authority, Bible promises, called, compassion, disciples, evangelism, follow Him, Gospel, Holy Spirit, Jesus Christ, lordship, power, preaching

The Great Commission, #111

“Jesus came near and said to them, 

“All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.””

Matthew 28:18-20

Well now. Red Letters is now done. We’ve traversed our way through Jesus’ acts and teachings. I’m quite aware that I have overlooked much of it. I just maybe lose some sleep over this.

But I rest in John 21:25–

” And there are also many other things that Jesus did, which, if every one of them were written down, I suppose not even the world itself could contain the book that would be written.”

John 21:25

“Authority” is the key.

The Greek means “freedom of choice,” or having “the power to make decisions.” Jesus alone has that right, if we’re to evangelize the world, it must be under his auspices. We need to remain dependent on him, and serve under his authority.

Very precise instructions are given.

  • Discipleship
  • Baptism
  • teaching them to observe
  • under command
  • his presense–right until the end.

Each of these is under his authority. He’s in full control of each believer, and commissions them to act on his behalf, and under his lordship. In a definite sense we don’t act apart of him–everything we do, all of our actions must reflect that truth.

Someone wiser than I reflected that we’ve essentially changed this to “the great omission.” Perhaps that’s true for many Christians–and churches. It’s easy to do, and often we alter the express command of Jesus into our own personal improvement plan.

“I will not believe that thou hast tasted of the honey of the gospel if thou can eat it all to thyself.”

   Charles Spurgeon

The adjustment is terribly subtle, and the enemy has his fingerprints all over it. His work makes perfect sense. Stop the Church at any price. Some suggest that we’ve become a cruise ship now, instead of a battleship. I think that a simple study of the history of the Church would back that up.

“Everything God does is love — even when we do not understand Him.”

   

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authority, broken people, contamination, evangelism, faith, follow Him, Jesus Christ, offense

A Definite Drunkard, Entry #34

Please think about this image for a second

“The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is justified by her deeds.”

Matthew 11:19, (context, vv. 16-19)

What part does excessive “eating and drinking” don’t we understand? It doesn’t seem entirely ‘religious,’ especially in the thinking of us who observe the life of a pastor or a shepherd. We demand a certain restraint, a standard of separateness from common sinners. That’s seems to be our personal view anyway.

Is gluttony wrong? Is getting a bit tipsy also unacceptable, especially when it comes to “true” religion? Quite often it seems, we have a pious approach toward what we think is ‘true’ faith. We often believe that truth equates to being an ascetic, separate from common sinners. We believe if we are truly holy we will segregate from the ungodly.

It seems that Jesus doesn’t relate to, or accept this viewpoint. He’s single-mindedly serving the Father, in perfect holiness and in true connection with Him. And yet we see Him cavorting with tax-collectors and sinners. We observe Him actually sitting with those we reject as ungodly or unholy.

I must say this before you start looking for rocks to stone me with!

Scripture clearly tells us that we’re to live holy lives. We’re to be wise and have self-control in everything. We should always remember our own ‘black hole’, and begin to see our new life as really incredible. We must allow the “fruits of the Spirit” to grow inside us. And lived rightly, it’s a place of real holiness; and certainly not the ‘pretend’ righteousness of the Pharisee.

Listen very carefully: The Pharisees reject and label those who seem to flaunt the religious norms, but broken believers will truly forgive others, like those who have been radically forgiven themselves. There is a stark difference.

But think about it, aren’t we all a tiny bit ungodly?

Don’t we somehow grade people by their outward appearance and the level of their attainment? It absolutely astounds me that Jesus seems far more comfortable with the outcasts than He does with the Pharisees of His day. He sits with them, and eats and drinks in a fashion that we would regard objectionable.

Jesus loves every person. He loves the unmade, and the unvarnished. He loves being with the ungodly. Yes, He does understand the awful nature of sin; the horrible damage it inflicts on a person’s soul. And yet I’ve come to the conclusion that all my righteous and holy religion is nothing but a very bad smell in God’s nostrils.

Jesus isn’t afraid that we will somehow taint Him by our words, conduct or behavior. He passionately loves those who we deem as outside the norm of our religion. Jesus loves being with ‘nasty’ people. I think He purposefully seeks out the wrong ones!

It fascinates me that Jesus is never afraid that the leper will corrupt or defile Him. He isn’t fearful that somehow He will be contaminated. That’s exactly what the Pharisees thought. But instead it’s the reverse with Jesus. He heals us, and it’s always a one-way current. He touches us, but we’ll never ‘poison’ Him!

Just maybe our awful failure in evangelism is due to our inability to really relate with the lost. We withdraw and then wonder why the unsaved don’t understand the things of God. Have we become so religious that sinners don’t feel comfortable with us, or Him? Could it be that we’re a bit off course? Are we really filled with His Spirit?

“The greatest form of praise is the sound of consecrated feet seeking out the lost and helpless.”

-Billy Graham

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authority, broken people, disciples, evangelism, follow Him, healing, Kingdom of God, preaching

Doing Jesus’ Work, #28

“And proclaim as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons.”

Matthew 10:7-8, (context vv. 5-15)

Heal. Raise. Cleanse. Cast out. What a job description for Jesus’ disciples! He truly believes that those who follow Him are ready, and it’s time for them to go to work. I suppose they could keep sitting at Jesus’ feet, just soaking up His teaching, and watching Him do His miracles. But this isn’t what they’re called to do. They’ve sat long enough.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s vital that we absorb His words to us. It’s absolutely critical that we hear His voice and really do find our rest in Him. We must intimately listen to Jesus and be filled with His Spirit. Yet it strikes me that far too many disciples think their life is an inward one; a concentration on personal growth and one’s own spiritual attainment. But I don’t think this is the case.

The disciples must go to work.

Jesus ‘commissions’ them to go out and proclaim the ‘Kingdom come.’ The labors of Jesus must be done by these inadequate (and sinful) men. Heal. Raise. Cleanse. Cast out. It’s time for them to go out and meet the desperate needs of the world. But stepping out can be a scary thing.

The works that these disciples are to do are truly marvelous. They now have an ability and an anointing to do remarkable things. Jesus is comfortable that His disciples are ready, and yet knows that when they return they will have much to learn from Him. It seems however, that we are waiting for a certain amount of “perfection” before we step out.

Most of us, I suppose, are ‘hamstrung’ by our own sin. We see know our inadequacies and deep weaknesses. Most of the time we feel completely unworthy. Seldom do we think we’re ready to spread the Kingdom news to a needy world. Our own sin, we believe, disqualifies us from ministry to others. It seems Satan is very quick to neutralize us, and to annul the “work” of the Father. He accuses us, and we listen.

We’re overwhelmed by what we see within us, and as a result we seldom see the needs around us.

It seems we shelf His work and replace our faith into some sort of personal rehabilitation program. “When we are finally holy enough, we will hit the streets.” Until then, we will try to get enough personal purity to work His miracles. Commendable I suppose, but I don’t think this is what Jesus intends. I’m convinced the work itself is a vital part of our sanctification.

“Have thy tools ready. God will find thee work.”

-Charles Kingsley

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Laborers Wanted, # 27

Then he said to his disciples, 

“The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”

Matthew 9:37-38, (context, vv. 35-38)

The issue here is laborers–this is our work, plain and simple. The fact is that there isn’t enough workers. It’s funny, it seems God is constrained by our prayers–earnest prayers for a harvest to be brought into the barns. But there aren’t enough hands. The harvest will be ruined if help doesn’t come soon.

God must have our help if it’s going to get done.

The harvest seems contingent on our prayer life. We decide what is going to happen. Prayer is the work of the authentic believer and our hearts must be for the fields. We are the people who work, who sweat, and get tired. That is our call. That is the true work of discipleship.

Mother Teresa once commented that what we see in front of us is our “Calcutta.” We have got to open our eyes and look, we must see the incredible needs of desperate people that surround us. We must have eternal eyes–God’s eyes. We do our work on behalf of others. I really do believe that it will be ‘sweaty’ prayers that will move the hand of God.

I think ‘prayer’ is the real work in evangelism.

Prayer is our effort that gets combined with the Holy Spirit’s great passion of lost souls. Our “earnest” prayer for the harvest will call workers to the fields. Every generation is responsible for their own part of the field.

For some reason God has chosen to limit Himself by our decision to pray. He patiently waits for us to intercede. Everything seems contingent on us, we can point no finger at God, or accuse Him of ignoring the work that must be done. We must make the decision. Evangelism, and missions, is God’s intense passion. He now shares with us this responsibility.

All of Heaven is standing on its tiptoes, waiting to hear our pleas for the lost.

“Pray as though everything depended on God. Work as though everything depended on you.”

-St. Augustine

 

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Preaching With a Purpose, Entry #17

“But he said to them, 

“I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns as well; for I was sent for this purpose.”

Luke 4:43 (context, vv. 42-44)

God directed preaching extends the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus understands this and embraces a calling from the Father to communicate God’s rule in the heart and souls of people. He publicly acknowledges that this was now His ministry and purpose. This was the reason He came for us. He was sent!

Jesus understands that when the Gospel is combined with the Father’s intentional purpose it develops into a true understanding of what He is looking for in our lives. Perhaps it’s the only thing that can. He obeys and the world is completely changed.

Anointed preaching accomplishes Kingdom purposes.

Understanding the Kingdom takes humility and repentance. The message of Jesus is not a ‘given,’ It requires a solid reaction that will take the listener deeper than he has ever gone before. The gospel message must be understood through a ‘broken’ life. It has zero impact when the heart is hard. We are teflon.

Preaching this “good news” is the only thing that can pierce the hard shell of the human heart. I believe that His purpose requires a commitment on the preacher as well as the listener. It demands obedience. It requires a repentant faith.

Jesus seems to agree.

“Go into all the world and preach the gospel, and if necessary, use words.”

― Francis of Assisi

 

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Quenching Our Thirst, Entry #13

“Jesus answered her, 

“If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.”

John 4:10, (context 4:7-42)

A rusty pail and a very old well. A woman comes to draw out some water from a well dug by Jacob, a patriarch from the pages of Genesis. I believe she was a ‘scarred’ person, she had been married to five men, and she really hadn’t decided to marry #6.

Noon wasn’t the norm, it seems she purposefully waited until the coast was clear. She avoided any contact with others. She would go in the heat of the day. But really deep down, she was ashamed of herself, and grieved over how she had destroyed her life.

She didn’t count on meeting someone at the well, much less a Jewish man who was tired and weary and waiting for a cool drink. She was even more surprised when Jesus spoke to her, that wasn’t proper. A Samaritan woman with a checkered past conversing with a holy Jewish teacher. On heard of.

Jesus waited for her to come, she has an appointment to keep with the second person of the Trinity who was waiting by this well.

“Living water,” how quickly we zoom through this phrase. We seldom stop to consider that what Jesus was offering her was ‘alive.’ It was water infused with life itself. It was water with eternal vitality over sickness, sin or death. When He talks about “living water,” Jesus is referring to Himself.

This particular incident with the woman at the well became the entry point for the ‘good news’ to come to the entire village. Living water would quench the thirst of this backwater Samaritan town.

“People pay attention when they see that God actually changes persons and sets them free. When a new Christian stands up and tells how God has revolutionized his or her life, no one dozes off. When someone is healed or released from a life-controlling bondage, everyone takes notice.”

-Jim Cymbala

  

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Catching Men, Entry #9

“The Morning of the Fisherman,” Valentina Kostadinva, oil

“And so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon,

“Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.”

Luke 5:10

Fear is an ugly thing, it turns men into timid cowards who cannot really trust God. Simon Peter is promised courage. Throughout his life this will be a constant battle for him. It seems like Simon Peter will always struggle with what people will think about him. He is ‘crippled’ and he needs Jesus to intervene. And He does.

I remember Jody and I were sent out by a pastor to do “door-to-door” evangelism. I was terrified. We knocked on a door and then I sort of freaked out, I left her on the porch and hid behind a tree. Witnessing scared me. She shared Jesus while I ran away. How ‘Peter-like’ I am.

“Catching men” is a reference to Peter’s occupation as a fisherman. Jesus speaks so Peter will understand. He expresses evangelism in a way that describes the work of the Kingdom. Fishing describes the main task of the believer. All too often we’re ‘fixed’ on self-improvement, and our vision becomes blurred. Evangelism is to be our work.

“Evangelism is not a professional job for a few trained men, but is instead the unrelenting responsibility of every person who belongs to the company of Jesus.”

-Elton Trueblood

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