Jani: Hello, everyone. Welcome to He Restores My Soul with Jani Ortlund. Some of you might be missing our dear partner, Heidi, who’s home. She is on maternity leave for a few months, and we miss her. But we’re going to keep going and we wish her all the best.
Continuing In Discipleship
Jani: We’re starting our second episode in our discipleship series, and I hope it’s going well for you. I hope you had a good week working on your assignment. You might remember that your assignment from last week, one of them, was to read through the poem, “Call Back” and you can find this poem on our website at herestoresmysoul.org. This poem was written by Mrs. Charles Cowman, some of you might recognize that name. She was a pioneer missionary, with her husband in both Japan and China from 1901 to 1917, over 100 years ago.
Jani: During that time, they helped found the Oriental Missionary Society. When Mr. Cowman’s poor health forced the couple to return to the United States, Mrs. Cowman turned her attention to caring for her husband until he died six years later. Out of Mrs. Cowman experiences and heartbreak came her first book “Streams in the Desert”. I wonder if you recognize that. Oh, I love that book. And then she followed it with its companion “Springs in the Valley”. I recommend both of them to you. During the next 25 years, Mrs. Cowman inspired several nationwide scripture distribution campaigns and wrote seven more books.
Jani: Finally, on Easter Sunday in 1960, at the age of 90, Mrs. Cowman met face to face the God she had served so faithfully for almost a century. And she is the one who wrote “Call Back”, which is the poem I asked you to read last week. I’m going to read it and then I’m going to ask your leader to pause the podcast and have you answer a couple questions.
Jani: Call back. If you have gone a little way ahead of me, call back— ‘Twill cheer my heart and help my feet along the stony track; And, if perchance, faith’s light is dim, because the oil is low, Your call will guide my lagging course as wearily I go. Call back, and tell me that He went with you into the storm; Call back, and say He kept you when the forest’s roots were torn; That when the heavens thundered and the earthquake shook the hill, He bore you up and held you where the air was very still. O friend, call back and tell me, for I cannot see your face; They say it glows with triumph, and your feet bound in the race; But there are mists between us, and my spirit eyes are dim; And I cannot see the glory, though I long for more of Him. But if you’ll say He heard you when your prayer was but a cry, And if you’ll say He saw you through the night’s sin-darkened sky, If you have gone a little way ahead, O friend, call back— ‘Twill cheer my heart and help my feet long the stormy track.
Pause & Ask: Has someone ever called back to you?
Jani: Now this is what I want you to do. I want you to hit pause on this podcast and go around in your group and answer this question. Has someone ever called back to you? How did they do it? Maybe a grandmother or a Sunday school teacher. If no one ever has, do you wish someone had? Share a little bit about your life that way and get to know each other a little bit more. Do it right now.
Today’s Focus: How To Love Each Other
Jani: Well, I hope you enjoyed that time of sharing. We’ll take times like that throughout our series on discipleship and I want to tell you also that most of my discipleship times last for two hours. Now obviously, we can’t do that with a podcast. So some of my lessons, I’m going to break up into two podcasts so it doesn’t get too laborious for you. And that’s what I’m doing with this lesson. I’m making it into two parts. Today is the first part. And I want to center our Bible teaching about how we are to love each other and much of this teaching is gleaned from “Love Me With Stubborn Love”, which is written by my mother-in-law, Anne Ortlund.
Our Two Goals For The Year: Intimacy And Accountability
Jani: Now two of our goals in our year together in discipleship, as I mentioned last week, are intimacy and accountability. The Bible tells us stories of close friends, intimate friends who are accountable to each other, even leaders who had very close friends. Think of Moses and Joshua, David and Jonathan, Elijah and Elisha, Mary and Elizabeth, Paul and Barnabas, or Paul and Silas or Paul and Timothy. And of course, Jesus had his 12 disciples and even within those 12 disciples, his three close friends. We all need intimacy with other human beings. We all need accountability. You see, in a church, it’s really easy to get lost. We come in on a Sunday morning and we all look straight ahead or up. That’s fine, because we’ve come to worship God. There could be thousands, or there could be scores of people, it doesn’t matter how many. We’re there to enjoy God one on one.
Jani: But to be part of the body of Christ means getting in closer with others than we can on a Sunday morning. Sunday worship is good, it’s vital, it’s biblical. Make sure you’re worshiping with other believers on Sunday morning. But we need to go deeper with each other than we can during a worship service.
You Need A Few
Jani: Now, some of us do that in our Sunday school classes or our community groups or care groups. But this is how mom puts it, “Out of the dozens or hundreds, you need a few.” Even if your churches small, you need a special few. And if your Sunday congregation is large, how can you really share your life with everyone? You can’t, you shouldn’t. You can enjoy them and have fun with them and feel a part of them. But for the struggles in your life and the dreams and the goals you have for the correction you need. And yes, for the correction you need to give. For all your nitty gritty, daily affairs to be supported and prayed for and guided, you need a group of four to eight. That again is found in “Love Me With Stubborn Love” by my mother-in-law, Anne Ortlund.
Jani: Colossians 1:28 puts it this way,
“Through teaching and admonition, we are to help build everyone up to maturity in Christ.”Colossians 1:28
Jani: 1 Corinthians 12 shows us how God has arranged us to be part of a body, Christ’s body, and how each one of us is individually indispensable and necessary for the health of the whole body. How can we encourage each other and nurture and feed and exhort each other if we never get close. And that’s why we want to meet in this small group this year. To get close means spending time together. And in our discipleship group times together, there’ll be five elements. We’ll focus on worship, Bible study, sharing, prayer, and accountability.
Jani: Worship where we lift our minds and hearts up to God. Bible study where we open his word and we look at his ways. They must be our focus, our plumb line our guide. We’ll have times of sharing. Each time you meet together, there needs to be time for openness and vulnerability with each other. There needs to be time for prayer, out of our sharing, out of our Bible study, we’ll lift each other up to God. And finally, there needs to be accountability, where we ask each other tough questions. No independence, no building up walls of defense, but rather a willingness to be biblically challenged and lovingly corrected by others in your group.
Reviewing The Five Elements Of Meeting Together
Jani: How do we do this? Well, to enter into each of those five elements together in a small group setting requires vulnerability. And to do that, we need to learn to love each other as Jesus loved his disciples. What exactly does that mean? Well, I’d like you to open your Bibles up to John 13 and look at verses 33 and 34. John 13:33-34. They say,
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this shall all people know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”John 13:33-34
Jani: This was a new commandment. Did you catch that? A new commandment I give to you. You see, in the Old Testament, Israel was to show what God is like through their worship. Israel’s worship was to be filled with beauty and order and holiness. But now in the New Testament, we are to show what God is like by our love for one another. Think of the setting of this verse. In John 13, the door has shut, Judas has already left and now there are just 11 disciples and Jesus. They have already taken the wine and the bread and now Jesus will share his deepest and final words with them, recorded for us in John 13:31 through 16:33. They are in there close together, surrounded by wolf packs outside their door. They need to be bound in together closely or those on the edge could get snatched away. Jesus is telling them that they must love each other.
Jani: Note here that this was a very diverse group of men, Simon the Zealot and Matthew the tax collector. This would be like having Chelsea Clinton and Ivanka Trump in a small group together. The only glue that would hold these disciples together is love.
Jani: Turn back in your Bibles to Luke 10:25-37. I’m not going to take time on our podcast to read it. But if you want to, you can pause it and read it together. Otherwise, you can just skim it as I speak from it. Jesus asks the lawyer who was trying to test him what was written in the law or what was the old commandment. The lawyer’s answer is found in verse 27. He says this.
“And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength and with all your mind and your neighbor as yourself.””Luke 10:37
Jani: Now, that’s true. That was the old commandment.
The New Commandment On Display
Jani: But Jesus goes on to tell the story of the Good Samaritan, to illustrate the new commandment. Now Jesus has come and he’s telling us in the story of the Good Samaritan that we’re to love others, as much as we love ourselves. Not just love God, but love others, as much as we love ourselves. Even if they’re from a different race or country or religion. In other words, practice the golden rule.
Jani: So that was one of the new commandments that Jesus gave us. But then, in John 13, he comes and gives us a whole new command. Now, we are to love others as Jesus loves us. We’re not just to love God with everything within us. We’re not just to love others as much as we love ourselves. But we are now to love others as Jesus loves us.
Jani: Well, let’s ask ourselves, how does Jesus love us? Turn back to John 13. And look at verse 1 of John 13:1.
“Now before the feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.”John 13:1
Jani: Or another way you could translate that is “to the fullest extent”. How does Jesus love us? He loves us with a selfless love. Jesus left heaven to enter the heat and the hassles of Galilee. He loves us with everything he has even his very love. Jesus loved us all the way to the cross. Another way He loves us is with a serving love. Look at verses 4 and 5 of this chapter 13 in John, where he takes the towel,
“He laid aside his outer garments and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him.”John 13:4-5
Jani: Here Jesus stooped to do slave work as a demonstration of His love. Nothing was too low for him. How different from our usual response of clinging to our rights and letting others do that kind of work. A serving love. He also loves us with an unconditional love. Look at verse 21, John 13:21.
“And after saying these things, Jesus was troubled in his spirit and testified, “Truly, truly I say to you, one of you will betray me.””John 13:21
Jani: Do you see where it says one of you will betray me? Jesus washed Judas’ his feet knowing what was ahead. We are to love each other in this way. Paul reminds us of our new commandment in Romans 15:7,
“Welcome one another, as Christ has welcomed you.”Romans 15:7
Jani: Jesus also loves us with a personal, intimate love. The disciples were with Jesus during this whole section eating and talking with him. In Matthew 28:20, he says,
“I am with you always, to the end of the age.”Matthew 28:20
Jani: Or in Revelation 3:20. He says this,
“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him and he with me.”Revelation 3:20
Jani: Oh, don’t you love that picture? Jesus standing at the door knocking. All we have to do is open. This is a personal, intimate love. Jesus initiates it. He’s knocking on the door. This is the kind of love we want to have for each other. Think of all the good we can do the relationships that could be healed. The money that could be raised and shared if we stopped withholding love from each other. In your small group this year, try to love each other as Jesus loves selflessly with a servant’s heart unconditionally, intimately and personally.
Jani: In light of this, let’s read aloud the commitment sheet from our assignment for this past week. Remember, it said this,
Jani: Our commitment to each other. God helping me, I will seek to do the following: Ahead of time, I will prepare myself by: 1. Praying – I will come spiritually ready 2. Finishing my assignments to the best of my ability 3. Choosing what to share – “What contribution of mine will be of greatest benefit to the others?” (1 Corinthians 14:26). I will be present every time, except for high priority reasons, which I will make known ahead of meeting time. I will be on time. In our sharing times, I will seek to share the real state of my heart, “walking in the light” (1 John 1:7), in open vulnerability “as fits the occasion” (Ephesians 4:29). Some weeks I will have greater needs, but I will also try to be time-conscious, giving others an opportunity to share (Ephesians 5:21), so that we can truly bear each others’ burdens (Galatians 6:2). Regarding prayer: 1. I will include our prayer requests in my prayer times during the week. 2. I will check up on those who ask to be held accountable. 3. I will come to each meeting prepared to follow up with reports on my own previous requests. 4. I will honor our confidentiality requests. Finally, I will: 1. Keep a record of what I am learning to pass on in the future. 2. Ask God for those He would have me disciple. 3. Keep a special place in my heart for the members of this group! Pray over this. Please do not make this commitment without serious consideration.
Jani: Now what I want to do right now, as I close this podcast out is give you your assignment, which is very simple and then I’m going to ask your leader to ask each member individually in your group: are you willing to make this commitment to us all? And if you are, you say, “Yes, I am”. And then I want you to pray together before you leave. So your assignment for next week is to after the podcast is finished, make your commitment if you’re willing, and then share prayer requests and pray for each other this coming week. So leader, it’s up to you to ask each member, are you willing to make this commitment to us all? Oh, I hope you will. May God bless you and restore your soul as you seek to love others as he loves you. God be with you.