Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Fighting for Discipleship

In the opening pages of “Fights Clubs: Gospel-Centered Discipleship,” Jonathan Dobson (the lead pastor of Austin City Life Church) lays out his thesis and dominate metaphor in the book, and through which he will interpret discipleship. As the tile suggest, the metaphor is: to fight; or, to contend for one’s faith!

My review of this text will be a little different style, in that I will let the author speak for himself through highlights that I will select, and in so doing, hopefully encouraging you to read it in full. My comments will be short introductions to properly set the context or idea being presented, and on occasion, a few follow-up remarks of interpretation or explanation. All of Dobson’s words will be in the light colored font.

His brief summaries of Chapter One form the introduction of the book:

Chapter One lays out a biblical case for fighting the fight of faith, which I hope stirs you up to fight. Once the fighting begins, it is easy to slide into fighting people instead of sin. We start beating one another up with judgment or fighting the wrong things with the wrong motives. We fight against the church instead of with her. (p. 12)

Chapter One: Why Fight?

Our image problem and the biblical solution to that problem ….

Christianity is about image. It affirms that we were created in God’s image (Gen 1:26-28), which was wrecked in our fall with Adam (Rom 5:12-21), and so desperately needs renewal in Jesus (2 Cor 3:18). The gospel restores and renews our image. It holds up the image of Jesus as most glorious and desirable (2 Cor 4:6) and aligns us with him. Jesus is the image of the invisible God (Col 1:15) and his face reflects the refulgent beauty and glory of God. The gospel is about correcting our vision and reshaping our image so that we can see and reflect “the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Cor 4:4). (p. 15)

This corrected image comes through Jesus, but it is a fight to live in it ….

Gospel-centered discipleship focuses our heart’s attention onto Jesus, beholding and becoming like him. But this transformation does not come without a fight. Our sin nature prefers to behold and become like lesser images. We must fight against the lies behind our sins in order to enjoy the truth of the gospel. This fight is possible through the Lord the Spirit (3:18). [p. 15]

The biblical metaphor of “fight”; as in, to fight for the gospel (and our life in it and through it) ….

In the New Testament, the primary Greek word for “fight” is agonizo, from which we get the word “agonize.” It means “to contend, struggle, with difficulties and dangers antagonistic to the gospel”. This metaphorical fight is a fight in and for the gospel, to believe and cherish what is true. Paul uses agonizo throughout his letters (1 Cor 9:25; Col 1:29, 4:12; 1 Tim 4:10; 6:12; 2 Tim 4:7) to communicate the struggle associated with believing and living out the gospel. In his letters to Timothy, Paul repeatedly reminds him how important it is to fight for faith in the gospel:

Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. (1 Tim 6:12).

This command I entrust to you, Timothy, my son…you may fight the good fight, keeping faith and a good conscience. (1 Tim 1:17-18).

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. (2 Tim 4:7)

Together with Timothy, we have been called to “take hold” of eternal life, to “fight the good fight of faith,” to believe the gospel. We fight to believe that Jesus’ death and resurrection is our death and resurrection that the lie-believing, image-chasing life is dead, and in its place we have received a truth-believing, Christ-cherishing life. This life is a life of faith until we see Jesus, when faith will correspond with sight (2 Cor 5:6-7; Gal 2:20). [pp. 16-17]

And this is discipleship ….

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 God’s Word. [p. 17]

Indeed, it is an active, ongoing process of sanctification, that is something we as followers of Christ, must “fight for.”

You can download and read the book here >>

3 John 8
Bill H.

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