Tuesday, March 22, 2011

True Evangelism

“Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth” (1 John 3:18).

God has given us something to talk about. It is the truth about how great His love is and how love can change the lives it reaches. Evangelism is more than words though, it is believing in the words we speak and letting the world see the difference God’s love is making in our lives. We have been given the opportunity, not only to speak about salvation, but living the life of those who are saved. We know that living the life that Satan offers in the flesh steals the eternal life God offers in Christ (John 10:10). The good news of salvation is not only spoken, it is lived.

We are living in a world of force. It is the “survival of the fittest” attitude that governs the actions of those who are bound by the philosophy of flesh. We can be thankful for the grace of our Lord that has reached out and saved us from the doom of this fleshly lifestyle. But, if we truly believe in the power of this life then our lives must reveal the changes it provides. When we say we have made Jesus Lord of our lives then we must be willing to show that proclamation. To convince the world of this life, we must die to the flesh and allow God to direct us in His Spirit.

One attitude that greatly offended our Lord as He walked this earth was the hypocritical attitude. Jesus reprimanded the Jewish leaders for pretending that they could keep the entirety of God’s Law. Oh, they knew how to talk the talk, but they could not walk the walk. And it is easy to see that their evangelistic efforts were minimal at best. We have been given the opportunity to reveal the “newness of the Spirit” by letting the word of God change us from the inside out. We cannot expect others to welcome the change if we are not willing to let our lives shine the light of God working in us (Matthew 5:16). God is love and when we accept His love as our way, the change it creates in us must be made evident. His love calls us to surrender the attitude of the world for the attitude of Christ (Phil 2:5). Allowing His love to work in us provides us a new way to live.

Evangelism is not just showing people how much you know. Sharing the good news of the truth about God’s love is revealing the “new creature” that His love has created in us (2 Corinthians 5:17). When we say Jesus is Lord then our lives are indicative of what it means to be a disciple. We are here to show the world how different our lives are because of our willingness to die to self, sacrifice our worldly minds and live in submission to His Father’s will. We will not save souls by words only. Our lives must reveal the change love produces in the willing heart.

Jesus asked some who followed Him, "Why do you call Me, 'Lord, Lord,' and do not do what I say?” (Luke 6:46). He went on to say how important it is to build their lives on the foundation of His teachings and used the illustration of building a house (47-49). If we want our lives to withstand the destructive nature of this temporary world, our lives must be built on the unshakable foundation of the eternity of His love. We must avoid being like those who are able to tell you what the Bible says, yet whose lifestyle is preaching a different message. We cannot bring the good news of our Lord through hypocrisy. God has established His church to “proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9). If we are going to be successful in the mission then God’s mission must be successful in us.

In His Love,

Monday, March 14, 2011

Ignoring God

"The Spirit of God has made me, And the breath of the Almighty gives me life” (Job 33:4).

The tragedy that has struck in the land of Japan has been spoken about by probably every newscast on television. They have given great details of the physical aspect of the damage that has been done. They have told us in great detail of what the fleshly eyes can see. But, what can be extracted from the spiritual aspect of this tragedy? What does God want us to learn?

When Job faced tragedy, Elihu reminded him Who is in control of the situation. And although He is in control, He is just and His love can only aid the humble: “When God arose to judgment, To save all the humble of the earth” (Psalm 76:9). As powerful as man thinks he is he has no power when God trembles the earth. He is the One who has the power to raise the waves of the sea and to allow the earth to open. We need to remember His power and our frailty.

God is love and He has been crying out to His creation to bring them under His wings of protection for many years: "Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling” (Matthew 23:37). But the people were not humble enough to listen and their ears remain closed to His voice today. And because the hearts of mankind are so hardened by fleshly pride, He must remind the stubborn Who has the power to bring the proud to their knees. Christians can use this tragedy to teach His love and grace.

God does not want the calamity of sin to fall upon mankind, but mankind continues to accept evil as the norm and ignore His words of grace. And then when sin causes the ugliness of its wages, they cannot understand why God does not protect them from its destruction. Christians have an opportunity to live under the protection of His love, mercy and grace. This is an opportunity to reveal to a world filled with pride how much more beneficial it is to live in humility. As those who do not know His Word try to get a grip on the situation, the people of faith can speak about the powerful love that protects them from the doom of sin. This is a powerful lesson to teach.

As Christians, we must be cut to the heart. Not only about the loss of the physical lives from this earth, but even more tragically, the loss of souls that do not accept the invitation into God’s kingdom. Many will be removed from this earth because of the great catastrophe that has fallen upon Japan. But what makes this even more tragic is that many of the dead will leave this realm outside the grace of God. This should remind us how tragic it is to leave our fate in the hands of the created instead of the Creator. God sent life to earth in the form of His Son. His voice still cries out to the prideful hearts of the world to come into the protection of His love. His cries are made known through the church, but like the prophets of old, their voice will continue to be ignored. And even though His voice is ignored, He still is the only One with the power to save.

In His Love,

Monday, March 7, 2011

Pressing On

Pressing On
“Finally, brethren, rejoice, be made complete, be comforted, be like-minded, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you” (2 Corinthians 13:11).

Many times in life we are faced with great decisions and most of the time these decisions are really tough to make. But as Christians we can be assured that when we turn to our Father for His assistance in these matters, He will make whatever we decide to do great for the furthering of His kingdom: “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). We can be assured that God is working for our benefit.

As Paul was writing to the congregation in Corinth he made some encouraging reminders to help them in his absence. First of all, he encouraged them to rejoice. Although they might have had faith in Paul, they also had to understand that it is God that does the blessing. It is His love that guides and protects the church, not Paul’s. Their reason to rejoice was never in Paul but in the salvation offered only in Christ.

The second encouragement was to “be made complete.” This is a Greek word that implies allowing God to complete His work in you. Paul wanted the congregation to continue to rely on God for the strength needed to continue in their efforts to further the kingdom, even in his absence. I am reminded of Paul’s words to another congregation: “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6). God’s work will continue to flourish in the Lord’s church if we will continue to allow His love to mold us into the people He can use to bring glory to His name. The church is in the process of being mad ecomplete.

Paul’s third encouragement was to stay united in their efforts and “be like-minded and live in peace.” Satan uses the world in which we live to hinder God’s work through the church. The world does not understand God’s love and therefore cannot understand the work of God’s church. The Maryville congregation will be successful as we unite our minds in “the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16), remembering to always set our own personal desires aside to assure the unity found in devotion to Christ. This can only be done by studying God’s word together and reasoning through the Scriptures to know the will of God. When the minds of the Christians in Maryville are united in Christ, nothing can stop the work they are partaking in together. The world has no power over hearts solidified in faith (1 John 5:4).

Finally, Paul encouraged the Corinthians by reminding them whom they serve. Our God is the God of “love and peace” and He will always be with the faithful (Matthew 28:20). His love is unconditional but is fully received through obedient trust in His power to save the soul. His peace comes from the knowledge of His grace and the acceptance of the salvation He offers through His Son. Paul knew that the only way to success was to rely on God’s wisdom, grace and love. He also knew that if the congregation in Corinth would the worldly temptations to rely on the flesh, God would grant them love and peace.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Not of the World

“They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world” (John 17:16).

Jesus prays for the church’s desire to remain different from the worldliness that tries to influence her. We live in times of social confusion, and maybe even revolution, and the church has an opportunity to show the distinct nature of God during these times. To do this we must stay on guard and watch out for the enemy’s attacks (1 Peter 5:8). He is on a mission to destroy the church and to succeed he is trying to get us to lose our distinction. We are living in the midst of a hypocritical world that accepts cheating, lying and killing as the norm. But the church has been set apart from the world’s ugliness by being transformed into the distinct beauty of the Christ.

When people of the world finally come to themselves and see not only the error, but the terror of their ways, they will go looking for something that is different. And that is what the church claims to be, different. Jesus reminds us to, “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). People are hearing the claim of the church to be different, but are they seeing the difference? We must do more than just say we are different, we must live in a manner that shows us as different.

One way the church shows her distinction is to live up to what they proclaim. When the church says she believes God’s word to be their authority, then she must abide by the guidelines of truth. When she teaches that the Bible says we are to assemble on the first day of the week, then her members must be faithful to the assembly. Otherwise she will be seen as just another hypocrite in the world instead of a saint in the kingdom. The church believes the grace of God has been revealed in His commands. She is willing to sacrifice everything to make sure they reveal an obedient heart to a world that does not see that attitude anywhere else. If we just hear God’s word and do not act upon the opportunities it reveals, we are just as common as any other assembly, whether it be a religious group or a social club. The Lord’s church is called to the discomfort of a cross and not the comfort of a shade tree. Staying faithful to this call makes her different from any other organization found on this earth. Let’s continue to be faithful.

Another way the church reveals a distinct nature is in her priorities. Notice what Jesus taught the first disciples: “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33). This is not something the world has not heard before from other groups, but what makes the church distinct is their devotion to this claim (Acts 2:41-47). If we just talk about being devoted to this new priority system and not actually live by it, then we are no different than the worldly politician that says he is devoted to the country’s needs and then gets in office to serve only the needs of those who support his cause. The church is different because they “have been crucified with Christ and it is no longer” their flesh that determines their steps (Galatians 2:20). It is the cause of Christ that determines the priority of their desires.

Now is the time for the church to stand tall and be recognized for her devotion to God. The world will die in their hypocrisy but the church will live in her distinction. Her guiding authority will remain throughout eternity (Matthew 24:35). Her distinction is seen in her dedication to the life offered in Her Savior (John 14:6). Her beauty is seen in her devotion to be different from the world and her never ending desire to be more and more like Christ each and every day. Let’s continue to be faithfully devoted to truth and continue to be blessed (Matthew 5:2-7:27).

In His Love,