Taking Discipleship Seriously

DISCIPLESHIP

Following Christ exacts a price that for the most part the church in the United States has refused to fully embrace.

Throughout the ministry of Jesus, He clearly declared that those who would be His disciples must be willing to surrender all. With Jesus it is all or nothing at all.

We have created a man made Christ in this nation who demands no commitment, with a cross that requires no crucifixion. The result is a Christianity that lacks credibility.

“The invasion of the Church by the world is a menace to the extension of Christ’s Kingdom. In all ages conformity to the world by Christians has resulted in lack of spiritual life and a consequent lack of spiritual vision and enterprise. A secularized or self-centered Church can never evangelize the world.” – John R. Mott

Could the Rich Young Ruler be a type of the American Christian? (Mark 10:17-25 NKJV)  Now as He was going out on the road, one came running, knelt before Him, and asked Him, “Good Teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?” {18} So Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. {19} “You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery,’ ‘Do not murder,’ ‘Do not steal,’ ‘Do not bear false witness,’ ‘Do not defraud,’ ‘Honor your father and your mother.'” {20} And he answered and said to Him, “Teacher, all these things I have kept from my youth.” {21} Then Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me.” {22} But he was sad at this word, and went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. {23} Then Jesus looked around and said to His disciples, “How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!” {24} And the disciples were astonished at His words. But Jesus answered again and said to them, “Children, how hard it is for those who trust in riches to enter the kingdom of God! {25} “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”

Tom Sine, in his book “Taking Discipleship Seriously,’ says, “Jesus in His extremism insists that we surrender all our relationships, our resources, our careers, our futures-our total lives-to His lordship…In becoming Christian it appears that many of  us have unquestionably attempted to layer our faith right over the top of the secular values with which we have been raised. We have simply accepted cultural expectations as largely unquestioned givens. For many, this business of following Christ seems to be placing a little “Jesus veneer” over middle- and upper middle-class lifestyles and their implicit values. That simply won’t work.”

Stony Ground Hearers: (Mark 4:16-17 NKJV)  “These likewise are the ones sown on stony ground who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with gladness; {17} “and they have no root in themselves, and so endure only for a time. Afterward, when tribulation or persecution arises for the word’s sake, immediately they stumble.

Many people who begin to walk with Christ, but when the price begins to be required fall away. (Luke 9:59-62 NCV)  Jesus said to another man, “Follow me!” But he said, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” {60} But Jesus said to him, “Let the people who are dead bury their own dead. You must go and tell about the kingdom of God.” {61} Another man said, “I will follow you, Lord, but first let me go and say good-bye to my family.” {62} Jesus said, “Anyone who begins to plow a field but keeps looking back is of no use in the kingdom of God.”

The Loveless Church,  and the American CHristian: Repent and do the first works. (Revelation 2:1-5 NKJV)  “To the angel of the church of Ephesus write, ‘These things says He who holds the seven stars in His right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands: {2} “I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars; {3} “and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary. {4} “Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. {5} “Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place; unless you repent.

“The depth of your repentance will determine the height of your revival.” Frank Bartleman of the Azusa Street Revival

They left their love of Christ for the pleasures of this world. (1 John 2:15-17 NLT)  Stop loving this evil world and all that it offers you, for when you love the world, you show that you do not have the love of the Father in you. {16} For the world offers only the lust for physical pleasure, the lust for everything we see, and pride in our possessions. These are not from the Father. They are from this evil world. {17} And this world is fading away, along with everything it craves. But if you do the will of God, you will live forever.

The Lukewarm Church.: Revelation 3:14-17 NKJV)  “And to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write, ‘These things say the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God: {15} “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. {16} “So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth. {17} “Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’; and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked;

They did not even realize that they were repulsive to God. It’s Time to Wake Up! (Romans 13:11-14 NLT)  Another reason for right living is that you know how late it is; time is running out. Wake up, for the coming of our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. {12} The night is almost gone; the day of salvation will soon be here. So don’t live in darkness. Get rid of your evil deeds. Shed them like dirty clothes. Clothe yourselves with the armor of right living, as those who live in the light. {13} We should be decent and true in everything we do, so that everyone can approve of our behavior. Don’t participate in wild parties and getting drunk, or in adultery and immoral living, or in fighting and jealousy. {14} But let the Lord Jesus Christ take control of you, and don’t think of ways to indulge your evil desires.

(Ephesians 5:15-16 GWT)  So then, be very careful how you live. Don’t live like foolish people but like wise people. {16} Make the most of your opportunities because these are evil days.

 It is time for the body of Christ to begin living with eternity upon our hearts, and within our eyes. Time is running out, and we have much work to do.

(Philippians 3:14 NKJV)  I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

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The Truth is Out There

Gay Pride

There is an old saying that goes, “Tell a lie long enough and people will begin to believe it to be the truth.” In case you haven’t noticed, the wordsmiths of our modern culture are doing an outstanding job of making this a reality in our nation.

Today Americans are becoming increasingly indoctrinated with the delusion that every belief and opinion is of equal merit. In the name of tolerance, and being politically correct we are quickly becoming a nation that is forgetting how to distinguish reality from fiction, and the truth from a lie.

While I certainly believe that everyone has a right to believe what he or she so chooses, society as a whole should not be coerced into accepting everyone’s opinion as deserving of equal value.

If you logically follow this modern theory of tolerance through to its ultimate conclusion you may not like what you find at the end of this so-called rainbow of enlightenment. If all opinions and beliefs are equal, then who is to say that Adolph Hitler was wrong for systematically murdering six million Jews during WWII? Of course anyone with a shred of moral fiber and intelligence would have to admit that this was wrong in every conceivable way.

Nevertheless today we seem to believe that all truth is relative. In other words something is true if I believe it to be so. This is absurd!

This thinking especially becomes a dilemma when one’s right to dissent begins to be eroded for the sake of making everyone feel accepted and comfortable.

We are reaping the fruit of moral relativism in this nation. The Postmodern man believes himself to be the highest moral authority, and answerable to no one but himself. We have thrown out the absolutes of the 10 Commandments, and the biblical world view which this nation was founded upon, and then find it surprising that we have rampant violence, corporate fraud, political corruption, and a myriad of other social ills

Freedom does not constitute anarchy. Many modern behaviors are morally wrong, and destructive to the fiber of our society. Gambling, pornography, sodomy, drug and alcohol abuse are just a few of the practices that have contributed to the downfall of many great empires throughout history.

“The only thing that we have learned from history is that we learn nothing from history.” President Woodrow Wilson

Wake up America, a skunk is a skunk, no matter what kind of clothes you dress it in.

Orphans No Longer

Reposted from January 25, 2013 by

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All commands given by God have this in common: they are easy to say, but hard to live.

In this post, I want to focus on one of these commands: to care for orphans in their distress (James 1:27).

The cause of the orphan is of late getting the attention that it deserves within the Christian community.  An orphan is any child who is unloved, unwanted, or unprotected.  Perhaps she is in an orphanage; perhaps they are the siblings who are watching their parents cook meth.  He may be the child who has been bounced around from one foster home to another.  She may be the hardened girl who has been coerced into prostitution.

There are numerous ways to obey the command to care for orphans.   Some adopt children.  Others foster children temporarily. Some just identify vulnerable kids in their neighborhood and give them a safe place to go after school.  But no matter how you obey, like all commands, there is a personal cost.

To read more…Orphans No Longer.

My Response to Your Inaugural Speech, Mr. President

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12:00PM EST 1/22/2013 Michael Brown

The president declared it. A pastor prayed it. And woe betide those who differ with this new reality announced at yesterday’s presidential inauguration: Gay is now an official social category as defined and tangible as black or white. Put another way, romantic attraction and sexual desire are now viewed as being as innate and immutable as skin color.

Make no mistake about it. Another significant step was taken yesterday at the inauguration, and what was once associated with the extremist views of radical gay activists is now as American as apple pie. As expressed in the closing prayer of Episcopal pastor Luis León, “We pray for your blessing, because without it we will see only what the eye can see. But with your blessing, we’ll see that we are made in your image, whether brown, black or white; male or female; first generation immigrant or Daughter of the American Revolution; gay or straight; rich or poor.”

Earlier in the festivities, and framing his speech in historic, Constitutional terms, President Obama said, “We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths—that all of us are created equal—is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall . . . .”

Seneca Falls, Selma, and Stonewall? By Seneca Falls, Obama was referring to a watershed moment in the women’s rights movement that took place in the mid-1800s in Seneca Falls, New York. By Selma, he was referring to the pivotal Civil Rights marches and protests that took place in Selma, Alabama in the mid-1960s. And by Stonewall, he was referring to the Stonewall Riots that took place in New York City in 1969 when drag queens and their gay friends fought back against the police who raided their bar.

So, the president spoke of Seneca Falls, Selma, and Stonewall in the same breath, and in front of the whole nation at his inauguration, thereby equating women’s rights, black civil rights, and “gay rights” – which include bisexual, transgender, and other categories as well – also putting the women of Seneca Falls, the blacks of Selma, and the drag queens of Stonewall in the same category.

Do we realize just how significant this is? Do we grasp the implications?

The president also said: “It is now our generation’s task to carry on what those pioneers began. For our journey is not complete until our wives, our mothers, and daughters can earn a living equal to their efforts. Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law — for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well.”

To repeat my opening comments: woe betide those who differ with this new reality announced at yesterday’s presidential inauguration. The war is on against people of conscience and people of faith who do not affirm homosexual practice, no matter how loving and fair-minded they may be.

In my book, A Queer Thing Happened to America, I stated that this was the progression of gay activism:

First, gay activists came out of the closet;

Second, they demanded their “rights”;

Third, they demanded that everyone recognize those “rights”;

Fourth, they want to strip away the rights of those who oppose them;

Fifth, they want to put those who oppose their “rights” into the closet.

I have often been ridiculed for laying out this progression, but it is unfolding in front of our eyes, with a massive shift taking place in just the last year. And with the president of the United States declaring at his second inaugural speech that homosexuality (and more) is equivalent to gender and skin color, a line has been drawn in the sand. And that line in the sand will soon become a line in the courts and law books to the point that anyone who does not affirm homosexual practice will be codified as a bigot or worse.

As I wrote in 2011, “the legitimizing of homosexuality as a perfectly normal alternative to heterosexuality also requires that all opposition to homosexual behavior must be delegitimized. At the very least, the gay agenda requires this (and let recognized gay leaders renounce this if it is not so):

“Whereas homosexuality was once considered a pathological disorder, from here on those who do not affirm homosexuality will be deemed homophobic, perhaps themselves suffering from a pathological disorder.

“Whereas gay sexual behavior was once considered morally wrong, from here on public condemnation—or even public criticism—of that behavior will be considered morally wrong.”

Yesterday marked a watershed moment in the “gay rights” movement, and it is time for people of conscience and faith to draw our own line in the sand: We will be loving and respectful to all people. We will oppose bullying and unfair treatment of all people. But we will not equate homosexuality with gender and skin color, and we will not celebrate that which we morally and spiritually oppose.

And so, Mr. President, we will not be intimidated, and to use your terms, in the spirit of Seneca Falls, Selma, and Stonewall, we will stand up for what we believe is right, regardless of cost or consequences.

If we agreed with you, sir, that there is no moral or social distinction between homosexuality and heterosexuality and that homosexuality was innate and immutable, we too would champion this cause. But we do not agree, sir, and in the spirit of Martin Luther King and others whom you hail, we will not compromise our convictions, come what may.

Michael Brown is the author of The Real Kosher Jesus and the host of the nationally syndicated talk radio show The Line of Fire on the Salem Radio Network. He is also president of FIRE School of Ministry and director of the Coalition of Conscience.

 

Leadership From a Kingdom Perspective

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Gaining a kingdom perspective of leadership: Leadership in the kingdom of God’s is not the pursuit of fame, power, glory or the praise of man. This may be the concept of leadership from a secular view point, but it is far from what we are to seek after as people of God.

(Luke 22:24-27 NLT)  And they began to argue among themselves as to who would be the greatest in the coming Kingdom. {25} Jesus told them, “In this world the kings and great men order their people around, and yet they are called ‘friends of the people.’ {26} But among you, those who are the greatest should take the lowest rank, and the leader should be like a servant. {27} Normally the master sits at the table and is served by his servants. But not here! For I am your servant.

Leadership from a godly perspective equals service and sacrifice. Whoever believes that being the leader is about the glory of leadership has never really led. Becoming a leader in God’s Kingdom is not ascending to some height of glory, but rather taking on responsibilities that others will never know.

(John 15:13 NKJV)  “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.

Leadership is about giving your heart. As a leader you have the privilege of spending time that others don’t have to spend. You get to make sacrifices that others are not required to make. You’re required to lead when others get to leave, and you must give your best when you’re not at your best.” Pastor Gerald Brooks

(2 Corinthians 12:12-15 NLT)  When I was with you, I certainly gave you every proof that I am truly an apostle, sent to you by God himself. For I patiently did many signs and wonders and miracles among you. {13} The only thing I didn’t do, which I do in the other churches, was to become a burden to you. Please forgive me for this wrong! {14} Now I am coming to you for the third time, and I will not be a burden to you.  I don’t want what you have; I want you. And anyway, little children don’t pay for their parents’ food. It’s the other way around; parents supply food for their children. {15} I will gladly spend myself and all I have for your spiritual good, even though it seems that the more I love you, the less you love me.

The greater the authority the greater the responsibility: John Maxwell defines leadership as influence, or the ability to gain followers. The greater your influence the more people will follow you, and the greater number of people who follow you the greater potential for good and harm. The greater your authority the more people you have the potential to help and to hurt. If you do not learn to love others and serve them before you become a leader, you will abuse and hurt people if you ever do become a leader.

(James 3:1 NLT)  Dear brothers and sisters, not many of you should become teachers in the church, for we who teach will be judged by God with greater strictness.

(Luke 12:48 NLT)  “But people who are not aware that they are doing wrong will be punished only lightly. Much is required from those to whom much is given, and much more is required from those to whom much more is given.

Leadership first begins with being a servant. While scripture gives us many tremendous examples of godly leaders, and principles of leadership, there is very little teaching that tells us how to be a great leader. We do find a great amount of teaching on how to be a follower and a servant. In order to be a good leader we must first learn to become a good follower. How can we ever expect people to follow us if we are not first willing to follow?

(Luke 16:12 NKJV)  “And if you have not been faithful in what is another man’s, who will give you what is your own?

If you can learn to be a great follower, you are on your way to becoming a great leader!

(Luke 9:23-24 NLT)  Then he said to the crowd, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must put aside your selfish ambition, shoulder your cross daily, and follow me. {24} If you try to keep your life for yourself, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for me, you will find true life.

(John 12:26 NLT)  All those who want to be my disciples must come and follow me, because my servants must be where I am. And if they follow me, the Father will honor them.

It is not wrong to aspire to become a leader; we just have to make sure we grow into leadership.

Biblical requirements for pastors: (1 Timothy 3:1-5 NLT)  It is a true saying that if someone wants to be an elder, he desires an honorable responsibility. {2} For an elder must be a man whose life cannot be spoken against. He must be faithful to his wife. He must exhibit self-control, live wisely, and have a good reputation. He must enjoy having guests in his home and must be able to teach. {3} He must not be a heavy drinker or be violent. He must be gentle, peace loving, and not one who loves money. {4} He must manage his own family well, with children who respect and obey him. {5} For if a man cannot manage his own household, how can he take care of God’s church

Biblical requirements for elders in the church. (1 Timothy 3:6-7 NLT)  An elder must not be a new Christian, because he might be proud ofbeing chosen so soon and the Devil will use that pride to make him fall. {7} Also, people outside the church must speak well of him so that he will not fall into the Devil’s trap and be disgraced.

Biblical requirement for deacons (helpers in the church). (1 Timothy 3:8-13 NLT)  In the same way, deacons must be people who are respected and have integrity. They must not be heavy drinkers and must not be greedy for money. {9} They must be committed to the revealed truths of the Christian faith and must live with a clear conscience. {10} Before they are appointed as deacons, they should be given other responsibilities in the church as a test of their character and ability. If they do well, then they may serve as deacons. {11} In the same way, their wives must be respected and must not speak evil of others. They must exercise self-control and be faithful in everything they do. {12} A deacon must be faithful to his wife, and he must manage his children and household well. {13} Those who do well as deacons will be rewarded with respect from others and will have increased confidence in their faith in Christ Jesus.

We want to be sure that when we become leaders in an area of ministry, that we are godly examples to those around us, as the natural outcome of leadership is reproduction.

(2 Timothy 2:1-2 NLT)  Timothy, my dear son, be strong with the special favor God gives you in Christ Jesus. {2} You have heard me teach many things that have been confirmed by many reliable witnesses. Teach these great truths to trustworthy people who are able to pass them on to others.

People who follow you will become like you, be it good or bad. We teach what we know, we produce what we are.

(1 Corinthians 11:1 NLT)  You should follow my example, just as I follow Christ’s.

(1 Timothy 4:12-16 NKJV)  Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity. {13} Till I come, give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine. {14} Do not neglect the gift that is in you, which was given to you by prophecy with the laying on of the hands of the eldership. {15} Meditate on these things; give yourself entirely to them, that your progress may be evident to all. {16} Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you.

 

 

 

Reality Leadership

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Leadership that actually makes a difference, and bears fruit. (1 Chronicles 12:32 NLT) From the tribe of Issachar, there were 200 leaders of the tribe with their relatives. All these men understood the temper of the times and knew the best course for Israel to take.

(NCV) There were two hundred leaders from Issachar. They knew what Israel should do, and they knew the right time to do it. Their relatives were with them and under their command.

I find that it is often very difficult for those in ministry to think realistically about where their ministry is currently at, or where they will end up if the continue on their current course.

I have seen so many pastors who are struggling in ministry, and imagine that someday their churches will blossom and flourish into a dynamic ministry that truly impacts the world. While they may be sincere, I can see that if they do not change their approach to ministry this will never become a reality.

It is very easy to develop blind spots in our lives. They crop up, and we have no way of recognizing them without someone, or some incident exposing them. Unfortunately, they are often pointed out after some tragedy, or failure.

I have  counseled men over the years whose wives wanted a divorce, much to their surprise. As far as the guy was concerned things just were not that bad. This comes from living in a relationship without dealing with reality.

9/11 was a reality check for the United States. It revealed something that most Americans were totally oblivious too prior to this. That reality was that America was vulnerable to being attacked by Islamist radicals.

In ministry it becomes very easy to fall asleep at the wheel, and suddenly wake up to the reality that there are problems staring us in the face that possibly could have been avoided if we would have simply seen them coming. The church world seems to be the worst place to bring about change. It is human nature to resist change, and when we begin to believe that change will somehow diminish the spiritual climate we have come to enjoy, people suddenly become very reluctant to embrace change.

A popular Christian magazine featured the top churches with the fastest growing Sunday school programs in the United States. Ten years latter not one of those churches was ranked among the top. Obviously they were unable, or unwilling to make the necessary changes to keep pace with the future.

The following are some suggestions that you might want to consider about your ministry, and consider making some adjustments if necessary.

Purpose: What is the purpose of your ministry? As obvious as this may seem, it is perhaps the most difficult area to clearly stay focused on for many leaders.

We should be able to distinguish the difference between the activities of the ministry, and the purpose of the ministry. The purpose of the ministry must determine what activities the ministry performs, not the other way around.

The following quote by Mario Murillo addresses the problem of ministry without clearly defined purpose.

“Fighting with no stated goal can lead to a war of attrition – a slow defeat in which you actually seem to be winning. What you are busy doing looks right and brings results, but you can’t see the long-range damage your results are making. You can’t see that what you are doing cannot take you where you really want to go. Eventually your army will atrophy. An objective would expose this false success. It would be a compass to help you stay on the course, a gauge to judge actions versus distractions. With it an army can declare, “No matter how good this action looks, it violates our objective.” Mario Murillo, Fresh Impact

Many people can tell you what they do, but very few ever take the time to ask themselves what they ultimately hope to accomplish?

A follower asks how, while a leader asks why? If we loose sight of the why, we will eventually loose our motivation for performing what we do.

“The man who knows how will always have a job. The man who knows why will always be his boss.” Sherman Owens

One of the sure signs of lack of wisdom and maturity is the inability to grasp the purpose behind what we are doing. Living life in this manner will lead to drudgery. Trying to lead a ministry in this way will lead to the same. Purpose is what motivates us to perform the routine, or the unpleasant.

Take for example the often-limited scope of children. Tell a young boy to take bath, and he will often ask, “Why do I have to take a bath?” Tell a child that they need to study so they will be able to grow up and have a good future, and they will often stare at you with a blank look. As if they have absolutely no understanding as to what you are talking about.

Example: A young boy is learning to play the guitar. He dislikes the fact that he cannot press all the strings down with his fingers, and he approaches practice with drudgery. One day an angel appears to the boy, and sweeps him away to a concert hall, where he sees a man on stage playing a guitar, as the boy never imagined it could be played. The boy is totally caught up, and inspired by the virtuosity of the performer.

After listening for some time, the angel says to the boy, “This is you in twenty years.” The boy is amazes that he could ever reach this level of ability. Suddenly the angel sweeps the boy back to his room, hands him his guitar, and says, “Now practice!”

If you as a leader only understand what your ministry does, but cannot see how it serves in fulfilling the over all vision of the body as a whole, then you will never inspire anyone to continue to follow you.

Passion: How passionate are you about fulfilling your purpose? Purpose without passion, is no more than lofty idealism.

“Nothing of lasting value was ever achieved without passion.” John Maxwell

If you as a leader find that you lack the necessary passion to motivate others to follow you into battle, then you should ask yourself if you should be the leader?

A leader without passion is like an engine without fuel! Passion is the result of a clear heart felt purpose. If you lack passion, you probably don’t understand your purpose.

If you look at your passion, and it does not seem to fit the area you are leading, then we should probably try to work you out of that area, and into something that is truly in your heart.

Plans: What realistic plans are you making to fulfill your purpose? Without a clear plan of attack even the best of intentions will bear little fruit.

(James 2:26 NKJV) For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.

I have heard many pastors share the plans they have for their church, but seem to be oblivious to the reality that what they are pursuing will never take them where they want to go.

We always must be asking ourselves if what we are doing is producing the type of fruit we want it to? If it is not, then we must learn how to prune away the dead branches.

(John 15:1-8 NKJV) “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. {2} “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. {3} “You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. {4} “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. {5} “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. {6} “If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. {7} “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. {8} “By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.

We will always face obstacles to growth, but as leaders we must rely on the Holy Spirit to give us strategies for overcoming those obstacles.

Our plans must include strategies for breaking through barriers. (1 Chronicles 12:32 NCV) There were two hundred leaders from Issachar. They knew what Israel should do, and they knew the right time to do it.

Leaders figure out what should be done, and when to do it. Very often the solution is a practical one, but it requires wisdom to recognize it, and to implement.

(Acts 6:1-7 NLT) But as the believers rapidly multiplied, there were rumblings of discontent. Those who spoke Greek complained against those who spoke Hebrew, saying that their widows were being discriminated against in the daily distribution of food. {2} So the Twelve called a meeting of all the believers. “We apostles should spend our time preaching and teaching the word of God, not administering a food program,” they said. {3} “Now look around among yourselves, friends, and select seven men who are well respected and are full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom. We will put them in charge of this business. {4} Then we can spend our time in prayer and preaching and teaching the word.” {5} This idea pleased the whole group, and they chose the following: Stephen (a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit), Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas of Antioch (a Gentile convert to the Jewish faith, who had now become a Christian). {6} These seven were presented to the apostles, who prayed for them as they laid their hands on them. {7} God’s message was preached in ever-widening circles. The number of believers greatly increased in Jerusalem, and many of the Jewish priests were converted, too.

Conclusion:

1. Define the purpose of your ministry, and be able to effectively communicate that purpose.

2. What do you see in your ministry that causes you to be stirred to passion, and how can you communicate this passion to others?

3. Identify three to four clearly defined major ministry goals for the next few months and year.

4. Develop a strategic plan for accomplishing these goals.

5. Provide identifiable barriers that stand in the way of the fulfillment of these goals.

 

Tongues, the Initial Evidence

GIFTS OF SPIRIT 2The Initial Evidence of the Baptism in the Holy Spirit is Speaking in other tongues, as the Spirit gives the utterance.

Jesus declared that one of the signs to follow believers was that they would speak in tongues. <strong>(Mark 16:17KJV) And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name…they shall speak with new tongues…

The first disciples spoke in other tongues on the Day of Pentecost, fulfilling the words of Jesus, and giving evidence of the infilling of the Holy Spirit, with power from on high.

(Acts 2:1-20 NKJV)  When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. {2} And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. {3} Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. {4} And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance….

The Church in Jerusalem sent Peter & John to make sure believers received this gift. (Acts 8:5-20 NKJV)  Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria and preached Christ to them. {6} And the multitudes with one accord heeded the things spoken by Philip, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did. {7} For unclean spirits, crying with a loud voice, came out of many who were possessed; and many who were paralyzed and lame were healed. {8} And there was great joy in that city…{14} Now when the apostles who were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them, {15} who, when they had come down, prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit. {16} For as yet He had fallen upon none of them. They had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. {17} Then they laid hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit. {18} And when Simon saw that through the laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Spirit was given, he offered them money, {19} saying, “Give me this power also, that anyone on whom I lay hands may receive the Holy Spirit.” {20} But Peter said to him, “Your money perish with you, because you thought that the gift of God could be purchased with money!

It is evident that this experience of receiving the Holy Spirit produced more than joy, because as we see in verse eight, there already was great joy in the city because of the miracles.

It was also evident that the church in Jerusalem expected new believers to speak in other tongues as on the Day of Pentecost, or they would have never sent Peter and John to pray for them to receive this gift.

Upon further examination, it is clear that these people were already saved, as they had been baptized in the name of Jesus, which would only take place as result of the profession of their faith in Him.

Simon wanted the ability to cause people to speak in tongues, and tried to purchase this power, which brought a swift rebuke.

It is quite obvious that they were looking for these believers to speak in other tongues, which obviously took place when Peter and John laid hands upon them.

This passage also demonstrates the various supply that each part of the body is equipped to provide, as Phillip apparently did not posses this gifting to get these believers filled with the Holy Ghost, while Peter and John apparently did.

Cornelius & his household receive the Holy Spirit. (Acts 10:1-6 NKJV) There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of what was called the Italian Regiment, {2} a devout man and one who feared God with all his household, who gave alms generously to the people, and prayed to God always. {3} About the ninth hour of the day he saw clearly in a vision an angel of God coming in and saying to him, “Cornelius!” {4} And when he observed him, he was afraid, and said, “What is it, lord?” So he said to him, “Your prayers and your alms have come up for a memorial before God. {5} “Now send men to Joppa, and send for Simon whose surname is Peter. {6} “He is lodging with Simon, a tanner, whose house is by the sea. He will tell you what you must do.”

(Acts 10:44-48 NKJV)  While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word. {45} And those of the circumcision who believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also. {46} For they heard them speak with tongues and magnify God. Then Peter answered, {47} “Can anyone forbid water, that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” {48} And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then they asked him to stay a few days.

It is evident that these people were saved and filled with the Holy Spirit all at once.

Believers at Ephesus receive the Holy Spirit. (Acts 19:1-6 NKJV)  And it happened, while Apollos was at Corinth, that Paul, having passed through the upper regions, came to Ephesus. And finding some disciples {2} he said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” So they said to him, “We have not so much as heard whether there is a Holy Spirit.” {3} And he said to them, “Into what then were you baptized?” So they said, “Into John’s baptism.” {4} Then Paul said, “John indeed baptized with a baptism of repentance, saying to the people that they should believe on Him who would come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus.” {5} When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. {6} And when Paul had laid hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke with tongues and prophesied.

These people spoke in tongues just like the rest, as a result of being filled with the Holy Spirit.

In each of these examples the believers spoke in tongues when they were filled, that is baptized with the Holy Spirit. Some received the gift of the Holy Spirit as the word of God was preached, while some received as hands were laid upon them.

This gift is for every believer. (Acts 2:38-39 NLT)  Peter replied, “Each of you must turn from your sins and turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. {39} This promise is to you and to your children, and even to the Gentiles–all who have been called by the Lord our God.”

The early church fully expected believers to receive this gift as soon as they received Messiah as Savior.(Acts 8:14-16 NKJV) Now when the apostles who were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them, {15} who, when they had come down, prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit. {16} For as yet He had fallen upon none of them. They had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.

 The initial and primary evidence of this gift is demonstrated by the initial evidence of speaking in other tongues. (Acts 19:5-6 NKJV) When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. {6} And when Paul had laid hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke with tongues and prophesied.

Equipped for Service

gifts of spirit 3The baptism with the Holy Spirit is primarily for equipping of the believer for service in carrying forth God’s Kingdom.

When Jesus spoke to the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well, He declared that the water He would give would be a well or spring of water springing up into everlasting life. (John 4:13-14 NKJV)  Jesus answered and said to her, “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, {14} “but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.”

I believe that this spring represents the new birth experience in the life of every believer. However, it has always been God’s intention that this well or spring which develops our character, and enables us to grow the fruit of the Spirit, begin to flow from our lives to the world around us.

Upon further examination of the experience of the early church, it is clear that there is a subsequent working of the Holy Spirit that is intended to equip the believer for service in the kingdom of God. This working is called the Baptism in the Holy Spirit.

While it is quite clear that this experience brings significant benefit to the life of those who receive this working of the Holy Spirit, it is also evident that this is an equipping for service in the Kingdom.

The Baptism with the Holy Spirit: (Matthew 3:11 NKJV) “I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.

You shall receive power, ability, when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. (Acts 1:4-8 NKJV)… {8} “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

The Greek word that is translated power here is dunamis. This word means ‘miraculous power, ability, abundance, might, miracle or strength.’ Through the baptism with the Holy Spirit, God endues the believer with ability to carry forth His will.

(Acts 2:1-20 NKJV)  When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. {2} And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. {3} Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. {4} And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance….

The new birth is primarily for our personal relationship with God, the baptism in the Holy Spirit equips us for service in the kingdom of God. While every believer has the Holy Spirit or he/she could not be a child of God, it has always been God’s intention to equip all with a subsequent working of His Spirit for the purpose of ability to serve in His Kingdom.

(Mark 16:15-18 KJV)  And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. {16} He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. {17} And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; {18} They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.

The disciples began to do the works of Jesus as soon as they were baptized with the Holy Spirit.

(Mark 16:19-20 KJV) So then after the Lord had spoken unto them, he was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God. {20} And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. Amen.

You will notice that the same works that Jesus did during His earthly ministry began to be manifest through His disciples, confirming what He had told them in Acts 1:8. Nothing has changed since that day. These same signs are the result of the power of God, through the baptism with the Holy Spirit, and are available to every believer today.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The New Birth, and the Fruit of the Spirit

The Fruits of the SpiritThe new birth produces the fruit of the Spirit of God. When we are born again the Holy Spirit recreates our human spirit in the nature of God. (2 Corinthians 5:17 NLT) What this means is that those who become Christians become new persons. They are not the same anymore, for the old life is gone. A new life has begun!

The New Birth: You must be born again. (John 3:1-8 NKJV)… {3} Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”… {6} “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.

Temples of God: When we are born again we receive the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. We become the temple of the Holy Spirit. (1 Corinthians 6:17-19 NKJV) But he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him. {18} Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body. {19} Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?

The new birth brings with it an everlasting well of living water. (John 4:5-15 NKJV)…{13} Jesus answered and said to her, “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, {14} “but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.”

This fountain of water is for our nourishment, and growth. It is a well of the Zoë life of God, the quality of life that only God can give us, or the God kind of life. Only through the work of the Holy Spirit do we have union with God, and part in the family of God.

(John 1:12-13 NKJV) But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: {13} who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

(Romans 8:15-16 NKJV) For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.” {16} The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God

Through the new birth we begin to bear the fruit of the Spirit. (Galatians 5:22-25 NKJV) But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, {23} gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. {24} And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. {25} If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.

 The Spirit of God does not grow the fruit, we do. God’s nature in us begins to cause the fruit of the Spirit to grow. (John 15: 1-5 NLT) “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes[a] so that it will be even more fruitful. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.

Fruit has to do with character development. All of these fruit are characteristics of God’s nature.
(2 Peter 1:2-11 NKJV) Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, {3} as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, {4} by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. {5} But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, {6} to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, {7} to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. {8} For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. {9} For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins. {10} Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; {11} for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

We are the ones that grow the fruit, while the Holy Spirit enables us to do so. (John 15:1-17 NKJV)… {4} “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me…

As we abide in Christ, His life and nature begins to saturate our thinking, and our will become conformed to His. The natural process of abiding in the life of God is to produce the fruit of the Spirit.

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