Word’s are Relevant when Used Right!!! #2

Make no mistake my friends, we are to be very strange in the eyes of the world. We are not to be strange, for the sake of it, or to draw attention to ourselves. The world is filled with enough of that kind of odd, eccentric and selfish strangeness already. Our kind of strange is that which is a state of being and a joyful 24/7 song of praise.   

I Peter 2:9 describes this as a state of being, where we are to be centered in Christ, as a chosen and royal priesthood, where we are to be…  1) A collection of people who are separate from the influence and rot of the world around us and at the Holy Spirit’s beck and call. 2) His own special people zealous to do work glorifying Him. 3) We are to be selfless and fixated on Jesus Christ. To this world, that is very strange indeed (as it may be in the church in America as well). As we discovered in the last message, this is our purpose. 

The way we execute this purpose should be as natural as putting one foot in front of the other, as we follow the Spirit of God. Yet as is often the case with the redeemed of the Lord, questions arise, philosophic statements and programs, that convoluted and lead us away from our purpose. We must be careful not to execute a program, which comes from what we think is right in our own sight. We must be careful not to machinate methods and programs, which arise from unbelief and or fear, and are designed to be safer or easier for us. 

Jesus explained the program for the working of our purpose in Matthew 28:18-20. From Jesus words we understand we are to make disciples of all nations, through proclaiming the praises of Him who called us out of darkness and into His marvelous light. We understand this continues in calling the lost to identify with Christ, through baptism, teaching them to observe all the things He said. Our program is discipleship.

Most leaders, I am fairly certain, would agree with this statement, concerning the program of our purpose. Where the church has differed and gone astray is in how we execute this program. Over the years we have been hamstrung by many “additions” to our program of disciple making. Most often these additions are not only of little lasting effect, but often barriers to our dependence on the Spirit of God. Let’s look a little further at these “additions”, and why we are employing them.

In our wrong headed thinking, we believe we need to use media, technology, business and academic or cultural paradigms to speak to this generation. Sadly it seems the very things the Lord called me away from are being sought as legitimate means for ministry. The very things I left behind, have been repackaged to catch us in worldly snares. 
We don’t understand the very things we think are necessary are leading to our ineffectiveness in disciple making. this also happens to be the reason for the spiritual dryness the church in western countries are encountering. For in our efforts to “minister” and “show the love of God”, we will justify just about anything to make the lost feel comfortable in our presence. We ought to remember it is our being set apart, filled with His Spirit and proclaiming His praises that leads to the cross, and understanding their need for repentance and faith. The word of God declares it is the foolishness of preaching Christ crucified, in the power of the Spirit, that God has chosen, not worldly methods or human wisdom.

I once had a cordial and intense conversation with a Catholic priest, who used methods in his ministry, that most bible believing Christians would reject as out right falsehood. We were discussing the essence of true faith, as being seen in our practice. The Lord led me to ask him a peculiar question “If a Catholic person was the only survivor of ship wreck and washed up on a desert island, where they had no priest, no sacrament, no eucharist (communion), and no way of participating in mass… Could they be a Catholic in good standing with God? He was stunned into silence, for he knew the answer was “no they could not”. My next statement to him was simple “Any practice of faith, not able to be reproduced in the most dire circumstances, is not a necessary practice of faith”.

In light of LIE #1 above, let me modify this last statement “Any method we employ which is unavailable in the most dire of circumstances, is a method we need to seriously consider not employing”. Before someones head explodes at my previous statement, ask yourself what you would do if you had no smart phone, access to media, technology, medicine, access to water or food stuffs to give out, sports fields, or properties to exploit. How would you convince the lost of their need for Jesus? 

Let me suggest you and I would simply have to obey Jesus words and trust them. We would “preach the gospel to all creatures, whoever is baptized and believes will be saved, but whoever does no believe is already condemned.  And these signs will follow them who believe: In my name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick and they will recover” (Mark 16:15-18). My dear friends this is the only method that Jesus Christ the Lord guaranteed would be blessed by the Father (Mark 16:20).

Although there is a modicum of truth in the lie to my right, the way it is employed (which often alters our program), makes it falsehood. If one were to peruse the preaching of Jesus Christ the Son of God, not a soul could accuse Him of not caring for all men. Yet Jesus never softened the message of repentance and carrying ones cross in order to follow Him. If one would continue to peruse the preaching of the apostles in Acts of the Apostles, they would find it the same as the Master’s; their preaching the message of Christ and subsequent call to repentance and cross carrying, were because they cared and wanted no soul to find an eternity without Christ.

Of great import in this discussion, is how we are producing “saved” individuals who lack bold proclamation of Christ, because of the above lie. We teach that before the lost will listen to the message of Christ, they need to know we care, that we are just like them, that we love them and don’t want to offend them. We suggest we ought to open an avenue for preaching by meeting felt needs, even when Jesus declared the problematic nature of this kind of caring (John 6:26-27). Our program must not be directed by human wisdom, but the Word of God, as the Spirit of the LORD leads. Yes we should exercise compassion, for it is the heart of our Savior, and Jesus was moved to act by His compassion. Yet we understand His compassion led to His command to pray for more laborers to gather these wearied scattered multitudes into the kingdom of God.

In light of this, many who follow the above LIE #2 as a rule, are apt to declare we must love them into the kingdom of God. I would agree that it is the love of God, the tender mercy of God and compassion of God that leads the lost to repentance and faith, but how that takes place is of the greatest importance. In the American Christian mind, loving a soul into the kingdom of God often includes finding solidarity with sinners in their struggles, or seeking to give techniques for them to deal with their sin, or dialing back our “strangeness” to accommodate their feelings of fear of not measuring up; we ought to love them as Jesus as Jesus loved us, where He called us out of sin (darkness) to the Himself. With joy we need to sing the gospel, as it is God’s loved revealed in the cross of Christ, and reveals the lost estate of the sinner. This is to love them.

This love is seen in the proclamation and the patience of God, as we continue to walk with them no matter when they receive the love of God. In doing this we show that our love and not dependent on their obedience to us, but is freely given as part of God’s merciful call to receive His salvation and avoid the second death. In essence we become their friends, not based on our common humanity, but upon their need of our faithful witness to them on Christ’s behalf. Our program is not easy, therefore we need to know the force with which we are to execute the program of disciple making

In spite of biblical support for the simplicity of the program of disciple making, why is it we tend to pursue methods that come with a softer approach? Answering that question would take quite a bit of space, so I will do my best to get to the point. We are uncomfortable with the up-close and labor intensive nature of making disciples. One of the issues with discipleship is it places us in a risky position to be reproached, persecuted and cast out as evil for Jesus sake. In spite of this potential, and our fear associated with it, we must refuse to soften the program to make disciples of all nations. Let’s take a look at a passage which reveals the labor intensive nature of disciple making.

Matthew 5:13-16 (NKJV) You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men.  You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.  Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.  Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.

Jesus reference to us being salt is our first indication of the labor intensive commitment we embark on in making disciples. Before we understand that force we must first examine the properties of salt. Salt in Jesus day was a precious commodity, in fact it was the currency most soldiers were paid in, hence the statement “are you worth your salt?” 

The reason for the high value of salt can be seen in its many uses. Salt was used to preserve food which could not be refrigerated. In order for this to be done the salt need to be forcefully rubbed into the meat or fish. When this was the case, it would preserve the meat for long periods of time, and changed the taste and character of the food. Salt was also used for medicinal purposes. To a soldier who would be without medical care in the field, they needed to be part self-medic, and in the case of bleeding wounds, you guessed it salt would be rubbed into the wound. Along with other ingredients, the salt would prevent infections. Salt also was used in melting ice and gaining traction when in icy conditions.

How this parlays to our life as followers of Jesus is not difficult to understand. In living out our disciple making program we are called to rub our saltiness into the lives of the lost all around us. This means we must be close enough to touch their lives, to where our saltiness (our holy, joy filled, praise filled proclamation for Jesus) acts as a preservative, until they can see the kingdom and enter it. This is labor intensive for it takes consistent and selfless investment in the lives of those who may think we are crazy Jesus freaks. As we rub ourselves in, we are often rubbing the message and the Christ-life into open wounds and just as it is physically unpleasant to rub salt into an open wound, so it is for them in their spiritual wounds. Even though it causes them grief and conviction, it is exactly what is needed. 

Another difficulty in this labor intensive investment, arises from the quality of our life lived for Jesus. No matter what we proclaim, if our life does not appear to be happily strange enough, we will be seen as not worth our salt. As sad as that may be, if continuing we will be good for nothing but to be trampled upon. Even that sad state may serve an important function; about as important as salt on the road’s in the snow and ice of winter. Even if we have lost our saltiness, our being trampled upon, I believe, may serve a purpose against the lost sliding into further darkness (this is not a preferred characteristic for a child of God). Without our being rubbed into the lives of those outside of Christ, as His salt, the lost world will be without hope.

Jesus also calls us the light of the world, which reveals further the need for labor intensive and fearless investment. In Matthew 5:15-16 Jesus declaration that we are light reveals, that those outside of Christ are sitting in an incredibly heavy darkness. What is that darkness? The darkness of no hope without repentance and faith in Jesus atonement.
Jesus was clear that the light must shine in the darkness, not invite the darkness into the light. The church in this nation needs to obey Jesus great command in the Great Commission which begins with the word “Go”. We have ignored this command for so long, that we have redefined “going”, as having churches that lost people feel comfortable in. How can a lost person, still in their sin feel comfortable in the presence of people filled with the Holy Spirit of God? I thought He convicted the lost world of sin, righteousness and judgment. He does, but our compromise has grieved Him. The time has come to once more recognize the labor intensive character of being the light of the world. We must meet those who need Jesus Christ, in the midst of their darkness, calling them out of it. This once more is risky, but absolutely necessary. Regard the word of God in II Corinthians chapter four.

2 Corinthians 4:1-2 (NKJV) Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we do not lose heart.  But we have renounced the hidden things of shame, not walking in craftiness nor handling the word of God deceitfully, but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.

God’s word declares that we are to manifest the truth we preach. This means we live, with joy and confidence, that we are forgiven and living in His presence. We live Jesus life, as we are empowered by the Spirit, as new creations, not just sinners saved by grace. We live with hope, not fear, concerning the uncertainty of the times we live in. We live free from bondage of sin, that keeps the lost apart from God. We live with joyful anticipation of our blessed hope, the appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ. This is what we are to be manifesting, but not from a distance. We are to be light, up close and very personal.
This can be seen in the word “commending”, which means to stand next to. As Jesus is the Sun of Righteousness, we who are in Him, are to stand right next to the lost person, allowing the brightness of Christ to not only penetrate the darkness, but to dissipate it. What this means for us, is that we can no longer wait for them to come to us; we must go for God has commanded the program to be executed with solar force…

2 Corinthians 4:4-6 (NKJV) whose minds (those outside of Christ) the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them.  For we do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your bond-servants for Jesus’ sake.  For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ

Our purpose is to be strange possessions of Christ, who proclaim the praises of Him who called us our of darkness and into His marvelous light. We now understand the program of this great purpose, which is to make disciples of all nations, with labor intensive penetration. In our next blog we will examine what it takes to walk in our purpose and program, when it most certainly is a risk that can lead to persecution.

About Michael J Erdel

Mike is a pastor with The Assembly of God Fellowship. He is the lead pastor at Encounter Church in Fostoria Ohio. His desire is to encourage the Church of Jesus Christ, and declare God's hope through His Son Jesus, to a world which is long on excuses and short on hope. Mike has experienced the truth that when we kneel before Christ, surrendering to Him as Savior and LORD, being led and empowered by His Spirit. To Jesus Christ be all glory and honor.
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1 Response to Word’s are Relevant when Used Right!!! #2

  1. Anonymous says:

    I like being “Strange” for Christ. I pray that Christs light dissipates the darkness that is around me at work