Have Decided to Follow Jesus” is a great song. Lately I’ve been
thinking about what it means that you and I have chosen to walk the path
of following our Lord Jesus wherever he leads us—and also how much he
appreciates whatever efforts we make to do so. After all, the Son of God
was tempted in all ways like we are, he is touched with the feeling of
our weaknesses, and he knows how challenging it is to live for him in
this fallen and, seemingly, ever darkening world. He remembers that “we
are dust,” and in his personal curriculum of growth for each of us
constantly surrounds us with his abounding mercy, grace, and love.
Like Peter wrote in his first epistle, “Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls” (1 Pet. 1:8-9). Certainly he will honor any devotion on our part by coming alongside us and working in us to will and to do of God’s good pleasure.
“Our chief role in devotion [to the Lord] is to allow ourselves to be loved.” That statement is from a book I’m reading titled Prophetic Wisdom, by Graham Cooke. Here are a few other profound excerpts about God’s relentless desire for relationship with each of us, His kids:
“Everything God does in our lives is for relational development and ongoing experiences of Him in our hearts. He wants us to live in the sheer pleasure of waiting on Him.”
“Rejoicing, thanksgiving, praise, worship, and adoration are all physical indications that our emotions are fully engaged in blessing the Lord. We are the echo of God; we speak the same language from the same heart.”
“It is vital that we take time to acknowledge the Lord in all of life’s events, prior to making decisions. Heaven works on a relational paradigm into which the Lord introduces service, ministry, gifts, and functions. His prime purpose is love, oneness, and fellowship. We learn how to call out to God to simply be what He has promised.”
“Development should be delightful. God loves transformation, and wants us to enjoy the process of change and becoming more.”
“When God speaks, He does so with purpose—to create life, hope, faith, and an awareness of Himself in the lives of His people. He wants to bring change, adjustment, correction, direction, renewal, restoration, redemption, and encouragement. His words are always strategic and contain real purpose. They reveal His heart and plans for us. All He asks, in return, is for us to respond to Him.”
“All our favor
is tied into the new creation, not the old. The Father relates only to our new nature in Christ. When He looks at us, He does not see what is wrong with us. He sees what is missing in our relationship with Christ, and He is committed to developing that in us.”
“We are not given anything because of who we are or because of the quality of our performance. We receive from God because of who Jesus is and because of his relationship with the Father, and our standing in Christ. Whatever the Father is to Jesus, He is to us. The Father has put us in Christ so that He can enjoy the same relationship with us as He does with Jesus.”
“[The Christian] lifestyle is one of simple trust and joyful believing in the God of infinite goodness, grace, mercy, and kindness. When the Father speaks into our lives with a promise, all that He is becomes enshrined in our response. He is righteous. He can do only what is right. He is truth. He can never lie, flatter, or deceive. He is holy, pure, and innocent, without sin and with no guile. The promise, therefore, is guaranteed by the quality of His Nature. When we know what God is like, it is easy to believe in Him.”
Why are God and Christ so invested in an intimate relationship with each of us? Three things come to mind: First, when I love someone, I don’t want to disappoint him, in this case The Man who died for me. Second, trust in someone is directly proportional to intimacy with him, and experiential knowledge of his character and his promise keeping. Third, the better I know my Lord Jesus, the more sustained is my excitement and my motivation to serve him. Here’s what I think is the “bottom line” of life: Either I believe that God and Christ will care for me and meet my needs OR I believe I must care for myself, in which case I won’t have much time to care for anyone else.
I’ve recently shared some things with you about our wonderful TLTF leadership nucleus, the intimate time we had together the end of July, and some of what we have been discussing in regard to how to reach more people with God’s Truth. I can assure you that each of these dear folks has your best interests at heart, and together we are serious about doing the will of the Lord. One of them brought up the following verses: “Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business. But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the Word (Acts 6:3-4).
Of course, prayer is fundamental to walking in fellowship with God and Christ and maximizing our vast spiritual potential, and we are encouraging one another to PRAY much so that we increase our intimacy with the Lord Jesus and thereby walk through the doors he opens for us in “the ministry of the Word.”
In that vein, allow me to share my heart with you about the challenge we all (you are included) face, which is, in some ways, that of striking the balance between love and truth, which of course are to go hand-in-hand. Properly translated, Ephesians 4:15 says we are to be “truthing it in love,” that is, we are to both live and proclaim the truth of God’s Word no matter what, but we are to do so in love, which regards the posture of our hearts toward others. As you no doubt realize, this is often difficult.
None of us who serve you think that “we know all the truth,” or that we have “all the answers,” and none of us think we earn favor with God by how much Word we know. We understand that God looks on the heart of a person, which is why so many wonderful people of God, people whose love for and commitment to Him is probably far greater than mine, have done mighty works for Him despite the significant error they have believed. BUT, if Truth matters, and if knowing it makes one free while believing error leads to bondage, their effectiveness had to have been hampered at least to some degree.
Somehow, by the grace of God, you and I were once in the right place at the right time to hear His Word taught accurately like never before. As per the “to whom much has been given, much will be expected,” exhortation, it is incumbent upon us, that is, we are obliged, to hold fast to it and boldly share it with others. And as you may well have discovered, doing so often invites persecution, or at least disdain and shunning from our Christian brethren, which is most unpleasant.
A couple weeks ago I went to a luncheon of about 500 ministers and church leaders from Indianapolis, which was sponsored by our local law enforcement agencies in an attempt for them to work with local congregations and stop crime. Not knowing anyone there, I asked the Lord to put me by someone with whom I might afterward engage for mutual benefit. I picked a seat, and was the only white person at that table. During the few minutes before lunch and the program, I got a business card from the gentleman on either side of me. Last week I spent two hours with one of them, and will have lunch with the other next week.
While chatting with the first man and listening to the story of his life (which included at age six seeing his father shot to death by a racial bigot through a window in their Mississippi home), it dawned on me that I don’t really understand what it is like to be black. Duh, I’m white. During the course of our conversation, I shared with him that the closest I’ve come to experiencing any prejudice, (mild) persecution, or being an outcast has been among other Christians because of my belief that Jesus is the Son of God and not God the Son. That led to an interesting exchange, and me giving him the links to our videos. Elizabeth and I will probably visit his church some Sunday.
Afterward, I thought about the vitriol some believers have expressed toward me regarding my doctrinal convictions, and that in those exchanges I have been much more kind to them than they have to me. Though we’ve not experienced great persecution, we have chosen a somewhat lonely road, but thank God that we know so many priceless saints who also believe the truth of God’s Word—and that there are more people out there who do want Bible teaching that makes sense.
The challenge we have (we are open to suggestions) in the ministry of the Word is with how our “sound bite” culture has diminished people’s attention spans and the amount of reading they do, especially books. You know that if one is to really learn the Word of God, it requires him being properly instructed and then thoughtfully putting his eyes on the print so as to get to know the Author. We have produced teaching materials that do exactly that, and our challenge is to get people’s attention and motivate them to take the time to go through them. Showing them the love of God is a good place to start.
Yes, culture has changed, but people’s hearts have not. Therefore, God’s Word will appeal to those seemingly few who truly want truth—like you and I do. In John 6 Jesus basically taught all day—and had to miraculously provide lunch for the crowd. In Acts 13, Paul taught from supper to breakfast, with a brief intermission to raise one of the audience from the dead! With the Lord’s help, we too can find hungry people and raise them to newness of life.