River Evangediscipleship

River ecclesiology, which I sketched out in a previous post, also implies a particular take on Christian evangelism and discipleship.

First of all, they’re not all that separate.

You believe on Jesus, as the Scriptures have said, and therefore out of your belly flow rivers of living water.  First you drink, then the water multiplies, like loaves and fishes, and flows out from you.  Isn’t that the whole point of John 4?  You are a walking sanctuary, and your job is to be a conduit for the river that waters the world, everywhere you walk.  The river flows to the unbeliever and to the believer alike.  You offer abundant life to the dead, and the same abundant life to the living.  The living can’t live without it any more than the dead.

It’s all disciple-making; it’s all sanctification; and it’s all good.  Unbelievers simply have one step further to go.

Some of you Free Grace watchdogs out there are growling and muttering.  I can hear it now: “That sounds like Lordship Salvation.”

That’s exactly what it is.  In this life there is no salvation except in Christ, who is inescapably Lord.  In this life, there is no salvation apart from discipleship.  No deliverance from sin, no partaking in the divine nature, no experiential escape from the corruption that is in the world through lust, none of that, except through discipleship.  Apart from a life of discipleship, you have nothing to look forward to except hell on earth, walking around dead until your corpse rejoins the dust, the soul rotting long before the body.  You will submit to the Lordship of Christ, or you’re not living; you’re dying.  When your body gives out, of course, if you are God’s child, then you will incongruously enter His presence with shabby clothes, redolent with the stench of burning wood, hay, and stubble, saved (in that narrow sense) yet so as through fire, and called least in the kingdom of heaven.

Jesus did not come and die to populate heaven with smoke-stinking paupers.  Some will be there, and glory to God for His mercy — but that is not the point.  Jesus came into the world to save sinners, really save.  You can experience hell on earth, dead while you live, a rotting tatterdemalion puppet jerking and twitching through the decades, the devil yanking the strings all the way — is that salvation?  Is that what Jesus came to offer you?  No.  Jesus is not selling insurance, fire or otherwise.  He came that you may have life, and that you may have it more abundantly.

As a disciple, you offer this abundant life to the world.  First thing, right off the bat?  As a practical matter, you can’t give what you don’t have. But what about the woman at the well?  What did she have?  A belly full of living water flowing out.

Nobody accepts a miracle cure for leprosy from a leper, and nobody accepts a promise of life from the devil’s rotting puppet.  Jesus will take you out of here-and-now slavery to sin and death, but you’ve got to let Him do it.  Once you do, people start listening.

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4 Responses to River Evangediscipleship

  1. Zoe says:

    Peter has been teaching on this too recently – the command is not ‘make believers’ but rather, make disciples, baptising them and teaching them to obey Christ’s commands, because Christ is the ultimate authority, and He is with us always…. 🙂 I love the way you put it in this post. Keep ’em coming!

  2. Tim Nichols says:

    Thank you, Zoe. I’m glad to hear Peter’s teaching it that way; it’s a big difference.
    I will keep ’em coming — there are a few more installments in this particular run, I think (and one I know of for sure, because I’ve already written it).

    I don’t know that this qualifies as a major paradigm shift, but it’s certainly a recasting of priorities, and it has a lot of impact on how I treat other people both within and outside the church. It’s been fun making the shift.

  3. Michele says:

    Hi Tim,

    This line you wrote is terribly graphic, [b]”…a rotting tatterdemalion puppet jerking and twitching through the decades, the devil yanking the strings all the way — is that salvation?”[/b] And I think Paul and Jesus tried to be alarming with stiff-necked people too.

    Matt 7:24-29 says, [i]“Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall.”[/i]

    Whoever builds on Christ is wise. But [b]everyone[/b] believer and unbeliever alike, who does not build on Him will fall to pieces. Jesus categorized “the gospel truth” in terms of those who live righteously and those who do not, so can’t we speak likewise?

  4. Tim Nichols says:

    Michele,

    Amen!

    I would add that Paul and Jesus were speaking in the manner that the Proverbs and the prophets taught us to speak — they were part of a long tradition.

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