How Followers of Jesus Develop
This graphic is meant to describe and represent the biblical way God wants you and our church to develop.If we are to encourage and equip people to become biblical followers of Jesus, we must understand that a biblical follower of Jesus is described consistently in Scripture as possessing three characteristics. First, a follower of Jesus is given comprehension of God and biblical truth. Second, comprehension of God and truth produces transformation in a follower’s thought and life. Third, comprehension and transformation results in communication that will inform and encourage others with the gospel. All this is initiated by the gospel work of evangelism, through which a person receives a gospel presentation. As you look at the graphic you will notice the segments move from left to right.
First, we need to own our responsibility to Evangelize people by sharing with them the glorious gospel message (Gospel Presentation). Second, we need to Encourage people to grow in their understanding of the gospel and biblical truth (Gospel Comprehension). Third, we work and pray to Equip people, through the application of truth, to become like the Lord Jesus (Gospel Transformation). Fourth, we challenge people to trust the work and power of God to enable them to Engage in ministry as full-fledged disciples of Jesus Christ and servants of His church (Gospel Communication).
The fire graphic with the Trinity symbol signifies the God-centeredness of the process. The Justification and Sanctification graphics, each over two parts of the progression, are taken from our Gospel-Centered Ministry booklet (important reading for members of our church). This indicates that the presentation andcomprehension of the gospel relate to justification while transformation and communication relate to sanctification. An explanation of each segment will now be presented to explain the biblical description of followers of Jesus at Nor’wood Bible Church.
Explanation of Important Terms
Our purpose on this earth is to keep God central in all that we do and live wholeheartedly and passionately for His glory. “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31) The natural sinful tendency of all Christians, and therefore church ministries, is to make more and more of man and less and less of God. But we must fight this perpetual drift. The truth is that God does not need us. God has no deficits. He is the all-sufficient, benevolent God and out of His fullness and grace He supplies everything that is needed. The Apostle Paul instructed the Athenian philosophers about the sufficiency of God in Acts 17:24-25. “24 The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, 25nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.” This is what we mean by being God-centered.
Keeping our hearts centered on Jesus Christ is consistently honoring God’s amazing work for us through the sacrificial and substitutionary work of Jesus on behalf of those He came to save. The work of Jesus on behalf of believers should cause humble appreciation and consistent affirmation of what Jesus has done and continues to do for His followers. Jesus was so significant to the Apostle Paul he made the following declaration to the church in Corinth. “1 And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. 2 For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” (1 Corinthians 2:1–2)Jesus is the central focus of God’s redemptive purpose and from Him flows the river of God’s sustaining grace. “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:32) This is what we mean by being Christ-centered.
One of the significant evidences of knowing Jesus as one’s personal Lord and Savior is the love God puts in the hearts of His people for Him and for others. This love is empowered by the Holy Spirit. “…God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:5) This love is an active affection that shows care and concern for fellow believers and for unbelievers. “34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34–35) “7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” (1 John 4:7–8) Holy Spirit empowered love for others is what we mean by being Others-oriented.
As the graphic above indicates, we believe the gospel of Jesus contains two aspects. The first and initial aspect is the gospel of justification. The second aspect of the gospel is that of the believer’s sanctification. As the gospel of justification points the sinner to the sacrificial and atoning work of Jesus Christ on the cross, for the purpose of forgiveness and cleansing, so does the gospel of sanctification. We are not capable of paying for our sins as believers anymore than we could pay for our sins as unbelievers. We cannot earn God’s favor and forgiveness as believers anymore than we could earn God’s favor and forgiveness as unbelievers. The way our salvation began is the way it continues.
Galatians 3:1–3 “1O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified.2 Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? 3 Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?”
Colossians 2:6–7 “6 Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, (justification)so walk in him(sanctification), 7 rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.”
Works do not save us and works do not keep us. We are saved by grace through faith in the finished work of Jesus and we are sustained by grace through faith in the finished work of Jesus. Believers should joyfully reflect on the wonder of the cross acknowledging our desperate need of God and our humble dependence on God for forgiveness and cleansing. This is what we mean by being gospel-focused.