Worship God Or Save Souls?

The Highest Purpose Of The Church

What is the highest purpose of the Church? Let me break it down for you— “Soteriology” is “the study of the doctrine of salvation in Jesus Christ”; and, “Doxology” is “the study of the doctrine of worship and praise.” The debate is over which is the highest purpose of the Church:  the salvation of souls; or, the worship, praise, and glory of God? Let me answer that question with another question— the question that Jesus was asked by one of the Pharisees, “Teacher, which command in the law is the greatest?” And, Jesus responded:  “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and most important command.  The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself” Matthew 22:36-39.

Nothing Higher Than Worshiping God

NOTHING is to be placed above our love, loyalty & worship of God! NOTHING! Now, for those of you fearful that I’m kicking evangelism and disciple-making to the curb, your fear is unfounded! Here’s why— because we simply cannot worship God with all our heart, soul, and mind without actively discipling the lost because that is the Commission Jesus has given the Church! And, “If you love me,” Jesus said, “You will keep my commandments.” So, the argument is not whether we disciple the lost or not! We have no option— if we love & worship God we will evangelize and disciple the lost!

It’s Really About Priorities

The debate is really about “priorities”— if we give higher preference to winning the lost than we do to love, loyalty, and the worship of God, we’re guilty of IDOLATRY! We’ve become “man-centered” rather than “God-centered.” If God Himself placed the salvation of souls above the worship of God, He would be guilty of IDOLATRY! When the worship of God is revived in the hearts of His people, God sends a “revival” to His Church! And, out of that revival, His Church becomes obedient to Jesus’ Great Commission to “Go…and make disciples of all nations. Matthew 28:18-20. God revives the hearts of His people when we worship Him with humble, repentant hearts; and, when we stand in awe of HIS beauty & great worth! John, the baptizer, had it right:  “He (Jesus) must increase & I must decrease” John 3:30.  The word “vive” means “to be alive”; so, “revive” means “to make alive again.”  Like the doctor who “revives” a clinically dead patient, God “revives” the believer who has flat-lined spiritually! And when He does, obedient disciple-making will follow.

The Holy Spirit Does The Resuscitating

Has your walk with the Lord become dormant or stagnant? Have you been lazy about your faith? Has it trickled down to your attitude toward the lost? When was the last time you gave testimony of your faith? When was the last time you were in a disciple-making relationship with someone? Have you ever discipled someone? Pray for personal revival— when God “revives” you, you’ll be engaged, once again, in worshipping Him; and, loving the lost that Jesus came to save! God is so good to start over with us! Let Him make your heart sensitive and broken once again! Let Him remove the leanness that has overrun your soul! Let Him make you painfully aware of your sin! And, then, pray that God would give you a heart for the lost! Pray that He will help you to see them the same way that He does! Pray for His help to see when He’s opened the door to a spiritual conversation! And pray for boldness to share the Gospel with them!

Gripped By God’s Greatness

The Problem With Our Sovereignty

When Adam & Eve chose to listen to the wisdom of a talking snake shortly after taking their 1st  breath— air, compliments of their Creator God, by the way— the result was more than just a severed relationship with God. It was more than getting kicked out of paradise. What the serpent offered them, in exchange for their soul, was individual self-authority; or sovereignty;— or, “godlikeness”— without the Power of God! The Power of God, necessary to carry out individual sovereignty, was NOT the serpent’s to give!

Satan’s Counterfeit

So, they chose to accept Satan’s counterfeit offer “to be LIKE god.” But without the “Power of God,” all they could make was a decision to disobey.  So, that sinful decision to “be like god” was hard-wired into every individual through Adam & Eve’s original sin.  We’re all born into the world “acting” like we believe we’re “God”; and, growing up with this false sense of “individual sovereignty” without the “Power Of God” to back it up! The result is what some people call a “god complex”— it’s in our DNA. We’re self-deluded from birth! We’re arrogant! We think we’re infallible! We seek to control our environment from the moment we’re aware of it!

Silly Things People Say

It doesn’t help that we have parents; or, other people in our lives, who say silly things to us like: “You can do anything you put your mind to!” Really? So, I started putting my mind to it— I was going to be 6’ tall and play basketball in the NBA! I was going to be valedictorian in my class! I was going to become independently wealthy! Guess what! I’ve never been any of those things! The text in Genesis also says that when Eve looked at the fruit, that, “…it was desirable to make one wise…” she also bought into the lie of self-sufficiency— that we can follow our own wisdom; that we don’t need God. We just need to “listen to our heart.”

Our Heart Is Deceitful

But, God says our heart is “…deceitful and desperately wicked. No one can know it…” (Jeremiah 17:9) It’s not until God lets us “crash & burn” a few times that we begin to realize we’ve been duped; and, with the Holy Spirit’s help, the Gospel begins to make sense to us! Hey! We’re NOT in control! We’re out of control! We’re broken; and, we need a Savior because we can’t save ourselves! Jesus became that Savior through His work on the cross! And, He saves us from ourselves— from our “god complex”! Then the Holy Spirit moves in & begins to “reprogram” us; so, we start to look more like Jesus! Let us be gripped, Church, by the greatness of our God!

Above and Beyond

In Ephesians 3:20, the Apostle Paul encouraged the Church of Ephesus with these words: “Now to Him who is able to do above and beyond all that we ask or think according to the power that works in us.” God can do more than we could ever ask or think because His Spirit indwells us! It’s not about US! It’s about the BIG GOD who indwells us! That’s where the power is! If our ministry is not about Him & His glory our efforts are futile! “Self-Reliance” and “self-sufficiency” are such subtle sins! They constantly slip into our lives and sabotage our ministry efforts! Let us humble ourselves before Him— let us agree with John the Baptizer when He said of Jesus: “He must increase; and, I must decrease!”  Dear God… bring revival to your church! Change our hearts! Make us so dependent on you that we bathe every decision in submissive prayer, seeking God’s wisdom over our own!

Fishing For People

I Will Make You Fish For People

Growing up in central Wisconsin, fishing was a routine part of my life for me. Our property bordered a river we frequently fished; and, a great fishing lake was only 15 minutes away. It was not uncommon for us to catch 20-30 fish in one evening. But, when my young bride and I moved to Colorado in 1984, fishing became a frustration for me. Catching Brook Trout in Colorado was a lot more difficult than catching bass and crappies in Wisconsin! It was work! You had to sneak up on them! If they spotted you, on shore, they’d go into a crazy frenzy and stir up all the dirt & sand, at the bottom of the stream, so they couldn’t be seen.  In Matthew 4:18-22 we see Jesus calling His disciples to Himself; and, because many of them were fishermen by occupation, He uses it as a metaphor when He tells them, “I will make you fish for people.”

Sneaking Up On Sinners

Now, I’m guessing that, for many of you, the whole topic of evangelism & disciple-making conjures up images of my fishing experience in Colorado— sneaking up on sinners; throwing them a line w/ some kind of “spiritual bait” on it; and, trying to hook ‘em & reel ‘em in! But, with little success to show for it,  you’ve given up; you’ve quit fishing for people; and, declared that you must not have the “gift of evangelism.” I feel your pain! I’ve been there! But, I thank God; that, over the last 20 years, He’s helped me to see the process differently. Making disciples; or, fishing for people is not about our giftedness or our clever words! It’s Jesus who has all authority over the disciple-making process— because of His person; because He is God, He carries with Him all the authority that comes with being God!

All Authority Is In Jesus

In the words leading up to His Great Commission to the Church, Jesus said, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations…” Matt. 28:18-20. When we fish for people we go, not in our own wisdom & authority; but, in the authority of God, the Son! And, we depend on the Holy Spirit to go ahead of us & lay the groundwork by “…convicting the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment…” John 16:8.  The entire process is a spiritual work that Jesus oversees! When we believe it’s up to us to “win” people to Jesus, we’ve overstepped our responsibilities! We get in the way! In John 14:6, Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” We are NOT the way to the Father! Only Jesus is the way to the Father!

What’s The Implication?

Jesus also taught that “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him” (John 6:44). It is the Holy Spirit who convicts, and the Father who draws! It’s because Jesus has all authority that He sends us by the power of His authority! We have no authority, over the disciple-making process, on our own! We “go” under the umbrella of His authority! Read Luke’s account in ch. 5:4-11 to fill in some of the details Matthew left out— when Jesus told them to cast their nets, Peter said, “…we’ve worked all night & haven’t caught a thing; but, because You told me to I’ll do it…” What happened? They caught so many fish that the nets began to tear! Jesus was teaching Peter— and us— that it’s not about our effort! When doing Jesus’ work it’s about His power & authority! We’re only called to be faithful to go share the gospel!

Parenting Adult Children

-The Sinful Nature I Passed On

All the struggles & mistakes & rebellions of my adult children can be attributed, in large part, to the sinful nature I passed on to them! Bad parenting begets bad parenting! The answer is NOT to try harder to fix them! Your adult children will resent your “meddling” in their lives! The answer is NOT to read the newest “self-help” book on the subject, either! The Old Testament book of Genesis contains the sordid story of Jacob & Rachel and their dysfunctional family. Pick it up; and, read it all over again!  Especially read chapter 37.

-A Pattern Of Sin

What you will see is a pattern of sin learned from the previous generation. When Jacob’s sons deceived him with a robe covered in goat’s blood, they convinced him that their brother,  Joseph, had been killed. They learned to lie & deceive from their father, Jacob, and their grandmother, Rebekah, who hatched up a scheme to deceive her husband, Isaac, to bless Jacob instead of his older brother, Esau! Where did Isaac & Rebekah learn to deceive? From Isaac’s parents, Abraham & Sarah, who cooked up a story that Sarah was his sister (Genesis 20) over fear that a king would kill Abraham to obtain Sarah for his wife!

-God Alone Can Fix This

You’ll also find “favoritism”, “passive parenting”, “jealousy”,  and “hate”— all being passed on from one generation to the next! “The apple never falls far from the tree!” The answer to the dysfunction in our homes— and all of our homes ARE dysfunctional— is the Gospel! The “good news” of the Gospel says, “I cannot; but, God can!” I can’t save myself; but, God can save me! I cannot overcome my hurts, habits & hangups; but, God’s Spirit can help me overcome them! I cannot fix the dysfunction in my relationships with my children; nor, can I fix the dysfunction they’ve brought into their marriages & families! But, God can— that’s the hope we have in the Gospel! God alone can help us overcome the sinful dysfunction we all bring into our homes! Jesus took all our sins, our guilt, and our shame with Him to the cross & He paid for it all! His work atones for even our bad parenting if we’ll humble ourselves & confess to Him that we’re incapable of fixing it! Extend grace to your adult kids as God did to you!

-Don’t Become Their Judges

I’ve known of Christian parents who have “disowned” their children because they’re caught up in some sinful lifestyle! But, let’s think that through! Is that how God responds to us? I don’t think so! God is always extending a loving, merciful, gracious hand! He’s always there to forgive when we humble ourselves before Him and confess our sins! If we’re going to be faithful “image bearers” we need to represent God in our relationships with our adult children! It’s easy to become judgmental when it seems they don’t want to hear our opinions anymore. Maybe we need to listen more & talk less! If we don’t change the way we parent, as they become adults, relational tension will develop between us. If you desire to be a blessing to your adult children, begin by confessing your brokenness to them & God. Then, pray relentlessly for the Spirit to work on you & your adult children! Trust God to do the Spirit’s work that you cannot do. When you act like the Holy Spirit in their life, all they’ll hear is nagging! Give them over to God! They are His!

What Happens After We Die?

-Death Has A Certain Anxiety Attached To It

That question has a certain anxiety attached to it, doesn’t it? I’m convinced that even the most devout follower, of Jesus Christ, approaches death with some anxiety. You can be secure in your faith & your relationship with Jesus! You can believe that you’re going to spend eternity with Him; but, still have a certain fear because of the “unknown”! There’s always some anxiety when we’re forced into something new; what does it feel like to die? In part we fear death because it’s beyond our control, isn’t it? It’s that image of the Grim Reaper lurking around the corner; stalking us; and, we never know “when” he’s gonna show up, do we?

-Let Not Your Hearts Be Troubled

John 14:1-6 begins with Jesus’ words to His disciples:  “Let not your hearts be troubled…”; and, He tells them why in v.6:  “…because I am the way, the truth & the life.” If you’ve placed your trust in Jesus’ atoning work on the cross then you don’t have to fear death because Jesus IS your life! The fear of death can paralyze you; but, knowing you have eternal life in Christ sets you free from that fear! And, in that text, Jesus tells the disciples that they don’t have to fear death because after they die, they get out of here! In Romans, chapter 8, the Apostle Paul says that “…we know that the whole creation has been groaning together with labor pains until now.” And, not just creation at large, but, “…we also groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our bodies” (vs.22-23).  Every genuine child of God knows that groaning!

-I Will Come Again

That’s why we love these words:  “I will come again,” Jesus says in John 14:3, “and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” That’s a great death benefit, isn’t it? We get out of here! No more heartaches & betrayals; no more worries & anxieties! Jesus said:  “In this world you will have trouble.” And, don’t we know it? Jesus shared another benefit in v.2— after we die, we get a room in God’s Big House! “In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told that I go to prepare a place for you?” God has a house! Not a hotel! Not an Inn; but, a big house! He’s not going to run out of space; and, if you have life in Christ, there’s a room reserved for you, with your name on it! We’re not going to be guests in a lodge! We’re His CHILDREN! We’ll live in His house with Him! In v.3 Jesus said:  “I will take you to myself!” That’s the best part of death! We “inherit” Jesus!

-We Don’t Grieve Like An Unbeliever

Jesus is the real “treasure” that we seek; and, we’ll have Him — ALL of Him— when He takes us to Himself! In Paul’s 1st letter to the Church of Thessalonica, he wrote: “We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, concerning those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve like the rest, who have no hope” (4:13).  I have watched many friends & loved ones die; and, I grieve! But, not for them! I don’t wish that they could come back to me! I would never wish that upon them! I would never wish for them to come back to this place! I grieve for ME! That I remain behind! While I suffer & mourn the temporary loss of their friendship, I rejoice for them! I’m jealous of them; and, I long for the day when we’ll be reunited in a better place; but, NOT HERE! Oh, there’s some tension there, isn’t there— we still have Jesus’ Kingdom work to do while we remain! But, we don’t hold too tightly to anything here! Even so, come Lord Jesus!

No Sexually Immoral-Conclusion

-One Sin On A List Of Deadly Sins

In previous posts, we’ve pointed out that God includes homosexuality as just one sin on a list of deadly sins. The Holy Spirit of God inspired the Apostle Paul to write down these authoritative words of Scripture:  “Don’t you know that the unrighteous will not inherit God’s kingdom? Do not be deceived: No sexually immoral people, idolaters, adulterers, or anyone practicing homosexuality, no thieves, greedy people, drunkards, verbally abusive people, or swindlers will inherit God’s kingdom.  And some of you used to be like this. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” (1 Corinthians 6:9-11)

-The Other Sins God Condemns

Look at the other sins God condemns with homosexuality— “sexual immorality” (That’s heterosexual sin!), “idolaters”, “adulterers” (Have you ever lusted after someone you’re not married to? Jesus calls that “adultery”!), “thieves”, “greedy”, “drunkards”, “verbally abusive” (I think we’ve all been guilty of that!) and “swindlers.” So, why do so many of us focus on just one of those sins? Why aren’t we equally as aggressive in calling out everyone else’s sins on this list? All sin is deadly!

-The Power Of The Gospel To Change Lives

But, Paul makes the point, in v.11, that the power of the Gospel can change every sinner’s life—  “…some of you USED to be like this. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified…” Some in the Corinthian Church USED to practice homosexuality… USED to be adulterers, thieves, drunkards, etc. But, no longer! They’ve become “new creatures” by the justifying grace and the sanctifying power of the indwelling Holy Spirit! Don’t ever give up on a loved one practicing homosexuality! Love them just like you’d love anyone else trapped by any other kind of sin!

-How Equally Repulsive God Finds My Sin

I once held animosity toward anyone living a homosexual lifestyle. God helped me overcome those feelings by rehearsing with me how equally repulsive He found all my particular sins! I am as broken & depraved as anyone involved in homosexual sin! I take no delight that my sins are somehow less repulsive to God! My battle with sin continues & will continue until God gives me a resurrected body like Jesus’! I’ve been a believer for nearly 52 years, at the time of this writing; and I STILL need a Savior! “God, help us to speak the truth IN LOVE into this conversation!” God loves every sinner! And, He calls them out to repentance & a new life in Christ!

-In Summary

I came across a quote that’s been attributed to Jonathon Parnell. It summarizes very effectively the point I’ve attempted to make in the last 4 posts related to the subject of all sexual sin, including the sin of homosexuality: “We don’t hate those who embrace homosexuality, we love them enough to not just collapse under the societal pressure. We speak the truth in love into this confusion, saying, simultaneously, ‘That’s wrong’ and ‘I love you.’ We’re not the left; we say, this is wrong. And we’re not the right; we say, you’re loved. We speak good news, with those sweetest, deepest, most glorious words of the cross — the same words that God spoke to us — ‘You’re wrong, and you’re loved.’” How desperately we need to speak the TRUTH in LOVE whenever we speak to another sinner! Let us just be like 1 beggar leading another beggar to bread! Amen? (NOTE: This is the final segment of a 4-part series, posted in this blog site, on the subject of “Homosexuality”)

Divine Slavery

-A Slave Of Christ Jesus

The Apostle Paul introduces himself, in his letter to the Church of Rome, with these words, “Paul, a SLAVE of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle and singled out for God’s good news” (Romans 1:1) I respect the editors of the Holman translation of Scripture for their decision to use the word “SLAVE”. Many translations have chosen to use “servant” or “bondservant” instead of “slave” out of respect for our human brothers and sisters that have been, and continue to be, subjected to the inhumane cruelty and bondage of human slavery.  But, here’s the fact – that word in the original Greek language is “doulos” and it means “slave”! So, if we believe the Scriptures are the inerrant, inspired Word of God (and I do!) then we’re left with the cold, hard truth that the Holy Spirit of God inspired Paul to use the word “slave”.

-Moved By The Holy Spirit

It was NOT Paul’s choice! He was moved by the Spirit of God to use that exact word – for a purpose! A “slave” – in the Roman world – was “owned”! A slave was purchased, “bought with a price”! They received no wages for their efforts; and, didn’t have any rights of their own. They were the personal property of the slave owner.  A “servant”, on the other hand, had rights – they were free to quit; and, they were compensated for their work. They belonged to no one! So, I was meditating on Paul’s words to the Church of Corinth, “Don’t you know that your body is a sanctuary of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought at a price. Therefore glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20) While he doesn’t use the word “slave” (“doulos”) he does use descriptive phrases that define slavery – “you are not your own” “you were bought at a price.”

-I Am Not My Own

Now, it’s not like I’ve never thought about this before! It’s not like I haven’t preached this passage before – probably numerous times! But, I grasped its meaning in a whole new way – I had an “epiphany”! I am God’s “slave”! I was “purchased” by the blood of Jesus Christ – “bought at a price”! I am not my own! Everything that I tend to see as “mine” is not mine! It all belongs to Jesus – because He bought me! If I live my life as an “owner” of my life then I’m NOT HIS! I can’t have it both ways – I’m either “free” to live as “owner” of my life & with the consequences of that decision! (Not really! Sin is the ultimate cruel taskmaster!) Or, I’m a “slave” to God!

-Does God Approve Of Human Slavery?

Let’s be real! God opposes every kind of sin against humanity. “Kidnapping” and “slavery” are condemned – “He who kidnaps a man, whether he sells him or he is found in his possession, shall surely be put to death” (Exodus 21:16) “If a man is caught kidnapping any of his countrymen of the sons of Israel, and he deals with him violently or sells him, then that thief shall die; so you shall purge the evil from among you.” (Deuteronomy 24:7) ‘Nough said? I thought so! So, why does God inspire Paul to use the word “slave” to describe our relationship with Him? I don’t pretend to know all the reasons! But, clearly, God sets Himself apart from mankind that would enslave other humans! He is love! He is benevolent & well-intended toward us! To be a “slave” to Him is to enjoy the BEST LIFE we could ever have – He is not a “killjoy” in the sky trying to spoil our fun! All His commandments are perfect & for our good!

We Will See His Face

-There Will No Longer Be Any Curse

Some of the most exciting words in all of Scripture, for those who’ve accepted the Gospel & made Jesus their Savior, are found in the last book of the Bible, the Book of the Revelation:  “There will no longer be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and His slaves will serve Him.  They will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads. Night will no longer exist, and people will not need lamplight or sunlight, because the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign forever and ever” (Rev. 22:3-5).  We will be in the very presence of God! And, He’s the reason heaven will be an incredible paradise! We will see His face, and His Name will be on our foreheads! That speaks of possession! We will be His! No longer will Satan be around to try and usurp “ownership” away from God! Oh, to be God’s possession forever!

-Have You Prepared Yourself?

So, I ask you, have you prepared yourself for that? Are you prepared for Jesus’ return? When you are, there’ll be changes happening in your life right here and right now! Looking for Jesus is what the Book of Revelation is all about! Back in chapter 1, in John the Apostle’s introduction:  “The one who reads this is blessed, and those who hear the words of this prophecy and keep what is written in it are blessed, because the time is near!” (1:3) That’s how John introduces this book; and Jesus repeats those words at the end of v.7, “Behold, I am coming quickly! Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.” That phrase, “…to keep the words…”, means to consider them & to ponder them! To make personal applications 24/7. To “live” by them! To let them change your life!

-Enslaved To Jesus

In verses 6, and 9, we’re said to be enslaved to Jesus! To be in that place is to be in the best place we could ever hope to be! He bought us! He owns us! And, He is the benevolent, loving, gracious, merciful Sovereign over us! We could never provide for ourselves better than God can provide for us. I love how John puts it in 1 John, “…this is what love for God is: to keep His commands. Now His commands are not a burden.” I long to be enslaved to His word because I know His commands are best for me! I obey Him imperfectly in this life because of my flesh. I want to obey Him totally, completely! I prepare my heart every day to do that, in part, because I long for His return & my life’s goal is to hear Him say to me, “Well done! Good and faithful slave.”

-Preparing For Jesus’ Return

When you prepare yourself for Jesus’ return, there is no more logical decision that you can make.  John says, “Blessed are those who wash their robes…” in the blood of the lamb (22:14). That’s clearly what’s meant in the context of this book. And, that word “blessed” literally means to be “satisfied” or “happy.” Who doesn’t want a blessed, satisfied, happy life? That life belongs only to those who are obedient to His commands; to those who repent over their sin; who come to Him in “brokenness” asking Him to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves. Now, you’re no longer ignorant! You’ve been exposed to the truth of God’s word! You have a responsibility to respond to His Gospel message that Jesus saves! That’s the only life that is blessed & the only life that satisfies & makes you happy! When you disobey His word it will always leave you further broken in a greater sense of despair. It’s only logical that you would come to Jesus!

Consider It Joy To Be Tested!

-Are We Prepared For Persecution?

It seems it’s time to ask ourselves if we’ve prepared our children and our grandchildren for a time when it might be against the law to be a Christian in this country! It doesn’t seem like the church, in general, has done a very good job of that! We have “Americanized” what it means to be a follower of Jesus! Christianity was birthed in a world that crucified its Founder! Jesus said, “If they crucify Me, they will crucify you!” The 1st-century follower of Jesus was considered a revolutionary! Do you know what the Roman government did with revolutionaries? They killed them!

-We’ve Sanitized The Faith!

All but one of Jesus’ disciples were killed or martyred for their faith! American Christianity knows nothing about that kinds of tests and trials. We’ve sanitized the faith! Somehow, we’ve accepted the lie that all you have to do is ask Jesus to be your Savior and you’ll never have another problem! Many believers have learned to look down on an individual who struggles in life like they’re just not very spiritual! We’ve accepted the lie that we’re entitled to live in a Christian, God-fearing, Bible-honoring America! But, God never made that promise! Quite the opposite!

-Called To Be Jesus To The World!

God calls us to be revolutionaries; He calls us to be Jesus to the world that crucified Him! He calls us to love them as Jesus loved them; even if it means dying to see them saved! God’s revolutionary looks a whole lot different than the world. Our revolutionary warfare is fought by the Spirit; not like Peter attempted in the Garden. Jesus told him to put away his sword. This war is fought on our knees in prayer! Our sword is the Word of God! He intends we take the Gospel to everyone around us! That’s Christ’s commission! The book of James is a dynamic declaration of what real discipleship looks like; how it’s fleshed out even as we go through testing.

-Responding To Trials & Tests!

You need James’ message because all of us are either coming out of a testing, we’re in the middle of a trial or test right now, or we’re heading into one! No one leaves this world unscathed. So, let me point out how James, under the divine inspiration of the Holy Spirit, tells us to respond to the trials & the tests & the disappointments of life! “Consider it a great joy, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. But endurance must do its complete work, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing” James 1:2-4. What? Consider it a joy to be tested by God? That’s what he said!

-Committed To Facing Trials!

We need God’s supernatural help if we’re going to be committed to facing our trials with a joyful heart as James says! We need God’s help because “joy” is a fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22-26). That means that your flesh cannot produce a joyful heart! It’s incapable! Let me add that he’s not talking about “temptations” to sin here. We’re not supposed to be filled with “joy” when we face temptations to sin! We’re supposed to FLEE those kinds of temptations the Apostle Paul told Timothy (2 Tim. 2:22-24). James, here, is referring to the trials, tests, and difficulties of life! And, our flesh will never respond with “joy” when those things enter our lives! Because of our sinful flesh, our natural response is never going to please God, is it? Our flesh always wants to please our flesh! A spiritual response is counter-intuitive for us. It’s not natural! It’s God’s work in us! So, what James is calling for here will require that we crucify our flesh!

The Testing Of Your Faith

-A Terrible Secret!

The daughter of missionaries, to the Congo Republic, told the story of her participation in the celebration of the 100th anniversary of the 1st missionaries coming to that part of Africa. It was a huge celebration to commemorate the lasting impact of the work of those original missionaries. Special speakers were invited. There was lots of special worship music, festive meals, and many other planned activities.  At one point, she said that an aged native came forward & introduced himself as the last person alive who was privy to a terrible secret.

-They Tested Their Sincerity!

The old man confessed that 100 years earlier, his ancestors didn’t know whether to believe the message those 1st missionaries brought. So, to test the sincerity of the missionaries, they devised a plan. Slowly, secretly, and systematically they began poisoning the missionaries. Then, they watched intently as mothers said goodbye to children; husbands said goodbye to their wives, and friends said goodbye to one another. The old man explained that it was only as they saw how the missionaries died, that the truth of their message was confirmed. As a result, many came to believe & embrace the gospel message!

-A Faith That Remained Firm!

They observed a faith that remained as firm in death, as it was in life. It’s in James, chapter 1, where the writer— James; Jesus 1/2 brother— began his epistle like this:  “James, a slave of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ: To the 12 tribes which are scattered abroad…” Let me tell you why that introduction is significant. He’s writing to Jewish followers of Jesus Christ who have been “dispersed” or scattered in persecution for their faith. James’ purpose, for writing this letter, was to encourage them & offer them a basis & a reason for their suffering! To teach them that their pain was not pointless! That God had a purpose for it!

-On Display In An Unbelieving World!

And, part of His purpose for the pain & the suffering & the setbacks we endure, is to put us on display in an unbelieving world. The genuineness & quality of our faith is most visible & apparent during times of intense pain and testing. In other words, the gospel is seen most plainly & Jesus is seen as most valuable when we continue to pursue Him even during life’s trials & tests. Jesus’ ministry was authenticated, in part, by His response to betrayal, to false testimony & to His unlawful death. And, because He did not condemn them; but, said “Father, forgive them”, we see centurions & soldiers & many of the priests (who approved of His crucifixion) coming to believe in Him!

-Jesus In The Flesh!

There are people all around us who need to see Jesus in the flesh before they’ll believe! Like the 1st believers in the Congo, they need to see our response to pain, suffering & setbacks before they’ll come to faith and believe in the Jesus you say you believe in. James continued from his opening sentence with these words: “Consider it a great joy, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. But endurance must do its complete work, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.” (James 1:2-4) I sense a storm brewing in our land! Don’t you? We might be closing in on a day when it’s against the law to be a Christian! Church, we need to be teaching our children & our grand-children how to live in a culture & environment like the believers of James day lived. I don’t believe we’ve done a very good job of that! We haven’t prepared them! Will you pray for God’s help to do that?