home > Pastor’s Desk > 2022 > April 22nd > WHAT WOULD YOU DO IF YOU FOUND A BABY LEFT AT YOUR DOORSTEP?


What would you do if you found a newborn baby that had been left at your doorstep? Hopefully your answer sounds similar to “I’d take care of him or her.” What if it wasn’t a baby? What if it was a helpless young child or a teenager, or an adult, who turned up at your doorstep requesting your assistance? I hope that each of us would also be prepared to help whoever it was. What if it was not an abandoned child, youth, or adult? And what if it was not your front door? Instead, how might we each respond if it was a spiritually abandoned and spiritually needy person who turned up at your church seeking the ultimate help: how to be saved? While you might feel a similar compassion as you might have felt for the abandoned child at your doorstep, you may not be as confident in how you would spiritually help this person seeking a connection with God through Jesus Christ. “Where would I begin?” “How could I be an effective discipler of a new believer?” you might ask. Well, I’m glad you have asked. For any Christian to effectively disciple a new believer it must involve an individual, a small group, and a congregation.

By this My Father is glorified,
that you bear much fruit and
so prove to be My disciples.
John 15:8

WAYS OF DISCIPLING A NEW BELIEVER

I. Discipling by an individual

Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk,
that by it you may grow up into salvation—
First Peter 2:2

Every believer is called to disciple and is empowered by the Holy Spirit to do so. Our feelings of inadequacy are often the result of our underestimating just how much God has done in us and how much we have spiritually grown as a result. Compared with a newborn believer who desperately needs spiritual nourishment and care, who knows next to nothing about God and HIs Word, you are a veritable source of perpetual spiritual sustenance.

In fact, if you have already been associating with pre-Christians, you may have already been discipling unawares. This is because discipling a new believer often commences not when he or she gives his or her life to Christ but when you become his or her friend! In this way, a person can be discipled to Christ. This might involve a period of time when the pre-believer has watched how you handle life’s difficulties. It might also have included discussions you have had together about the bible or God. Your friend may have also had questions about why you think Jesus is the only way to God and the only way to be forgiven of our sins. Your friend may have accepted your invitation to attend your church, or a Christian meeting, and, despite outward appearances, left that meeting with ‘a spiritual stone in their shoe’. Then the day may have come when the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit in their formally dead soul becomes obvious. It seems to be demonstrably true that by far most people who become Christians do so because of a personal invitation from a friend.

A trusted friend can lead a new believer to Christ and lay a foundation in their soul of understanding that salvation is by faith in Christ as an act of God’s grace (Eph. 2:8-9). This does not require a textbook or a special workbook or even formal bible study notes. Much of my discipling of spiritual newborns has taken place in a café and on the back of a paper napkin where I have doodled an explanation of the gospel. Meeting for a coffee or a light meal is where the newborn can be shown that salvation is not just a moment, a decision, or an event—salvation also brings a new identity, a new attitude, a new lifestyle. This new life comes with a new “life map” called the bible. By simply reading through one of the Gospel stories together each week and then asking two key questions after a minute or two, the newborn believer is being discipled. As they begin to understand their new life that can be shown that it is confirmed and represented by water baptism which pictures the believer’s old life being buried in the waters of baptism and their new life in Christ being represented by coming up and out of the waters (Rom. 6:1-4).

We were buried therefore with Him by baptism into death, in order that,
just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father,
we too might walk in newness of life.
Romans 6:4

II. Discipling by a small group

Every disciple is called to be a part of Christ’s body of believers. When each of our children were born, Kim and I were both there to greet them. As our little family grew each of our subsequent children were soon introduced to their siblings, then their grandparents, then their aunts and uncles. So it is spiritually. The initial discipleship of a newborn believer is most naturally commenced one-on-one. But as soon as possible the new believer must become acquainted with their brothers and sisters in Christ in a regular small group meeting.

¶ For just as the body is one and has many members,
and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.
¶ Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.
First Corinthians 12:12, 27

It is within the regular small group meetings, the microcosm of the new believer’s larger church family, that they learn to participate by sharing and praying with others, being prayed for, observing how to study God’s Word, asking questions, being corrected, witnessing how to repent, and increasingly how to know God.

As a member of a small group, even if you are not the small group leader, you are still contributing to the discipleship journey of a new believer in how you model your walk with Christ and your brothers and sisters in Christ.

 

III. Discipling by a congregation

Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly,
teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom,
singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs,
with thankfulness in your hearts to God.
Colossians 3:16

Every member of a small group of disciples is called to be a part of Christ’s larger body of believers – the church congregation. Disciples of Christ must be tamed and taught to live within a community of believers. Sin separates people but Christ brings people together. Our carnal natures crave being the centre of attention placing ourselves in the middle of our little world. But our new nature longs to connect with brothers and sisters in Christ where we each together make Christ the centre of our now enormous world! We do this by: meeting together and giving heed to the preached Word of God; singing our worship of God together with “psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs”; offering up prayers of thankfulness to God;  and regularly celebrating the ordinances of Christ, especially the Lord’s Supper. As the church congregation assembles it also enters into a time of larger fellowship where teaching and admonishing take place – often in a very indirect way.

If I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth.
First Timothy 3:15

It is in the larger congregational worship and teaching assembly that a new believer is indirectly discipled by the example of other believers. This is why when you gather (or do not gather) together with your church family on the Lord’s Day you are teaching a new believer a very profound lesson about the importance of obeying Christ’s command not to neglect to gather together (Heb. 10:25). New believers notice when and how you worship God, how you listen to the preached Word, and how you pray in public. In my early years as a Christian teen I noticed that before the service had started, an elderly gentleman in our church would always stop and bow his head in prayer whenever someone in the church building began to pray. He would then wait for them to finish praying before he would continue on his way. No one taught me to do this. But I was deeply impacted by this unspoken and indirect example of this mature disciple of Christ. It has remained my practice to this day.

 

CAN YOU HELP?

Over the past few weeks we have actually had spiritual newborn babies “dropped off at our church’s doorstep” so-to-speak. I need people who can be spiritual parents/brothers/sisters to these newborn believers. Ask any parent and they will tell you that being a carer takes time and patience. Newborns can be messy. Newborns can make mistakes. Newborns can seem to be slow to learn. But remember, you were a newborn once. Each of us can play a role in discipling a newborn believer. You already know more than enough to start. For some you, your newborn disciple will be your own children or grandchildren. For others it will be your friends or even your new friend. To disciple someone one-on-one all you need is time together and paper napkin (the café and coffee are just bonuses). To disciple someone in a small-group all you need to do is to invite them along and let them observe what intimate fellowship with other believers looks like. To disciple someone within a congregation all you need to do is: sincerely worship God; attentively heed the preaching of God’s Word; engage in fellowship after the service (hopefully by introducing your invited friend to others – or by introducing yourself to the invited friends of others); and, serve wherever and however you can.

As we approach the Tasmania Celebration with Will Graham weekend at the end of May we expect that we will have even more newborn believers to disciple. This is why we are going to have a church dinner on the Sunday after the Celebration (on June 5th) and then follow it up for the next three Sundays with Christianity Unpacked which will be a supper, a testimony, a brief presentation, and a time of discussion around tables. All this is designed to connect newborn believers with a one-on-one discipleship opportunity, an invitation to join a small group, and an introduction to the larger congregational meeting. This is how we will disciple a new believer and what we would do if the Lord left a newborn spiritual baby at our church’s doorstep. Will you join me?

Your pastor,

Andrew

Let me know what you think below in the comment section and feel free to share this someone who might benefit from this Pastor’s Desk.

1 Comment

  1. LYDIA

    When I saw this title before I read the rest, I thought of Moses. He was God’s child and would be a leader and yet floated in a basket to be rescued by a princess first. God’s providence. Then again I thought of a baby on my own doorstep and what I would do? Nurture it and teach it about the goodness of the Lord. Then I read the above and I couldn’t think of a more simple and clear map of how to disciple a pre-believer and then a newborn babe in Christ. Thank you Andrew for this wise and gentle way you have walked thru this.

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JESUS ATE with SINNERS!

This confrontation of the All-Good meeting face-to-face with Serpent-breath in the wilderness didn’t go the way the Dragon had become accustomed to. Even more baffling to him was what the Eternal Son did next. Rather than going to the supposed ‘rulers of this world’ He went to the despised and inconsequential: the people of His hometown, Nazareth and those in the socio-economically challenged region of Galilee. 

¶ And He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. And as was His custom, He went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and He stood up to read…When they heard these things, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath. And they rose up and drove him out of the town and brought him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they could throw him down the cliff. But passing through their midst, he went away.
¶ Now when the sun was setting, all those who had any who were sick with various diseases brought them to Him, and He laid His hands on every one of them and healed them. And demons also came out of many, crying, “You are the Son of God!” But He rebuked them and would not allow them to speak, because they knew that He was the Christ.
Luke 4:16, 28-29, 40-41

Even more baffling to the Satan was that instead whipping up the mobs and leading a rebellion, the Christ went to the shunned, the despised, the broken, the humiliated, as their dinner Guest! It seemed like an odd strategy, especially to those who had been longing for so long for the arrival of the Promised One…

CHRISTIANITY IS A PROPOSAL NOT AN IMPOSAL

I do not want to give anyone the impression that Christian is just a set of intellectually propositions. It is much more but it is certainly not less. One of the propositions that we Christians make is that Christianity is a spiritual transformation of a soul. While its propositions are true, they are not just true, they invoke a miraculous transformation in a human being. Jesus described this as being “born again” (John 3:3). The New Testament describes the moment this happens as being a transaction with God where we surrender our life and our sin to Him and He gives us His life and His pardon (1Jn. 1:8-9)! This transaction includes a hope that goes beyond the grave. God the Father adopts all those who turn to Him. It results a new way of seeing life and the world. The things that once troubled us no longer do, because we have a growing confidence that God has a plan and is currently outworking that plan. If you have never surrendered your life in a transaction with God, you can now. You are just one prayer away from peace with God and purpose for your life – both now and beyond the grave! The choice is yours. We can’t impose this offer from God on you, but I do have a proposition for you.

DIVINELY PRECIOUS TRIPLETS

Some of the profound truths in the Bible are expressed in just three words. The late J.I. Packer, one of the world’s most respected modern theologians, was asked to sum up the gospel message. He did so in just three words: “God saves sinners.” Many of the most eloquent prayers ever uttered have consisted of no more than three words: “Help me Lord”, “Thank You God”, “God save me”, “Please heal her.” One of the greatest royal invitations only consisted of three words: “Come unto Me.” Three words is all it takes to start an exciting journey: “Come and see.” Many of these three words statements, prayers, and invitations, have become divinely precious triplets that have rescued a lost soul, repaired a broken relationship, and replenished the worn-out.  

ETERNAL LIFE IS NOT JUST MERELY A MATTER OF TIME

The beauty of John 3:16 is that it is so simple it can be understood even by a child; and yet, as a believer’s knowledge of God and His Word grows, he or she will come to discover that there is a wealth of spiritually-satisfying treasure to be mined! In its simplest form, Jesus died so that all those who turn to Him in trust will go to heaven after leaving this life. Dig a little deeper though, and you also discover that the eternal life on offer is not merely about a location (‘heaven’) or a duration of time—but a quality of life and status of existence that elevates the believer into a glorified state with God Himself (Rom. 8:17; 1John 3:2). Our lives are now the training ground for our status as co-regents and co-rulers with Christ over all of His redeemed creation (1Cor. 6:2-3)! 

A DECREASING VISION

There is one sin that is worse than all others. It is the worst because it is insidious and imperceptibly deceptive. It is always at the root of all other sins. It was the original sin. In C.S. Lewis’s classic book, Mere Christianity, it warranted an entire chapter (“The Great Sin”) and Lewis claims that it is the greatest threat to any person – including the Christian – and their standing before God. Thus, to be truly spiritual, Spirit-led, Spirit-empowered, and spiritual, demands that the man or woman of God be on guard against what Lewis called “spiritual cancer” — pride. To have any chance of guarding against the spread of this deadly spiritual and character blighting ‘cancer’ requires that we adopt a decreasing vision of ‘greatness’.

THE WIND BLOWS WHERE IT WISHES – SO IT IS WITH THE SPIRIT

This week I have heard of yet more stories of people who had no knowledge of Christianity as they grew up, yet had an almost sudden conversion to Christ. This has included the stories of several Muslims (now ‘former Muslims’) who knew nothing to very little about Christianity, and had always been taught that Islam was the one true religion, who then heard a Christian explain the gospel and were then supernaturally converted to follow Christ. (Several of these Islamic converts to Christ also had supernatural dreams where they claimed that Jesus appeared to them!) I also heard of an atheist scientist who been taught that science could explain away the need for believing in a God, who then heard the gospel and was resoundingly converted to Christ. The other story I heard was closer to home and involved a young lady who had grown up in an atheist home where her parents were actually hostile to religion and forbad her from anything to do with Christianity. Years later, she ventured into a church one Sunday morning, heard the gospel, and was converted to Christ. Each of these stories confirm what Jesus taught about the work of the Holy Spirit and His mysterious and surprising dealings with people to undergird the church’s preaching of the gospel.

I WAS IN THE SPIRIT ON THE LORD’S DAY

A year earlier all hell had broken loose when the tyrant emperor Caesar Nero had outlawed Christianity; and now, the last surviving apostle of Christ had been banished to Patmos Island. All looked bleak. The youngest of Christ’s apostles, John was just a teenager when he witnessed the brutal and protracted execution of Jesus. John, now in his fifties, had many reasons to feel disappointed and even disillusioned with God. His apostolic colleagues had each been martyred – having been put to death in often gruesome ways including: crucifixion, flaying, and beheading. On this barren rocky island, separated from the woman he had pledged to her crucified Son that he would look after, and away from the people that Christ had shed His blood for, John was alone. Ever since Jesus had risen bodily from dead, these life-time faithful sabbath-keeping Jews now recognised that Christ had sanctified the first day of the week, Sunday, as His day. It was also on this sanctified day that Christ poured out Holy Spirit on his gathered disciples. Ever since that day, no matter how he felt or the circumstances he was in, John had made it his custom to be in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day. And his first Sunday on this island of banishment was no exception. He was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day. While some weak Christians find disappointment with God an excuse to forsake God, John did not. While some weak Christians allow their excuses for disappointment with God to walk away from their church family, John did not. John’s example has something to teach us. 
¶ I, John, your brother and partner in the tribulation and the kingdom and the patient endurance that are in Jesus, was on the island called Patmos on account of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day…
Revelation 1:9-10a

NEVER BE AFRAID AGAIN

Fear can be crippling. Being afraid is often the result of not what is happening, but what we fear might happen. Such fears make each of us vulnerable to withdraw, give-up, hide, or excuse ourselves from ever trying something new. The result of this happening is that we each become less than who God has created us to be and in the process we deny the world the benefit of what God can do through us. In the Bible there are many stories of many heroes who learned the secret of overcoming their fears by trusting God and learning how to ‘fear’ Him despite their circumstances or fearful expectations. We read of how Kings led their vastly outnumbered army to defeat immensely more powerful and ruthless enemy armies by fearing the Lord. We read how previously unsure, uncertain, unable people became fearless, decisive, and confident and able to solve previously insurmountable problems by simply fearing the Lord. We read how the arrogant were humbled and transformed into gentle and caring souls when they experienced the fear of the Lord. Then in the early chapters of the Book of Acts when becoming a Christian could cost you your life, we read of the numbers of Christians exploded across the Empire because they also no longer had a reason to be afraid because they learned what it meant to fear the Lord.

THE FRUIT DIET WORTH MORE THAN MONEY

How different would your life be if you were filled continually with the Holy Spirit? This seems to have been the experience of at least the first Christians. We know that Jesus told His disciples after His resurrection to “receive the Holy Spirit” (Jn. 20:22) which may have been the moment that they were “regenerated” which is a fancy way of saying that they were born again (Jn. 3:3). But then Jesus told His disciples to wait for the outpouring of the Spirit (Lk. 24:39; Acts 1:4) which was yet to come. The effect on the disciples when this happened was dramatic — especially in the Simon Peter (Acts 2:14). He went from being a cowering timid fearful backslider to being a bold courageous fearless leader of the Christ’s Church (Acts 2:15-39). Then some days later, as Peter was about to bear witness before the rulers of Judaism, he was filled afresh with the Holy Spirit (Acts 4:8). When Peter met again with the other believers to pray, all of them were filled with Holy Spirit again (Acts 4:31). Thus, being filled continually with the Holy Spirit seems to have been the usually experience of the early believers. As the Church grew and spread, the early Christians’ understanding of who the Holy Spirit was and what He wanted to do in each believer and church also grew. They discovered that the Spirit didn’t just fill them to be bold proclaiming witnesses, He also enabled them to bear witness to the power of Christ by how they lived. The apostle Paul called this, the fruit of the Spirit. 

HOW TO MAKE SENSE OF IT ALL

One of the emotional/intellectual problems that people who accept that there must be a God that resembles closely or exactly the God described in the Bible have had over the years is the problem ow Why would an all good and all powerful God allow suffering, evil, and tragedy in His world? Either He is not really all good and doesn’t care — or He is not really all powerful and is unable to do anything about it. Theologians refer to this problem as Theodicy (the problem of evil). This problem is resolved by asking a greater question: Does God ever ordain or allow what we perceive to be “wrong” because He has a morally good reason for doing so? This greater question is answered when we reflect on Christ’s passion and crucifixion. By working through these questions we may be able to understand why God might allow or ordain natural evil (floods, fires, disastrous weather events) and committed evil (such as wars, violence, crimes against people, brutal oppression of others). Especially when we view the world from the perspective of there being an eternal Judge who redeems those who turn to Him, and holds to account those who don’t. This is why answering the question of destiny is so important to making sense of life and the world we live in.