Monday, March 17, 2014

Sully Notes 5 | Gospel-Centered Discipleship Part 1 of 3

Emmaus City Church Gospel-Centered Discipleship Jonathan K. Dodson Soma Family Worcester MA Acts 29

Sully Notes 5: Books in 25 minutes or less

Sully Notes are more than a book review. They are meant to provide you with direct quotes from some books I've read in the last year, so you can get a taste of the overall theme of the book and then begin to chew on what your life might look like if you applied what you read. 

Here are links to the previous Sully Notes books:

Emmaus City Church Sully Notes 5 Soma Family Gospel-Centered Discipleship Jonathan Dodson Acts 29 ChurchThis week's Notes begin with Part 1 of Jonathan Dodson's Gospel-Centered Discipleship. This was the first thing that introduced me to Jonathan Dodson. I went through this book with some of our core team members in our discipleship group in 2012. Then I had the privilege of meeting him in Austin in March 2013 at Verge. And that weekend I had the pleasure of worshiping with City Life Church. I love Jonathan's writing. I love the vision of City Life. I love what they're producing at And I hope that Emmaus City will join the Soma family of churches with City Life in the years to come. God has used Jonathan's ministry to shape my heart to follow Jesus more faithfully in many ways. And He started by using this book.

Gospel-Centered Discipleship | Sully Notes 5: Part 1 of 3


Making disciples requires not only ‘sharing our faith,’ but also sharing our lives – failures and successes, disobedience and obedience. … the disciples of Jesus were always attached to other disciples. They lived in authentic community. They confessed their sins and struggles alongside their successes – questioning their Savior and casting out demons. They continually came back to Jesus as their Master and eventually as their Redeemer. As the disciples grew in maturity, they did not grow beyond their need for their Redeemer. They returned to him for forgiveness. As they began to multiply, the communities that they formed did not graduate from the gospel that forgave and saved them. Instead, churches formed around their common need for Jesus.– pgs. 15, 17

The wonderful news of the gospel is that Jesus frees us from trying to impress God or others because he has impressed God on our behalf. We can tell people our sins because our identity doesn’t hang on what they think of us. We can be imperfect Christians because we cling to a perfect Christ. In this kind of discipleship, Jesus is at the center with the church huddled around him. We give and receive the gospel of Jesus to one another for our forgiveness and formation. … Gospel-centered discipleship is not about how we perform but who we are – imperfect people, clinging to perfect Christ, being perfected by the Spirit. – pg. 18

Part 1 | Defining Discipleship: Chapter 1  Making Disciples: Evangelism or Discipleship?

“What kind of dynamic existed between Jesus and his disciples? It certainly included a rational dynamic. Jesus appealed to the reason of his followers by instructing them through sermons, stories, and object lessons. He labored to teach them the gospel of the kingdom of God (Matthew 4:23; 9:35; 24:14; Mark 1:14-15). However, like Socrates, Jesus did not view his disciples as mere students. He viewed them as family: ‘Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?’ And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers!’ (Matthew 12:48-49). For Jesus, discipleship was rational and relational. … He taught them the gospel and embodied its grace for them in everyday life. God humbled himself in Jesus to share everyday life with everyday people. … The disciples had become family. Yet, Jesus’s truth and grace was not restricted to his immediate family of disciples. It was meant to overflow. The family was intended to grow. We might say Jesus’s discipleship relationships had a grace agenda.” – pg. 30

A disciple is rational (learner), relational (family), and missional (missionary). … The main point isn’t to go (in your effort), but that we are sent (under Jesus’s authority and in Jesus’s power). Jesus is the ground for our going. When Jesus sends, he sends not merely to evangelize but in his power to make disciples.– pg. 31

“ … we are baptized into two overlapping communities. The first is the divine community of the Trinity: ‘Baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit’ (Matthew 28:19). The second community is the church: ‘For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body’ (1 Corinthians 12:13). Baptism results in our participation in a new, spiritual family – the family of the Trinity. Jesus is the entry point into the divine community and the head of our new community. When we learn Jesus, we are baptized into his family, both human and divine.” – pgs. 32-33

… our aim is to not only teach the gospel but also to observe the gospel. We are to teach disciples to observe all that Christ commanded. As the point of the story (i.e. disciples on the Emmaus Road), Jesus should be applied to our lives, which is precisely what he calls for. ‘Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem’ (Luke 24:46-47). Christ-centered repentance and forgiveness is something to be heard and applied, not just once, but for the entirety of a disciple’s life.– pgs. 34-35

“I believed the bonds of sin were stronger than the power of grace. Naturally, I turned to performance, not grace. At every failure, I concluded that I needed to work harder, get better accountability, and perhaps find a stronger discipler. What I did not know is that discipleship is not performance-based. What I needed is what all of us need – continual belief in the depth of God’s forgiveness and the resilience of his genuine approval in Christ. In brief, what I needed was more Jesus, not more discipline. As Bonhoeffer points out, I needed to give up on myself and give in to Jesus: ‘When a man really gives up trying to make something out of himself – a saint, or converted sinner, or a churchman, a righteous or unrighteous man, … when in the fullness of tasks, questions, success or ill-hap, experiences and perplexities, a man throws himself into the arms of God … then he wakes up with Christ.’” – pgs. 39-40

When we give up on our rebellion and religion, we can give in to God’s amazing grace. This surrender is a recentering of faith in Jesus. Jesus, alone, should take the center place in our lives, not our Bible reading, evangelism, character, or effort to be different or spiritual. No disciple will ever graduate from the school of grace.  ... Piety-centered discipleship says: ‘Be this kind of person and you can feel good about yourself.’ The gospel, however, says: ‘Give up on yourself and become the person you already are in Christ.’ ... Mission-centered discipleship says: ‘Do missional deeds and you can feel up.’ The gospel says: ‘Because Jesus completed the mission (Colossians 1:20), you can give up on your deeds and give in to Christ. – pgs. 40, 45-46

“The Colossian hymn (1:15-20) shows us, in staggering theology, that Jesus is Lord of creation and redemption. All things were created in, through, and for him. Similarly, all things are reconciled in, through, and for him. He holds all things together as the agent of creation and redemption. Therefore, Jesus is what keeps created things and redeemed things from falling apart. As Creator, he is concerned with the whole realm of mission – his creation. As Redeemer, he has accomplished the reconciliation of impious men (Colossians 1:21). Jesus, then, is the lynchpin of creation and redemption! ... In his lordship we perceive that all things exist in, through, and for him (Colossians 1:15-23), making all of life a matter of devotion to him (Colossians 3:23-24). … Jesus stands as the great King over every aspect of a disciple’s life … and when we fail in our devotion to him as our Lord, he remains our Christ, the Messiah who bears our sin and grants us forgiveness. Jesus remains central, whether it is through obedience or repentance. As a result, the death, resurrection, and continuing reign of Jesus Christ form the integrating center of discipleship. Jesus Christ is Lord, and when he is, all of life becomes a theater of devotion to him. … We trust Jesus as Savior and serve Jesus as King. This staggering view of Jesus compels holiness and mission. He is grander and deeper than we thought. As we continually come back to him, we increasingly long for him to be revealed as the Lord of all.” – pgs. 48-49

Chapter 2  The Goal of Discipleship: Fighting for Image

“The desire to fight isn’t masculine or feminine; it is human. Deep down we all want to be noticed, for our lives to count for something. We want to be beautiful and noble. … We are all concerned about our images. Hipsters work hard to look like they don’t care about image. Professionals work equally hard to look like they do care about image. We all project our values through the way we present ourselves. … Christianity is about image. It affirms that we were created in God’s image (Genesis 1:26-28), disfigured in our fall with Adam (Romans 5:12-21), and are in desperate need of renewal. … Apart from the redeeming work of God to restore our image, we rule and relate in very distorted ways. We rule over instead of for one another, and we relate out of a distorted sense of what will truly make us happy. As a result, we treat God and others with contempt and disregard. The good news is that God wants to restore our image in Christ (2 Corinthians 3:18; Colossians 3:10). He promises a restored image in Jesus, who is the image of the invisible God (Colossians 1:15).” – pgs. 53-55

It is a fundamental truth that we become what we behold. Children become like their parents; interns become like their mentors. If we behold the beauty of Christ, we become beautiful like Christ. While it is true that our first glance into the face of Christ restores our image (Romans 5:1-2; 8:29-30), it is also true that we drift back into fashioning our own distorted image. … The gospel calls us back to look at Jesus over and over again. A disciple of Jesus is a person who so looks at Jesus that he or she actually begins to reflect his beauty in everyday life. The gospel gives us the eyes to see Jesus as well as the power to look like him. … gospel-centered disciples rely on the Spirit, who focuses our hearts’ attention on Jesus, where beholding him results in becoming like him. ... Disciples fight to believe that Jesus’s death and resurrection is our death and resurrection. His death is our death and his life our life (Romans 5; Galatians 2). As a result, the lie-believing, image-distorting life is dead, and in its place we have received and truth-believing, Christ-adoring life (Ephesians 4:20-24). However, because of our tendency to return to the old image, we walk by faith until we see Jesus, when faith will correspond with sight (2 Corinthians 5:6-7; Galatians 2:20). Until then, we fight, contend, and struggle. Believing the gospel is not a passive, one-time decision; it is an active, continual fight for faith in what God says is noble, true, and good." – pgs. 56, 58 
This is faith in the gospel – the grand announcement that Jesus has defeated sin, death, and evil through his own death and resurrection and is making all things new, even us. When we believe the gospel, we get to enjoy the promises of God’s grace, peace, and joy. When we don’t believe the gospel, we move away from these things. Most of all, we move away from Jesus, who is worth our every effort, every gaze, and every belief. – pg. 60

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