Friday, March 23, 2012

8 Keys to Life-Transforming Discipleship

The 8 Keys of Life-Transforming Discipleship are central to our teaching process at Celebrating Life Ministries. Realize, Admit, Surrender, Believe, Transform, Abide, Love and Reign.  Let's take a glimpse at the focus of each key and why they are important.  I believe the truth represented within each key is foundational to living an abundant and powerful life as a Christian.  When we come to the end of them we will see that they encompass the gospel and the foundation we all need is Christ.

Key 1 Realize:  We come to realize who God is as He has revealed Himself, not as we think He is or wish He were. This is significant because He is fully who He is regardless of what we think.  He is love, but He is also wrathful, He is peaceful, but He will also seek vengeance.  He is sovereign, but He doesn’t control our choices, even though He knows our choices and allows us to make mistakes and grow.  He also uses the choices of wicked people to bring glory to Him.  He uses suffering and pain to glorify Himself.  He is not focused on the comfort of His people, but their holiness and that is primary to Him.  And yes He gives us comfort, but comfort is not His objective for us.  Our comfort is found in Him even in the midst of circumstances that might kill us or hurt our bodies in some way. We are created for Him, for His purpose, to bring glory and honour to Himself. He is not created for us.  He was and is and is to come.  He has always been.  Hard for our minds to grasp.  But He is who He is.  So this Principle is foundational to every key principle all the time.

Key 2 Admit: Admitting who we are (were) apart from God is foundational to understanding what He did for us in Christ.   If we do not get this key, we will not love Him correctly. Humans are sinful and unrighteous.  There is no one good, not even one (Romans 3).  So apart from God we are going to hell.  This is a truth from His word and since He is God and He said it, He reveals what He really thinks.  Humans will be thrown away because they are wicked and ungodly and He will not join Himself with us for all eternity if there is sin in us.  It’s important to sit on this key principle and help people to really get it.  If we know what we have been forgiven of we will love much.  We will be thankful and grateful to the God who saved us from His wrath and eternal destruction.  Humans tend to think we are pretty good. We are not good without Him. In fact, we must be crucified in Him to be brought into His family and our heart of stone must be replaced with a heart of flesh.  We were sinners living independently of God and needed a Saviour who would take away our sin.  Otherwise we are headed for a place we would rather not go. This key removes that lie from believers minds and unbelievers minds.  And we did not come up with this, He did.  I think people tend to minimize this when they explain the gospel to people and so people say superficial prayers, think they are saved but do not live a fruitful life.  In this key, the law is applied to people to expose sin, and make us aware that without God we are in desperate trouble. 

Key 3 Surrender:  Surrender shows what God did in Christ on the cross and the necessity to surrender to Him as an enemy to a King.  We are enemies and He will destroy us if we do not come to the Son. Every knee will bow.  It shows the Lordship of Christ and His amazing Grace. But He is Lord all the same and we want people to surrender to Him as Lord and Master of their lives.  They are giving up control of running their own lives. Within this is repentance and surrender.

Key 4 Believe:  Believe focuses on the truth of what God did the moment we were saved. The law has been fulfilled in Christ and we have entered into the fulfillment of that law because of HIS work, not our own.  This is grace of God. And its undeserved, not based on any merit of our own.  We were enemies of God and unprofitable, yet Christ died for us and set us free from sin's power. The appropriate response if we understand this, is incredible joy and thankfulness that just will burst out of us. So we focus on what He did and who we are now in Him.  He gave us a new spirit and heart.  He circumcised us.  He accepted us.  He made us clean and righteous. He made us perfect and complete in Him.  He justified us, sanctified us, sealed us, set us apart to Himself forever.  We have entered into Him and He entered into us, joining us to Himself.  We are His children now. Our identity is set and it was formed by our new birth. Not because of something we have done.  Now He treats us a His children. He leads us. Disciplines us. Grows us. Feeds us.  Gives of everlasting life all the time.  He is our life.

Key 5 Transform:  Transform focuses on  believing the truth of the Believe key.  This is the soul and body coming in line with the work God did in our spirit.  Our soul must come in line and believe. We must take thoughts captive into obedience to Christ.  We have been given the mind of Christ in the spirit and the emotions of Christ.  So we learn that every thought and every emotion that is ungodly is not from us “the new creation” we are.  Those thoughts and emotions are really from the flesh, and we learn here what the flesh is and that the flesh is not us.  The flesh is “with” us, but the flesh is not us (Romans 7).  The sin that lusts in the flesh is the sin lusting, not us lusting (Romans 6).  This is a challenge for our soul, but God reveals these things to us.  Our job is to believe Him, not to try to change. He knows the areas within us (in our soul) that do not yet believe and He provided experiences to challenge those thoughts and lies that we still think are true.  He exposes them, brings them to light, as we sit in His word, talk with other spiritual mentors and learn from Him as His Spirit speaks to us.  He speaks to us in a variety of ways, through sermons, movies, books, the Bible etc.  But His word always lines up with the truth of His word revealed in Scripture.  The Holy Spirit only reveals what is revealed in Scripture.  He shows us the mind of God, if  we will listen, putting aside every other thought that is contrary to His.  We come to accept His truth as THE truth.  Accepting nothing less and Yielding ourselves to His word and to Him and His will and leading.  We realize we are slaves of His, slaves of righteousness.  That’s what we really want.

Key 6 Abide:  Abiding is central to our existence in Christ.  If we do not abide in Him, we are not His.  It means we are not joined to Him and have not received His Spirit.  But if we have been born again, we ARE His and we do abide in Him.  We exist in Him and have been joined in Him and He in us.  The fullness of God is in us in Christ.  We are seated in the heavenlies in Him.  This is our actual reality: the kingdom of God.  Him in us and us in Him.  But Jesus also commands us to abide.  What does He mean?  He means we must believe that we actually abide in Him. Abiding is the same as faith, as waiting on Him, on placing our full trust in the work He did on the cross. In Him, we have overcome the world, the evil one and sin.  Abiding means we will walk in the spirit, being who we really are in Christ.  We will rest in His sovereign control and rest from worry.  He is working all things together, good and bad, for our good. He is working toward His will to establish His kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.  So when we believe this, and believe we are His and sealed in Him and that He is with us wherever we go and we can never be separated from Him and we can never fail because the work is actually His through us, then our soul rests and we live in peace and joy.  We realize we are a branch. We are responsible to believe Him, obey Him, love Him, love others, but knowing we cannot try to do these things. These things are from abiding in Him and Him revealing, loving, teaching through His Spirit in us.

Key 7 Love:   This principle is an abiding principle as well.  It’s based on identity.  We are born from love. Love is our Father.  We love as He loves. This is how we are designed.  Our heart beats like our Father's heart. He tells us in His Word what love is. And shows us that it is agape love. There is no agenda in this love.  Love is the same as obedience to Him. It’s the same as faith.  It’s all connected.  We are commanded to love Him, with no agenda in that love. And to love others. We love others with no agenda for self. We all. We forgive all.  Because we have been loved by God and forgiven everything forever.  So we are to love Him and others.  And ourselves.  When we look at the new creation we are and really understand who we are, there is nothing in us not to love.  We are beautiful beings, created in the image of God;  we are perfect and clean and righteous beings who live in a suit made for the planet.  We are sinless beings and God is growing us in the expression of this reality (the finished work Christ did in giving us a new spirit.)  We are so holy we can be in the holiest of holies all the time with God and not be destroyed. He would not join Himself with sin. He would not put His Spirit in a vessel that is sinful. He had to remove that old spirit, giving us a new one (a new wineskin) so He could give us His Holy Spirit (new wine).  Once we get this, and we no longer identify with failings, with the past, but with the reality of the new creation, we love ourselves truly. And we accept the process of growth as normal and healthy.

Key 8 Reign:  This is the kingdom reality of being in Christ and He in us. He reigns in and through us and is setting up His kingdom.  We are His ambassadors and to proclaim His good news to all He is speaking with.  We are not just to go evangelize everyone, we are to go with Him, listening to Him and speaking to those who He is leading us to to speak with.  Reigning is the reality that God is always working and we join Him in HIS work. We don’t try to go do good  “Christian works”.  We seek to know God, loving Him, listening to Him, allowing Him to guide our day in His presence and way. He guides us to those He is working with and our responsibility in this is to listen to His Spirit, to love His word, to know Him and obey Him.  He will bring us to areas that stretch our faith and grow us.  He is in charge and we are not.  He is King. And although He calls us Kings and Priests, He is the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords.  We are on mission with Him.  So there is only one commander. Not two.  There is only one Mind and it’s His mind.  We are free to obey Him and love Him, not to try to set up a kingdom for ourselves.  We are merely stewards of His kingdom.  He has returned us to the garden of Eden in Christ, very much like Adam before the fall.  Adam was to take care of the earth and watch over all things as a steward of God.  Adam was loved as he walked and talked with God in unbroken communion. He was unashamed, fearless, and secure;  he had significant work to do.  He had no worries. All of His needs were met in God.  We are now the same in Christ and our walk is by faith, just as it was for Adam.  If we do not believe this, we will struggle. If we believe this, we begin to walk on water with God, experiencing Him and the power of His gospel as He transforms people around us.

Realize, Admit, and Surrender are consecutive.  A person must be brought from death to life, and only God can do that.  If they don’t know God they cannot be discipled.  We proclaim the gospel and if God is working people will respond to Him. He authors their faith, enabling them to cry out to Him. If they do not respond, we can assume He is not working at present.  It doesn't mean He won't work in that person's life at a later time, just that He is apparently not opening their hearts to believe presently.

Believe, Transform, Abide, Love and Reign are all true at once when a person becomes a child of God.  This is our reality in Christ.  As a new Christian, we know very little at first. So we must gain knowledge. Having knowledge is only helpful if we believe this knowledge. As we believe, our behaviour and the way we live will change.  This is why we are focusing first on behaviour change.  Behaviours change when beliefs change.  We are after value change, agreeing with God’s truth as THE TRUTH.

I believe that if people get this foundation, their  walk with God will be strong and vibrant. They will know what to do with fleshly thoughts and know how to walk in the victory they have in Christ.  They will love Him with their whole hearts and the truth will become a filter for them as they listen to sermons, read books, listen to people and interpret events and circumstances in life. The truth will be their guide and God will be their God.  They will learn to stand firm in Him and move with Him. And they will have joy. They will have fun walking with God and their thinking will come in unity with any other believer on the face of the earth who knows and loves God.  I believe this is the mind of Christ and there is only one mind. One Spirit. One truth.  God determines it, so it’s our responsibility to seek Him to know His mind and adjust all things to His will and His mind, not the other way around.

Does this make sense?  Or help in thinking through what this is about?  We are seeking to be people who are constrained only by Christ and who then live free.  Not constrained by a program, by a church, by a method, by people or accountability system or by any external force.  But only constrained by the love of Christ.  Then we are truly free.  We do not do this to grow our ministries, though God will grow them according to His will, or to make friends, though we will make friends, but to know and love God and walk in His will that HE may be glorified.  We do benefit and grow in the process, but our growth is a bi-product of glorifying God and walking by faith. We grow, we are healed, we are freed, we have joy, we get to walk with God and experience Him.  But our growth is not the goal. His glory is.

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