One of the things that the Lord has really been speaking to me about over the last 6 months is about the priorities of the Christian. What are the things, when everything else is stripped away, that should be my focus as a Christian? Well in no particular order I think the Bible teaches that there are three predominant priorities for us:
- Knowing Jesus
- Growing in the Gospel
- Making Disciples
This is our ultimate goal as Christians: to know Jesus. Jesus prayed in John 17:4:
This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.
Paul’s vision for his life was to:
know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death (Phil 3:10)
As Christians we’ve been called into this wonderful relationship with God – which is all of His doing – and yet the goal is to know Him. We’re invited to abide in Him (John 15).
Practically there are a number of ways we know Jesus but primarily of course we know Him as we explore what the Bible says about Him. The Bible says that He is the Word of God made flesh (John 1:14), the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature (Hebrews 1:3), the Lamb who was slain before the foundation of the world (Revelation 13:8), in whom all the fullness of deity is pleased to dwell (Colossians 2:9), who upholds the universe by the word of his power (Hebrews 1:3). However, it’s not just about learning facts about Jesus – it’s knowing Him personally. It’s to know the One who saved us. If we know Him personally, He is not just the Jesus of theological categories, He is Jesus my Lord and my God. Jesus, our Saviour.
Practically, this means we talk with Him as we learn about Him. It means we think about Jesus and we talk about Jesus. It means we love him. From our sermon this Sunday we saw how God works together everything for good for those that love Him. Christians are people, who by their new nature, love God. The first and greatest commandment is that we love God with all our being. Paul wrote:
1 Corinthians 2:9 (ESV) — 9 But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”—
1 Corinthians 8:3 (ESV) — 3 But if anyone loves God, he is known by God.
Ephesians 6:24 (ESV) — 24 Grace be with all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with love incorruptible.
So we, as a priority, should be people who love and adore and worship Jesus! So convicting because how often in my singing, in my prayers, in my study of the Scriptures is my aim to better love and express my love forJesus?
Grow in the Gospel
The second thing we’re called to do is to Grow in the Gospel. That basically means that as we know Jesus we are growing in our relationship with Him and this is expressed in our sanctification or Christian maturity. We are putting off sin and putting on Christ as Paul would say. I think, however, too often we think that just gaining facts about God is the same as growing in the gospel. Somehow, too often, we think that if we know the order of the Kings of Israel, for example, that we’re maturity in the gospel. So, let me see if I can help with a quote from Ray Ortlund. He said this:
“For me, personally, it took me years and years AND YEARS to get past a moralistic, legalistic, performance-based , anxiety-conducive, pressuring kind of hermeneutic with which I read the Bible.”
That is a wonderful quote because he is saying that a Christian can live as though our performance matters to God. We are still somehow connected to meritocracy. Let’s talk about that for a second …
Meritocracy is a powerful ideology that directs the lives of millions of people. It basically argues that societies worth is found in the talent of its subjects. What rules is merit. The more talented you are, the more valued you are in society.
But being a Christian isn’t about approaching God on the basis of your talent or how good you are. The myth of meritocracy imagines that somehow each of us can earn our daily bread but Jesus teaches us that no one can earn grace. None of us. God gives us what we need not what we deserve. He values each of us equally because we are hidden in Christ. Yet, because meritocracy is so ingrained in society, we still think that my works will someone count for something.
Ortlund is saying that it is easy to read the Bible and see it as a list of rules. It’s easy to get a to do list. When we see our relationship to God that way it’s actually called “religion”. This leads to what Orlund says is “performance-based, anxiety-conducive” because we are unable to live up to those high standards. Instead, if we really understand that the gospel is for Christians, as well as non-Christians, and we are in a relationship with God, through Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit living in us, it transforms the way we live.
We need to be people who grow in the gospel realising that every time I come to Jesus I come because of grace.
The third thing we’re called to do is to Make Disciples. This is primarily about evangelising those who do not yet know Jesus and helping them to grow in the gospel. So this priority is outwards focused rather than inwards. It’s about others rather than myself.
This starts with living out the priorities of “knowing Jesus” and “growing in the gospel” in front of those who do not yet know Jesus. We call this “being a good witness” but it’s about living out the first two priorities in front of others – not perfectly because none of us are that – but in a way that confesses imperfection and desire to do what is right.
It also goes beyond living as a faithful witness to speaking about Jesus to others in a way that invites them to start following Jesus too.
It doesn’t stop there though. We are not called to make converts only, but disciples. This means that when a person starts to follow Jesus, we make it our aim to help them into this cycle of “knowing Jesus, growing in the gospel, making disciples”. So making disciples is about the way we live, making much of Jesus to those that don’t know Him, and then walking with people as they get to know and follow Jesus.