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Growing in Grace

It happened again. I was away for two weekends in a row, and all I’ve heard are good reports about what happened here while I was away! I’m thankful for a congregation of disciples of Jesus Christ who are growing in grace and using the gifts God has given them to do the work of ministry.

While I was on medical leave, I started reading some books by Dallas Willard. He’s a Christian author who is convinced that discipleship is not just something for the “extra-spiritual” crowd, but a simple, life-transforming relationship with Jesus Christ, who is very much alive and readily available to everyone who trusts Him. Jesus wants us to rely on His power and learn from Him to how to live the same kind of life that He lived and taught about during His earthly ministry. He wants to continue that earthly ministry here and now in you and me. And He does exactly that in everyone who actually wants to let Him do it!

Many of us have been taught to think that discipleship is not for us. “It’s too hard.” “We’re too weak.” “We’re too sinful.” “We’re not qualified.” “We don’t know how.”

But think about it for a minute. Who were Jesus’ first disciples? They were not the spiritual equivalent of Navy SEALs. They weren’t super human. They weren’t hiding in Ivory Towers. They weren’t part of the “religious elite.”

They were ordinary people who trusted the message that God had come to them in Jesus.

They were people like you and me who made a choice to live their lives with Jesus. They became Jesus’ apprentices. They learned from Jesus by choosing to follow Him and let Him teach and equip

them to do what He did.

They chose to follow Jesus. They chose to live their lives with Jesus. They chose to go where Jesus led them, to do what Jesus told them to do, to trust that Jesus would keep His promise to give them His power to live the kind of life He lived. A life that came from God, but that was lived out here in this world. A life that showed the world what God was really like. A life that was not ruled by fear and self-centeredness, but by a love that overcame sin and death and overflowed in love for God and neighbors.

But how can we live our lives with Jesus today?

By trusting His promise to be with us always, even to the end of the age (Mt. 28:20). By remembering that Jesus is Emmanuel, “God with us” (Mt. 1:23). By relying on His faithfulness to be where two or three are gathered in His name (Mt. 18:20).

Jesus is very much alive and readily available to everyone who trusts Him. He welcomes everyone who trusts Him and wants to become His apprentice.

But becoming a disciple of Jesus never happens by accident. It happens when we choose to follow Jesus.

Jesus keeps His promises. He’s here! But all of us need to keep growing in grace. We need to keep learning how to love and serve like Him.

Spiritual disciplines, like making time to read the Bible and pray, help us to do just that. Reading the Bible and praying are not substitutes for living as Jesus’ apprentices in the world, but when we choose to make time to listen to God speak to us through the Bible and respond to Him in prayer, we open ourselves to the presence and power of Jesus with us so that we can follow Him and become more and more like Him.

Many of us have been taught to think that spiritual disciplines are not for us. Maybe some knucklehead pastor tried to make you think you have to have a seminary education to understand the Word of God. Maybe you tried to read the Bible and found it confusing or boring or overwhelming.

It can be! But it doesn’t have to be.

The Bible is God’s gift to all of His people. It’s a lamp to our feet and a light for our path (Ps. 119:105). “…The sacred writings....are able to make you wise for salvation. All scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man/woman of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:15-17).

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