October 21, 2020
Dr Ritch Boerckel and Pastor Josh Beakley
Josh: Welcome everyone! It is sweet to see you and good to be together in the middle of the week with our church family. We’re going to continue to look at the topic of discipleship and talk about Ephesians chapter 2. If you have questions, you can text your questions that relate to what we’re talking about, questions for us or the message on Sunday; the topic of discipleship and what’s to come. If you send that in, it will go to our team in the back and then they’ll forward those over to us. We don’t see who asks, but only just the question that comes through. So, thanks for joining us. We’re going to look at Ephesians 2, here. I think we can just read Ephesians 2:1-10, but before we do, Pastor Ritch, would you pray for us?
Ritch: Yes, I’d love to. Let’s pray together. Gracious Father, we thank you. We know that we were dead in our trespasses and sins. And even as we sang about the valley of dry bones and that vision that you gave to Ezekiel, the impossibility of seeing a valley of dry bones ever be given life. Yet, Lord, in that vision that you gave to Ezekiel, you talked about that you’ll cause breath to enter and that you fashion flesh onto the bones and then how the bones came together and then the flesh. And then, Lord, there were just these dead bodies, and yet, you breathed and there was life to the dry bones. Lord, what a picture, even as we just sung, about our experience; that you put your Spirit in us when we were dead in our trespasses and sins. Lord, as we think about grace tonight, I pray that we would be more in wonder about the power of your grace to transform. As we think about faith, Lord, that we would be disciples who live by faith and not by sight. And we’d understand what that means. As we think about repentance, Lord, that we would see sin for what it is, we’d see sin the way you see it. And Lord, that we would never boast in ourselves, but that we would boast in Christ alone. Thank you Father that we are your workmanship. We’re created by you in Christ Jesus for good works which you prepared beforehand that we should walk in Christ. So, Lord, I pray that tonight we’d be encouraged toward that end as disciples to take the next step, moving forward to advance your glory. So, Lord, we pray this. Please bless us. Bless the reading of your Word, the application of it. Please strengthen our faith, Lord, again, for the sake of your name. It’s in Jesus’ Name we pray, Amen.
Josh: Amen! Alright, well I’ll read Ephesians 2:1-10 to get us started.
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
This is a pretty famous passage.
Ritch: Yes. It’s famous for a good reason.
Josh: It’s a powerful passage about sort of the nature of what takes place when someone moves or even, it’s kind of that act of looking back, because Paul is talking to followers of Jesus. He’s talking about looking back at what happened. He’s sort of looking at a pretty mysterious sort of wonder; this thing that happens in salvation. In fact, there’s a whole area of Systematic Theology and even beyond that deals just with some of the nature of what we’re talking about here. When we talk about discipleship, following Jesus, it seems so simple, right? This first step of just believe. We talk to children about this simple step of faith, and yet, when Paul looks back at it, you see the power of theology on display through, I’ll say, prepositions. So much of theology comes through, what we believe about God, whether we’re praying or reading the Bible or when someone says something. It comes through in just these little prepositions. So the prepositions, meaning words like “of, in, by,” they have such huge implications about reality. You see Paul choosing very carefully the prepositions he has about something, looking back about the beginning of these individuals who wouldn’t be familiar with Jesus by being in Israel. They’re in Ephesus, far away, a pagan culture. Yet, Paul is articulating some pretty heavy and weighty theology, explaining what happened through prepositions. So when you think about both the simplicity and complexity of discipleship, on the one side, what’s the value of the simplicity of this passage and what is also some of the reality of the complexity of it?
Ritch: Sure. This is a deep passage to be sure. After Sunday, after you preached on this passage, someone came up to me just saying how encouraged they were by the message that you gave. So if anyone out there online hasn’t listened to the message yet, or I think it’s worthy of a second listen, even. They talked about how complex the ideas are, and yet, they were complimenting how simple, how you brought that to bear in a way that really anyone could understand. They even said something to the effect, he talked about God’s working, but he didn’t use the word, for instance, predestination. So, I said, yeah, he would have had to preach chapter 1 in order to do that. So I was kind of teasing because those words are great words, aren’t they? But there is a simplicity that’s important. If we use these big words without the simplicity, we lose the meaning. So, the gospel is something that, the phrase is that a child can understand, rejoice in, and receive the power of.
I think the analogy that I’ve used in our theology class is that it should be, we’ll say, shallow enough that a child could play in it and benefit, but it’s deep enough that an elephant can be in it and swim and not touch the bottom. That’s this passage, isn’t it? So we need both of those aspects so that on the one hand, it’s understandable; on the other hand, our minds and hearts are ever-expanding. So it’s not just our mind. It’s not intellectual exercise, only. But God did give us a mind to expand our thoughts about Him. But our minds are connected to our hearts. What we think is what we feel. The greater we have of understanding of the magnificence, the more our hearts expand in excitement, enthusiasm, love, zeal, passion and faith.
Josh: Like you said, understandable and also unfathomable. It kind of gets into what Paul prays in chapter 3, where he prays that they would know. He talks about they would have strength to comprehend the breadth, length, height and depth and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge. I want you to know this thing that surpasses knowledge. I want you to know it. There is this pursuit and the beauty of pursuing a God who is in many ways beyond us, yet makes Himself known to us. There is a lot of work in what God does through the miracle of Jesus and those who follow Him.
But I think maybe one angle to talk about this passage is to talk about how different it is from the way that the world would describe the nature of our reality. So from the very beginning, there is a declaration that before Jesus, without Jesus, you’re dead in trespasses and sins. In fact, this is the course of the world. There is one at work, the prince of the power of the air, who is at work now among the sons of disobedience. This is the reality of the world; that we all lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out those desire, by nature, children of wrath. And he describes, like the rest of mankind. So that’s how the Bible describes it, and it’s different than the world would describe our nature of reality.
Ritch: Or even much of modern Christianity. It’s super sobering to read the condition of our own soul. We have to personalize this. It’s not just people in general, but it’s who we are apart from Christ. There is no need for salvation if there’s not a desperation. So, God in His revelation tells us about that desperation right at the very beginning of the story. He speaks of His glory in creation. But almost the first chapter after the creation of man and the making of man, Adam and Eve, male and female, for marriage, the next chapter speaks of this great fall that places us in a human family that is desperate in its spiritual condition. The language that Paul uses here is very stark, isn’t it, to describe the desperation. Yet, this is the thing that is most fundamentally denied, I believe, as doctrines of demons. Satan wants to disrupt the plan of God for salvation. It is most fundamentally denied by people all over the world. We want to think of our hearts as primarily good, maybe with a little need for amendment, but as primarily good. It’s this very belief that brings disaster in almost every sphere. It brings disaster to family. It brings disaster to community. It brings disaster to nation.
This idea of the depravity of man’s heart is the most universally proven. There’s nowhere that you can go in any part of human history and not see the evidence every day of the truth of the depravity of the human heart. Pick up a newspaper. Just walk about in your family and see what happens. Go to your local school and the depravity of the human heart is on full display. Yet, in the face of not only the Word of God, not only this evidence that confronts us every day, man is in denial about this. We fundamentally think, “Well, it’s bad, but it’s not that bad.”
Josh: So do you have any experience with people, like on a practical level, who deny this doctrine and think that “maybe there’s some sin, but I can work my way out of this”? Or, I think about this verse that’s here. Are there any practical pastoral conversations? He says, the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind. So, doing the things that I want and then people will say, “I can stop this any time I want.” Or “I can stop doing this particular sin.” I know it was a thought that I thought as a young child. I’d think, “I know this probably is wrong, but I can stop whenever I want to.” So the person thinks, “I don’t know if it’s so bad that I need help from Jesus.” Are there any pastoral implications or just conversations you have with people who are failing to grasp the nature of this?
Ritch: Yes, so much a part of every one of us is to kind of naturally begin there until we are convinced by God through His Spirit of the truth that Paul presents, that it’s almost everywhere. It’s where we think of God as a helper, someone who can assist us to ultimately get where we need to go. If you have a healthy body, you might say, “I’m going to hire a trainer to assist me, who will help me get stronger. I could get here on my own, but a helper would really help me, so I need God to be my helper.” Even in another analogy, a physician. “I have this problem. I need a surgeon to come and help me.” Well, that’s not the language that describes the desperation. The desperation is not only do we need someone to help us and even help us in significant ways, like a surgeon helps a patient, but we’re dead in our trespasses and sins. Where is the help in that? How can a dead person help themselves? How can a dead person ask other people, maybe a church or a family or a community, to help them? Well, there’s no help. This is truly the helpless, hopeless state; death. That’s the language Paul uses to describe what condition our soul is in. I think we mentioned that valley of dry bones. What does a valley of dry bones need in order to come alive? It needs more than a physician. It needs more than good vitamins. It needs more than a little bit of water, a little bit of nutrition. This is a miracle, and that was your point in the sermon that was so well stated. We need a miracle if we are to overcome our condition.
Josh: So it definitely kind of places us into that sphere of such a burden and a need for prayer for whatever the resources God has given us and the people we know and the things that we know and the stuff that we have. And we realize we can’t do this work to make someone alive. But Paul would also say that the gospel is the power of God to salvation; gospel, meaning the good news, the message about Jesus. It is the power of God to salvation to everyone who believes. So how do we, on the one side, acknowledge the world is dead in trespasses and sins, of which I was once a part? How do we acknowledge that reality but then also feel a sense of urgency that we don’t just give up and say, “I hope God does some good stuff. I’m glad that I know this. I’m just trying to fix my own life and live in the way that I know how.” How do we grab a sense of urgency, burden and belief that we actually can share the good news? God does want to work, and there is hope for people.
Ritch: That’s great! Here, really, Paul is giving the testimony of every person. So Ephesians 2 isn’t so much how we can be saved, although truths are unveiled to help us answer that question. But really, it’s a group of believers that ask the question, “How were we saved?” What happened that would bring us into this right relationship with God? Paul says it’s really important for us as believers to remember where we came from. That is sort of the foundation of our worship. It’s the foundation of our service to God. It’s the foundation of our boasting in God. It’s the foundation to overcome our natural propensity to boast in ourselves. He’s not really speaking so much to unbelievers. He would have said “you are dead in your trespasses and sins,” if that’s who he was speaking to. His audience is us who are followers of Jesus. It is disciples. He believes so much that we need to meditate upon this fact of who we were. It helps us in our love for God, our joy in His salvation. It helps us in our love for other people when we understand who we all were instead of becoming kind of judgmental and self-righteous and all of that. Let’s keep remembering who we were and who we actually are apart from Jesus.
Then that verse 4 that you pointed out so well in your message, but God. It’s all about God’s actions. Now this doesn’t imply passivity. He’s not saying but God did this and then we did that and that’s how we got saved. No, it’s all completely an action of God when he is explaining, how did we come to have spiritual life? It’s God who is rich in mercy. When we were still this way, He had this great love for us. It’s the great love with which he loved us. I like how he almost doubles down on that. The great love, that’s the noun; with which He loved us, that’s the action. That’s God’s favor, affection toward us when we didn’t deserve it. He even goes back even when we were dead in our trespasses and sins, here’s what God did. He made us alive together with Christ. By grace you’ve been saved. That becomes the foundation of our worship. It becomes the foundation of a rejection of all boasting, all self-righteousness. It becomes the foundation of our belief that we are now God’s workmanship and our whole life needs to be about God’s work.
So if we were literally dead and someone made us alive, what could we do while we were dead that was meaningful or purposeful? Of course, the answer is nothing. So if somebody comes along and makes us alive, what’s our life to be about? Our life is to be about what that person wants it to be about because this is where we would be if that person hadn’t come along in power and mercy and grace and changed that effect. So that’s what he’s driving at. When we come to understand who we were and now who we are in Christ, it drives us toward our passion for following Jesus, for serving Him, for worshiping Him. Everything is predicated upon that realization. Here is what I would be still, if God hadn’t done this. And because God did this, I owe Him everything. It’s right for me to trust that His plan and His purposes and His work is eternally purposeful and right and wise and good.
Josh: So, we’re not getting questions here on the cell number because everyone understands this perfectly, which is great. (Laughter!) Not even me! Not you! It’s so humbling when we think about it. I think to prove it, I’ll maybe ask a question that I think is a hard one, that I think some people probably have in their minds. Are you ready? So here’s the question. If God is doing this and it’s great and He loves to show His grace and His glory and all this kind of stuff, why did He not save everyone? Why do all this great love and everything, and you see the praise of His grace and everything? Why are we here? Why are people not transformed and made alive in Christ? I think that’s a legitimate question. I think it’s on people’s minds and it’s one that we have to wrestle with.
Ritch: It’s both legitimate and illegitimate, depending on how we ask it, like a lot of questions.
Josh: That’s like a theologian answer, right there.
Ritch: You think as a parent, let’s just say the question is “What for’s dinner?” It’s legitimate and it can be illegitimate depending on what’s behind it. So what’s the context? What’s the attitude? “What’s for dinner? And it better be this, or I’m going to have a right to really go on a tear and be angry with you and tell you how terrible you are.” Well, that’s an illegitimate question. If that’s the attitude, the parent would be right to say, “I’m not going to answer your question. I’m going to talk about your attitude.” However, let’s say this young son or daughter has been out working all day, mowing the lawn, doing all this work and they haven’t eaten and they ask, “What’s for dinner?” That’s a totally legitimate question. It depends on the heart attitude toward the person being asked, the heart attitude of humility. I say that because often, that question is asked with an illegitimate attitude.
In Romans 9-11, God actually answers that question from the person who is asking it with an illegitimate attitude. Here’s God’s answer to the person. “I’m God and you’re not. Doesn’t the potter have the right to do with the clay whatever he wants? So, here’s the deal. I’ll have mercy on whom I’ll have mercy.” So the idea is if your heart is telling God, “I’m putting you on the witness stand. I’m the Prosecutor asking, why don’t you save everyone?” God says, “I’m not going to be on the witness stand for you. I’m not going to humble myself before you, taking the right to accuse me of wrongdoing.” I say that because I think that’s a very legitimate answer of God, too, to a person who is defiant and saying, “God, you better answer me in the way that I want you to answer that is satisfying, or else.” God says, “Here’s the or else. You’re the clay; I’m the potter. I have the right to do whatever I want.”
But, the heart that is saved that asks that question, and I’m assuming that maybe that’s the context. The heart has been made alive and cares for family members and friends and, “God, why are you not saving more?” There, I do believe the answer is still in the text. It’s the answer that references faith. For by grace you have been saved through faith. The idea is that anyone can receive the mercy of God if they would humble themselves and believe. So the root cause of a lack of salvation is never in God’s lack of mercy. That’s the idea. It’s always in the person’s unwillingness to be humble. That’s where we have a bit of a tension. It’s not a contradiction. The tension is in God’s sovereign working and then man’s responsibility. Whenever there is something good that happens, the Scripture teaches us, don’t boast about that. That only happened because of God. However, whenever there is some corruption, some negative impact of our sin, the call of Scripture is for you to own that.
God didn’t tempt you away from faith. He didn’t make you not believe. You’re responsible to believe. If you believe, you will be saved. Everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved. It’s God’s sovereignty that causes us to pray believing. I think it’s right to pray for every unsaved friend, believing that God would do this miracle in their life, too. Yet, as God either delays on that or allows a person to remain in their willfulness, that willfulness is not God’s, I’ll say, responsibility. It is not something that relates to God’s guilt. I know that sometimes is not really satisfying. I understand that. But that’s how Scripture would answer that question. The sins and the faithlessness, the refusal to believe, that is man’s accountability before God and they’ll be held accountable for that. But the amazing thing is that any of us are saved and that there is a genuine offer to all, to respond.
Josh: So, you’re touching on an area that’s, you talk about deep enough for an elephant to swim in or drown in as you start to unpack this area. I think the thing is, you think about following Jesus. We’re right at the beginning and there are already some big questions that we’re having to wrestle with about the nature of who we are, about who God is. While the simple gospel message is there, even from the very beginning, there are very deep things that we do have to wrestle with, that are going to force us to confront what we believe about God and about ourselves.
There is a hard thing that I think just to touch on. It’s the nature of both recognizing, “I’m a follower of Jesus. I believe this message. What does this mean in terms of my relationship with other people?” Because this great love is amazing, and Paul talks about it. You mentioned Romans 9. In Romans 8, Paul really celebrates this love on a personal level. This is what we have. God is for us. Who could be against us? And he talks about this love. Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Jesus Christ. Then he transitions right in chapter 9 with this amazing passage of love. Then he says, “I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart.” So at the same time, there is the incredible comfort of God’s love and the assurance of the Holy Spirit, and then great sorrow and unceasing anguish because of the burden that he feels for the sake of his brothers, those who aren’t following Jesus. You talk about tension, there’s this tension that isn’t necessarily resolved when we say I want to follow Jesus. I believe in God and this great love, but I also have this tremendous burden, to use Paul’s language, great sorrow and unceasing anguish, and a zeal to be able to share this message and pray for the people all around us. There is no easy path out of this. If this is true, then it’s going to be a heavy burden and it’s going to weigh upon our souls for the people around us.
Ritch: That’s right. And there is something to do with that weight. So it’s not as though our hands are tied. God doing a miracle to bring us salvation, again, does not indicate human passivity. God who established the ends also established the means. The means God says first is prayer. It’s in dependence, calling out to Him. We see in Scripture where when Moses prayed for the people who God had already pronounced judgment. God had mercy on them as a result of Moses’ intercession. We know the principle that we don’t have because we don’t ask. So the first kind of conviction when we think of our unsaved friends and family members and coworkers is am I really praying? Do I pray as though their salvation depended upon it? What am I not receiving because I’m not praying? But then also, there is the gospel call. God tells us, commands us to call people to repent and believe.
I love this little verse in Acts 26. He says, in times past God overlooked their sin in their ignorance. But in these times, God Himself is calling all people everywhere to repent. And we’re part of that. God doesn’t call people everywhere to repent through a voice from heaven. He uses His church. So, the first question is, am I praying and asking God to do a miracle? And secondly, has my friend or family member heard me issue the call of God, being an ambassador for Christ, making my appeal before them as though Christ were making an appeal to be reconciled to God, repent of sin, turn and believe in Jesus? Have they heard me say that to them? I think it’s really important for us all to be able to say, yes, they’ve heard me say that. Everybody’s personality is different, so some might be more strong and some might be more gentle. But I think it’s right for us to have a clear conscience before unbelievers in our lives to be able to say, yes, they’ve heard me call them and tell them of God’s call upon their life to repent, turn from their sin, and to believe in Jesus.
Josh: In that sense, I think about that analogy of a dead body. You come in and, you know, you can take the pulse. Yup! I think they’re dead. They don’t have true life. You can do some chest compressions or whatever. But the power of God to salvation in one sense almost, you think of those paddles, like the power. It’s this call of the clear gospel message and then the call to respond. Will they respond? And actually getting to that point with people takes a lot of courage and it takes conviction on our part, for sure.
Ritch: Right! It is actually the fact of God’s miraculous working that encourages us to do that. I think we all have friends and family members that we’d say, “It would just be utterly worthless for us to either pray, because they’re just so absolute in their rejection of God. And certainly it would be worthless for me to issue the call of God upon their lives and say, God is calling you to repent of your sin and to believe in Jesus. I just know that won’t work.” Apart from believing in God’s sovereign power and working to make people alive when they were in this condition of being dead, I would agree. There are a certain number of people that what’s the use of even knocking on the door? But it’s because of God’s miraculous working that we can sow that seed of the gospel and the call of the gospel, not just the content, but the call of the gospel, repent and believe, knowing that God will use that. That’s how God saves people. I know we have folks here tonight and online who would say, “Yes, that was me. I was one of those people who believers would have said, ‘he or she is the last person that would ever believe.’” That is just simply how God works and what He does by His grace.
Josh: I think it’s remembering the fact that we’re not here because we’re smart or special or we have a particularly soft heart that is better than other people. It’s just truly the grace of God that saved us, and then desiring to make the grace of God known to others.
So, when you started to talk about this deep theological stuff, we had questions coming in. Now we have questions flying in, here, and we certainly can’t touch on them. But we do have Systematic Theology courses that we do from time to time, so hopefully that will be an opportunity later on. But here’s a question. Is part of discipleship helping people discover the good works that God prepared for them beforehand? Is that part of discipleship?
Ritch: So I think this passage in Ephesians 2 would probably answer that question the way that question is not necessarily anticipating it. So, in one sense, I would say, no. And that’s the sense of this. Here’s how the passage leads. In chapter 1, it’s talking of God’s glory, talking of His effectual call, His election, His predestination, His redemption in Christ. All these things build around what God has done in heaven. Then in chapter 2, he’s telling sort of the same story, only putting it down to earth. It’s the same testimony. Instead of opening up the heavens and saying “here’s what God did,” he’s saying, “here’s how you experienced it.” Here’s what I believe. When a person comes to understand and believe and rejoice in the truth of chapter 1 and chapter 2, chapter 2 simply is, “Man, I was a mess. And more than a mess, I was hopeless. I was helpless and beyond any help that comes from myself or other people. God made me alive in Christ and He put me in this amazing position. So not only did He do something now experientially, so I have God’s Spirit in me, I have spiritual life that connects me to God. He’s positioned where he says he is seated with Christ in the heavenly realms. He raised me up with Christ. So, in my position, this is who I am in God. And I recognize that it’s by grace that I’m saved, through faith. This is not of myself. I have no part of it. It is just simply God’s working, making me alive. It’s not the result of any works, anything from me that gives merit, but it’s all of God, so that I would never boast.” So when that realization happens, then the statement is we’re God’s workmanship created in Christ Jesus for good works. It’s not a matter of discipleship being, here, let me help you discover the good works that God has for you. It’s let me help you discover the God whose workmanship you are. When you discover that, then you’re about following Jesus. I don’t need to tell you at that point. God will make that clear.
I know last week, I mentioned about your dad and mom who are amazing kind of real life illustrations of this. As young adults, they didn’t know God. They were still in their trespasses and sins. At least, that’s what your dad’s testimony would have been. They were certainly separated from God. They came to know God. They got super excited about God. “We don’t know what God wants for us, but we believe it’s no longer doing what we’re doing here in this company that I’m part of. Let’s go to Seminary.” Well, what are you going to do after Seminary? “I don’t know.” I think they said, “anywhere but Africa,” to me. And they ended up serving the Lord for over twenty years now in Africa, helping young men learn to be pastors. And these young men now are going out and doing amazing things. There was not one moment where I helped your dad to understand the work. Now, do conversations help? Yes. But if I would have said, “now that Dave is a believer, it’s my job as a discipler to try to help Dave understand the works,” that would have been just disaster. I would have never led him in the path of the works that he’s done. That is the work of the Holy Spirit.
I think that’s the same truth of people who get super interested in sort of these How To’s, like how do I find my spiritual gift? I think you find your spiritual gift when you recognize who you were in your desperation, when you recognize what God has done, and then you begin to follow Him day by day. I don’t believe that God will keep spiritual gifts in the dark of a person who is wholly devoted to Him, who has said, “I’m taking up my cross. I’m following Jesus every day.” Spiritual gifts will be discovered. But if we try to answer the question in a roundabout, “let me discover my spiritual gifts and then decide whether I’m super-passionate about God,” that’s never the path.
Josh: So there are, like I said, so many questions coming in now that we’re not going to be able to touch on them. But I think of this issue, because we’re thinking about discipleship; following Jesus, so disciple being and helping others follow Jesus, disciple making. If we get too prescriptive, there is a particular danger when you think about that word discipleship. There are programs. There are How To’s. People come from different churches where they really have a lot of terminology and programs about discipleship and making disciples. But if we get too prescriptive, there are some dangers. I think, one, like you said, you can say, here’s what it looks like now, the path to follow Jesus, and get very prescriptive outside of some specifics on Scripture and letting the Holy Spirit guide someone, where you could limit, where you would never imagine that you should head to Africa, let’s say. Or there are other dangers where you start to judge people based on something that you feel convicted about or something that you feel like, this is a way that I’ve grown to use my gift or to serve the Lord, and you’re expecting everyone else to do it the same way. I think that’s a legitimate danger when we think about this idea of discipleship.
Ritch: Absolutely! God says He has given us life. He’s given us His Spirit, and He’s given us His Word. And His Word, the Scripture says, is profitable. In other words, it’s profitable to help us develop as disciples. It’s profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction and for training in righteousness, so that the man or woman of God would be thoroughly equipped for every good work. So if we discover a tool outside of Scripture, I’m not saying that tool might not even be helpful, but I would say it’s absolutely not essential. Oftentimes, we lose the preciousness of the essential, which is God’s Word, all of it, from Genesis to Revelation, because we’ve gotten sort of enamored with this glittery colorful thing that’s outside of God’s Word, that appeals to our emotional sense of mystery.
I know, for instance, young people talk to me about the enneagram. You’re familiar, I’m sure, with the enneagram. I’m not an expert on the enneagram. I’ve read a little bit about it. Some of it is troubling. Some of it is, “Oh, okay.” But so many folks are saying, “This is what I needed.”
Josh: We’re probably going to get a lot of questions, now. You’re probably meddling now.
Ritch: I’m not going to say whether it’s helpful. If it’s helpful, great. But what I will say absolutely, based on Scripture, if that thing over there is distracting you from this precious treasure, you’ve lost your way. God’s Word is a lamp to our feet. His Word is a light to our path. And it’s enough! If that thing causes you to think, well this wasn’t enough for me, well that thing then has become something corrupting.
Josh: So the passage in 2 Timothy 3 is really informing, even in relation to this question. So Paul is writing to Timothy and he’s writing in the prison. It’s probably one of the last letters here. It’s his parting words; important stuff. He reminds Timothy about how he from childhood was acquainted with the sacred writings of the Scriptures here, which were able to make him wise for salvation through faith in Christ. He recognizes that and he says about this, “all Scripture is breathed out by God and is 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.” There’s that idea, right? You’re ready for every good work. So when you think about discipleship, in one sense, you want people to be ready for every good work. But the emphasis, I think what you’re saying, is not placing it on trying to help people discover good works and focus outside of this realm, as much as discipleship focuses on getting them into the Word of God and the Word of God into them so that they’re equipped for the good works and they’re ready for those works.
Ritch: Yes. Another passage that goes along with that practically is 1 Thessalonians 2. Paul says, “For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the Word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe.” That’s a powerful statement about the centrality, sufficiency, authority, and transformation that the Word of God brings. Because he actually contrasts it between the Word of God which is this and everything else is the word of man. I would not say that everything that is the word of man is false or unhelpful. Some of that can be helpful. But what I would say is affirm that there is a huge difference between the Word of God and the word of man. It’s the Word of God which effectively works in us who believe. What is that effective work? It’s effective in making us disciples of Jesus. It’s effective in sanctifying us and transforming us and bringing us into that kind of life which is pleasing to God. It’s effective completely for that.
Josh: So the seed that is planted is the Word of God. The gospel, the message of Jesus is the power of God to salvation. I think recognizing the first step of us believing, and others, is the Holy Spirit using His Word to bring about new life. It’s that idea of God-breathed. It’s God breathing the breath into Adam from the beginning, giving him life. Here is where life comes from, and we don’t want to minimize both the Word written and the Word incarnate. There is a clear connection that when we start to minimize Scripture in any aspect of discipleship, even from the beginning, we’re on dangerous ground. When we dive into the Word, we’re in a safe place. And I think Jesus made it clear. You have to enter the kingdom like a child. He said that kind of bold statement: Whoever wants to save his life, he must lose it. And if he wants to save his life for my sake, he’ll lose it for the gospel. So there is this recognition of I’m helpless and I need Jesus as the Savior. And the words of hope come from within the Word.
Ritch: And you know, Satan is constantly attacking the life that God has given us. One of the ways that he has done from the very beginning is distorting the Word of God bringing about a temptation to either defy the Word of God, in other words, directly deny it, or to divert our attention away from the Word of God. And it’s that second one that is so subtle. We often don’t even recognize it because a person that is diverted away from the Word of God is still a person who says the Word of God is precious. It’s authoritative. It’s inerrant. They’re making all these statements. It’s just that their attention, their dependence is diverted onto something else than Scripture. So what we have is a sure Word. I love Jesus’ prayer in John 17. Sanctify them in the truth. In other words, set them apart. It’s transformation. Transform them now, my disciples, Father, in all the ways that you would bring. Sanctify them in the truth. Thy word is truth.
Josh: Well, we’re going to transition on Sunday to one of the next steps after you believe. Then you show you belong to Jesus through baptism. So I think you’re going to walk us through that passage. There are a few questions here. I don’t know if any will leak over into next week, but here’s one that I think might. So you can think about that maybe for those who are going to be with us. It’s a question that we can leave with. What’s the most concise way to present the gospel while still being doctrinally sound? So that’ll be good. It’s not an easy question that we can talk about next week. But let me pray and then Lord willing, we can continue to follow Jesus together.
Father, thank you for the truth of your Word and the hope that we have. It sanctifies. It renews. It revives. It lightens our eyes. We thank you for all of the treasure that is contained of wisdom and knowledge in your Word. We know it’s only do we experience written here in Scripture, but we understand to be the person of Jesus Christ. And Lord, we long to follow Him and to be known by Him and to know Him together in the context of church community and that you would be glorified as we believe in Him, belong to Him, become more like Him. We long that everyone in every way all the way, would follow Him together. So we ask you to use us as a church family to be a part of that great call, that you would receive the glory that your great grace deserves. In Jesus Name we pray, Amen.