Archive for February, 2018

“You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.” 2 Timothy 2:1

Mike and Chenelle teaching the first class of the Spring Semester of the International College of Christian Ministry

Running track in college and high school, it was always interesting to see those who quit early on. The workouts would destroy them, stopping in the middle of the runs and possibly throwing up. The strength wasn’t available (whether physically or mentally) to continue. You had to be strong mentally and strong physically to be able to have the endurance to win a race. The same is true of our Christian walk, we must have an inner strength to handle the training that comes in our discipleship. Paul tells the younger evangelist he discipled Timothy to be strong in the grace. Later, he would remind him that the scriptures are to be used for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16). Unfortunately, the training can crush a Christian who is not strong in the grace just as much as a track practice would crush someone who is not strong in their cardio. Paul understood that Timothy had to have an inner strength and security that only came in Christ Jesus and we need to grasp this as well.

Disciples of Jesus who are not strong in the grace often experience worldly sorrow (2 Corinthians 7:8-11) instead of Godly sorrow when they fail. Negative self-talk fills their minds. This vicious form of selfishness turns your own soul into a victim and away from the grace of God. Discipling from mature brothers and sisters makes the worldly soul feel not good enough, threatened, criticized, or even suspicious of the discipling. An over-sensitivity plays out in the soul as they feel personally attacked. Certainly, athletes could choose to respond this way to a good coach admonishing and pushing them. Is something wrong with the coaching or the discipling? No! It is a foundational issue- the soul is not secure and strong in the grace. Paul would tell Timothy to join with him in suffering like a good soldier of Christ Jesus (2 Timothy 2:3-4)! A soldier has duties, expectations, and commands he must obey. Yet before Paul would tell Timothy any of this, he said be strong in the grace! There are three keys to becoming internally strong in God’s grace that is in Christ Jesus based on Ephesians 3:16-19:

“I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge- that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” Ephesians 3:16-19

I. In Your Hearts Through Faith

The apostle Paul prays that his church may be strengthened in their inner being. This is done by allowing Christ to dwell and to be king of your heart. Christ dwells in our hearts through faith. Faith is the conviction and assurance of things unseen (Hebrews 11:1). Our faith is the anchor for our souls (Hebrews 6:19). Before becoming Christians, our hearts were broken by our own sins and the sins of others. So many grow up without one of their parents not receiving the love intended from their families to create wholeness inside. For me personally, my biological father took his life when I was seven and I never personally knew him. My adoptive father and mother eventually divorced and being in a military family coupled with the divorce I moved many times as a kid. The constant insecurity of my home life created a deep insecurity inside of me. Even after becoming a Christian it was easy to transpose this on my church family. After becoming Christians, we quickly find out that even in the church we will sin against each other. What we need is assurance, security, and conviction. Praise God, he is the perfect father and leader of the church. Faith is believing the unseen even against how we feel. Over time I had to learn to believe God was my rock, a name used for God many times in the Psalms representing security and immovability. Faith sees the sovereignty of God; everything that happens either God makes happen or allows to happen. We can trust because of God’s word that Christ is dwelling in our hearts and have assurance that in all things God is working for us (Romans 8:28). Strength and security comes from an assurance of God’s ever-present hand in all life’s situations. Decide to believe Christ dwells in you and is always working for the good of those who love him.

II. Rooted and Established in Love

Only God has unfailing love while man’s love often fails us because of sin. The Bible says that what man desires is unfailing love (Proverbs 19:22). In the world we looked for this in approval at work, grades in school, affirmation in relationships, living up to family expectations, sex and drugs, etc. These left us desperately empty leading us to the love of Christ. His unfailing love wooed us into his amazing kingdom. Once a seed is planted and starts to grow, it isn’t automatically deeply rooted in the ground. It must continue to grow its roots. After becoming a disciple, we must continue to grow deeper in our knowledge of God’s love for us. This takes faith since our God is normally unseen. If we look for this love to be met primarily in the church, you are once again looking for a group of people who still have sin to meet a need that only God can meet. Therefore, when your discipler challenges you in your character it can be crushing. You are looking for assurance from man and not from God. In fact, biblical love often involves a hardline rebuke. Jesus told the church in Laodicea, Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline (Revelation 3:19). A deep conviction that God loves you is needed to be trained through discipleship to experience God’s plan for our lives. This isn’t to say we shouldn’t expect each other to love as Christ loves (John 13:34-35) but we need to understand we are all working on becoming more like Jesus every day. We need to fundamentally trust one another as love always trust, believe in one another as love always hopes, and that those who are training us have our best interest as love always protects. And where their love is imperfect or not communicated the right way, we have a heavenly father we can rest secure in that is totally in control and passionately loves us.

III. Together With All the Lord’s Holy People

After deciding by faith that Christ dwells in the heart and growing in our understanding of how much God loves us; a power is unlocked where together with all of God’s people we can experience the fullness of Christ! The glue of our relationships is love. People who don’t feel loved don’t treat themselves or others right. I am convinced that those who are addicted to alcohol, drugs, sex, and pornography really have a very low view of themselves. They need God’s redeeming love. When we receive God’s love we can show it to others in a powerful way. Imagine a church were everyone was grasping the love of God! What would the discipling be like? What would the fellowship be like? Paul is on his knees praying for the church (Ephesians 3:15) to grasp who wide and long the love of God is. He is together with all the Lord’s people. Do you pray for your brothers and sisters? Do you get on your knees for them begging God to strengthen their inner being? Paul understood how essential this was. Without it, we can never move forward in Christianity. We need to strive to be together seeking to understand God’s love. There is power in the church to strengthen you in God’s grace. When we are together, we can rest secure that our relationships are not based on our performance but on the blood of Jesus which we all desperately need daily. Then we can push each other in our performance to be our best for Christ but there is a security knowing that God has our back and as family we have each other’s back when we fail. Two of my favorite track coaches were Coach Hunt and Coach Rankins. They helped me excel in track and I wanted to do my best to make them proud along with my dad. Coach Hunt let me use his classroom for my high school Bible Talk and Coach Rankins was my middle school history teacher, track coach, and in high school my summer track coach. He also was a disciple in the church!  I share this to say, that I was secure and trusted they had my best interest because of what they did for me. This allowed me to receive the coaching, the demanding work outs, and to be pushed beyond what I thought I could do. Together with God’s people we must do this spiritually for one-another.

Will you decide today through faith to believe Christ is in your heart, to be rooted in God’s love, and together with God’s people to allow the Spirit to strengthen your inner being? Ask God for help today and practice receiving and even seeking out discipling trusting that God is working for your good.