Grow As A Disciple
Being a Christian is all about being a disciple of Jesus.
"Disciple" is a bible word that means to be an apprentice.
This means that our aim as Christians is to learn from and to become like Jesus.
How do you do that?
Well, like any apprentice would - you get up close to the master of the skill you want to grow in and you commit to being with them and learning from them so that you can become like them. You make them your teacher.
Jesus is our Saviour, but he didn't just come to save us from sin and death.
He also came to save us to something - a way of life that produces love, joy, peace, goodness, faith, hope and more.
So accepting Jesus as our Saviour is just the beginning of the Christian life.
Now we start what the bible refers to as "working out your salvation…" or "walking in step with the Spirit" or "pressing on toward the goal…"
Now we become disciples.
Below are some of the ways, or practises, that we can engage in to help us get close to Jesus, and learn His ways, so that we might grow to be more and more like Him, giving the Spirit room in our lives to transform us, as the bible says, "from glory to glory". We'll be adding more to help you soon...
Fasting & Feasting
Silence & Solitude
"Hands together, eyes closed..." remember that being said in school assemblies? If you're my age or older you might. It was said as it that's how you turn prayer on, like putting a key in the ignition of a car and starting it up. But prayer isn't about where your hands are and it's not about closing your eyes. It's a conversation with God, with our Father. Do you close your eyes when you're talking to someone that's there with you? Prayer is something that should be exciting, not boring; life giving not life sucking. It's time with God, the giver of life. But that doesn't make it easy. Here are some tips to help you pray.
1. What should you pray about?
The bible says "Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God." - Philippians 4:6
So you can pray about anything and everything. Nothing's too big, nothing's too small. If it's on your heart or mind you can pray about it. Whatever the situation, whether it's one that makes you feel anxious or one that stirs joy in your heart, pray about it.
2. When and how should I pray?
The bible says "And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying..." - Ephesians 6:18
So you can pray whenever, you can pray on all occasions, and you can pray with all kinds of prayers. You can pray with tears or with laughter, you can pray by shouting out or by whispering quietly in your heart. There are no rules, and there are no set times. The bible says "pray continually" - 1 Thessalonians 5:17. God is always with you so you can always talk with Him, He doesn't sleep or slumber (Psalm 121).
3. What did Jesus say about prayer?
Ok so we said there are no rules, and there aren't really but Jesus did make one thing clear.... Be real! This isn't religion, it's relationship. This isn't ritual, it's reality. Prayer is a holy moment, a life giving moment, a conversation between a child and their Father. So Jesus did say don't make prayer into a show, there's no point, God isn't interested in a show, He's interested in you. And he did say don't waffle and use long words, don't dress it up, He doesn't need to be impressed by you, He wants to impress you. He just wants to hear you heart and share His with You. (read Matthew 6:5-13 for more).
So that's it. Why not start now. Say Hello. I usually start my day with "morning Father" as the water from the shower hits down on my back, and then I go from there.
In John 13 there is this crazy account of Jesus doing something bizarre. Before I tell you what it is can we just for a moment remember who Jesus is. John starts his gospel by writing that Jesus was "the Word" that everything that is came into being through, meaning when you go back to Genesis 1 "in the beginning" and you read about God creating, the power that made all that happen, that was Jesus. He is God. He is the creator, the artist, the designer, architect of everything. And He is the king of it all, the ruler, the one who is at the head of the army leading the fight to win it all back from the power of evil and death, the one who every knee will bow before. We're talking about that Jesus.
And then there in John 13 that Jesus, takes off his outer robes, wraps some cloth around his waste, gets down on his hands and knees and starts to wash the dirty, smelly feet of his disciples. And let's be real for a moment, they're not even that great at being disciples. They're failures who get it wrong all the time, they're a bunch of rough blokes from Galilee, and they've been out walking in sandals on some of the dirtiest roads (more like tracks) around. Then the king and creator of the whole cosmos washes their feet.
The bible tells us that even though He was God He didn't consider His glory and power something to be paraded around, and He humbled Himself to show love and mercy to others. (Philippians 2).
After Jesus had washed His disciples feet He said to them "Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another's feet" (John 13:14) and in Philippians 2 the writer encourages us to be like Jesus and not to think of ourselves more highly than we ought to, I mean He was God and we are not and so if He can serve dirty, smelly human beings, well then so can we.
As disciples of Jesus (Christians) we are called to be like Jesus. That's our aim in life, to become like Him.
So throw yourself in. Take off what ever you dress yourself up in, and get down in the dirt, so to speak, and start touching people's lives. You don't need a position to do that, you can just do it. Find out if someone on your street needs help with something and help them, volunteer at a local toddler group or find an organisation that's helping people learn to read and go offer your help.
And of course you can get involved in our church community as well. You might think that serving on a team in church is something to aim for because it gives you a position, but you'd be wrong. It's something to aim for because you get to become a servant and you get involved in making other people's lives better, you get to bless them, you get to be Jesus to them.
To find out about ways you can serve in our church please email our pastor: email@example.com
People can get a bit weird when it comes to churches and giving. It can feel like the church is often just after your money. So let me start by saying we're not after your money. If you give to us then thank you and if you don't then please know we don't hold that against you or judge you for it. We trust that year on year God will provide for His work in this church, and that has been our story. Almost every year we seem to get to the point of thinking "we're going to run out of money... we might need to lay off the staff..." but every year in different and miraculous ways God provides for all our needs just as His word says that He will (Philippians 4:19).
But giving (or tithing as lots of people call it) is important, and I hope to share with you why. It's not about keeping the lights on, or keeping the pastor or youth worker in a job. It's actually all about you and what Jesus want's to do in Your life, and that's why we want to share with you about it, because our heart is to see you know the fullness of life that Jesus speaks of offering (John 10:10).
You can give in other ways as well as with money, but for more information on that please see the section called "Serve" just above here.
Tithing is the idea of giving the first 10% of your income to God. It comes from the bible, and the ancient Israelite way of life where they would offer to God the first 10% of their crops or herds as a way of saying thank you to God for His provision, but also as a way of recognising that all that they had came from Him and He alone was there king. It also was a way of saying "we put our trust in You" to God. If they gave the first fruits of the harvest they were trusting that God would provide more as the harvest went on. It was a beautiful way of God also showing His faithfulness and provision for them.
So we say that Jesus is our king. And if we mean that then what we're saying is that He is over every area of our lives: our hearts and minds, our will, our relationships, our job, our family, our hopes and dreams, our failures, and our finances. As our king we bring everything under His rule and reign, because we trust that He is good. In the bible God says to His people "Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house...." basically saying give to me your first 10%, then He goes on to say "...Test me in this and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it."
What God is saying is "great, you've got that and it looks like a lot to you. But if you trust me with all that you have I have SO MUCH MORE for you." The question is will we trust him?
There are loads of reasons for tithing, which have nothing to do with keeping the church propped up, but let me just share one more with you. Deuteronomy 14:22-23 tells us that tithing isn't about giving money to the church but about what it does to our hearts. We say a lot that our goal is to become like Jesus. And tithing is actually a discipleship tool that shapes us more than it helps anyone our money goes to. Deuteronomy 14 says that we should tithe "so that you may learn to revere the LORD your God always." We don't tithe to help someone out or to contribute towards the bills at church, we tithe because it puts us in a place where we have to learn to trust in God and to revere Him. God uses tithing to help us build trust in Him and grow closer to Him, that's His heart for us to know Him more and more, so we tithe because it causes us to trust Him, which leads to us experiencing His faithfulness.
If you'd like to start tithing to God through Counterslip you can do that by setting up a standing order using these details:
Sort Code: 12-20-26
Account Number: 01817515
For most people Sabbath probably brings a number of ideas to your mind, things like Sundays or not being able to shop, or cook or watch tv or go anywhere and see anyone other than people at church. We have this strange idea that "sabbath" is some "holier-than-thou" religious ritual that, let's be frank, is boring and stops you actually living and enjoying life… But the reality couldn't be further from the truth.
Sabbath is about patterns and patterns are a thing of beauty that fill you with a deep sense of wonder and excitement about life.
So you might ask "ok Matt, if Sabbath is about life and living why do we have this idea that it's about totally the opposite and why does God have to command His people in the Old Testament to follow it?"
Great, let's start with God and why He does what He does. Let's go back to page one of the bible. What does He do? He creates, He brings about order and beauty out of the chaos, and He gives life. That's the God He is, and that's what He does.
Why does He give sabbath as a command in the 10 commandments…. Well that's fascinating. You see the 10 commandments, in the Hebrew language are actually called the 10 Words (or speaking's) which is also fascinating because what does God do on page one of the bible? He speaks 10 words, or 10 speeches through which he re-orders the chaos of the universe and brings life and beauty to it. So when He gives these 10 words (or commandments) to the Israelites in the Old Testament what is He doing? He is speaking beauty, order and life into their seemingly messy and chaotic world. You see they had been slaves for over 400 years in Egypt and they had worked 7 days a week over and over and over for someone else's profit and glory. And God has just set them free. So now He was speaking a new way to live and to be, a new way to experience safety, beauty, loving kindness, freedom and life in all of its fullness. And this new way involved the space to Sabbath, to stop and rest and breathe and feel joy and peace.
By the time of Jesus the Jewish people had completely got Sabbath wrong and made it a thing of slavery again, a religious ritual that had so many sub rules about how to keep it, which is why Jesus says to them "No, no, no, Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath". He's saying Sabbath was something that was made for you to enjoy, not something that you were made to be a slave too.
Jesus also went around getting into trouble with the religious leaders of the day because on the Sabbath he did all kinds of things that they said he shouldn't be doing. He healed people, he picked food, he travelled around, he drove out demons, he taught and so much more. You see for Jesus Sabbath was a space in time where you could experience life and goodness.
And that takes us back to Genesis 1. You see Sabbath was something that God did too. After He had created everything and saw that it was good, He stopped and enjoyed it and dwelt in it, walking in the garden with the people he created for relationship.
When God gives Sabbath to the Israelites after He brings them out of Egypt He says that He is giving them a gift (Ezekiel 20:12). He is giving them a moment in time in which they can experience relationship with Him and others, and know peace and joy and life in all of its fullness. It's far from boring.
The Sabbath is something that God has blessed and it's something that we all need. In this busy, non-stop world in which we live we all need moments in which to remember we are living beings, that were made to experience life and joy and peace and hope and God and other people. Sabbath is simply about that, about remembering who we are and reawakening ourselves to be reconnected with other people, the world and God. It's a moment in which we come alive again.
So is it about stopping and doing nothing?
Is it about making sure we don't break any rules?
Sabbath is about ceasing, yes, but about ceasing from being a slave, and about doing anything that truly brings you, and others, life so that you remember you were created to be alive by a living God who wants to give you life in all of its fullness.
So we do this thing where we push people down under water. Strange right?!
We do bring them back up again, honest, we do.
The question is why, right, and what does it all mean?
So first off why.
We do it primarily because Jesus tells us to (Matthew 28:18-20). And for us Jesus is our king and we want to be obedient to Him, and why wouldn't we, we love Him and we trust Him.
The early church, which was started by those who actually walked and talked with Jesus while He was physically on the earth as well also did it (Acts2:37-38), it was important to them, it was essential to the message of Jesus and all that He came to bring to us.
And finally because Jesus Himself did it (Matthew 3, Mark 1, Luke 3), and Jesus isn't just our king, He's our teacher and our role model and we are His disciples so we want to follow in His footsteps and do just as He did.
So what's it all about?
Baptism is full of beautiful imagery that re-tells an ancient story and roots us in it and places us as part of it even today.
Firstly Baptism goes back way longer than the Baptist Church, and even longer than the New Testament Church.
The imagery of Baptism goes all the way back to the Exodus story where God set a group of slaves free from the oppressive power of the Egyptians. During the great escape this group of slaves found themselves trapped between the Egyptian army and the Red Sea with nowhere to go. Then God did an amazing thing, He parted the sea and this group of slaves walked right through the middle of the sea on dry ground. They passed through the waters from slavery to freedom. On the other side they gathered around the Mountain of the Lord and worshipped God and entered into a covenant with Him (a deep relationship) and they now had a new identity, they were no longer slaves of Egypt they were now the people of God, the Israelites. So firstly when we get baptised we join in with that story, moving from the slavery and darkness of this world through the waters and into a new kingdom where we become a free people, and part of the people of God.
Secondly, if we move through the Old Testament we reach a book called Leviticus which was a book all about worship. And part of the process of worship was to be ceremonially washed and cleansed (or Baptised) before coming into the presence of God. They did this to people and to holy objects used in worship as well. It was all about being cleansed, and made holy (set apart) so we could come before God. Jesus has now cleansed us by His blood shed on the cross, and baptism is a symbolic outward act of the faith we put in Jesus to wash and cleanse us from our sin. It's a symbolic bath.
Picking up the Jesus thread then, and this is where the full immersion baptism that Baptist churches do really comes alive with the power of imagery, baptism is symbolic of dying and rising again with Jesus. Paul writes about this in Colossians 2:12. As we go down into the water we join with Jesus in His death, and our old self, our sinful self, symbolically dies with Him. But then as we are lifted back up out of the water we symbolically rise again with Jesus into new resurrected life.
Finally, the word baptism actually means something as well, and it's not simply about getting wet. Most of the words in the New Testament have been translated from Greek into English but the word "baptism" hasn't. I mean we've dropped the "o" off of the end but we haven't actually translated the word, baptism is a Greek word. So what does it mean? Well, it literally means "to be overwhelmed". And that's what happens as you go down into the water you are overwhelmed with water, but water is also a biblical symbol for the Holy Spirit, which came on Jesus at His baptism. And so as we bring you back out of the water we pray for you to be filled with the Holy Spirit, to be overwhelmed with the presence of God and overwhelmed with His love.
That's what Baptism is all about.
If you're a believer in Jesus and you haven't been baptised get in touch, we'd love to share in this amazing step of faith with you.