christ
  • Confess the Lord Jesus

Accept Jesus Christ as your Savior and you have taken the first step toward Christian discipleship.

The Basics of Discipleship

What’s next? Well, the Bible gives us five basic disciplines that help us form a strong foundation for discipleship. They are abiding in Christ, prayer, Bible study, fellowship, and witnessing. Let’s learn a bit more about each of these disciplines.

  • Abiding in Christ — you cannot have a living, personal relationship with Jesus unless you abide in Him. “Abiding” means staying close to Jesus at all times. Jesus uses the example of a grape vine and its branches to describe the importance of abiding. Jesus said, “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. . . . My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples.” (John 15: 4-5, 8 ESV)
  • Prayer — prayer is having a conversation with God. You cannot be a Christian disciple apart from prayer. Jesus knew the importance of prayer. He taught His disciples how to pray (see Matthew 6: 9-13 and Luke 11: 1-4). The apostle Paul also knew the importance of prayer. He wrote the following exhortation to the Ephesians, “Praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me.” Ephesians 6: 18-19 (ESV)
  • Bible Study — the Bible is the foundation and the authority for Christian discipleship. Yes, the Holy Spirit and prayer provide the power for Christian living but the Bible tells us where to find that power and how to become powerful ourselves through Jesus Christ. The Bible says this in II Timothy 3: 16-17, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. (ESV)
  • Witnessing — witnessing (sharing the gospel with the lost) is essential for the growth of the Kingdom of God. Jesus taught His disciples how to witness. Witnessing is that important. In addition, Jesus’ final words on earth commanded His followers to make disciples. According to Matthew 28: 18-20, “Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’ (ESV)
  • Fellowship — What is fellowship? Is it just parties or coffee between church services or potluck dinners? No, Christian fellowship consists of much more than that. Christians are required to care for each other. Galatians 6: 2 tells us, “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” (ESV) God intended the church to be a body of believers that is defined by love and caring for each other.

And there you have it. But before we move on, let’s examine the most important strength and weakness of these basics of discipleship.

Strength and Weakness

I started discipleship using a program that centered on these five basic areas of discipleship. The program implied that these five areas were the beginning, the middle, and the end of Christian discipleship. What’s wrong with that approach to discipleship? Well, I think I can answer that question by naming the strength and weakness of these five basics of discipleship.

Strength — These five basic areas of discipleship provide an excellent program for the person who is beginning to walk as a disciple. They are concise and concrete. These five areas are easy to explain and follow. So, they serve as a good place to start a life of discipleship. By maintaining discipline in these five areas a novice disciple remains in an excellent position to establish a relationship with God, learn more about Jesus, and become established in a local church. Using these basic disciplines will provide the disciple with a solid foundation for Christian growth.

Weakness — But there is a huge problem when a person considers these basics as the totality of discipleship. Although these five disciplines are important — even essential — for Christian growth, they are not even the center, that is, the most important part of discipleship. When Jesus called the first disciples in Matthew 4: 19 and Mark 1: 17, He did not say “read the Bible.” Jesus said, “Follow Me.” The center of discipleship is Jesus Christ. And to be a Christian disciple we must follow Him.

Jesus explained this further in Luke 9: 23-24. And [Jesus] said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.  For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.” (ESV) Following Jesus requires self-denial and giving control of your life to Jesus.

Being a disciple of Jesus requires you to place Jesus ahead of all other relationships — including self. Jesus said in Luke 14: 26, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” (ESV)

[Jesus said,] “If a man come to me and hate not . . . he cannot be my disciple,” not, he cannot be good and upright, but, he cannot be one over whom Jesus writes the word “Mine.”

Oswald Chambers

After Jesus was crucified and rose from the dead, the first disciples began to understand that the command “follow Me” included following Jesus unto death. The apostle Peter wrote in I Peter 2: 21, For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. (ESV)

The apostle Paul summed this up in Galatians 2: 20: I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (ESV)

And to Summarize

The basics of discipleship are essential tools for building your relationship with God. Prayer and abiding in Christ are central to building a relationship with God. The Bible teaches you about God and Jesus Christ and Christian living. Fellowship and evangelism demonstrate the interaction between the disciple, the church, and the world.