The Underrated Miracle

*****

One of the amazing miracles from the Gospel accounts is that of blind people like the Blind Bartimaeus receiving sight. Most of us can barely handle darkness for a minute. Imagine living all your life in darkness imagining what is all around you, touching and feeling but never seeing. And then within seconds after Jesus says the words, the world is opened to you like a newborn. Imagine seeing the mountains, people, bulls, insects, trees, rivers… all in your first ever gaze. I’m already feeling overwhelmed imagining it.

You could say every miracle must have been exciting and overwhelming at the same time. I guess that’s what happens when the impossible happens. This is what drew crowds to Jesus and it’s what many preachers crave even the ones who don’t call for the “deliverance service”. If only a miracle happened when I was preaching then people would listen to me more and of course God would be glorified, says the man of God. I think all of us would actually want to see a miracle first hand. Our unbelieving friends insist this would convince them to repent and believe the Gospel. In truth, we see miracles everyday but they don’t seem to excite or overwhelm us as much.

You see behind the spectacular, crowd-drawing miracles was Jesus’ words and behind the scenes bigger miracles were happening that only those whose hearts he touched and healed could testify to. It’s the miracle of spiritual sight. It’s what happens when we hear the Gospel and our eyes are opened to see our sinfulness and our desperate need for salvation. When we understand just how blind we have been all our lives of God’s love and patience with our rebellion and idolatry. And when we first see the light of the Gospel we realize the darkness we’ve lived in and how blind the world is. Paul expresses this perfectly writing to the Ephesians. He says before they heard the Gospel they were so blind in sin and blind to their blindness, they couldn’t even feel and touch like Bartimaeus, they were dead:

1. And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2. in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience.

Ephesians 2, ESV.

But when Jesus’ words were spoken to us from the preaching of the Gospel our first ever gaze overwhelmed us seeing God’s love to such wretched sinners like us. It was a greater wonder than seeing oceans, mountains, children, skies, birds… for the very first time. Now we could see God and ourselves clearly than ever before. I can remember vividly that first time when I saw the love and mercy of God and my very clear guilt before him. I couldn’t believe how blind I was before to see how I toyed with God’s judgement on me. And to imagine that a sinner like me could be forgiven and called a child of God, my mind was blown away. That’s the miracle I see every day because like King David my sins are ever before me and yet God’s love and mercy is ever true and all consuming. And what’s more, I’m continually being changed by his Spirit in me through his Word to sin no more.

You see, to the naked eye this doesn’t seem as spectacular a miracle as restoring physical sight or raising the physically dead. But what’s more troubling is that even believers don’t seem to appreciate this miracle and privilege as much. We still crave for what is tangible because we like using our physical eyes instead of this new pair of spiritual eyes. Can you imagine Bartimaeus choosing to close his eyes and cross the street with a stick as he used to before. How outrageous! And yet that’s what we like doing, pack our faith on the side and take a step with the world for old times sake. May the Lord have mercy on us! May he quicken us to see just how privileged we are that we can see him, ourselves and the world around us as he sees it from the spiritual eye of his Word. And may we be overjoyed living in light of this Gospel in this blind world as we look forward to our eternal home.

Spiritual sight, walking by faith not sight, is what we need everyday in the good times and when our ministries are struggling. Because it’s the eyes of biblical faith that distinguish those who make it to the end and those who walk away. It’s what we need when our joy and enthusiasm in witnessing is failing. It’s what keeps missionaries on the field and faithful Christians living for Jesus in a hostile world. Spiritual sight is our unique blessing and dare I say the most important one this side of eternity. It’s what will keep our eyes set on the eternal prize while we are constantly tempted by the fears or pleasures of this world. Don’t forget to carry your pair with you at all times and in every circumstance.

*****

Normal isn’t better!

*****
I've heard it in our prayers and seen it on the news
The pagan and the believer crying for the same thing
Take away this pandemic, give us back our normal life
We want to hit the button and restart the year again
We miss the good old days, away with the masks!
*****
That was the life wasn't it?
When you could go anywhere
And do anything you wanted
We were invisible back then
We clicked our fingers and got our wishes
*****
Everything was perfect and we lived the dream
Our leaders were amazing, ruling with truth and justice
None died of hunger or knew of economic breakdown
Our society was built on truth and integrity
Do you remember them those good old days?
*****
So we cry as we dream of what we had
But what really did we have then?
Could it be we were all dreaming
Maybe we are in a bad stupor right now
Supposing that yesterday would be any better
*****
You could go back to normal but not better
You see it's not the "normal life" we need
It's a better life where disease are unheard of
Where we don't turn wondering what will hit us next
Normal isn't nearly better it's only a milage
*****
In normal life we laboured and toiled 9 to 5
We did our best to make every coin count
Trying and beating the odds to climb the ladder
But always fearing what would eventually brings us falling
We were always in a pandemic only it wasn't labeled so
*****
As long as it didn't hit home or someone we knew
It was okay, it's the way of life we said casually
But occasionally we would be victims
Then we would see life in true reality
Because when death glares we see things as we should
*****
So I call you to see beyond the normal
Don't settle for less problems when you can have none
Don't dream of less sickness when you could be free
Free yourself from the traps of this vain life
And embrace the offer of abundant eternal life that Jesus offers
*****
Sure, there was something good with our "normal life"
We had a bit more control on things and plans
At least some of us did! 
But it was a always a step away from a pandemic
And who knows what awaits after this one! 
*****
We pray that things get better while down here
But we should see this as a wake up call
To know what the world offers is really overrated
We need a better home with no viruses and fear of death
And Jesus went to make the perfect home for those who believe
*****

Christian, don’t waste this Pandemic!

Title borrowed from John Piper’s book, Don’t waste your Life.

20200406_103719

If as Christians we believe that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28 then we need to ask whether we are missing the good out of this Pandemic?

It’s inconceivable to the human mind that anything good would come out of tragedy but church history since the Exodus to the Cross and the birth of the early church proves it happens this way. Suffering is the gateway to Christian growth and will ultimately usher in eternal glory with our Lord and Saviour, Jesus.

It was Jesus suffering and death in the hands of evil religious leaders and a cowardly ruler that bought us eternal joy and salvation. The groom and darkness of that Friday birthed the precious Easter Sunday. We were reconciled to the Father and given the hope of eternal life. The resurrection of Jesus from this life of suffering and death is the foundation of our faith and what informs how we live now. Otherwise, as Paul says:

… if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. 19 If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. 1 Corinthians 15.

So going by this foundation it means death won’t be the end of us. Our hope of resurrection goes beyond the threat of diseases and economic breakdown. Those things will affect us and to some of us worse than others but they won’t steal our hope. On the contrary, God can use this time to shape us to be more like Christ in his sufferings. To grow in the flames of suffering in our love and trust for God if we align ourselves with his plan and purposes.

This could turn out to be a memorable time of Church growth numerically and in regard to its discipleship. But it could also be a time of great confusion and backsliding if we focus on the bad, the uncertain and forget our sovereign Lord is still in control. My cry is that we won’t waste this time but make the most use of it to live for Jesus as we always ought to as strangers in this world.

To turn to God in prayer. Seek to grow in our knowledge and love for Jesus and his Word. Seek to expand his kingdom by our witness in word and deed. To look at the fields as Jesus would say and see it’s ripe for harvest:

I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. 36 Even now the one who reaps draws a wage and harvests a crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together. John 4

This is the time to reach out to friends and family with the Gospel truth and Gospel love. It’s the time to soak in fellowship with God in our devotion and prayer. It’s time to model family devotion and fellowship. It’s time to learn Biblical reflection. Time to encourage one another with the life-giving truths of the Gospel. Time to create and develop good spiritual disciplines. Time to preach. As Steve Lawson echoed;

There has never been a greater hour to preach the gospel. The darker the night, the brighter the light.

We don’t know how long this COVID-19 will take before a cure is found or we recover from it. And we should continue praying for a cure and be wise in controlling it’s spread. But as Christians, we should also make the most use of the time as we live for King Jesus even in this.

15 Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. 18 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, 20 always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Ephesians 5.

Why praise as you pray?

20200319_112740

Why praise as you pray?

This is a question I should have asked when they taught me the ABC of prayer as a young Christian. But back then I didn’t think it was right to question matters of faith as that would seem like a sign of doubt or unbelief. But now I know God would have wanted me to ask that question because he’s interested not with my blind faith but with my Biblically informed faith and trust in him.

So why then do we praise as or before we pray? Is it that God just loves being praised? Is this how we bribe him so he can act on our behalf? Why did Jesus teach his disciples to start with honoring God’s name in the Lord’s Prayer? David in the Psalms and the apostles all seem to adopt this approach when they write their prayers. Is it merely a tradition?  We’ve actually adopted this in our Sunday service where we start with praise songs, thanksgiving prayer before we make our requests before God. It’s a great tradition but I’m afraid to some this could be just a tradition, something they do without stopping to ask why this is the case.

Why pray at all?

Perhaps the bigger question is why we pray at all? Why pray when God knows our needs and is able to do it without us asking? And my best attempt on that is to say that prayer isn’t actually a transaction between us and God. Though it’s about God and about bringing him our needs, it has a lot more merits for us in building our faith and trust in God. This means prayer will benefit you regardless of the outcome because prayer is our exercise of faith. It means not once does a Christian pray and leave empty-handed even if God didn’t answer that prayer as they wanted. There are times I have gone before God with my needs, desperately wanting him to act on my behalf only for him to do this by strengthening my faith in him. Sometimes I come out of this and my needs are still before me but my confidence in God is reassured.

I believe this is the reason why praise needs to come before or as we pray because prayer has more to do with our confidence in God than simply getting our needs sorted. We need to know we can trust him before we bring him our requests. Praise changes our perspective because it reminds us of who God is and what he has done. By the time we finish praising him, we should have no doubt that he’s a good God who is able to do far more than we think or imagine. We should be soaked in his merits that our needs seem like nothing before him. And by the time we make our requests, our faith in him is already strengthened. As a matter of fact, I would say, our greatest prayer is already answered when we do this. Our trust and confidence in God are re-established when we praise him.

How do we praise him rightly?

But how do we praise God in a Biblical and genuine way without simply buttering him with words as pagans do? As I said, remember this isn’t merely a transaction to get what you want but a gift from God to build your faith. So how do we do this in the right way?

I’ll say we need to know and believe in God’s Word like David, Jesus and the apostles did. Their prayers are full of Bible language because prayer is speaking back to God in response to his Word. God delights when his people take him by his word and in prayer echo what they believe. But I don’t simply mean that you know the Bible so you can quote it back like a lawyer in a courthouse.  I mean what Paul says in Colossians 3:16 :

 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.

This will take careful and disciplined meditation of God’s Word in your devotion, through sermons, Bible fellowship and through good Biblical songs. It’s what David teaches us in Psalm 1:

Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers,
but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night.

Start where you are

I hope and pray that this will lead you to praise and pray more with confidence. You don’t have to wait until you have studied the whole Bible to do this. You just need to start by meditating on what you are reading in your devotion or from a faithful sermon.

Praise God for what he has said in his Word, for what he’s teaching us about himself and what he’s done for us in Jesus. I have been doing my devotion in the book of Psalms and they are a great way to do this but I’m sure you can do the same with any other book of the Bible. I pray that God will give you the requests of your heart as you turn to pray. But above all, I pray that he will grow your faith as you focus on him, his character and his deeds as ultimately reflected in our Lord and Saviour, Jesus.

20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. Ephesians 3. 

 

Faithful disciples precede gifted Bible teachers

They say experience is the best teacher and although that’s a dangerous way to learn there’s truth in this. You can be good in theory but the practice is the real test. When I started training to do Gospel ministry I used to try work out some of the things that would be challenging in my future ministry and think of how my Gospel conviction might inform these. I thought of where I wanted to serve, the kind of church, who to partner with and even the ”fights” I was ready to fight informed by my Gospel conviction.

In all this, I never assumed I might be the biggest challenge to all I wanted to do for the Lord. I thought other people and their sin, perhaps lack of Gospel clarity, good systems and structures were what might hinder my ministry. But increasingly I started realising my sin, my unbelief and unreal expectations are what can hinder me from serving King Jesus wholeheartedly as echoed by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:58:

58 Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.

It’s me who needs the Gospel more for ministry to flourish not just those I teach and work with. It’s me who needs my Gospel conviction to be applied in my day to day living. If I lose this personal battle it doesn’t matter how many external battles I fight well.
I need this body crucified everyday in submission to God and his Word before I call on others to look to the Saviour and do his will.
I need what I know in my head to be what I believe in my heart and what I do with my life. I need the knowledge of the truth that teaches and leads to godly living as Paul instructs Titus:

1 Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ to further the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness… Titus 1

I recently did a talk on servant leadership and as I prepared for this I realized how I knew this in my head and wanted it in my heart and yet how often I hate to be treated as a servant. What I knew differed with my practice making me a hypocrite. In this situation, it’d be easy to run to Romans 7 and say Paul had a similar experience not always doing what he wanted but I think I shouldn’t be quick with excuses. I need the grace that bears the fruit of the Spirit in my life and not merely the knowledge that acknowledges the fruit I should bear.

I’m helpless on my own and yet I know how powerful the one in me is. He’s the one whose voice made the world and by his breath will one day destroy it. He’s the one who made me into a new creation and the one who works in me by his Spirit. I don’t want to hide my failure but rather present my weakness to him who works in me and through me.
I call for his help to work out this salvation in fear and trembling. To make me not just a teacher but his faithful disciple. That I might preach and teach what I truly believe in. Because like Paul I don’t want to guide others to the prize and later be disqualified:

27 No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize. 1 Corinthians 9.

The Gospel is a Person

*****
I recently had an opportunity to preach through Romans 1-3 and it struck me how obvious the Person at the heart of the Gospel message is and yet how easy it is to miss him in our preaching and testimonies. That the Gospel God promised through the prophets, the Gospel he preached through the apostle Paul is the Gospel about his Son, Jesus Christ:

Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God— the gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures regarding his Son, who as to his earthly life was a descendant of David, and who through the Spirit of holiness was appointed the Son of God in power by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord. Romans 1:1-4.

It’s surprising how sometimes even well-meaning Christians can miss this as they try to emphasize a particular aspect of our conversion or Christian living. Some will want to stress the prayer on conversion while others go for the transformed life they lived after. All the while missing the one who did it all, Christ and him alone. I don’t think we would miss this if we saw the tragedy of human sin for what it is as portrayed here in Romans 1-3.

Why does this matter?

But one might ask isn’t this a mere quibbling with semantics, questions of language and communication? I think it shows what is closer to the heart. It also misses the point of the Gospel when it puts all the weight on me; my prayer, my achievements, and accomplishments.
And before long the Gospel becomes all about me and what I do for God. It’s the same old lie, a “gospel of works” packaged in good Christian lingo.

Before long we start using this criterion to judge our Christian health and fitness and the status of new believers. Are they coming to church regularly? Are they committed to weekly meetings? How is their giving? What about their prayer life? We use the results of the Gospel as the foundation of our faith, not Jesus and what he has done to undeserving wretched sinners like us. We see our merits not his own.

Shouldn’t we judge them by their fruits?

It’s a good thing we want to see change and the Gospel will produce this in time but our problem is we want to see transformation instantly forgetting that this is not achieved easily by grit and human will. True transformation is what results from hearing the Gospel constantly; being encouraged and rebuked by the Gospel and establishing firm convictions in the Gospel that consequently affect one’s lifestyle. Behavior change must start from deep within otherwise it’s fake.

This is why we need to keep hearing the Gospel message. We shouldn’t be surprised then, that Paul was preaching the Gospel to a church whose faith was known throughout the world, see Romans 1:8. And this is what Paul does in all his letters; reminding churches about the Gospel of Jesus which is what the church of Christ in Kenya and all over the world needs.

We also need to understand that transformation is a slow, messy and a lifetime process that can only be achieved by Christ’s work through the Spirit in our hearts as we keep hearing and believing his Gospel message. Our words and structures are powerless without his work in people’s hearts.

Preach the Gospel and let God do the work

I think it’s our attitude that needs changing before we think of changing the Gospel message. We don’t need to beat up people demanding a particular result. Rather, we should preach the Gospel clearly by teaching the Bible faithfully and let God do his work in his people.

Remember God is the first preacher and Gospel worker and ours is simply to point people to him and his Gospel. It’s only him who can give life to the spiritually dead and conform them to the likeness of his Son.

The only weapon therefore in a Gospel worker’s quiver is the true Gospel as preached by God in his Word. It’s what everyone needs; the young and the old. It’s not well crafted motivational and charismatic speaking. Rather, ours should be to preach his true Gospel clearly and boldly, the Gospel that points people to our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. Because there’s true life-changing power in this Gospel:

16 …I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. 17 For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith. Romans 1. 

*****

Daily dependence

*****
It’s not a good thing to go against one’s conscience
And yet I see this battle within my heart
I desire to do what I know to be true and good
Not just for me but in allegiance to my loving Saviour.
My failure hurts me not just because it pains me
But as it puts a wedge in my desire for his word.
*****
My tears are unknown to the world
For my pain runs deep, deep in my veins.
I am a man broken, who can bind me up?
I am a failure, who will pick me up?
See the dirt that oozes from within me.
What can wash me clean?
I need a bath in that saving grace

And a will to overcome my determined failure.
*****
Give me the will to continue fighting my sinful heart.
Help me lest I succumb to the lies I crave but so despise.
Save me now and plant your Spirit within me.
Raise these broken and dead bones to life dear Lord!
Give me a fresh breath of your eternal life
*****
Turn me from the idols of my heart
Teach me the wonders of your eternal promises
Captivate my conscience with your Word
And imprison my heart never to wander again

*****
Make clean my ways that I may please you

Teach me to preach daily to my heart

That your Word may abide in me forever

For only you can save and keep me safe
*****
Shine a light instead of the darkness I display
And make me an ambassador worthy of your eternal calling
Kill in me the sin that so easily entangles
And make me useful for your good works

*****
Make peace the war of my heart and mind

Plant your word deep within this sinful heart

Hear my prayer dear merciful Saviour!

*****

#Romans 7:25. #battlewithin #savinggrace

A leap in the dark?

*****

3 years ago I set on a journey to leave friends and family behind for a life abroad that I had only seen in missionary journals mixed with some television drama.

Some would say it was a leap in the dark, a step of faith. But looking back I beg to disagree. Not least because this turned out to be the most instrumental years of my life but as I learned from God’s Word, it never really is a leap when we know the God we have believed.

Starting a new friendship, getting married and a new job overseas might be a leap but not trusting God. One of the things that have amazed me this year studying the Bible Overview and Mark’s Gospel is how much God has amassed in his Word not only to help us know him but help us believe and continue believing in him. To me, it’s an undeserved blessing and one we rarely recognize or praise him for. It’s almost as if God knew how stiff-necked we can be! That even with all the facts and evidence on the table, we would need more to deal with our hard, sinful hearts.

I have been struck by how much one can know about God and yet not believe in him. The mind can be full and the heart as hard until God does his life-giving work. But it’s not just a one-time miracle that stops at our Christian birth, he is doing this miracle in every day of our Christian life.

Nothing pains me more than seeing my sinful craving despite all the wonders of God’s revelation. It’s more than foolishness that I would settle for the temporary that is vanishing away when I can have the permanent glorious reality. But I see it all the time and not just in others but I hear the lies linger in my ear and my sinful heart is drawn to them. I’m convinced that if I didn’t have God at work in me by his Word then I would fall like a man who never heard of God before.

So this is my joy and conviction as I set forth in the unknown if you like, that I have a friend who will never leave me. One who will carry me by his Word to his eternal home. I dare not trust my knowledge or my weak strength but in the one who never fails.

30 Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
31 but those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint. Isaiah 40.

Trusting in him is not a leap in the dark. It’s only a leap when I trust in my own strength. It would be a great step of faith if I trusted my knowledge, even my own knowledge about God and the Bible. But since I have the God of the universe by my side, at work in my heart by his Word and leading me on the way then I have the full assurance to live for him now ahead of living with him forever.

*****

Get ready for your ministry job!

*****

When I started my Christian ministry training it was quite hard to explain to my family and friends what I was doing. To be honest, not many people know what I actually do except my frequent jibber jabbering here. And honestly, I would hate it for my identity in Christ to be reduced to a title.

But in my mind I expected I would do an apprenticeship then maybe get some formal theological training and like everyone else get some proper job. Say something people acknowledge and respect like a pastor maybe even a bishop, college professor or some title of some sort. Because in our world training equals getting a job and some title.

There’s only one title and it’s taken

But I was deeply challenged when I realised there are no titles in Christian ministry. If you like it, there’s only one title for our Lord and Saviour and then there’s all of us his servants. He is the head and we are the body as we see in Ephesians 1:

22  …God placed all things under his (Jesus) feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.

We have no titles only opportunities and gifts for service.

Problem is though most Christians are happy to accept that they still believe there’s a fundamental distinction between the man who stands in front and those who sit listening to them. Which is not surprising because in our world those who stand on the stage are the real heroes and the audience better listen to them. The show is on them as the rest of us spectate. But it’s not the case in Biblical Christianity.

Yes, there are responsibilities in the church according to God-given gifts, opportunities and training but they are all for the sake of the one master, King Jesus, and for the benefit of his body, the church. The pastor is no different from anyone else as long as it involves building God’s church.  And the pastor is not doing more ministry than the man in the back row if they are a Christian.

A ministry for all

In the Bible, we see that God is building his church by his Spirit as a whole and he achieves this through his Word. It tells us that God is working in us, Christians, not just the man in front to build his church. And the church as a body is responsible for ministry as we hear and speak God’s Word to one another. We see this clearly in Ephesians 4:

15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. Ephesians 4. 

I used to think that the pastor, “the Minister”, is responsible for the ministry and everyone else comes to receive or support them in this. But that’s not how the Bible sees Christian ministry, not it’s how the world works not God. It’s a man-made dichotomy and bureaucracy that no longer exists in the redeemed community of God’s people.

Those in the teaching ministry are not the bosses and everyone else a slave. They are but mere servants given the responsibility of equipping the church with the Word for the noble job that every Christian share in, building God’s church to maturity.

 11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up.

Ephesians 4.

The Bible teacher or preacher whichever title they go by are like the man who mixes the concrete for others to do the building work. Their gifts and training are important and a blessing to the church but don’t make them the big dogs as is the case in the world. Rather they equip others with God’s Word and they join the church in building the body.

Get ready for your ministry job

This should be very liberating for preachers. Can you believe how hard a task it would be if you had to do all the ministry while everyone else cruises for the rest of their Christian life? It’s also very reassuring as all we need to do is make sure to equip people with God’s Word and then join them in building the body by speaking this truth to each other.

It’s great news for every member of the body as there are countless opportunities and possibilities to do ministry at work, at home and at the church gathering as long as we are equipped with God’s Word. You are the minister at home, at the office and at your friend’s party. And for this reason you should get as much training as you can from God’s Word.

It means we don’t go to the church gathering as we do a show, rather we go with our sleeves rolled up set for some building work. And we don’t need to wait until the pastor comes to speak to a colleague at work or our struggling neighbour. No, as long as we have God’s Word then we are fully equipped for all the opportunities God has laid in front of us to do Gospel ministry.

What a joy that the God of the universe would entrust us all with his most precious work, the job of his Son, the ministry of reconciliation. How amazing that all of us, Christians, regardless of titles have the one job that has lasting significance. For we all share in the ministry of our Lord and Saviour:

…And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5. 

*****

All things in moderation?

I used to think that moderation was the best guiding principle in life. It’s what most people have in mind when they say someone is a good person in this day and age. For moderation is the standard of goodness in our world. Because nobody wants to deal with extremists and fanatics which is what we think is the only alternative to moderation.

Problem with moderation is that it’s really dependent on the prevailing culture and in this age, it’s acceptable personal preferences. But what looks like moderation today will be ridiculed and might even be abhorred in years to come.

But who am I to define how people should live especially if they don’t subscribe to the authority of God’s Word as I do. In any case, if I am the ultimate authority over my life then whatever serves me and my interests as longs as it does not harm others works. Everybody wins?

Unfortunately, moderation is also common among Christian circles. A good Christian to many goes to church, have their kick for the week, is a good citizen and helpful member of a community. And many think that’s what defines a Christian. To them, the church gathering is nothing more but a weekend hobby to meet friends or keep the guy upstairs happy.

A call to die!

But that’s not what we see in the Bible if God’s Word is the authority behind our faith. No, it’s what those who subscribe to moderation want to reduce it to. Biblical Christianity well understood is radical. It demands total surrender to Jesus and his mission. Here’s how Jesus describes it:

34 Then he (Jesus) called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. Mark 8. 

There’s no way you read this and think, well as long as I go to church, pay my contributions and do well at work, I’m a good Christian. You might be in the eyes of the world but not before Jesus and his word.

No, he calls us to a radical way of living: to die to the world and live instead for him who died that we may live. This is what informs Biblical Christianity as the apostle Paul says elsewhere:

 14 For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died.15 And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. 2 Corinthians 5. 

As longs as we live, Christians are to live fully for Jesus and his mission, the salvation of the world. Moderation steals and waters down the power of this conviction for a comfortable and acceptable worldly way of life. It robs from us the joy of totally dying to self and fully living for King Jesus every day.

But how do we move from moderation to living fully for Jesus?

Knowing Jesus is all it takes

Such a radical call is only possible when we fully and continually know and trust the Lord Jesus. It’s when we know him and believe that what he has done and promised is worth it all that we can live fully for him now.

But it’s not just a strong motivation as much as it qualifies as one. It’s more than that, knowing him leads us to a new life deeply informed by his Word and fully set for his mission. We become a new creation in him to do his good work.

10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2.

The answer to moderation as well as complacent Christian living is in God’s Word: in knowing Jesus. Which is a very good place to start for people at every level including unbelievers.

For God is accomplishing his plan using his Word in his people. And his word is all we need to start, continue and make it in the end. It’s what we need for our evangelism, discipleship and in training others. 

It’s for this reason that a chat with a Christian friend about the Bible is so helpful and this is why church and Bible fellowship exist. The author of the Hebrews had this in mind:

 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. Hebrews 10. 

It makes the job of a Bible teacher and every Christian to continually point those under their care to the shepherd of their souls through his Word: to Jesus. And understanding this frees us from anxiety and guilt in Christian life and ministry as we are equipped with what works, God’s Word. 

The way forward

As you are drawn to Jesus and his word then you will be totally sold on Jesus and his mission as the apostle Paul was. You will not need a set of parameters to exercise or limit your involvement to the mission of the church. Rather you will use every opportunity, gifts, and resources to serve King Jesus at work, abroad and at home. This was Paul’s aim and should be every Christian greatest ambition in life:

20 I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. 21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.

Philippians 1.