Tag Archives: jesus

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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Men & Women Alike

MenWomenAlikeOrganized religion has tended to devalue women and deny them power and influence. This includes organized Christendom throughout much of its history.

Christendom is never as radical as the Bible. When we read the Bible, it becomes clear that God has always had different ideas about women from most religious leaders.

In the beginning, when God created woman to become the “helpmate” to man, He did not create an apprentice or an assistant for the man. The Hebrew word for “helpmate” implies that the woman is equal to the man, even if God created the man first.

The Fall separated man and woman from God and from one another. It brought a curse upon woman in which she became subordinate to the man.

The world into which Jesus came was the world of the curse. That world put little value upon a woman. They held little social importance. Their testimony counted for little if anything. Yet throughout the gospel accounts, Jesus shows an unprecedented respect for women.

The first persons to whom the risen Christ appeared were women. Their testimony to men of the empty tomb and His personal appearance brought Peter and John to the empty tomb and confirmed the truth of everything the women told them. This verification of a woman’s testimony is the first sign that Jesus’ resurrection broke the curse upon women that reigned from the Fall.

Because of Jesus Christ, His sacrifice upon the cross and His resurrection, we who put our trust in Him live in the Kingdom of the Second Adam that restores God’s original intent for women.

In the Upper Room, the Holy Spirit came upon men and women alike, with no distinction. From the earliest days, before the 1st century church degenerated into “Christendom” and “religion,” women played important roles as leaders, teachers and prophets. The leaders of the early church included women such as Lydia, Priscilla, Phoebe, Euodia, Syntyche, Chloe, Nympha, all of whom Paul commends for their good and faithful work.

In Galatians 3:28, Paul says “there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” That is, male and female share one purpose, one calling. The gifts and fruit of the Spirit belong to all.

In some circles, much is made of Paul’s command in 1 Corinthians 14:34 for women to keep silence in the church. We do not have the space to discuss this in detail, but in the light of everything else said by Jesus and Paul, it is clear that this passage deals with a special circumstance that does not negate the overall message of the New Testament—God has ended the curse of women’s subordination and chosen women to places of ministry and influence.

In other words, God’s special call upon women is part of the gospel message.

In India, where women and girls still play subservient roles, and suffer from inferiority and degradation, we make a powerful witness for the gospel when we treat our wives, girl children, female relatives and sisters in Christ with the respect that Jesus gave to all women.

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Abide in Me

Abide In Me“Abide in me…he who abides in me bears much fruit.” This is the essence of maturity.

Jesus spoke these words to His disciples just before His crucifixion. They are not mystical or religious words, but relational.

God is sovereign. He is also a Person we can know and trust. His love for each of us has no measure. He is so trustworthy and loving, we can lean on His understanding rather than our own. Maturing Christians trust His inspired written Word because His Word speaks from His character, and His character speaks only truth.

What does it mean to “abide in Christ?”
“Abide.” This means to remain, to have consistency. Maturing Christian are not “in and out and back again.” They are not moved by outside forces, emotions or opinions of others.

“In.” In a good marriage, two people immerse themselves into the relationship and become “one.” As we immerse ourselves into our relationship with Christ, we learn to become “one” with His thoughts, passions, actions and strength. He already knows us completely and loves us.

“Me.” Trust in Christ alone. Maturing Christians don’t just read good books about Christ, but come to know Christ in the practical issues and challenges of life.

Maturing Christians know that a moral and religious life is not the same as to abide in Christ. Maturing Christians know Christ died and rose again, not for humanity in general but for them. They know He has done for them what no one else can do, and He did it when they were still sinners. That becomes a growing reason to trust Him in everything.

Jesus Christ gives His children the Holy Spirit to teach “all things.” Maturing Christians learn to fully trust only what Jesus Christ gives through His Spirit’s inspiration and His Word.

Maturing Christians become more aware of their imperfections, but they also become more aware of Christ’s perfections. They learn to put aside their lesser understanding for Christ’s greater understanding. Maturing Christians want to listen to God because every time God speaks to them, they receive life, truth and strength they receive from no other source. They learn to seek His word in all issues of life.

Maturing Christians learn that to abide in Christ means to bear much fruit. To bear fruit takes many forms, depending upon our personalities, abilities and circumstances:

  • We show the fruit of the Spirit.
  • We express gifts of the Spirit.
  • We carry God’s priceless treasure in bodies of clay.
  • We live in bodies that die, but our mortal lives reflect glimpses of heaven.
  • Even non-Christians see the difference, and many will hunger for it.

The greatest ministries come through people who give up on themselves and abide in Christ. They let His life flow through them into whatever calling God places upon them. This applies not only to pastors, evangelists and missionaries, but to all who abide in Christ.

Paul says it all: I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me” (Galatians 2:20).

Christian maturity is a continually growing relationship with Christ. As we learn to abide in Christ, others will see “Christ in us, the hope of glory.”

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His Witnesses

witnessThree years before he became President, Abraham Lincoln, then a lawyer, was called to defend an old family friend accused of murder. The murder took place at night, and a key witness said that he saw the defendant kill the man “by the light of the full moon.” This seemed compelling evidence, beyond reasonable doubt.

However, during cross-examination, Lincoln used a simple almanac to prove that on the night of the murder, there was no full moon. The accuser could not have seen what he claimed to see.

Today, we all stand accused by Satan of crimes against our Creator. His evidence against us appears beyond reasonable doubt: we all stand guilty before God. But through Jesus Christ, God has evidence on our behalf that saves us from our arch-accuser, Satan.

Before He ascended into heaven, Jesus told His disciples that they would become His witnesses to His power to save, and that their witness would carry them to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8).

What kind of compelling “witness” did Jesus have in mind for us? How effective is our “witness” to others?

The Greek word for “witness” used by Luke has more than one meaning. First, a “witness” is one who speaks from first-hand experience about actions in which he participates. Specifically, this “witness” means our testimony to others of our relationship with Jesus Christ and what God has done in our lives.

Second, a “witness” is one who makes an evangelistic confession of specific truths. In Luke 24, Jesus said that this “witness” must include the truths involving His suffering and death on the cross and His resurrection on the third day—the key to our salvation. It must declare the need for repentance from sin to receive forgiveness and reconciliation with God.

Luke tells us that Jesus sent His disciples forth on their mission as “witnesses” with the promise of His Father and the power of the Holy Spirit. In other words, an effective witness depends upon trust in the word of God to empower us and bless our witness in great and marvelous ways.

Before He left them, Jesus grounded their “witness” firmly in the scriptures. He systematically showed them how the entire Old Testament—“the law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms”—was the foundation for His saving life, death and resurrection.

In short, effective “witness” comprises four major elements for compelling communication to others: (1) personal experience, (2) clear evangelistic confession, (3) trust in Holy Spirit power and (4) solid biblical foundations. If one or more of these elements is lacking, our “witness” suffers, and a needy world fails to hear the Good News and escape Satan’s accusations.

How well are we doing? Is our society becoming more or less committed to the Christ of our “witness”? Too often, we must admit, our words and actions have denied Jesus. Too often, we have played the coward, fleeing from opportunities and hiding from opposition.

Clearly, as we read our daily news today, we have much for which to repent. But let us not become discouraged. Let us remember that the success of the disciples’ witness followed only after their own abject failures and cowardice. Let us heed their example of repentance, for God’s forgiveness and renewal is the same yesterday, today and forever.

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Appointed Leaders

Jan-2015Brutal, tyrannical, extravagant, persecutor, murderer, cruel, opportunistic.

These are just a few of the words that describe the Roman emperor, Nero. Roman historian, Suetonius, said that Nero “showed neither discrimination nor moderation in putting to death whomsoever he pleased.” He killed his own mother and other relatives, and kicked his pregnant lover to death.

Still, Paul urges Timothy to offer “entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings…on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.”

The Bible was written by people who lived in times when the government was not friendly to the people of God. Yet Jesus says to “render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s.”

Paul had a clear sense of God’s sovereignty over both church and state. He did not regard God as part of one realm and human institutions as part of another. All rulers, he said, are in power because God ordained them.

In spite of the horrible tyranny of Roman emperors (Nero put Paul and many other Christians to death), the general peace made it possible for the gospel to spread rapidly through the Empire. The very regime so fiercely devoted to emperor worship became the catalyst for the proclamation of the gospel. A wicked government may have twisted aims, but God uses its dysfunctional rulers to accomplish His higher purposes.

Why does God appoint rulers like Nero, Herod, Pontius Pilate and Hitler to serve as rulers? We cannot know the full mind of God on these matters, but we can say this:

  • God has the long term in mind; though the short term looks bad to us, it always serves His larger purpose and works for ultimate good.
  • God’s ultimate aim is to complete the Great Commission and glorify Himself.
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God uses rulers to discipline His people and bring them out of complacency and ingratitude to depend upon Him.
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God demonstrates through wicked rulers that He is not limited by human wickedness in accomplishing His greater good.
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Bad rulers have a way of deepening our faith in God so that we call upon Him to work in marvelous ways.
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Bad rulers move us to pray better prayers, develop more godly voting standards, and seek more godly ways of persuasion and action to influence political leaders.

Whenever we fail to pray for our leaders, regardless of their political persuasion, we sin against God. Evangelist Billy Graham has met privately with all kinds of political leaders. He says, “We sometimes forget that some of the loneliest people in the world are those who are constantly in the public eye. They have spiritual needs just like everyone else. I have found many world leaders who sense that our problems today are so complex as to defy [human] solution. They know that the only answer is to be found in God.”

We often forget that the halls of government are also mission fields for the gospel. In India, we have had many opportunities to befriend numerous political leaders—not all of them Christian—who regularly come asking prayer for help with the deep burdens they carry.

Both church and state are God’s avenues to do His will. Let our prayers for our leaders come out of the abundance of our certainty in God and our own daily dialogue with Him so that we might prepare the way for completion of the Great Commission.

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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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The Source of Abundant Life

“Religion…is the opium of the people,” wrote Karl Marx, considered the founder of modern-day Communism and icon of secular humanism.

Opium is a drug one takes when he or she feels hopeless, weak and depressed and has no realistic approach to a better life. To Karl Marx, Christianity was an opiate because it kept a person from fulfilling his own agenda for a “realistic” and better life.

Karl Marx did not know about Jesus’ “I have come” statements. Jesus plainly tells us, “I have come…to fulfill the law…to reveal the Father…to bear witness to the truth…to serve others and give my life as a ransom for many…proclaim freedom…call sinners to repentance…seek and save the lost…give life in abundance.”

I have come Statments of JesusThese are positive statements of purpose, not to deaden our pain and hopelessness, but to give life new meaning, love and fulfillment. Jesus Christ comes to put us back in touch with God who leads us to a life beyond human capacity to think and imagine. He leads us to a loving Father, to the truth that sets free. He leads us to a supernatural power to live full and productive lives in partnership with God the Father that multiplies into hope for those around us.

This is not “pie in the sky, bye and bye,” but for this life as well as the life to come.

God’s abundant life and love is anything but an opiate. As we trust Him, He awakens our senses, lifts us above our circumstances and transforms individuals, families and nations by awakening our dead spirits.

Jesus’ “I have come” statements declare His purpose—to put God’s redemptive plan into effect. Jesus claims a power that no other person can claim because He is the Heaven-sent One.

Karl Marx is right about one thing, however. Religion can become an opiate–if it conflicts with God’s plan for our lives. Both the Pharisees and Karl Marx had their own “religions.” However different they may have been, they had one thing in common—they relied on the opiate of self-sufficiency. This is the false notion that we can “do it alone,” whether we try to obey God’s law or revolutionize society.

These are illusions—drugs that deaden reality of our true condition before God and our ability to transform our situation. These drugs make us “feel good”—while we actually kill ourselves. People who “feel good” hate to be reminded they are following deadly pipe dreams. They may fight back and get nasty and destructive about it.

This is why Jesus said—prophetically, it turns out, “I have come, not to bring peace but a sword.” He foresaw the day when those drugged by the opiate of self-sufficiency would kill Him, persecute His followers, and say all manner of evil against Him and them.

Jesus proved his detractors wrong through His resurrected life which has multiplied itself hundreds of millions of times since.

This Good News of the kingdom, Jesus tells us, will not stop until all peoples on earth have heard it. That includes all of India. Even anti-conversion laws will fail to stop it, and may even help to speed the Good News along.
Let each of us make sure that we live in God’s abundant grace so that we may effectively take that Good News to those who have not yet heard it.

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A Reason to Celebrate

Indians are a festive people.

Each Indian-based religion has periodic festivals that involve millions of people, elaborate preparations and great expense.

Christians have more reason to rejoice and celebrate than any other religion on earth. As Christians, we have an assurance of salvation that no religion can offer. The Christmas season should be a time of festivity and joy, celebration and triumph that transcends the frantic secular holiday that it has become.

While Hindus go all out in celebrating mythical gods, we celebrate a God who came and lived in our midst, in real time. People spoke with Him, touched Him and experienced His healing word and power. Even a cynical Roman centurion at Jesus’ crucifixion recognized Jesus’ divine nature in human flesh when he proclaimed, “Truly this was the Son of God.”

Christian faith involves a personal relationship with the maker of the universe. We are members of a royal family. God is our mighty fortress, our loving Father who loved us even before He created the universe. Our privileged relationship with Him is based upon unfathomable grace. We have opportunities, right now, to experience eternal life even in our mortal and flawed bodies and imperfect circumstances.

We must recognize and celebrate all of these things. We need special occasions when the presence of the Holy Spirit is so strong that everyone, Christian and non-Christian alike, can experience a small taste of heaven and glorify God.

Such special times may involve food and fellowship and can become non-threatening and revealing evangelistic events for non-Christians. Indian culture is especially conducive for enjoyment of rich foods with many kinds of wonderful flavors and textures. These things can become symbols of the rich blessings that God has given. The presence of God will do even more—to fill that empty place in their spirits as they hear believers testify to the work of the Lord in their lives.

An increasing number of Indian Christians are learning to adapt traditional Indian musical and art forms for Christian worship and praise. These new musical and art forms are an opportunity for Christians to share what God has done in our lives. These things can become tangible expressions of God’s transforming power in the culture.

Some Christians are hesitant about getting too festive. After all, huge Hindu festivals often become excuses for outright carousing and crass merrymaking. Past large festivals have resulted in extreme mob actions and panic, such as stampedes that cause deaths of hundreds of men, women and children. But Christians should never avoid opportunities for communal expressions of thanksgiving and joy.

As Christians with so much to celebrate, we should consider having more festivals by which to celebrate our faith. We should celebrate, not as an end in itself but because we have a story to tell, a testimony to share, with the whole body of believers and the community at large.

May our faith never become merely a collection of abstract religious beliefs but a relationship with the living God that causes us to celebrate with thanksgiving and praise.

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