Churches need to have the faithful bringing of the Word as part of their dna. Whether it be through preaching times, bible studies, one-to-one-studies or whatever, the Word needs to be relentlessly brought into the church.
I fear though that no matter how faithfully and powerfully the Word is brought, much of the benefit is being dissipated by what people are watching, listening to and reading outside of church. The problem has always been there, but it has been exacerbated by the internet. There is now such easy access to everything and anything that people easily fall into the trap of feeding their souls on what is junk at best and poison at worse. The likes of Joel Osteen and Joyce Meyer are so pervasive online that the undiscerning so easily fall under their sway.
So what needs to be done?:
- There is the challenge of teaching about discernment.
- We have to be more open about who the false teachers are out there.
- We need to confront false teaching.
- We need to encourage the people to come and ask the shepherds what they should be listening to and watching.
- We need to confiscate everyone’s phones and computers until they have learnt that to make sure they will only listen to healthy teaching. Well perhaps that’s going to far, but I feel like doing it sometimes.
- I need to keep loving the sheep. I despair at times, but I need to keep leading them into green pastures.
(Originally published in Venabling on 25th September 2017)
To be a disciple of Jesus Christ is to be a learner and a follower of Jesus Christ. Accordingly if you are involved in discipling someone so that they are formed into being a leaner/follower of Jesus Christ there are certain things that are required:-
- An Example. You need to be displaying Christ in your life to the person you are discipling. They need to see your life so that it recommends the truth you are seeking to pass on to them.
- Teaching. There is information to pass on concerning the faith. There is also the need to provide wisdom for life.
- Consistency. Your life must match with the truth that you are passing on to the person. If not, the whole discipling process is derailed.
- Visibility. You cannot hideaway and just send podcasts to the one you are seeking to disciple.
- Goal. Your Goal is not to make a person religious. Rather, it is to see them moulded into the likeness of Christ.
- Prayer, You will need to be relentlessly praying for the working of God’s Spirit, so that spiritual, Christ-like, formation will take place.
One of the things that puts Christians off from engaging with others about that which relates the gospel of our Saviour, is the feeling that they might not be able to respond appropriately to an issue that is raised or a question asked. This applies in seeking to speak with both Christians and non-Christians.
I want to assert here that you don’t need to know all the answers to any question raised. What is most important with many people is that you are willing to speak with them. What happens when you meet with people to talk is:
- Through talking they very often are helped to resolve their own issues.
- The fact that you love them enough to give them your time can be a powerful help to the person.
- If there are issues that arise that you don’t know how to respond to then you can say to the person that you will go away and consider it.
- When you have prayed before speaking with someone, it very often happens that you are given the right word at the right time for the situation.
So please in a godly and spiritual way we need to be getting involved to speak with one another in our churches and with people outside. Our distancing ourselves from others is not good.
Are you a truth person? If you call yourself a Christian and are not a truth person then you must question yourself about whether you are a Christian or not! This is because our whole faith is a truth faith. Our God is a God of truth; He is the God who does not lie (Tit. 1:2b). He commands His people ‘You shall not give false testimony against your neighbour (Ex. 20:16). And our Saviour is of course the who is the way, the truth and the life (see John 14:6).
So let us be careful as regards to our attitude to the truth. I put it to you that we should be:
- Accurate. Our words should accurately describe what we have seen or heard.
- Clear. We should go to great lengths to make sure that our words convey the accuracy that we seek. Some of us are given to expressing ourselves more clearly than others. But all of us should strive to be clear in what we convey
- Consistent. We should be those who maintain our understanding of a situation. We should not be those who judge the truth by the face we face. What I mean is that many people fit the truth to the person they are speaking to. This is so as to be acceptable to all. Rather, the Christian should speak the truth without any thought or reference to popularity or convenience. Others are just casual and cause confusion through not being thoughtful about their accuracy and clarity. This leads to an inconsistency which us unacceptable for a Christian.
And finally remember these words from Proverbs 6:16-19:
There are six things the Lord hates,
seven that are detestable to him:
a lying tongue,
hands that shed innocent blood,
a heart that devises wicked schemes,
feet that are quick to rush into evil,
a false witness who pours out lies
and a person who stirs up conflict in the community.
I was somewhat euphoric some little while ago as regards to the outcome of a certain situation. I have pondered a little on that subsequently and wondered about what is the substance of our lives. I muse on this because if my life is based on circumstances and outcomes, and generally upon happenstances, then I am living a very precarious life. This is so because as good days come, so do bad days. There are times where all seems to flow swimmingly and there are days when everything seems to be a mess. One will make me happy and the other will make me sad.
This is really how so many people live unless they impose upon themselves some stoic indifference to circumstances. The Christian though is called to a better way; the way of the Christian is the way of faith. Whether all goes well or all goes badly, I am called to trust in the Lord. This reminds me of the incredible truth of Psalm 112:7 where we read They will have no fear of bad news; their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the Lord. Here are people who are truly living in a bigger way. This is not a detached way because there is an awareness of bad news. However, it is a more secure way because it is a way not dependent upon my circumstances. Such a way is a way of settled trust and joy. It is so because I am looking away to the God who does not change; I am looking to the One who is in control of good and bad news.
I am looking to the Lord God who is overseeing overall and as my soul is enfolded with Him by faith I am established in a settled way. This way is the mature way. It is the way of peace and hope and joy. Circumstances bring temporary hope and peace and joy. The faith way brings settled joy in God’s eternal purpose in Christ. A circumstance based Christianity is an infantile Christianity. A faith based Christianity is a mature Christianity.
So it goes like this. I continually have this thought of giving fifteen minutes to prayer before i go to bed. And yet it does not happen.
Last night was a particular example,of my foolishness in this. We had a great time at our “Prayer and the Word” time at church and I came home somewhat buoyant. I was looking forward to getting good night’s rest.
I settled to sleep and sleep decently and did so. Then at about 4.00.a.m. to 4.30.a.m. I wake up and there is this issue looming in my mind and heart. A difficulty in church which I then mull upon and seek to pray over I trust.
So from going to bed buoyant and I end up getting up somewhat dilapidated. And I’m just feeling why did not I just stop and give that time to prayer before I went to bed. That prayer time affords an opportunity to get everything in the Lord’s presence and to commit all the happenings of the day to the Lord. Then that buoyancy, last evening, might be mixed with some spiritual calmness and that is surely a better state to go to my rest.
So here goes. As I have proven to be so useless in the disciplining of myself to get that fifteen minutes of prayer, can I ask you, if you read this to challenge me on this and ask whether I have got that prayer time as part of my end-of-day schedule.
How much does the model of the experience of our Lord Jesus drive our own experience of life and ministry? I am thinking here of the process of His incarnating as God into humanity; of Him coming from a heavenly world of perpetual acceptance and honour to a world where he was despised and rejected by men.
What troubles me, and convicts me, is that I have settled for a world of acceptance and honour. I have settled for a comfortable world where I am exposed to very little despising and rejecting. I fear it is true of many of us. We convince ourselves of our faithfulness, whilst all the time existing in pleasant comfortableness. I am not saying that there is not much oppression and opposition experienced by us. Rather, I am just saying that, as Christians in the West we largely exist in comfortable environments.
I have heard recently of yet another solidly conservative evangelical church being planted in central Oxford (see here). No doubt this can be justified and will do a valuable work. But really do we need another one in central Oxford?
Now I am not here advocating that we go around being unpleasant and stirring up hostility. Peter of course warned against this. He said to his readers: But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? (1 Pet. 2:20a). Plenty have engaged in ministry work for the Lord, and on account of their experience concluded that they are being persecuted for the gospel, but have simply been persecuted because they have been a bad-mannered annoying nuisance.
Nevertheless, the world is full of the those places where it is not comfortable to go and live and serve God for the furtherance of the gospel. The UK is full of those places. yet so many of our more dangerous places are largely untouched by gospel witness. So many estates are left untouched by the gospel.
I push this post out with a great deal of hesitancy because it surely has a significant ramifications for us to take the incarnational pattern of our Lord as our pattern. To set ourselves to leave places of acceptance and honour to go to places where we are despised and rejected is costly. But it is Christlike; it is incarnational Christianity outworked.
What is the purpose of our sufferings in life? In 2 Corinthians 1:8b-9 we read the word of Paul concerning his experience in Achaia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.
Paul had gone through some really hard times, but these were not purposeless times. God was using his suffering to teach him the grand lesson that he must rely upon the Lord. This leads us into considering what it is to truly live. For so many true life is found in personal emancipation. To throw off all shackles of external control and be free to rely upon oneself and fulfill oneself is the desired goal advocated and advertised in our society.
However, this in the end produces a futile life. The true life is actually in a captive life. Life is found in a life of dependence. Of course this is not a dependence on just anyone or anything. Rather it is a dependence upon God our maker, redeemer and friend.
So we learn that God is working in all the hardships of life to teach us this lesson that we would depend upon the Lord and not ourselves.
Easy times in many ways are not the best times because they incline us to depend upon ourselves and our circumstances. When all is easy we conclude “I can handle this!” What terrible even frightening words those are.
In many ways the hard times are the best times because, when we use them well, they take us into the essence of life and that is to depend upon the Lord.
Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners (1 Tim. 1:15b). Moreover we read in Luke 15:2b the Pharisees accusatory, but gloriously true phrase, that ‘This man welcomes sinners, and eats with them.’ It is great when sinners come among us and we should be rejoicing when they come among us at church. The question comes though: how do we handle them when they do come among us?
I fear that so very often when people come among us our thought is to not to ‘gospelize’ them, but to ‘christianize’ them. What is the difference?
We gospelize people when we seek to introduce them to the great saving grace of God in Christ and His cross. We are praying for them that they will come and taste that the Lord is good. We don’t allow their awkward habits, disturbing lifestyle or morally iniquitous ways to divert us from this goal. Rather, winning them for Christ is what we are fixed on and we will not be diverted.
We christnsiaze people when we see people come among us and want to change their lifestyle because we believe it to be incompatible with our Christian ways. So for the transgender person who comes we start to engage in a rectification process so that birth sex and chosen gender cohere. and as for the couple engaging in fornication we counsel them to purer ways.
When we christianize and don’t gospelize we are putting the cart before the horse. The horse is conversion, the cart is a godly life.
I have written about this before here. We should be welcoming people relentlessly, but our welcome should be a gospel welcome.
It is one of my great longings that the people of God should be listening to and watching good up-building material. I am so disturbed when I hear of those connected with our church who are listening to material which is less than helpful.
So I pass on this link which provides some great things listen and watch.
May we redeem the time for the Lord and may we remember the exhortation of Jude But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life (Jude 20-21). Alas I fear many are corrupting themselves through what they are listening to rather than building themselves up.
And if you are connected to Feltham Evangelical Church and you read this please please do check with the elders about what you are listening to. Please don’t waste your time and do your soul no good through listening to not so good stuff.