Shortly after Jesus’ resurrection, and before He ascended back to the Father, He told his disciples “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20).

If we take this literally it means Jesus’ plan all along was for His disciples to disciple others and the way that looks, or happens, is really left up to the Holy Spirit and His activity within us as his body. In other words having “worship services”, as we like to call them, may not be what He’s doing in some. Perhaps making disciples means you take someone under your wing and show them how to believe God, how to study the Bible, how to see themselves as God see’s them, how to deal with temptation, etc.

Today I told a friend of mine I didn’t think it was my job to invite people to church (meaning services in a building). Of course this was met with a somewhat shocked look–maybe it was because I said it in the foyer immediately after church services. He asked me “What do you tell them then?” I said, “My job is to invite them to Jesus Christ!” Before anyone has a cardiac arrest let me say, I’m not against inviting people to church; but what I’ve come to see is most people invite others to church with the hope “the pastor” or “minister” will tell them what they need to hear. You see Jesus told his disciples to go into the world and disciple others not bring them to someone else to disciple them. Now you may say, “I don’t know how” and that is a legitimate reason but my question is why?

If you read the letter Paul wrote to the Ephesians you will find out God sets up Apostle’s, prophets, Evangelist’s, pastors and teachers in the church in order to teach the “Saints”, or rest of the body, how to do the work of ministry. So God’s plan all along has been for the whole body to do the work of ministry not some few “so called” clergy or ministers. According to the scriptures all of us who know Christ are ministers.

Of course not everyone has the gift of evangelism or teaching I know that; but if you’ve been born again you can tell others your testimony. Whether or not you can teach them Biblical hermeneutics, apologetics or dispensationalism  isn’t the point. You can tell them how Jesus Christ saved you and changed you into a new creature and that’s sharing the gospel. You may be the only one who can reach the ones you interact with everyday. Christ in you is the hope of glory and if you are full of hope those you work and live around just may catch it. By the way if you don’t know what those words mean I’ll leave that to you to go and find out. We live in an age where we can go to any computer and do word searches so it really boils down to how bad you want to know doesn’t it?

Let me say, having someone such as a teacher or pastor to help you understand who God is and what Jesus is all about isn’t a bad thing. In fact we all need someone to disciple us to a certain point but it can end up being a bad thing. Jesus himself told his disciples “I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you.” Now of course Jesus was talking about the Holy Spirit, but it’s also because Jesus wanted the disciples to grow up and learn to walk in the Spirit. You see they would never have grown into their full potential if Jesus was still walking around with them in the flesh. They probably would have built a building and expected to bring others to Jesus in a physical sense. I don’t think Jesus ever had in mind for “The Church” to become attached or identified as a building. I believe He wants us to be an expression of Him everywhere we go whether it’s work or play and localizing Him in a building creates separation. It enables some to see God is over there in that building and Sunday’s, and other set aside days, are his times but the rest of the time is mine. This is what leads us to think in terms of secular and spiritual when in fact everything is God’s and Spirit at root. It is only a perversion or deception that teaches us otherwise. Maybe I’ll talk about that some more at a later date, for now let’s finish today’s thoughts.

In the short letter of 1st John 2:20&27 we read “You have an anointing from the Holy One, and you all know.” “As for you, the anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you; but as His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you abide in Him.” Amazing! If we have the Holy Spirit living within us, which we do if we are His, we can be led by the Spirit of God. As someone who teaches the Bible there is nothing more satisfying than having one of those you teach stepping up to teach others. After all the goal is for others to know Christ and share him with others. What do you say we “Go and make some disciples!”

Louie

 

Does a Christian continue to have a sinful nature?

When someone teaches a Christian doesn’t have a sinful nature they will inevitably be met with the question, “If we don’t have a sinful nature anymore why do we still sin?” This question presupposes the need of a sinful nature in order to commit a sin, but what about the first Adam? When Adam was created he didn’t have a sinful nature. Yet we know he partook of the forbidden tree which was a direct violation of God’s one and only prohibition. In other words, Adam committed a sin even though his nature wasn’t sinful.

There is no question in my mind that we are all born sinners in Adam. If someone wants to make the argument we are born with a sinful nature I wouldn’t disagree. The problem occurs when people think we carry that nature with us even after being born again.

In the New Testament there are really only two places where the word “nature” is used in this sense. The first one tells us we used to be “dead in our trespasses and sins.” We use to walk according to the “Prince of the power of the air”, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. We were by nature “Children of wrath” (Ephesians 2:1-3). In other words, we are not only born sinners we are indwelt by the “spirit of error” (1 John 4:6), hence the sinful nature.

Upon being born again the spirit of error has been replaced by the Holy Spirit. According to 2 Peter we “become a partaker of his divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4). The Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth, isn’t going to be a roommate with the spirit of error. Jesus told us we can’t serve two masters. He also told the Pharisees they were of “their father the devil” (John 8:44). Jesus had clearly come from the Heavenly Father, but those religious leaders had another father and it was his lusts they were doing. You’ve heard the old saying, “You act just like your father” haven’t you? It’s true and we can only have one either God or Satan.

God created human beings to be expressions of him. Don’t you remember? He said, “Let us make man in our image” (Genesis 1:26). We were designed to have the Spirit of God living in us so we would be an expression of his character (nature) manifested for all of creation to see. At the cross He accomplished all that was required for us to fulfill this original purpose.

According to Romans six we were “crucified with Christ and our old man, or self, died with him, in order that our old body of sin might be done away with, and we would no longer be slaves to sin.” Did you catch that? Our old self died. Wouldn’t this mean our old “sinful” nature died?

If we need a few more verses to show us our old man has died lets look at Galatians 2:20 “I am crucified with Christ; nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” The Apostle Paul tells us plainly it is no longer I but Christ! What part of Christ has a sinful nature? Another tells us, in Christ we have “put off the body of the sins of the flesh…” (Colossians 2:11) The old man really is dead!

Okay, you say that sounds pretty good, but let’s get back to why we still sin then. Fair enough. My answer is twofold. One reason I believe born again people sin is because they are living with an unrenewed mind. The other reason is simply because of outside temptations. If we are living with an unrenewed mind, in a world full of temptations, we are bound to fall. In Romans 12:2 we are told “Be not conformed to this world: but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” When I was born again I was 31yrs old. Believe me God had to rearrange a few things in my thinking. If we are born again in our spirit but our minds haven’t quite caught on yet we may discover parts of our lives to be the same as before. This is, I believe, why people come to the conclusion we still have a sinful nature.

The conclusion then is our nature is determined by the spirit we are in union with. Either we are in union with the spirit of error, and have a sinful nature, or we are joined to the Holy Spirit (the Spirit of truth), and we are partaking of his divine nature.

The biggest part of renewing our minds involves learning to see ourselves from God’s perspective. When we look at ourselves, or listen to what others say, we will start to believe it. If we determine we have a sinful nature based on our past experience, or how we have always thought of ourselves, it is no wonder we continue in sin. Part of what the Bible does for us is to describe God’s viewpoint on his children. He tells us “In Christ” we are whole, blameless, holy, righteous, sanctified, and justified dare I say perfect? He doesn’t look at us through the same lens the world uses.

Taken from my booklet “Some Things You Need to Know”

Louie

I’ve noticed lately how frustration comes when we see ourselves as independent from God. When I say, “Independent” I mean we think we are in charge of doing good and avoiding evil, as if we have the ability in and of ourselves to do that. If we think we should have done better or shouldn’t have done something what we’re really saying is “WE” ought to be able to perform better because “WE” have the ability within ourselves. Upon a more thorough reading of the scriptures though we discover we, meaning human beings, were never created to “Do Better” we were designed to be the Temple but not the deity within, the vessel rather than the contents and the branch instead of the vine. I suppose what I’m saying is the sooner we embrace our Temple/vessel/ branch-hood and let God be God the sooner the frustration will subside.

In the 32nd chapter of Exodus we read the story of the golden calf. The scene is Moses is on top of the mountain communing with God and Aaron his brother is at the foot of the mountain with the Children of Israel. Moses had been gone for a long time so everyone began to get antsy wondering where he went and whether or not He would ever return. So Aaron devised a plan wherein He had them to give him their jewelry, He melted it down and created a golden calf. The golden calf was declared to be their god so they began dancing and partying. They had been set free from bondage in Egypt and shown the way yet they didn’t really know God and grew impatient waiting for Moses to return. Even though they weren’t in Egypt any longer they still had plenty of Egypt in them.

Meanwhile back on the top of the mountain God says to Moses “Go down at once, for your people, whom you brought up from the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves. They have quickly turned aside from the way which I commanded them. They have made for themselves a molten calf, and have worshiped it and have sacrificed to it and said, ‘This is your god, O Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt!’ ” Then the Lord told Moses to leave him alone so He could destroy them in order to start over and make a new nation from Moses himself.

Here’s where it struck me. Moses’ response to God was “O Lord, why does your anger burn against Your people whom you have brought out from the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? Why should the Egyptians speak, saying, ‘With evil intent He brought them out to kill them in the mountains and to destroy them from the face of the earth’? Moses then went on to remind God about his promise to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob so the Bible says “the Lord changed his mind.”

Now, what I wanted you to see in this is how God gave Moses the perfect opportunity to get upset and attempt to take charge over the people but He didn’t. God called the Children of Israel “Your people whom you brought out of Egypt” and gave Moses the chance to make it all about him by destroying Israel and starting a new nation through Him. Moses, on the other hand, turned it around and said they are “Your people whom you brought out.” You see Moses understood, whether the Children of Israel were disobeying or acting out or not, ultimately He had to trust God to get them where He wanted them to be. Yes Moses was called to do a job, but if God “in Moses” wasn’t the real doer, frustration and failure was the only thing He could expect.

This story reminded me of so many church leaders and their never ending task of soothing all of the problems between church members. Attempting to make church members do one thing and stop doing another is futile. While sound Biblical teaching can go a long way; if they are God’s people in the end we have to trust Him to get them where He wants them. Carrying a burden for the well-being of others is part of the normal Christian life because we are called to intercede on their behalf. At some point though we have to let God do what only He can do and stop trying to do it for Him. In the end we, like Moses, have to remember “They” are His people not ours. A friend of mine says, “We are to share the gospel in the power of the Spirit and leave the results to God.”

Louie

84 Can do moreSome people never go to their high school reunions; my husband is one of them, but he did attend my 30 year class reunion with me. We were the class of 84, from Hammond Baptist High School in Schererville, Ind., with approx 77 graduates. There has been a five, a ten, twenty and a thirty year reunion and I have enjoyed them all. Each has been different and I must say, this one has meant the most to me. For one, it landed on my birthday and everyone wished me a happy birthday. Second, this group of people is full of love and life.

We pulled into town and Louie and I were invited to a fish fry my class-mate and friend, Steve was having at his in-law’s house. After stopping off at the hotel to freshen up and inviting a few more friends who wanted to spend time with me, we were off to the party. As we walked around to the back yard, smelling the fresh aroma of fish frying, we met up with Steve, his wife, Susan, his brother Dave, and dad. It was a joyous time because they made us feel comfortable and loved. Little did I know that Steve’s youngest daughter shares my same birthday which was a highlight for her and me.

The next afternoon I sent a text to a friend I had not seen since 6th grade to see if she wanted to get together. We lost touch when my parents decided to send me to Hammond Baptist School after being at Calumet Baptist for a few years; which is where Celeste and I became fast friends. When I told her Louie and I was coming for a visit, she asked me, “What do you want for your birthday?” I told her, “I just want to see you.”

Fun at the fish fry

The firs time we have seen each other in 36 yrs.

She came to the hotel where we were staying as I anxiously watched for her truck to pull in the parking lot. When I went out to greet her, tears came to my eyes; I couldn’t believe we were together again. I was reminded of why I miss her so much. I couldn’t take my eyes off of her because I was searching the adult for the child in her. Then she smiled and there she was, my best friend. I brought some pictures to show her and a letter she had written to me 36 years ago. After I saw her response to the letter, I wanted her keep it so I gave it to her.

Louie and I had been invited for a pre-reunion lunch at TGI Friday’s, we were late and everyone had ordered, but it worked out fine. When we walked in to meet the eight class mates, I started to cry because everyone was so happy to see us. Seeing and being with them was like a warm blanket on a cold day. I just couldn’t believe how great it was to be with them.Lisa and Marc asked about what we were doing so we talked about jail and prison ministry. I told them I had written a book and they were so proud of me. We all talked and listened and never got tired or bored. Vicki told us of how she shot a deer and how it made her feel. It was intriguing to see her so excited. I watched her husband Dale, who is also a class mate, listen to her tell her story and could visibly see the love he has for her, on his face.

84 reunion

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Lisa told us of a story of how she is able to minister to high powered women in a biblical way without using religious words. She is talking Spirit to them while teaching them who they are on the inside. As she told the story with passion and from a place way down inside her heart you could tell how much she is changing these women she talks to.

After a short nap and applying glue-on nails, it was time to go to the reunion. We weren’t the first to arrive but got there in time to unpack the memorabilia they asked us to bring. It was so much fun seeing what everyone brought and the pictures of us 30 years ago. We were there to make new memories as well, like the group photo, when John was making us all laugh so hard because the photographer was getting him to move here and there.

We had a cake; they sliced it up to hand out, but waited until they gave me a piece with a candle on it. The DJ played, “It’s your birthday” which was a surprise to me. He also played 80’s music which got us remembering all those crazy days. One girl told me that she remembers me telling her she could be a model some day, which she has never forgotten. Louie and I were blessed by everyone we talked to. I loved taking pictures and enjoying the company, I didn’t want to leave. I don’t think any of us did.

On our way home we reminisced about the experience and I heard Louie say to me about my class as a whole, that they are “successful, healthy, kind and genuine.” This is coming from a guy who didn’t grow up in church like we did, he went to a public school and didn’t have quite as strict Christian parents. His dad took him to church, but nothing like the way we were raised. So, coming from Him it really meant something.

All I know is that 30 years later, I didn’t think I would feel empowered by my class mates to know that I am not the only one. They go through the same things I go through as a 48 year old. I love my class and I miss them in between the 10 years. I wouldn’t take anything for the journey we all went through. Looking back, it was what shaped us for the adults that we are today. Our parents didn’t know what an impact it would make in our lives but God knew; He had a plan. I’m so thankful for God’s grace and mercy on our lives. He is so good and loves us so much. One of our class mates mentioned about how in his life now he is a salesman, but the reason he is so successful is because of what he learned going to teenage soul winning every Saturday while growing up. His experience of doors being slammed in his face and walking door to door telling others of Jesus and His love gave him what he needed to be brilliant at his job today.

The after glow of this time together still grows as I see relationships rekindled. I think that maybe we are getting older, wiser and appreciate the small things in life, but 30 years later, we still love like we did when we were young.

Tracey

 

The lineGod’s plan has always been to have his Son, Jesus, to be preeminent in all things. “For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities–all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. He is also the head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything” (Colossians 1:16-18).

Even before the fall of Adam God’s plan has been in place. We are told Jesus is the Lamb of God who was slain from the foundation of the world (Revelation 13:8). In other words the fall didn’t take God by surprise and His plan has not been changed. It’s as if God started this whole thing with Adam, knowing He would fall into sin, so He made provision long before in the death of Jesus Christ, God’s only begotten Son. While this may be a bit difficult to get our minds around we understand there is an invisible realm just as there is a visible one and we’re talking about God who is Spirit.

Dan Stone, the author of the book “The Rest of The Gospel”, defines this using a line. He shows how everything above the line is in the Eternal, invisible, Spirit realm and everything below the line is the Temporal, visible, matter realm. While we live in both realms here on Earth we are called to walk by faith rather than sight, so once we discover who God is, and what he has provided for us in Christ in the eternal, invisible, Spirit realm, we look there to understand the reality of what is going on in our lives rather than being conformed to the temporal, visible realm.

Once you start to see the truth behind Dan’s line illustration you will understand what the fall and salvation of man really means. You see when Adam fell he fell from above the line living into below the line living. The fall means He no longer lived according to the unseen but started living by what he saw and felt. Notice how immediately after eating the forbidden fruit “They” saw that they were naked. They became body conscious and lost sight of the Spirit realm. It was true when the Serpent told them if they ate the fruit their eyes would be opened, but He didn’t tell them they would also be closed to the Spirit. They literally fell below the line.

With all this being said, think with me for a minute about what God did in order to rescue the now spiritually blind, and in fact dead, human race. You see the day Adam ate of the tree he really did die. His spirit was deadened to God’s Spirit so God didn’t just have to forgive us of our sins He had to resurrect our dead human spirit. How would this be accomplished? Well, He would have to take on flesh and descend below the line in order to save us. He had to come where we were in order to lift us back to where we were always meant to be; so God became man. The Eternal put on the temporal, the invisible became visible and Spirit manifested in matter.

Since Adam’s fall meant mankind’s death, or separation from God, He had to initiate the rescue effort. I mean there isn’t anything a dead man can do to give himself life, right? God became a man, lived a perfect sinless life, died a sinners death, God raised him back and He ascended to the right hand of the Throne on High. Wow! God, Jesus fully human and fully God, willingly became a human in order to bring us back to our rightful place. Not only did he become man “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21). Jesus took upon himself what killed us in order to give us His Eternal life. “He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach” (Colossians 1:22). God’s Spirit can now reside in us: His Eternal life dwelling in our temporal bodies. We now have a resurrected human spirit joined to God’s Spirit in a fallen body but we live looking forward to the day when our new heavenly bodies will manifest.

The Apostle Paul tells us this message of the Gospel was a mystery but it is now revealed, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. You see the mystery of God is Christ Himself (Colossians 2:2) who is in the believer (Colossians 1:26-27) and He is their life (Colossians 3:4). The mystery of God is Christ but there’s more. The mystery of Christ is His body which is made up of the many believers who have been born again of His Spirit and just as Jesus Christ was the full expression of God in human form we the body are the expression of Christ (Ephesians 3:4-6), (Ephesians 1:22-23). Therefore, Christ and the church–His body– are the great mystery (Ephesians 5:32).

Louie

If you were to ask the average person walking down the street, “What do you think a church is?” Most would allude to a building possibly with stained glass windows or steeple on it where religious people gather on Sunday. Others may even say, “It’s the body of believers in Jesus Christ.” There is a sense both of these answers are correct but what specifically does the term “Church” mean in the Bible? The word “Church” in the New Testament comes from the Greek word “Ekklesia” which is defined as “The Called out ones.”

Way back in Deuteronomy 4:20 we read, “The Lord has taken you and brought you out of the iron furnace, from Egypt, to be a people for His own possession, as today.” So the idea of being “called out ones” didn’t originate with the New Testament rather it is a continuation. You see since the fall of man God has been seeking for those that would simply hear his voice and obey him.

In Genesis 12:1 we see where God called Abraham out and said, “Now the Lord said to Abram, Go forth from your country, and from your relatives and from your father’s house, to the land which I will show you…” The letter to the Hebrews reminds us of this in 11:8 “And by faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was going.”

Even when Jesus walked with his disciples his plan seemed to be for them to go out. He told them in Matthew 10:16 “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves.” He sent them out with the instructions “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations…” He even told them He was going away but it was best for them. He said, “I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you.” So it seems God’s plan all along is for his people to be a people on the move.

While the world, and some Christians, may think the “Church” is a building Christians go to on a Sunday morning God sees the Church as a body of His people called out for His purposes. In the letter to the Ephesians Paul wrote God gave the church “Apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service…” What exactly is the goal of this equipping then? I believe it is to prepare the “Church, or body of Christ” to go. You see once we come to maturity in Christ as individuals and as a body we will no longer need a man between us and God. Once we have been taught, or equipped, we will find our place in the body and move into our role of one of the “Called Out Ones.” It is true not all are meant to be “Goers” some are stayers in order to prepare the goers but that will be made clear as our understanding is broadened.

In Acts 13:2-3 we read where the church was gathered and “While they were ministering to the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul (Paul) for the work to which I have called them. Then, when they had fasted and prayed and laid their hands on them, they sent them away.” Did you catch that? The Holy Spirit called out Barnabas and Saul (Paul) for His particular work for them. Do you think the rest of the saints there were jealous or felt left out because they didn’t get to go? Of course I can’t answer that because it wasn’t specifically addressed in the scriptures but it seems likely there may have been some who felt passed up but what if God simply didn’t think they were ready yet. What if they still had a bit of maturing to do? Either way when it comes right down to it all that call themselves Christians have been called out of the world.

1 Peter 2:9 & 10 tells us “You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a Holy Nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” So you see whether we stay in a traditional church setting or we are called to go out our job is to declare the excellencies of Him who has called us.

Louie