Friday, January 28, 2011

Enhanced Discipleship

Have you heard of that California Valley Farmer who was shingling his roof during a Tule Fog? If you have ever lived in California, you can understand how this farmer shingled his way six feet out in space before suddenly realizing he was off the roof.

Much of our teaching about the person and presence of the Holy Spirit leaves Christians in a fogbank as thick as those Tulle fogs that regularly rolled into California’s valleys and waterways from the Pacific. Confusion about the third person of the Trinity leaves many living off the roof in a dense fog.

The Church of God defines itself as Trinitarian, because we believe in The Creator God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. If we accept Jesus as part of the Godhead, we arbitrarily fall into the camp of those who believe in the Trinity. Those who reject the third person of the Trinity we call Unitarians.

As Trinitarians, we differ among ourselves regarding the work of the Holy Spirit. The Protestant Reformers generally called for positive scriptural authority. They believed everything must be filtered through biblical lenses.

Scholarly preachers like James Arminius and John Wesley found great value in a personal experience that emphasized the ongoing presence of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer. They believed in a definite biblical authority, while also recognizing the importance of the relational aspects of our faith.

They insisted belief and behavior maintain a balanced relationship. They believed Christianity is at least as much about one’s relationship with God as in believing the correct creed. Some of the conflict between Wesleyan Holiness Christians and Pentecostal Christians comes in properly defining the right balance between Scriptural authority and personal experience.

The Church of God, Anderson, has always taught the ultimate authority of Scripture, while also emphasizing the importance of personal experience (the experiential) vs private interpretation.

When Don Neace issued his called for A Challenge For Clarity, he asked for a renewed emphasis on biblical truth about the Holy Spirit. He called for believers to hold to basic biblical principles and doctrines, and urged us to avoid over-emphasing the experiential as distinguished from personal and private phenomenon such as speaking in tongues and being slain in the Spirit (Neace/A Challenge For Clarity/Reformation Publishers/2004).

Visiting one of the New Testament’s strongest churches, we find the Apostle Paul working to build a solid foundation in Ephesus for three years We remember the Ephesian church for its good works, patience, sound doctrine, church discipline, and its hatred of evil. Ephesus reflects that upward call of discipleship that Paul continually stressed.

When reading stories of individual believers, we discover a disciple-ship that enhances every believer, a devotion every disciple will find fulfilling. The rest of the story depends on how we interpret those events at Ephesus and how we personally respond to the question Paul asked the believers in Ephesus: “what baptism did you receive?”

An obvious need (Acts 10:1-7; 19:1-3).
As Paul prepared to leave Corinth, he collected the offering he was gathering while en route to the impoverished believers in Jerusalem. He journeyed by way of Ephesus, with Ephesus being his likely objective from early on. As a result of his visit, Paul seeded the soil of this East-coast center by reasoning daily in the synagogue and promising to return if and when possible.

Archaeological digs reveal a great city in Ephesus. Several miles of walls surrounded the shops, colonnades, and commercial buildings. One outstanding architectural feature of Ephesus was the Temple of Artemis, measuring 163 by 342 feet; sitting on a slab 234 feet by 418 feet. A Shopping Center surrounded the city’s 360-foot rectangular market place. Paul later made his way into the 24,000 seat theater where Demetrius incited a riot. (Acts 18:18-21).

Apollos relocated from Ephesus and further pursued his vision elsewhere, but only after Priscilla and Aquila more fully discipled him (18:24-28). In the meantime, Paul recognized an obvious need; thus, his inquiry: “What baptism did you receive?”

The Ephesians knew of the baptism of John but candidly confessed they knew nothing of this alleged third person of the Trinity. For Paul, this pointed to an obvious need.

An enhancing discipleship (Acts 19:4-7).
The limited teachings of Apollos left the church at Ephesus with a partial and incomplete gospel. The spiritually perceptive Paul diagnosed their need and promptly proclaimed the fullness of the gospel to them. In giving them the whole gospel, Paul reminds us that we cannot follow Jesus very far relationally without moving from belief to behavior, from proclamation to practice.

The Gospel, at some point, always calls us to move beyond merely saying we’re sorry, and challenges us to go on to spiritual maturity. It beckons us beyond our creeds and calls us to an experiential-experimental companionship in which we begin behaving as we say we believe (cf. Hebrews 6:1; John 14:12, 22-23; 15:26-27; 16:7-11).

When we repent, but lack spiritual anointing, it may be because we lack adequate knowledge of Jesus. Insufficient knowledge of the indwelling Holy Spirit, who transforms followers into prescriptions of peace and joy for a troubled world, often fails to recognize the Jesus who anoints worshippers with joy, guides the hurting, and empowers learners with effective witness.

When we fail to recognize-and-serve this Jesus who transforms “takers” into “givers,” we fail to experience changed (transformed) lives. Through the Holy Spirit, God reorganizes believers’ lives and converts the passive mode of non-involvement into a relational and responsible accountability.

When enhanced by the Holy Spirit, the individual believer experiences wholeness, a full consecration and moral cleansing (cf. Romans 12:1-2; Ephesians 5:25-26). Entered experientially by faith, this enhance-ment grows progressively as

A devotion to fulfill
Spiritual enhancement allowed and enabled the church at Ephesus to become a gospel center for the province of Asia. The gospel went forth from Ephesus in spite of adversity (I Corinthians 16:9). When opposition increased, evangelism multiplied (I Corinthians 19:8-9). While the people heard something new, God did something extra-ordinary (19:10-11).

False witnesses failed to disrupt church ministries (19:13-17). Passive believers became practicing believers and positive participants. The church filled with “discipled-believers” as converts were taught and learners became doers. False practices were relinquished, allowing the people to become the true church, the Body of Christ (19:18-20).

In time, Paul moved on, compelled by the Holy Spirit. First, however, the church had to become the church. No longer was the church simply Paul’s mission and ministry. Now properly administered by spiritual leaders, the church at Ephesus dieted properly, adequately fed by God’s word. The church exercised properly, utilizing faithful saints who took the gospel everywhere to everyone within reach (Ephesians 1:1, 15-19a).

The Holy Spirit transforms and assimilates groups of disciples into Christ’s Body, without leaving spare limbs and unusable parts to exist outside the body. As God’s church in Ephesus, Timothy and John gave spiritual leadership. The people absorbed the gospel as a result and Ephesus became an exemplary stronghold.

Later in his life, John saw Ephesus still orthodox and persistent in service, and strong in discipline although somewhat abated in love (Revelation 2:1-7). As Paul Harvey loved to say, “Now you know the rest of the story!”

But, what will our story reveal? Will the Church of God be strong because we repented of our shortfalls and pushed forward in the maturity of The Holy Spirit? Will we the part of God’s church we should be? Will non-believers find faith as the Holy Spirit enhances our lives with his sanctifying presence?

How will your story read? Or mine? Have you confessed your sins and accepted Jesus? Have you placed yourself on the altar and let The Sanctifier cleanse you of spiritual impurities and sanctify you for His service?

Life launches from Calvary. Only through the baptizing presence of the Holy Spirit does life deliver its fullest expression of God’s spiritual abundance.
From Warner’s World, this is


Anonymous said...

Very thought provoking. I love Ephians. It's my favorite book. Good question abt the church and ourselves.

Wayne said...

rokee32026Ephesians is one of my favorites as well, as well as the subject. I do seriously wonder about the church at times, yet I know there are Spirit-led people out there serving from early to late. Thanks for your encouragement.