God’s Training

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Q. Everyone talks about discipleship but what should we really be trained in? Evangelism? Leading bible study? Praying? Is there a scriptural curriculum? What is the goal? How do we know whether we’ve done our job?

A. All the subjects you mentioned (witnessing, studying the bible, prayer), along with worship and fellowship should form part of a new believer’s basic follow-up. They contribute to the new Christian’s growth and balanced development. Having said that, the Bible does specify a few things we should be trained for, the process, and the desired end results:

Goals:
2 Sam 22:35 He trains my hands for battle, …
• Psalm 18:34 He trains my hands for battle, …
• Psalm 144:1 Blessed be the LORD, my rock, Who trains my hands for war, And my fingers for battle;
• Hebrews 5:14 But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.
• Hebrews 12:11 All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.

In the OT God trained David for battle. We apply this to NT times and today to spiritual battle, more specifically to discerning good and evil, and training for righteousness. These are particularly important in the last days when people reject the truth and lose their moral compass.

Process:
Proverbs 22:6 Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it.
• 2 Timothy 3:16 All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;

The training process involves applying God’s word from spiritual infancy. This requires discipline and practice over the long haul. There are no short cuts and quick fixes. The prevalent classroom method is not the best approach. On-the-job training is much more effective.

End-Result:
Luke 6:40 A pupil is not above his teacher; but everyone, after he has been fully trained, will be like his teacher.
The desired end-result is that the disciple will be like his Master Teacher. Conformity to the image of Christ is the standard by which we ought to be measured, not completion of number of courses or obtaining a certificate or diploma. In this sense our job is never done this side of heaven.

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Overcoming Worldliness

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Q. Christians nowadays are very worldly. What is the cure for worldliness?

A. Before we get to the cure, let’s understand the disease. The word “worldly” translates the Greek word “kosmikos“, and means “having the character of this present corrupt age”. It appears 5 times in the NASB:

1 Tim 4:7 But have nothing to do with worldly fables fit only for old women. On the other hand, discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness;
• 1 Tim 6:20 O Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to you, avoiding worldly and empty chatter and the opposing arguments of what is falsely called “knowledge”—
• 2 Tim 2:16 But avoid worldly and empty chatter, for it will lead to further ungodliness,
• Titus 2:12 instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age,
• Jude 1:19 These are the ones who cause divisions, worldly-minded, devoid of the Spirit.

Note that the opposite of “worldly” is “godly”. So the cure for “worldliness” is “godliness”.

Now what does the Bible say about godliness? The word “godliness” appears 15 times in the NASB. I won’t list them all here as you can look them up in a concordance, but the relevant ideas here include:

1. Godliness has to be pursued and comes with discipline:
1 Tim 6:11 But flee from these things, you man of God, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness.
• 1 Tim 4:7 But have nothing to do with worldly fables fit only for old women. On the other hand, discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness;

2. It is most profitable in conjunction with contentment:
1 Tim 6:6 But godliness actually is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment.

3. It is manifested by good works and holy conduct, not just talk:
1 Tim 2:10 but rather by means of good works, as is proper for women making a claim to godliness.
• 2 Pet 3:11 Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness,

So to avoid being a worldly person, we have to aim for godliness, be content, and practice it. And what does the Bible teach about contentment? There are two levels.

1. The first is being content with what we have: our wages, our food, our clothing; and not desire what we don’t have:
Lk 3:14 Some soldiers were questioning him, saying, “And what about us, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Do not take money from anyone by force, or accuse anyone falsely, and be content with your wages.”
• 1 Tim 6:8 If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content.
• Heb 13:5 Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, “I WILL NEVER DESERT YOU, NOR WILL I EVER FORSAKE YOU,”

2. The second level goes higher, being content in whatever circumstances we are in, including difficult times, times when we are in need and suffering:
2 Co 12:10 Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.
• Php 4:11 Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am.

The reason one is content under such desperate conditions is because he is totally focused on Christ, who promised He will never desert us or forsake us.

So my long answer is that to overcome worldliness we need to be centered on Christ and develop a close walk with Him. To do so is to become a godly person who has overcome the world.

Church Mess (2 of 2)

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(Continued from yesterday)

There are 4 parties in the story, each with actions that are not handled properly:
1. Pastor A who accused his associate in public.
2. Pastor B who was accused, which accusations may be true or false.
3. Church members who reacted negatively to A at the members’ meeting and wrote a joint letter to the board demanding that A be disciplined.
4. The board who took no action when the accusations first erupted and wrote a letter to all members requiring them to cease all forms of communication, private or public.

Taking things at face value, i.e. everything is accurately reported, my principles and gut reaction are:

• Deal with public matters publicly, private matters privately. I don’t know whether they had private discussions prior to the public outburst, and whether they are at the same job level or not, but A should have approached B in private to resolve the grievances first. If there is no resolution, then bring it to B’s supervisor or the board. Only when there is still no satisfactory resolution then it’s up to the board to take the matter to a members’ meeting, not A. This is standard Mt 18 procedure regarding conflicts between members or staff.

• A is handling things immaturely. In general we can tolerate a pastor’s poor performance due to inexperience, bad behavior (up to a point) due to immaturity, but usually sever employment when his integrity is compromised, whether it is morals (infidelity), money (embezzlement), or when he drifts into heresy. Here A has not gone so far to warrant dismissal, but needs disciplinary action so that he can repent and be restored, and the congregation to learn grace rather than legalism.

• The board does not have the authority by virtue of their position to require members to cease private communication. They can appeal, but cannot demand. They have also lost their moral authority when they stalled and did not deal with the issue as it happened. A healthy board should be aware of the dynamics between its staff, and keep their eyes/ears open as to what’s happening among the members. This board seems very reactive and dysfunctional.

• Since events have already degenerated, the board should:
o investigate the allegations and discipline A for his outbursts and immaturity,
o discipline B if the allegations were true,
o call a members’ meeting to inform the congregation the facts as appropriate; educate them what is the biblical way to handle such matters, and exhort to deal with grace rather than law.
o come up with a plan to prevent similar grievances from recurring, and recast the vision what the mission of the church is, to refocus everyone’s attention to God’s purpose for the church, not on the disunity that obstructs the church’s progress

Depending on whether there are particular church members or board members who are stirring up trouble instead of solving the problem, they may need a private admonition apart from the public address. Persistent antagonists should step down from leadership if they are causing the church to regress instead of progress. Public apologies from A, B, member ringleaders, the board may be needed as appropriate to move the church forward.

There are other issues e.g. salary disparity, but we just don’t have enough details as to the scope of each pastor’s responsibility, years of experience etc. to determine whether the difference is justified.

That’s my humble opinion without deeper probing. Hope that helps.