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Home Improvement or New Construction?
Jesus said, "No one can see the Kingdom of Heaven unless he is BORN AGAIN," (Jn 3:3). A born again disciple is one who has, literally, been given a new lease on life. He or she gets to start over, sins forgiven. We become new creatures, the old is gone, the new has come, (2 Cor 5:17). The Holy Spirit, the promised parakletos (comforter, in Greek), now dwells within each of us who are disciples of Christ. We are His home. Yes, God... the One who made both Heaven and earth... chooses to live THROUGH those who claim Jesus as Lord so that He can advance His Kingdom THROUGH them. Yes, we become His home but for Kingdom purposes, not for our own benefit.
Many are under the false impression that, as a disciple, our relationship with God simply makes us "better" people. A sort of "we're-in-the-club-and-you're-not" syndrome often sets in. WRONG! We're not BETTER people... we're NEW people! (It's been said that some folks are nicer by nature than Christians are by grace.) We're called "Believers." That means we are to BELIEVE what Scripture says. I believe Jesus told us to go make more disciples, Matthew 28:18-20. Yes, we're now in God's family, but for a definite purpose.
How can this be? Remember, we're spirit-beings having an earthly experience. These bodies will die and our spirit will live forever... somewhere. Heaven or Hell, it's our choice. God Himself wants to co-labor with us to bring others into His Kingdom way of living. So that they can attain REAL life. Often, when someone proudly claims to be a Christian, one cannot help but wonder if they have Life. REAL Life. Jesus said, "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life...," (Jn 14:6). The question then is, "Do they have Jesus?" Do we?
Sadly, many non-Christians are under the impression that we THINK we're better than they are. This "holier than thou" perception has led them to describe God's kids as judgmental, hypocritical and boring, among other things.
The words of Christ are what brings about the desired effects in our lives. Too many of us are all too aware that, frankly, since our supposed salvation experience, not only have we not changed one iota, but many of us have done worse things SINCE we were "saved" than we did before! How can this be? Who are we kidding? Many altar workers at large-scale evangelical crusades can attest to the many re-curring "salvation" cards received by those responding to the "altar call." Those organizations that keep good records can verify the vast numbers of "recommitments" that come to the altar year after year, either to be "saved" (apparently hoping it really"sticks" this time) or because they know in their heart that nothing changed after experiencing what they thought was a life-changing moment last time.
The problem is at the root. Our typical idea of salvation is that of one's sins being forgiven, complete with a guarantee of a mansion in heaven in the sweet by 'n by. Unfortunately, this was not what Jesus taught at all.
Jesus focused on the here 'n now, and the manner in which we were to conduct our lives in this new and living way to which He introduced. He even modeled it for us, setting the standard. He taught that we should 1) Repent and believe the Gospel of the Kingdom of God, 2) deny ourselves, 3) take up our cross daily, 4) give up everything, and 5) over 30 times mentioned some form of the phrase, 'follow Me.' It stands to reason that, as we make disciples, we should teach that being such is about following the example of Jesus Christ, doing His works and submitting to the Kingdom of God. Multitudes have a twisted sense of forgiveness without lifestyle change... and call it 'grace'... when, in fact, discipleship is about denying self and glorifying God. We cannot claim citizenship in God's Kingdom and remain chummy with this world's system. If we attempt to do so, yet claim to be saved, we're deceived. Satan loves it when we feel secure about our salvation without also having to reject sin and carnality. He loves it even MORE when we perpetuate this lie from pulpits, in commentaries, Sunday Schools, seminaries, and the Christian media. Are we teaching Eternal Security or Infernal Certainty?
Over the years, I have personally prayed with hundreds of people to receive Christ... the Roman Road, Four Spiritual Laws, ABC's of salvation, Professions of Faith. Then, one day, I stopped. Today, I'm more inclined to "take it away" from one who thinks they want to become a Christian, to have them go home and consult their pillow, count the cost, and call me when they're ready. I've been asked, "What if they die on the way home? You should at least pray a sinner's prayer! After all, Romans 10:9-10 says to 'confess with your mouth'... ."
Frankly, God knows their hearts. They shouldn't have to utter a sound. Is the person with laryngitis, or a mute, forbidden to go to Heaven because they didn't pray a repeated prayer? Manmade doctrines and traditions strike again. Another sacred cow bites the dust.
By way of example, I once asked a group to whom I'd been teaching the Scriptures in the workplace, if everyone there considered themselves to be a Christian. All but one, a young Hispanic woman, claimed to be Christian. The next day, as I was walking toward the elevator, that same woman, walking out of the elevator, grabbed my arm, wheeled me around and said, "Michael, I want to be saved!" Two years later, she's still under my discipleship via eMail and phone. Folks, when the fruit is ready for harvest, it practically falls into our hands. No coaxing necessary.
Was the soil of her spirit prepared through the studies? Yes, but she was inspired to ATTEND the studies by the Christian presence she'd observed in the workplace. The following Sunday night, I met her at work and she followed me in her car to a home meeting where she was lovingly welcomedinto the fold by other Christians for discipleship. Particularly from godly women. Incidentally, within days of this experience, she was in a terrible auto accident which almost cost her her life. She nearly lost her arm which was terribly mangled. She'd been adequately prepared, however. Satan was not happy. The last thing she remembered before the accident? She was talking to her passenger about God.
Why not hold a crusade and tell the masses what Jesus told His potential disciples? Imagine hearing the following message over the PA system in a stadium:"Six times He warned that the world will hate you. Your family and friends will turn against you. He didn't come to bring peace, but a sword that would divide families. You will suffer persecution. You may die. Now, go home and think about giving up your life and all that is dear to you to follow this person called Jesus Christ." I wonder how many would return the next night of the crusade??
"And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for My name's sake, will receive a hundred-fold, and inherit eternal life. But many will that are first will be last, and the last first," (Matt 19:29-30).
Typically, we try to lure people into joining this institution we call "the Church" based upon promises of peace, joy, love, unity, and prosperity. Try to sell THAT rubbish to a Sudanese pastor whose had acid poured all over his hands, in front of his congregation, by Muslim soldiers.
Or the Pakistani village whose Christian members were physically mutilated by radical Muslims.
Or a Chinese evangelist who never sleeps more than a few nights in the same bed for fear of being turned in, even by family members and informers infiltrating his own congregation, while Americans "buy" the Chinese propaganda that there's freedom of religion there.
The common method of Western discipleship is in training new converts to sit, carry a Bible, take a few notes, say 'Amen,' get indoctrinated with non-biblical manmade doctrines, learn new rituals, the chain-of-command, and become "good" at this routine... even "professional." Man, are we ever missing the boat!
No, nothing will change a person like God's Word. These are not "bolt-on" tips for living. Nor are they warm, fuzzy spiritual "thoughts for the day." The Words of Christ are foundational... the only thing on which our new lives can built. And maintained. Use them. Filter every other teaching you've ever heard... or are currently hearing... THROUGH HIS WORDS, even those teachings that come from within the pages of Scripture themselves!
"Therefore everyone who hears these Words of Mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house upon a rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against the house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock," (Matthew 7:24-25)
Doesn't it make logical sense that, in order to be a Christian (meaning, literally, an anointed one; a Junior Jesus), one must follow the teachings of THE Christ? To those desiring to live this new way, as new creations, Jesus asked (perhaps He STILL does),
"Why do you call Me, "Lord, Lord," and do not do what I say?"
"If you continue in My Word, then you are truly My disciples...," (Jn 8:31,32; 15:7)
"He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life," (Jn 12:25).
Need pastoral counseling and prayer? Write or IM me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Pastor Michael broadcasts an e-Mail message of Discipleship and Encouragement to Christians across the planet each week, reaching millions from many various Chrsitian denominations. This e-Mail ministry has been impacting the lives of multitudes of people since 1999.
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