Saturday, 28 May 2011

JESUS THE MISSIONARY [PART 2]


Here is the second part of the series, Jesus the Missionary. We had a wonderful time last week teaching this series on "Jesus the Missionary" in YWAM. I trust that you will be blessed and challenged by God's Word. 

JESUS THE MISSIONARY [PART 2]

Jesus as the Pattern of Missions said: “As the Father hath sent me, even so send I you.” [John 20:21].

How did the Father send Jesus?
He sent Him to lay down His life for those he came to save
He was sent to live a life of obedience to His Father
He sent Him to identify with those He came to save
He sent Him to train others to continue His ministry
He sent Him to minister in the power of the Holy Spirit
He sent His to wage spiritual warfare against the enemy

JESUS WAS SENT TO LIVE A LIFE OF OBEDIENCE TO HIS FATHER [Hebrews 5:8; John 5:19,30]

“My will is to do the will of Him who sent me” [Hebrews 5:8] 
“To obey is better than sacrifice” [1 Sam.15:22]. Sacrifice, which does not issue out of obedience to God, is actually foolishness. The basis of sacrifice is obedience but is it really sacrifice? Especially when God gives back to us more than we can ever give Him!

Two kinds of obedience:
[a] Obedience to God’s written Word
[b] Obedience to the voice of the Holy Spirit - “As many as are led by the Spirit of God are the sons of God” [Romans 8:14]

THERE ARE THREE MAJOR REASONS WHY WE SHOULD OBEY GOD 

1.  Because obedience is the language of love
For some people, obedience is difficult to handle! It means towing the line, submitting to authority, doing what you are told. In modern society we equate obedience less with love and more with authority.John more than any other Gospel writer emphasized love, and yet more than any other spoke about obedience! The two go together. See John 14:15, 21, 23-24; 15:10.
                 
Love is the greatest thing of all – 1 Cor. 13:13 – Love is greater than faith or hope! God is the God of faith, and of hope, but He is love!
Paul commands us to “Do everything in love.” [1 Cor. 16:14]; and to “Follow the way of love…” [1 Cor. 14:1] - Everything is based on love – our relationship to the Lord, our service for him, our obedience to Him.  Obedience is not something we do simply because we must do it – if that is the case then we have moved into legalism and away from grace.

A key verse is John 14:15 – “If you love me, keep my commandments.” This is normally understood to mean, “By keeping My commandments you prove that you love Me.” In the margin there is an alternative rendering, “you will keep”. If you love me you will keep my commandments – obedience is not the basis of relationship, love is! When we love Jesus we will obey Him! The power of our love for Him causes us to obey Him. It is “the expulsive power of a new affection

John says, “His commandments are not burdensome to us.” [1 John 5:3]

2.  Because Obedience is the twin of faith
Love is the basis of obedience and faith is the twin of obedience. Therefore, love is also the basis of faith [see Galatians 5:6 – “faith works through love”].

Faith and Obedience always go together
Literally, God speaks and by faith, we obey Him!
In Hebrews we read, “By faith the walls of Jericho fell down…” [Heb.11:30] Note the order in which the Lord dealt with Joshua [Joshua 5:13-6:10]. Firstly he surrendered – he took off his shoes. Servants don’t wear shoes! Secondly, Joshua heard God’s voice – “See I have given into your hands Jericho. Thirdly, Obedience – the Israelites had to do what God told them, but the writer to the Hebrews calls it faith!

After Jericho Israel comes Ai [Joshua 7] The danger is that faith turns to presumption – not listening to God but doing it the way they did it at Jericho previously. It is longer faith and obedience but trusting in their own ability!

“By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises offered up his only son [Heb. 11:17]. The story of offering Isaac is a story of obedience, but the writer to Hebrews calls it faith!
           
Faith increases through obedience [Luke 17:5-9]
Immediately after the disciples ask Jesus to increase their faith He tells a parable about an obedient servant!
[a] It’s not great faith we need, but faith as a mustard seed [v6]
[b] Faith is always active – it speaks to the mountain [v6]
[c] When we obey in small things God gives us more! [Matthew 25:21,23]

3. Because obedience is the key to blessing
Deuteronomy 28 – The first fourteen verses of this chapter speak of the blessings of obedience. Some of the blessings of obedience mentioned are: Your children will be blessed [28:4]; Your enemies will be defeated [28:7]; You will established as God’s people [28:9]; You will prosper [28:8, 11]; You will be a source of blessing to others [28:10, 12b]. However, the largest part of that chapter speaks about the curses that come upon disobedience [28:15-68]. The price of disobedience is great – We can clearly see some of the results of disobedience shown in Deuteronomy 28 in the world today: Confusion [v20]; Diseases [v21-22, 35, 59-61];
Drought & Famine [v23-24]; Defeat [v25]; Little fruit from much sowing [v38-42]; Debt [v43]; Captivity [v49ff]; Lack of Success [v29]; Breakdown of Family Life [v53ff, see v41];

Jesus said that the disobedient will not enter heaven! [Matthew 7:21-23]

God gives the Holy Spirit to those who obey Him! Peter speaking in front of the Sanhedrin begins by saying that we must obey God rather than men, and then says, “the Holy Spirit is given to those who obey him” [Acts 5:29-32]

Obedience is not always easy – it is a battle. Often it involves a clash with our natural, fleshly desires. We see this in the life of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane as he prayed, “Not my will, but your will be done.”

Obedience is a life style. The more we make a decision to obey God the easier it becomes! As the Father sent Jesus to obey so Jesus sends us out into the world to obey Him.

Monday, 16 May 2011

JESUS THE MISSIONARY [PART 1]


This week I am teaching each morning on Missions at Youth with A Mission [YWAM] It seemed appropriate to use these messages as the messages for Spirit Food in the next five weeks. May God richly bless you and challenge you as you read these messages.

JESUS THE MISSIONARY [Part I]

19Then, the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. 21So Jesus said to them again, “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” 22And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”  [John 20:19-23]

Missions is in the heart of God – it always was, right from the beginning.
The great missionary-explorer, David Livingstone said, “God had one Son, and He was a missionary”

From His Word we clearly understand that God is the Father of Missions, Jesus is the Pattern of Missions, and the Holy Spirit is the Executor of Missions!
It was in the Father’s heart to redeem and restore fallen, lost mankind. The Father sent Jesus who came to “seek and to save the lost” [Luke 19:10]. When Jesus returned to the Father the Holy Spirit was sent to empower His disciples in order to continue the mission of the Father and the Son. Before He returned to the Father Jesus promised His disciples, “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you shall be My witnesses, in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to the uttermost parts of the earth.” [Acts 1:8]. This amazing mission under the direction of the Holy Spirit began on the Day of Pentecost [Acts 2:1]. The first missionaries to be sent out by the church in Antioch were sent out by the Holy Spirit [Acts 13:1-4].

A missionary is “one who is sent out with a mission.” In some cases this has been in interpreted as someone who leaves their culture and homeland to serve among people of a different language and culture. The Christian missionary movement is an amazing story, but the danger is that we then understand a missionary in that light alone. The word “missionary” has a much broader meaning. Every Christian should be a missionary, called to serve their Master and reach out to lost and needy people, whether in the own culture or across into another culture.    

For each Christian believer, Jesus is the Pattern of Missions. He clearly stated that pattern when He said, “As the Father has sent Me, I also send you” [John 20:21]. Literally, in the same way that the Father sent Jesus, He sends us. To understand how He sends us, we need to understand how the Father sent Jesus.  How then did the Father send Jesus?
¨ He was sent to lay down His life for those he came to save
¨ He was sent to live a life of obedience to His Father
¨ He was sent to identify with those He came to save
¨ He was sent to minister in the power of the Holy Spirit
¨ He was sent to wage spiritual warfare against the enemy

We will consider each of these different aspects of the way that the Father sent Jesus and over the next few weeks and hopefully better understand how He sends us. Here is the first one:

JESUS WAS SENT TO LAY DOWN HIS LIFE FOR THOSE HE CAME TO SAVE

15 As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. 17 “Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. 18 No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command I have received from My Father.” [John 10:15,17-18]
Jesus chose to lay down His life – no one took it from Him. He had no will but the will of His Father. It was His joy to do the Father’s will! He laid aside His reputation and His rights as God [Philippians 2:1-11]. He retained all His attributes as God but chose not to use them.

Many years ago a missionary from West Africa, Mabel Williamson, wrote a book entitled “Have We No Rights.” She came to the conclusion that the only right that she had was to walk in obedience to God and obey Him. 

Watchman Nee said, “God’s normal for a Christian is, “I no longer live! Now it is Christ who lives His life in me.” This exactly echoes the words of Paul in Galatians 2:20. The heart of real Christianity is a process of death to the self-life

Recently a young Christian man struggling to find his way in Christ asked me the question, “Why do I never hear teaching in church about being “crucified with Christ.”   

Consider what the cost of missions meant to the apostle Paul [see 2 Corinthians 11:23-28]. It meant pain, suffering, shipwreck, beatings, weariness, toil, hunger, danger and more!
David said, “I will not offer unto the Lord my God of that which has cost me nothing [2 Sam. 24:24]

Jesus laid down His own mandate for discipleship and the cost of discipleship in Luke 14:25-33

Three times in this passage we find the phrase “cannot be My disciple” [verse 26,27,33]. The first time it is in the context of relationships, the second in the context of ambitions, and the third time in the context of possessions.

Jesus must be Lord of our RELATIONSHIPS [verse 26]
In order to understand the word “hate” compare this passage with Matthew 10:34-39. Literally, Jesus must be Lord, and no other loves must come before our love for Him.

Allan Yuen, one of China’s great Christian leaders one day shared his testimony with me of the twenty-two years that he spent as a prisoner during the Cultural Revolution. I asked him what was the most difficult thing that he experienced in coming back to Beijing. His eyes filled with tears, and replied, “My little girl was three years old when I was sent to prison, and she was twenty-five years old the next time I saw. I missed all the years of her growing up.” He wept, but then pulled himself together and said, “But that’s what it means to follow Jesus, isn’t it!”

The motto of Jim Elliott, the missionary martyred in Ecuador was,  “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your strength” [Deuteronomy 6:5] – literally with “your whole being” spirit, soul and body! This is how we are to love God. Notice it says, “strength” – God wants our bodies! [see Romans 12:1-2]

The story of Abraham offering Isaac is fundamentally God dealing with this issue of love [Genesis chapter 22]. God was challenging Abraham’s love for Him. Do you love me more than even your own son? More than the most precious gifts that I have given you?

Jesus must be Lord of our AMBITIONS [verse 27]
The prime example of the cross was Jesus Himself – “Not my will but yours be done!”

Many years ago I read this remarkable quotation, but cannot remember the source. It still challenges me and speaks deeply into my spirit until now:  “Self cannot be domesticated. Salvation does not improve self! Christ did not come to improve self but to replace it. Self has no place in God’s economy. Self cannot be disciplined. However much we try to educate self, expose it to good moral teaching, or change it, self remains wild and deceitful. It is desperately wicked. Self cannot be dedicated. How prone we are to try and do that. The accumulated result of the effort to dedicate self is a system that operates on selfish motivation and selfish rewards. We have in our churches acres and acres of dedicated self [which is not dedication at all]. Self will do anything before it will die. It will pray, work and tithe. It will teach a Sunday School class and become a deacon. It will even preach! It will steep itself in religious tradition to cushion itself against God. As long as self and Christ remain in the same heart there will be a war.”
The cross means a firm “No!” to our own will!
Francis Xavier said, “Give up your small ambitions and come east and preach Christ.” Jesus wants to give us His ambitions. Our personal ambitions may well be a hindrance to the Lordship of Jesus in our lives.
Jesus said, “Except a grain of wheat fall into the ground and die it abideth alone, but if it die it will bring forth much fruit” [John 12:24-25]. Here is a divine principle – life, blessing and fruitfulness come out of death.
John the Baptist said, “He [Jesus] must increase, but I must decrease” [John 3:30]

Jesus must be Lord of our POSSESSIONS [verse 33]

Does this mean I cannot enjoy nice things? That is not what Jesus is saying. The Apostle Paul said that the Lord gives us all things richly to enjoy [1 Timothy 6:17]. In the same Paul commands us “not to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God.” The real issue is do we possess our possessions or do our possessions possess us!

Our open hands that receive from God must be equally open to give to others, and bless others.

In 1 Timothy chapter 6 there is some very clear teaching on money and material possessions: Firstly, Paul states four basic truths:
[a] Wealth does not bring Contentment [1Timothy 6:6]
[b] Wealth is not Lasting [1 Timothy 6:7]
[c] Our Basic Needs are really very few [1 Timothy 6:8]
[d] The Desire to be Wealthy leads to Sin [1 Timothy 6:9-10]
Secondly, These four basic truths should lead to five Biblical attitudes: 
[a] Humbly receive what God gives you [I Timothy 6:17a]
[b] Trust God to meet all your need [I Timothy 6:17b]
[c] Enjoy what God gives you [I Timothy 6:17c]
[d] Employ what God gives you [I Timothy 6:18]
[e] Learn to look for heaven’s reward [I Timothy 6:19]

John Wesley had a very simple but effective teaching on money and possessions. He said, “Gain all you can; Save all you can; Give all you can.”

Jesus must be Lord of all – our relationships, our ambitions and our possessions.
“If Jesus is not Lord of all, then He is not lord at all” [James Hudson Taylor]

Monday, 2 May 2011

BREAKFAST ON THE BEACH

Bible Reading: John 21:1-25

The Kingdom of God is not food and drink [Romans 14:17], but eating meal’s together is important – consider the Last Supper, Jesus feeding the multitude, the Jewish Feasts, the Marriage Supper of the Lamb and many more Bible meals!

Someone has said that “More business is conducted over a meal than in the office.” “Let’s have some fellowship – let’s have a meal together.”

Jesus said, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him, and dine with him, and he with me.” [Rev. 3:20].

Breakfast on the beach in John 21 is the setting for one of the most wonderful stories in the New Testament – the restoration by the risen Christ of a man who had failed so badly.

Peter was sanguine, outgoing, and an extrovert who somehow always managed to make a mess of things! In Matthew 16:16-23 we see two sides of Peter. We hear his amazing confession – “Thou art the Christ” [verse 16], and Jesus tells him that that this is a revelation from the Father in heaven [verse 17]. Immediately after this confession Jesus tells His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, be killed and raised on the third day [verse 21]. Peter’s immediate response is to  rebuke Jesus, “Lord this shall not happen to you!” [verse 22]. Now Jesus rebukes Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.” [verse 23]. In a few moments Peter has had an amazing revelation from God and then been rebuked by Jesus for being mindful of the things of men and not God!

Peter will always be known among Christians for two specific things. Firstly that he denied Jesus three times. Three times he said, “I do not know Him” [Luke 24:54f], and secondly, that he was the preacher on the Day of Pentecost and became a great leader in the Early Church.
These two facts about Peter are closely linked together. They tell us that God can mightily use a failure! Failure does not have to be final!!

Look at the steps downwards in Peter’s denial of Jesus
Self-confidence [Luke 22:31-34] - In Mark it is even stronger, “Even if all are made to stumble, yet I will not be… he spoke more vehemently, “If I have to die with You, I will not deny you.”
Sleeping when he should be praying [Luke 22:39-46]. Jesus spoke specifically to Peter – “Simon, are you sleeping? Could you not watch one hour? Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing but the flesh is weak.” [Mark 14:37-38]
Operating in the flesh [Luke 22:27-53]. John 18:10 tells us that it was Peter who cut off the ear of high priest’s servant.
Following afar off [Luke 22:54]
Cowardice [Luke 22:54-62] – Peter denied Jesus three times to a servant girl! “Peter went out and wept bitterly” [Luke 22:62]

Who hasn’t been a failure? The great Chinese Christian leader, Wang Ming Dao, was arrested during the Cultural Revolution in China, but under tremendous duress he denied his Lord and was released. Realizing what he had done Ming Dao went to his fellow believers, confessed his sin, repented, and was immediately re-arrested and imprisoned. Many years later, when he was finally released from prison he said, “I have often been like Peter, but never been like Judas!”

Following the resurrection Jesus appeared several times to His disciples, and especially to Mary Magdalene and to Thomas. Peter had heard the testimony of the women who saw the two angels at the tomb who told them that Jesus was not there but alive. On hearing this Peter had run to the tomb and found it to be empty but Jesus had still not personally addressed Peter, who had wept so bitterly over his failure.  Can you imagine how desperate Peter must have been – will He ever forgive me for what I have done? Will He ever trust me again? Am I cast away forever?

Peter’s reaction was to go fishing! [John 21:3]. Peter was going back to what he knew and understood – his old way of life! It was a natural escape mechanism to try and overcome his sense of failure and guilt, and the other disciples followed him. Peter was a natural leader. He was a leader who had failed and was flawed

That night Peter and his friends caught nothing. They were back where they started when Jesus had first called them to follow Him [see Luke 5:1-11]. Three years earlier they had fished all night and caught nothing but at Jesus’ command they had  launched out into the deep and let their nets down for a catch. Their catch was amazing and Peter’s response had been to fall at the feet of Jesus and say, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” Jesus then called Peter and his three friends and said, “Follow Me.” Now, three years later, they have again had a fruitless night at sea, and as they drew near to the shore they saw a stranger on the shore. He called to them, “Do you have any food?” Once again Jesus told them where to cast their nets and find fish. Imagine a carpenter telling fishermen where to catch fish! Once again they caught a large catch of fish.

John recognized that the Stranger on the shore was Jesus and as soon as Peter’s heard that he jumped into the sea and swam to the shore [John 21:7] but Jesus waited until after breakfast to speak with Peter about his failure [John 21:15]. Peter rushed to Jesus with such desire [John 21:7], but Jesus seemed more concerned about breakfast, ”Bring some fish…come and eat breakfast” [John 21:10,12].

After they had eaten breakfast Jesus finally spoke to Peter [John 21:15-22]

JESUS SPOKE TO PETER’S FAILURE

Jesus asked Peter three times, “Do you love Me?” With each question and each of Peter’s responses Jesus is wiping out the power of Peter’s three denials.

The Greek words for “love” are interesting. Twice Jesus uses the word “agape” [“God-like, sacrificial” love] [John 21:15,16], but each time Peter responds with the word “phileo” [“the affection of a brother”]. It almost seems as though all of Peter’s flamboyant self-confidence has gone and he cannot trust  himself to make an “agape” commitment, for fear of failing again! The third time Jesus asks the question He also uses the word “phileo.” He has come down to Peter’s level and understands.

JESUS SPOKE TO PETER’S FUTURE

Jesus gives Peter a clear commission to be a shepherd of His sheep! Peter’s failure does not make his future hopeless and useless! Failure does not have to be final! Hallelujah!

But Jesus says something else about Peter’s future. He tells Peter that one day he will die for his faith. This is not a forbid, fearful word. It will happen when Peter is old [John 21:18-19] but it says to Peter, “Jesus trusts me that I will not fail in the same way next time.”

Jesus does not hold back the cost of following Him – it is good to count the cost! The cost of obedience may be great but it is never going to be as costly as disobedience. 

JESUS SPOKE TO PETER’S PRESENT

The past has been dealt with, and the future is ahead but a decision must be made that will determine the future. At this moment Jesus requires a decision and renews His call to Peter. “Follow Me” [John 21:19b]

It must have reminded Peter of the first call – “Follow Me and I will make you fishers of men” [Mark 1:16-20]. Suddenly comes this wonderful realization, that with God there is a second chance!

Peter’s response is so human. Instead of an immediate “Yes,” he looks at John and asks Jesus, “What about this man?” [John 21:20-22]. Jesus quickly responds – that is not your business, get your eyes of others and what they do Peter. “You follow Me.”