An Exhortation to Theology Students in Guatemala

First, I thank you for the opportunity to be here. It gives me great delight that you all are here as well. I truly do love you all. There is not one greater purpose in the world than to be studying theology and preparing oneself to serve God.

Second, I don't come here as one who is better than you or less than you but one who is your brother in Christ. One of the most beautiful things about the gospel of Jesus Christ besides it giving us eternal life is that it is giving eternal life to those who believe all over the world.

Just like Revelation 5:9 says, “And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation”

There is a lot of things that separate people from all over the world. Skin color, language, borders, food we eat, ways of looking at the world, but the one thing we have in common is that we are believers and that is greater than all those differences. The blood of Jesus Christ is stronger and the identity it creates is more important than cultural or ethnic identities. We don't lose our cultural or ethnic identities. But what we gain is way much more. Our unity in Christ.

Which leads me to what I want to mention briefly. That is our identities. Who you are is the most important thing about you. Don't ever forget that. Being a Christian is mainly about who you are not what you do. Being in ministry is mainly about who you are not what you do. Are you in Christ? And if you are a Christian, you are in ministry. I heard a Pastor say a long time ago and I have never been able to forget it, “If you are a Christian, you are either a missionary, or you are a imposter”

We become a Christian through faith in the finished work of Christ. There is no other way. You can't earn it. You can't do enough good things. You just surrender your life to Christ and trust in him. And when you do, you become one of his. And then you live your life out of that identity. In other words, you don't follow Jesus to become a Christian, you follow Jesus because you are Christian. You say, what’t the difference? You don’t try to become a Christian, you become a Christian by being born again. ​You don’t try to become a Christian, you become a Christian by being born again. You don’t try to become a Christian, you become a Christian by being born again. I could labor this point for a long time but let me give you a little story to help: Once in a kingdom long ago, a gardener grew a huge carrot. He decided to give it to his prince because he loved him so. When he gave it, the prince discerned his heart, his love and devotion, and the fact that he expected nothing in return. So as the gardener turned to leave, he said: “Here, my son , I want to give you some of my land so that you can produce an even greater crop. It is yours.” The gardener went home rejoicing. A certain nobleman heard of this incident and thought: “If that is what the prince gives in response to the gift of a carrot , what would he give me if I gave him a fine horse?” So the nobleman came and presented the prince with a fine steed as a gift. But the prince discerned his heart and said: “You expect me to give to you as I did to the gardener. I will not. You are very different. The gardener gave me the carrot. But you were giving yourself the horse.” My friends, without seeing Jesus as the reason for our salvation, and as the reward for our salvation, it is not him we are serving but ourselves. And so it is with ministry. It is great that you are taking classes and studying theology and all that. But studying theology, taking classes or getting a certificate doesn't make you qualified. God calling you does. The call of God on your life is what makes you qualified.

And if you have been called of God, you study and you take it seriously and you get prepared.

The main task of ministry is found in Matthew 28:19-20, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in[b] the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

To make disciples, that is the main task of ministry. That is the command in that verse. And what does it look like to follow the command. It looks like share our faith in such a way that when people come to Christ through repenting of their sin and trusting in him, that we baptize them and then teach them to observe all that Jesus commanded.

Now there is a lot there we could talk about but I want to hit on one thing. Before we can ever start making disciples, we have to be a disciple ourselves. You can't teach other people to be what you are not. The most important thing about you, is who you are. Are you a Christian? Have you repented of your sins and trusted in Christ? And then secondly, how is your own walk with God?

Whatever you are, be a disciple first - spend time with Jesus. In order to urge other people to come to Christ and learn how to follow him, which is really what we are called to do, we have to be doing it ourselves.

Not only that, but constantly meditation on your identity of who you are in Christ, will keep you going for the long term. It is easy to turn ministry into a job. Into a routine.

In the book of Revelation Chapter 2:3-5, the church of Ephesus was warned of this, "I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name's sake, and you have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. ”

And so we need to keep up our love for Christ. And the best way to do that, is spend time in his word. Meditate on it. Memorize verses. Pray often to God, that the same Holy Spirit that shed the love of God abroad in your heart would keep that love a reality in your life, and even increase it. As much as you can, turn your heart to God about everything. And then out of a love for God, live for him, and tell others about him.

And on the days you don't feel like God loves you too much, maybe things are going bad, remind yourself of the cross. Remind yourself, that Jesus died for you, he does love you, and he has a place in heaven for you, where there will be no more sin, no more sorrow, no more sickness, heartache or pain. So keep traveling. Realize in a lot of ways you are just a pilgrim, traveling to a better place. And that following Jesus, in the end, no matter what happens in this life will be worth it.

God will give you the strength. He will give you the power to follow him. Be a disciple first.

Deny yourself, pick up your cross and follow me. That's what ministry is. It's dying to your wants and desires and coming alive to Gods wants and desires so that you can glorify him. It's dying to your wants and desires and living for others, so that they can know God.

A call to Christ is really a call to come and die. Die to yourself. It really isn't about you. It really is all about Jesus. Isn't that what it means to follow him.

Following Christ isn't meant to be a way to get all the stuff you would want anyway even you were not a Christian. No. Following Christ means living like he would live if he were here today. Because if you are a Christian, he really is here today, he really is with you always, just like he said in Matthew 28:20, “and lo I am with you always, even to the end of the age”. Why? Because he lives in you. “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20) Can you say this? I pray with all my might if you say you are a Christian, you can, because if you can't say this, you are not a Christian. My friends, who you are really is the most important thing about you. "Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow all the issues of life." (Proverbs 4:23) You get that. Who you are determines what you do. And if you are in Christ, if you have been crucified with him, if are a Christian, then deny yourself, pick up your cross and follow him. That's what the Christian life is. It's dying to your wants and desires and coming alive to Gods wants and desires so that you can glorify him. It's dying to your wants and desires and living for others, so that others can know God. In Philippians 4:13 the Apostle Paul said "I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength" Paul was in prison because he was a Christian. Paul had a hard life being a Christian. Before he became a Christian his life was easier. Afterwards it was harder. But he said he could do it because Christ gave him strength. Jesus was worth it for him. Jesus was the prize. Jesus was better than all the hardship for the Apostle Paul. Is this true for you? I don’t say this lightly, it is hard, but again, it is worth it.

That is why he has given us his Holy Spirit. So we need to learn to walk by the Spirit. To be a disciple ... So that we can make disciples ... That is what our goal is to be.

That is our mission, given to us by Jesus himself. Everything else pails in comparison.

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