Best way to reach the world for Jesus?

What is the best way to reach our fallen world? Some advocate a clear understandable presentation of the Gospel, Others say people need to see miracles, signs and wonders. Paul did not go with either but preached Christ crucified.

 Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling-block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles. (1 Corinthians 1:22-23NIV)

Christ crucified is a stumbling block to those wanting miraculous intervention for it shows Jesus in weakness, the very condition God is supposed to find abhorrent.

Christ crucified is foolishness to those who want to show the wisdom of the Gospel. Who would choose to follow Jesus along a road that leads to the Cross?

but to those whom God has called … Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God (1Corinthians 1:24NIV)

Both our presentation of the Gospel and the miracles God performs through us bring the focus to us. The original question, ‘What is the best way …?’ implicitly focuses attention on the messenger and the skills they choose instead of Jesus.

Paul lifts up Jesus, however that makes him look – whether foolishness or a stumbling block. This begs the question, Am I willing to entrust the Gospel of Jesus to Jesus himself? Am I willing to trust him for his wisdom and follow him wherever he might lead in presenting it?

Choose Jesus’ way

Jesus talks of how we choose to receive His word. An emphasis on visible results has pushed us towards –

The one who received the seed that fell on rocky places is the man who hears the word and at once receives it with joy.

Results are easy! We can count green shoots of decisions and boast of fruitfulness. But easy come brings easy go –

But since he has no root, he lasts only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, he quickly falls away.

Noticing the failure trailing this approach, many abandoned the focus on decisions for a journey into the Christian life. This sounds good, but the thorny issues of life are not dealt with in repentance. So –

The one who received the seed that fell among the thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful.

Protecting ourselves and others from Jesus’ cross is producing a fruitless faith. There is however another choice –

But the one who received the seed that fell on good soil is the man who hears the word and understands it. He produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.” Mat 13:18-23 (NIV 1984)

Jesus is clear about what this choice involves–

…  unless an ear of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. John 12:24

Let’s choose Jesus’ way!

Where is your God?

Why do the nations say, ‘Where is their God?’ Psalm 115:2

This is a question that is being asked of the Church. The question raises key issues. Firstly: What is it about the way we reflect Jesus that keeps this culture from seeing Him in us? Secondly: What is it about the world that it is so blind people cannot see Jesus in us? I believe that the next verses point to the answer for both questions.

Our God is in heaven, He does whatever pleases Him. Psalm 115:3

Our God is in heaven, so He cannot be seen by a culture that despises faith, declaring: Seeing is believing.

‘He does whatever pleases Him’, as against whatever pleases us. We struggle with this because our culture thinks of God as someone with a job description – to help us enjoy life. We make ourselves the centre and ask, Why believe in a God who does not do as I please?

But their idols are silver and gold made by the hands of men. They have … eyes, but they cannot see. Those who make them will be like them and so will all who trust in them. Psalm 115:4-8

We protect our selfish view by creating our own gods to make us happy and so blanking Him or blinding ourselves in pretence that He is the god we want him to be.

We have a culture that blinds itself looking at a delusional Church. No wonder we are asked, ‘Where is your God?’

 

Show not tell

We live in a culture that is so bombarded by messages that none are listened to. How then can the gospel break out? Isaiah’s prophecy on Jesus in Isaiah 52&53 gives clues. Isaiah 53 shows the frustration.

Isaiah 53 Who has believed our message
and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?

The Lord himself is blanked out!

So will many nations be amazed at him
and kings will shut their mouths because of him.

The final outcome  is clear: ‘The nations are amazed’. So the Lord breaks through. Who is the person the Lord uses?

Isaiah 52:14 Just as there were many who were appalled at him –
his appearance was so disfigured.

In the world of messages, the Lord’s servant doesn’t stand a chance. His appearance is all wrong. This is a message that brings us hope. God is not limited by our appearances.

Isaiah 52: 13 See, my servant will prosper (NIV Margin)
he will be raised and lifted up and highly exalted.

This person, who breaks through despite appearances, is identified as the Lord’s servant. He is living the faith in every area of life; walking with the Lord wherever He leads. Living this way, the Lord feels comfortable to exalt them.

For what they were not told, they will see,
and what they have not heard, they will understand.

We need to live the message so people can see in a culture where they will never hear. This takes time, but the lives affected are affected more solidly.

 

 

You will find the fuller study from which this is drawn at biblebase2adaringfaith

Reward with God

What a privilege to participate in Jesus’ ministry. Paul and Barnabas were directed into ministry through Isaiah 49:6:

“… I will also make you a light for the Gentiles,  that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.”

This verse is not stand alone. How does Isaiah leads into this promise?

First the Lord polishes His arrow and conceals it.

2 .. he made me into a polished arrow  and concealed me in his quiver.

This arrow has to fly true first time and so it receives special attention. Other arrows enjoy their successes in the hunt, this one is polished. It seems a humiliating waste of time.

The Lord seeing the discouragement, speaks tenderly.

3 He said to me, “You are my servant,  Israel, in whom I will display my splendour.”

The Lord gives hope that He will use this servant to display His splendour, however these seem vain words.

4 But I said, “I have laboured in vain;  I have spent my strength for nothing at all.

Polishing is hard work, requiring labour for little visible result.

This frustration finally bears fruit through a change in attitude-

Yet what is due me is in the Lord’s hand,  and my reward is with my God.”

The surrender of desire to see the outcome. When content that his reward is with God, there is freedom to be used by the Lord without playing to the audience and wrecking the show.

Now the Lord begins to use His polished arrow!

 

The full Bible study can be found at Biblebase2adaringfaith

 

Driven or Complacent

Living in our hurting world our tendency is either, throw ourselves at the problem, driven by the need, or to harden ourselves to the need and wait for God to resolve it Himself. Both these approaches stem from futile thinking and expose our darkened understanding. This darkness comes from a hardened heart that will not allow in the light of Christ.

When I am driven by need I am not experiencing God’s peace. I have allowed ‘self’ to become an idol, and am sacrificing my soul on its altar.

When I sit complacently expecting the Lord to do everything, I have hardened myself to the needs of people and to the call of Christ who gave His life for them.

The solution is not through trying harder, but to return to the life of God. This comes through surrender; a willingness to deny myself, take up the cross and follow Jesus.

Jesus started the great commission,

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” Matthew 28:18.

Am I seeking the sovereign ‘ME’ or am I surrendered to the Lord and His kingdom. Am I willing for His results to be different from what theory suggests?

Jesus ended the great commission,

“… surely I am with you always to the very end of the age.”

I must walk with Him in His programme and surrender the appearance of business or spirituality. If He is sitting in the stands then I sit with Him. If He is intervening, then I intervene with Him.

 

The original Bible Study in Ephesians 4:17-19

 

Prostitution rejected

Many imagine that our Lord has no interest in our lives outside of a personal relationship with Him, as if we lived in a spiritual bubble. Hosea 9 challenges the upbeat perspective of God’s people. In today’s terms, there is something wrong and Hosea calls on people to confront their own prostitution.

Today, our prostitution runs deep, but is largely unaddressed. Where niceness is lifted up as if it were godliness, we steer clear of unpalatable truths. This leaves us with an open goal to the accusation of hypocrisy.  Our prostitution has many guises. Here are a couple:

On the physical side there is considerable sexual immorality in the church. This is most widespread  in the private world of internet pornography, yet physically as well in a culture where one is considered weird if one has a friend but are not going to bed together. Our Christian culture has adopted a “don’t ask, don’t tell” stance as if what happens behind closed doors is of no interest to our Father in heaven.

On the spiritual side we have so elevated numbers that we can end up using spirituality to gain a following. We can become more concerned with our following than with our Lord. So, we can become spiritual prostitutes, using what the Lord has given us to gain influence over other people. Even in this blog I constantly return to the fact that I write for an audience of One.

For the Bible study see – http://biblebase2adaringfaith.wordpress.com/2013/08/01/idolaters-rejected/

Complacency

How serious do our friends think we are about God? When they see our pursuit of God, are they encouraged to join the pursuit, or do they roll their eyes and dismiss our foolishness?

Song of Songs 5 tells of how the beloved, symbolically a believer or the Church, is in bed when her lover, Christ comes to the door and knocks. The beloved however is comfortable and does not want to get up to answer the door. This seems to speak of our culture, so comfortable in its Christianity that Jesus is treated as a commodity to call on at our convenience.

The passage relates how, after the persistent knock of the lover, the beloved’s desire is finally aroused. She goes to let him in, only to find that he has given up and left. What a prospect for us, the discovery that Jesus is not there whenever we want Him!

The beloved goes out into the night looking for her lover only to be abused by the night watchmen. She suffers for her complacency, yet through this time in darkness and distress she realises how much she misses her lover. She humbles herself and asks her friends to help her find him. Having seen her complacency in the relationship, they are far from convinced that He is worth pursuing. She sings out praises for her lover; they change their attitude and join her seeking him.

The return begins with loss. It is developed through costly pursuit and humbly acknowledging to outsiders the truth that she has lost him. It is completed through worship.

Sight or Faith?

How do I express hope when I have confidence in my good Father, yet what I see is anything but hopeful? I find myself here in situations ranging from the state of the church in the UK to the path of ministry that the Lord has me on. I have no clue as to the practical solution, yet know it will be good because God is good.

I feel a need to describe the challenge of the situation. However, when I express myself people hear depression and lack of hope. I am like a disciple before the feeding of the 5000 to whom Jesus has asked the impossible. My response is to examine the need (a years wages worth of bread), and our resources (five loaves and two fish). This makes me sound depressed but, in my heart I am looking at Jesus. I know he is bigger than either need or resources. I can trust Him to bring joy.

We live in a world that wants methods to solve problems, and a pronouncement that Jesus is going to sort it out doesn’t seem to cut it. Most want a ministry strategy that when presented will clearly lead to a resolution to the problem. I have seen so many fail that I am left with no answers but to wait on God in prayer, looking for Him to intervene in a way I could never predict. Yet even here many assess this as a strategy. Even in the church it seems we want to walk by sight not by faith.

Head held high

My defensiveness towards others inadvertently rubs off on my relationship with God. If He asks something of me that I believe is unacceptable to others I will not fully receive it in case I feel embarrassed.

“Lift up your heads, you gates; be lifted up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in.” (Ps24)

Many want more of Jesus and ‘lift up their gates’ to let Him in.  As we do so we understand that the king of kings comes both to bring glory and to rule.  We let him in with an attitude of surrender. Yet ‘Lift up your heads’ implies honour. It is the place where I look people in the eye and speak with confidence and a clear conscience. It is not enough to know in my inner world that I have honour. To stand before God and people with head high I need to be willing to trust God with my outer world.

It has taken years for the Lord to lift my head. I have always walked head down, secure in my inner world, insecure in the outer one. The King encourages me to lift my head secure in His honour. He has been proving that confidence by leading me into situations where I may be misunderstood. As I face them with Him by faith and with openness, I learn that Jesus is faithful and can be trusted with my reputation. So, I lift my head and receive more of what He has for me.