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What Now? What Next?
Making Disciples in a Disrupted World
In the day-to-day reality of increasing upheaval and discord, how are Christians to think and behave? How do we anchor our conversations and attitudes when everything in us wants to either retreat or lash out in anger? In this new series, Chip provides a biblical path to allowing Christ to reign in us and work through us no matter what's going on.More from this series
I have a quick excerpt that I would like to read to you. “Authentic community,” underline this word, “is the prerequisite for discipleship.” Jesus is not looking for adherents. He’s not looking for fans. He’s not looking for people that want to use Him for anything. He is looking for disciples.
Disciples are people that learn the way of the Master and they want to follow His teaching and they want to follow His path or His lifestyle. The Greek word is the hodos. Jesus said, “I am the hodos, I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except by Me.” He called them, not just to believe intellectually and to agree. Yes, Jesus died for my sin and rose from the dead, but He calls us with the full implications to take up your cross, “Follow Me. I will make you fishers of men.”
Implicit in being a follower is the reproduction of other followers and it’s by the attractive love that you share with other people that those of us that didn’t grow up in the Church are attracted to the real Jesus.
Authentic community is something that we all long for. Authentic community goes way beyond simply being on a team or being a part of a club. Authentic community occurs when the real you shows up and meets real needs for the right reason, in the right way. It’s when the love of Christ is shared and exchanged with vulnerability and sacrifice and devotion.
It’s a place where you can be just who you are and loved in spite of your struggles, your hang-ups, and your idiosyncrasies. Isn’t that what we all desperately want? Right?
We spend all this energy trying to project that we are this person that we are not so that somehow, people will like the hologram that we are sending out. And as our teenagers do it, and especially, they get this idea that everyone’s life is better than theirs, and they are filled with anxiety, and they are filled with struggle, and their parents are too busy to talk to them.
If you would read the book of Luke, here’s a little challenge, read the book of Luke as fast as you can and every time He’s eating with someone, just mark it down. And you will find, by the way, Luke is written to a Greek audience, in other words, Gentiles who don’t have the Jewish background, and you’ll find that He is either eating with someone, leaving where He has been eating with someone, or on His way to eating with someone, throughout the entire book.
You want to reach your non-Christian friends? Quit inviting them to things, except to dinner, to lunch. And by the way, you don’t have to preach at them. They can be any gender, any background, any color, any sexual preference, and just eat a meal with them and just ask them questions.
“Tell me about what it was like growing up. What are the biggest challenges in your life? What are the things that make you happy? I’d just love…”
And you know what? Just resist putting on your little cap about what they need to know and how you think they are and where they came from. Jesus calls us to hospitality, to invite people into our world.
Now, what I have done is give you what I’m going to just characterize as the apostle Paul, here’s the Chip Ingram theory. So, this, you don’t put this in your notes. This is a theory. This is me, so part of it might be right, part of it might be wrong. But I believe it, so you should search the Scriptures and see whether what I’m saying is true.
But as I keep reading through the gospels and I see what Jesus did in a Jewish culture and how He developed, and then you see the apostle Paul gets tapped on the shoulder, and he is told by Jesus, “I want you to take this message to the Gentiles.” Well, Paul had this phenomenal mind, great education. Will Durant says he was the greatest intellectual mind of the first century.
And Paul had a great upbringing in multiple ways. He was brilliant; he was educated. And he had a really Greek mindset and so, so much Jesus did this, Jesus said this, and then what you find in the epistles of Paul in a didactic, clear way that most of us think, he says, “This is the what, this is the why, this is the how, and here’s the practical how to do it.”
That’s not how Jewish thought goes. And so, what you’ll find, so often, is you get the Sermon on the Mount from Jesus and Paul will come over in Romans 12 and say, “Let me show you how, in a simplified form, this looks like in your relationship to God, in your relationship with the world, in your relationship with yourself, in your relationship with those that are believers, and relationship with those who are not.”
And in Romans 12, verses 9 through 13, he literally, are you ready? He will tell you, “Do you want authentic community? You want deep, other’s centered, life transforming, loving, accountable, sacrificial relationships that change you?” In fact, he will go on to say in the book of Ephesians that just like we see little green worms, right? And they get into a cocoon and they become these beautiful butterflies, the apostle Paul would say that just as little green worms need a cocoon to be transformed, he would say followers of Jesus need the cocoon of authentic community for you to become the beautiful person that He has made you to be.
And so, notice verses 9, 10, 11, 12, and 13. In verse 9, he’ll say the real you needs to show up. In verse 10, he’ll say you’ve got to meet real needs, not just superficial ones. In verse 11, he’s going to say you have to do it for the right reason with the right motive. And then in verse 12 and 13, he’ll say you need to do it in the right way.
And by that, what he’s going to say is out of the resources of God, not out of your own energy or your own flesh. Follow along as I read. “Let love be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love, not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing,” or, “pursuing hospitality.”
If you had time to study that very, very carefully you would find there are thirteen imperatives. That’s a big word for “commands”. They are participles that have the force of, “These aren’t options.”
And so, he says, first, the real you has to show up in relationships. He says, “Let love be sincere,” literally, if you have the New American Standard, it says, “Let love be without hypocrisy.” The word was used in ancient Greek for a mask.
It was a mask that was worn in the Greek theatre. In the Greek theatre, all the actors were men. And so, they would have different masks that would portray a woman, an older man, a younger man. You would learn to throw your voice and be able to be three or four characters. You would go backstage, put on a costume, put a mask, and then you could create this persona. And the apostle Paul says, number one, take off your mask, stop projecting, stop trying to impress. Let the real you show up with the good, the bad, the ugly, the background, the family of origin, the former addiction, the former abortion, the former divorce, the current struggle, the vanity, the pride, along with all the strengths, the intellect. Get rid of the false humility. Let the real you show up.
Now, you do it progressively, you do it wisely, and you don’t do it with everyone. But he says, “The real you.” He says, “Take off your mask.” And then notice he says not only is it a matter of authenticity, but it’s a matter of purity. “Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.”
The reason we project so often in our deepest relationships is we have hidden sin and hidden issues that we don’t want people to see. Purity is a prerequisite for authentic relationship. It’s true in our marriages; it’s true in our friendships.
And we always think, it’s so funny, we always think people will think so much less of us if they knew the real you. Let me, can we just be just here? Have you ever met some people that appear to have it all together? They’ve got the perfect body and drive the nice car and they’ve got the purse or the watch or the wallet or whatever that has the right logo and they seem to be so confident and have everything all together and feel really unapproachable and often, don’t – the response at first is, what? Intimidation.
What I can tell you is this, is people who have the strongest exterior presentation that they have it all together are among the most absolutely insecure people that you’ll ever meet in your life with boatloads of needs and hurts and struggles.
And here’s the question: do you really want to get to know them? Or have you sat down with someone, maybe at a party or maybe at church, maybe in a Sunday school class.
And you know in a moment, maybe you’re kind of weak and you don’t have the energy to put up anything, and you just say, “Man, I’m really struggling.”
And maybe it’s a little struggle, but you’re careful, you begin to share vulnerably about what is going on in your life. What happens the moment someone does that to you? You are drawn to them like a bee to honey. Why? Because all of a sudden, someone is sharing the same kind of stuff that you know and I know I have in my heart. And he says for the Church, pretense, posturing, image management, it just can’t be a part of who we are or what we do. So, the real you has to show up.
And secondly, it says that you need to meet real needs. It says, “Be devoted” underline that in your notes. “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love.” It’s a really strong word. The word “brotherly love” here is that philostorge. It’s like they are family. This is caring about people deeper than blood. “Giving preference to one another in honor.” That’s humility. That’s authentic community.
It’s the real you showing up, not superficial needs, but real needs. Needs that cost, needs that you say, “Wow!” We learned this really early, and my wife is always farther down the road than me. It’s why I think I married her. And we were in seminary and our kids played next to these other kids and we were in these government subsidized housing with other students and people that didn’t have very much.
And the lady next door became a great friend and our kids played and her husband abandoned her. And she was going to get kicked out of her apartment, shortly after having a baby and a five-year-old.
And we were just barely making it. I was working full-time, going to school full-time, and our rents were about ten days apart. And Theresa came to me and she goes, “They are going to kick her out of her apartment. She has nowhere to go and she has a little baby. Chip, I think we should pay her rent.”
I said, “Wow.” So, I looked and I said, “Well, honey,” reality check, “if we do, we will have ten dollars to our name in checking. And in ten days, our rent is due and, you know, I’m on the straight commission thing and if something happens, it will be really good. And if something doesn’t happen, she’ll pay her rent and we can’t pay ours.”
Well, I won’t give you the whole story, but I think many times it’s not about some great feeling and being noble. You just say, I mean, I argued with God for three days. And finally, I go, “Okay, hey, I get it.” So, we paid her rent.
And, yes, God took care of our rent. But you know what it did? It was like, here you are in seminary preparing to – what? This is what “what” looks like. You want to know what the real education is? It’s not how many kids come to your class, it’s not how many people come to this, it’s not how many beautiful buildings we have, it’s not what the budget looks like. It’s the real you meeting real needs.
And then the key is for the right reason. The motive. “Not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord.” Not lagging behind in diligence. Literally the word means not slow to act. Fervent in spirit is a picture, I did a word study of, it’s like water boiling. It’s this sense that you are fervent, you are ready, you are prepared. The real you is showing up to meet real needs. But, boy, you are doing it for the right reason. It’s a prompting from God. I sense He wants me to do something.
Genuine service, notice, is characterized by diligence (excellence), and enthusiasm (passion). I love that last little line. You are fervent, but it’s not fervent so other people think you’re a great Christian. You’re fervent in spirit, serving the Lord.
About two years ago, in the midst of a lot of busyness and I was kind of working really hard at a bunch of stuff. And I was having one of those seasons it was early in the morning and this thought came to me. It was so convicting. And I thought I better write it down. And I remember writing down in my journal a couple years ago, “Chip, there are times when you spend more energy trying to look loving and look humble than you spend actually loving and actually being humble.” How about you? How about you?
That’s why you have to do some things silently, anonymously, so you break that power to look good.
Well, finally it says to do it in the right way. The upward focus is, “Rejoicing in hope,” it’s a picture of living with this eternal perspective of the Lord’s return, not rejoicing in circumstances going up and down. It’s persevering in tribulation; The word is hupomeno. It literally means to be under pressure or stress. Some of you actually pay money to be under pressure or stress. It’s called the gym. And you put some weight on and you do this and you do this and you do this. And guess what, you do it three or four weeks, they have to put some more weight on.
You mean you do it on purpose? Yes! And then you do this and you do this, and then you do it for three or four months, guess what, they have to put on more weight. And as they put on more weight, you do this and do this, and then what? Then pretty soon there’s some definition here. And you do this and there’s some definition here.
The way you get strong is not making life easy. The way you get strong is persevering through tribulation. It’s trusting God for little things and then bigger things and bigger things. And saying, “I won’t give in, I won’t give up, I won’t go to the refrigerator, I won’t log on, I am not going to take this pressure that I feel and go out and buy something to make me feel better, or log on, or watch, or eat.
God, what do You want to do? I want to stay sensitive; I want to be alive to You. And He will speak to you, and He will speak to me.
“And devoted to prayer.” Devoted. See, everything I have said so far, I don’t know about you, you don’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of doing - in your own strength. The life I have described is the life Jesus described. Jesus would say of Himself, “I can do nothing on my own initiative. As I see,” or, “as I hear, I do.” He would say to those disciples, before they changed the world, “Apart from Me, you can’t do anything.”
Prayers of deep intercession, raw, authentic time with God are the great evidences of humility. If you don’t need to ask God, if you don’t need to talk with God, and you can run right out the door, guess what, what you’re saying to the eternal God of the universe that knows everything that’s going to happen during today, you say, “Hey, Jesus, good to see You! I felt a little liver-quiver when I read that deep devotional. Yes. It was three lines and one verse. But I don’t need You. I got this.”
And I think God has said to many, many Christians, Okay. You got this? This isn’t very theological but, Good luck. Let Me know how that works out for you.
And it’s not His punishment. In His mercy, when I don’t live dependently, and when you don’t live dependently, out of the sheer love and mercy of God, He’ll cause a velvet vise of circumstances and difficulties to get your attention.
And in the words of C.S. Lewis, “Pain is God’s megaphone to a deaf world.”
If you want authentic community, the real you needs to show up and meet real needs for the right reason, in the right way. And I love, there’s an upward focus and then an outward focus, “Contributing to the needs of the saints.” You can study that carefully. It means giving money to people that need it or food to people that need it. Practicing hospitality, literally, are you ready for this? The root word is “pursuing strangers”. People that are marginalized, people you don’t know, people that you look at and you immediately think, Ooh, boy. I don’t think I want to get to know them. Pursuing strangers.
Is there anyone that looks kind of different? Is there anyone that looks kind of sad? Going to the grocery store and being in the line, over where you get your coffee. And looking around and saying, “Are there people around me?” And you don’t have to be Mr. External or Miss External to say, “Hey, how are you doing today?”
I always keep at least one hundred-dollar-bill, a fifty, and a few twenties. And I’m asking God as best I can every day, Is there someone that You want me to put something in their hands that will communicate to them that they matter, that maybe no one else cares about? And so, we are all at different economics. It might be five dollars for a student or ten or twenty or fifty - And you know what? I’m sure it helps them a little. It helps me a lot.
It just forces me to be thinking – and you know what? A hundred dollars is less to some people and a lot to others and maybe not much. It’s still a lot to me. And, boy, there is something so precious that happens when you see someone with a need and you qualify it and you love them. And it might be five dollars or it might be, “Come on in and I’ll give you a meal.”
Or it might be someone that you write thousands of dollars of checks because you know something about what has happened in their life or their business. And they never need to know, but you, because they are in the body. That’s contributing to the needs of the saints, without a tax deduction.
Application is: what is your next step toward authentic community? When you look at these that the apostle Paul has laid out for us, what would be your next step?
What gets in the way of you experiencing authentic community? Too busy? No margin? Religious activities? Disconnected from like-minded believers? Are you in a meaningful, growing, Christ-centered relationship with a handful of people? If not, are you willing to ask God what next step you need to take to get really connected from the heart? Declare war on isolation and superficial relationships in your life. Write down John 13:34 and 35 on a card. Read it over. Memorize it. Ask God to help you be it and do it.
Lord, would You help us to return to intimacy with You, with each other, that the cocoon of community would bring about the kind of life-change that we are in desperate need of? God, we all want to be loved. We all have struggles. We need one another. Would You grant us the grace to let the walls down? And in a reverent way, not really give a rip about what anybody thinks. And help us to engage. And we ask it in Jesus’ name, amen.