Friday, 27 May 2016

Disciples Make Disciples~ Ganeida

The foundation for salvation is found in Romans 10:

The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim);because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. 11 For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek;  for the same Lord is Lord of all,  bestowing his riches on all who call on him. 13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

Salvation is a free gift. This is quite clear from the Greek. Two different Greek words are used: Dorea meaning unwarranted & received without merit [Romans 5:15, 2 Corinthians 9:15] & Charisma, meaning “a gift of grace” [Romans 5:15-16, Romans 6:23] What is a gift by Grace cannot be earned. 

I want us to be very clear because I believe there is a distinction between salvation, which is free, & which the scriptures declare unequivocally to be free, & discipleship, which Jesus declares to be costly. [Luke14:25~35] The 2 are linked.  To be truly saved one becomes a new creation.  When one is a new creation the old things have passed away. 

According to Greek Bible scholar Spiros Zodhiates, mathetes “means more than mere pupil or learner. It means an adherer who accepts the instruction given to him and makes it his rule of conduct.” As James puts it, a disciple is a doer of the word.

Today I want to encourage you to become disciples, not merely followers ~ but you must count the cost, firstly because " a servant who knows what the master wants, but isn't prepared and doesn't carry out those instructions, will be severely punished”. Luke 12:47 He will, in fact, be assigned *a place with the unbelievers.*12:46

You must count the cost carefully because it will cost you everything you have but the greatest need our world has today is for believers who are disciples.

Some wit has declared that some people view salvation as *Fire Insurance*.  It will keep you from the fires of Hell but not really impact your life; Jesus is saviour but hardly Lord yet it is clear from Romans that we are to confess Christ as Lord ~ & that confession carries certain implications.

Jesus final command was: Matthew 28:19

 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.

Jesus says some things about what that looks like.

Matthew 5:13:
 “You are the salt of the earth. But what good is salt if it has lost its flavour? Can you make it salty again? It will be thrown out and trampled underfoot as worthless.”

The 2 main qualities of salt are as a preservative & as seasoning.  The first acts as a purifier to stop corruption, the second as an attractive quality that makes you want more.  It makes you thirsty & Jesus’ invitation is to come to Him & drink.

What we tend to see is a Christianity that has become conciliatory & coming into agreement with the world ~ in the name of love.  As such it loses its flavour. We were never commanded to love the world. Indeed the opposite is true 1 John2:15 Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you. The command is to love other believers. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” John 13:35

This becomes messy when dealing with people but scripture says there is to be a clear distinction between the believer & the world.  We are not meant to look like the world, talk like the world, enjoy what the world enjoys, think as the world thinks, behave as the world behaves. If we feed on the world we will look more & more like the world but when we feed from the Holy Spirit we will look more & more like Christ. Paul states it this way:  They profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him, being detestable and disobedient, and worthless for any good deed Titus  1:16

Our love & obedience to Christ should over~ride every other consideration in our life ~ including our love for our family Luke 14:26

We are commanded to pick up our cross & follow Christ.  While we understand the cross is an instrument of death we fail to really grasp what it looks like to pick up our own cross.  Firstly anyone carrying a cross was on a one way journey from which there was no returning.
 Secondly it makes far more sense when we remember we are told to crucify our flesh. Gal 5:24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there.

Our own thoughts, desires, needs are seconded to the kingdom. What does not line up must go! Jesus set the example in Gethsemane…Not my will but thine…Jesus didn’t want to go to the cross any more than we do.  If there had been another way, any other way, He would have taken it.  He could have left us in the messy stench of our self~will & self~love, bogged down by the weight of our sin, but He did not.  He gave up His own will to the Father’s to receive the Name Above All Names.

I like the way Dwight L. Moody says it:
Give your life to God; he can do more with it than you can

We have covered much of this ground before.  We have discussed the 2 dominating characteristics of the early church: their love for each other & their willingness to suffer persecution if it came.

The early church spread like wildfire despite the fact that most Christians ended up poor, found it difficult to get work due to their faith, could be arbitrarily evicted from their homes, were avoided socially ~ in short they suffered as the Middle East church suffers today.

The early church was remarkably different to the society surrounding it & it was remarkably sturdy it its ability to stand against societal norms. One reason for this was that it practised discipleship.

If I say the word disciple most of you will consider it a noun & attach a name to it: Matthew, John, Peter, Nathaniel…However disciple is also a verb & I would argue the primary use of the word in scripture is as a verb.

Jesus chose 12 men to disciple. In fact He entrusted His entire ministry to those 12 men. He sent them out to practise Mark 6:7~13. Both Matthew & Luke also record the occasion. However those 12 were not Jesus only disciples. Luke 10:1 records 72 being sent out to heal the sick & preach the KingdomV8 & they reported even the demons obeyed them when they used Jesus name. V17.

·      This is the pattern you see in the epistles. Yes, the apostles went out & preached the gospel.  They healed the sick.  They taught, exhorted, proclaimed. They cared for the poor & planted churches. They also made disciples because that is what Jesus told them to do. Barnabas invested in Paul when pretty much no~one else would & Paul reached most of the known gentile world with the gospel.  Paul invested in Timothy who eventually pastored the church at Ephesus. Titus & Luke were also discipled by Paul. What’s more, he expected them to also disciple others.
·      “Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 11:1)

·      The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” (2 Timothy 2:2)

In case it’s not obvious the first requirement of discipleship is relationship.  Those who disciple & those being discipled must invest time in each other. Jesus invested his time in 12 men. Paul invested his time in a number of different people. Priscilla & Aquinas mentored Apollo.

The 2nd requirement of discipleship is that it is a 3~way relationship. Ecclesiastes 4:12 says:
A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.

We have our own personal relationship with Christ. We should have a more mature Christian who is prepared to invest in us & we should have those that we ourselves are helping to grow in the love & knowledge of our Lord Jesus. This is how the kingdom is grown.

Discipleship is NOT evangelism.  Preaching the gospel is only the first part of our duty. Saved people need to learn how to worship in spirit & in truth.  They need to learn how to walk in victory in difficult circumstances.  They need to learn how to crucify their flesh, renew their minds & overcome the world.  For most of us this is not an automatic download the moment we get saved.  It is something we learn over time.  Much heartbreak & anguish can be prevented when we take the time to invest in other’s lives & show them how to walk out their faith.

So my question to you today is threefold:
·      Do you have a personal relationship with Jesus & His Holy Spirit?

·      Do you have someone in your life who is investing their time, knowledge & experience in you?

·      Are you investing your time, knowledge & experience in someone else?

Each of us can reach somebody for Christ; none of us can reach everybody.

Sunday, 22 May 2016

Word Power ~ Rabqa

We have been looking recently at the power  words have that we speak, today is no different as we are looking into God's word.
The eighteenth century humanist philosopher Voltaire once said that the Bible was archaic, outdated & would go out of vogue in his lifetime. Well, his lifetime is long gone, but the Bible is still the worlds largest selling book. Ironically, his former house in Paris now houses an office of the international Bible Society. 

Voltaire would have done well to heed what God says about His Word never passing away (Matt 24:35) & to  have paid more attention to his own imminent passing away. 

Sadly, Voltaire's opinion is rife in the world today. When God's Word is ridiculed or ignored, society experiences great periods of darkness & distress. Crime becomes rampant as authorities throw up their hands in despair, not realising that ignorance of God's Word is the reason behind people's fall into greater levels of sin. 

No political gender or program of social reform has ever solved the problem, or for that matter ever will. Only Jesus, the living Word of God, can solve this disease of the human heart. 

When God's Word is ignored, human life is no longer valued. Today the plight of an an endangered species or a beached whale has multitudes of folk volunteering their services & donating their money. But those same people who will stand in freezing water all night to nurse a stricken mammal are unwilling to help a drunk in the gutter or a drug addict in the street. 

Human Life has become cheap. The planned efforts of the abortionist to end life before it begins are matched by the efforts of supporters of euthanasia to end it all before it is really over. Abortion, perhaps more then any other issue, reveals the hedonist tendency of human begins to enjoy their actions without any thought of the outcome. God abhors the taking of a life, for He is the author of life. 

If the world is a mess today it is because the church has failed to take hold of God's Word & preach the true gospel, which will always liberate people form the curse of the fall of man. There are very few people in our generation who know the liberating truth of God's Word. Even those who profess to be religious are often ignorant of the Scriptures. They blindly follow traditions of their denomination without knowing if their doctrines & practices line up with the Word of God. 

Jesus rebuked such people in His day, the learned scribes & Pharisees Matt 22:29 
You are mistaken,...not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God.
Under Jesus' ministry, people were truly set free from the bondage on them through the law. They saw the power of God expressed in His life because He knew the power of God's Word & allowed the Holy Spirit to destroy their burdens. 
Jesus lived by the Word & the Spirit, & His life was filled with freedom & power. God wants every one of us to live the same way way. The key is in the power of the word that we confess. 
God's Word is the most powerful force in the universe. This is because He & His Word are one. They cannot be separated. God is always watching over His Word to fulfil it. 

God's Word is true, His Word is His bond. His Word is eternal & unchangeable because it is settled forever in heaven through the shedding of the blood of Jesus at Calvary. When we speak God's Word into our earthly situations, we are saying that the things on earth are to be the same as they are in heaven.   

God's Word is holy & pure Philippians 4:8 says that we are to keep our minds on things that are true, noble, just & pure. Determine your own thought life, do not let others do it for you. Cause your mind to dwell on those things that bring peace to you & glory to God. Follow holy leadership as a pattern for life & faith. You will the discover that God's Word is pure Prov 30:5 says... Every Word of God is pure. 

 God's Word is eternal. God has never drawn the power of His words from earth, nor will He. For is Word is eternal, just as He is. God's Word is the only restraint on evil & the only way that evil can be changed. God has given us his Word as our life book for living. 

God's Word has power. It has the power to change situations & transform lives. It has the power to bring people to salvation, to loose then from bondages & addictions of the world, to heal everybody who is sick in mind & body. 

Psalm 107:27 & He sent His Word & healed them, & delivered them from their destructions.  When God's Word comes out of the mouth of a believer, it is just as powerful as when it came out of the Living Word, Jesus! 

Now the Bible does not contain God's Word, for it is God's Word. Every Word in the Bible is God breathed:2 Tim 3:16 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 

We must revere God's Word highly, recognise its fully divine source of inspiration, & to submit to it absolutely. 

God's Word is full of golden nuggets of wisdom. Gold prospectors have found the richest veins of ore are buried deep in the earth & require time, energy & expense to remove. Likewise God's Word is available to all, but it takes time, energy & some expense to dig out the treasure. Desire & diligence on our part are needed to extract that wisdom & apply it to our lives. 

Most homes have a Bible, but very few of us know what is written in it. When I started my walk with Christ I didn't know basic instructions like reading, studying & memorising the Scriptures, just as we take a daily food. My meals consisted of religious pomp & traditions A menu which undermines the word of God. 

When I finally understood the power of God's word my life changed. I learnt that the Bible is the only source of all Spiritual knowledge. It is our instruction book for everyday living. When we live by its precepts, we will live a godly life to fulfil our potential & purpose. 

If we buy a new washing machine & don't follow the manufacturers instruction, we will never get the maximum benefit from our our purchase. It is just the same with our life, we can't expect success if we don't follow our Makers instructions. What we are in fact are doing is rejecting them to our own peril. 

The devil, of course, will do whatever he can to make us ignore God's Word. He attacks the Bible like nothing else. He knows all to well that his chances of populating hell are greatly diminished when people find out the truth about God-& about  himself. He is content to hide behind his caricature as one dressed in red carrying a three pronged fork.  Could anyone possibly believe that? People's ignorance of satan is his greatest weapon in deceiving them into tasting the tree of evil under the illusion that there is no price to pay. 

Satan has many ways of attacking God's Word. For a long time he had made sure the Bible was taken out of the hands of the common person & controlled by the clergy, the majority of whom greatly abused their position as custodians of God's words. They hid the liberating truth of the gospel to advantage themselves. Instead of teaching God's Word as it is written, they preached their own man-made traditions & enslaved men & women in religious bondage. 

These were truly the dark ages. They only lifted when great reformers brought the truth of God's Word back into earth. 

Today satan is still attacking the Bible through the very one who should be defending it. The church has so often compromised God's Word to accommodate political power, situational ethics, human ideas, & hedonistic pleasures. God's Word never changes to meet any situation; it remains the same yesterday, today & forever. 

The body of Christ worldwide needs to stand up & say what God says about the issues that confront the world today. 

It is no wonder satan hates the Bible. God's Word is the way He has given us to overcome the forces of evil. We see this clearly in Jesus' ministry, who was able to defeat the devil time & time again simply by saying It is written. The devil could not stand against what God had decreed. 

If we take God's Word into our lives & begin to speak & act on it, it will be a barrier to the devil's plans of destruction. God has given us His Word to protect us from the devil, who cannot rob, kill or destroy us if we stay under the protection of the Word. When Israel obeyed God's commands, they came out of Egypt with no one sick & every one prospering. When we obey His Word & walk in love, we too will enjoy His many blessings. 

You may be wondering where you can find God. You can find Him in His Word. There is only one God for all people for all time, not many gods for different nations. Philosophies teach that God is not a real spiritual being, but it is whatever the individual sees him, her or it to be. This them permeates modern thought, for the devil has done a good job convincing the world that Christian intolerance of any other way but Jesus is a contradiction to the Beatitudes taught by Him.

The idea that all roads lead to God sounds just the go, but that is not true. There are absolutes. God is Spirit, a three-in-one being, Father, Son & Holy Spirit, with Jesus taking on human form to give the godhead expression in the world. God is not an aura, a cosmic consciousness or a fragment of the imagination. & Jesus died for the whole world. as He said in John 14:6 I am the way, the truth, & the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me We see that Jesus is the way to the Father. He is the truth about God & the very life of God. & He reveals truth to us & gives us life. 

Many people embrace New Age practices & Eastern mysticism in an attempt to find the spiritual reality in their lives. They know they have not found it previously in religious practices centred around human traditions & ceremonies.  Chanting OMs is not the way to find God either. He is found only in His written Word. 

In God's Word you find the realities of the spirit, for God is spirit, & His Word is spirit. 

I mentioned earlier that we need to read our Makers instruction book, just as you need to read the manual for a new washing machine to make it work. As for me even if I do read the manual the sad truth is I just wont understand it I need someone to explain it to me. 

It is this way with the Bible. we have been given a wonderful gift of life, & without our Makers guidelines on how to maintain & live that life successfully & productively. Some who read the guidelines find them hard to understand, & throw them aside instead of seeking help. 

I have often found other people very helpful in my attempts to understand what God's Word is saying. But the most important help comes from God Himself, who has sent His Spirit to help us John 16:13 
However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. 

The Holy Spirit wonderfully illuminates the Word of God to us. Jesus, the Living Word was conceived by the Holy Spirit. & the Word of God is also conceived in our spirit by the Holy Spirit. 

Before we were born again of the Spirit of God, we were totally dominated by our body & mind, which were conformed to the negative ways of the world. Change only comes when the eyes of our understanding are opened to the truth of the gospel. This is the wonderful ministry of the Holy spirit who brings illumination to our minds & conviction to our hearts by revealing the truth of the Scriptures.

Eph 1:18 says 
the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, 

The eyes of your understanding being enlightened literally means that your heart may receive the brightness of hope resulting when the wealth of God's investment in you is understood. 
If we are NOT hearing the Word of God. It means that our spirit cannot receive it & grow in faith. All the rejections, hurt, bitterness & unforgiveness, in our lives will make it worse. & we will not know how to overcome those emotions. 

Since we have no faith in theses areas we could almost give in to them & forget all about living in victory. 

But when we sit under faith filled teaching instructing us to hear God's Word everyday, we then start to recover. It is so important to read the Word everyday & find the specific Scriptures relating to our circumstance, & speak those words out aloud, personalising them by making the "you's in the Bible a "me". At first we may not truly believe them, but as long as we keep on we will get that revelation deep down in our spirit. 
A key Scripture is Phil 4:13 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. We must know & believe that Jesus Christ will enable us to do anything He asks us. Nothing is impossible to those who believe. 

Our inheritance as believers can only be received fully by taking a stand on what God has said in the face of contradicting circumstances. Sometimes even suffering death. The stance of faith eliminates fear & worry & brings the freedom to rejoice evermore. True faith never says I cannot! Such an utterance betrays unbelief. 
Isaiah 40:31 says Those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run & not be weary, they shall walk & not faint.  Understand that spiritual strength comes from waiting upon the Lord. 

Faith takes God at His Word when circumstances seem to deny the truth of His promises. Our ability to endure to the end will depend upon our allowing the Holy Spirit to train us in this kind of faith. 

The Holy Spirit will work with us in a powerful way, & will take the Word that we have diligently placed in our spirit & paint a wonderful picture of being sound in mind & body on the canvas of our hearts. When we finally truly believe He will be able to act on the words which we speak in faith & bring our miracle to pass. For faith come by hearing & hearing by the Word of God. 

All the doubt, fear & unbelief will leave, & days of sickness & defeat are over. 

God is listening for His Word to come out of our mouths so He can act on it & bring it to pass in our lives. Now the devil is also listening for his words to come out of our mouths, so he can bring his word to pass. Our choice of words give God or the devil permission to work. 
God fulfils His Word when hears us speaking it out in faith. 

So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, But it shall accomplish what I please, And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it. Isa 55:11 
Choose to believe that God's Word is the most powerful force in the universe & act accordingly. 

Remember not to listen to anyone who will compromise the Bible, it certainly will not glorify God or bring peace to you.   

Acknowledgement Dr Margaret Court.