Ephesians 4:22-24 (ESV) - "...put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness."
Today, we begin our journey learning about what it means to live on mission here in North America by discussing what it really takes to reach the lost and to grow as disciples. Chapter 4 of Ephesians is a chapter about the unity of the Christian community in Ephesus. Paul explains that discipleship will always happen best in the context of relationships; and true biblical relationships require a few steps. These steps are a common theme throughout all of Paul's teachings.
1) We must take off the "old self." In order to be a growing disciple, we must be willing to lay aside our sinful self that only seeks out our own glory. We have to be honest about our own sinfulness and our need for a savior. All successful discipleship and relationships require that each of us realize the greatest hindrance to our growth and success together is our own sinfulness.
2) This step is not as clear as step one and three but it's an obvious requirement. Step one is to take off the old self, step three is to put on the new self. Step two is the willingness to be naked. Obviously this isn't literal but rather references a spiritual vulnerability that is required to be a growing disciple in relationship with others. We must be willing to be vulnerable and end the games we play to try to make people think we have everything together. We have to stop fearing failure and instead learn from it and serve each other through it. This doesn't mean we share every sinful detail of our lives but it does mean that allow others to know us: dirt, redemption, and all.
3) We must put on the "new self." We must devote our lives to the pursuit of becoming more like Jesus. We must allow Him to change our lives through the practices and disciplines that He laid our for us through the leadership of the Holy Spirit. This isn't a works-based pursuit. It is our desperate hearts longing to respond to our greatest passion with desperate action.
This is discipleship and this is how missions is done. In living out the will of God for our lives, there is no discipleship ministry and missions ministry. They are one in the same and dependent on each other. We must live to be conformed into the image of God and we do that in the service of a community together as well as in the service of making His name great in all the world.
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- How would it change how we lived and interacted with all of our relationships if we realized our greatest problem was our own sinfulness, not our circumstances or someone else to blame?
- How would the willingness to be vulnerable in the Body of Christ affect its effectiveness in the world?
- What are some practices and disciplines that you know you need to practice more in your life in order to better grow in the image of Christ?
- Pray that we learn to live on mission in our homes, communities, and in North America as we become disciples who are making disciples.
- Pray that God teaches the North American church how to live in community, how to be vulnerable to each other, and how to serve each other.
- Pray for our NAMB missionaries as they grow as disciples and lead others to do the same.