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Is Jesus Enough?

We look for affirmation of our worth in many different places. If we are not careful we allow what we do to define who we are. The reality is that only Jesus can tell you who you are. He should define your sense of security and wholeness. He gives us our identity and the meaning of life. He is the one who shows us our purpose for being in the equation. Your identity, security, and significance must come from Him and Him alone. As we develop intimacy with Him we become less dependent upon the need for other people to tell us who we are.

When we allow other people to tell us who we are then we are very susceptible to the ups and downs of popular opinion. We will be easily crushed when there is criticism. We will also be tempted to be corrupted by the applause when the praise of people comes our way. We allow others to determine our worth or our inadequacies. Then the crowd we run with is in control of whether we feel we are ok or not. Is Jesus enough to find our worth in Him and who He tells we are as His children?

Is Jesus enough when people let me down? Is Jesus enough when people seem to not notice me? Is Jesus enough when someone else gets promoted over me? Is Jesus enough when you feel unappreciated? Following Jesus does not guarantee that you will be wealthy, healthy, or successful! Following Jesus doesn’t mean when I follow Him that everything always goes right. Following Him means that no matter what happen…He is enough in the good times and in the bad times as well. It is not what He can give us but that He is enough all by Himself.

The apostles were faithfully proclaiming the gospel in Acts 4 and do you know what the fruit of their efforts was? They were imprisoned, beaten, and told to quit preaching the gospel or else. Yet, they left the place rejoicing because Jesus was enough. You pursue healing but you are not healed; is Jesus still enough? You pursue that job but you are not hired; is Jesus still enough? You pursue that relationship but it does not happen; is Jesus still enough? Is He enough to complete you even in the most difficult trials and tribulations?

First, is Jesus enough when you are suffering? Suffering is not easy and none of us adapt to it naturally. When we are called to sacrifice it hurts and the hurt is real. The key here is having a deeper desire than simply avoiding the pain and trials. The deeper motivation is that we want to do the will of God and glorify Him with our lives. We can face any tribulation trusting Him to go through the fire with us and that “all things work together for good to them that love God.” We can trust Him that He will never leave us nor forsake us and that His grace is sufficient.

Second, is Jesus enough when you feel abandoned and all alone? Unfortunately, people will let us down and disappoint us. Sometimes those closest to us can hurt us the deepest when they mistreat us. Recently I read, “Those who make love their goal in life are going to hurt deeply when they are rejected, unappreciated, exploited, or opposed by the very people they seek to love.” How true that is and, yes, it does hurt and it hurts deeply. Jesus understands what it means to be betrayed and for followers to turn away.

Third, is Jesus enough when we feel like a failure? Following Jesus does not guarantee that you will be “successful.” I also read, “Sometimes our crises can become opportunities for a fresh experience of the glory of God’s affirmation. Human experience can become an opportunity to experience the depth of divine acceptance. Then the thrill of being ministered to by God more than compensates for the pain that people inflict on us.” Don’t forget what Psalm 27:10 says, “For my father and mother have forsaken me, but the Lord will take me in.”

Fourth, is Jesus enough when your ministry is struggling? It is easy to begin keeping score and comparing ourselves to other ministries. We know the main requirement of our Lord is faithfulness but we begin to be envious of other ministries. The inner turmoil causes us to begin having fears and doubts and if we are not careful even envy and bitterness. Insecurity comes from listening to what others are saying and doing. Insecurity makes it very hard to handle criticism and obstacles when they come our way but when our security is in Christ we snap back quickly.

Fifth, is Jesus enough for us to continue and not quit? Our intimacy with Christ is what will keep us in the game when we want to run away. We all like to escape from difficult challenges, trials, and confrontations. The temptation will always be present to run from the heat of the battle and go somewhere where the grass is greener and the people easier to get along with. When Jesus is enough we will refuse to run from our call when we are overwhelmed. Instead, we will run to Him for our strength and comfort.

Is Jesus enough for every situation in our lives? Psalm 73 gives us the solution when we are overwhelmed by trials and difficulties. Instead of running to a different location we are to get into His presence. Verses 16-17 say, “But when I thought how to understand this, it seemed to me a wearisome task, until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I discerned their end.” Dr. Adrian Rodgers once said, “A change in locations never guarantees a change of character.” Jesus is enough for your salvation, your forgiveness, and for your daily victory!

Heart Test!!!

All of us need to examine our hearts to determine if we are true disciples of Christ or not. In order to administer a test, the test first has to be developed and written. If you are going to ask a question then there needs to be a definitive answer. When you ask many church leaders to define a disciple you actually will get a multitude of answers. How does your church define a disciple? What elements are necessary to say a person is a fully devoted follower of Christ?

There are three tests every believer should test himself or herself on to determine where they are in their personal journey.

First, do you know and are you following Jesus? Have you decided to follow Him and make Him Lord of your life?

Second, are you being changed and transformed by Christ regularly? Is Christ consistently at work in you so that He might work through you?

Third, are you committed to the mission of Jesus? Are you focused on what He has called you to do?

This heart test requires all three…not just two of them. If you are having physical heart problems think about how different tests intensify and are more in-depth. First, you may be given an EKG to see if there are any irregularities in the patterns of your heart (“Follow me”). Second, you may then be asked to take a stress test that challenges your heart under a more difficult situation (“and I will make you”). Third, they then may require a heart catherization (“fishers of men”).

Do not stop at the first or second level because a true test of the heart of any disciple is that they must be living on mission for Jesus. Matthew 4:19 makes it unmistakable, “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” A clear and concise definition of what it means and what it takes to follow Jesus is how we can test our hearts. Honestly, many Christians and many churches need to rediscover and recommit to the mission of God. Each level is a more in-depth test of where you are spiritually.

A huge part of this process, “and I will make you,” happens in community and with other disciples. We were not made to follow Jesus alone, but together, because two are better than one. Someone has said, “You should be willing to stand alone for Christ but you should not ever have to!” There is not just strength in numbers but those numbers being together in community strengthens us. That is what the Bible means when it speaks of iron sharpening iron. It is one hard object striking another hard object to improve effectiveness.

Bill Hybels gives a great definition of biblical community, “Knowing and being known, loving and being loved, serving and being served, and celebrating and being celebrated.” Three necessary ingredients to properly test our spiritual hearts are the Word of God, the Holy Spirit, and the people of God. This is why connection (small) groups are so important to spiritual maturity. We grow as God intended when we are following Christ together in community by praying for one another, loving one another, serving one another, and even correcting one another.

There must be an environment of authenticity and transparency for this to work. In larger groups we are able to hide behind superficial relationships that never really get beyond pleasantries. We are comfortable taking about the weather, sports, fishing, our jobs, but God forbid we ask someone what sin they are struggling with the most. If we are not careful, we create pretend relationships…not authentic ones. Honesty in a safe environment is what develops trust. Here are three areas that test our heart and our authenticity.

First, you do not need to feel like you have all the answers. As a matter of fact, J.D. Greear says, “The greatest ideas for ministry are likely in the minds of congregation members…Furthermore, if the majority of what Jesus wants to do He wants to do in community, it shouldn’t surprise us that He puts His best vision into the hearts of the people who live and work there for the majority of their hours each week.” Allow creativity and listen to what the Holy Spirit is saying to others around you.

Second, make sure you have not surrounded yourself with “yes men.” Ed Stetzer said, “Surround yourself with strong voices who have permission to disagree.” That is not always easy and challenges us but we must give permission to spiritual people to speak into our lives and we must be willing to give what they say a fair hearing. Greear and Stetzer have hit the nail on the head by stressing the importance of promoting creativity and valuing everyone’s opinion on your team. A true test of spiritual maturity is that you do not have to have your way.

Third, trust the people around you by equipping them, empowering them, and releasing them. Craig Groeschel says, “You can have control or you can have growth, but you can’t have both. You have recruited great people, trust and empower them.” That may not fit your situation exactly but learn from the principle. If they are not in the right position then help them discover the right one. If they are not sure about what to do give them the training that would help them be more effective.

Leaders, we need to test our hearts on our willingness to “be changed and transformed by Jesus.” Are we listening to His leadership in making disciples who make disciples? Are we willing to realize that the people God has placed around us have as much vision and ability as we do? Do we really believe in the priesthood of the believer and are we willing to practice it? Let me close by quoting Greear again, “Shouldn’t pastors see themselves as servants of the movement rather than celebrities of the moment?

S.O.A.P. Journaling

SOAP

   A discipleship system is dependent on the disciples within that system.  In other words, to make disciples you must first be a disciple.  This is more than just saying you had an experience with Jesus Christ.  There must be evidence that you are following Him.  A disciple is not defined by what they know but by what they do and how they live.  1 John 2:3 says, “And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments.”  We have been commanded to “make disciples” and to be obedient to that command we must make sure we are following Jesus.

     Following Jesus requires our developing daily habits that demonstrate how much we love Him.  These faith habits include your quiet time with the Lord in prayer and Bible study.  There are many different methods but one that I have used for some time now and teach to churches and church planters is called S.O.A.P. Journaling.  The acronym stands for Scripture, Observation, Application, and Prayer.  This is an excellent way to both record and process what God is saying in you as you read His word daily and allow the Holy Spirit to speak to your heart.

     This method begins by selecting a book in the Bible and reading a chapter each day.  You take your journal and write these four letters, S.O.A.P. down the left side of your paper.  As you read you are asking God to draw your attention to one or two verses that speak to you and stand out the most.  When you have decided on that verse(s) you then write it out in your journal. This is the SCRIPTURE aspect of your time with Him.  Take time, slow down, and listen to Him.  The goal is not the number of verses read but having God speak to your heart.

     After writing down the verses the Holy Spirit has impressed upon your heart you then want to begin recording your OBSERVATIONS.  What do you think God is saying to you in this scripture?  Ask the Holy Spirit to teach you and show you what He has for you that day.  When reading God’s word you should always be looking for commands to obey, sin to confess, or promises to claim.  Write your observations down in your journal by either paraphrasing the scripture in your own words.  You may even want to look up those verses in a commentary to reflect upon them.

     Now it is time for APPLICATION.  The word of God is not just a book to be read it is a book to be obeyed.  Following Jesus requires obedience and without it we really cannot claim to be His disciples.  Application is personalizing what you have read by asking yourself how it applies to your life.  What action do you need to personally take?  Write in your journal how this verse(s) apply to you, today.  Jesus defines following Him this way in John 14:15,”If ye love me, keep my commandments.”  It would be good to begin each statement of application with, “I will”…. Because you are committing to do it!

     Lastly, you want to write out your PRAYER in your S.O.A.P. journal.  This can be as simple as asking God to help you use this scripture, or it may be a greater insight on what He may be revealing to you.  Remember, prayer is a two way conversation, so be sure to listen to what God has to say.  Write out your prayer of obedience to what He has shown you in His word trusting Him to help you live it out in your life daily.  So there you have it; Scripture, Observation, Application, and Prayer.  It does work and it will work as you trust the Holy Spirit to speak into your life.

     In order to help others follow Jesus you must first make sure you are following Jesus.  This personal discipleship strategy is an excellent tool to use daily and then at a later time reflect on and review some of the ‘gems’ that God has given you.  Without writing them down you are more prone to forget the blessings and the lesson He has revealed to you.  Journaling is a very personal time between you and the Lord but you may want to share some of your daily reflections with a friend, a small group, your mentor, or someone you are mentoring. 

     The first skill to making disciples is following Jesus.  The second is helping others follow Jesus.  Discussing with others what God is showing you can enable you to look deeper into what God is saying to you and you can gain new insight and be an encouragement to them also.  Share the S.O.A.P. journaling method with others.  You could invite two or three others to journal the same book of the Bible with you and then meet weekly to share what God is saying to each of you.  Discipleship is not rocket science but it does take discipline and obedience.  Follow Jesus first and then help others follow Jesus!

     Wayne Cordeiro says this when referring to S.O.A.P., “Reading God’s word may not change you in a day but reading it daily will change you!”