"The unfolding of your words gives light ..." (Psalm 119:130a)

Category: Discipleship

The Promise-led Life

“And now, O LORD, you are God, and you have promised this good thing to your servant.” (1 Chron. 17:26)

We happen upon David as he prays (vv.16-27) in response to God’s gracious initiative to him (vv.1-15). The Lord had promised to build David a “house” (i.e., a dynasty). In so doing, God promised to put one of David’s sons on his throne and that son would be the one to build Him a “house” (i.e., a temple). We can see, thus, the keyword throughout this chapter is “house.” In response to this divine grace and promise David responded in humble, overwhelmed faith.

Though this is a unique moment in God’s saving plan, David’s response to the Lord illustrates what should be our response to God in His gracious dealings with us through Jesus. He has told us that in Jesus “all the promises of God find their Yes” (2 Cor. 1:20). We too, then, like David, should sit before the Lord (1 Chron. 17:16) amazed by His grace, an open Bible before us, our finger on the promise of God, praying, “O LORD, you are God, and you have promised this good thing to your servant.”

In this way, by faith, through Christ we claim the gracious promises of God made to us.

Consider more closely David’s response that we might be the more careful to make it our own.

We begin by approaching the “LORD.” The English translation uses all capitals to signal that the original Hebrew text has here God’s personal name, Yahweh. This name was revealed to Moses at the burning bush as he wondered at God’s promise to use him to bring His people out of slavery (Exodus 3:14). It is related to the Hebrew verb “be.” He is the great “I AM.” Wherever we are and whatever we face, God is “I AM.” Not “I was.” Not just “I will be.” “I AM” in this moment with you everything I have ever been or will be. It signals that God is eternal, yes. He is without beginning or end. But it further sets God before us as self-existing, without dependence upon anything beyond Himself. Before anything else was, God was, undiminished and utterly complete. If all else were suddenly vaporized, God would still exist without compromise or need, for His being and existence arise from within Himself and are dependent upon nothing. He comes to us and out of nothing in us but everything within Him, He makes and keeps a covenant of grace with us through His Son. One expression of that grace is the promise upon which you have placed your finger today.

But He is also here designed “God.” The Hebrew here is Elohim. It emphasizes His sovereignty and power. Nothing can oppose what He wills. Nothing can block Him in fulfilling His promises. What God in His grace wills cannot but come to pass!

So with Bible open, your heart bowed before this magnificent God and LORD, your finger on one of His gracious promises in the Bible, you pray: “you have promised this good thing to your servant.” This kind of faith is not presumptuous. It merely follows God’s lead. It is not brash. It honors the God who spoke the promise with every intention of fulfilling it in His children’s lives.

But note the way you designated yourself: “your servant.” Take a moment and reestablish that fact before the Lord in prayer. Take that place at the foot of His throne. Humble yourself.  Wait until you can do so authentically, then tell Him: “I am bowed at your feet, poised to do your will. Whatever, wherever, with whomever, for however long is required. I am ready to do your will, O Lord, but as I am, I have my finger on this, your promise, to me. I hold it up before you. As I rise and go to do your will only to return to bow again at your feet, I do so with the bold expectation that you will uphold your promise, make it my experience, and thus prove your faithfulness.”

These are not magic words. But this is the path to laying hold of and living in the fulfillment of God’s promises to us in the Bible.

Lord, make this promise-led, promise-fed, promise-tread path be our perpetual experience with you in this world. Amen.

How Preaching Serves the Process of Discipleship

How does God use a Paul to produce a Timothy? How does God use you to produce mature disciples of Jesus Christ?

Second Timothy 3 and 4 provide a glimpse at that divine process.

Paul characterizes the people of the last days (3:1-9). He then contrasts this (“You, however …,” v.10; “but as for you …,” v.14) with what Timothy has come to be (vv.10-15). That transformative process in Timothy’s life was brought about, humanly speaking, through a network of relationships that included his mother and grandmother (1:5; 3:15), the Apostle Paul (3:10-11, 14), and others (v.14). Timothy is charged with repeating this transformative process through his relationships with “faithful men” (2:2).

There is a pattern that is consistent in the process of discipleship, the purpose in Scripture, and the practice of preaching.

The Apostle Paul lays out what appears to be a progressive process through which Timothy passed.

“But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” (3:1-15)

There is a logical flow to what Paul describes. Each one must move through this process:


One must have an acquaintance with the truth of the Scriptures before one can believe and be transformed by that truth. “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Rom. 10:17). Jesus confirmed that one must “know the truth” before one can be set free by it (John 8:32).

Having taken in the information of the Scriptures one is then in a position for learning from it. The Scriptures stand over against other ideas, claims, and calls. It’s teaching makes a divide and invites one to see what the difference between its claims and offers and those of others.

This brings one to the point of faith. With the line of demarcation laid down one must decide on which side of the line of revelation one stands. The revelation calls for conviction – either you are in or you are out. There is a call that goes out in the sounding of the Scriptures and one must either respond to that call or ignore, deflect, deny, and reject it.

When one rests oneself upon the truth of Scripture God-given, Biblical wisdom begins to form in one’s heart. Freedom comes (John 8:32). Life begins to change. One’s discernment has changed. One’s choices are different. You have stepped onto the path of discipleship.


This doesn’t just happen. Timothy was early exposed to the truth of Scripture by his mother and grandmother (1:5; 3:15). He heard it expounded by the Apostle Paul (3:14) and modeled in his life (3:10-11). This is why Paul now holds out the purpose of the Scriptures:

“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (3:16)


Scripture’s purpose reflects the path of discipleship.

Teaching communicates the basic information of the Scripture passage so that the listener is familiar with the facts.

Reproof then takes the basic facts set out from Scripture and reveals how they stand in relationship to other thoughts, ideas, perceptions, and claims. The Scripture reproves the other claims to truth by setting out what is in fact true. It is only in this one learns.

But this is not far enough. Correction, therefore, aims for the commitment of the one now acquainted with the claims of Scripture and sees them rightly in relationship to other claims and ideas. It calls for faith and forms conviction. The listener has gone from not knowing the truth of Scripture and therefore not seeing how other ideas and claims stand in relationship to the reality it holds forth to the call for commitment and the forming of conviction. The listener now announces, “This is true for me!”

There is, however, still more. For the inward conviction and commitment must become outward action in obedience. In addition to informing and exposing and calling for commitment, the Scripture now guides the transformation of the listener’s life through training in new steps of obedience that become a new pattern of living.

All of this—the process of discipleship and the purpose of Scripture—is matched then by the purpose of preaching:

“I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.” (4:1-2)


Preaching announces what is true (teaching/acquaintance), thereby reproving and exposing other claims and ideas (reproof/learning) and calling for personal commitment (correction/conviction) that takes the form of new steps of obedience that become a new way of life (training/wisdom).

We each can thus say:

  • I preach because the Scriptures were given for teaching and with the goal of giving my listeners an acquaintance with the truth of God.
  • I reprove because the Scriptures were given for reproof and with the goal of my listeners learning what the truth they’ve become acquainted with means.
  • I rebuke because the Scriptures were given for the correction of the hearer and formation of convictions regarding the truth they have learned.
  • I exhort because the Scripture were given for training listeners to live out the truth they have learned and come to live in the saving wisdom of God.

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