The Equipping Word

the blog of Dr. Benjamin M. Foxworth
pastor, Bethel Baptist Church, Vandalia, IL

The purpose of this blog is to equip the saints for the work of service (Eph. 4:12). This will not be a digital soap box in which I will offer political rants or hammer home personal opinions about topics in the news. This blog’s whole purpose is to use the word of God and personal reflections to encourage, equip, and edify the body of Christ – the church. Anything other would be to waste an opportunity afforded to me by the grace of God. May you be equipped to serve the Lord for His glory!

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The Road of the Disciple

February 18, 2019  ●  19-13

Matt. 7:13-14: Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.

Eph. 4:15: but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ.

Heb. 6:1: Therefore leaving the elementary teaching about Christ, let us press on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God.

2 Pet. 3:18: But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Recently my wife and I drove down to Marion to have dinner with our daughter Katherine and her three sons, our grandsons, Theo, Henry, and Oliver. We met them to celebrate Ollie’s third birthday. On the way down we noticed the northbound traffic on I-57 north at Dix was really backed up due to a semitruck that had slid off the road the day before due to ice.

The side of the road was a mess with parts of the trailer and its cargo all over the side of the highway. Highway crews and law enforcement were trying to clean up the area but it was a real mess, not to mention it was raining. When we left Marion coming home we discovered through the joy of our map app that northbound I-57 at Dix was completely shut down because work crews were trying to pull the trailer off the side of the road and move it out. We decided to take I-64 out of Mt. Vernon towards St. Louis, then off on Highway 51 north through Centralia to get home. There were two roads for us to get home – I-57 or I-64 and Highway 51.

Matthew 5-7 is known as the Sermon on the Mount. This great sermon is simply Jesus teaching on how to live as a Christian. Beginning with 7.13 through the end of the chapter, Jesus used three word picture comparisons to wrap up this teaching: the two roads, the two trees, and the two builders. Verses thirteen and fourteen give us the picture of two roads and two gates: the wide gate and the broad way, and the small gate and the narrow way. In these two verses Jesus taught about discipleship: the small gate and narrow way are a picture of the road of the disciple, the follower of Jesus Christ. This road and gate are a picture of the person who takes discipleship seriously and walks the road on the pursuit of spiritual maturity to the day he meets Jesus in glory.

The wide gate and the broad way are a picture of the person who may claim faith in Jesus Christ but never grows as a disciple. For this person, discipleship is something someone else does, maybe the pastor (because hey, that’s what they pay pastors to do, right?), or the Sunday School teacher or deacon or missionary. However, this person believes he does not have the time for all this discipleship stuff and frankly cannot think of where in her schedule she could fit it.

The truth is, every Christian is a disciple. The moment a person places their faith and trust in Jesus Christ he becomes a disciple of Christ. A disciple is simply a follower of Jesus, a pupil, a student of Jesus. The disciple follows the master, learns from the master, listens to and obeys the master’s teaching. The disciple, in time, becomes a maker of other disciples; that is what we have been called to do, that is our commission as Christians. Because every Christian is a disciple, the question is, what kind of disciple are you, am I, are we?

We are either obedient disciples or disobedient disciples; we are either growing in our relationship with Christ or we are not. And if we are not growing, if we are not obedient, if we are not pursuing the kingdom of God and His righteousness as Jesus taught in Matt. 6:33, are we truly disciples? Has there really been a change of heart, has there really been transformation?

How are we to understand the road of the disciple Jesus teaches about in Matt. 7:13-14?

  1. The maturing disciple is the picture of the road;
  2. Intentional pursuit of discipleship is the plan for the road. This pursuit must be:
    INTENTIONAL – you must pursue spiritual maturity in your life;
    PRACTICAL – the Word of God must lead to application in life;
    CONTINUAL – you must constantly seek growth in Christ on a daily basis.
  3. The presence of spiritual fruit is the proof we are on the road.

There are four important lessons Matt. 7:13-14 teach us:

  1. Discipleship is both an expectation and a choice. God expects His children to grow, and that growth is dependent on whether we pursue it or not.
  2. God has given us everything we need to pursue spiritual maturity.
  3. No one is exempt from growth in spiritual maturity.
  4. God saves us as disciples who make other disciples.

I want to encourage you to allow God’s Word to equip you as you walk the road of the disciple. Time is not the issue, we all have twenty-four hours in a day, no more and no less. The question is, are we being good stewards of that time that God gives us?

Let the following portions of Scripture help you in your pursuit of spiritual maturity:
John 15:5-8, 16; Rom 12:9-21; Col. 3:1-17; Phil. 3:7-10

Living the
Confessional Life

February 11, 2019  ●  19-12

Psalms 51:4: Against You, You only, I have sinned and done what is evil in Your sight so that You are justified when You speak and blameless when You judge.

Psalms 51:10: Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

Psalms 139:23-24: Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my anxious thoughts; and see if there be any hurtful way in me. And lead me in the everlasting way.

1 John 1:9: If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

The word ‘confess’ means to say the same about sin that God says about sin, and to God, all sin is sin. Christians have been called to live confessional lives, meaning we must always be aware of sin that encroaches in our lives, and confess and repent of it. God’s Word by His Spirit is like a search light that scans our souls exposing sin. When sin is exposed it must be confessed and forsaken. Only then can we be led, “in the everlasting way.”

It has been said that confession is good for the soul, and this is true. It is not easy to confess our sins. When we confess we are admitting we have done something wrong. However, when sin is confessed, God immediately forgives us and wipes that sin away. God does not keep a record of the sins He forgives, otherwise, none of us would have a chance.

The key to fellowship is confession. Fellowship means we have something in common, and what we have in common as children of God is the shed blood of Jesus Christ. Sin in the life of the Christian breaks fellowship with other Christians and with the church. Until that sin is confessed and forsaken that break will continue. When sin is left unchecked and unconfessed, it grows like a cancer in your soul. Sin must not be messed around with or taken lightly. The only way sin can be dealt with is through an honest look at our lives and a commitment to confess and repent of sin the moment we know it is present.

I want to encourage you to allow God’s Word to equip you in confessing and repenting of sin. Use the following Scriptures to help you understand the power of confession and the joy of God’s forgiveness:
Psalm 32, Psalm 103:10-13, Psalm 130

Write it Down

February 5, 2019  ●  19-11

Ex. 17:14: Then the Lord said to Moses, “Write this in a book as a memorial and recite it to Joshua, that I will utterly blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven.”

Ex. 34:27: Then the Lord said to Moses, “Write down these words, for in accordance with these words I have made a covenant with you and with Israel.”

Ecc. 12:10: The Preacher ought to find delightful words and to write words of truth correctly.

Years ago I was introduced to the spiritual discipline of journaling. Journaling is simply reading a passage of Scripture and writing down what thoughts you have about that particular verse. Currently I am journaling through Psalms, and here is my journal entry for today:

Psalms 138:4-8
v. 6: For though the Lord is exalted, yet He regards the lowly, but the haughty He knows from afar. The “lowly” are those who are humble and are repentant. The “haughty” are those who don’t feel the need to repent and/or humble themselves before God. God does regard the lowly, if He didn’t then no one would be saved. Praise the Lord He has regard for those who repent, for those who come before Him to confess their sins and seek forgiveness. God is the God of creation and salvation, He is God and there are no others. And yet God is mindful and regards those who seek Him for forgiveness and salvation! Praise the Lord for His compassion and forgiveness.

I have journal entries that are short, others are long. Many of them, most of them, are nothing profound, but what God has impressed on my heart to write. I have used journal entries in sermons and Sunday School lessons and even to challenge and encourage the church.

Journaling as a spiritual disciple is helpful in many ways:

  1. It personalizes the Word of God, it helps me focus on how a particular verse of Scripture impacts my life.
  2. It internalizes the Word of God. Through journaling I am writing down God’s Word as a way to remember it.
  3. It memorializes the Word of God. What you write down, whether in a hand-written journal or a typed journal, is written down for later use; it becomes a record of how God’s Word is impacting your life.

My journal for the Book of Psalms is currently at forty-five pages. I don’t handwrite my journal, I type it out. I have found it is easier for me to type and think at the same time, but that’s just me. It really doesn’t matter what format you use and how short or long your journal entries are. What is important is that you are thinking about and writing down how God’s Word is impacting your life.

I want to encourage you to let the Word of God equip you with the spiritual discipline of journaling. Simply pray that God will develop that spiritual discipline in your life, begin simply with a sentence or two based on a particular verse of Scripture. You will be amazed how powerful this spiritual discipline is in helping you grow in your walk with the Lord.

You Have to Want to Do It

February 2, 2019  ●  19-10

Ps. 119:12: Blessed are you, O Lord! Teach me Your statutes.

Eph. 4:15: but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ.

2 Tim. 2:22: Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.

2 Peter 3:18: but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.

Six years ago I lost thirty-five pounds. During my annual physical the doctor told me that my cholesterol and blood sugar were telling me it would be easy for me to become a Type-2 diabetic. I did not consider myself heavy, but the doctor told me for my health to lose the weight. So my wife and I did some research, bought a book (of course!), and pursued a course of action that worked! I lost the weight and have kept it off to this day. I have a target weight and I still struggle with three pesky pounds, but it’s my own fault; I’m not as strict with my eating as I should be. The point is, I was told what I had to do and I did it. When it comes to weight loss, simply losing the weight will not work if there is not a corresponding life change. Unless you commit to a change in lifestyle, simple weight loss will not last. As an aside, there are five words you need to understand when it comes to exercise if you are trying to get in shape as part of losing weight; e-mail me if you would like them.

The same is true of growing in spiritual maturity. In verse after verse, the Bible instructs us that we are to grow in our knowledge of Christ. This growth does not happen automatically, it is something we have to pursue. We have been given the ability to pursue it through the person of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit of God helps us understand God’s word and how to apply it. The Spirit of God gives us wisdom in making choices that honor God. And just like losing weight, spiritual growth and maturity require lifestyle change as well. But here’s the deal, it is the Spirit of God that leads you and sustains you in that lifestyle change for the glory of God.

The moment a person places their faith and trust in Jesus Christ they become disciples of Christ. A disciple is a pupil, a follower, a learner of Jesus Christ. There is no such person as a Christian that is not a disciple of Christ; we are either growing as disciples or we are not. God has designed us to grow (spiritually) and expects us to grow; to not pursue spiritual growth is to misunderstand salvation in Jesus Christ. The more we grow, the more we come to know how God works and we see how God works, and the more God grows us the more we want to grow.

I lost thirty-five pounds because the doctor told me it was for my physical health. I pursue spiritual growth daily because that’s what God expects, it helps me grow closer to the Lord. Here are some easy steps to use in growing daily in spiritual maturity:

  1. Read God’s Word daily;
  2. Study God’s Word seriously;
  3. Apply God’s Word practically;
  4. Pray God’s Word thoughtfully.

I want to encourage you to allow God’s Word to equip you in spiritual growth and maturity. Think on, pray through, and study these passages of Scripture that will help you:

2 Tim. 2:15; Ps. 1:1-3; Ps. 119:1-8; Matt. 6:33; Col. 1:9-10

Scripture taken from the New American Standard Bible®. Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1975, 1977, 1995 by the Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.