Monday, August 16, 2010

What Is Required of New Believers?

When we think of the Apostle Paul we most likely picture him in his 'glory.'  Paul the mature Christian who is traveling around the world fearlessly with the gospel of Jesus Christ, casting out demons, healing the sick, boldly preaching truth, enduring through suffering and writing the Bible.  What a list!  But there was a time when even this great apostle was a baby Christian; a new believer.

In Acts 9, right after the story of his conversion to Christ, we see a snapshot of Saul of Tarsus, the baby believer.  In those few verses there are a handful of lessons on discipleship.  It's not God's will for us to become converted and nothing.  We are born and then we grow up.  We are born again, and then on to maturity in Christ.  Look at these lessons from baby Saul and measure yourself against God's word.  How's your discipleship/growth in Christian maturity going?

Discipleship Lesson 1: We need community! For some days he was with the disciples in Damascus” (9:19b). Saul is seen as a new believer. He needed the body of Christ – the saints – brothers and sisters – the CHURCH. He was dependent on Ananias to pray for him to be healed of his blindness, receive the Holy Spirit, and to baptize him. Now he is “with the disciples in Damascus.” When he is persecuted he needs the saints to help him escape. Then at Jerusalem he “attempted to join the disciples.” When they were suspicious of him he needed Barnabus to come alongside him and help him find acceptance in the church. And when persecution came to him at Jerusalem, “the brothers…sent him off to Tarsus.” Here is Saul the new believer needing others! What an impact the ministry of these brothers and sisters to Saul had on the rest of the world!!! It is not God’s will for us to do life, ministry and mission alone, but in the realm of a committed connection to a local church.  ARE YOU CONNECTED TO A LOCAL CHURCH?

• And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. Hebrews 10:24-25

Discipleship Lesson 2: Get to work!And immediately he proclaimed Jesus in the synagogues…” (9:20). Don’t wait for maturity before you begin to serve. Serve inside the church (as we hear about Tabitha doing in v39) and outside the church. Minister! Serve!  HOW ARE YOU SERVING THE CHURCH?  THE LOST?

• As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace: 11 whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. 1 Peter 4:10-11

Discipleship Lesson 3: Changed life!all who heard him were amazed and said, ‘Is not this the man who made havoc in Jerusalem of those who called upon this name?’” (9:21). A believer cannot continue in his old path! You cannot be born again and remain the same.   ARE YOU A NEW PERSON?

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 2 Corinthians 5:17

Discipleship Lesson 4: Grow in grace!But Saul increased all the more in strength…” (9:22). Maturity. This statement of Saul’s growth in strength is in the context of his preaching and handling of the word of God (imagine – the guy who wrote Romans is learning how to preach!). It is God’s will for all believers to grow up into maturity.  ARE YOU GROWING?

• But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 2 Peter 3:18

• Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil… Colossians 1:28-29a

Discipleship Lesson 5: Study the word of God!he proclaimed Jesus in the synagogues, saying, ‘He is the Son of God.’ …Saul…confounded the Jews who lived in Damascus by proving that Jesus was the Christ.” (9:20, 22) Saul had an advantage to many new believers – he already knew the word of God! He had studied the Old Testament and knew what it said. But now it is a new book, for he has seen the One all Scripture points to – Jesus Christ! Believers must grow up in the word of God.  ARE YOU READING AND OBEYING GOD'S WORD?

• Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. 2 Timothy 2:15

Discipleship Lesson 6: Don’t be surprised when suffering comes! “…the Jews plotted to kill him. …But they were seeking to kill him.” (9:23, 29). The former persecutor is now persecuted. Suffering and persecution will come. The believer cannot be surprised at this, or give up when things get hard. Saul leaned on his brothers and sisters in these times (it was the church that rescued Saul twice in this text) – and on the Lord himself.

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 1 Peter 4:12

Discipleship Lesson 7: Make disciples!…but his disciples took him by night and let him down through an opening in the wall…” (25). During these 3 years in Damascus and Arabia (Gal 1:18) Saul had quickly matured and had become a teacher who had disciples. While this may be somewhat unique in Saul’s case due to his authority and calling as an Apostle of Christ, all believers are given the commission to make disciples and influence others for the gospel.  Saul's life was saved because he had disciples who let him out of the city in a basket through a hole in the wall.  Have we made any disciples?  Who would let us out of the city in a basket?!

• Go therefore and make disciples of all nations...  Matthew 18:19

Let us grow up in the grace of God!

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