The Disciple's Benchmark

A benchmark is a standard set to measure or compare to. Traditionally, a bench mark was made by surveyors to serve as a point of reference to measure from. Benchmarks help ensure consistency and repeatable results. More specifically, a benchmark is a standard of excellence sought after.

For Christians, our benchmark is the standard established by Jesus and documented in Scripture. This standard is an unchanging truth, one that we should measure our life against to ensure we are living consistently according to God’s standard of righteousness.

Ultimately, because Christ-likeness is the central aim of the Christian’s life, it only makes sense to judge our growth according to the benchmark of Jesus, rather than the standard set by the world, or even other Christians. I find it very tempting to compare success with other people in my family, community, or church. I can look at some folks and give myself a pat on the back saying, “I’m doing pretty good compared to (fill in blank,)” or “There’s no way I’ll ever achieve all the great things  (fill in blank) has done.” Comparing our life to other folks can be exhausting, but it can also be very unhealthy for us spiritually. In fact, we can really stunt our spiritual growth by fixing our eyes on standards set by other people, rather than the example set by Christ.

So what is the standard set by Christ? What should we seek to achieve? Ultimately, our goal is to be received by God into his kingdom, and Matthew 7:21-23 explains that we must do God’s will to be accepted into his kingdom. So how do we know and do the will of God? Well it starts with repentance, and continues throughout the Christian life as we present our bodies to God as a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1-2). At the point of rejecting our kingdom and pursuing God’s as a living sacrifice, we can begin to take on the image of Christ in our daily lives with a renewed mind.

As Jesus began to teach his disciples in Matthew 5, he established the benchmark for his new followers. Each item in Jesus’ opening remarks to the disciples started with the word “blessed,” communicating to them that their achievement would warrant: “Congratulations! You made it! You are truly blessed!”

So are you ready for the assessment? Are you ready to see how you measure up? Take a moment to read Matthew 5:1-12.

Now, ask yourself these questions:

  1. Do I realize my spiritual depravity apart from knowing Christ?
  2. Do I mourn over sin or revel in it?
  3. Can I be described as gentle and humble?
  4. Do I hunger and thirst for righteousness?
  5. Am I compassionate towards all people?
  6. Are the motives of my heart pure?
  7. Am I in the business of reconciliation?
  8. Do I have a faith strong enough to withstand persecution?
  9. Lastly, is my perspective focused on the kingdom so much so that I can rejoice even in times of hardship?

How’d you do? I’m sure you know now what you need to work on, but fortunately, Christ has equipped you with the goods to accomplish his will. The task is certainly not easy, but through the power of Christ, it is possible!

Press on and be blessed!

Increase His Fame

This week, Matthew 4:23-25 is the focal point of our study in Matthew’s gospel. The ministry of Jesus is well underway at this point, having chosen the first disciples to join his ministry. As Jesus called the four fishermen to follow him, he told them he would make them fishers of men. These guys were used to casting nets, hoping for a large harvest of fish, but now they were going to be proclaiming the gospel, in hopes of a large harvest of souls. These disciples witnessed an amazing show of God’s power as Jesus proclaimed the gospel of the kingdom, healing many people and delivering them from spiritual oppression. As a result, Jesus’ following increased dramatically, to the point where his fame spread throughout the region.

On a very simple level, Jesus was expanding the kingdom by meeting man’s most essential need: deliverance from the curse of sin. As a result, the fame of the great king spread very organically - by testimony of personal experience.

As I have studied this text and continue to mull over ministry strategy, there’s one main point of application that I believe we must reinforce on a regular basis:

those that experience Jesus make him famous.

The method of kingdom expansion, as we see very specifically later on in Matthew 28, is by sending disciples to make other disciples. On the most basic level though, what Jesus expects of his followers is for them to share their experience. Expanding the kingdom starts with a conversation about your experience with Jesus.

There’s no doubt God created us to be social beings, and there’s no mistake in the fact that Christians are to live in community with one another, sharing a special fellowship through the unity that comes from knowing Christ. But there’s also a reason God made us relational, and that reason is not to inflate our pride on social media, or to gawk at others success, but ultimately to proclaim the good news about Jesus - what Matthew 4:23 refers to as “the gospel of the kingdom.”

When we experience something good, we can’t help but talk about it. When a new child comes into the world, everyone loves to share pictures and spend time with the baby, because there is excitement that comes from a new life. When an engagement takes place and wedding plans are made, word travels fast because of the excitement of marriage. In an even greater way, when we experience the power of God to rescue us from an awful death and heal our souls for eternity - when we experience new life in Christ - we should get excited and desire to share the news with all we come in contact with.

So this week, can it be said of you that your experience of Jesus has resulted in an increase in his fame?

 

Expand The Kingdom

Happy Monday!

Yesterday we spent our time together looking at Matthew 4:18-22, where Jesus called his first disciples to follow him. Interestingly enough, this passage is sandwiched between two passages referencing the kingdom. In Matthew 4:17, Jesus preached “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand,” and as he began to preach in Galilee, he proclaimed “the gospel of the kingdom” (Mt 4:23, ESV). In Matthew’s Gospel, the kingdom is a major theme, and one we must understand to most accurately interpret the rest of the text. Specifically, the kingdom of heaven is referenced 32 times, the kingdom of God 5 times, and a handful of other times the same concept is referenced simply as “the kingdom” in Matthew.

The Kingdom of Heaven that was being established was not only a reference to the work Jesus was accomplishing on earth, but to the work that is continuing and will be finalized when Jesus comes again. Very simply, Jesus was on earth to expand God’s kingdom by redeeming lost people to himself. Through the victorious battle on the cross that defeated death, Jesus initiated the expansion of God’s kingdom to the ends of the earth. In other words, you and I, unfit for the kingdom of the Holy God of creation, are deemed righteous through the victory of Jesus, and are now a part of God’s territory based upon his choosing us for salvation and our confession of Christ as Lord.

So now, back to our key passage of study, Matthew 4:18-22. It was necessary for Jesus to have ambassadors for his kingdom, so he chose disciples for the task of kingdom expansion after his ascension to heaven. As Jesus walked by the sea, he chose two sets of brothers to be his disciples: Simon-Peter and Andrew, and James and John. These young guys were fisherman that were most likely fisherman by trade, not necessarily by hobby. They were concerned with large catches to provide food for their family and to sell at the market, using nets to catch large quantities of fish at a time. Jesus immediately redefined their purpose though to meet a far greater need, telling the fishermen, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Why was it necessary that the disciple become fishers of men now? Because Jesus was concerned with kingdom work. He was here on earth to expand his father’s territory..

When we think about discipleship today, yes, discipleship is about becoming like Jesus. But who was Jesus and what we he about? Jesus had an incredible servants heart, and was 100% committed to the mission of his Father. In the Lord’s prayer, as he taught the disciples how to pray, he poured out his heart saying “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Mt. 6:10). So what should the life of a disciple look like? Disciples should also live sacrificially and commit their work to seeing the kingdom come.

This week, take time to consider how much you really look like Christ as you answer this question: 

Am I committing my life to expanding God's kingdom?

Disciples of Jesus make more disciples of Jesus.