You had one job.

broncos

Did you see the news yesterday, that the Super Bowl grounds crew accidentally painted both end zones with the Broncos logo?  It is humorously reminiscent of the Snicker’s commercial where the grounds man meticulously painted “Chefs” instead of “Chiefs” for Kansas City.   “You had one job”, the meme goes today.

Do you ever stop to think, as a Christian what is my “one job”?  We are all unique individuals, God has made some of us to be mothers, some fathers, some political leaders, some pastors.  We all have a variety of roles and hats that we will wear throughout our lifetimes.  But is there one overarching drive or job that we have?

To consider this question, we must look directly to Scripture.  We know that Jesus did not come to abolish the Old Testament Law, but He taught us grace and love, so did He give us any commands?  Scholars have actually counted up over fifty direct commands that Jesus gave.  They also have counted 1,050 direct commands given in the New Testament as a whole!

The vast majority of the instructions and commands that Jesus gave during His lifetime on Earth are directly related to how one is to act and feel as a Christian.  How to be a disciple.  Jesus entered the world in a time where Jews had the Law of God, and were following it – and had even added to it – out of a heart of legalism and pride.  The pious kept the Law well and judged everyone who kept it poorly.  But Jesus came in to teach them that they had missed the entire premise of God’s commandments, and that was love.  It was love for God that was to compel them to obey the rest of the Law.  When He was confronted as to which of the Laws was the greatest, His response was:

“‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind’.  This is the great and foremost commandment.  The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself'”.  On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.”

– Matt 22.37-40

Sometimes we forget that these are direct quotes from the Old Testament, Mosaic Law.  You can find them in Deuteronomy 6 and Leviticus 19.  Jesus did not introduce a new teaching here, He simply stated that the entire premise of being a Christian is to love God, and by that love be driven to love our neighbors and obey the rest of His commands.  The rest of the commandments Jesus gives are similar to the rest of the commandments of the Old Testament:  they are instructions for how our love should be enacted.

The culmination of those commandments are Jesus’ final words, the Great Commission.

And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.  Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit,  teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

– Matt 28.18-20

As with the rest of the commands, the Great Commission is indicative of how a disciple should act, and it should be driven by love for God.  However, unlike other commands, it is our appointed job – if you will.  It is the climax of all the other commands.  Once we have met Jesus, repented of our sins, learned to be a disciple by walking in love and obedience to Him, we must replicate ourselves.  We must turn around and teach others what we have learned.  It is the circle of the Christian life.  Part of being a disciple is making disciples.

Now, we all have different personalities and different strengths.  We will not all make disciples in exactly the same way.  Some of us will teach Bible studies.  Some of us will mentor young believers one-on-one.  Some of us will be preachers who proclaim the Gospel to the masses.  Mission boards even send out missionaries who are in “support” roles – meaning they handle paperwork, housing, finances and the like.  These people, while their primary role is not Church planting, however, are not off the hook in sharing the Gospel and making disciples personally.  Whatever fills up your heart will be that which comes out.  If you can have a conversation, and if you love Jesus, then you not only should, but naturally will talk about Him.

We often put an emphasis on people’s dying words, or parting words.  You can read numerous articles on villains’ final words upon execution, or heroes final words on their death beds.  Jesus’ dying words were indeed profound, but His final words to us as He returned to Heaven and left us on Earth are life altering.  Go, make disciples of all nations.  When you meet Jesus face to face, if He were to ask you “Did you go make disciples of all nations?” what would you say?  Now, obviously, God knows everything and will not have to ask us for an account of our activities.  But perhaps His question will be, “Why did you not go?”  What will our answer be then?  I was too busy?  Too afraid?  I had to make money, raise a family, or buy that big house?

Part of discipleship is making disciples.  Charles Spurgeon ominously stated,

“The great question is not, ‘Will not the heathen be saved if we do not send them the gospel?’ but ‘Are we saved ourselves if we do not send them the gospel?'”

Let’s step back and consider our lives in light of this reality.  Jesus gave us a very clear final command.  How are we doing in obedience to it?  Are we ready to give an account of your obedience to Him?  When we examine the whole of our lives in light of this command, what do we see?  Let’s be disciples.  Let’s make disciples.  We have one job, let’s get busy about doing it.

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We praise what we love.

conversation

Some people talk a lot.  Some people talk a little.  I personally ebb and flow on the spectrum depending on situation and environment.  But when you are meeting someone new or catching up with someone from the past, one thing is always true:  you talk about common interests.  The fun (for some) “get to know you” conversation includes the normal questions of family, history, and interests.  You are trying to find common ground on which you can connect with this new person.  Do you have a common interest?  Do you have a mutual friend?  Have you ever lived in the same city?  When you go home to visit your parents, you end up talking about people and situations from your distant past – to the joy of some, and the pain of others.  You will never live down that one story from your past in your parents’ eyes.

We talk about the things we know and love.  Not only do we not enjoy conversations about things we know little or nothing about, we simply have nothing to say about them.  I know very little about race cars.  Other than having attended High School in Indianapolis, where they have the Indy 500, I have nothing to add to a conversation about racing.  I can ask questions, but will be generally lost on the topic and quite frankly, not that interested.  But when you find that sweet spot, when you figure out what makes a person tick, you can see their eyes light up, and if you happen to have the same drive you can talk for hours.

“Your mouth is always filled with praises for what you value most.”

– C.S. Lewis

Jesus also says it quite simply:

“The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil; for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart.”

– Luke 6.45

We speak that which fills our hearts.  Jesus, interestingly, puts a value on the fruit of our mouths:  it is either good or evil.  Our comfortable Christianity teaches us that there are three categories:  good, evil and neutral.  But Jesus had a much more black and white outlook.  Either something is glorifying to God and therefore good, or it is evil.  Either an action or word is out of faith and therefore good, or it is evil.  Either a word is edifying to those who hear it, or it is evil (1 Cor 10.31, Rom 14.23, Eph 4.29).

Does that mean that we cannot talk about anything other than Jesus, Church and theology?  No, but it means that everything we think, say and do should be done intentionally to the glory and honor of God.  Eating, drinking, singing, working, playing, talking, you name it.  And if we fill up our hearts with Jesus and His Word, then we will bring forth actions and words that glorify Him, even if they are not directly about Him.  He will still be the driving force behind them.

It will be a natural occurrence that we fill up our hearts with Jesus and His Word when we love Him, not a chore.  Sometimes we like to make excuses for ourselves to say that we are too busy, we have responsibilities, etc.  But we always make time for those things that are important to us!  If you know you have a standing appointment at the gym on Tuesdays and Thursdays, you don’t plan coffee with friends during those times.  If you teach Sunday School before Church every week, you do not enroll in a soccer team that plays games on Sunday mornings!  We plan our activities and events around those things that we value most.  And, quite frankly, we let others (and Jesus) know that they are not that important to us when we schedule something else over a standing appointment (or Church and prayer).

Too busy to pray?  John Piper has eloquently stated,

“One of the great uses of Twitter and Facebook will be to prove at the last day that prayerlessness was not from a lack of time.”

– John Piper

What do you value?  Is Jesus and His Word saturating your heart such that everything that comes out is glorifying to Him and edifying to one another?  Can you confidently say that you are eating, drinking, speaking, resting and playing by faith and to the glory of God?  Your mouth is praising something today, what is it?

 

When you don’t know what to say.

public speaking

How do you feel about public speaking?  My full time job is managing up to 100 volunteers at a time, I have spoken and taught in front of thousands, and for some reason getting up in front of people is no big deal to me.  My husband, however, feels the exact opposite.  He is the outgoing, social butterfly of the two of us, but anytime there are more than eight or so people gathered, he gets uncomfortable.  If I were going to share the Gospel, I would prefer a crowd.  He would prefer one-on-one.  God truly makes unique individuals!

Interestingly enough, we both have comfort zones – specifically in sharing our personal faith – and we both feel uncomfortable when out of them.  I get so nervous anytime I get the opportunity to share the Gospel one-on-one, but share it twice a day with fifty people at a time.  He would rather do anything else than speak to a large group, but he is quite possibly the most bold person I know in small settings.

What is your comfort zone?  And what is your go-to excuse when trying to stay in it?  Do you remember Moses?  His mother spared his life when the Egyptians were forcing all male babies to be murdered (an his brother’s as well), but when she could not hide him anymore, she put him in a basket and Pharaoh’s daughter found him and raised him as her own.  He knew he was a Hebrew, he killed an Egyptian for abusing Hebrews and then fled for his life when the matter became known.  While he was in hiding, 40 years later, God came and called him to be His mouthpiece and point person in dealing with Pharaoh.  God had a plan:  He wanted to exemplify His power through plagues and signs, and after killing Pharaoh’s eldest son, the Hebrew people would be released from Egypt.

God told Moses all of this before he ever stepped foot on Egyptian land.  Even so, after seeing the burning bush, after witnessing the first three miracles, and after speaking to God face to face, Moses objected:

Then Moses said to the Lord, “Please, Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither recently nor in time past, nor since You have spoken to Your servant; for I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.”

– Ex 4.10

Three times Moses objected.  God’s response is beautiful:

The Lord said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth?  Or who makes him mute or deaf, or seeing or blind?  Is it not I, the Lord?  Now then go, and I, even I, will be with your mouth, and teach you what you are to say.”

– Ex 4.11-12

God began with an assertion of His power and sovereignty.  He Himself created man’s mouth.  We each only have mouths and tools for communication because God gave them to us.  He also is sovereign over the ability to speak and the ability to see.  He enables us to utilize our mouths and eyes.  Therefore, since He is the one who created mouths, since He is the one who is sovereign over mankind’s ability to speak, Moses should submit to Him.  And not only that, but He promised to give Moses the very words.  He should also trust God.  Obedience and Faith, in perfect harmony.

Moses, however, still refused:

But he said, “Please, Lord, now send the message by whomever You will.”

– Ex 4.13

Do you know what the result was?  God became angry at Moses.

“Then the anger of the Lord burned against Moses, and He said, ‘Is there not your brother Aaron the Levite? I know thathe speaks fluently. And moreover, behold, he is coming out to meet you; when he sees you, he will be glad in his heart.  You are to speak to him and put the words in his mouth; and I, even I, will be with your mouth and his mouth, and I will teach you what you are to do.  Moreover, he shall speak for you to the people; and he will be as a mouth for you and you will be as God to him.'”

– Ex 4.14-16

God was angry at Moses, and gave Moses what he wanted – but Moses was the one who suffered for it.  God still chose to use him, and he is still known as a great patriarch, but Aaron got half of the role.  He was the point person to Pharaoh and the Hebrew people.  His staff is the one that was forever saved in the Ark of the Covenant.

Moses considered himself slow and not eloquent of speech.  He did not want to get up in front of Pharaoh or in front of a crowd, even though God promised to give him the very words he would speak, and He gave him the power to work miracles.  Do you think you would be willing to get out of your comfort zone if you could turn your cane into a snake?  Or turn water into blood?  I would think that power would enforce a sense of authority, but I don’t mind public speaking.

This might sound like an interesting story, but what is the application for us?  Thankfully, Jesus gives the same promise to the disciples, church and us when we are in our moment of persecution and need:

“But beware of men, for they will hand you over to the courts and scourge you in their synagogues; and you will even be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles.  But when they hand you over, do not worry about how or what you are to say; for it will be given you in that hour what you are to say.  For it is not you who speak, but it is the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you.”

– Matt 10.17-20

Not only does Jesus promise to tell us that we will have the words, He promises that the Holy Spirit will speak through us in those moments.  He will bring thoughts and verses to mind that we never expected.  He will give us the wisdom in those moments.

The other application is terrifying.  God set Moses apart for a wonderful task, and he rejected it, in part.  God got angry at him, and went about His plan without Moses in that role.  The take home is simple:  God’s plan will not be thwarted.  We can go deeper into the intricacies of God’s sovereign knowledge of our refusal and the fact that He already knew Aaron would be the mouthpiece, but Moses’ refusal still resulted in his missing out.

God is going to take His Gospel to every people group in the world.  He has commanded us all to go, and be a part of it.  If we refuse to go, He will accomplish His goal without us, but we will miss out on the blessing, and not only that but when we stand before Him we will have to give an account for our disobedience.  Are you prepared to give your excuse?

God will ask us to do things that are outside of our comfort zone.  He will ask me to share the Gospel with people in one-on-one settings.  He will ask my husband to speak up in a big group setting.  He will take us across the street, across the city, maybe even across the world.  But He will always go with us, He will never forsake us, and He will give us the words to say through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit who indwells us.

So let’s trust Him today.  When you find yourself in a conversation or situation that is outside of your comfort zone, say a prayer.  Ask the Holy Spirit to speak through you.  And trust God to get you through that uncomfortable situation.  You may never adapt to like or enjoy those types of situations.  You may still get nervous every. single. time.  But thankfully, we can rely on the promise that God will do the work through us, and He will bring about the fruit.  All we have to do is obey and have faith!

“I kept you from sinning…”

ethics

Being finite and confined to our own, physical bodies, it is very often difficult for us – especially self-centered westerners – to consider powers outside of ourselves, and greater than ourselves, greatly impacting our lives.  I vividly remember my high school freshman AP English class entering the discussion of destiny:  is there such a thing?  Are we in control of it?  And that conversation quickly turned to the issue of morality:  would we know right and wrong if it weren’t for laws and rules?  We were essentially discussing the existence and power of God without bringing His name into it.

Interestingly enough, however, those who believed in destiny were the more free-thinking artistic type, while those who did not were more of the scientific, right-brained persuasion.  However one such guy, who is now a pharmacist, made the statement:  “I think if I killed my friend and there was no law against it, I would at the very least feel sad that he was gone, and recognize that I had done something bad”.  This conversation has remained in my mind as I have grown Spiritually through the years.  I am a bit more right brained, and without the direction of Scripture, I would naturally like to believe that I am in control and make my own destiny.  But when we truly consider our limited nature, it is the greatest blessing to have Scripture teach and guide us.

The book of Romans beautifully teaches us that we are given the Law of God so that we may know sin (Rom 7.7).  When Adam and Eve were first placed in the Garden of Eden, they had not yet sinned and therefore had no experiential knowledge of it.  They were still innocent and thus could walk in the presence of God.  God did, however, give them a commandment and consequence for breaking that commandment – thus they had an intellectual knowledge of sin.  They knew disobedience was an option, and its result if they did it.  The law gave them knowledge of sin.

Romans also teaches us that God has written His Law on our hearts to the extent that we have consciences and feel guilty when we do something that is morally wrong.

“For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them, on the day when, according to my gospel, God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus.”

– Rom 2.14-16

So my non-believing, scientifically minded friend recognized this God-given attribute of a conscience, which is founded on God’s perfect law.

We also see beautifully in Scripture that God is the beginning and the end.  He wrote the entire story of history before He even created the world, prophesying Jesus at the very moment Adam and Eve sinned.  Because of this sovereignty we can believe promises like Rom 8.28 which states that “all things work together for good for those that love God”.  If God were not sovereign and in control of the universe, then He cannot guarantee that everything will work together for good.  He is just a piece of the puzzle watching and waiting to see what happens next.

What, then, when someone puts us in an impossible situation?  Will we ever be tempted or able to turn back and blame God for our actions and sin?

While God is sovereign over every situation, and while He uses sin as a part of His plan and will, we still make that decision to sin in our minds and will still give an account.  It was God’s sovereign plan from the beginning to offer Jesus as our atoning sacrifice, and yet those who actually murdered Jesus will be held responsible for their actions and sin.  It was prophesied and God’s perfect plan that Jesus would be betrayed by one of His close friends, and Judas is still responsible and guilty for that sin.  As Joseph said, “what you meant for evil, God meant for good” (Gen 50.20).

God does promise, however, that with every temptation there will be provided an escape.

“No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.”

– 1 Cor 10.13

I once was in a situation where the local police were looking for some Christians because they had been talking about Jesus and seeing people saved (this was illegal in that country), so I and some friends were helping to hide them until they could leave the region.  Their car was in my back yard, but they kept moving from friends’ house to friends’ house.  The police came and asked if we knew where they were.   We were honestly able to answer, “no”.  They did not ask any probing questions, they did not ask if we had seen them, God oversaw the situation such that they asked the only question we could answer without lying and without endangering the lives of our friends.

Whatever temptation comes your way, enticing you to sin, God has promised a way of escape.

Not only that, we also see a beautiful example of God protecting a king from unknowingly sinning:

“Abraham said of Sarah his wife, “She is my sister.” So Abimelech king of Gerar sent and took Sarah.  But God came to Abimelech in a dream of the night, and said to him, “Behold, you are a dead man because of the woman whom you have taken, for she is married.”  Now Abimelech had not come near her; and he said, “Lord, will You slay a nation, even though blameless?  Did he not himself say to me, ‘She is my sister’? And she herself said, ‘He is my brother.’ In the integrity of my heart and the innocence of my hands I have done this.”  Then God said to him in the dream, “Yes, I know that in the integrity of your heart you have done this, and I also kept you from sinning against Me; therefore I did not let you touch her.”

– Gen 20.2-6

Abimelech was the king, so it is not only possible but likely that he had multiple wives.  But even so, consider taking a wife and not being with her intimately that same day!  He was exercising his rights as king, he considered Sarah beautiful and so he took her to be his wife without the knowledge that she was married, but believing the lie that she was not!  Therefore, God kept him from sinning.

I am not promising that there will never be a time when you sin based on incorrect knowledge or the sin of someone else.  But we do see that God is concerned about our holiness so much so that He promises to always provide an alternative to sinning, and there are times when He will intervene and keep us from sinning when we are unaware.

We do all have a God-given conscience by which we recognize sin, and there is a destiny.  God has written the story of our lives, and He will cause all things to work together for good for those who love Him.  He will intervene in our lives and provide us ways to escape temptation and sin, and He will intervene in our lives in ways that we may never know – to direct us down a path, to keep us from sinning, or to bring glory to Him in any number of ways.  So let us trust Him today.  Let us praise Him for our salvation and the provisions thus far, and let us continue to trust in Him and follow Him diligently until we get to meet Him face to face.

Is anything too difficult for the Lord?

difficult

As Christians, we believe that God is sovereign, and Lord over the universe.  We comfort ourselves with promises like Rom 8:28, that “all things work together for good for those who love God”, and we regularly [mis]quote verses like Phil 4.13 when getting ready to set out a new adventure:

“I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”

We know that nothing is too difficult for God.  He created the entire universe by commanding the occurrence.  He has defeated armies, He has stopped the sun, and He parted the Red Sea for the Israelites to pass through on dry land.  I find it very interesting, too, that many of the patriarchs had wives who were barren.  Abraham was married to Sarah who was barren.  His son Isaac married Rebekah who was barren.  And Isaac’s son Jacob married Rachel who was barren!

God, however, touched all three women and gave them children.  The crazy part about these stories, however, is that Sarah was 90 years old when she had Isaac (Scripture even says she was “beyond child bearing”).  Rebekah was approximately 72 years old when she had Jacob and Esau, having been barren for 20 years, and Rachel was 36 years old when she gave birth to Joseph, after being barren for 14 years.

Yes, Sarah was by far the most dramatic example of God’s sovereignty and hand in “unnatural” childbirth, but even Rachel was barren for 14 years.  Anyone nowadays who has struggled with infertility would have most likely adopted or given up the dream of a family after a few years, let alone fourteen!

But when the Lord was appearing to Abraham and Sarah and promising a child, both of them laughed.  It seemed the impossible when He made the final promise that within the year Sarah would have a baby, and they were 99 and 89 years old.  His response is simple and profound:

“Is anything too difficult for the Lord? At the appointed time I will return to you, at this time next year, and Sarah will have a son.”

– Gen 18.14

Is anything too difficult for the Lord?  We have heard the Bible stories often enough that we mentally assent that God can defeat a giant with a single stone.  He can bring plagues on Egypt when they disobey His command.  He can raise people from the dead.  But how often do we think of Him as having intercessory power over infertility or a job search?  What are the things for which we long the most, or over which we stress?

Job hunts tend to be intense.  We compromise what we want and desire because we need something to pay the bills, and then when we are in our new roles we tend to be unsatisfied and longing/looking for something more.

Unexpected bills and budgets can leave us fretting, when the bank account just cannot keep up with the Jones, or the medical bills rolling in.

Failing health can cause immeasurable stress.  Many of us live for years with a sense of invincibility but then they find cancer, a blood disorder or a heart disease and we are suddenly left facing the reality of death and our inability to live forever.

Nothing is too difficult for the Lord.  He can put us in the most impossible situations and provide a miraculous escape.  He can leave us wanting and pursuing something that He will only fulfill after a seeming eternity of effort.

God has reasons for all of these trials, and we know that they will work out for our maturity and good, and also for His glory.

God never promises to give us everything that we want and that we ask for.  He does, however, promise to meet those needs He sees – which will lead to our good and His glory.  Sometimes that will mean providing and preforming the impossible!

There is nothing too difficult for God.

Always Learning but never gaining knowledge.

books

When I was in High School, I went to a big church that was exceptionally good at events.  Like many of the big, evangelical churches in the late 90’s, early 2000’s, we began to see that while we were successfully drawing in people (namely, students), we were failing to truly introduce them to Jesus, and discipleship was not happening.  Thus, many youth and adults who once attended church for the entertainment factor have fallen away.  The church was large enough that we put on our own summer camp.  Hundreds of students, a big stage, a cool band, a dynamic speaker, you know…the cool stuff.  Students would make an emotional decision to follow Jesus, but then continue living worldly lives with no accountability or training.  While I was in High School, we began the transition away from events and to cell groups.  Remember those?  The first small groups.  Unfortunately, they were still age-segregated and thus we had students teaching students.  As it proved later, non-Christians teaching non-Christians about the Bible.

At the time, my faith was extremely academic.  I loved the Bible, I loved theology, I loved to study.  Seeing a youth group full of people who did not know Jesus, but pretended to, I grew frustrated with the Church and developed a circle of friends from high school who were the philosophical type.  We took the world religions classes, we would discuss Nietzsche, the meaning of life, and sit up drinking coffee at Perkins until 2:00 am.  I was the only professing Christian in the core group, but we all had a respect for one another and would listen attentively and critically to push one another to think more deeply.  We were those kids.

The day I arrived home from my sophomore year of college, I received news that one of these friends had been killed in the war.  My world was shaken, and my faith rocked.  Jesus hung out with the sinners, right?  I was hanging out and preaching the Gospel to nonbelievers.  I wanted him to believe.  I had prayed for him.  I wrote him letters on while he was fighting for our country.  How could his salvation not be what God wanted?

Throughout the next year as I wrestled with the eternal facets of the faith and the implications thereof, God helped me to fall in love with the Church.  In short He said, I love and died for my bride.  You are called to do the same.  Not only that, He showed me that philosophy is vain, if we are not being transformed into the image of Christ or winning others to the faith.

“See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ.”

– Col 2.8

For us, the meaning of life and whether or not the physical world truly existed was an interesting mental exercise.  Sure, I kept the ten commandments as best I could, I didn’t smoke or drink or sleep around, but theology and the Bible was so interesting to me that it engaged my mind without engaging my affections.  I wanted to see how all the pieces fit together, but was not falling more in love with Jesus in response.  We were thinkers.  We were philosophers.  We were “seekers”.

“But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come.  For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these.
For among them are those who enter into households and captivate weak women weighed down with sins, led on by various impulses, always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.”

– 2 Tim 3.1-7

Many churches in those days developed programs, and some even turned their entire focus to seekers.  “Seeker Sensitive” became the new hot word which some despised and some embraced as gospel truth.  We no longer used “church-ese” language, so that outsiders can understand.  We keep our preaching simple to engage a potential visitors, and our focus is on those who might show up and not know what is going on.

While that mentality is completely unbiblical, it also proved to be unfruitful.  Why?  Because many “seekers” are those academics who enjoy the mental discipline of examining theories and worldviews, but will never take a stand and choose one.  They are “always learning, but never able to come to the knowledge of truth”.  And most seekers do not show up to church on their own.  If they do, they enjoy the simplistic preaching and people are not growing.  It is the same problem as the event-driven church: no disciples are made.

Paul warned us that this day was coming.  It has been happening throughout history.  William Wilberforce fought against it in the early 19th century.  Ryle and Spurgeon fought against it at the end of the 19th Century.  Jonathan Edwards and the puritans fought against it during the birth and growth of modern philosophy in the 17th and 18th centuries…academic philosophers questioning the nature of reality but never encountering Jesus in a life-transforming way.

Paul teaches us not to rearrange our churches to cater to seekers.  Quite the opposite, in fact, he warns us to avoid such people.

Now, I know that sounds harsh.  God is love, and He would reject no one, and if we are supposed to be like Him, we should love everyone and not reject anyone either.  Right?  There are people that we are commanded to avoid and disassociate with, and they are those who have heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ and reject it or continue in sin, rejecting God’s teaching on their sin.

“Whoever does not receive you, nor heed your words, as you go out of that house or that city, shake the dust off your feet.

– Matt 10.14

“If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother.  But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every fact may be confirmed.  If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.”

– Matt 18.15-17

“It is actually reported that there is immorality among you, and immorality of such a kind as does not exist even among the Gentiles, that someone has his father’s wife.  You have become arrogant and have not mourned instead, so that the one who had done this deed would be removed from your midst.  For I, on my part, though absent in body but present in spirit, have already judged him who has so committed this, as though I were present.  In the name of our Lord Jesus, when you are assembled, and I with you in spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus, I have decided to deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of his flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.”

– 1 Cor 5.1-5

Avoid such men as these.”

– 2 Tim 3.5

“Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from every brother who leads an unruly life and not according to the tradition which you received from us…If anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter, take special note of that person and do not associate with him, so that he will be put to shame.”

2 Thess 3.5, 14

We are too afraid to offend anyone these days, that we will not call a spade a spade.  We are too afraid to stand up against sin that we allow it in the camp and it destroys us from the inside out.  The early church took sin extremely seriously because they were running for their lives and depending on one another for accountability and livelihoods.  Church was serious.  Now, church is like a big club that we want everyone to join, and showing up on Sunday mornings is enough for us.  The early church also understood their guilt before a righteous God and the due penalty for that guilt, thus they took their personal holiness seriously, learning to live holy and righteous lives through the power of the Holy Spirit and dying to the flesh.  Nowadays we trivialize sin and believe that God will forgive us no matter what we do, because God is love.

Paul gives us the clearest instruction for how we are to respond:

“I wrote you in my letter not to associate with immoral people; I did not at all mean with the immoral people of this world, or with the covetous and swindlers, or with idolaters, for then you would have to go out of the world.  But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler—not even to eat with such a one.  For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the church?  But those who are outside, God judges. Remove the wicked man from among yourselves.

– 1 Cor 5.9-15

A person who claims to be a believer yet continues is sin is dangerous and we are disassociate with them.  Period.  A person who hears the Gospel and rejects it is not of us, and we are to move on, and take no offense.  We do not cater to seekers who are always learning but unable to come to knowledge.  We do not cater to nonbelievers who might stumble in our doors.  We go out and proclaim the Gospel where people are, and then welcome them in to begin the process of maturation and growth.

Do you have the knowledge of Jesus Christ?  Do you interact with Him on a daily basis and abide in Him?  Do you rely on Him for strength and sustenance?  Doe the Holy Spirit guide you and convict you of sin?  Or are you just an academic seeker?  Do you entertain the various philosophies out there to expand your mind?

Avoid the temptation.  God has given us clear truth and answers to the questions we have.  Let’s find the answers and be satisfied, not continually seeking, and not continually engaging those who hear the truth but do not receive it.  Let us keep precious our pearls and not throw them before swine.  It is a sensitive balance that we do not write off unbelievers, we pray for them, we engage them, but we must beware to invest too much time in one who will never learn and thus not have the opportunity to reap the harvest that is ready.  Let us pray for wisdom, discernment and guidance.  Let us trust God.

Why are we not going?

world

And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.  Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

– Matt 28.18-20

Few people would argue with the Great Commission of Jesus Christ, calling us to go make disciples of all the nations.  But in response to the call, how often have you heard [or said] the sentiment, “There is so much work to be done here in the United States”.  I live in a city – Denver, CO – that many would call a mission city, a largely unchurched city.  I drive through an urban section of town to get to work, and on my four mile commute I pass no less than six churches.  I know of quite a few mega churches in the city, running multiple thousands of people every weekend, as well as a dynamic Acts 29 planting network in the city, as well as many, many long-time established churches.  My husband and I bought a house and had to furnish it, and we bought almost everything off Craig’s List.  Of the countless home visits we made to check out and buy furniture, lamps and everything we needed, we met only one non-Christian.  I guess it is possible that only Christians use Craig’s List…

Statistics and numbers are lost on us.  We hear them all the time, and it is nearly impossible to grasp the magnitude of a million people verses three hundred thousand.  Our views are limited, our perspectives skewed, and we tend to care about those things that are in front of us and which we have experienced.  Just for the sake of reciting the numbers again, however, here they are.

It is estimated that there are 7.4 billion people in the world.  There are slightly more than 321 million people in the United States.  Within the United, we are 77.3% professing Christian.  That means that three out of every four people is at least professing Christ.  And we make up roughly 4.3% of the world’s population.

There are 16,324 distinct people groups – marked by a unique language and culture by country.  Of those people groups, 6,573 are considered unreached.  This means that less than 2% of their populations are Christian.  Those peoples make up 3.067 billion people.  Almost half of the world’s population lives amongst a people and nation where they will not rub shoulders with Christians, or ever hear the Gospel and hope of Jesus Christ.  Of those unreached people groups, there are 3,136 that are completely unengaged, with a population of 201 million.  This means that there is no Christian presence among the people – no Church, no missionary, no radio broadcast, no way that these people will ever stumble upon or be able to seek out the Gospel.

To give a little perspective, that means that the equivalence of nearly 2/3 of the population of the United States has absolutely no access to the Gospel.  9.6 times the population of the United States lives in a nation that has less than 2% Christian presence and will likely never run into a Christian.

And yet, three out of every four people in the United States is professing faith in Jesus.

It is true that we are only ever one generation away from being a lost people ourselves, but for lack of a better term, we are hoarding Christians here.

Jesus said go.  If we follow Jesus, if we obey Him, it should be the norm to go, not the norm to stay.  If you choose to not heed the calling, you better be extremely sure of God’s leading you to stay.  Many of us will be very sad when we meet Jesus and He asks us why we chose not to obey.

While Jesus was walking on the Earth and preforming His ministry, He was broken for the lostness of the people.  In His sorrow, He told the disciples,

“The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.”

– Matt 9.37

But do you know how He instructed them to pray in response?

“Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.”

– Matt 9.38

It is the Holy Spirit’s work to draw and change people.  It is our job to preach the Gospel.  Jesus looked out over the lost people and stated that there are many in whom the Spirit is working and who are ready to believe.  Therefore, it is not our responsibility to pray to God for the lost people, but to pray to God and petition Him to send more workers into the field!  The harvest is ripe, the need is farmers who will start reaping!

Almost in the same breath, Jesus then turns around and sends the disciples out:

“Jesus summoned His twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every kind of disease and every kind of sickness…These twelve Jesus sent out after instructing them…”

– Matt 10.1, 5

Jesus saw the reality.  He was broken over it.  He taught the disciples to turn to God to pray for the workers, and then He sent them out.  It will happen that as we pray for the world and develop both an eternal and broader worldview that we will no longer be satisfied with the status quo.  We will go.  And we will not go, just to go.  We will go and be obedient to preach the Gospel and make disciples of all the nations.

Let’s stop hoarding Christians.  Let’s stop making ourselves comfortable.  Let’s get busy about obedience.  Let’s get busy about reaping the harvest that Jesus says is ready!

7,400,000,000 people in the world
3,067,000,000 people have little/no access to the Gospel (41.4% of the world)
201,000,000 people have absolutely no chance of hearing the Gospel (2.7% of the world)
248,133,000 number of professing Christians in the United States