COUNT IT ALL JOY
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (James 2:2-4)
In a ‘now or never’ culture, God’s process is more like ‘wait and see’. And this is probably no more evident than in our attitude toward trials, troubles and suffering.
I have suffered much less than others, but even to the extent which I have experienced suffering, I still find these words of James to be some of the most jarring in all of Scripture. “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds…”
When trials do come up, my first reaction is rarely one of joy, but is usually one of “Oh Lord, why me?” or some other expression of frustration or disappointment or despair. But James calls us to joy. Why is that?
What many Christians in the global south have come to understand is that God, because of His great love for us, disciplines us and allows us to go through difficult times for our ultimate good. James points out the same truth in verses 3 and 4: “, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
We are called to count it all joy, not because of the pain that we might experience but because of the ultimate end which is that you may be complete, lacking in nothing.
There is a story told of a soon-to-be-butterfly that was struggling to get out of its cocoon. As the story goes, someone saw this struggle and, in his or her desire to provide assistance, gently peels open the cocoon only to end up removing the very hardship that was necessary for the insect to become a mature and complete butterfly.
So it is with us. We so often want to view our hardships as nothing but an obstacle toward growth and maturity. However, the very trials we experience are from the hand of God and are working to produce steadfastness leading to maturity.
The way the Lord works in us through trials is mysterious at times, but let’s take comfort in knowing that it is the Lord who is working and because of this, we can count it all joy.
How have you discovered God’s purpose in your suffering? Leave a comment and tell us about it.
THE GREAT COMMISSION
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20 (ESV)
A seminary professor says that when he teaches on the Great Commission, he often begins by asking the students what is Jesus’ primary emphasis in the Great Commission. Typically, most students reply that evangelism is the main focus. Then he asks them to read the Great Commission from Matthew 28:18-20, after which he asks his question a second time. The students quickly see that although the Great Commission includes a call to evangelism, it doesn’t actually contain the word evangelism. What the students come to understand through more careful study of the Great Commission is that Jesus’ main focus is on making disciples.
So, while making disciples certainly does include evangelism, it is by no means limited to evangelism. The sort of disciple-making to which Jesus commissions the church involves much more, including baptism and teaching. Simply put, if we have only evangelized a people or a nation or a congregation, we have not been obedient to the fullness of the Great Commission.
In addition to evangelism, Jesus provided us with specific instructions that we are to baptize in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and that we are to teach people to obey everything that He commanded us.
Plus, if we have only evangelized, baptized and received a person into church membership, then we have not been obedient to the fullness of the Great Commission. Both baptizing and teaching are the ministry of the local church around the world, and this is why the local church sends people out to make disciples. As missionaries, preachers and teachers we go to all nations to plant, equip and disciple the church of Jesus Christ. We are called not simply to evangelize and move on, which it seems that many Canadian evangelical churches consider the extent of their Great Commission responsibility. We are called to stay on course and to do the hard work of teaching Jesus’ disciples to obey all that He commanded, including the command to go and make disciples of all nations.
The Great Commission is a call for the church to be the church and to do the work of the church by making disciples of all nations. And we must remember that Jesus never called it the Great Commission. It is indeed a great commission, but it is a beautifully ordinary commission that we have the great privilege of fulfilling in part as we gather together with every people, tongue, tribe and nation to worship with our families every Lord’s Day. Then we partake of and bear witness to the ordinary means of grace in the building up of the church in the preaching of the Word, growing as disciples and learning from the Scriptures to obey every command given by Jesus. Then we enjoy the communion of the saints in communion with God in prayer, observe baptism in the name of the triune God, and partake regularly of the Supper that our Lord provides at His table. This is the extraordinarily great and greatly ordinary work of the church being faithful to the faithfulness of the Great Commission.
So don’t think that the Commission is so great that it is beyond you. If you are a part of the church, then it is for you. Discipleship is the engine that drives the purposes of God on the earth, whether you are in Edmonton or Edirne, Hanoi or Hamilton, Montreal or Malang.
So, please tell us; what is your experience with the Commission of Jesus? Were you discipled? Are you making disciples? Does that discipleship include the element of obedience to everything Jesus commanded?
Leave a comment and let us know.
WHAT AM I SPREADING?
The word spread can be defined as: the development or growth of something so that it covers a larger area or affects a large number of people.
As we live in this time of pandemic with the coronavirus, we know that it has spread globally. It is something that has changed all of our lives and something we will never forget. We are being advised to stay at home and only go out for essential reasons, we are not able to gather at church, and the list goes on.
Although this pandemic has caused so much impact in everyone’s lives in a drastic way, let’s be reminded that it will also eventually come to an end. I am not saying that in an ignorant way of those who have lost their lives or jobs or those who are infected. There have been other pandemics and they have ended so this one will also come to an end. Different pandemic but same miracle-working God.
As children of God let’s be reminded of things that are even more powerful and are of eternal value. These have miraculous power and do not come to an end. Let’s talk about these today.
As we reflect on the life of Jesus, let's be reminded and encouraged of what Jesus was constantly spreading when He was here on Earth.
Let's look at 3 things today:
1 Corinthians 13:13
“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”
Everything that Jesus did, was always done out of love. It didn't matter who He encountered, He always displayed Love.
He was always spreading Love. This Love still has power today and will always have power.
Are we expressing our love to God and others?
Even with the social distancing requirements, we can still spread love to others. We can call someone or message them to encourage them or even make them laugh. We can pray with other believers which I am so thankful we have been able to do through technology. It is truly a blessing and an encouragement.
2- The Gospel
He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.
This is a wonderful verse that demonstrates the importance of spreading the gospel- not only to certain people- to all creation.
Wherever Jesus went, He shared the gospel. Not only did He share it but He shared it with authority, power, and love.
The Gospel brings salvation, truth, and it never fails. God's Word is always accurate and without fault and it will always be.
If you’ve heard the news lately, sometimes there are reports that are slightly inaccurate, etc. This is understandable and obvious as people make mistakes. Thank God the Gospel is always accurate and we can fully trust everything that God has said to us.
1 Corinthians 15:57
"But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ."
Jesus constantly displayed victory over and over again. People were miraculously healed and transformed. People were set free from sin and helplessness and so much more.
Today, we still have these same victories through Christ and by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Let's ask ourselves today what we are spreading....
Maybe we are watching the news too much and therefore spreading what is being reported. I'm not saying to be ignorant and not watch the news. Let's be wise and informed but let's not let the news dominate our tvs and households.
More than ever, the world needs us to be strong, but not in our own strength. Victory brings us hope. Let’s not forget how far God has brought us and the past victories we have experienced. The victories will continue to spread and God will get all of the glory.
Let's be an encouraging voice that prays, hopes, believes, and keeps moving forward because God is with us and God is for us.
Let's spread the love of Jesus.
Let's spread the gospel which is the truth.
Let's spread this victory which we firmly have in Jesus.
Let’s spread what Jesus spread.
“And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.”
Connection to Missions
By God's grace, One Mission Society unites, inspires, and equips Christians to make disciples of Jesus Christ, multiplying dynamic communities of believers around the world. Our desire is to declare God’s glory among the nations.
This is what we are spreading and our prayer is that God would continue to be pleased as He uses this ministry for His glory. Click here for some FAQ where you can learn more about us.
What have you been spreading?
How have you remained encouraged during these times?
We would love to hear from you. Please feel free to comment below.
THE HABIT OF EVANGELISM
In this week’s blog post, we are considering the habit or discipline of evangelism. In past posts, we have considered Bible intake, prayer and worship.
If you have not seen these posts yet, go ahead and click on the following links to catch up:
And remember that the primary motivation for these spiritual habits or disciplines is taken from Paul’s instruction to Timothy in 1 Timothy 4:7, where he says, exercise or discipline yourself toward godliness. This applies to us just the same today and makes it clear that, if we wish to be godly, it will take work, discipline, and exercise. Just as an athlete, musician, or artist must exercise disciplined practice to become more proficient at their chosen field, so a disciple must exercise disciplined practice in these activities as means’ of grace to become more proficient at being godly. That is to say that, as we become more disciplined in the practice of these habits, more of God’s grace is available to us which will change us.
Only the joy of being lost in the worship of God is as exhilarating and intoxicating as telling someone about Jesus Christ. And those who do embrace this habit or discipline report that some of the most rewarding times have been during missions trips when they have done nothing but talk about Jesus, on the streets and in homes, with one individual or group after another, all day long. I can put you in touch with several MFM team members who will tell you that this is true.
Yet, nothing causes more foot-shuffling eye-shifting anxiety among disciples like talking about our responsibility to evangelize. I know many believers who are confident that they are obedient in the area of Bible intake, giving, or serving, but I don’t think I know of a single person who would say, “I am as evangelistic as I should be.”
What I want us to see is that godliness requires that we discipline ourselves in the habit of evangelism. I’m convinced that the main reason that most of us do not witness for Jesus in ways that would be effective and relatively fear-free is simply that we do not discipline ourselves to do it.
Evangelism is expected
Most of us reading this post will not need convincing that Jesus expects each of us to be involved in sharing the gospel with those around us. Because there are many methods of evangelism, it is not expected that believers would all do it the same, but He does expect all disciples to be fishers of men.
What do I mean by evangelism? It is always good to make sure that we are all on the same page in terms of what we are talking about and having a common understanding of the terms will help us understand what is being said.
Evangelism is presenting Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit to unbelievers so that they might come to put their trust in God through Him, to receive Him as their Saviour, and serve Him as their King in the fellowship of His church.
More concisely, we could say that all New Testament evangelism is communicating the gospel. Anyone faithfully relating the essential elements of God’s salvation through Jesus Christ is evangelizing. Evangelism occurs whether the words of the gospel are spoken, written, sung, or recorded.
Jesus has commanded us to witness. Consider these five references:
And consider this final exhortation from Peter. “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvellous light.” (1 Peter 2:9) I think that we usually view this reference in terms of establishing the priesthood of all believers. But we may also identify it as one that challenges each of us to a kind of prophet-hood of all believers. God expects each of us to “proclaim the excellencies” of Jesus Christ.
Evangelism is empowered
So, if it is so obvious that we are to evangelize, why do almost all western Christians seem to be disobedient?
Some may think they need a lot of specialized training to witness effectively. They might be afraid to speak about Jesus until they are confident in their knowledge of the Bible and/or their ability to deal with every potential question or objection.
Think about the blind man that Jesus healed in John 9. What if he had felt this way? Would he ever have felt ready to witness to the hoity-toity Pharisees? No way! And yet, within hours or minutes of receiving his sight he gave a compelling witness to his new reality; “He put mud on my eyes and I washed, and I see.” “Once I was blind, but now I can see!”
Sometimes we may be afraid that if we speak about Jesus that people will think we are strange and reject us. And for many, this will probably be true. Jesus told us that this would be the case in at least some of our interactions with unbelievers. But it is not a good reason to do nothing.
Another reason for inaction might be the fear of not being successful in witnessing. So, what exactly does it mean to be successful at witnessing? When the person you are witnessing to comes to Christ? I mean that’s what we want to see, isn’t it? But if we measure evangelistic success only in terms of conversions, does this make Jesus or Paul or the other apostles unsuccessful when many people rejected what they preached? Obviously not. So we also are not failures. We will not be held to a higher standard.
We need to learn that sharing the gospel is successful evangelism. Certainly, we should also be passionate for souls, and plead with God to see more people saved, but ultimately only God can produce the fruit of evangelism called conversion. We are like the postal service. They measure success by the careful and accurate delivery of the message, not by the response of the recipient. Whenever we share the gospel accurately and clearly, we have succeeded. In the truest sense, all biblical evangelism is successful evangelism, regardless of the results.
Remember this; the power of evangelism is the Holy Spirit. From the instant that He indwells you, He gives you the power to witness. Jesus made this very clear in Acts 1:8 when He said, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Jesus expects evangelism from every Christian because the Holy Spirit has been given to empower every Christian to evangelize. All believers have been given the power to be witnesses of Jesus Christ.
Not only is the witness empowered by the Holy Spirit, but the very gospel we share is also embedded with the power of the Holy Spirit. Paul said in Romans 1:16, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” This is why people can be converted whether they hear a teenage teacher at VBS share the gospel, or a seminary trained PhD; whether they read it in a book by a scholar like CS Lewis or a simple gospel tract. The gospel is empowered by God. Therefore your evangelism is empowered.
We can be confident that some will believe if we will faithfully and diligently share the gospel. Abundant gospel sowing is our responsibility. And the seed we sow, the gospel, is empowered by God Himself.
Evangelism is a habit or a discipline
While evangelism is a natural overflow of the Christian life and every Christian needs to be able to talk about what God has done for him or her and what He means to him or her, it is also a discipline in that we must discipline ourselves to get into situations where evangelism can occur. We must not just wait for witnessing opportunities to happen.
Jesus told us in Matthew 5:16 to “let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” The implication is that you will be in a place where this light can be seen.
Again, I think the main reason we don’t witness is that we simply do not discipline ourselves to do it. Yes, there may be those unplanned or unexpected opportunities that God brings our way to give a reason for the hope we possess (1 Peter 3:15). But I still believe and contend that unless we make evangelism a discipline or a habit, most Christians will seldom share the gospel.
So let’s make evangelism a discipline and a habit. Let’s all become recipients of the soul-winners crown.
Since evangelism is expected, will you obey the Lord and be a witness?
Since evangelism is empowered, will you believe that God can use your words in the salvation of others?
Since evangelism is a discipline, will you plan for it?
Without discipline, our best evangelistic intentions often go unspoken. May we discipline ourselves to live so that we can say with the apostle Paul, “I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.” (1 Corinthians 9:23 ESV)