Welcome back to the Commands of Christ blog series where we are examining together the nine foundational commands given by Jesus which are essential for new disciples to understand and obey. If you missed the first two posts in this series, you can find them by clicking Repent and Believe and Be Baptized.
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. 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 obey all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age,” (Matthew 28:18-20).
In this post, we will look at the third of nine foundational commands that Christ gave for disciples to obey. This third command is to pray. Most people have an idea of what praying is, but why is it so important?
In Matthew 6:9-13, we find Jesus telling us how to pray, and every one of my generation can almost certainly recite this model prayer because when we were in elementary school, this prayer was recited every morning before school began. It is commonly called the Lord’s prayer.
Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
Matthew 5, 6 and 7 are referred to as the Sermon on the Mount because Jesus went up onto a mountain to teach the people. It is Jesus’ longest, most detailed teaching recorded in the Gospels. It contains some of the most essential principles for living a genuine Christian life.
According to John R.W. Stott, “The Sermon on the Mount is probably the best-known part of the teaching of Jesus, though arguably it is the least understood, and certainly, it is the least obeyed” (The Message of the Sermon on the Mount, 1973, p. 15).
So, as disciples who want to obey everything that Jesus commanded us, prayer is something that we must do.
The first reason we must pray is that, without God, we can do nothing (John 15:5). He is the Creator and sustainer of all things, including ourselves, so it makes sense that we would communicate with Him. Prayer is an indicator of the relationship and a way to develop that relationship.
The second reason is that He tells us that He will hear us when we pray. That’s an incredible thing. We have the ear of the Creator of all things, the King of kings. Nothing could be more compelling for prayer than this reality.
There are many other reasons why we need to pray. Prayer will help us recognize and remember that we are not God. We realize that there is strength to be gained from God Himself. We will better understand that things do not begin and end with us. We learn how to surrender control to God, admitting that He is better in the driver’s seat than we. We are able to communicate our true feelings in a safe space. The more we come to trust that God hears our prayers, the more we come to trust Him with the outcomes. Through prayer, we can be encouraged to take steps of faith. And we have the assurance that God is waiting to act in response to prayer
So how should we pray? In the book of Matthew passage, Jesus gives a model for prayer and it is a good one.
“Our Father in heaven...” - acknowledge who God is and who you are - Father, child.
“hallowed be Your name...” - this is a request, not a statement of praise - asking that God’s name be hallowed means to ask that God would be glorified in my life and that men and women from every people group would also glorify God.
“Your kingdom come, Your will be done…” - I must surrender to God’s kingdom and His will being done in and through my life.
“Give us this day our daily bread…” - I must go to God to meet all of my needs.
“Forgive us our debts…” ask for forgiveness of my sins and acknowledging the necessity of forgiving others.
“Deliver us from evil…” - I must pray for deliverance when I face temptation.
So how does this sound to you? Scary? Intriguing? Exciting? Or utterly confusing?
All of those are natural responses. Prayer is a mysterious activity because, in prayer, you choose to humble yourself before someone you cannot literally see, hear or touch.
Perhaps you could use some structure to get you started. There is an app that can offer a great deal of help with prayer. It is called “Try Praying.” It is available in Google Play, the Apple Store and the Windows Store.
So, what now?
Listen to Jesus and do what He says. Commit to pray daily. Pray for the lost and for more labourers (Matthew 9:37-38).
You might be wondering about the title of this blog, so I would like to start by defining the two key words: maniac and missionary.
A maniac can be defined as: a person exhibiting extreme symptoms of wild behavior, especially when violent and dangerous.
A missionary can be defined as: a person who crosses cultures to spread the good news of Jesus Christ.
A person who is a maniac is very different from a person who is a missionary and today we are going to look at a story in the Bible that talks about a man who had this very experience of going from a maniac to a missionary.
Jesus had come to the other side of the sea, to the country of Gadarenes and immediately after He got off the boat a man with an unclean spirit was there to meet Him (Mark 5:1-2). This man could not be controlled by anyone. He was bound with shackles and chains, and he was constantly crying out and cutting himself with stones (Mark 5:4-5). He was being tormented by demons, who even themselves acknowledged Jesus as the Son of the Most High God (Mark 5:7).
What is interesting with this particular interaction of Jesus with someone who was demon possessed, was that Jesus actually had an extended conversation with the leader of the band of demons (Legion). Usually, Jesus would immediately cast out demons but we see some conversation here as they all beg Jesus to send them into the pigs (Mark 5:12).
Jesus goes on to give permission for the demons to enter into the pigs and they run violently down the steep place into the sea, and they drowned (Mark 5:13).
The man was now free, he was no longer bound, he was clothed, and in his right mind. After an encounter with Jesus, He went from being a maniac to a missionary (Mark 5:15).
Jesus instructed the man to go home and tell others the great things that the Lord had done for him (Mark 5:19) and as he began to proclaim all that Jesus had done, the people marveled at what they heard (Mark 5:20).
Let`s be encouraged by this story. God can take the worst situation and turn it into something that is so beautiful and meaningful. We can sometimes make excuses about why we don`t think God can use us for His purposes. Having this mentality can actually prevent us from becoming all that God has created us to be. It`s not about our qualifications or even our strengths. It`s about God working in and through us to accomplish His plans. He is God and only He can transform a person`s life radically.
As Christians, spreading the good news of Jesus Christ is something we are all called to do (Matthew 28:18-20). Are you called to be a missionary? You can read this previous blog series to help answer that question in your own life.
We also have some other great blogs to help you learn more about missions: Accessible Missions Education, Not Just an Ordinary Trip, Four Myths about Missions Strategy, and Missions Vision Near and Far.
God is passionate about missions and He has a heart for missions. Jesus Himself came to teach us one of the most important things: to spread the gospel. And we are all called to do that.
While you may not be able to go on a missions trip for one reason or another, there are other ways that you and I can help support missions. One very important way is to be praying for our missionaries. They need our constant prayer. Here is a guide to help you with some specific prayer points.
Have you been on a missions trip? Please share your experience with us below. We would love to hear all about it.
In this week’s blog post, we are considering the habit or discipline of fasting. In past posts, we have considered Bible intake, prayer, worship, evangelism, serving, and stewardship as it relates to both time and finances.
If you have not seen these posts yet, go ahead and click on the links to catch yourself 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 he 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, as we become more disciplined in the practice of these habits, more of God’s grace is available to us which will change us.
So what about fasting? Most of us who have some experience in the church know what fasting is, even if we don’t really understand what it is. Is fasting so important that it should be considered a discipline or a habit that leads to godliness? Should I fast? What happens if I do fast? How does fasting accomplish its purpose for me? We will look at these questions in this post.
What is fasting?
Christian fasting is a believer’s voluntary abstinence from food for spiritual purposes. Other types of fasting - despite the benefits they may produce for the mind and body - could not be classified as Christian fasting, and fasting by a non-Christian obtains no eternal value. It is for believers in Christ because the habit or discipline must be rooted in a relationship with Christ and practised with the desire to become more like Christ. Believers should fast according to biblical teaching and according to the biblical teaching and purposes that are God-centred. It is voluntary in that fasting should not be imposed or coerced. And fasting is more than just the ultimate crash diet for the body; it is abstinence from food for spiritual purposes.
Fasting is expected
For those who may be unfamiliar with fasting, the most surprising part of this post may be the discovery that Jesus expected that His followers would fast. Look at Jesus’ words in Matthew 6:16-18:
“And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”
So, by giving us instructions on what to do and what not to do when we fast, Jesus assumes that we will fast.
This expectation is even more obvious when we compare these words with His statements in the same passage about prayer and giving.
Matthew 6:2-3 - “Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.
Matthew 6: 5-7 - “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words.
Few of us doubt that Christians are to pray and to give. In fact, Christians often use this passage to teach Jesus’ principles and expectations about praying and giving. And since there is nothing here or elsewhere in Scripture to indicate that we no longer need to fast, and since we know that Christians in the Book of Acts fasted (Acts 9:9, 13:2, 14:23), we may conclude that Jesus still expects His followers to fast today.
Fasting is to be done for a purpose
There must be more to a biblical fast than simply abstaining from food. Without a spiritual purpose for your fast, it’s just a weight-loss fast. Without a purpose, fasting can be a miserable, self-centred experience about will power and endurance.
Having a biblical purpose for your fast may be the single most important concept to take from this post. In real life, here’s how it works: As you are fasting and your head aches or your stomach growls and you think, I’m hungry! your next thought is likely to be something like, Oh, right - I’m hungry because I’m fasting today. Then your next thought should be, And I’m fasting for this purpose: (insert biblical purpose here) .
Without a clear biblical purpose, fasting becomes an end in itself. Every hunger pang only makes you figure out the time left before you can eat. This kind of thinking disconnects the experience in your mind and heart from the gospel and descends into the deception that perhaps your suffering will earn God’s favour.
The Bible shows us many purposes for fasting, but they can be pared down to 10 major categories. Notice that none of the purposes is to earn God’s favour. It is a fool’s errand to try to impress God and earn His acceptance. Fasting has no eternal benefit for us until we have come to God through repentance and faith (Ephesians2:1-10, Titus 3:5-7). Then, as a Christian, you should fast for at least one of these biblical purposes.
What has been your past experience with fasting? Why do you think that there is so little said about fasting? What will you do to incorporate fasting into your habits of grace? We would love to talk with you about this.
Reply in the comments section or give us a call at 1-800-784-7077.
Matthew 6:17-18 - “But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”
In this week’s blog post, we are considering the habit or discipline of stewardship as it relates to money. In past posts, we have considered Bible intake, prayer, worship, evangelism, serving, and stewardship as it relates to time.
If you have not seen these posts yet, go ahead and click on the 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 Paul 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, as we become more disciplined in the practice of these habits, more of God’s grace is available to us which will change us.
The previous post in this series was supposed to be about Stewardship generally, but there was so much material when considering both the time and money aspects that I decided to split it into two posts. So this is the second post, dealing with stewardship of money.
Now, the Bible relates not only our use of time to our spiritual condition (that is to say that our spiritual condition is closely related to the use of our time) but also our use of money. The disciplined use of money requires that we manage it in such a way that our needs and those of our families are met. Actually, the Bible condemns as a hypocrite any professing Christian who fails to care for the physical needs of his family because of financial irresponsibility, slothful mismanagement, or waste.
“But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever,” 1 Timothy 5:8).
So how we use our money for ourselves, for others, and especially for the sake of God’s kingdom is from first to last a spiritual issue.
Now, why do you suppose that God would consider the biblical use of money and resources a crucial part of our growth in godliness? For one thing, it is a matter of pure obedience. There are a whole lot of verses in the Bible that speak about our use of wealth and possessions. If we ignore it or take it lightly, our ‘godliness’ will be a deception. But as much as anything else, the reason our use of money and the things it buys indicates our spiritual maturity and godliness is that we exchange such a large part of our lives for it. Because we invest most of our waking days working in exchange for money, in a very real sense our money represents us. Therefore, how we use it reveals who we are because it makes plain our priorities, our values and our heart. To the degree we use our money and resources Christianly, we prove our growth in Christlikeness.
Let’s consider how the Scriptures teach us to discipline ourselves ‘for the purpose of godliness’ in the specific area of using our money for the sake of Christ and His kingdom.
Ten New Testament Principles of Giving
1. God owns everything.
1 Corinthians 10:26 - For “the earth is the Lord's, and the fullness thereof.”
Exodus 19:5 – “…for all the earth is mine;”
Job 41:11b – “Whatever is under the whole heaven is mine.”
God owns, everything, including everything you possess, because He created everything. This means that we are simply managers or, to use the biblical word, stewards of the things God gives to us.
As a slave, Joseph became a steward when Potiphar placed him over his household (Genesis 39:5-6). Since slaves own nothing, Joseph owned nothing. But he managed everything Potiphar owned on his behalf. His management of Potiphar’s resources included the use of them to meet his own needs, but Joseph’s main responsibility was to use them for Potiphar’s interests.
That is our task as stewards. God wants us to use and enjoy the things He permits us to have, but as stewards, we have to remember that they all belong to Him and should be used for His kingdom.
God has specifically said that He owns not just the things we possess, but even the money under our name in the bank and the cash in our wallet or purse. He said in Haggai 2:8 that the silver is His and the gold is His. So the question is not, “How much of my money should I give to God?” but rather “How much of God’s money should I keep for now?”
2. Giving is worship.
Philippians 4:18 – “I have received full payment, and more. I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God.”
In this verse, Paul calls the money that the Philippians gave a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to the Lord. This is a comparison to an Old Testament sacrifice people gave in worship to God. In other words, Paul said their act of giving to the work of God was a way of worshipping God.
Have you ever thought of giving as worship? You know that praying, singing praises, participating in the Lord’s Supper, thanksgiving, and listening to Him speak through His word are all worship, but did you realize that giving to God is one of the biblical and tangible ways of adoring and worshipping Him?
Giving goes way beyond being a duty or an obligation. Biblical giving displays a heart worshipping God.
3. Giving demonstrates faith in God’s provision.
Mark 12:42-44 - And He sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box. Many rich people put in large sums. And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny. And He called His disciples to Him and said to them, “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”
This poor widow gave everything she had, all she had to live on because she believed God would provide for her. We, too, will give to the extent we believe God will provide for us. The greater our faith that God will provide for our needs, the greater will be our willingness to risk giving to Him. And the less we trust God, the less we will want to give to Him.
Your giving is perhaps the most tangible indication of how much you believe that God will provide for your needs. Examine yourself and ask God how He thinks you are doing.
4. Giving should be sacrificial and generous
2 Corinthians 8:1-5 - We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, begging us earnestly for the favour of taking part in the relief of the saints — and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us.
Paul describes these Macedonians as people living in extreme poverty. And yet their extreme poverty overflowed in a wealth of generosity. They gave not only according to their means but beyond their means. Like these people, our giving should be sacrificial and generous.
Remember this; giving is not sacrificial if you don’t have to sacrifice something to do it. Many professing Christians give only token amounts to the work of God’s kingdom. A much smaller number gives well. Probably only a small few actually give sacrificially.
5. Giving reflects spiritual trustworthiness
Luke 16:10-13 - “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much. If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? And if you have not been faithful in that which is another's, who will give you that which is your own? No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”
In these verses, Jesus reveals that your giving is a reflection of how trustworthy we are with spiritual resources. If we are not faithful with the money God entrusts to us (and that certainly includes the giving of money for Christ’s kingdom) the Bible says that God will not treat us as trustworthy to handle spiritual riches.
This is why your financial records tell more about you than almost anything else. If after your death, to learn more about your commitment to Christ, a biographer or your children were to scan your financial record of what you did with your money, what would they conclude? Would your footprints prove your spiritual trustworthiness?
6. Giving – Love, not legalism
God doesn’t send you a bill and your church doesn’t send you a monthly statement of your account to remind you to make the necessary payments as though you had an obligation. We don’t give to God and to support the work of His kingdom to fulfill some supposed ‘eleventh commandment’. Love to God should motivate giving to God. How much you give should reflect how much you love God (and it probably does).
In 2 Corinthians 8, Paul reports to the Corinthians how some of their fellow Greeks in macedonia were such good and faithful givers.
2 Corinthians 8:7-8 - But as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in our love for you—see that you excel in this act of grace also. I say this not as a command, but to prove by the earnestness of others that your love also is genuine.
Paul didn’t exercise his authority as an apostle of Jesus and command the Corinthians to give. No, instead of dictating a law of giving, he said that giving is a way of proving the genuineness of your love for God.
God wants you to give, not as a formality or an obligation, but as the overflow of your love for Him.
7. Give willingly, thankfully and cheerfully
2 Corinthians 9:7 - Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
God doesn’t want you to give with a grudge – that is, you give, but you would rather not. He takes no pleasure in gifts presented resentfully, regardless of the amount involved. God is not a divine landlord, tapping a greedy, outstretched palm, demanding His due, having no concern for how you feel about it. God doesn’t want you to give to Him out of a reluctant compliance to the reality that He owns it all anyway. He wants you to give because you want to give.
Somebody has said that there are three kinds of giving: grudge giving, duty giving and thanksgiving. Grudge giving says ‘I have to’; duty giving says ‘I ought to’; thanksgiving says ‘I want to’.
Some give because they can’t keep it. Others give because they believe they owe it. And a happy few give because they can’t help it.
God wants you to enjoy giving.
8. Giving – an appropriate response to those in need
Acts 11:27-30 - Now in these days prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. And one of them named Agabus stood up and foretold by the Spirit that there would be a great famine over all the world (this took place in the days of Claudius). So the disciples determined, every one according to his ability, to send relief to the brothers living in Judea. And they did so, sending it to the elders by the hand of Barnabas and Saul.
The Christians (disciples) in Antioch, some three hundred miles to the north of Jerusalem, gave money to help feed and meet other needs of their unknown, fellow Christians in Jerusalem. This example gives a biblical precedent for our taking special collections in church, such as collections for international and home missions, world hunger, disaster relief, and so on – even for taking a spontaneous offering for any appropriate need.
Giving is an appropriate response when we become aware of those in need.
9. Giving should be planned and systematic
1 Corinthians 16:1-2 - Now concerning the collection for the saints: as I directed the churches of Galatia, so you also are to do. On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper, so that there will be no collecting when I come.
This collection for the saints was a special offering for the poor Christians suffering in Jerusalem because of a famine. But even though the collection targeted a specific need, Paul instructed the Corinthians to give toward that need on a weekly basis (a recurring gift) for some time in advance of his arrival to Corinth. He knew that in the long run, greater efficiency and effective results from giving in a planned and systematic way than haphazardly whenever a need arises. Since many needs are ongoing – like missions, feeding the hungry and maintaining the ministry of the local church – systematic giving will meet those needs more consistently than an unceasing series of special offerings.
10. Generous giving results in bountiful blessing
Luke 6:35 - “…give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”
2 Corinthians 9:6 – “The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.”
These verses are not an endorsement of the ‘prosperity gospel’ that teaches financial wealth here on earth as a result of your giving a lot to those ministries. “Prosperity preachers”, I believe, pervert the gospel, misrepresent God and mislead their listeners.
But I do believe that these verses and others indicate that earthly blessings of an unspecified nature will be given to those who are faithful stewards of God’s money.
Much of God’s blessing for our giving, however, will not come in this life. And it takes faith to believe that giving money here lays up treasure in heaven. It takes faith to believe Jesus correctly said that it’s more blessed to give than to receive. These passages are true and at a definite time in a real place God is actually going to reward us bountifully for what we have given generously and cheerfully.
Regardless of your interpretation of these passages, regardless of how much God rewards you here for your giving and how much in heaven, the bottom line is clear: God will bless you bountifully if you give generously.
If you want to know about the many opportunities to give at OMS Canada, please click here.
Welcome to the Commands of Christ blog series where we will examine together the nine foundational commands given by Jesus and which are essential for new disciples to understand and obey.
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. 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 28:18-20).
In this post we will look at the second of nine foundational commands that Christ gave for disciples to obey. This second command is to be baptized. In the reference above, Jesus speaks to His disciples about baptizing new disciples in the name of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. But what does baptism mean? Is it just dunking (or getting dunked) in water, or is there something more to it?
Four Questions to Answer
1.What is baptism?
Let’s take a look at the biblical account of Phillip’s interaction with the Ethiopian official found in Acts 8:26-38.
Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Rise and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” This is a desert place. And he rose and went. And there was an Ethiopian, a eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure. He had come to Jerusalem to worship and was returning, seated in his chariot, and he was reading the prophet Isaiah. And the Spirit said to Philip, “Go over and join this chariot.” So Philip ran to him and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. Now the passage of the Scripture that he was reading was this:
“Like a sheep He was led to the slaughter and like a lamb before its shearer is silent, so He opens not his mouth. In His humiliation justice was denied Him. Who can describe His generation? For His life is taken away from the earth.”
And the eunuch said to Philip, “About whom, I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?” Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus. And as they were going along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?” And he commanded the chariot to stop, and they both went down into the water, Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him.
The story begins with an angel of the Lord instructing Philip to run up to a chariot owned by an Ethiopian eunuch. Philip heard the eunuch reading the book of Isaiah, specifically a prophecy of Jesus’ death. Philip is able to explain the passage to the eunuch and tell him the good news about Jesus. And now a new believer, the eunuch, in faith, eagerly gets baptized as soon as he sees a body of water.
In this story, we see that although baptism is done in water, it’s a symbol of something more.
According to Romans 6:3-4, baptism is a symbol of Jesusʼ death, burial and resurrection. It means we have died to our old life and been raised to live a new life with Jesus. Matthew 3:13-15 depicts even a scene of Jesus receiving a water baptism, and so should we. Receiving baptism means we identify Jesus as our Lord. It’s something for new believers to do not out of tradition but out of a desire to solidify and symbolize their new life in Jesus. It really is an initiation rite into the church, the Body of Christ.
2.Why should we be baptized?
There are a number of answers to the question of why we should be baptized. The first is that Jesus set for us an example in Matthew 3:13-15. Jesus received baptism and so should we. The second is that Jesus has commanded it. Matthew 28:19 is where we see it in the Great Commission, which we have already looked at. A third reason why we should be baptized is that it was taught and practiced by the early church. Throughout the book of Acts we see examples of new believers being taught to be baptized and actually being baptized.
3.Who should be baptized?
In Acts 2:37-38, Peter responds to the crowd who had just listened to his sermon following the Pentecost events in the upper room. These people were cut to the heart by the sermon and knew that something had to be done. Peter answers them in this way.
And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38).
It should also be noted that Luke records the response to the command of Peter.
So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls (Acts 2:41).
This specifies that baptism was administered only to those who “received his word” and therefore trusted in Christ for salvation (repentance and belief).
As we saw in the first Command of Christ, repentance and belief are connected. Here Peter gives the process. Repentance and belief are prerequisites to baptism. Only those who have repented and believed should be baptized. Because of Paul’s teaching in Romans 6 that baptism is a symbol of our union with Christ in His death, burial and resurrection, that union, which happens through repentance and faith, must be a reality first which is then demonstrated by the ordinance of baptism.
4.How should we be baptized?
The practice of baptism in the New Testament was carried out in one way: the person being baptized was immersed or put completely under water and then brought back up again.
Baptism by immersion is therefore the mode of baptism or the way in which baptism was carried out in the New Testament.
It is also evident in the Acts 8 and Romans 6 references above that immersion is in view when mentioned by Peter and Paul.
So how are you doing with this command? Have you been obedient? Have you challenged those you are discipling to be baptized? Have you baptized anyone? We would love to get your comments. Just respond in the comment section below.
Have a great and obedient day.
Have you ever been in a race? If you have, you will remember that constant feeling of striving towards the finish line. It’s almost like that feeling would give that extra push to get through to the finish line.
If we were to have a conversation with a professional runner, we would probably learn that there is a lot more to running than just simply “running.” We would learn that there is a great deal of time, effort, discipline, and training that goes into it. It is important to know this because these are the things which help to develop and build those running skills physically.
Today, we are going to talk about running, but in more of a spiritual sense. We will look at an example of running from God and running towards God. Let’s remember this very important point: No matter what situation we find ourselves in, let's not run from God but instead run towards God.
There is a well-known story in the Bible that most of us have heard before and that is the story of Jonah and the great fish.
God had called the prophet Jonah to preach to the people in Nineveh. Jonah decides that he doesn’t want to go to Nineveh and instead goes to Joppa and takes a ship to go towards Tarshish. Jonah had gone in the opposite direction of where God had told him to go. He was literally trying to run from God.
While on the ship, God sends a great wind on the sea and everyone on board was afraid while Jonah was fast asleep in the lowest part of the ship. The captain goes to Jonah and asks him to call upon his God to save them from the danger they were in. We know what ends up happening next. Jonah gets thrown into the sea and gets swallowed by a great fish. Of course God had prepared the great fish to swallow Jonah and that is where he remained for three days and three nights.
The time when Jonah is in the fish is very significant because he realizes that God was serious about him going to Nineveh and he must obey. He also realizes that it was wrong to try to run from God and so, he repents. God speaks to the fish and it throws up Jonah out onto dry land and he goes to Nineveh where God had originally told him to go.
Let’s stop here and discuss 3 main points from this story:
1. We cannot run from God
“Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend into heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there Your hand shall lead me, and Your right hand shall hold me.” (Psalm 139:7-10)
As hard as we try to run from God, He is always there. God is omnipresent which means His divine presence is everywhere at the same time.
2. God corrects us when we need it
“My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, nor detest His correction; For whom the Lord loves He corrects, just as a father the son on whom he delights.” (Proverbs 3:11-12)
When God corrects us, we need to remember why He corrects us. God loves us and always has the best for us. It’s always for our good and to develop our character into the person that He intends us to be.
3. God is merciful towards us
“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:22-23)
God’s mercy for us is amazing and is new every day. What great hope and comfort this gives us each day, knowing that God is constantly extending to us what we do not deserve. He is an awesome God.
Running towards God
When it comes to running towards God, it can sometimes be a challenge for us to do this especially when we find ourselves in difficult situations. Just like a professional runner takes the time to train and be disciplined, we must also be intentional about running towards God no matter what situation we are facing.
We must be reminded not to allow these difficult situations to make us run from God like Jonah, but instead run towards God like David did. The Bible says that David was a man after God’s heart. Despite his many flaws and failures, He was a man after God’s heart. He would run towards God.
Have you ever tried to run from God? How did that turn out?
What about running towards God? Please share your experience below. We would love to hear about it.
At OMS Canada, we have a new blog each week which will encourage you to run towards God, grow in your faith, and share the Good News of Jesus with others who need to hear. Click here to check out our blog page and share it with others so that they may also be encouraged.
May the Lord continue to equip us in every way as we run towards Him.
Think for a moment: What events have produced the most stress in your life last week? Have they involved the feeling of being overloaded with responsibilities at home, work, school, church, or all of the above? How about stress related to paying bills? Running late for an appointment? Going with too little sleep? Juggling your finances? Waiting in a traffic jam on the highway or a runway? Facing unexpected car repair expenses? Running short of cash before payday?
Each one of these anxiety producers, like so many other daily issues, relate to either time or money. The clock and the dollar are such substantial factors in so many parts of life that we need to consider their role in any serious discussion of godly living.
We will look at the stewardship of our time this week and at stewardship of our finances next time.
The Disciplined Use of Time
As we have discussed already, godliness is the result of a biblically disciplined spiritual life. But at the heart of a disciplined spiritual life is the disciplined use of time.
To be like Jesus, we must see the use of our time as a spiritual discipline. Having so perfectly ordered His moments and His days, Jesus was able to pray to the Father at the end of His life, “I glorified You on earth, having accomplished the work that You gave me to do” (John 17:4). As with Jesus, God gives us both the gift of time and work to do during that time. The more we grow to be like Jesus, the more we understand why the disciplined use of the time God gives is so important.
So, here are ten biblical reasons to use time wisely:
1. Use time wisely because the days are evil (Ephesians 5:15-16)
Paul exhorts the Ephesians to ‘make the best use of time because the days are evil.’ This curious phrase may have been prompted by persecution or opposition that the Ephesian believers may have been facing (Acts 19:23-20:1). But even without the persecution known by believers of Paul’s day, the world we live in makes it difficult to use time wisely, especially for the purpose of godliness and biblical spirituality.
Our days are days of active evil. Great time-thieves act as servants of the world, the flesh, and the devil. They may range in form from high-tech, socially acceptable preoccupations to simple, idle talk or uncontrolled thoughts. But the natural course of our minds, our bodies, our world and our days leads toward evil, not Christlikeness.
The use of time is important because time is the stuff of which days are made. If we do not discipline our use of time for the purpose of godliness in these evil days, these evil days will keep us from becoming godly.
2. The wise use of time is preparation for eternity.
You must prepare for eternity in time. That statement can be taken in two different ways. One means that during time (in this life) you must prepare for eternity because there will be no second chance once this life is over. Regardless of when or how death occurs, there is a specific day on the calendar when all my preparation for eternity will indeed be over. And since that day could be any day, I need to use my time wisely because it’s all the time I have to prepare for where I will endlessly live beyond the grave.
The second meaning of the phrase “You must prepare for eternity in time,” is that you must prepare for eternity before it is too late. 2 Corinthians 6:2 is the spiritual alert that must be sounded at this point. “Behold, now is the favourable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” Right now is the right time to prepare for where you will spend eternity. If that is an uncertain or unsettled matter for you, take the time to settle it now. You have no guarantee of any more time than this moment to prepare for eternity.
3. Time is short.
The more scarce an item is, the more value is assigned to it. Gold and diamonds would be worthless if you could pick them up like gravel along the roadway. In just the same way, time would not be so precious if we never died. But since we never live more than one breath away from eternity, the way we use our time has eternal significance.
Even though many years of life may remain for you, the fact remains, “You are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes” (James 4:14). Even the very longest life is short in comparison to eternity. You can probably remember a happy or tragic event from your childhood or teenage years as vividly as if it happened yesterday. The reason you can is that it simply hasn’t been that long ago. When you think that a decade as only 120 months, a great chunk of time suddenly seems much shorter.
So, regardless of how much time remains for you to develop more Christlikeness, it really isn’t much. Use it well.
4. Time is passing.
Not only is time short, but what does remain is passing. Time is not like a bag of ice in the freezer, from which you can take a little now and again as you need it and save the rest for later. Instead, time is really like the sand in an hourglass – what’s left is continuously slipping away. John put it very plainly: “The world is passing away along with its desires” (1 John 2:17). Passing along with the world is our time in it.
As a child, time seemed to drag on. Now I find myself saying what I remember my parents saying: “I can’t believe another year is over! Where has the time gone?” It seems that the closer we get to the end, the faster it comes. If I don’t discipline myself for the purpose of godliness now, it won’t be any easier later.
5. The remaining time is uncertain.
Not only is time short and passing, but we don’t even know how short it actually is nor how long before it does all pass away. That’s why the wisdom of Proverbs 27:1 tells us, “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring.” Thousands have died and gone into eternity today, including many much younger than you, who just hours ago had no idea that today was their last day. Had they known that, their use of time would have become far more important to them.
Neither youth nor strength, stardom nor stature obligates God to give us one more hour of time. Regardless of how long we want to live or expect to live, our time is in His hands (Psalm 31:15).
Obviously, we must make some types of plans as though many more years do remain for us. But a proper recognition of reality calls us to use our time for the purpose of godliness as though it were uncertain we would live tomorrow for that is a very certain uncertainty.
6. Lost time cannot be regained.
Many things can be lost and then regained. Many men and women have declared bankruptcy only to amass an even greater fortune later. Time is different. Once it is gone, it is gone forever and can never be regained.
God offers you this present time to discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness. Jesus said in John 9:4, “We must work the works of Him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work.” The time for godly living is now while it is day. For each of us, night is coming and none of us can stop or slow the approach of that night. Despite how we may have squandered time in the past, the will of God for you is found in the words of Paul: “Forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14). Through the work of Jesus to repentant believers, God will forgive every second of misused time. And it pleases Him for you to discipline the balance of your time for the purpose of godliness.
7. You are accountable to God for your time.
There is hardly a more sobering statement in the Bible than Romans 14:12: “So then each of us will give an account of himself to God.” The words ‘each of us’ applies to Christians and non-Christians alike. And, even though believers will be saved by grace and not by works, once in heaven our reward there will be based on the basis of our works. The Lord will cause each one’s work to be ‘shown for what it really is,’ and for each, it will be either that he will receive a reward or he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved but only as through fire (1 Corinthians 3:13-15). Not only will we be held accountable for our use of time, but our eternal reward will be directly related to it.
Hebrews 5:12 shows us something of how God will hold us accountable at the Judgement for our use of time in disciplining ourselves for the purpose of godliness. In these verses, God criticizes these Jewish Christians for failing to use their time in a way that develops spiritual maturity: “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food.” If, as here, God holds believers still on earth responsible for not disciplining their time for Christlikeness, He will surely do at the Judgement in heaven.
Deciding to discipline yourself to use your time for the purpose of godliness is not a matter for delay or deliberation. Each hour that passes is another for which you will give an account.
8. Time is so easily lost.
Apart from the fool, there is no other character in the book of Proverbs that draws the scorn of Scripture like the slothful sluggard. The reason? His lazy and wasteful use of time. The sluggard never has time for the things that really matter, especially things that require discipline. And before he realizes it, his time and opportunities expire. “A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, and poverty will come upon you like a robber and want like an armed man” (Proverbs 24:33-34). Notice that it’s just a ‘little’ sleep, a ‘little’ slumber, a ‘little’ folding of the hands that brought the ruin of lost time and opportunity. It’s so easy to lose so much, just a little at a time. You don’t have to do anything at all to lost time.
9. We value time at death.
Just as the person without money values it most when it’s gone, so do we at death value time most when it is gone.
Most pursue a course of life based more on pleasure than on the joy found in the way of God’s disciplines. God warns them through His Word of the regrets that will cut their hearts when their time runs out. “At the end of your life you groan when your flesh and body are consumed, and you say, “How I hated discipline, and my heart despised reproof! I did not listen to the voice of my teachers or incline my ear to my instructors.” (Proverbs 5:11-13). If, like this man, you suddenly understood you had no more time, would you also regret how you’ve spent your time in the past and present? The way you have used your time can instead provide great comfort to you in your last hour. Won’t you be glad then for every moment you spent reading Scripture, praying, worshipping, evangelizing, serving, fasting, and so on for the purpose of becoming like the One before whom you are about to stand in judgement?
Why not do something about it while you still have time?
10. Time’s value in eternity.
It is doubtful that in heaven we experience regret, but if we did it would be for not using our earthly time more for the glory of God and for growth in His grace. Hell, on the other hand, will howl forever with agonizing laments over time so foolishly squandered.
Let us learn the true value of time by encountering the truth and discipline our time for the purpose of godliness. After all, if you have given your life to Christ, “You are not your own, for you were bought with a price” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). “Your” life and “your” time belong to God now. The best and most joy-filled way to spend them is to use them the way God wants.
So how are you doing with your time? We will all have some room for improvement. What can you do this week to make better use of your time for the purpose of becoming more Christ-like? Let us know in the comments. We would love to pray with you about this most important matter.
Welcome to the Commands of Christ blog series where we will examine together the nine foundational commands given by Jesus which are essential for new disciples to understand and obey.
Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:14-15).
The first command of Jesus’ public ministry was to repent and believe. He spoke this command indiscriminately to all who would listen and it was a call for radical inward change toward God and man.
When Jesus said “Repent,” He was talking about a change of heart toward sin, the world, and God; an inner change that gives rise to new ways of living that exalt Christ and give evidence of the truth of the gospel.
What does it mean to repent? The New Testament Greek word translated as “repent” is METANOEŌ. It has two parts: META and NOEŌ. The second part, NOEŌ, refers to the disposition of your inner self, your “default setting” toward reality. The first part, META, is a prefix that means movement or change. META, or “change,” plus NOEŌ, or “disposition” equals “to change your disposition towards life and reality, to have a transformed default setting about what’s important.”
Jesus explained that when our default setting is changed by the Holy Spirit, it shows, as we “bear fruits in keeping with repentance” (Luke 3:8). Genuine repentance is an inner change of heart that produces the fruits of new behavior. Acting differently, speaking differently, and living differently (these are the fruits) are the inevitable outward result of being made completely different on the inside (that’s repentance).
An excellent example of this inner change producing fruits of new behaviour is Zacchaeus.
Zacchaeus was a chief tax-collector by profession. This was a job synonymous in people’s minds with deceit, theft and lies. At that time, the chief tax-collectors were reliable servants of Rome. While they ensured that taxes were paid, they managed to enrich themselves in a number of legal and illegal ways, at the expense of Jews who were poor. By this method, Zacchaeus became rich and acquired lots of material goods. He wasn’t a person for whom other people felt admiration, love and respect. He was someone who exploited his fellows. His relations with them were hypocritical and based on his own advantage.
But something sparked inside of him when he heard that Jesus was coming to Jericho. Perhaps he was having a crisis of his soul, realizing that the riches and possessions did not lead to the happiness he so desperately wanted. Perhaps he had heard that Jesus had granted the wish of the blind beggar at the city gate and hoped that he might do the same for him. So he decided to see who this Jesus was. But the crowd was big and Zacchaeus was small and he couldn’t possibly see Jesus. So he climbed up into a sycamore tree near where Jesus would need to pass by.
As He entered the town, Jesus saw the crowds of people with a look that was full of authority, yet loving and merciful. His eyes came to Zacchaeus, who was up the tree. The Lord called him by name. This personal call from Jesus to Zacchaeus indicates his personal preparation for salvation. He climbs down from the tree, full of happiness and joy, and welcomes Jesus into his home. He publicly acknowledged the sinfulness of his ways and began ‘bearing fruits in keeping with repentance’, by giving half his substance to the poor and restoring fourfold to anyone he had wronged. ‘Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have defrauded any one of anything, I restore it fourfold’. This is what repentance and faith look like.
Jesus made it clear that repentance and faith are like opposite sides of the same coin. Mark 1:15 records the inspired summary of Jesus’ message as He began His ministry: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” Repentance and faith go together because if you believe that Jesus is the Lord Who saves (faith), you have a changed mind about your sin and your self (repentance); and if you repent, it’s because you trust that Jesus is the Lord Who saves.
That’s because faith, as Scripture defines it, is trusting that Jesus is who He said He is and that He does what He said He would do. The important thing about this biblical definition of faith is that it focuses on who Jesus is, not on you or your efforts. Here’s what that means for you. Think of faith as having three parts: knowing, agreeing and relying.
The knowing part of faith means that you learn from the Word of God Who Jesus is and what He has done to save sinners. That why the Bible says, “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of Christ” (Romans 10:17).
The agreeing part of faith comes as the Holy Spirit convinces you of the truth about Jesus. You agree with God’s testimony and admit, “What God says is true.” This is one of the primary ministries of the Holy Spirit. In John 16:13, Jesus said, “When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all the truth…”
The relying part of faith means you stake your life on the truth you know and agree with. This is where faith becomes personal, as you entrust your eternal soul to Jesus only.
The first two parts of faith — knowing and agreeing — are like going to an airport, watching people get on airplanes, and seeing the airplanes take off. By observation, you come to know that these big winged objects can carry people thousands of miles at amazing speeds; and you agree that it happens all the time. The third part of faith, relying, is like you boarding an airplane. It’s one thing to know and agree that planes can take people to faraway places. It’s another thing to get on a plane yourself.
Biblical faith is just like that. You come to know from God’s Word the truth about Who Jesus is and what He has done for you. Then, the Holy Spirit convinces you of the truth of God’s Word, and you agree that the gospel is true. And then you take it personally: you renounce reliance on your own efforts to achieve salvation, and place your life in the hands of Jesus, trusting that Who He is and what He did are sufficient to save you.
Romans 3:23-26 says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God has passed over the sins that were previously committed, to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.”
Repentance and faith are absolutely essential for the disciple of Jesus. Have you repented? Have you placed your faith in the gospel, believing that what Jesus did in his death, burial and resurrection cleanses you from your sin and secures a relationship with the God who created you?
If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)
Let’s be encouraged to come boldly before God not only to confess our sins, but also to repent and believe.
Have you ever been asked to do something you felt you were not qualified or equipped to do?
I’m sure we have all felt like that at one point in life, so today we are going to talk about living our lives through the power of the Holy Spirit. Let’s start by looking at God’s Word and see what the Bible says.
“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My Name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.” (John 14:26)
In this passage, Jesus is promising the disciples that the Holy Spirit will come. Jesus was also preparing His disciples for when He would no longer be with them physically. The Holy Spirit would come to teach and remind them about Jesus and everything He had taught them.
This is a very important and significant promise for us today as well because we need to constantly be reminded about all that Jesus said.
So what about living through the power of the Holy Spirit? What does that mean exactly?
We must first realize that we cannot do anything through our own power or strength. We need to live our lives through the power of the Holy Spirit.
“Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,” says the Lord of hosts.” (Zechariah 4:6)
Our might and our power gets weak and tired, so as children of God we need to remember that we cannot do it on our own strength. When we choose to be obedient to God’s Word, we start to see a wonderful move of God happening.
Let’s look at 3 things that happen when we choose to be obedient and live our lives through the power of the Holy Spirit:
1. The Holy Spirit helps us Pray
“Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.” (Romans 8:26)
Many times we don’t know what to pray for or how to pray. Thank God for His Holy Spirit, who helps us pray. This is such an encouragement to know that no matter how we may feel at times, we always have the Holy Spirit to help us.
2. The Holy Spirit comforts us
“Then the churches throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had peace and were edified. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, they were multiplied.” (Acts 9:31)
God comforts us through His Holy Spirit. We all go through different challenges and seasons in our lives and we need to be comforted. We can always be assured that God will never leave or forsake us, and that He will give us great comfort. Let us be encouraged by this today and let us also encourage someone else.
3. The Holy Spirit leads us to a life of righteousness
“If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.” (Galatians 5:25)
The Holy Spirit sanctifies and enables us to bear good fruit. It’s a constant battle between our flesh and the Spirit, but as we surrender to the Holy Spirit and allow sanctification to occur, we begin to start bearing good fruit and our desires change, which then changes our behaviors and actions.
Connection to Missions
“But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)
It’s not by our own might or power, but by the power of the Holy Spirit. We need power from God especially when we are reaching out to others. The Holy Spirit helps us to pray for others, reminds us of God’s Word which is truth, and enables us to be patient with others, and to love, forgive, and be kind to them. These things are sometimes not easy to do with some people, but we need to remember that it’s not by our own doing and in our own strength; it’s through the Holy Spirit who lives in us.
Let’s be encouraged to live our lives through the power of the Holy Spirit. At OMS Canada, we have wonderful missionaries who have been obedient and committed to share the Good News of Jesus Christ. They need our constant prayers, encouragement, and support. Please click here to learn more about them and how you can offer your support.
“May the Lord bless you and keep you; The Lord make His face shine upon you, and be gracious to you; The Lord lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace.” (Numbers 6:24-26)
Okay, so most of us reading this blog will be familiar with the Great Commission. We know that discipleship is an important part of God’s plan for the church and the kingdom. But how many of us have actually stopped and thought through a strategy for how we could implement an intentional process to see people who are far from God become disciple-makers themselves? Perhaps not many of us have.
And, when Jesus tells to teach them to obey every command he gave, what does that involve? How many commands are there? Are some more important or more critical for a new Christ-follower to master?
Now, I think that we need to acknowledge that obedience-based discipleship is generally not a popular topic in the Canadian Christian context. We have transformed our Christianity into something that is about us and for us and intended to give us a comfortable feeling. Being confronted about obedience or our lack of obedience certainly does not give us a comfortable feeling, so we usually reject it.
However, obedience is exactly what is required, even demanded. So, what are we to do?
I must first acknowledge that I was created by God and He can require of me whatsoever He pleases and I have absolutely no grounds for argument.
The apostle Paul speaks to this reality in Romans 9:20 when he says, ‘Who do you think you are, talking back to God? Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, 'Why did you make me like this?’’
Second, I need to evaluate how I am doing with my own obedience. I mean, honestly assess where I am. The reality is that there is no way I can move from point A (where I am right now) to point B (a position of obedience) unless and until I know where point A actually is. Unless and until I determine where I actually am, I am lost in terms of obedience.
Third, I need to systematically begin to do a better job of obeying the commands of Christ. John Piper, in the book What Jesus Demands from the World, states that when you account for repetition within the four gospels, there are recorded about 250 commands of Christ. How do I handle these in a way that contributes to the discipleship process and leads to healthy church members and healthy churches?
And finally, I need to make sure that as I make disciples, this process of intentionally working on obedience to the Commands of Christ is implemented from the very beginning. I need to begin the process of implementing a culture-shift within my sphere of influence away from a comfortable Christianity to one that is committed to increasing obedience to everything that Jesus commanded.
I have been researching the topic of discipleship for some months now and I have come across a list of nine commands of Christ that can form the foundation upon which a movement can be built. These nine commands will be the subject of a new series of blog posts. I hope you will take the time to read each post and ask God to help you to be more obedient to it.
So what are the nine foundational commands? Here is the list and the date each will be posted.
What do you think about obedience-based discipleship? Does this make you uncomfortable? Are you doing this already? I would love to know what you think. Leave a comment and let me know.
And, if you would like to be involved in a group that can help you do this kind of discipleship and don’t know where to turn, send an email to email@example.com and I can help you find the help you want and need. We are in this together.
What is Faith?
“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”
Let’s focus on 4 key words in the verse: hoped for and not seen.
When we hope for something that we have not seen, we are exercising our faith. And this is what faith is all about.
The Bible is filled with many different examples of people who exercised or practiced their faith. Let’s look at 2 today:
1. The Woman with the issue of blood (Mark 5:25-34)
Most of us have heard this story before. Here we read about a woman who has had this condition for 12 years and not only has she tried everything, but the condition seems to be worsening. She had heard of all the miraculous things that Jesus was doing and when she knew that He would be passing by, she just knew she had to go to Him. She actually believed that all she had to do was touch His clothes, and she would be healed. And that is what happened.
Verse 34 says, “And He said to her, “daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace, and be healed of your affliction.”
It doesn’t say faith has made you well, it says that your faith has made you well. This is key because it tells us that faith is something that is personal, something that we have as children of God. And through different situations, we can exercise our faith and it can grow.
2. Noah and the ark (Genesis chapters 6-9)
This is another great story that most of have heard even as a child. God was not pleased with how people were choosing to live their lives but Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord. He was a just man who walked with God.
“By faith Noah, being divinely warned of things not yet seen, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his household, by which he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith.”
Noah was obedient to God; despite what he didn’t see. He listened to God’s specific instructions to build the ark and exercised his faith by doing that. There were likely people who ridiculed him and maybe even laughed at him, but it didn’t stop him from doing that which God called him to do.
The Importance of having Faith
“But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.”
Having faith is so important because if we don’t have it, we cannot please God. As children of God, our hearts desire should be to please God, to bring glory to His name, to give Him all of the glory.
Growing up, faith was more of a religious thing and out of obligation, and not a lifestyle. So today, as a child of God who has been redeemed and set free, faith in Jesus Christ is not only a lifestyle, but it’s a journey where faith continues to grow.
“So Jesus said to them, “Because of your unbelief, for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.”
Even with the smallest amount of faith, we will experience miraculous blessings in our lives. Not because of us, but because of the One who blesses us. We must focus on our source, who is our Lord.
Let’s share our faith with others, let’s encourage others to have faith, let’s grow in our faith. There are many ways this can happen and here at OMS Canada a new blog is posted every week to encourage, challenge, and build us up. Please click here to go to our blog page.
How has your personal faith grown? Do you remember a time when you had to exercise your faith in a particular situation? Feel free to comment below. We would love to hear from you.
In this week’s blog post, we are considering the habit or discipline of serving. In past posts, we have considered Bible intake, prayer, worship, and evangelism.
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, as we become more disciplined in the practice of these habits, more of God’s grace is available to us which will change us.
And one very powerful way to become more proficient in godliness is through serving God and others. The act of serving can be as public as preaching or teaching, but more often than not it will appear as hidden as nursery duty or cleaning the kitchen after an event.
Serving usually looks as unspectacular as the practical needs it works to meet.
And that’s why serving must become a Habit of Grace. The flesh schemes against its hiddenness and sameness. Two of the deadliest sins – sloth and pride – hate serving. So, if we don’t discipline ourselves to serve for the sake of Jesus and His kingdom and for the purpose of godliness, we will serve only occasionally or when its convenient or self-serving.
However, not every act of service should be disciplined serving. Much of our service should flow naturally from our love for God and love for others. Like our worship and evangelism, our service should also often just flow from inside of us as a result of the life-transforming presence and work of the Holy Spirit.
But because the Spirit of Jesus within us causes us to yearn to be more like Jesus, and because of the persistent sinful tendencies toward selfishness in our hearts, we must also discipline ourselves to serve. Those who do will find serving one of the most certain and practical means of growth in grace.
Every Christian is Expected to Serve
When we are called to God, none of us is called to idleness. When we are born again and our sins are forgiven, the blood of Jesus cleanses our conscience according to Hebrews 9:14 in order for us to “serve the living God.” Every believer’s Bible tells him or her to “serve the Lord with gladness” (Psalm 100:2, NASB). There is no place for spiritual unemployment or spiritual retirement. And the believer should find ample motivation because God mentions at least six in the Bible.
Every Christian is Gifted to Serve
In 1 Corinthians 12:4 and 11 we read about the different varieties of spiritual gifts given to believers and that the Holy Spirit determines by His sovereign will which gift goes to which believer. “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit…All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as He wills.” And Peter makes it clear in 1 Peter 4:10, “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace.”
So every Christian has received at least one gift and that gift is given for service.
Let’s diligently practice the discipline of service. And your service is no doubt needed more now during this time of pandemic.
Are there particularly vulnerable people within your network who need your service? Are there those who might be susceptible to depression?
Who could you call and encourage?
So let’s be about the business of serving.
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.
“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.
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.
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)
As evangelicals, we all understand that the lost need to be saved.
Jesus came into the world to seek and to save the lost. And, as the Father sent the Son, so the Son sends us.
This process is built on the understanding that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God and it is at the heart of what the church is to be doing both at home and cross-culturally.
But have you ever thought about what sin is, really? I mean, we talk about it pretty easily, but, really, what is sin? How would you define sin to someone who has neither the religious language nor background?
The most extensive treatment of sin in the Bible is found in Romans 1–3. And even when the word isn’t used, we know that is what Paul is dealing with because when he comes to summarize it he says, “What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin” (Romans 3:9). And he leaves no doubt about his conclusion in the next verse: “None is righteous, no, not one” (verse 10) and in verse 12, “No one does good, not even one.”
So we back up then to Romans 1 in search of the essence of sin. By essence I mean: What’s at the bottom of it? What makes all sinful actions sinful? What is wrong with us at our core that gives rise to so many different kinds of evil?
This question is making an assumption that sin is more than simply what we do. It is an attempt to go beneath our doing to a root or a condition.
The reason for going beneath our doings to a root of sin is because Paul does. And he does so not incidentally but vigorously and forcefully. Paul sees that the essence or the root all sinning is a presence, a force, in us, part of who we are, called sin. For example, in Roman 7:8 he says, “Sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness.”
Now everyone agrees that covetousness is a sin. “Thou shalt not covet” (Exodus 20:17). It’s a sin in the heart. A heart-sin that might produce outward sinning like stealing. But notice, Paul says, “Sin produced covetousness.” Well, covetousness is sin. Right. And so there is a sin beneath sin that produces sin. That’s what I want to see. I want to know at the root what is wrong with me.
What is at the bottom of all my evils? And all the evils in the world?
Let’s go to Romans 1 and start with verse 18, “The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.” Here humanity in general is described as “ungodly and unrighteous.” John says in 1 John 5:17, “All unrighteousness is sin.” Therefore, we are talking about sin here. In addition, Paul chooses to talk about it first in terms of ungodliness and unrighteousness.
Now, the first thing he says about it is that is that it causes people to suppress the truth. Sin repels the light of truth and runs to the darkness of falsehood. Jesus said that we are guilty sinners not because we are victims of the darkness but because we are lovers of the darkness. John 3:19, “Light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light.” Sin by nature inclines and empowers us to suppress the truth.
What truth particularly does sin hate? The next verse tells us (Romans 1:19). The reason we know that men suppress the truth is “Because what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.” Knowledge of God is repulsive to sin. So, Paul says, when this knowledge is suppressed, we have no excuse. Why? Verses 20–21: “So they are without excuse. For [because] although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God or give thanks to Him.”
So the root of suppressing the knowledge of God is the desire to avoid glorifying and thanking God. Sin does not love to glorify God. Sin does not love to thank God. Sin hates glorifying God and thanking God. That’s what “ungodly” meant in verse 18. In “ungodliness and unrighteousness,” he said, we suppress the truth — namely, the truth that God is infinitely worthy of glory and thanks from our hearts. Sin hates that and therefore suppresses that truth.
But sin is not just a hater. Sin is a lover. When the hated truth is suppressed, the loved lie is embraced. This is described over and over in the rest of chapter 1. Look at verse 22–23: “Claiming to be wise, they (that is, those who suppress the truth and have darkened hearts) have became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images.” They don’t just bury truth; they embrace alternative lovers. There’s no vacuum. When the real God is rejected, images are embraced. They “exchanged the glory of God for images.” Sin hates the real God and loves his God-substituting images.
Is this the root of sinning? Now, if there ever was an age devoted to images, it is our age. We spend most of our leisure time looking at images. Watch how Paul describes now the relationship between this exchange, this suppressing of true God and this embracing of replacement gods—the relationship between that, and the outpouring of sinning in the world.
Verse 24: “Therefore [because of this exchange in verse 23] God gave them up in the lusts [desires] of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves.” Because of the exchange of verse 23, God goes hands off and godlessness and unrighteousness of the human heart goes unrestrained into sinning.
So here is a working definition of sinning: Sinning is any feeling or thought or speech or action that comes from a heart that does not hallow or treasure God above everything else. The bottom of sin, the root of all sinning, is this kind of heart — a heart that prefers anything above God, a heart that does not hallow or treasure God over all other persons and all other things.
This would be a more descriptive way to quantify what sin really is:
The glory of God not honoured.
The holiness of God not reverenced.
The greatness of God not admired.
The power of God not praised.
The truth of God not sought.
The wisdom of God not esteemed.
The beauty of God not treasured.
The goodness of God not savoured.
The faithfulness of God not trusted.
The promises of God not believed.
The commandments of God not obeyed.
The justice of God not respected.
The wrath of God not feared.
The grace of God not cherished.
The presence of God not prized.
The person of God not loved.
This is the essence of what it means to hallow the name of God. When you pray the Lord’s Prayer and you make the request that God cause His name to be hallowed, you are praying that, all over the world, and in every tongue, tribe, people and nation, there would be people who hallow and treasure God above all things and find their eternal joy in the Him alone.
And this really is the task of missions, to make disciples of all nations who hallow and treasure God above all things and find their eternal joy in Him alone.
How do you treasure God above all things? Feel free to comment below. We would love to hear about your experiences.
If there's anything that's certain, it's that there will always be uncertainty in life—in our finances, careers, relationships, ministries, vacations, future plans, and desires. In a world that screams out for security, nothing is ever 100 percent sure. We face only a certain level of security and certainty.
When uncertainty comes along, problems start to rise, not just externally but many times even more so internally. Anxiety, fear and doubt start to creep in. That is because one of the most basic needs we have is security. While this world is full of uncertainties, we can always find certainty in God.
Hosea 6:3 tells us, "Let us know; let us press on to know the LORD; His going out is sure as the dawn; He will come to us as the showers, as the spring rains that water the earth."
In God, there is always certainty. Here are three certain things that we know about God even in the most uncertain of times.
1. God Will Remain Steadfast
Through the sorrow and despair of Jeremiah's dirge, Lamentations 3:22-23 rings out this truth: "The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness."
God's loves remains steadfast, meaning it stays the same yesterday, today and forever.
Even in our uncertainty, our unfaithfulness, God's love faithfully remains true in our life. Even when we don't deserve it, God extends His grace and mercy. Our life, possessions, relationships and everything we have are proof that God's steadfast love remains. Even when we are unqualified, God's loving mercy abounds.
2. God’s Plans Will Prevail
Proverbs 19:21 says, "Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand."
We all have plans of our own, but God's plan is what will stand. Because He is all powerful, all knowing and all seeing, His ways go higher than ours. He sees the end from the beginning and fully intends that this particular season of uncertainty or trouble is working for us an eternal glory that will far outweigh the present uncertainty.
This can either be an assurance to us when we lean on and trust in His sovereign will, or a loving warning if we don't walk in His will. God's plans will prevail and they remain for His glory and our eternal joy.
3. God’s Principles Will Stand
God's Word is filled with promises and principles that work through time and space. God has established natural and spiritual laws that automatically work whether we want it or not. Principles on generosity and giving, character, and so on will work for our good if we abide by them.
Principles such as sowing and reaping, doing good unto others, investing in relationships, and standing by holiness and justice to gain favour all work to our advantage if we continue to follow God's ways.
So, take heart in the God who cannot change, whose plans cannot be derailed and in the principles He has set for His glory and our eternal joy.
He sees the end from the beginning and we can rest assured in God’s faithful kindness.
“For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” 2 Cor. 4:17-18 ESV
How have you been encouraged through times of uncertainty? What are some practical things that have helped you? Please feel free to share your experiences with us.
At OMS we continue to make prayer a priority and we depend on it for a successful ministry. Please click here to learn how you can partner with us in prayer.
Have you ever played the game “tug of war?” In case you haven’t, let me briefly explain what it is. It’s basically a game where two teams test each other’s strength. Each team pulls on opposite ends of a rope and the goal is to bring the rope a certain distance in one direction against the force of the opposing team’s pull.
Even though this is actually a fun game to play, this kind of strength is determined by how physically strong you are. Today, we will look at a different kind of strength that is beyond our own abilities. The strength that comes from God.
Let’s explore this a bit and look at 4 key things to remember when we talk about this type of strength:
1-Our strength comes from God
“I can do all this through Him who gives me strength.”
This is where we need to start. We must acknowledge the fact that what we do as children of God is not of our own strength.
Our strength comes from God and He is the reason we are equipped and enabled to do what He calls us to. We cannot truly do anything without God’s help and strength.
1-We constantly need God’s strength
1 Chronicles 16:11
“Look to the Lord and His strength; seek His face always.”
We should be encouraged to always seek God for His strength. It allows us to remain humble and for God to be glorified in our lives for what He does. He deserves all the glory. Let us be people that continually seek God and not grow weary of doing so.
2-God’s strength is mighty
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power.”
God doesn’t lose battles. God’s power is mighty and never fails. As God encourages us to be strong in Him, we can be assured that God will not only fight our battles for us, but He will victoriously win them as well. What a wonderful peace and hope this gives us, as we draw our strength from God.
3-God’s strength is always available
“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.
As children of God, no matter what we face in life, God’s strength is always available. God promises to provide strength and help to us. Whether it’s a pandemic, financial difficulty, uncertainty, depression, or all of the above let’s be encouraged in the fact that God is with us, God is for us, and God will strengthen and uphold us.
Some of the most important things we can learn from trying times is that we are not in control, we need God to move on our behalf, we need to always be thankful, and we need God’s strength in order to move forward.
How have these blogs encouraged you? Please share below. We would love to hear about your experiences.
Click here to read more of our blogs. Every week a new blog is posted and we trust that these have been a blessing to you.
Who came up with the idea of calling the Friday before Easter “good”?
When we think through the last weeks of Jesus’ life and ministry, the focus draws us to the events of Friday, the day of his death (the Bible in John 18-19). Beginning with Thursday evening we see Jesus in the agony of prayer in the garden, followed by His betrayal with a kiss by His supposed friend, Judas…then having all His disciples forsake Him and flee to save their own skins.
We see Him going through the mockery of those illegal trials during the night, the unimaginable pain of the flogging, the humiliation at the hands of rough soldiers who laugh and mock him unmercifully. We witness the horrors of the crucifixion, with its hours-long untold brutality and humiliation, leading up to that horrific moment when Jesus cries, “My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?” There is no way we can fully capture the horror of that fateful Friday.
And we call that day…“Good Friday”?
That designation would be a terrible misnomer but for one word. That word was uttered at the very climax of those horrendous events of that day. It wasn’t a pitiful, weak, last dying gasp. It was, with all the strength that the dying God-Man could muster, a rousing shout of triumph. As Max Lucado has said, had His hands not been nailed down He would have shot a fist skyward in a gesture of victory with the exclamation of that one word!
That word is “tetelestai” in the original Greek language of the New Testament of the Bible. English Bibles translate that word as “It is finished!” (John 19:30). It could also have been translated with the accounting term, “Paid in full!”
In other words, all that Jesus came to do, all that the prophets had foretold in the Old Testament, all the penalty demanded by the justice of God for our sins, all that God had decided to provide for our undeserved redemption--all that had been fully accomplished—completed, paid in full--once and for all!
At that moment on that Friday, our salvation and forgiveness were made possible, and our eternal destiny was provided for. The enemy of our soul was defeated. Hope was restored to a beleaguered world. As Isaiah had seen centuries before, “Out of the anguish of his soul he [God] shall see and be satisfied” (Isaiah 53:11).
Jesus died in our place when “at the right time Christ died for the ungodly….God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:6-8). Jesus fully paid the judicial price: “For our sake [God] made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him [Jesus] we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). With the demands of God’s justice satisfied, “There is, therefore, no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).
In fact, Jesus promised that those who trust in Him for the forgiveness of their sins will receive eternal life and a resurrection body, as well! “This is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in Him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day….whoever believes has eternal life” (John 6:40,47).
It is finished—paid in full!
Christ’s resurrection was God’s “Amen!” to Jesus’ “It is finished!” “God raised Him up…because it was not possible for Him to be held by [death]” (Acts 2:24).
And that’s why we call the Friday before Easter, Good Friday. That one word--tetelestai!--triumphantly shouted, says it all! Christ accomplished everything required to gain salvation for lost sinners…for us. Jesus’ triumph makes the Friday of his death infinitely good!
Have you trusted in the risen Christ who died on “Good Friday” and rose again so you could have the forgiveness of your sins and the gift of eternal life?
“The man who mobilizes the Christian church to pray will make the greatest contribution
to world evangelization in history.”
The mission of advancing the gospel is the great work of the church, and prayer is the fuel that powers it.
One of the greatest resources the church has for advancing the gospel is the ability to come before God in prayer and plead for what is already on His heart—the growth of His kingdom in the world.
James Fraser (1886–1938), missionary to the Lisu people of China, once said, “I used to think that prayer should have the first place and teaching the second. I now feel it would be truer to give prayer the first, second, and third places, and teaching the fourth.”
Fraser dedicated his life to the teaching and translating of the Scriptures until he died of cerebral malaria at the age of fifty-two in Baoshan, Yunnan, China. His dedication to the Scripture was never doubted. And he recognized the absolute necessity of prayer in the missions endeavour.
With that in view, here are four reasons why churches must pray for missions:
1. Jesus taught His disciples to how to pray for missions and modelled it as He trained them.
Early in His training of the disciples, Jesus taught them how to pray (Matt. 6:9–13). Then later, after facing the challenges of ministry, they came back to Jesus and asked Him to teach them how to pray. He brought them back to the same prayer in which the petitioner first cries out, “Hallowed be Your name, Your kingdom come” (Luke 11:2 ESV).
Later, Jesus would model how spiritual battles to accomplish the mission would only be won by faith through prayer as He cried out “not my will, but Yours, be done” in the Garden of Gethsemane (Luke 22:42 ESV).
Before Jesus sent out the twelve or the seventy-two, He pointed their faces toward heaven in prayer and turned disciples’ hearts into labourers. Therefore, when we start churches and before community engagement occurs, we must bathe the community in prayer. The church must never lose sight that to train disciples to pray is the first step in bringing the gospel to the mission field.
2. Prayer moves the heart of the church toward the heart of God for His mission.
When Jesus sent out the disciples in Luke 10 to all the places He planned to visit, He told them to pray that God would send workers into the harvest field. Then He said, “Go! I am sending you” (Luke 10:3, NIV) as the answer to their prayer. It is important that, when we pray to the Lord of the harvest, we be willing to be the answer to that prayer.
Frank and his wife were part of a church plant in which prayer was an intentional part of the foundation. A church where men gathered weekly for early morning prayer and all-night prayer gatherings were not uncommon. In these times, God did something extraordinary, more powerful than any small group meeting or corporate worship experience. It was then that God shaped their hearts for the world. Out of that group, missionaries were sent, church planters birthed, and a church’s heart was shaped for the kingdom.
Years later, when they started a church in a different neighborhood, they sent the plant team out to pray. It was called “groundwork.” It started with prayer walking for a few months, then they went door to door praying with people for the needs of the neighbourhood and their families. It was a beautiful way for a church to bless a community. They were able to demonstrate the heart of God to people by praying for their concerns. Very few people would close a door to prayer.
3. Prayer opens the doors in the world for the gospel to advance.
In Colossians 4:3–4, Paul tells the church, “Pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ” (ESV). Prayer opens doors of opportunity for the gospel to be shared that previously seemed closed.
In prayer, the impossible becomes practical. Like when Peter was imprisoned in Acts 12, the church was praying and God released Peter, opening the iron gate leading into the city (Acts 12:10 ESV). In that experience, Peter realized that nothing would hold back the kingdom of God from advancing as the church prayed.
It is prayer that helps us connect with people who are open to the gospel. It is prayer that leads us to the right place at the right time to take the steps that only God could orchestrate. Prayer connects the church to the activity of God who is empowering His people to advance the message of His kingdom.
4. Prayer empowers those going to share the gospel clearly and without fear.
Without prayer, fear will rule the hearts of those sharing the gospel. Paul knew his own need for courage to proclaim the gospel. In Ephesians 6:19–20, Paul asked the church, “Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel...Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should” (NIV).
Paul faced his own timidity and overcame his fears through the prayers of the church. Through corporate prayer we realize no one is alone, and we strive together through the power of the Holy Spirit. When the church prays, the Holy Spirit increases the spiritual fervour of the body that affects all its parts.
It is imperative that a church prays and engages in the spiritual work of kingdom advancement. When the church prays, Christians begin to get a clearer picture of missions. It is through prayer that God’s people move closer toward the heart of God for the world. It is through prayer that fears about sharing the gospel are defeated.
Missions moves in the wake of prayer. May we be a church that rises by falling to our knees in order to advance God’s kingdom to all nations.
We can reach our world, if we will.
The greatest lack today is not people or funds.
The greatest need is prayer.
-Wesley Duewel, Touch the World Through Prayer
Is prayer a priority in your life? Can you share of a time when God answered your prayers?
Feel free to share a comment below. We would love to hear from you.
At OMS we believe Prayer is the battlefield for fruitfulness and we depend on it for a successful ministry. Click here to learn more about how you can partner with us in prayer.
In a past series of blog posts on the ‘Call to Missions’ we concluded that if one is properly relating to God and pursuing godliness, there is little to fear in terms of missing God’s call, whether to missions or any other pursuit. If you haven’t read that post yet, click here to go to it now.
We then determined that the way to ensure that one is properly relating to God and pursuing godliness is through the practice of the spiritual disciplines or habits of grace. We composed a list of ‘habits of grace ‘that are biblical, that is, they are taught or modelled in Scripture.
The first was Bible Intake. The second was Prayer. And this post is Worship.
One spiritual discipline that we are called to do as Christians, but is often confused or unclear, is worship. Often when we hear that word, our first thought is music, the singing part of our Sunday gathering. While that is an aspect of it, worship is a far greater discipline that should engage multiple areas of our lives.
Worship is difficult to define well. So let’s look at it first.
In John 20:28, when the resurrected Jesus appeared to Thomas and showed him the scars in His hands and side, worship happened when Thomas said to Him, “My Lord and my God.”
In Revelation 4:8, we read about four creatures around the throne who worship God day and night without ceasing and saying, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!” Then in verse 11 the twenty-four elders around the throne of God in heaven worship Him by throwing their crowns at His feet, falling before Him and saying, “Worthy are You, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honour and power, for You created all things, and by Your will they existed and were created.”
In the next chapter, thousands and thousands of angels, elders, and living creatures around the heavenly throne of Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, cry out with a loud voice in worship, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honour and glory and blessing!” (5:12). Immediately following comes worship from “every creature” saying, “To Him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honour and glory and might forever and ever!” (5:13).
To summarize, to worship God means to ascribe the proper worth of God, to magnify His worthiness of praise, or better, to approach and address God in a worthy way. As the holy and almighty God, the Creator and Sustainer of the universe, and the Sovereign Judge to whom we must give an account, He is worthy of all the worth and honour that we can give Him and then infinitely more.
You see, the more we focus on God, the more we will understand and appreciate His infinite worth. As we understand and appreciate this, we can’t help but respond to Him. Just like a gorgeous sunrise or a breathtaking mountaintop view sparks a spontaneous response, so we cannot encounter the worthiness of God without the response of worship.
Therefore, worship is focusing on and responding to God appropriately.
But how does the invisible God reveal Himself to us here and now so that we might focus on Him and respond appropriately?
First, He has revealed Himself in a general way through Creation (see Romans 1:20), so the right response to that stunning sunrise (I am a morning person) or the spectacular mountain view is to worship the Creator of such beauty and majesty.
Second, God has revealed Himself flawlessly through His written Word, the Bible (see 2 Timothy 3:16 and 2 Peter 1:20-21), and His incarnate Word, Jesus Christ (see John 1:1, 14 and Hebrews 1:1-2). In response, we should seek God through Jesus Christ as revealed in the Bible. As we do so and the Holy Spirit opens the eyes of our understanding, we will see God revealed in Scripture and respond with worship.
That is why all worship of God – public, family and private worship – should be based on and include much of the Bible. The Bible reveals God to us so that we may focus on Him, and to the extent that we focus on Him, we will worship Him. So if there is little focus on God, there is little worship of God. Conversely, much revelation of God fosters much focus on God, which in turn results in much worship of God.
Now, since worship is focusing on and responding to God, whatever else we may be doing we are not worshipping if we are not thinking about God. You may be singing holy, holy, holy but if you’re not thinking about God while singing it, you are not worshipping. You may be listening to someone pray, but if you aren’t praying with him or her and thinking of God, you aren’t worshipping.
Worship often includes words and actions, but true worship goes beyond them to the focus of the mind and heart. Worship is the God-centred focus and response of the soul. It is being preoccupied with God. So no matter what you are saying or singing or thinking or doing at any moment, you are worshipping God only when He is the centre of your attention. And whenever you do focus on the infinite worth of God, you will respond in worship as surely as the moon reflects the sun. This kind of worship is not in vain.
So let’s daily cultivate a lifestyle where we consciously work to make God the centre of our attention and respond appropriately in worship.
This is an especially important habit of grace for those who may be considering a role in cross-cultural missions because the missionary’s role among the nations is to create worshippers where there are none. As John Piper states in the book, “Let the Nations be Glad”, missions exists because worship doesn't. Worship is ultimate, not missions because God is ultimate, not man.
With this in view, Psalm 96 becomes an example of God’s people summoning the nations to worship the Lord. “Sing to the Lord a new song, sing to the Lord, all the earth. Sing to the Lord, bless His name; tell of His salvation from day to day. Declare His glory among the nations, His marvelous works among all the peoples! For great is the Lord and greatly to be praised; He is to be feared above all gods. For the gods of the people are worthless idols, but the Lord made the heavens. Splendour and majesty are before Him; strength and beauty are in His sanctuary.”
What do you think about worship? Has this post challenged what you believe? Let us know in the comments section below.
When you think of the word “connection” what comes to mind?
Today, we have many great resources that enable us to connect effectively with others.
With the touch of a click we can communicate with someone who is across the world. With
fast Internet speeds, we can have access to the latest movies, etc. quickly and with ease.
Connection is something that we can all relate to and it is important to us in one way or another. We all desire and long to feel like we belong, to feel connected. God created us that way.
In any relationship, if there is no communication it has an impact on the relationship. It starts to create distance and the only way to build that relationship again is to talk to the person, listen to them, spend time with them.
While our connections with people are very important and necessary, the most important and significant connection we can ever have is with God.
It’s also important to note that sometimes we can feel a bit distant from God and that can happen for a variety of reasons.
Let’s look at some practical ways of how we can stay connected to God, regardless of how we are feeling:
“Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will hear you.”
This is key in our relationship with God. We come to God to thank Him, to ask for forgiveness, to share our heart with Him, and to simply talk to Him. What a great privilege to know that the Creator of everything always has His ears open to His children and we have an instant connection through Jesus Christ.
" Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”
God’s Word is the greatest manual of life for us. God speaks through His Word, we gain wisdom and understanding, and through the Holy Spirit we are able to make decisions according to God’s will for our life. We can never get too much of God’s Word, but it’s important that we are reading the Bible daily.
“Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from His love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.”
Getting together with our brothers and sisters in Christ is also so important. We are there to pray with one another, to provide encouragement, and to grow together. It is so enjoyable to get together with others who are like-minded. These connections are important in our lives.
“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward.
It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”
Another great way to help us stay connected to God is through serving Him. When we make every part of our lives about God and about serving Him, we will be more connected to God.
Connection to Missions
So now, the connection to Missions.
God is passionate about missions. He sent Jesus so that we can have a connection to Him through His Son. That was the greatest mission.
“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”
He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.”
“Declare His glory among the nations,
His marvelous deeds among all peoples.”
1 Chronicles 16:24
The closer we are to God, the more we are passionate about what He is passionate about.
Let’s make it a priority in our lives to connect with God daily. We have access 24/7.
How has your connection with God encouraged you lately? Feel free to share your experiences below.
At OMS Canada, our desire is to make Christ known among the nations, to declare His glory among the nations. To learn more about us, click here.
In this week’s blog post we consider the second habit of grace that needs to be built for the purpose of godliness. That habit is prayer.
Prayer is second only to God’s Word in importance when it comes to disciplining oneself in spiritual things. We know that through His Word God speaks to His church and to His people. There is nothing more important for us to hear than the Word of God. He is a speaking God and His Word is written for us.
But, not only is God a speaking God, He is also a listening God. His ear is continually open to us. He stands ready to hear every prayer of His children, even when our prayers are weak. God speaks to us through His Word and He listens to us in prayer.
However, despite its importance of prayer to the Christian, surveys and anecdotal evidence would seem to indicate that a large percentage of professing Christians spend little time in sustained prayer. Short sentence prayers get offered here and there throughout the day but it is rare that more than just a few minutes is spent in conversation with God.
We must come to grips with the fact that, if we wish to be godly, if we wish to be like Jesus, we must pray.
Prayer is Expected
Those who have been brought under the authority of Christ and the Bible know that the will of God is for us to pray. And we also know that the will of God is good.
This expectation is seen in the words of Jesus in the gospels;
Matthew 6:5, “And when you pray…”
Matthew 6:6, “But when you pray…”
Matthew 6:7, “And when you pray…”
Matthew 6:9, “Pray then like this…”
Luke 11:9, “And I tell you, ask…seek…knock.”
Luke 18:1, “And He told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray,”
God’s word makes it clear that prayer is expected;
Colossians 4:2, “Continue steadfastly in prayer.”
1 Thessalonians 5:17, “Pray without ceasing.”
These verses are commands for the Christian to pray. Commands. This means that too little time, too many responsibilities, too many kids, too much work, too little desire, too little experience, and so on are not excuses that exempt one from the expectation to pray.
Martin Luther put it this way; As it is the business of tailors to make clothes and of cobblers to mend shoes, so it is the business of Christians to pray.
So why do so many of us confess that we do not pray as we ought? Sometimes it is just simply a lack of discipline. Prayer is never planned, time is never set aside just for prayer. While lip service is given to the priority of prayer, in reality it always seems to get crowded out by things that seem more urgent.
Often we do not pray because we are not convinced anything will actually happen if we pray. Naturally, we wouldn’t admit this publicly, but if we felt certain of visible results within sixty seconds of every prayer, there would be holes in the knees of the pants of every Christian (and not because the pants were bought with holes in the knees). The Bible does not promise a visible answer to every prayer but it does promise that every prayer is answered. Since prayer involves communication in the spiritual realm, many prayers are answered in ways that cannot be seen in the material realm.
In addition, where there is little awareness of real need, there is little need for real prayer. The truth is that we believe we can get along pretty well in Canada without any sort of divine intervention. We generally have jobs, shelter, friends, family, healthcare, and safety. What more could we need? In pride and self-sufficiency, we may live for days as though prayer is needed only when something comes along that is too big for us to handle on our own.
But this view is short sighted in that it assumes that the temporal things are the only things about which we need to pray. Listen to the prayer requests that people most often present and they will be for things like health, family, work, finances, etc., all temporal things that really have no kind of eternal significance. Why do we pray so little for the things that really count, like the battle against sin, the lack of faith, the need to evangelize, and the lack of spiritual fruit? Above these needs there is always a need to pray until Jesus returns or calls us home.
Prayer is Learned
Another reason why Christians pray so little is because they haven’t learned about prayer. If you are discouraged by the command to pray because you feel like you don’t know how to pray well, the fact that prayer is learned should give you hope. This means that it is okay to begin the Christian life with little knowledge or experience of prayer but as you are discipled, prayer should be a part of what is taught, learned and practised. I grew up on a dairy farm in Ontario and 4-H clubs were a popular activity for kids. The 4-H motto was, “Learn to do by doing.” This is certainly true of prayer.
If you have ever learned a second (or subsequent) language, you know that you learn it best when you actually have to speak it. The same is true of the ‘foreign language’ of prayer. There are many good resources to help you learn to pray but the best way to learn how to pray is to pray. Learn to do by doing.
Another way that one learns to pray is by meditating on Scripture. Here is the simple but extraordinarily powerful truth. Meditation is the missing link between Bible intake and prayer. Although often separated, the two should be united. Typically, we read the Bible, close it, and then try to shift gears into prayer. But many times it seems that the gears of Bible reading and of prayer do not mesh properly. We blow the shift (trucker talk) and lose momentum and give up on prayer.
Instead, there should be a smooth, almost unnoticeable transition between Scripture input and prayer output so that we move even closer to God in those moments. This happens when we insert the link of meditation in between. There are a couple of Psalms that make an explicit link between meditation and prayer. Psalm 5:1 says, “Give ear to my words, O Lord; consider my groaning. Give attention to the sound of my cry, my King and my God, for to You do I pray.” The Hebrew word translated groaning may also be translated meditation, as it is in the King James. In fact, meditation is used for the same Hebrew word in Psalm 19:14; “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.” Notice that both verses are prayers, pleas to God that consisted of David’s words (as we would expect in prayer) but they also involve meditation. In each case, meditation was the catalyst that moved David from considering the truth of God into talking with God.
Meditating on God’s Word can also serve to move us into a conversation with the author of the Word.
Prayer is Answered
Probably no principle of prayer is more taken for granted than that prayer is answered.
Matthew 7:7-8; “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.”
Andrew Murray makes the observation that asking and receiving is a fixed eternal law of the kingdom. If you ask and do not receive it is always because there is something amiss or wanting in your prayer. Hold on; let the Word and Spirit teach you to pray aright, but do not let go of the confidence God seeks to awaken. Everyone who asks receives…Let every learner in the school of Christ therefore take the Master’s Word in all simplicity…Let us beware of weakening the Word with our so-called human wisdom.
So, despite what we see in response to our prayers, let’s not become so accustomed with our shortcomings in prayer and to the perception of asking without receiving that our faith in the force of Jesus’ promise is diminished. Prayer is answered.
So, how is your prayer life? Is prayer a natural thing or is it a chore? Do you see prayers answered or are you in danger of weakening the promise of answered prayer? Let us know by leaving a comment.
And if you want some prayer requests to practice your prayer skills, click here to find out how to become a prayer partner of OMS Canada.
The Value of Scripture Memorization
There is a great need and value in memorizing scripture. It is the spiritual food in which we need to survive and thrive each day.
Let’s talk about some of the values in memorizing Scripture:
“All people are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field;
the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord endures forever. “And this is the word that was preached to you.”
(1 Peter 1:24-25)
Everything in this life will eventually fade away, and God’s Word will always remain. What a comfort to know that we can always trust in what God says to us. This is also a great encouragement and reminder for us to press forward as we serve and live for Him.
“For the Word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”
We need to remember that God’s Word is powerful. So much that it changes our motives and renews our way of thinking. By memorizing this Scripture, we are reminded of the power of God’s Word and that we always have access to it as children of God.
Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path. I have taken
an oath and confirmed it, that I will follow Your righteous laws.
We all need direction in our lives whether we admit it or not. And not just any direction, but God’s direction. By memorizing Scripture, we can be reminded of what God has said and use it as a guide as we make decisions in life.
Why Memorize Scripture?
Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.”
Jesus said these words to the devil while he was trying to tempt Him.
Our Saviour, The Son of God, The Messiah, The Resurrection and the Life, The Way, The Truth, The True Vine. Jesus, memorized Scripture and used it all the time.
How much more should we memorize Scripture?
It’s a great question to ask ourselves.
In this world, we are constantly bombarded by many different things and it is so important and necessary to memorize Scripture.
There are times when others need encouragement and when we memorize Scripture, we can easily share God’s Word with them. We can be put in situations where we need to make a decision and then remember a verse or two that help us in that process to make the right decision.
There are people in the world that have yet to hear about Jesus. Some are lonely and desperate and have no access to God’s Word. Let us not take having access to God’s Word for granted. We have so many free available tools to us today that will help us ready, study, and memorize the Word of God.
You can download the Xplore Bible Study here. It’s a great small group study that will help you understand God’s heart for all peoples by studying the Biblical basis of missions.
Which Scriptures do you already memorize? How has memorizing Scripture
helped you in your life?
We would love to hear about it. Feel free to leave a comment below.