Christianity 201

November 2, 2018

Sin Makes People Stupid

Today and tomorrow we return to Canadian devotional writer Elsie Montgomery at Practical Faith. Yes, her writing is such a good fit here that I’m taking the liberty of ‘borrowing’ two different posts, two days in a row. Click the title to read at source.

Learning from history . . .

Which one is the wiser statement: “Study the past if you would define the future.” (Confucius) or “Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it.” (Edmund Burke)

Our ‘home group’ is studying the kings of Israel. I came away with one question. They recorded the activities and outcomes of their kings. Clearly, those who followed God prospered and those who did not did not. Each one of them made their own decisions. If they knew the historical patterns, why would any of them choose to worship idols and disobey God? These ‘evil’ kings knew yet repeated the past. It seems all they learned from any study of the past was how to replicate it in their own lives.

My conclusion may come across as crude, but it seems that sin tends to make people stupid. As we discussed this during the Bible study, we agreed that the laws of God are true and He never changes, but even the good kings occasionally pushed against the boundaries and got themselves into trouble. That is, we are doomed to repeat history even when we know it, and unless God intervenes, the past cannot help but define the future.

“Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:7–9)

This is a spiritual law that could be called cause and effect. It is illustrated in the physical realm of agriculture. If I plant a carrot seed, I will get carrots, not peas or corn. In my spiritual life, if I plan, plant and spend my energies in activities that are self-focused and driven by my old nature, I will reap a spiritually dead crop that amounts to nothing of eternal value. If I live according to the Spirit, the results will last forever.

The ‘evil’ kings were all about power and doing their own thing. They were not measured as evil by their building programs, achievements, battles, etc. but by their response or lack of response to God. The good kings were also not measured by any accomplishments as we might measure our leaders. They were measured by their faithfulness to God and His commands.

I look back at my own history and cannot make an accurate list of “this I did for God” and “this was fleshy junk.” However, I know both will be determined at the bema judgment seat of Christ:

“According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.” (1 Corinthians 3:10–15)

Because of Jesus Christ, my eternal destiny is not shaped by mistakes or rebellion, but by faith in Him. What is affected by the law of cause/effect is eternal rewards. Some of life’s efforts will go up in smoke while some will shine like gold.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, Your Word motivates me to think about motivation and about the power behind everything on my to-do list. Some of it is obviously useless. Open my eyes and keep them open to see and obey the Holy Spirit that the resulting work not only pleases You but will pass that final test.

May 24, 2016

The Gift of Evangelism

EvangelismWe all know that The Great Commission is a call to evangelism, but many prefer to think in terms of the gift of Evangelism, which affords the opportunity to say, “I don’t have that gift.” If we’re all called to “Go and tell” then why is evangelism listed among gifts that not all possess?

Let’s begin at the website Spiritual Gifts Test:

All Christians are called to evangelize and reach out to the lost with the Gospel (Matthew 28:18-20), but some are given an extra measure of faith and effectiveness in this area.  The spiritual gift of evangelism is found in Ephesians 4:11-12 where Paul says that Jesus “gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.”  The Greek word for evangelists is Euaggelistes which means “one who brings good news.”  This word is only found two other places in the New Testament: Acts 21:8 and 2 Timothy 4:5.

Evangelists are given the unique ability by the Holy Spirit to clearly and effectively communicate the Gospel of Jesus Christ to others.  They are burdened in their hearts for the lost and will go out of their way to share the truth with them.  Evangelists are able to overcome the normal fear of rejection and engage non-believers in meaningful conversations about Jesus.  Their gift allows them to communicate with all types of people and therefore they receive a greater response to the message of salvation through Jesus Christ.  They continually seek out relationships with those who don’t know Jesus and are open to the leading of the Holy Spirit to approach different people.  They love giving free treasure away for Jesus (2 Corinthians 4:7), and it brings them great joy knowing that the “feet that bring good news” are beautiful to those who believe (Isaiah 52:7).  See Ephesians 4:11, Acts 8:5-12, 26-40, 21:8, Matthew 28:18-20.

We continue at Biblical Studies:

…In the early church, the evangelists were considered the successors of the apostles. They did not think that evangelists were the same as the apostles but merely that they continued the apostles’ ministry.

The term in the Greek is related to the word “gospel.” The euangelion is the “gospel,” or the “good news.” Euangelizo (the verb form) means to announce the gospel, “to evangelize.” The euangelistes is “the one who evangelizes,” or the “evangelist.”

The term “evangelist” occurs only three times in the New Testament, none of which actually define what an evangelist is. Acts 21:8 simply tells us that Philip was an evangelist; Ephesians 4:11 teaches that evangelists are gifts to the church; and II Timothy 4:5 commands Timothy to do the work of an evangelist.

Pulling together the information available from these verses, we can come to an understanding of the term. The word itself, we know, means to announce the good news, to evangelize. Ephesians 4:11-12 teaches that the evangelist is for the purpose of equipping the saints to the work of the ministry to the edifying of the body of Christ. And with the ministry of Philip recorded in Acts 8, we have an example of what an evangelist is and does. An evangelist, then, is one who is especially effective in presenting the message of the gospel to the lost and instructing believers in the faith. His ministry is an itinerant one, ministering to believers and unbelievers alike in various locations. He is not one who announces new truth — that is a prophet. But he is one who announces truth. It seems that the New Testament evangelist more closely resembles our present day missionary. He brings the good news to an unevangelized community, disciples, establishes a church, and moves on. Our present day evangelists, as we have known them since the days of Wesley and Whitefield with their itinerant ministries, whose ministries are extremely valuable to our churches, do properly wear the title “evangelist,” but the evangelist of the New Testament, it seems from the example of Philip, had a broader work.

For a third perspective on this, I wanted to go to the site Lay Evangelism, but the article was too long here to print in full. (I hope you’ll click the link.) I did want to make sure you didn’t miss something that appears later on, regarding the difference between sowing and reaping.

… Other Christians pose the argument this way, they will say, “In our Church we feel that Evangelizing our community at this time is not right. Our community is not ripe yet for Evangelism.” What does Jesus and the leading of the Holy Spirit through the writer John say about this argument? Jesus said,

John 4:35-38 “Do you not say, “There are yet four months, and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you lift up your eyes and look on the fields, that they are white for harvest. Already he who Reaps is receiving wages, and is gathering fruit for life eternal; that he who Sows and he who Reaps may rejoice together. For in this case the saying is true, ‘One Sows, and another Reaps.’

evangelism quoteJesus asks us in this passage, “Are you saying you need to wait until your community is ripe? You are wrong. I say to you look out on your community and see that it is ripe for Evangelism now!” To help the reader, Jesus goes on to explain what he means by Evangelism and ripe for Evangelism. He explains that not all Christians are called to be Reapers but all Christians are called to be Sowers.

What is the difference between a Sower and a Reaper? In farming terms, the Sower is the farmer. The farmer goes out and plants the seed, waters and fertilizes the ground and weeds the ground. Who does the reaping? Hired labor. Is not an Evangelist someone who is hired to Reap where he did not Sow? Your community may not always be ready for an anointed Evangelist, but your community is always ripe to be Evangelized. Not all Christians are called to be Evangelists, but all Christians are called to do Evangelism. If you are not called specifically to be an Evangelist, you along with all other Christians are called to do Evangelism. You are called to be a farmer. You are called to Sow, water, fertilize and weed. You are called to go and plant the seed of the Word into the hearts of men. You are called to prepare the ground for the Evangelist. The command to do this has already been given. You do not need to wait for the leading of the Holy Spirit. Jesus has commanded you and I to GO THEREFORE! Behold the fields are WHITE for harvest!

Part of the problem of getting Christians involved in aggressive Evangelism is that unless they can be guaranteed to reap a harvest every time they go out, they get discouraged and won’t continue. That would be like a farmer saying that unless he can have a harvest now, he won’t sow seed, water, fertilize and weed his field. If the farmer refused to sow seed and then water, fertilize and weed his field, there would never be a crop for the Reapers to harvest. If Christians do not Sow the seed of the Word and then water, fertilize and weed the field, there won’t be a harvest when the Reaper comes. Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes 11:4 “He who watches the wind will not sow and he who looks at the clouds will not reap.” …

(Again, here is the link for the article Evangelism is Not a Spiritual Gift.)

April 5, 2013

White Harvest: What Jesus Did and Didn’t Say

This is Post # 1100 at Christianity 201 !

Exactly two months ago we introduced the writing of Darrell Creswell. Today I discovered that I had an earlier post by him — written in January — which never ran here, and I thought this would be a good day. As always, you’re encouraged to read C201 posts at their original sources; for this one click here.

The harvest field belongs to God, not to you and me. He is “the Lord of the harvest”, but we are the workers and co-laborers of the Lord. He has prepared the way for us to an abundant harvest and fruitful production in our lives.

The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest . . . to send out workers into his harvest field” Matthew.9:37-38.

God has removed the chains of the curse of sin that had weighed upon the backs of mankind since Adam fell in the garden. The weight of sin that the world had to bear has been removed once and for all by the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ on Calvary. All of humanity was lost, burdened by the law, stuck in the sacrifice for the temporary forgiveness of sins. Jesus in His love, with His life gave us the ultimate gift to permanently removed sin’s stain as He bore the sins of the world as he was nailed to the cross.

Before the advent of salvation we were compelled to obey God’s law, and forgiveness was given only by animal blood sacrifice for breaking that law. Thank God we are now free in Christ Jesus, saved by the sacrifice of our Lord on the cross that issued in a new age of forgiveness called Grace. This Grace in Christ Jesus has given us the freedom from sin, and the freedom to have a personal relationship with Him.

Since that dark yet luminous day on the hill of Golgotha over 2000 years ago, God has increasingly given us more in Christ.  In just the last 100 years He has overwhelmed the world with technology and innovation. The current age in which we live is blessed beyond measure in our ability to serve God, share God and learn about God.  God has done everything necessary to prepare us for an abundant and fruitful harvest.

He provided salvation where we had no hope through His Son Jesus. He provided us truth, intercession and comfort by the Holy Spirit working in our lives and dwelling in us. In these last days we have access to technology and advancement that no other age of believers has ever had.

We have His Word translated in every language in the world, and we have different translation versions of the Bible such as the KJV and the NIV. We have things that no other dispensation of believers could have even dreamed about ever had. We have Christian movies, Christian TV, Christian Radio, the lists of media goes on forever. We have podcasts, broadcast, seminars, webinars, etc.; again the list goes on and on. There are churches basically on every corner to meet whatever type of need you might have. There are more teachers, preachers, apostles, and evangelists than ever before in history.

His Word declares that He is going to pour out His Spirit upon all flesh in the last days. It is now possible for first time in history where a person can stand at a podium and speak in the name of God and at the same moment be heard instantaneously in every nation upon the earth, as it is broadcast through the millions upon millions of different avenues and venues around the world.

God has prepared His body for this time of harvest. There is a lost and dying world that needs to know and accept Jesus Christ as Lord. This last day’s harvest is ever ripe before the Church. We have been given the tools to reap the Final Harvest which will prepare the way for the coming of our Lord. There has never been another time in the history of the church that a world harvest has been possible by a worldwide connected Body of Christ.

God is the manager and overseer of the harvest. He prepared for it with Christ Jesus with a most excellent grace, instituting proper ordinances. God expects fruit from us that enjoy the privilege of salvation. We may have good purposes, but good purposes are not enough. There must be fruit from our lives as our thoughts and affections, words and actions, are in line and submissive to His Spirit. If we do not use that which God has provided for the harvest, we will bring forth bad fruit of a corrupt nature and a disobedient church.

It is sad that we see within the Body of Christ, instead of humility, meekness, love, patience, and compassion for the world, we see sinful pride, self-importance, lust, and malice, and contempt for God. Instead of praying and praising, there are loose tongues and corrupt language seen in many believers. Let us bring forth fruit with patience, that in the end we may obtain everlasting life, and reap a harvest of souls. Let us gather in the lost for the kingdom of God, as we honor the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ, that the harvest might be ripe as we utilize the tools he has given us in these last days.

Jesus tells us in John 4:35

Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest.

There will be a day when God will hold us accountable for all that He has done for us to prepare for the harvest. He wants us to utilize all that He has provided for us to reach a lost and dying world.

Luke 12:48 When someone has been given much, much will be required in return; and when someone has been entrusted with much, even more will be required.

As we labor for the Lord’s harvest there will be hard times and adversity.

Keep in mind that Jesus never promised us that

Things would always go well for us
We would never have problems and hardship
We would never be hurt or betrayed
We would never be afraid
We would never be depressed, sad or discouraged
We would never fail or make mistakes
You would never be talked about, criticized or ridiculed

But what Jesus did promise us is that

He would be with us when things are not going well

Hebrews 13:5-6 Since God assures us, “I’ll never let you down, never walk off and leave you or forsake you,” so I can boldly say, God is there, ready to help; I will not be afraid no matter what. Who or what can get to me with God at my side?

He would be with us as we face problems and hardship 

John 16:33, In this world you will have trials and tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.

He would be with us when we are hurt or betrayed

Psalms 147:3, He heals the broken in heart, and binds up their wounds.

He would be with us when we are afraid

Isaiah 41:10 Do not fear, for I am with you; do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, and surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.

He would be with us when we are depressed, sad and discouraged

Isaiah 40:31 But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.

He would be with us when we fail or make mistakes

Psalm 37:23-24 If the Lord delights in a man’s way, he makes his steps firm; though he stumbles, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand.

He would be with us when are talked about, criticized or ridiculed

2 Timothy 3:12 Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,

1 Peter 4:13 – But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when His glory is revealed.

In Christ the world still has hope regardless of what they are facing.  This world is perishing and we are the messengers of that hope. Those who belong to Christ shall never be destroyed.  Step up and out to prepare His fields of harvest, we are meant for more.