Discipleship: The 4th R

Response

Hebrews 10:24-25

Review:
Renewal How did I renew my mind this week?

What made that difficult?

How did I share that with someone this week?

Introduction:
In Hebrews the writer warns these Jewish Christians not to revert back to the legalism of Judaism, following rules to please God and earn heaven. The writer sets the foundation



Hebrews 9:27-10:2

27 And just as it is appointed for people to die once—and after this, judgment — 28 so also the Messiah, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for Him.

1 Since the law has [only] a shadow of the good things to come, and not the actual form of those realities, it can never perfect the worshipers by the same sacrifices they continually offer year after year.


Do I face the possibility of going back to the Law to see how good I am?

How does it feel to be under the Law?

What does Romans 8:1 say to me?
(“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus…”)

What is the connection to worship?


Hebrews 10:19-22
19 Therefore, brothers, since we have boldness to enter the sanctuary through the blood of Jesus, 20 by the new and living way that He has inaugurated for us, through the curtain (that is, His flesh); 21 and since we have a great high priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, our hearts sprinkled [clean] from an evil conscience and our bodies washed in pure water.


The privilege of right standing with God means that the Christian can come into the presence of God with confidence. What is the basis of that confidence?

1
2
3

What am I encouraged to do? (vv. 19, 22)



Hebrews 10:22-25
23 Let us hold on to the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. 24 And let us be concerned about one another in order to promote love and good works, 25 not staying away from our meetings, as some habitually do, but encouraging each other, and all the more as you see the day drawing near.


A right relationship with God leads (supernaturally) to do what?
In v. 23
In v. 24
In v. 25

Response is directed in two ways:
1.
2.

What word is the real problem for me in v. 25?

Conclusion: Let’s R.A.P. Up!

Response:
What is my response to God this week? In worship? In fellowship? In finances?

Attitude:
How do I approach worship? (Review Acts 2:42-47; See also Psalm 122:1)

Purpose:
Reconciliation leads to new relationships, which leads to renewal through Word and Sacrament. Our response is always a response to God’s grace.

How then should I/we live?

How can I pursue this with others at our church home?

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Renewal (3rd Discipleship R)

Renewal
Romans 12:1-2

Review: Relationship
How did you do with your reconciled relationships this week?
How did you share that with someone this week?

Introduction:
The theme of Paul’s letter to the Romans is “justified by grace through faith”; in other words, Paul lays out the plan of salvation. In chapters 1-8 Paul presents the doctrine, in chapters 9-11 he deals with the special case of Israel, then in chapters 12-16 Paul looks at the practical application of salvation.



Theme verses: 1:16-17
I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”

See also Philippians 3:8-9
What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ -the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.

Righteousness is used often in the New Testament – with three Biblical uses of the word:

…of God. This refers to the characteristic of God Himself. God does not live up to a standard, rather whatever God does is right.
…of the demand for us to live up to the righteous standards of God. (Romans 3:10, 23)
…of the gift that is accounted to the person who believes in Jesus Christ. (Romans 3:21-22)

Where do I see myself relative to these?

Why does it matter?

What does Romans 8:1 say to me?



Romans 12:1-2

1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God -this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is -his good, pleasing and perfect will.

“Therefore” is the transition from doctrine to practice. It means “In light of everything that I have written.”

See also
Titus 3:5-6
2 Peter 3:18
Philippians 1:6

According to Romans 12:1 what are Christians to do?

What is the basis of that urging?

How does that relate to my worship life (in actual practice)?

Conforming: What are some examples of conforming to the world?

Some misunderstand Paul, that he is advocating “removing” the mind. But Paul writes that the transformation occurs by renewing the mind. How do I renew my mind?

What does Paul tell us in Titus 3:5-6 about this process?

A book was written about 40 years ago, entitled The Half-Known God referring to the Holy Spirit. Is that still true for me?

When Paul says that “you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is,” the Christian discovers the truth of God’s promises and purposes. What does that say to me about living out the renewal of my life in Christ?


Conclusion: Let’s R.A.P. Up!

Renewal:
Renewal is the living out and growth that God works in the life of the Christian. It can be painful as old habits, conforming patterns are hard to break. Why is renewal an ongoing process?

Attitude:
Do I look for “renewal fixes”? What is my attitude about renewal personally and in worship? (See John 4:24)

Purpose:
“Therefore” I have read what God desires: to offer my body as a living sacrifice.
What can I do this week in the renewal process?

Have I done that?

How can I pursue this with others at my church home?

Relationship (2nd of Discipleship R’s)

Relationship

Ephesians 4:20–32

Review: Reconciliation
How did my new understanding of reconciliation help this week?
How did I share that with someone this week?

Introduction:

The theme of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians is found in the phrase “in Christ.”
Theme verses: 2:8–10



Ephesians 2:8-10 (HCSB)
8 For by grace you are saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift— 9 not from works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are His creation—created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time so that we should walk in them.

How many times do I find that phrase (“in Christ”) in Ephesians (or similar phrases, i.e. “in Him”)?

chapter 1
chapter 2
chapter 3
chapter 4
chapter 5
chapter 6

What is Paul trying to say by this emphasis?



Ephesians 4:20-24 (HCSB)
20 But that is not how you learned about the Messiah, 21 assuming you heard Him and were taught by Him, because the truth is in Jesus: 22 you took off your former way of life, the old man that is corrupted by deceitful desires; 23 you are being renewed in the spirit of your minds; 24 you put on the new man, the one created according to God’s [likeness] in righteousness and purity of the truth.

In these verses Paul contrasts the “old” and the “new”.
What stands out in these verses for you?
What is that new self like?
What does it mean to “put on the new self”?



Ephesians 4:25-32 (HCSB)
25 Since you put away lying, Speak the truth, each one to his neighbor, because we are members of one another. 26 Be angry and do not sin. Don’t let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and don’t give the Devil an opportunity. 28 The thief must no longer steal. Instead, he must do honest work with his own hands, so that he has something to share with anyone in need. 29 No rotten talk should come from your mouth, but only what is good for the building up of someone in need, in order to give grace to those who hear. 30 And don’t grieve God’s Holy Spirit, who sealed you for the day of redemption. 31 All bitterness, anger and wrath, insult and slander must be removed from you, along with all wickedness. 32 And be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as God also forgave you in Christ.

Paul addresses specific issues that affect Christians in their walk “in Christ.” Notice that these are in relationship to other Christians.
What are some of these issues?
What is the connection between talking and relationships (v. 29)?
How do I grieve the Holy Spirit?
Ephesians 4:32 is the key verse. What stands out for me in this verse?
What is the hardest part for me?

Conclusion

Relationships:
What is the key point in beginning or restoring relationships?
How can Ephesians 4:32 help me?
Attitude:
Am I putting on the new self in Christ?
Daily?
Do I look at relationships as flowing out of my reconciled life?
Purpose: How are my relationships with others? Spouse? Children? Parents? Siblings?
Paul addresses these areas in Ephesians 5:22–33, and 6:1–4 and flow out of this text.

What does Romans 12:19 say to me about our life together at our congregation?
About relationships with others in the Church? Outside the Church?

4 R’s of Discipleship

Reconciliation

The next four studies will focus on the 4 R’s of Discipleship, a series of Bible studies I wrote for small groups. The 4 R’s: Reconciliation/Restoration, Relationships, Renewal, Response. This is not an in-depth study series, but it is meant to encourage wrestling with the text and the issues raised, and then examine our current life in light of that.

While this is the Bible study material, I also meet with the small group leaders in the week prior to each Bible study to go over the material. In that meeting I challenge to the leaders to investigate the text and context. For instance, in this study of Luke 15, I have them back up to Luke 15:1-2 to understand the greater context of the parable. And then we read and study Luke 15:3-10 to see how those parables relate to the current one.


Luke 15:11-32 (HCSB)

11 He also said: “A man had two sons. 12 The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the estate I have coming to me.’ So he distributed the assets to them.

13 Not many days later, the younger son gathered together all he had and traveled to a distant country, where he squandered his estate in foolish living. 14 After he had spent everything, a severe famine struck that country, and he had nothing.
15 Then he went to work for one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. 16 He longed to eat his fill from the carob pods the pigs were eating, and no one would give him any.

What attitude is shown by the younger son? (v. 12, 13)

What is the parallel in vv. 12 and 16?

What does that show about the younger son?

Do I sometimes struggle with this same attitude?

17 But when he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired hands have more than enough food, and here I am dying of hunger! 18 I’ll get up, go to my father, and say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight. 19 I’m no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired hands.” ‘

20 So he got up and went to his father. But while the son was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion. He ran, threw his arms around his neck, and kissed him.

What change takes place in vv. 17-19?

How does he imagine his reception (vv. 18-19)?

How does the Father respond?

21 The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight. I’m no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22 “But the father told his slaves, ‘Quick! Bring out the best robe and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Then bring the fattened calf and slaughter it, and let’s celebrate with a feast, 24 because this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!’ So they began to celebrate.

What is the Father’s response?

What does he give the younger son (v. 24)?

If I had been the parent how would I have responded?

25 “Now his older son was in the field; as he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 So he summoned one of the servants and asked what these things meant. 27 ‘Your brother is here,’ he told him, ‘and your father has slaughtered the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’

28 “Then he became angry and didn’t want to go in. So his father came out and pleaded with him. 29 But he replied to his father, ‘Look, I have been slaving many years for you, and I have never disobeyed your orders; yet you never gave me a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your assets with prostitutes, you slaughtered the fattened calf for him.’

How does the older son respond?

Would you have felt the same way? Why?

There is a key concerning both sons’ condition. What is it (vv. 12, 29)?

31 “‘Son,’ he said to him, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.'”

What does he invite the older son to do?

Concluding Reflections

Reconciliation: Fact or process? What is the main point Jesus is addressing?

Attitude: Am I the younger son or the older son?

Purpose: How does that affect me today?

What gets in the way of reconciliation?

How do I handle someone who seems to get all this “free”?

What does 2 Corinthians 5:17-21 say to us (me) about our life together at this church?

What makes a good Liturgical Translation?

As a frequent reader, sometime participant, of BetterBibleBlog [Wayne Leman, host and primary author] and Bible-Translation list, the issue of Bible translation is center stage. Bible translation has been an interest of mine for 25+ years, and learning Greek and Hebrew spurred my continued interest. At one time or another I have translated all but two (small) books of the NT, and portions of the OT. I am not an expert by any stretch of the imagination, but I am concerned about good translations, especially for use in the Church and by the Church.

A couple of weeks ago on BBB, the discussion went to the relative merits of ESV and TNIV. I raised the concern about whether any translation makes for a good liturgical translation. What follows is an edited version of my comments.

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Wayne Leman asked: “Liturgically the ESV is much better than TNIV.” How do you determine what is liturgically better? Does it have to do with one’s personal preference for an older form of English that sounds more dignified or sacred? Or are there some objective criteria by which we can measure liturgical quality?

I think this might relate to whether someone comes from a liturgical background. That is, the general Protestant Christian congregation (especially in western cultures) today is essentially non-liturgical. By that I mean that what was the liturgical form of worship for the past 1,500 years has not been retained among these congregations (this is not meant as a judgmental statement, but an observation). The historic liturgical form included spoken/sung responses (Kyrie, Alleluia, Gloria Patri, Te Deum, Nunc Dimittis, Agnus Dei, etc.).

Thus, part of the liturgical use of a translation relates to how the translation expresses and relates to these traditional musical/lyrical/rhythmic elements. This is both a translational and a musical process/evaluation. It is interesting that when the LCMS (Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod) had worked with the LCA and ALC on a new hymnal, eventually Lutheran Book of Worship LBW, in the 1960’s and 1970’s, Psalm texts were translated specifically for the hymnal. However, when the LCMS pulled out of the project due to theological problems with the project itself, the LCMS couldn’t use those translated Psalms, and so settled for the NIV for the Psalms text — because it was royalty-free!

But this brings up another point — whose text is it? and what purpose does it serve? Dr. Theodore Letis has written about this in the book The Ecclesiastical Text. That is, the Church (not referring to a denomination) has traditionally been the retainer of the text, translator of the text, and especially the user of the text. In the last 100 years there has been a major shift from the Church to the Academic and parachurch organizations (publishers) who have taken over the role of translation and Bible “selling”. Sadly many in the parachurch groups do not have the liturgical heritage to evaulate whether a translation is good for liturgical purposes.

And finally, the liturgical text must have the oral/rhythmic quality that can only be heard and not just read on the page. This is a critical factor for any translation (and one which GW does well), but especially for a liturgical translation (which GW doesn’t do as well).

Wayne wrote: Ideally, we want a Bible that contains good quality English wordings … is highly accurate, and sounds good for public reading, including liturgical reading.

I would agree wholeheartedly with this statement. I suspect part of the problem with English word choices relates to whether a translation should use Latin-based words (“expiation”) or highly specific “church-language” words: righteousness, justification, grace, reconciliation, etc. Since I use the text within the context of the faith community, I believe that it is important to grow the believer into the knowledge of the faith. This is the point at which liturgy, translation, and catechesis come together. They become both faith expressions and teachers of the faith. Thus, an 80 year old great-grandmother and an 8 year old great-granddaughter can recite texts based on a common liturgical heritage (I have examples of the Lord’s Prayer), where small accomodations for language changes still allow the rhythm of singing/chanting/reading the same text.

I remember the struggle I had with God’s Word translation as it field-tested some translation choices. Obviously grace, righteousness, justification were at the top of the translators’ list of “alternatives”. They were correct in pointing out that many people in the test congregations misunderstood the words (our congregation at the time did quite well in understanding the meaning as related in the Biblical texts). The solution for the GW translation team was to use words that may or may not have been better: God’s approval instead of righteousness. However, that choice too may be misleading. And yet GW retained righteousness 130 times, and in several key OT passages (i.e., Psalm 4:1, 5; 9:8; 50:6; 97:2; Isaiah 1:27; 5:7; 9:7; 51:7, 8; 54:14; 56:1; 58:14) and then 1 Corinthians 1:30. My solution would be to continue to teach people so that they grow in the understanding of what is behind the translation whether TSeDiQ (צדק) or DIKAISOUNH (Greek: δικαισυνη). And by retaining righteousness there is a historic link — theologically and liturgically.

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I don’t have a final answer about translations and liturgical use. But it seems that this is a critical factor that is often ignored by translation committees. I have read several books about how various translations were made, including the decision-making agenda on wording and the translating process. Not once have I read anything that relates to liturgical worship. To me, this suggests a major need for translators and liturgical churches. And who knows, perhaps the focus on a litrugical translation might avoid some of the traditional conservative/liberal splits that fracture churches and even translation committees.

My little plea is that translation committees m ake a concerted effort to examine the translation in light of and for liturgical use.

Jonah and Missions

It might be surprising to some people that Jonah is really a mission book. Many years ago at seminary a returning missionary/Bible translator spoke about his work in the mission field. He then noted that when new converts wanted a book of the Bible translated, often the first one mentioned was Jonah. Let’s pursue that a little more and see if we can discover the reason.

In Jonah 1:1-2 God commissions Jonah with these words: “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness has come up before me.” Interestingly the LXX uses κηρυξον (“preach”), which the ESV follows, “preach against”. Such wording implies a very strong Law proclamation.

But Jonah has other ideas: But Jonah rose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD. He went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish; so he paid the fare, and went on board, to go with them to Tarshish, away from the presence of the LORD. At the command to go to Nineveh, Jonah heads in the opposite direction; while there is doubt about the exact location of Tarshish, it is generally agreed to be in the western part of the Mediterranean Sea, most likely Spain. In other words, Jonah tries to flee as far from Israel/Judah as he can go.

It might be easy for us to criticize Jonah, but let’s remember the situation in which he finds himself. Nineveh represented the hated and feared enemy of God’s people. They would soon swoop down and conquer the northern 10 tribes (Israel), killing many, dragging many into captivity. Consider today if God told me to go the Al Qaeda headquarters and preach against it. What would my reaction be? Probably the same as Jonah’s.

But God does not let Jonah get away. For God’s prophet to speak God’s Word, he will first have to undergo the same as the people of Nineveh. God has to “preach against” Jonah. He does so by sending the storm, then allowing the sailors to throw Jonah overboard, and finally a great fish swallows Jonah. The Law is spoken in its harshest measures. Only an intervention by God can save Jonah – and that is what happens.

Jonah recognizes in the bottom of his despair – in the bottom of the fish – that apart from God’s steadfast love/covenant love (חסד) there is no hope. Ironically Jonah adds the phrase “those who pray to idols” forsake that very hope. Thus, Jonah is setting himself up against the Ninevites (who have the idols – chapter 3). That is, it is “good, right, and salutary” that Jonah, an Israelite would be shown grace, extended God’s steadfast love, and receive hope in the midst of no hope.

What Jonah forgot was something that happened early in the kingship of Israel, several hundred years before his time. Notice this critical passage: 1 Samuel 15:23, Samuel speaks to Saul: For rebellion is as the sin of divination, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, he has also rejected you from being king.” Jonah fell into the same trap; he could not see that his rebellion was in the same category as the idolatry of Nineveh. Therefore, all are under the same condemnation, whether Jew or Greek (Romans 3:9-10).

Nevertheless, God’s grace rescues Jonah, leads him to renewed faith in God.

Sometimes we as forgiven, restored Christians might think that God will change his mind about what he wants us to do. “I have been forgiven, but surely God won’t ask me to do something that I have already refused.” But not so with God. In fact, 3:1-2 we find a repeat of 1:1-2, God’s commission to preach against Nineveh. This time Jonah responds in obedience (result of faith); he goes to Nineveh and preaches against the people. Only an intervention by God can save Nineveh – and that is what happens.

The results are stunning! The people hear the judgment against them and their city, they recognize their sin, and repent in sackcloth. Even the king publicly proclaims the changed hearts, in the desire that “God may relent and turn from his fierce anger” (3:9).

Given Jonah’s prior experience of terror under the Law and the refreshing new life in the Gospel, we might expect that Jonah would rejoice at such a response. Alas, Jonah does not. Rather, he is quite put out! “It is exceedingly evil” was how Jonah considered this new situation. Because Jonah was an Israelite, he knew the promises of God to God’s people. But the Ninevites? No way! They are people who cling to their idols (Psalm 115:1-6), and in Jonah’s mind meant that meant there were two classes of people: God’s people and “them”. The people of Nineveh were part of “them” and therefore could – should not! – receive the same “steadfast love/covenant love (חסד)” that is the heritage of Israel. God shows the same compassion to the “nations” (epitomized by Nineveh) as he does to Israel. The law of God and the grace of God are not hindered by barriers set up even by the strongest of nations.

So the pattern is:

Part 1: God commissions Jonah to speak against Nineveh

  • Jonah refuses
  • God speaks against Jonah
  • Jonah repents and lives
  • Jonah rejoices in prayer
  • God’s first mission complete

    Part 2: God commissions Jonah to speak against Nineveh

  • Jonah obeys
  • God through Jonah speaks against Nineveh
  • The people of Nineveh repent and live
  • Jonah sinks into despair
  • God’s heart of compassion demonstrated and second mission complete

    Now through the lens of Jonah, let’s glance ahead to the Great Commission of Matthew 28:18-20. Jesus sends the disciples to “make disciples” of all nations (note also the “preach” aspects in Luke, Mark, harking back to the LXX use of the same word in Jonah’s context). In the past “nations” (Hebrew: GoYiM) would have meant “them” of Jonah’s experience, now the “nations” include Israel itself as part of the “nations” (Acts 1:8, “beginning in Jerusalem”). Everyone and every nation is the missionary target of the Good News.

    Further, notice the promise in 28:20 “for I am with you always.” Jonah thought he could avoid the mission assignment by fleeing, not from Nineveh, but from God’s presence. It didn’t work; God was with him. So also, those who think that the Great Commission can be shuffled off to someone else forget that Jesus “is with them always”. No matter where they go, when they go, how far they go, Jesus is there, and the commission is in effect. Jonah becomes a precursor of both Jesus’ resurrection (Matthew 12:39-41) and the Jesus’ Commission to the disciples (Matthew 28:16-20).

    Jonah truly is a missionary book – for all of us!