I have much enjoyed our journey through Romans this year and hope you have as well. To study such a profound book has really challenged me (and hopefully you, as well) to delve deeply into the things of God and to emerge more certain of your faith, more confident in God’s sovereignty, and more committed to Christ’s mission than ever before. I pray that you will revisit Romans again and again and allow God’s Word and Spirit to transform you by changing how you think (Romans 12:2). I also pray that you will live daily with the full assurance of God’s constant work in your life for good (Romans 8:28) and the sweet peace of knowing that you are forever inseparable from Him (Romans 8:38-39). And finally, I pray that we all will rejoice in the hope we have in Jesus, faithfully endure any hardship on account of our relationship to Him, and never be lacking in prayer (Romans 12:2).
As 2017 draws to a close, we also are wrapping up our emphasis on “The Third Circle”. As you surely know, we have urged people in 2017 to go beyond worship service attendance and Life Group participation to connecting face-to-face and life-on-life with another person (or in a small, committed, accountable group) to pursue what it means to be a biblical Christian (aka a disciple). Hundreds of you have done just this year. You’ve developed healthy, mutually beneficial relationships; you’ve encouraged each other to serious study of the Word and application of its truths; you’ve held one another accountable to the same; and you have prayed together as you followed Jesus together. Praise God for the growth in many that has come from that! Our hope, of course, is that this pursuit of biblical discipleship will not be for a season of life only, but for a lifetime! We pray that this will continue as we follow the pattern of 2 Timothy 2:2:
… what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.
As we have journeyed together in discipleship this year, I hope that for many of us, our view of what it means to be a biblical Christian (a disciple) has progressed from a focus on our own spiritual health and growth (“How am I doing?”) to being amazed at God’s grace (“God, how can you be so good?”). And from there, I pray we are all moving to the natural outcome of being a true follower of Jesus according to Matthew 4:19:
“Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”
I challenge you in 2018 to ask the question, “How am I doing at loving the people God has put in my life?” That is, how can I share and show God’s love (word and action) with the people He has given me to reach that are all around me – my own family, friends, neighbors, co-workers? Simply put, how can I be the everyday missionary that God has called every disciple to be? (See: 2 Corinthians 5:11-21)
So, as we begin a new year together, our theme will be “My Mission Field”. Our hope and prayer is that we will begin to turn our discipleship focus outward rather than just inward. Rather than simply helping each other grow (a God-honoring task, for sure), we are going to challenge one another to loving the lost and making disciples in our own mission field. We will begin the year with a message series called “Joining Jesus: Life as an Everyday Missionary”. This Sunday AM message series will be accompanied by an imminently practical life group study using A Field Guide for Everyday Mission. I pray this will launch us into a new year with focus, determination, and personal plans to reach the lost in our own mission fields.
I can’t wait to continue the journey with you as we follow Jesus!
Soli Deo Gloria,
Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith— to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen. - Romans 16:25-27