Tag Archives: bible

What Does Abundant Life Look Like?

In John 9, Jesus heals a beggar blind from birth, enabling him to live a full life, not just live on the edge of life. The religious leaders of the day opposed this healing for silly and irrelevant reasons. In John 10, Jesus responded to the religious leaders with the parable of the Good Shepherd (Himself), contrasting Himself with the false shepherds of that day.

Unlike the false shepherds, Jesus says, “I have come that they might have life and have it more abundantly.”

What would Jesus say about today’s prominent religious leaders and Christians? Do we live the abundant life, reflecting our Master? Truth is, to the world, the church often appears weak and irrelevant. Too many churches do not preach the Word. They dilute the gospel and its mission. Its people are rampant in unbelief. Its young people look elsewhere for answers the church does not provide.

Christian marriages fail as often or more than those in the world. Where are the signs and wonders? How many churches go for years without a single conversion or baptism?

Recently, I heard of a church that was closed down and sold to Buddhists. Weak preaching and teaching and lack of faith in God’s power gave the people no motivation to keep coming. The few who were left sold the building to the highest bidder. False shepherds.

We have more Bible reference books than ever, better-trained pastors—but more ignorance. Most people still cannot give a reason for the hope in them. They don’t know how to pray with power. Again, false shepherds.

As a church, we have allowed the world’s agenda to govern our lives and attitudes. Few Christians develop a Christian worldview, applying Bible standards to situations in the natural world. Is it any wonder the humanists and secularists have taken over? It is because of our weakness, not their strength. False shepherds, just as in Jesus’ day.

What does the abundant life look like? Think of Brother Lawrence, a lay brother in a Carmelite monastery, a man of limited schooling, born in poverty, suffering from wounds of war and imprisonment, awkward and rough in appearance. He had none of the things most of us count as needful for life. Yet he exhibited a profound wisdom found in few men. He found such joy in practicing the presence of God, he became the envy of all who met and knew him.

The collection of his letters and conversation, “The Practice of the Presence of God,” has become a classic portrait of the abundant life Jesus intended for all of us.

What does this mean for us today? To really believe and practice God’s presence means His presence will be strong in our meetings. We will no longer need gimmicks to attract people. People will hunger for God’s Word and ways. Preachers will preach with Holy Spirit anointing. The church will manifest the presence of God in signs and wonders.

Salvations will come by the millions from every class and age group. The love of God in our midst will overcome oppression, racism, immorality, hatred, anger, fear. Social transformation will take place. The gospel will burst out of the churches into the surrounding communities and into other nations of the world. Laws will change, becoming more righteous and just.

Amen! Let that day come, Lord Jesus!

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Peace

Jesus Christ, Prince of Peace, came into the world to restore peace with God and peace among human beings. Throughout India and the world, billions of people search for peace. Most people look for peace in the wrong places.

Christians say the only true way to peace is through Jesus Christ. Why do they say this? Such claims to exclusivity are considered politically incorrect both in India and the western world. In India, there are many paths to salvation. Why claim Jesus Christ as the only way?

In John 5, Jesus claims to be the only way to God because God is His Father, and He works His Father’s works. His work is seen especially in bringing new life to those who are spiritually dead. This regenerate life in the average person is the biggest proof of Jesus’ uniqueness and authority over all others.

The new life of Christ is the creative work of God in a human being, making something new where there was nothing before. This is not just a theological idea but living reality. What does this “new life” mean?

I think of a man in my past, known to us in India as Pastor Yesudas. He began life as a poor, sickly, almost-illiterate Dalit, an insecure child with a serious stuttering problem. He lay at death’s door with tuberculosis and other ailments. Then he heard the gospel. He committed his life to Jesus Christ and received prayer for healing.

Immediately, he was healed. He hungered for more of the life of Christ. He thirsted for the Word of God. Because of near-illiteracy, he lacked the educational requirements to enter the Bible school. He was allowed to sit in class, but because of educational deficiencies, he could not understand.

After much prayer and fasting over this obstacle, the Lord gave him a photographic mind to receive the scriptures read to him. Now, he not only understood what instructors told him, but he could also give Bible insights of great wisdom that astounded even people with advanced degrees. God took away his stuttering problem, giving him dynamic gifts of preaching, healing and a prophetic ministry like few others.

Many people followed Christ because Pastor Yesudas exhibited the life of Christ. He pioneered a number of churches in new and unreached places. In all his fruitful ministry, he remained a near-illiterate man.

When I was an infant, Pastor Yesudas already sensed God was calling me for ministry. Before I can remember, he prayed daily prayers over me, preparing me for the ministry I have today. I owe my calling and ministry to the prayers of this man with the new life of God.

The life of God is more than religion or morality. It is the power and peace of God. We cannot force it or fake it. It is the final proof of our faith. It is the reason we say Jesus Christ is the only Way. Who else can duplicate these things?

The new life of Christ has been replicated in men, women and children of every background for two thousand years. One day, this Good News will reach all peoples everywhere.

Let us make sure that we do our part in making sure all have heard of this Prince of Peace who comes with new life. This is the real meaning of Christmas.

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The Trouble with Tradition

We all have expectations of our families and friends, our society and government—and of God. We all have expectations of our church, how it should act and what it should teach and how it should govern. Some of these expectations are based upon customs and beliefs that pass down from generation to generation. These expectations are what we call “traditions.”

There is nothing good or bad about “traditions” in and of themselves. We get into trouble when we base our lives upon long-practiced and revered traditions that have questionable authority and keep people in bondage. We may give first priority to traditions, good in themselves, but of second priority to things more important to God.

Jesus had strong words for those that substituted divine revelation with human tradition. When the Pharisees challenged Jesus’ disciples for not washing their hands, he told them they had left God’s Word to favor their own way. To be fair, the Pharisees were trying to avoid breaking God’s law, but they used their own way to do it, not God’s way. Tradition is still something that divides the church in our own day.

Paul tells us we are to adhere to “apostolic traditions” (1 Corinthians 11:1,2). The apostles were men chosen by Jesus. For three years, He taught them the revelations of God.

After Paul’s conversion, he went to the desert where he was taught by Jesus and the Holy Spirit. In Galatians 1:11-24, Paul tells us that later, he went to Jerusalem to meet Peter and compare notes and found that Peter and Paul’s teachings matched perfectly though the two men had never before met until that time.

This strongly confirms that apostolic traditions do not come from men but from God, from Jesus Christ Himself. We find these traditions, these teachings, in the gospels and in the writings of the apostles in the New Testament. Throughout the gospels, Jesus frequently refers to Old Testament scriptures, giving His stamp of approval to the Old Testament as well. Both the Old Testament and New Testament make up our Bible.

We must base our own traditions and experiences upon the traditions of the apostles which come from Jesus Christ Himself. Wherever the two come into conflict, our traditions and experiences and preferences must give way to the teachings of scripture.

Our traditions and practices must enable our relationship with Christ and one another, not detract. Too often, our traditions win the day, even as it did with the Pharisees 2,000 years ago.

Many disputes in families, churches and society result from elevating human teaching and tradition above the Word of God. Too often, we treat our beloved traditions and experiences as sacred writ. When we face these disputes, will we go back to the scriptures with teachable and humble spirits, ready to change if need be?

Let us remember the words of Paul to Timothy: “All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; to that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:15-16).

Let us remember that our faithfulness to the apostles’ teachings in scripture will give us good traditions that will enable us to free others in India and elsewhere with the same gospel that has given us freedom.

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True or False: Teachers

Blackboard with chalkA man looks at a sore on his neck that does not heal. He worries—is it cancer? Someone tells him, “Go to a doctor you feel comfortable with.”

The man decides he most wants a doctor who will tell him what he wants to hear. The medical practitioner he contacts is a very pleasant man with an impressive looking diploma. He assures the man he does not have cancer. He covers the sore with a bandage so the man doesn’t see it, and says, “Don’t worry.” Elated, the man goes home. However…

Six months later, the man dies of an aggressive and painful cancer that spread throughout his body. The doctor who gave him the “good news” is a charlatan. If the man had gone to a real doctor, he would have heard unpleasant news. He would have faced surgery, but he would also have lived a normal and useful life.

In spiritual matters, this same kind of foolishness happens repeatedly when we seek our teachers in false messiahs who tell us only what we want to hear.

The Bible portrays Jesus as the Great Physician. He tells us uncomfortable things. We don’t like to hear we are all sinners before a holy God, on our way to hell. We don’t like to hear we have terminal cancer of the spirit and only Jesus Christ, the Great Physician, can remove it.

Like surgery, Jesus’ crucifixion for our sins seems too bloody, ugly and primitive. We know we need help, but we seek our help in people who claim to be divine, even Jesus Himself, who tell us the easy way to the good life that fits our preconceptions.

Jesus Himself warns us about the dangers of following those who promote a different gospel from the one He taught—a “gospel” that leaves out sin, the cross and repentance, judgment and hell. He warns us about people who preach God’s love but not His holiness, His forgiveness but not His hatred of sin and the penalty for sin.

Jesus warns us that some false teachers may awe us with great miracles. But if they deny the gospel of the cross, Jesus says, “Stay away from them.”

How will we know when the real Christ appears? We will know by the manner of His second appearing which He makes very clear in Matthew 24:27: “For just as the lightning comes from the east and flashes even to the west, so will the coming of the Son of Man be.”

He will come “in the twinkling of an eye.” He will appear in glory, with myriads of glorified men, women and children from every time and place. His Second Coming will surpass all power to imagine or describe. (1 Corinthians 15:52; 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17; Revelation 1:7; 6:15-17; 19:16). No other so-called “christ” can match it.

Those who undergo the surgery of the gospel will welcome the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. It will come as a terror to those who refused His spiritual surgery. The Second Coming dwarfs all other so-called “christs” and reveals them as fakes.

How vital for us to know our Bibles, both Old Testament and New Testament, to find the true Jesus. The more we know the “real thing,” the easier for us to spot the counterfeits.

Let us tell others about Him, that they may also stand before Him in joy and gladness.

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The Relevant Testament

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A grave error is making its way into the church and into our culture as a whole: the belief that we don’t need the Old Testament.

Let us cast aside this relic of the past, we are told. Let us devote ourselves, instead, to preaching the gospel only. Let us follow the religion of Jesus.

Every day, our modern media reveal that in spite of superior technology, human nature has not changed in 3,000 years. We are still governed by the same passions that destroyed ancient Sodom, Ur and Babylon.

This stubborn and unchanging quality of human nature is the subject of the Old Testament. That alone makes our study of the Old Testament relevant. We must put aside our smug ways and realize that things have not changed as much as we like to think.

God is a holy God. He wants to reconcile us to Himself, to set us free through His Son, Jesus Christ. He begins to fulfill this grand purpose in the Old Testament.

The Old Testament tells us how God deals with awed human nature through the Jewish nation. It is a historical record about real people who actually lived— people whose lives and experiences can influence our own if we have eyes to see and ears to hear.

The Old Testament is a selective record of how God works through the Jews to accomplish His purposes to save men, women and children of every background for His higher purpose. The Jews are God’s chosen instrument to accomplish His salvation for all peoples (Romans 1:16). As Jesus says in John 4:22, “Salvation is from the Jews.”

We must study the Old Testament because Jesus Christ Himself insisted upon it. Jesus was born a Jew, and He studied the Jewish scriptures, that is, the Old Testament.

The New Testament portrays Jesus as God’s fulfillment of His covenant with the most prominent Jewish ruler, King David. He was speaking of the Old Testament scriptures when he said, “The scripture cannot be broken” (John 10:35).

In Matthew’s gospel, the writer repeatedly refers to Old Testament prophecies to show how Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of God’s promises to the Jews.

On the road to Emmaus, Jesus went through the entire Old Testament to show His dejected followers that His death and final glory was the final plan and purpose of God.

Paul constantly refers to Old Testament scriptures. In his Book of Romans alone, he makes 100 quotations from the Old Testament coming from 16 different Old Testament books. He sees Jesus Christ as the key that opens up the door to the full meaning of Old Testament scriptures.

The writer of the Book of Hebrews speaks of Jesus Christ in relation to the fulfillment of the Old Covenant and His perfect sacrifice found in the Old Testament scriptures. The writer of Hebrews also holds up many Old Testament men and women as examples of faith that we of the New Testament covenant should emulate.

Those who reject the Old Testament for a “religion of Jesus” not only reject the Old Testament but the gospel and person of Jesus Christ proclaimed in the New Testament. Let us all resolve to become better students of the Old Testament that we may better know Jesus Christ as our Savior, Lord, Messiah and Friend.

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He Welcomes You

Reconciliation does not equal intimacy. Two enemies may reconcile but never become true friends. They no longer fight, but they have little contact.

How many Christians secretly live lives like this? They know Jesus has reconciled them to God, but in heaven, they believe, they will dwell on the outskirts because they fail so miserably.

Is this a common Christian experience? Is this why many Christians judge others for their sins as they try to deal with their own uncertainties? Is this why so many Christians feel no joy, become over-involved in “church work,” or hang around the “fringes of faith?”

Many people are convinced that only certain special individuals can achieve true godliness. Catholics have their “saints,” but in different ways, Protestants do, too. These misled brothers and sisters are reconciled to God, but do not believe intimacy with Him is possible because they know their many flaws and failures.

How foreign to the Good News! In Romans 5, Paul tells us that we who are of Christ belong to a new kingdom, a new human race—now! We no longer belong to the kingdom of the first Adam, the kingdom of sin and death. Through Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, we are “in” the Second Adam, Jesus Christ.

That means whatever is true about Jesus Christ is true of us. We have a new standing with God. Christ is forever, once and for all, dead to sin and death, so are we. Though Christ died, death did not have the last word. So it is with us.

He-Welcomes-YouChrist enjoys eternal fellowship with the Father. So do we. In Ephesians 2:18, Paul tells us that we have “access to the Father.” The Greek indicates the highest possible intimacy with God the Father, like Jesus has with Him. It doesn’t depend upon what we do or how we feel, it depends upon Him and what He has done on the cross.

All this requires us to dramatically rearrange our thinking. The Welsh preacher, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, compares our new position in Christ to that of a newly freed American slave. The laws changed, but many former slaves had difficulty accepting their new freedom. They didn’t know how to relate to their old masters. Only when they learned new habits of thinking did they live in the freedom the law said they already had.

Like Abraham, we must believe because God said it, not when we feel good about ourselves. In one of the most remarkable passages of scripture, Paul tells us to reckon ourselves dead to sin and alive to God (Romans 6:11). In other words, regard it as accomplished fact.

Paul tells us to become transformed by the renewing of our minds—by changing our habits of thinking—so we recognize that God already loves us and welcomes our company as He welcomes the company of His Son.

When we see Him face to face, we will be like Him. We will not live on the fringes of heaven, but become part of His inner circle. When we learn to see ourselves the way God already sees us, we will live in the freedom that is already ours.

This is Good News for everybody who will hear it! Let’s make sure they do!

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Lydia and All of Us

Throughout the centuries, men have tended to regard women as inferior. This judgment upon women is a judgment upon God who made women and can only quench the Holy Spirit in men who make such judgments.

Lydia is a good example of God’s great work through a woman. Overnight, the history of Europe began to change because Lydia heard the voice of the Holy Spirit speak through Paul. She responded and became Europe’s first convert.

Because of her faithfulness to the message she heard, the gospel spread to those around her, like a stone whose ripples spread out over a pond.

Lydia serves as an example to both men and women of how the Holy Spirit can work in anyone to change the world in the name of Christ.

  1. God opened Lydia’s HEART to do a work of grace in her life. God alone ordained her time to come to Christ and to use her conversion as a means to ultimately change the direction of a whole continent and the rest of the world. Through her witness, her entire household believed and received baptism. Through her and her household, the church at Philippi was born. That church became a strong witness for the Lord and served as a model for future churches. All of this began with the conversion of one woman. There are no small people in the kingdom of God. We must open ourselves to all that God chooses to work through our lives.
  2. Lydia opened her HOME for God’s servants and fellow believers. Like Lydia, we all show our gratitude to God by the way we treat God’s servants and our brothers and sisters in Christ.
  3. Lydia offered her HANDS to minister to others. Lydia took Paul and Silas into her house to nurse their wounds from jail and beatings and help them recover. A helpful spirit is not just “woman’s work.” A helpful spirit is an effective witness for Christ in men and women alike. A helpful spirit is a spirit of salt and light that preserves and enlightens families, cultures and nations with the power of Christ.
  4. Lydia had a good HEAD for business and practical affairs. Lydia was a prosperous businesswoman. Lydia is a good example of a wealthy servant–one who regards all wealth and personal possessions as gifts from God to serve Him and others in need of His transformation.

Since Lydia’s generation, the Spirit of God has worked in the hearts of other women to do great and mighty things. Think of Amy Carmichael who ministered to girls caught in forced prostitution. She modeled ministries in India later founded by men.

Think of Monica, mother of a wayward youth named Augustine who became one of Christianity’s most influential theologians because of her prayers.

Think of Susannah Wesley, mother and faithful teacher to 19 children including John and Charles Wesley.

Think of Elizabeth Elliott, wife of martyred missionary, Jim Elliott, who took up her husband’s mantle and served as God’s instrument to change a savage culture for Christ.

As followers of Jesus Christ, we depend upon God’s Spirit. Let us all thank God for such boundless grace that works in so many ways. Let us especially make sure we accept all the grace He reveals through His chosen women.

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