Ralph, thank you very much for the service. You are making a huge contribution to our ministry. Inspire us, challenge, gives us a new understanding. We are pleased that you returned home in good health. We look forward to seeing you in September.
Setting the stage:
Jesus died on the cross of Calvary, was buried, rose from the dead, and appeared to His disciples a number of times over a period of 40 days…
Jesus, on one occasion, told them to head to Galilee because this is where most of His followers lived…
He was planning to meet them there…
We are talking here of more than the twelve He chose to be leaders in this movement … now eleven because Judas betrayed Him and then took his own life
We are talking here of a good number of followers… Read more
One of the issues that arises out a lack of a balanced understanding of and knowledge of the Scriptures (see yesterday’s blog) is that many believers are giving the Christian Church a bad name. To many it appears that Christians – especially those who profess to be “Spirit-filled” – are scary, spooky, super-spectacular, or downright stupid. The Church is meant to be supernatural and yet is, in many ways, seen as a gong show with a great number of non-biblical beliefs and expressions of corporate life on-going in the midst of those who call themselves believers.
The Church is meant to be supernatural. We have been empowered and enabled to do what Jesus commanded us as the Church to do. We are called to “go into all the world and make disciples” (Matthew 28:19) and we have been given the power and authority to do just that (Matthew 28:18). Along with this power to be a witness (Acts 1:8) we have been given nine supernatural gifts (1 Corinthians 12:4-11) which let the world know that Jesus is alive and that God loves them. We need to focus on this task and these tools and stop propagating the many false teachings and beliefs that are so readily available and believed by many who call themselves disciples of Jesus.
As a result of the current situation as seen in the life of the church on a daily basis – instead of flowing powerfully and effectively in these gifts and making disciples many church members are busy propagating beliefs and teachings that are not biblical and even anti-biblical. Instead of focusing on the basic message of the Gospel of the Kingdom and seeing the lost saved they major on minors and twist truths to suit their lifestyle – which is often not biblical either. And, as a result of their non-biblical beliefs, teachings, and behaviours they come across to the unsaved as scary, spooky, super-spiritual, and somewhat of a gong show.
Jesus called His Church to do as He did (John 14:12). He empowered and enabled us to do as He did (Acts 1:8; Acts 2:1-5). He promised His followers that we would be baptized in the Holy Spirit (Matthew 3:11; Acts 1:5) and that with this baptism would come the power to move supernaturally to impact people and influence society and the prevailing culture (Acts 1:8). If we would focus on this task to “go into all the world and make disciples” which is the same as the task Jesus came to initiate of “seeking and saving the lost” (Luke 19:10) we would not have time for all the heresies and twisted teachings that constantly bombard us. . This is serious work we have been commissioned to accomplish and it must be done the way Jesus did it … and it must represent the Lord of the Harvest who sends us out.
It is time for leaders in the church to correct those who are living life contrary to Scriptural mandates. It is time for leaders to teach the truth in such a strong and powerful way that it clears up all of the myths and “other gospels” and “other Jesus” and “other spirit” (2 Corinthians 11:3-5) that are being preached and taught by many who claim to be true born again, Spirit-filled believers. The truth will set people free and it must be the truth that we present to the world. Not some man’s interpretation of the truth, the latest bandwagon circling the church, or some non-biblical manifestation of the Spirit which is nothing more than the flesh out of control or even worst a demon destroying the reputation of the individual and the local church. If we are seeking manifestations – stick to the Bible ones as directed by 1 Corinthians 14:12.
I believe it is time to go back to the basics of the Bible, teach long and hard the basic biblical truths, and train and equip the saints in how to seek and save the lost in this post-Christian world we now find ourselves living in. It is time to sweep out all the false teachings and twisted truths that occupy so much of our time. Time to call them what they are – false gospels and heresy – and remove them. Time to sweep the barn (church) and clean things up. Time for the leaders to stand up and lead – doing so lovingly and gentle but in a strong and definite manner so that even the non-believers will see and know the true Gospel of the Kingdom and the Lord Jesus – the real Jesus – and the true Church He is building.
The Bible states that judgment begins at the house of God (1 Peter 4:17). Let’s welcome that judgment as the Lord cleans His house of all the false teachers and teachings …
Hebrews 12:25-27 (The Message Version) “So don’t turn a deaf ear to these gracious words … on last shaking, from top to bottom, stem to stern. The phrase ‘one last shaking’ means a thorough housecleaning, getting rid of all the historical and religious junk so that the unshakable essentials stand clear and uncluttered.”
So many disciples of Jesus apparently do not know their bible. In every nation that I minister in I see believers who do not know their bible. I am not assuming this – I know this is a fact. It becomes apparent when you listen to the basic questions that believers and even leaders ask me. Often people share their most recent revelation from the bible with me and it is obvious that their discovery and understanding is not only not bible but is opposed to biblical truth. And, just watch as a reference is announced … you will see people looking in the index to find what should be familiar books of the bible – even leaders will be looking in the index of their bible. This last one is a little less obvious as more people carry electronic bibles on their mobile phones and so can find things faster than in the past and without really having to know the order of the books of the bible.
Statistics and surveys show that even with all the broadcasts of Christian teachers and preachers on radio, television, and the internet – believers are, in general, still bible illiterate. This is worse than sad – this is worse than wrong – this is fatal to the faith of the believer and to the strength of the local church. The Bible is our ultimate authority for all that we believe. When we don’t know the bible then we are open to deception – self-deception and also being deceived by well-oiled ministry machines that constantly need ‘new revelations’ or a new take on an old truth to keep the donations coming in so that their ministry continues on air influencing and deceiving more and more believers. Let’s admit it – believers are their main listening audience. Non-Christians are not tuning in to Christian broadcasts to ‘get saved.’
And the solution to this problem? Not sure.
How do you create a hunger and a thirst for God’s Word in God’s people. The true disciples should already have this hunger and thirst … and are probably feeding this inner drive through listening to others tell them about the bible or, at least, their opinion about teachings supposedly based in the scriptures. Maybe they simply need to turn off Christian television and radio and shut down the Christian internet and uTube and then the hunger and thirst will return and take them back to the bible itself.
And, maybe for those who are still reading thee bible but not receiving anything from their daily grind … try switching versions of the bible. This often takes the “familiar taste” of the verse or story and moves it to a different level. A change in wording or expression of old truths can bring new life. And, secondly, it might be good, like Paul the apostle, to pray his prayer for others recorded in Ephesians 1:17.
How do you create this hunger and thirst for those who are not born again and not interested in a book they consider to be filled with man’s ideas and thus not an authority for their lives. And, certainly not a book to be believed or to use in any way to build their lives on?
The solution here is really not that complicated. The non-believers need to see the believers – the true disciples of Jesus – living the Word of God and applying it to the various situations and circumstances that pop up almost daily in life. They need to see those that they know are believers actually believing and acting upon their own book, the bible. But more than saying that they believe it and quoting it – but actually living it out in daily, every day life. Making it work as the Word works when we work it.
Just a random thought as I continue with my daily reading of God’s Word in a version that I am unfamiliar with and that is speaking directly to me daily as I spend time during the summer months reading and thinking through God’s eternal truths as contained in the pages of the holy bible.
When we think and even talk about the Christian faith we tend to think and speak in terms of what the Christian faith believes. In other words, we talk about doctrines. The doctrine of creation; the doctrine of the Trinity; the doctrine of Scripture; the doctrine of evil, the doctrine of the end times, and on and on the list goes. We are urged in scripture to “earnestly contend for the faith” as seen in Jude 3. We see in the early Church that they gathered daily to listen to the “apostle’s doctrine” (Acts 2:42). So, we tell people what we believe and ask them to join us in what we believe. Of course, doctrine is important and forms the foundation for the Christian lifestyle we are suppose to live.
Interesting that the early Christians we not actually called Christians. They we called “followers of The Way.” Jesus said that He was The Way. The Bible states that He is the way to life – not just life but abundant life. John’s gospel tells us that this life lived within Jesus and was the light that drew people to Him (John 1:4). Jesus tells us that we are to be the “light of the world” … letting His life shine through our lives (Matthew 5:14). We are followers of The Way.
Building on that thought The Message Version of Matthew 28:18-20 states, “Meanwhile, the eleven disciples were on their way to Galilee, headed for the mountain Jesus had set for their reunion. The moment they saw him they worshiped him. Some, though, held back, not sure about worship, about risking themselves totally. Jesus, undeterred, went right ahead and gave his charge: ‘God authorized and commanded me to commission you: Go out and train everyone you meet, far and near, in this way of life, marking them by baptism in the threefold name:Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Then instruct them in the practice of all I have commanded you. I’ll be with you as you do this, day after day after day, right up to the end of the age.’”
Jesus commands His disciples to go out and share “this way of life.” Not the doctrines of the faith – this comes later when He continues within the Great Commission and tells them to “teach everything He has commanded them.” But first, introduce them to “this way of life.” This is because believers were to live in such a way that they were “in the world but not of the world.” They were to live with different values, different priories, and a different perspective from those who did not believe. They were Kingdom people and so were to live with a Kingdom perspective. This makes their “way of life” different than those among whom the believers lived. And, only after this “way of life” was noticed did they then share the doctrines or teachings that were and still are foundational to the faith and this “way of life.”
We focus on the doctrines and teachings – maybe we should be focusing on how Jesus would have us live out our faith. This would, most likely, change a lot of the way we live – our values, our priorities, our approach to life, and our attitude towards others. Living like Kingdom people would allow others to see what Kingdom living is all about. Then they can ask us about “this way of life.”
If you were to put the Kingdom first as Jesus tells us to (“seek first the kingdom…” Matthew 6:33) what would need to change in your life? What major changes would need to happen for you to live this “way of life” that Jesus speaks about and modelled for us during His three years of earthly ministry? Are you willing to look at your life, examining your life in light of the Scriptures and “all that Jesus commanded us” and what we believe as Christians (doctrines)? And, are you open to making all the needed and necessary changes that your new understanding about “this way of life” would dictate, even demand, you make?
Something to ponder during these lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer.
Jesus gave the Church, His Body of disciples, one task upon His ascension into heaven. He had come to earth to “seek and save the lost” (Luke 19:10). He then sent His people out to do the same. He said, “Go into all the world and make disciples…” (Matthew 28:19). This is the one task. This is the mandate of the Church and of individual believers – to tell others about the love of God that sent Jesus to be Saviour; His death on the cross for our forgiveness; and the offer of eternal life – a now relationship with the Living God (Romans 6:23 and John 17:3). This is the only task that Jesus, the Head of the Church – His body on earth) has given to us.
From my observations, with few exceptions, we have given this task to the leader or leaders of the church. Or, we simply ignore it altogether. Few believers and disciples of Jesus ever attempt to tell others about the night and day difference that Jesus has made in their life (1Peter 2:9 The Message version). Maybe they have truly never encountered Jesus and thus there has not been a change to talk about. Maybe fear keeps them from sharing. It could be that no one has ever told them that this is the call upon every true disciple. Maybe they simply lack the skills and knowledge to do it effectively and so they don’t do it at all. Maybe they fear rejection and this keeps them from sharing. Maybe they truly don’t believe that Jesus is the only way into heaven. And, maybe they simply don’t believe that those who don’t have a personal relationship with Jesus go to hell when they die. Not sure why the average disciple does not share Jesus and win souls but this is the situation the Church finds itself in today in many nations.
Jesus said, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19). So, in reality, if we are not fishing (soul winning – catching people for Jesus) then we are not following; we are simply fooling ourselves thinking everything is fine. We are self-deceived. And, one day we will be held accountable for what we did or did not do with this basic call upon every true disciple. This command and mandate is known as The Great Commission as He commissioned His Church to “go” and take the nations for Him. And, the “Church” is you! We are the Church – each individual disciple is a part of the Church and thus has this basic call upon their lives.
Jesus is not going to say on your judgement day, “Remember that thing called the Great Commission? Don’t worry about it! Come on in and party.” No! No! No! He is going to hold each and everyone of us accountable. And there will be consequences. To think otherwise is to be self-deceived. And, it is the responsibility of every true disciple to seek out those who can help them to accomplish this foundational calling upon which everything else in the Christian faith is built. Ask your leaders. Talk to your pastor or home group leader. Read books. Watch DVDs and uTube teachings from qualified and tested ministries. Do whatever it takes to become a soul winner. The Bible states: “Whoever wins souls is wise” (Proverbs 11:30b).
I have noticed that those who are out fishing are always excited about their faith. The have a passion for Jesus others don’t have. They are challenged and stretched and thus find themselves growing in their faith as well as their knowledge of Jesus and their Heavenly Father. They are not focused on themselves and, as a result, it is exciting to be around them because they are not always talking about how hard their life is. These people are always people of prayer. They function in the gifts of the Holy Spirit. They regularly see miracles, signs, and wonders. They are excited and enthusiastic about what they believe. For them, the Christian faith is a way of life and not just a set of doctrines and teachings to believe.
I personally find most Christians to be very self-centred and self-focused. Often it is “Jesus and me.” To be blunt – they are boring. But, hang around a soul winner and be prepared for great conversations and a new adventure at every turn.
A week after returning from Kazakhstan I have recovered from jet lag, caught up with life a bit, and begun to minister here in my own country again. As always I am taking time to think through what I experienced while overseas. I allow the experiences I had to settle in my heart and soul. Then the Holy Spirit begins to show me things about the trip – about me personally as I am on a journey with Jesus; in my ministry because I want to be constantly learning and growing; about the nation and people where I ministered; and about His plans and purpose for the Kingdom in that region. This is a “private debriefing” with Him whom I work with – the Holy Spirit.
Two things have risen to the surface as I think about my recent experience with a number of churches in Kazakhstan and especially with the youth of those churches.
First, the young leaders of these churches have a GOD CONSCIOUSNESS. They are constantly talking about Jesus, the Kingdom, and all that the Holy Spirit is doing. There is an enthusiasm and passion that is obvious in their attitude, actions, and words. They are committed to the cause of winning the lost and world evangelism. They are willing to “go into all the world…” and take the Gospel of the Kingdom with them so that the Kingdom expands, churches are raised up, and people come to know Jesus personally. Every conversation, every event, every one-on-one conversation had a GOD CONSCIOUSNESS element in it and Jesus was the centre of each conversation and connection.
Secondly, the youth and the young leaders have a KINGDOM FOCUS or perspective. They are looking past their own personal situations, the local church, the persecution and resulting limitations they live under as believers. They see the Kingdom and their role in it. They see something greater than their own lives and the life of the local church. They see the Kingdom that Jesus came and established and then left for us to continue its expansion into the spiritual darkness, nation after nation. They are willing to pack up their belongings and move wherever the Lord directs and start planting ‘gospel seeds’ so that the Holy Spirit can raise up a group of believers and thus Jesus can then build His Church there. They are willing to sacrifice, obey, and go. Nothing is too difficult and everything is possible in their hearts and minds. This attitude and perspective is powerful and influences every aspect of the life of the local churches.
These young people have “life.” The Bible states that “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.” (John 1:4) Jesus was not the light. The very life (zoe) and nature of God in Jesus was the light. And, Jesus told His disciples, “You are the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14). The God-life in them was the light. These young people and leaders have this life and thus are a light to their people and to their nation. Because of this ‘inner life’ these people have cultivated a consistent and constant GOD CONSCIOUSNESS or awareness of what the Lord is doing and have a KINGDOM FOCUS or perspective in their every day life.
Powerful is the only word to describe it.