Intentional Out-Thinking

In a world and body dominated by self, it is an oddity to think of others. Selfishness is the pampered pet of every person.

To be Christian is to think of others more highly than ourselves, and that ain’t natural! It is the model and command of our Lord, who set aside his glorious nature as the Son of God to take on our fleshly existence as Jesus, because we desperately needed help. He cared more about us than maintaining his position, his honor, and even his life. This week is when Christians pause to consider how much he loved us in this way.

That is the gospel’s call to each believer; to love others ahead of self. Deep down, that burns. It crucifies ourselves in tortuous ways. It is a self-inflicted scourging of what we prefer, to elevate the benefit of others through whatever we can do. And, it pains us.

As a way to help instruct a young believer in how to do the un-natural, and elevate the interests of others, I shared the following 4 points that I learned from a woman named Mary.

If we are to be intentional about out-thinking—about concentrating our attention, planning, and efforts in ways that might benefit others toward what lasts—we need to practice thinking outward, rather than inward.

Step 1: Think of someone else.

Get something, someone, other than self, at the forefront of your attention. Focus on someone along the margins. Avoid dwelling on those who distract your attention from what is righteous, like the powerful, attractive, wealthy, or dishonorable.

Picture them; consider their circumstances. Think of what faces them in life. As God declared, “It is not good that man be alone”, so he created a helper. Think like a helper. Not a manipulator or controller, but a supporter and benefiter. Start by thinking of someone else.

Step 2: Think of what they might need, what interests them, what might honor them. Christians focus on the eternal by offering help along that way. Needs should be considered differently than wants. They should be those things that limit the person, hold them down, are beyond their full control, and can be addressed in a way that remains honorable to God.

Interests of others can help guide our thoughts on how to craft a benefit that they can receive and find relief through. As commanded, believers should give honor where due, so think also of how to honorably lift a person up while upholding truth.

Step 3: Think of something you can do to help that person with that need. Craft an approach that might breathe fresh air. Plan something that can ease pain, lift the downcast, help shoulder part of a burden, or turn their thoughts toward their Savior who can provide complete healing.

Remember, giving a cup of cold water can fill a momentary gap, but it is only godly if is satisfies the purpose of “because he is my disciple”. Filling needs must be intentional in serving Christ and bringing people toward him. Anything else, may be helpful, but not Christian. Believers in Jesus think of others best by elevating them before the throne of God in thought and action.

Step 4: Act for their benefit. Unleash yourself beyond fear and self-interest. Love doesn’t return empty, it repeats the Lord’s glorious words, “It is finished”. Do what you do, for the benefit of others, to the glory of God.

“I tell you the truth, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.” (Mt 26:13)

Mary thought of Jesus.

Mary considered what he needed, what was of interest to him, and most especially, what might honor someone worthy of such public devotion.

Mary recalled that bottle of perfume that represented all her worldly treasure.

Mary “did what she could” and, before all the shocked crowds, emptied the entire bottle onto Jesus feet, humbled herself with flowing tears, and wiped his feet with her personal glory: her long hair.

One, two, three, four…for the benefit of another. Her out-thinking demonstrates for us the gospel truth of putting others ahead of self.

As we come up this week to remember the Cross, remember also how Mary crucified her self for the benefit of another to the glory of God. Think of how you can take up your cross daily, crucify your self-interests by putting the interest of another ahead of self, and push through the tears as you live the gospel with resurrected power.

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Setting Your Anchor on the Gospel (3 of 3)

The boy and his best friend could track everything, but one wily coon always seemed to stay one trick ahead.

An old-timer suggested he try the Shiny Trick. Along a known racoon trail, the boy drilled a hole in a log and dropped a shiny coin to the bottom. He hammered three nails at an angle around the hole so that the points almost touched part way inside the hole. Then they waited.

As they headed out the next day on their regular wooded-life adventures, the boy’s trusted huntin’ dog began to howl. Sure enough, there was that huge, angry coon, with one hand stuffed into the hole. All he needed to do was drop the coin and run, but with fist clenched over his new treasure, he could not get past the nails. He refused to let go and finally met his match to the wit of the boy and his huntin’ dog.

Christians are often like that coon.

By God’s grace, we evade every temptation and fiery dart thrown at us by the evil one, until we spot something shiny that we just can’t let go of. Sin is too obvious a trick for many longtime believers, but what about good things? What about our doctrinal beliefs, church traditions, or personal interpretations?

Continuing with our series, our anchor can break loose, if our Christian beliefs and practices don’t remain embedded in trusted ground. Life is dynamic, the Lord is often on the move, and our harbor conditions can change, so reviewing our attachment onto the original teachings of those first apostles remains critical.

As we saw last time, there is only one Christian foundation for the gospel already established, and since the passing of those early eye-witnesses, no changes to that foundation are accepted. Each believer and church must build carefully upon that ground without altering or replacing that trusted ground.

However, as was rapidly occurring even in that first century of the Church, many believers were grabbing onto shiny beliefs and refusing to let go, even when faced with imminent danger. Their anchor had begun to slip. 2000 years later, many today have compounded that drift so far that they no longer remain in the same ocean, let alone safely anchored in a godly harbor.

But how do you know when your anchor is slipping? And, how can you help strengthen its mooring line?

The short answer is to measure each belief to what the Bible actually says and adjust our attachments accordingly.

The problem is that a building’s foundation is hidden below ground, just like the sea-bed remains below the reflective surface of the water. Setting your anchor on what you cannot see requires careful application of procedures—it requires biblical obedience without changes to how we connect to that original teaching.

So, look at your doctrines and beliefs and review their wording to that of Scripture. This is where that Shiny Trick deceives, because even when the truth reveals errors in beliefs or traditions, many refuse to let go of what they like, what they have become comfortable in believing, what they have taught and been taught for so long, and what allows them to fit into a desired group.

“…let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles…Let us fix our eyes on Jesus”. (Heb 12:1-2)

Consider the doctrine of the Trinity. Can you find anywhere in Scripture where that teaching was directly taught? I don’t mean, can it be supported by references, but did the original apostles teach believers to accept the concept of the Trinity? It may be an acceptable teaching “built” upon the foundation, but how many churches have turned it into something foundational to Christianity? Neither the Trinity word, nor the concept itself, can be found anywhere in Scripture as something specifically taught as a foundational part of the gospel. A later church council promoted this teaching to combat errors being taught about God, but the foundation had already been set, so everything thereafter must stay submissive to that original writing. Beware of shifting sand that can dislodge your anchor.

Consider the doctrine of Mother Mary. Does Scripture teach that believers are to view Mary as their mother? John was told to accept her as his mother, and in response he accepted her into his home to support her, but consider what was taught about her. Those who shouted, “blessed be the one” who gave birth to Jesus, the Lord corrected and said, “blessed rather are those who do the will of my Father”. And, as far as who is our “mother”, the Bible specifically directs Christians to view the “Jerusalem above”—the Church—as our mother. Beware of anchor slippage that can drift away from safety in Christ.

Consider the doctrine of speaking in Tongues. It remains very popular, as it was in old Corinth, to measure a believer as genuine according to dramatic, outward evidence, like speaking in tongues. When Paul taught that he would rather believers preach five words of truth, than speak in tongues, he made it clear that outward signs are not foundational to Christian identification. Beware of rope decay that can suddenly break loose from holding your anchored boat in position.

Consider the belief of “once saved, always saved”. Most Protestants automatically accept this, but did the original apostles specifically teach this? It may be something that can be extended from the gospel, but the way in which it is taught today, must remain submissive to everything in Scripture. When Paul wrote that “You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus”, and then added, but “You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace”, it must be acknowledged that Calvin cannot override Paul. Beware of where you drop your anchor, for trusted ground can only be upon the foundation of the gospel and not on later interpretation.

Consider the doctrine of “faith alone”. Luther wanted a more convincing way to confront the error of religious indulgences, so he added the word “alone” to a key passage in Romans where it did not originally exist. He even wrote it into his German translation of Scripture. When confronted about his brash change, he retorted, “well, it should have been there”. Sola Scriptura and the other “Sola’s” all branch from this fundamental change that does not exist in the Bible. Teachings can build upon, if they remain submissive, but they are never to replace or change the gospel’s foundation. Beware of shiny anchors made with clay.

Consider the belief in infallibility. For generations, the Popes have hidden behind the teaching that they are all incapable of committing error or sin, yet their claimed decent extends down from Peter who was recorded by the Spirit to have committed the sin of hypocrisy while leading the Church. No decision of a Pope can ever be refuted or repented of, because that foundational belief defies God’s word that all have sinned and continue to need the covering blood of Jesus to heal and forgive. Beware of perfect anchors that never need to be checked.

Consider teachings on the importance of following the 10 Commandments or the Sabbath day or Tithing. Christians are grounded on a New Covenant and are no longer “under the Law”. Beware of those super-religious promoters of the fullness of Scripture, who defy the foundational changes to the sea-bed caused by the fulfillment of Jesus’ first coming. Anchors that remain attached to applying the Old Covenant cannot be Christian, for only in Christ is the veil of blindness taken away. The former was set aside in fulfillment in order that the new could be established as the foundation. Beware of the claims of tradition, of we were here first, of my degree is higher than yours, of my church is bigger and thus better, of that is the way it has always been, of I’m fine with what I believe, of my god would never do that.

Consider teachings on the imagined Rapture, on marriage redefinition, on the sexually immoral practice of divorce and remarriage, on the disgraceful practice of women preaching and leading men in church, on gender blending, on political engagement, on taking up arms to save our lives. What does the Bible actually teach on these subjects? Building our understandings and efforts carefully on that first, scripturally-defined gospel will keep our anchor solidly in place. Choosing to hang on to our shiny beliefs, may damage our anchor’s ability to hold us secure.

Remember, Satan can accurately quote scripture with the best of ministers. However, his agenda is always to twist the application away from the will of God. Beware of long lists of scriptural references that give the appearance of a solid foundation, but do not honorably uphold the full and original biblical teaching on a particular subject. Don’t make the mistake of assuming your church or denomination will rightly maintain your own anchor.

In the analogy, the anchor itself is not so much the problem; it is how, and on what, we set that anchor that can be an issue. It involves our response of attachment. Notice the boat-paraphrased wording to those believers who initially found their anchor in Christ, but then lost connection:

“He has lost connection with the Anchor, from whom the whole boat, supported and held by its rope and rode-chain, holds fast as God causes it to be moored.” (Col 2:19)

God causes the growth, but he does not force it, such that believers can lose their connection by their own disobedience. The context to this passage is toward believers who were mixing their claimed faith in Jesus with humanistic efforts at good religion. This was no small detail, because, it was eroding their anchor attachment to Christ. Their church and ministers were teaching them methods of worship that were “self-imposed” and “based on human commands”, rather than on what was specifically taught by the original apostles. Their denominational practices had begun to replace devotion to the original teaching of the Gospel.

Our hope, as Christians, must be in the Jesus described in Scripture and not a modernized interpretation of Jesus. He alone can keep us secure.

“We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.” (Heb 6:19)

This hope, as defined in the above scriptural context, is offered to those who consistently keep their confidence in that first written gospel, which “was confirmed to us by those who heard him” (Heb 2:3):

“We have come to share in Christ, if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first.” (Heb 3:14)

There is a story in Scripture about a boat captain and crew that refused to listen to godly advice. They weighed anchor and set off when, and toward where, they wanted to go. A nor’easter of hurricane force descended upon them for two weeks. As depth soundings indicated, they recognized they were headed for a crash landing.

“Fearing that we would be dashed against the rocks, they dropped four anchors from the stern and prayed for daylight.” (Act 27:29)

The boat was a complete loss. They refused to adjust themselves to what God had revealed. The lives of the entire crew would have been lost, except: “God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you. So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will happen just as he told me. Nevertheless, we must run aground on some island.” (v.25-26)

It doesn’t have to be that way. Your ship doesn’t need to be destroyed, nor your own lives threatened. But don’t assume that favorable winds will always carry you where you want to go. Don’t be deceived that your anchor will always hold you secure where you place it.

Drop your anchor on trusted ground as described in God’s holy and faithful word. Set it firmly into that ground per the biblical instructions on what God expects of Christians who say they believe in him. Do your part faithfully and rightly. “Examine yourselves”, as the Bible says, and regularly check your anchor for signs of needed adjustment.

Then trust the Lord to hang on firmly to his obedient followers through the night. He is faithful, and will lose none of those given to him by the Father!

Those who have experienced the delights of boat camping know the joy of being rocked to sleep surrounded by one of the most beautiful parts of Creation. My first night on the water was fitful, as I wrestled with my trust in the anchor, and as I tried to identify what I later was informed was chine-slap.

Learning how to rightly set your anchor on trusted ground, leads to peaceful slumber and hopeful expectation of a pleasant dawn over the diamond-studded ripples. Give it a go; it will forever change you.

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Setting Your Anchor on the Gospel (2 of 3)

The gnarly old salt rowed his boat up onto the deserted island, grabbed the bow rope and anchor stick, found a favorable spot, tapped the stick home, and tied his boat up with plans to explore the shoreline.

As soon as his back was turned, however, his anchor flipped up into the air. With furrowed brow, he retrieved his anchor, grabbed a bigger hammer and pounded the stick deeper into the land.

Satisfied, he turned to go, only to hear a loud “poof”. His anchor once again landed back in the boat. As can happen with good cartoons, he growled as he grabbed his anchor again, fished out of the hold a jack-hammer, and proceeded to drive his anchor down deep in the same spot.

He gave his handiwork a scowl that would scare any decent pirate, then spun to stomp off on his planned mission. This time, the ground shook, the sea began to rapidly retreat, and his newly discovered island took on all the familiar features of an angry whale, who promptly blew the anchor out of his blow-hole so hard that the attached boat went sailing off into the surf, leaving the whiskered and wide-eyed sailor to attempt a Peter and become a wave-runner.

The moral? Set your anchor on trusted ground.

As previously reviewed, Christians are advised to keep a close eye on how they are connected to the good news of the gospel in Jesus. So long as we keep adjusting ourselves to the Lord’s expectations, instructions, and promptings, our anchor cannot be moved. However, if we drop anchor where it doesn’t belong, we are warned within Scripture that our beliefs can drift into dangerous territory and even threaten our ability to stay afloat.

In order to attract visitors, every harbor wants to be known as a safe haven for boaters. You won’t see many signs that say, “Welcome, lots of dangerous shoals, deadly whirlpools, and boat-eating squid”.

So it is within popular Christianity; all churches and groups who claim faith in Jesus will promote their harbor as safe for anchoring. Some may be; some should be avoided. Hundreds, if not thousands, of denominations over the last 2000 years have carved out hidden bays with attractive features for traveling boaters.

How can you identify trusted ground?

Remember the Lords caution: “At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or, ‘There he is!’ do not believe it.” (Mt 24:23) If a church or person says, look here we teach the Bible, or there is the gospel…be careful in what you believe. For, as this passage continues, many false teachers and deceptive ministers will promote ideas, church programs, and dramatic ministries that are so impressive that even the elect could be misled.

Trusted ground. Set your anchor in trusted ground. Everyone will tell you their ground is trusted, but how can you check the soil before you drop anchor? For that matter, how can you make sure the soil has not shifted over time? True believers need to regularly check their anchor line to keep it secure in trusted ground.

This is no new problem. The early church struggled with this same issue, and by God’s grace, the answer has been recorded over and over again for those with eyes to see. The call is to strive to maintain an anchor to what the original apostles taught.

“See that what you have heard from the beginning remains in you. If it does, you also will remain in the Son and in the Father. And this is what he promised us—even eternal life.” (1 Jn 2:24-25)

The conditional preposition, “if”, places the responsibility on believers to hang onto what was taught at the beginning of the church. The good news gospel of eternal life is the promise for those who keep their anchor on that “beginning” message. John wrote this instruction because “many antichrists” had entered the church and were teaching believers things that were slowly-but-surely changing the soil around their anchors.

Those who teach things that are different from what was originally presented at the start of the church, or who add new ideas, or who shift the meanings, or emphasize things differently than those writers of Scripture “are trying to lead you astray” (1 Jn 2:26). To avoid anchoring in the attractive blow-hole, look for doctrines and practices that strive to match what those apostles taught at the start.

As the apostle John was inspired to declare about early apostolic authority in writing truth to Christians:

“I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to be first, will have nothing to do with us.” (3 Jn 9)

“We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us. This is how we recognize the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood.” (1 Jn 4:6)

Some muddle this last quote and assume John is suggesting that all Christians have the authority to speak truth and others must listen. He is actually talking about himself and those like him who had been commissioned directly by Jesus in the beginning of the Church. Paul confirms the same original-apostle view.

“Whether, then, it was I or they, this is what we preach, and this is what you believed.” (1 Cor 15:11)

Christian belief must be based on the biblical teaching presented by eye-witness apostles of Jesus. The biblical and theological foundation for Christians is specifically built upon “the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone” (Eph 2:20).

Peter’s approach, yet again, establishes this limited basis for defining the gospel:

“…I have written to you briefly, encouraging you and testifying that this is the true grace of God. Stand fast in it.” (1 Pet 5:12)

“So I will always remind you of these things…and I will make every effort to see that after my departure you will always be able to remember these things. We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty…and we have the word of the prophets made more certain, and you will do well to pay attention to it.” (2 Pet 1:12-19)

Peter believed he had the God-given authority to define the true gospel of grace, and that it matched what was earlier presented by the prophets. No other religious leaders have this right. All future instruction on the Christian gospel must submit to what those original apostles and even earlier prophets taught.

“I want you to recall the words spoken in the past by the holy prophets and the command given by our Lord and Savior through your apostles.” (2 Pet 3:2)

“We are witnesses of everything he did…He was not seen by all the people, but by witnesses whom God had already chosen—by us who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead. All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.” (Act 10:39-43)

In the same way, the Holy Spirit breathed through Paul that others could not originate God’s word, but that he—Paul—could. The Lord established a limited group of original church leaders with divine authority to define the gospel and no one else was allowed to add to or change what they spoke and wrote.

“Did the word of God originate with you?…what I am writing to you is the Lord’s command. If he ignores this, he himself will be ignored.” (1 Cor 14:36-38)

“…when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is at work in you who believe.” (1 The 2:13)

“I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book. And if anyone takes words away from this book of prophecy, God will take away from him his share in the tree of life”. (Rev 22:18-19)

Apparently, many were already ignoring the condition of their anchor, and were slipping away from what was originally taught…and that was less than a hundred years into the Church, let alone our 2000 years of possible drift. Improvements and changes to the gospel as first defined will bring curses that, if not repented of, will result in complete loss of a believer’s right to eternal life. It is that important!

When confronting church teachings that had begun to stray from this basis, Paul reminded believers on the foundational limits to defining the gospel. His caution to a fellow minister and the rest of the church was to “not go beyond what is written”.

“By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should be careful how he builds. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.” (1 Cor 3:10-11)

No believer, no minister, no ruler, no creed, no church council, no denomination, no amount of historical tradition, and no vote can ever add to or adjust this fundamental basis of the gospel as presented in holy Scripture. The anchor of a Christian soul depends on sustaining this unique and limited foundation. Only teachings, that remain submissive to and restrained within the New Covenant revelation of God recorded in the Bible, can provide trusted ground. Everything else is shifting sand.

“Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.” (1 Cor 15:1-2)

Belief in Jesus’ Gospel, per the above, depends upon holding firmly to what Paul taught, and not to what others think about what Paul taught, and not to whatever is different than he taught. This authority to define the gospel “for what I received and I passed on to you” specifically defines those to whom the Lord revealed himself, as “Peter”, “the Twelve”, “James” the brother of Jesus, “five-hundred of the brothers” and “last of all” Paul himself.

“Surely you have heard about the administration of God’s grace that was given to me for you, that is, the mystery made known to me by revelation, as I have already written briefly…which was not made known to men in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets. This mystery is that through the gospel…” (Eph 3:1-7)

The Spirit of God reveals truth to all believers, but this passage is talking about the foundational defining revelation that establishes the gospel message. No additional defining is allowed; only explaining and informing that builds and matures a believer, consistent with that original pattern.

The Christian witness is not based on personal testimony; it must remain based on the eye-witness accounts from the start of the Church. We can, and ought to, supplement the gospel with our own experiences, but never alter, undermine, or shift the truth as already grounded in the Bible. Congregational teachings, traditions, and practices can enhance individual experiences, but only so long as they remain submissive and supportive of the truth presented in God’s word.

“What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching…the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others.” (2 Tim 1:13; 2:2)

Apostolic and ministerial succession involves the passing of authority through the generations to qualified leaders who will imitate and replicate that original teaching. It passes along the responsibility, but never the authority to establish truth or define the gospel. Sadly, many still think they have that right, or are numb to the truth that the gospel must stay as originally taught or shipwreck the boaters.

“I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints.” (Jud 3-4)

Jude, the brother of Jesus and James, writes to confront this anchor-drift by ministers who were secretly shifting the grace of the gospel. He describes all sorts of approaches that remain common in many churches to this day, like going around flattering others and telling them how amazing everyone is. Beware of shifting sand under your anchor, hidden below the surface.

“We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away…this salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him.” (Heb 2:1-3)

Anchor drift is most dangerous when conditions seem calm and in familiar territory, because we can easily fall asleep or become distracted with the attractive sights or think we know everything. Church history, widely accepted traditions, advanced seminary degrees, and active church growth are not reliable measures for staying well grounded to the gospel. Our anchor needs to be set on what was taught in the beginning by those eye-witnesses. Our witness needs to promote their foundational witness and not stray into our own ideas.

“…watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them…now to him who is able to establish you by my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past, but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God…be glory”. (Rom 16:17, 25-26)

The Christian call is to set our anchor on trustworthy ground. That requires a bit more effort than heave-ho. For reasons known to the Lord, weeds and wolves are allowed to toss anchors near true believers and to even impact the ground on which our anchors connect. To stay firmly attached, we are commanded to separate from those who teach or do things that drift from being careful with God’s word.

Yes, that may mean separating from long-time friends or leaders in church when our anchors get dislodged. That is a cost of discipleship that many will refuse to pay. A little slip in the anchor is normal, so why bother? We all agree on the basics of Jesus don’t we?

“For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached to you, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough.” (2 Cor 11:4)

“I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel…other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned!” (Gal 1:6, 8)

“It has given me great joy to find some of your children walking in the truth, just as the Father commanded us…If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not take him into your house or welcome him. Anyone who welcomes him shares in his wicked work.” (2 Jn 9-10)

These passages (and many others like it) refer to believers who have accepted anchor drift and are headed for disaster. Novice and lazy boaters drop anchors that they assume will do their job without further attention: same for Christians who think their connection to Jesus and his gospel is automatic. Those who want to ensure their secure moorage through the night, must rightly set their anchor as described in their boater’s handbook.

“He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught”. (Tit 1:9)

“Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ. I praise you for remembering me in everything and for holding to the teachings, just as I passed them on to you.” (1 Cor 11:1-2)

“This is the message you heard from the beginning”. (1 Jn 3:11)

“I want you to know, brothers, that the gospel I preached is not something that man made up. I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ.” (Gal 1:11-12)

“Therefore it is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from John’s baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us. For one of these must become a witness with us of his resurrection.” (Act 1:21-22)

“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching”. (Act 2:42)

“And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning.” (Jn 15:27)

“Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; obey it, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you.” (Rev 3:3)

“…that conforms to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me.” (1 Tim 1:11)

“Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you. For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ…whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice.” (Phi 3:17; 4:9)

Look into the recorded word of God to find trustworthy ground to set your anchor upon. Join with other believers who demonstrate a maturing pattern of seeking the same foundation upon which to live and serve. Recognize that the Lord allows ground conditions to shift, so regularly check your attachment as directed in Scripture. Repent of error; Separate from what persists against God’s word, and devote yourself to the original apostles’ teaching.

Next, we’ll consider how to spot and deal with signs of anchor drift.

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Setting Your Anchor on the Gospel (1 of 3)

Many unskilled boaters who drop an anchor for a night, expecting to be gently rocked to sleep, have suddenly found themselves dashed against shoreline rocks in the wee hours of dawn.

Do you know how to properly set an anchor?

As a Christian, have you properly set your gospel anchor? The analogy is fitting, in that the ground is typically hidden, and so it is easy to assume that the anchor will do what it is designed to do, all on its own, and we don’t need to contribute anything. Many believe they are safely attached to the Rock, and give little thought to checking what they depend upon, but cannot see.

Boaters who wish to safely see the dawn, and not allow their claimed faith to be ship-wrecked, need to read their boater’s handbook and set their anchor rightly. As the Lord instructs, “He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you?” Handbooks are often a last resort for stubborn-minded travelers, but setting the anchor is part of our job–holding onto a rightly set anchor, no matter the storm, thank God, is the Lord’s job.

As any informed sea captain will tell you, there are several factors to rightly setting anchors. The most important factor is to figure out the ground conditions in order to determine what to expect and what type of anchor to drop. Sandy soil has very different characteristics than rocky soil. Wide blade anchors are more useful to bury deep under sand, heavy ones are best for more solid ground, and specialty styles can be easier to detach when time to weigh anchor.

Setting anchor on soft ground is much like building a house on sand–it is fine for a short stay, but you better hope no storm is a’brewing. Extra hard ground, on the other hand, can cause an anchor to skip and bounce without ever digging in. Since the attachment point is typically hidden or obscured, the second key is to “set” the anchor.

Setting an anchor, simply described, involves dropping it off the bow, sufficiently ahead of where the tide and/or winds will push the boat, giving it enough line to reduce the angle of pull, and then to gently drive the boat backwards. This extra energy helps to drive the anchor into the ground and grab. Too soft a pull, and the anchor can cut loose when least expected. Too hard a pull, and you just damage the sea-life with a farmer’s trench.

The third detail is to keep an eye out for changing conditions. Anchors are effective if rightly placed, set, and maintained, but they are not fail-safe if ignored. Good anchors give good sleep, and a hope for a bright tomorrow.

All this is fitting for Christians. The Gospel of Jesus is a reference to the good news provided by and promised from the Lord. It is good, because it offers freedom from the eternal penalty of destruction under the wrath of God because of our sin. It is good, because Jesus, while still fully God-with-us, came to this earth, took on our humanity as also fully man, and willingly died in our place to pay that penalty. It is good news, because those who accept his sacrifice, and his Lordship over their lives, become his for eternity.

In one sense, he is our anchor and he can never break loose. This analogy about setting our anchor is not about faith in Jesus; it is not about his sovereign ability to save those who come to him; and, it is not about anything we must do in order to be saved. Jesus has justified faithful believers by what he has accomplished, and we can rest assured through every storm, that this Anchor will hold.

Rather, the distinction being considered here, is something that the Bible teaches about where we place our anchor. This is a sanctification issue that requires believers to participate in evaluating their claimed beliefs. There are a number of ways Scripture addresses this issue, but here we will reflect on what God has to say about being poorly attached to the gospel.

If you will allow a boating paraphrase of the follow passage, consider what is being said to Christians:

“I am astonished that you are so quickly dragging anchor away from the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are drifting dangerously toward a different shoreline gospel—which is no gospel at all. Evidently some people on your boat have let go of your anchor and are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ” (Gal 1:6-7).

Even trusted Church leaders, like Peter and Barnabas, “were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel” and had drifted into the rocks of hypocrisy. Their anchor had come loose and started to drift, but thankfully, they had a faithful deckhand who sounded the alarm and helped them re-set their anchor properly. However, the additional danger is that drifting can require a “reforming” of Christ in a believer:

“My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you” (Gal 4:19).

As another writer put it, again with a boater’s paraphrase:

“In fact, though by this time you ought to be a ship’s captain, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of godly boating all over again. You need knot-tying 101, not helmsmanship…captaining a boat is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good anchoring from bad.” (Heb 5:12-14)

In fact, some believers remain fast asleep as their anchor has come completely detached and have unknowingly become “alienated from Christ: you have fallen away from grace.” (Gal 5:4) Many think they are anchored to the solid rock of Jesus, but that anchor point remains below the surface and can be easily misread, if we are not humble and willing to regularly review what the Lord says about staying rightly attached.

The task before believers, who are awake enough to care about the placement of their anchor, is to stir ourselves out of our warm beds and review where we think we are.

To what is your anchor attached? And, how can you help strengthen its mooring line?

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Knowing with Certainty

Conviction is a drug of choice. We all want to possess absolute knowledge–to be like God–to be our own god. That is the mind-altering addiction we all suffer under since that fateful day in the Garden of Eden.

Within Christianity, it has even gained the status of a central doctrine: one of those teachings that believers are expected to accept and promote. “You can know with certainty that you are saved”, so says the preacher.

The assurance of salvation is that historic tenant of the church, that most often takes the biblical teaching of “knowing” and transforms it into an attractive alternative to faith. Assurance of Faith, as often taught, doesn’t need faith.

For sure, the Bible does teach about assurance in our faith, but the explanations typically given have altered what God offers into a formula that denies the need for God. Are you willing to take a closer look at your foundation to see if your belief in salvation remains biblically grounded or has become yet another tradition of religious men?

Jesus spoke about this common human tendency toward wanting self-assessed conviction for salvation–an alternative to faith that allows us to tell God that he is required to save us. To those who know that they know they will be saved for eternity, God says “away from me”.

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” (Mt 7:21)

The Lord then says that “many” will try to justify why his rejection of their assurance of salvation should be reconsidered. Apparently they swallowed the doctrine that they were guaranteed to make it into heaven and that all the evidence of success in their ministry was proof that God’s Spirit was active in them. They were “certain” of being saved, but per the Lord, they were certainly deceived.

John the Baptist says something similar to the people of God who thought God had to save them. Many Jews believed that they were guaranteed salvation because God promised the patriarch that his children would be saved, and as documented children of Abraham, they were certain and assured of their promised destiny.

“And do not think you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham.” (Mt 3:9)

To arrogant Christians, Paul writes against making assumptions of eternal assurance contrary to the evidence, when he said:

“I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.” (Gal 5:21)

Instead, he instructs believers to test themselves, to:

“Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you–unless, of course, you fail the test?” (2 Cor 13:5)

Even those to whom God has directly said he would save them, he warns against such encouragement turning into a doctrine of eternal guarantee, when he stated:

“If I tell a righteous man that he will surely live, but then he trusts in his righteousness and does evil, none of the righteous things he has done will be remembered; he will die for the evil he has done.” (Eze 33:13)

The Lord confirms this warning of self-assessed assurance, after the Church had decades of growth and had begun forming doctrinal teachings, when he repeatedly said several churches were “doing well” as believers:

“Yet I hold this against you” (Rev 2 & 3)

Those who repent, would be forgiven, but he specifically tells those believers who refuse to repent, that he would take away their future hope in being with him, that the Lord himself would fight against them, that they and their children would die, that they would not be present when he returns, and that they were about to be vomited out of God’s mouth.

God promises two forms of assurance in Scripture. The one often taught, uses biblical passages, but twists it into a faithless assurance–one that we can measure ourselves, and that we can claim to possess without loss, and one that replaces any need for the fear of God or of trust in his mercy. We own this type of assurance. We can present it to God and make him accept us into eternity. We can rest assured that we are good to go.

This first type of assurance is the one that is possessed by believers who

“perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness.” (2 Thes 2:10-12)

Non-believers don’t need a delusion added upon them, because the Bible teaches that they remain under the wrath of God. It is those who have somehow escaped such error, but then instead of submitting to the truth (in this case, the truth about eternal assurances), God gives them an alternative belief. They are absolutely convinced of their happy destiny, just like those who said “Lord, Lord”, but were identified as those who did what was wicked.

Many preachers will point to John’s use of the phrase “this is how you know you have eternal life” as meaning that a person can self-measure their lack of habitual sin, their physical acts of love, and their acceptance of the major church doctrines on the identity of Jesus, as proof of personal salvation. Notice, no faith needed. That is not what John was teaching. His use of the term “to know” is set in contrast to the Gnostic error that had entered the church, on how a believer can know what is right. This use of knowing is meant to emphasize the idea of “recognizing truth”, or identifying what is true, or understanding and seeing the differences between godly teaching and mis-teaching. He is not using the phrase to teach on certainty or absolute conviction. He wants Christians to find comfort in finding supporting evidence to their belief, to look for godly backup to their claim of faith, not to point to things we can see and conclude that we are guaranteed to be saved no matter what else.

Such apparent guarantees are called a “license for immorality”–an official assurance that a person can be certain in their salvation, even in spite of potential sin and without any further need for faith. That is a lie! That is not the assurance presented in Scripture.

The other biblical form of assurance remains dependent upon faith. The Bible declares that true assurance is “in Christ”, and not something we can measure or claim without continued faith in his personal call. There is only one person in all of heaven or earth that knows with certainty who will be saved.

I will say this again: There is only ONE person in all of heaven or earth that knows with certainty who will be saved. That one is not you. It is not your minister. It is not the burning conviction in your heart. It is not the evidence of good deeds or pious living or Church doctrine. In the context of biblical teaching on the resurrection to eternal salvation, we are warned against believing those ministers who twist the truth in church:

“Nevertheless, God’s solid foundation stands firm, sealed with this inscription: ‘The Lord knows those who are his,'” (2 Tim 2:19)

You have a choice. You can base your assurance for your life-hereafter on what you think you can measure about yourself, or on what grand doctrine has been historically taught to you; or, you can humbly base your assurance on faith in Jesus’ love for you and his promises to bring you to his heavenly kingdom.

The first is certain in what we think we will get. The second is certain only in knowing who Jesus is.

As Peter declared when he lacked certainty about what Jesus meant by “eat my flesh”:

“Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.” (Jn 6:68-69)

And, as Martha declared when she lacked certainty about what Jesus meant by, he who believes will live, and die, and never die:

“I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world.” (Jn 11:27)

A believer’s assurance in God’s internal dwelling, assurance in transformation in spite of our weaknesses, assurance in knowing the unknowable, assurance in his sovereign control even when experiencing trials and abuse, and assurance in our promised inheritance for eternity as a saved child of the King, all rests on faith in Jesus.

Such faith is more than knowledgeable belief in the Lord, it is a trusting in him that fills all the gaps in what we don’t know, can’t see, are incapable of fully grasping, and simply do not yet have a hold of, without actually giving us any of those answers. This type of genuine faith is often seen as weak and uncertain. It is ridiculed as useless, brainless, and ignorant. It doesn’t provide convincing proof to satisfy the criticisms of others. It says we believe, with partial evidence, but admit that we don’t have all that we would like to have figured out or understood. The constant pressure, even for believers, is to try and replace faith with fact–something that others might respect. But, without living actively with this type of faith, it is impossible to please God.

We are encouraged to measure for fruit, for character, for evidence of a transformed life that is continually moving away from sin and toward the likeness of Christ, but such measuring is NEVER intended to replace faith. It only helps encourage. It gives a brief encouragement that we are likely on track. It helps us to grow in knowing him, but not in claiming guarantees outside of a very dependent and humble faith.

Those who know, and those who think they know but are deceived, all desire the same end–a resting in our hope that everything will work out well for us. The former admit they can be deceived and stay humble before the Lord, asking for him to search their hearts and remove any wickedness. The latter celebrate their expected destiny, rejecting any possibility of error, and tell everyone around them that they should enjoy the same certain conviction they have.

If you want godly assurance, then fix your eyes on the Lord and not on your claimed guarantees. Trust in his love and promises, while striving to obey him in every detail. Accept the humble cross that looks and feels like failure to everyone else, trusting that Jesus has it all figured out. Repent of errors in behavior and thought, as well as errors of incorrect beliefs. Don’t be like the arrogant who go around trumpeting their assurances. Let your assurance remain safe in the Lord and stay close to him.

There is only one reference to faith in John’s epistle. His teaching on knowing assurance remains fully upon a faith in what we cannot fully see or know:

“This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.” (1 Jn 5:4-5)

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Truth Transcends

Truth cannot be reasoned.

[A previous series on this blog presented the concept of Truth, but this article will consider the philosophical problem.]

Philosophy is only as good as the validity of thought. Incorrect thinking leads to poor observations. To be useful, reason needs accuracy, it depends upon truth.

The problem is that human observation, logic, and reasoning are incapable of proving truth. It is a function of dependency. An object can point to a cause, but it cannot explain the cause, because it is limited as a result. The secondary result is dependent upon a primary cause. It is simple math; the first precedes whatever is second or subsequent.

As frustrating as this is for philosophers, most are not only aware of this problem, it haunts them. Human reason requires validity to justify observations. It needs truth to define right from wrong, but identifying truth itself remains out-of-reach, because it exists outside of and beyond human thought. [The same limit applies to “proving” reality or God]. Logic can point to the evidence, but not truth itself.

Truth enables, among other things, repeatable patterns of accuracy to be recognizable, but it is not part of the measurement. Rather, it causes the measuring to be valid or invalid. This is why observations and reasoned thoughts can be tracked using symbols and numbers, but truth remains outside of that system, and cannot be absolutely verified.

Numerous philosophers have openly acknowledged that the concept of truth transcends efforts to prove it (Godel, etc.). As one philosopher stated: “you cannot use reason to prove reason.” It is what is known as circular reasoning: using reason to prove itself valid. Science can attempt to measure objects and phenomena that exist, but it can’t reach anything that precedes the thought that is used to measure. In other words, our minds are our limits.

This is not to suggest that efforts have not been made to slap definitions to truth. Humanity is not about to give up its quest for god-hood.

The problem with most philosophical propositions on truth is they use a few observed trees to define the forest expanse, a tool to define the man, a few word patterns to define communication, purpose, intent. Rather, it ought to be that what is observed, derives from what is. Recognition never creates; it can give labels, but it cannot give identity.

Truth exists. It is. It is simply beyond human capture.

What follows is a brief perspective:

Truth appears to be that: Which Is; Is Independent; Is Continuous; and, Is Right

Which is. Truth exists, it “is”. Without it, there can be no such thing as understanding or knowledge. There can be no truth outside of or beyond existence. Much more than a concept or term, truth must “be”. The evidence of existence demands a being that is, that which is the unchanging and ever-present reality called Truth. Not all, however, of that which is can be called truth.

Is Independent. To be truth, that which is must be independent. Regardless of substance, nothing dependent can ever be truth. Dependent existence, reality, facts can only ever reflect degrees of recognizable truth or the line-crossing recognition of false reflection. Truth is true without any need for contrast. It exists ahead of and without dependence upon resulting logic, reason, observation, linguistics, or thought. It is true from what it is, not because it is recognized. Not all, however, of that which is and which might have some boundaries of independence, can be called truth.

Is Continuous. To retain the attribute of truth, that which is must also be continuous. Truth cannot ever stop being true, any more than it could ever become what it already is. Truth is always, has always been, and must always be. Without immeasurable continuity, whatever else may be can’t be true; at best, it can only reflect something of what is true. If it can shift over time, then what is true can at another moment be false, which violates laws of reason. Non existence also violates the law of excluded middle, for it must be true or false without change or absence. Not all, however, of that which is, which exists independently, and has continuity, like perhaps definitions, propositions, or substances, can of itself be labeled as truth.

Is Right. To be truth, that which is must rightly be true under every conceivable condition. By nature, unlike a paradox, it defines existence rightly in the concrete, abstract, moral, and theoretical arenas of observation. Such truth operates as the standard for all that is right, accurate, agreeable, reliable, and true. Truth is more than identification of accuracy, or the retention of right reasoning, it is good.

Identification of truth by limited beings will require faith. Regardless of religious preference, faith is practiced universally. Evolutionists depend upon a belief in progressive-improvements which cannot be proven. Materialists rely upon their form of faith in pre-matter. Science, in spite of its claims, simply cannot prove anything in absolute terms, thus leaving every theory and hypothesis dependent upon faith-assumptions. Atheists, who really are more like agnostics, need faith to confirm their rejection of what they cannot see, measure, or dis-prove. And yes, even Christians, rely on an informed faith—a belief in God and a plan for humanity that is supplemented by measurable evidence.

The infamous line, “I think, therefore I exist”, is a vain attempt at proof. It is just another evidence of circular reasoning, because the thinker cannot measure his own thoughts without dependence as part of what needs to be measured.

Discussion of any kind of truth must begin with an honest admission of limitations and a dependence upon faith. Those who are willing to admit that they cannot do what they want to claim—who submit to the reality of proof-limits—are capable of being reasoned with. Others are philosophical ostriches with their heads buried. To the open and honest, one can begin a reasonable conversation on how the available evidence of what we can verify points with far greater preponderance toward God.

In other words, those who accept that everyone forms beliefs with faith, are better able to receive the truth that all reasoning and observed evidence points with far greater a percentage toward the reality of God and of truth, than for any other form of belief. For example, the Bible is the only text in existence that continues to demonstrate a 100% accuracy. No other text or statement can attest to that kind of dominant proof—not even close.

Truth exists. We know it does; we can verify parts and pieces. We need it to be, in order to have anything worth saying or accepting as right. And, although it may require faith for absolute acceptance, there remains an enormous amount of sufficient-proof in the evidence we can measure, to conclude that truth is real.

The Lord our God, the Lord is One. He alone fits the definition, the reality, and the truth.

 

 

 

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In Defense of Teachers

Teachers are under attack. The war has engulfed all nations, bringing schools, universities, families, and all forms of training to their knees. As the old rock song shouted: “Teachers, leave those kids alone!”

To be a teacher in this world, is not only a vow of poverty, it is to volunteer for sterilization. The so-called father of modern education, James Dewey, redefined the idea of education from teaching to exposure. If a class leader will only expose students to new experiences, then real education can develop uniquely as each student figures out whatever truth works for them. The call is for teachers to become non-directing facilitators.

Years ago, I got confronted by a church leader in a large church, that teaching should only happen by the pastor in church and small group leaders should only facilitate. Control of the masses, by the elite at the top of any organization, is easier if mid-management stays out of the way.

But what does God say? Not that most care, but there are a few, who perhaps don’t realize they have swallowed worldly philosophy, and if highlighted may come to their senses and turn back to godly teaching.

The Holy Spirit gifts Christians to serve in various roles, none of which are stated as facilitators. God wants teachers to teach. He has specifically identified them in the top three positions within his Church (1 Cor 12:28). The Bible says this kind of teacher must be capable to presenting what is right as well as refuting error.

Yes, that means that grading still benefits from being red-lined and identified as needing correction, without fear that the poor little guppy will shrink into dysfunction. Soft-brained psychology has de-boned the holiday ham, and left education spineless. Boundaries are not harmful, they actually protect and distinguish, so travelers can appropriately navigate in a dynamic world with others.

The Bible teaches that no one can ever come to God unless they hear the truth through a teacher:

“How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!’…Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ…’Their voice has gone out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.’” (Rom 10:14-18)

Teachers are called by God to present the good news of Jesus according to the revelation in Scripture. Genuine education has to be taught in line with God’s words. It cannot be self-discovered or claimed contrary to what is presented in Scripture. The words are in the Bible, but the ability to hear and receive it is restricted to getting it through a teacher.

In this regard, God requires truth and real education to be sought through the teaching of the Holy Spirit, as well as through Spirit-filled, human teachers. This is true, both of faith-teaching as well as fact-teaching. People are born with the need to be informed, and they do best if taught by those who know better, rather than by those who abdicate such authority.

Some have incorrectly interpreted John’s statement that “you do not need anyone to teach you”, as a dismissal of all teaching. The context (1 Jn 2) is very clearly applied to those who at one time were part of the church, but then left and rejected what was right, and were then “trying to lead you astray.” His statement is not a rejection of teachers, but of dependence on staying under teachers who were Christian, but then started teaching falsely and deceiving believers. The Holy Spirit in each believer is that faithful teacher in whom we are told to “remain in him”. We still need teachers, because God still uses human ministers; we just don’t need to stay connected to false-teachers in the Church.

One of those teachings, that is false, is to reject presenting right/wrong and true/false answers, and instead facilitate self-preference. The attempt to reject such identification is why many incorrectly suggest that truth is subjective to each person’s viewpoint. Truth may well be beyond the grasp of many, but factual accuracy remains very much accessible for those willing to teach and to be taught.

The problem with facilitation is it assumes that the answer is within a student and just needs to be skillfully extracted. Facilitation means to enable, without dictating to the student. It also implies that there is no such thing as a reliable standard for truth, reality, right, bad, or continuous law.

That philosophy, of inherent goodness, is opposite of God’s revealed truth. Mankind’s orientation has become completely evil since that first sin, and when absent of God can never do anything of lasting good. Useful education and truth cannot be found within.

That lie of finding internal wisdom is how Eve was deceived in the Garden, when the snake told her that she could be like God if she exposed herself to her own experience by eating contrary to what God taught. God’s teaching was dumped for Satan’s facilitation. That is the core of sin.

Truth must be taught. Education requires presentation of what a teacher has received, to those who have yet to receive it. As one Bible writer noted:

“A man can receive only what is given him from heaven.” (Jn 3:27)

Jesus was rightly called the Great Teacher (Rabbi). In contrast to the facilitator approach that was popular with Bible teachers in his day, he taught with authority (Mt 7:29). In fact, his students were only allowed to remain in class, if they accepted his teachings, even when they did not understand the answers. “Where else would we go,” Peter responded at one point, because Jesus taught truth.

“I am the Lord your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go. If only you had paid attention to my commands, your peace would have been like a river.” (Psa 48:17-18)

The Lord was a teacher, not a facilitator, because the truth of God must come to us, not be discovered from within or by our own efforts. He was not afraid to say, “You have answered correctly”, or “you do not understand” the text or reality. His students came to learn from their teacher, what they did not already know. They needed to be taught what was right, not just what was observable.

The world hates this dependence. To become their own god, humans need to reject teachers. The irony, is that Satan has no intention of giving up teaching. The attempted shift toward facilitation simply pushes teaching underground, through hidden agendas. Universities, art, media, TV, and social media stars, push private ideologies while claiming to just be guiding their audiences. As a result, those who disagree with them are ridiculed, and subjected to violent abuse, for not accepting their “hidden” teaching.

The reality is that students do learn better and retain more through self-involvement. Personal investment does make a huge difference in learning; and, facilitating a person to reach toward what they are fully capable of attaining, is often more effective than directive-style instruction. Coaching a skilled team is best when on the play field, but teaching is necessary to develop such skill, to inform on rules of the game, and to prepare on how to best confront the competition.

In this sense, directing the learning toward what can be confirmed and observed as right, as well as identifying what is wrong or contrary to scientific evidence, remains a central need by students from skilled teachers. Then, within those guidelines, students can be facilitated to pursue their own discovery of what works and doesn’t work, without concern of harm or distortion of reality. Students need a safe and healthy environment in which to learn; a place where abuse is called wrong, and harmful exposures are prevented.

In other words, there is a place for facilitation, but leading education or the discovery of what is right or wrong, is not appropriate. Leaders need to teach when the information is external and unknown. Facilitation should only be a subset approach that teachers can use, not a replacement of teachers. A young child needs a parent-like teacher to show them how to cross the road safely, rather than a facilitator who exposes them to highway traffic and lets them self-learn.

As a student progresses in a subject, that is when directive presentations can become less frequent, and more facilitated discovery ought to increase. There will still be a need however, even among advanced doctoral students, for identifying fallacies of logic, and misdiagnosis of evidence. So whether in a home, school, or training facility, early education should be taught, and successes in learning should benefit from greater freedoms of exploration, all while retaining the teachers oversight, until mastery is demonstrated.

Because this worldly error, of replacing teaching with facilitation, has infected large portions of the Christian church, seeking truth has widely been replaced with a preference for sharing opinions. Getting group members to share their observations and thoughts has taken a damaging priority over speaking God’s words. Many people have become addicted to their own voices and “refuse to love the truth and so be saved”. Teachers have largely been exorcised out of the Church.

But God will preserve those who refuse to bow to the Baal of human philosophy or high education. Honor those who teach carefully from God’s word. Don’t be misled by those who reference God’s words, but don’t actually speak truth. Support those who show godly evidence of speaking with authority, while restraining self-promotion.

In terms of recognizing the God-given gift to teach:

“Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God.” (1 Pet 4:11)

“If it is teaching, let him teach” (Rom 12:7).

“Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” (1 Cor 11:1)

Teachers are very important to God. He is careful in selecting those he wants to direct others and will hold them to a higher accounting because they have such a significant potential impact on the development of others. The biblical warning is that not many should presume to become a teacher before God. Certainly, there are many wolves behind teacher’s desks, both in the world and in churches, so students beware. Yet, teachers who teach rightly have beautiful feet!

All Christians are being trained to become Priests in God’s Kingdom; leaders who will represent and teach others before God. So regardless as to your role today, hold up the arms of faithful teachers you know, and study to show yourself approved as one worthy to become a teacher of God for eternity.

God bless teachers who are not afraid to still teach!

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Mapping the Church Commission: Culmination (6 of 6)

In a culture driven by video games, the surreal has often become the preferred reality. Living in an artificial world of fantasy—that can be restarted, resurrected, and replayed without end, and with minimal discomfort—appeals to many over dealing with human-interacted life. Digital maps that engage the user, without needing to step out into the outdoors, have become an end of themselves, disconnecting many from what they used to point towards.

Games can be fun, but they can also consume and distort. Real life has an end game. It cannot be restarted so easily, nor can losses be reset. Life ages, aches increase, players are replaced. Those who stay engaged in the real world have to face that everything contributes to a final destiny.

In our series on mapping the commission given to the Church, the same reality holds. There is a culminating purpose to the command to go into all the world in Jesus’ name. The commission has an end point.

This series will focus on 6 features of the map:

Defining the Commission

Commissioning the Commission

Sustaining the Commission

Maintaining the Commission

Measuring the Commission

Culmination of Mission

The stated reason for the Church commission is to fill the heavenly house of God with his children.

“‘The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.’ With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, ‘Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.’” (Act 2:39-40)

“Then the master told his servant, ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and make them come in, so that my house will be full.’” (Lu 14:23)

“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” (Mk 10:14-15)

We share the glorious message of hope in Christ, to those who are broken and repentant of their sins, for eternal life. The Great Commission points toward salvation in Jesus, promised to those who become disciples, who confess their faith openly through baptism, and who submit obediently to the leading of the Spirit dwelling in them through everything taught by Scripture, as defined at the start by the mission given first to the original apostles. Going into all the world is about inviting those called by God to step through the narrow gate into everlasting life with the Lord.

So it will be said about the Church commission:

“For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good. These, then, are the things you should teach. Encourage and rebuke with all authority. Do not let anyone despise you.” (Tit 2:11-14)

It all comes together at the return of Jesus. The focus is not upon the death of believers, but upon the trumpet call of God that announces the arrival of the Great King to resurrect his own who have responded rightly to his commission.

“he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.” (Heb 9:28)

The commission points to Jesus’ promised return. That is the focus. That is the hope. That is why we do what we do and endure everything for the sake of the gospel.

To be clear, the culmination of the Church commission results in both salvation for faithful Christians, as well as in damning judgment for those who refuse the message. Life only has two gears, a forward and a reverse, with no neutral in between.

A lifeless, cheap gospel will avoid this part of the mission message. But, it is still something taught by the Lord as a real and pending judgment. Hell is coming for those who refuse to respond to the Church commission.

“If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God.” (Heb 10:26-27)

“the dead were judged according to what they had done…If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.” (Rev 20:12, 15)

“This will happen when Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed.” (2 The 1:7-10)

As part of the gospel, taught through the efforts of the commission, judgment has already begun for believers. The good news, for those who accept it, is that the punishment for sin falls upon Jesus as demonstrated through the Cross. There is discipline for all God’s children to endure, but no wrath. The wrath of God is meant for those under sin, which either is upon Jesus for believers, or upon those who reject Jesus as their Lord.

As defined earlier, the commission given to the Church is a continuing extension of the Lord’s earthly commission, but it is not simply a human mission. Jesus has sent the Holy Spirit with a commission. He not only indwells believers and empowers us to go as the Lord commanded, but he will “come to you” and “convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment” (Jn 16:7-8). The commission to go make disciples and teach God’s words requires a joint Spirit/Believer going and a combined message of both hope and Hell–an offered choice of salvation or damnation. Judgment has begun with believers and will culminate before the Throne of God with every knee bowed before Jesus–some in submission, some in defiance.

The offer, presented through the continuous and faithful efforts of Christians who carry the commissioned message to a hurting world, is to choose Savior-suffering over self-suffering. It is a call to accept life over death. It is encouragement that there is a much better way to live, enjoy, and overcome all struggles. It is to take that hope and push ourselves forward, ever onward, to give sips of living water to those who thirst.

The map records a secret treasure; a trail of invitations and hints that lead through unmarked jungles toward the fountain of youth; toward gifts and rewards beyond our wildest dreams. Those who learn how to read the signs and follow the thin, godly trail, will reach glory, fame, and riches forever, to celebrate with all those who accepted our message, responded to the gospel, and participated in the commission to the ends of the earth.

Grab your map. God bless you. And, GO.

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Mapping the Church Commission: Measuring (5 of 6)

Maps are only useful if one knows how to use them. Understanding the scale, and how to measure distances, becomes essential to accurate navigation. Getting lost is no picnic. To get where one wants to go, a traveler needs to learn how to compare the miniature, two-dimensional map to the dynamic, three-dimensional reality facing them.

When GPS units where just coming into popular use, I spent a day exploring off-trail in unfamiliar woods with a friend who had just purchased his own high-tech mapping gadget. Unfortunately, when we got out of the truck, he forgot to set his current position before venturing alone into the unknown. Hours later, through faint static, I began to hear panic over my hand-held radio. The digital map he had been following, did not match his frightening reality, and as darkness set in, he didn’t know how to find his way back to the truck.

In like manner, a Christian needs to learn how to best use the available measuring tools to figure out what Jesus requires of the Church commission and how that helps guide their faithful walk through this life. To do the Great Commission according to God’s will, we need to carefully measure what is expected and how well we are progressing.

This series will focus on 6 features of the map:

Defining the Commission

Commissioning the Commission

Sustaining the Commission

Maintaining the Commission

Measuring the Commission

Culmination of Mission

Measuring the Church commission begins in the word of God. The initial post in this series highlighted 7 important details in understanding what the commission is about, that come directly from Jesus’ committed mission. The rest of Scripture provides guidelines, adjustments, reviews, and additional commands that help lead or re-direct a believer who is trying to go along the path set by God.

The more time spent studying God’s words, the more likely a person will pick up tricks-of-the-trade on how to skillfully navigate their choices, as they go into all the world doing the work of the Lord. The more practice, the more habit; which translates into better and quicker fine-tuning. The need for constant course corrections are a fact of life for believers who know they still struggle with the natural distortions of human nature.

Whether piloting boats on open water, or balancing a bike down a path, or driving a car between the lines, the best drivers know that constant slight course corrections are far better than waiting too long and trying to make large re-directions to stay on track. In the same way, a Christian will fare much better, if they train themselves to look for constant belief and behavior adjustments per biblical instructions.

Another factor in grasping how to measure progress in sharing the gospel is in understanding our mission field. The general command is to go into all the world, but the specific call to each part of the Body will focus somewhere on a subset of that larger mission. In other words, you will have a focused territory that belongs to you and to those with whom you are yoked together in Christian service.

Trying to do someone else’s mission will be fruitless. We must concentrate on what the Lord sets before each of us. In response to Peter’s question on what the Lord intended for John, Jesus replied, “what is that to you? You must follow me.” The call is to focus doing what we are called to, while doing what we can to support others, without taking over their ministry.

Your mission field may be praying and supporting foreign missionaries in other lands. It might be going into your local neighborhood. It might be reaching out through modern technologies to a diverse audience. It might be reaching into the lives of work associates, or fellow members of special-interest clubs.

One mission field that most everyone has, is their own family. Those who neglect their own are called “worse than unbelievers”, because God puts a high priority on going with the commission into our most intimate relationships.

In contrast to worldly pressures to drag mothers into economic contribution, God says that women will especially contribute to salvation by how they train up their children as Christians (1 Tim 2:15). Godly women have a very high commission. Kids are so important to Jesus, that the entire Kingdom requires that everyone resemble that most significant mission field.

The Church commission applies to young and old, us and them, obscure and famous, familiar and unfamiliar, sinner and saint, non-believer and long-time believer. However, not all are called to concentrate on reaching the same group of people. It is important to stay focused on what the Lord sets before us, and measure our progress to that audience, until the Spirit sends us onward.

This shouldn’t isolate us, however. We are to remain tied together as a Church, concentrating where God has placed us, but also supporting those commission-goers around us as we can. The commission is a team effort, so whenever possible avoid going it alone, either as a group or as individuals.

One of the identified fields that often gets a bad rap is defining what was meant by “all nations”. It is common today to hear the claim that Jesus should be returning soon, because we have finally reached all nations of the globe with the gospel message. That is an error of interpretation. First of all, sharing the gospel does not mean we have completed the commission. It is doubtful that any group has been taught everything Jesus commanded and no longer needs to be discipled. There is far more involved in doing the commission than just gaining converts.

Secondly, the Bible tells us that God has set the exact times and boundaries for all nations throughout history, and that is not determined by how many governments exist at any one point in time. Who knows how many nations have yet to come into existence? The call is to go into all nations; it is not to count how many of those nations exist in our day and call the mission completed. The point is that we are commissioned to go to everyone, without neglecting any corner of civilization, and to not stop doing so until the Lord returns.

“It will be good for that servant whom the master finds doing so when he returns. I tell you the truth, he will put him in charge of all his possessions.” (Lu 12:43-44)

Maps have what is called a key that defines how to interpret the symbols and features. That key for rightly measuring commission efforts is recorded with invisible ink. God’s map has a hidden code, a fire-wall that prevents access by unbelievers and the disobedient.

“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Cor 4:18)

Measuring the commission requires dependence upon revelation through the Holy Spirit. Reading Scripture rightly requires submission to the interpretation of the Spirit. Assessing the fruits of our ministry needs the Spirit of God to show what pleases God and what needs correction.

“In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us. This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words. The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.” (1 Cor 2:11-15)

Scripture gives helpful hints in what to look for, for those willing to submit their opinions to God’s evidence. Here is a description by Peter on a useful approach to self-measuring:

“For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (2 Pet 1:5-8)

Paul wrote a similar description about the fruits of the Spirit, for which the call is to grow in them more-and-more. All these need to be considered in the context of applying the Lord’s commission to the Church, as well as interpreted according to how the Bible speaks of them. In summary, we should be measuring our efforts per how the likeness and character of Jesus is increasing in all we do as we go.

Beware of numbers. Measuring how many disciples come to faith by our efforts is dangerous math. Counting baptisms or ministry participation is a fools errand. Assessing our success according to the size of our church, program, or following, will result in skewed interpretations that do not depend on the Spirit’s evidence.

Faithfulness to the mission may not show any numbers for those tasked with plowing up ground and preparing the soil in hearts. Missions may appear empty on the surface, when planting seeds and even when watering in the early stages of sharing Jesus. Desired results may only show themselves after we pass the baton to the next runner in our race. Depend on the Spirit’s evidence and not on your sight or other’s opinions to evaluate progress.

A valuable measuring tool may be in listening to what comes out of your own mouth: in detail, in volume, and in mixture. Consider the accuracy and carefulness of what you teach per what the Bible actually presents, and don’t pride yourself on editorializing into your own creative meanings. Ask yourself what is most often on your lips: salvation or selfish interests; and push the volume toward Kingdom-building words. Look for humanism, educated reasoning, and popular philosophy, that so often creeps into the gospel message, and destroys the purity of what we are called to present.

Another is to consider your own motives in seeking, praying, and going with the effort to share Jesus name. The why we go, is often as insightful as how we actually go.

We may have a limited scope to our mission field, but we are expected to give the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help us God. Measuring personal obedience to “everything I have commanded” is not only part of the commission, it is a self-check in whether or not we are doing the commission God’s way.

Checking our travel bag to see if it contains the “whole gospel”, or just those parts we prefer, is a significant tool for measuring ourselves. This will often require a humility to consider the input of believers from different backgrounds, to consider challenges to our cherished interpretations of Scripture, and even to allow for the possibility that our denomination may not have a complete corner on truth. Truth comes from God, is contained fully in the Holy Spirit and not any organization, and is available in part to those maturing in Christ.

A distorted gospel is often more attractive than speaking truth. To this point, Paul questions believers as to why they wrongly viewed him as an enemy, because he was restraining his teachings to what God wanted taught, rather than appealing to the growing trend toward preaching a cheap-grace gospel.

People want to hear that everything will work out great for them. Preachers can grow their false-ministry faster by telling their audiences that God wants to do amazing things for them to see. It is popular to tell people to forgive everyone, even though God does not smear his grace in such a it’s-all-good manner. God offers forgiveness, as we should, only to those who repent in faith before Jesus and strive to live forward in submission to the Spirit of God.

Offering grace without considering the immense cost to Jesus, or with little cost to a believer in living obediently, is very common and very poisonous. Maintaining the gospel rightly within the commission will require constant measured adjustments to our message and approach to stay faithfully in line with scriptural requirements. Otherwise the going becomes deceitful garbage, and the commission becomes no mission. As the Lord warned, “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees”, which is the mixed messages taught by religious leaders, who have some things right and some things not.

Measuring is a command of God and not something to be dismissed.

“Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test?” (2 Cor 13:5)

“Let us examine our ways and test them, and let us return to the Lord.” (Lam 3:20)

We are all called to contribute to the Church commission, but we are also expected to check what may be stuck in our own eye, and deal with it, before assuming we can be effective in helping to save others.

Those who carefully and obediently measure their commission progress will ensure they will never get lost or side-tracked, and will be given a rich welcome at their mapped and eternal destination.

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Mapping the Church Commission: Maintaining (4 of 6)

There is a reason that books begin with outlines. Much like a body requires a skeleton upon which to hang everything, so also high-rise buildings have a hidden steel framework. Even maps have some sort of underlying structure—grid-lines and rules—that ensure that everything is placed where it belongs in relation to what surrounds it.

Violating or ignoring those guidelines will render the entire map useless. You can’t trust a map that has gone off course from its intended purpose. So it is with what is often called the Great Commission.

The commission given to the Christian Church is much more than a program or subset of church life. It is the basis for all that we are supposed to do. The commission provides the structure for Christian life and church activity. To travel off this map is to turn back to the ways of this world.

This series will focus on 6 features of the map:

Defining the Commission

Commissioning the Commission

Sustaining the Commission

Maintaining the Commission

Measuring the Commission

Culmination of Mission

The difference between sustaining (reviewed previously) and maintaining is that, the first is about endurance by believers, and the second is about ensuring that the commission remains identifiable and central. Maintaining the commission requires that we stay focused on doing what we have been called to do, and not allow the mission to be watered down, distorted, mixed with social ideology, or replaced with other attractive activity.

Satan doesn’t need to destroy the commission of the Church, if he can alter it enough that we no longer fully do what the Lord requires. That is the danger of looking religious, but not being accepted by Jesus. It only takes a little leaven to overwhelm the entire bread loaf.

The sneaky sin of Balaam was to teach the person who wanted to defeat the people of God that, instead of attacking head-on, or cursing them, he could get God to do his dirty work, by enticing the Israelites to start mixing a bit of socially-normal sinful stuff into their lives. That approach continues to derail many Christians who think that as long as they get it mostly right, all is fine with God.

Doing the Great Commission is not an option; it is a command, and a leading one that establishes the pattern for how the Church is expected to go forth into all the world. Allowing the commission to become a sideline focus, or mixed up with godless activity, will result, just as it does with mixing the Gospel and error, into: no commission at all.

The “go” mission of the Church was confirmed at the start of the book of Acts with Jesus’ words:

“and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Act 1:8)

Sometime later, the Church was given a mid-term review by the Lord through a vision given to John. One of the churches was confronted as having a great Christian reputation, but who had strayed from the commission:

“I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your deeds complete in the sight of my God. Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; obey it, and repent.” (Rev 3:1-3)

For he who has an ear to hear what the Spirit is saying to all congregations and individuals who make up the Church—remember the details of the original commission, or you will be rejected by Jesus. The Lord made it very clear, as recorded in Mt 7, that many who claim Christ as their Lord, and who preach and do amazing ministry, are just like this church in Sardis. People thought they were amazing Christians, but their deeds did not match up with what they were commissioned to do.

As reviewed earlier, the commission requires that we keep at least 7 details in constant view as we attempt to live out what pleases God. Doing good things for others, helping the poor, providing well water to the thirsty, caring for widows and orphans, and preaching from the Bible, does not necessarily fit with the Church’s commission. They can become stand-alone activities and lose their purpose in Jesus.

The difficulty, is that showing what we think is love, is not the same thing as “going”. Love must remain submissive to the will of God or it becomes human-powered and lifeless. Doing good, is only good, if God is doing it his way.

Highlighting this truth should anger many church-goers, because it is a very common fallacy that has blinded large sections of the church into thinking they are right with God by doing good things. This is what is often labeled as the Social Gospel or Social Justice. Most large, established service organizations struggle with this side-trail. So tempted, for some reason, are long established denominations who seem to put tradition and social acceptance ahead of the exclusiveness of the gospel.

Many hospitals, colleges, businesses, schools, and service organizations may have started as Christian, and some still have a Christian name, but in order to be more widely accepted, or to receive government funding, or to avoid offending those they serve, or to comply with civil laws, the commission has been gutted and left to the wolves.

It is a sad observation that commonly those who quote James’ reference on pure religion, “to look after orphans and widows in their distress”, ignorantly or intentionally leave out the connection “and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world”. That means that viable Christian service requires biblical purity, which the world cannot provide. Save-the-whale campaigns are popular and considerate, but they are based on human philosophy and the basic principles of humanity. They are not based in bringing people to Christ, and thus are not Christian.

In this vein, I recently heard a pastor state that those who volunteered to serve the handicapped at a special dance event, demonstrated “the litmus test of Christianity”. A popular book called this type of service, the filling of the hole in the gospel. Efforts to confront homelessness, eradicate disease, eliminate poverty, and console the hurting, all are very helpful and decent things, but they are NOT the commission. Those who replace going, as Jesus instructed, with decent community service, distort the mission of the Church into a social-improvement movement.

“Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for that is how their fathers treated the false prophets.” (Lu 6:26)

Our specific mission is not to fix the world. It is not to get people to like us. It is not to eliminate all problems or satisfy all desires. It is not to establish universal equality. It is not to develop the perfect government. It is not to join our voices with the world. It is not to establish our heaven on earth. Nor is it to hide in our churches or save ourselves.

In spite of all the things that ache our heart, and for which we long to see healed, now is not the time. We need to pay more careful attention to what exactly our job is on this earth.

Consider that the Lord did not heal everyone who needed it. He often left towns that still had crowds of people wanting to hear his teachings and experience his presence. He judged the do-gooders who obediently tithed of such little things as seeds, but neglected the more important matters expected by God. Several times he completely undermined the church-growth model, by intentionally challenging his disciples with things they did not understand and would not accept. He even criticized those who suggested giving to the poor rather than honoring him, when he said:

“The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me.” (Mk 14:7)

Serving others may be loving, but it is not always in line with the commission, and that is supposed to be what keeps us on track. Honoring and obeying the Lord’s words is far more important than participating in some public protest against some human ill. Christians are supposed to follow the Spirit, not the mob.

When we allow social norms to crowd in on our efforts to go into all the world, to disciple others into followers of Jesus, and to teach others every little thing he commanded, then we have gotten dangerously off track. When we go on mission trips to help the hurting, but we avoid sharing the Lord’s name with the intent of making disciples, then we have fallen into quicksand. When we preach from the Bible, but say only what our audience is willing to hear (and continues to pay to hear), then we have become a hired hand that does not reflect the Shepherd.

When we join social committees, but allow it to distract from seeking baptisms and confessions and maturity in Christ-likeness, then we are Christian only by label and not by Spirit. When we claim to believe, but avoid sharing Jesus at work, so as to keep our job or submit to company policy, then we are no longer doing the commission.

We are just doing what is socially-natural sin. It is sin, when off track, because Jesus has commissioned you and me to “go” under his supreme authority, which over-rides all resistance from people, companies, laws of the land, and nations. In striving to obey the Lord first, we submit wherever possible to authorities, and try to restrain defiance by looking for better ways to work around obstacles, while never compromising our mission.

“Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to the king…we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter”, in spite of the law and the threat of torture; to which the eventual reply came, “Praise be to the God…They trusted in him and defied the king’s command and were willing to give up their lives rather than serve or worship any god except their own God. Therefore I decree that the people of any nation or language who say anything against the God of Shadrach…be cut into pieces and their houses be turned into piles of rubble, for no other god can save in this way.” (Dan 3)

You have it on the highest authority. Proselytizing the gospel everywhere, and to all people, is your official right and responsibility as a commissioned ambassador of God. It is not something we fight over; it is something for which we stand and go, no matter what anyone else thinks or says against us. We don’t cram it down people’s throats; we promote and offer, until it is clearly rejected or accepted; then we keep going and discipling. We do not force others; rather, we force ourselves to keep going to others in Jesus’ name.

If your church program picks up trash, decide your participation based on how it intentionally promotes the commission. If your community needs help supporting those with challenges, decide how deeply to commit based on how you will be allowed to “go” with the commission of Jesus while you serve. If the Bible study is of interest, then participate so long as it trains and equips everyone to actively contribute to the commission.

“The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and he who wins souls is wise.” (Pro 11:30)

“Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever.” (Dan 12:3)

We do not all play the same part in promoting the Church commission, but we each will be held accountable for how we actively contributed and maintained a clear and uncompromising focus on fulfilling the Lord’s will.

Show love to others in need with the purposeful intent of leading them to Christ. If they reject him, then dust your feet off and move on. They may still have needs, but as the Lord instructed, “Let the dead, bury the dead”. You are not loving with the Lord’s love, if you think you can continue to “do good” without evangelizing. Everything we do is intended to bring people to salvation. Obey the Lord’s command:

“Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces.” (Mt 7:6)

To remain protected by God as you go out into a hostile world, you must avoid spending your time, energy, resources and attention on those who have shown they have no interest in accepting Jesus, becoming baptized, or maturing as discipled Christians. That is why we are still here on this earth; to do his Kingdom will, not simply to do nice things.

Nice things distract. Holy things transform. Maintain the Church commission as your life’s work and passion. Don’t become side-tracked with social decency, political rhetoric, or personal agendas, allowing them to replace your devotion to living for the Lord. Our citizenship is supposed to be in heaven. Remember:

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God”. (Ga 2:20-21)

If you’re a pastor, encourage your leadership team and membership to review every commitment to the commission. If you participate with others in Christian activity, raise the question on how the practical doing can better fit with the commission. Perhaps the most significant contribution to maintaining the Church commission is when an individual believer adjusts their own life’s focus to going as Jesus directed into every corner of their personal world.

To maintain requires uninterrupted progress. The Church commission cannot be a side-line affair, just one more program option in a busy congregation. It must be central to everything. Sadly this is rare, but it remains the demand of God upon the faithful.

“I have posted watchmen on your walls, O Jerusalem; they will never be silent day or night. You who call on the Lord, give yourselves no rest, and give him no rest till he establishes Jerusalem and makes her the praise of the earth.” (Isa 62:6-7)

The Lord has commissioned all Christians as his witnesses, like watchmen on the wall, who never cease promoting the gospel, warning of threats, and calling out for the establishment of the New Jerusalem from Heaven–his Church on earth.

Love salvation into others, who will love the Lord.

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