This past Sunday we talked about what it means to be a follower of Christ by slowly unpacking Matthew 16:24-25 which reads:
Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.”
In this passage we focused on words like “desires” and “deny himself” and “take up his cross” in order to try to know exactly what following Jesus actually meant for His disciples then, and what it means for us today. We then spent some time in Matthew 10 going over the costs of following Jesus and the one specific aspect of discipleship He emphasized. And that, unfortunately for many in the church today, is evangelism.
I don’t know about you, but one of my biggest regrets as a Christian is the fact my prayer life is not what I know it could be. Statements like “pray without ceasing” (1 Tim. 5:17) have often led to guilt and self-condemnation because of my lack of doing just that. But my biggest blind spot as a Believer is probably my lack of witnessing or evangelism. In fact, almost everyone that I talk to wishes they had led more people to Christ. Do you feel the same?
The Scary World of Evangelism
Then we are faced with what Jesus said in Matthew 10:27 and the verses that follow. He said, “Whatever I tell you in the dark, speak in the light; and what you hear in the ear, preach on the housetops.” Ouch. This is a clear command from our Lord to tell others about Him or to practice evangelism. Even though we may claim, “Hey, that’s not my gift!” — Paul told Timothy to “do the work of an evangelist” (2 Tim. 4:5) even though Timothy may not have been called to be an evangelist. Timothy’s calling may have been to be a pastor or a teacher (Eph. 4:11), but Paul said in spite of his innate limitations, he was to perform the function of an evangelist to fulfill his ministry to the Lord. After all, God gave each of us the Holy Spirit in order to change us from who we think we are into what He knows we can be. And that also applies to our fear of telling others about Him.
The verse we are using to focus our prayer today is Ephesians 3:1-2, which reads:
For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for you Gentiles— if indeed you have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which was given to me for you – Ephesians 3:1-2.
And the word we want to focus on is, heard. Think about that for a moment.
To hear something is to be on the receiving end of a “giving and receiving” transaction. Someone must proclaim a message in order for someone else to hear that message. There’s both a pitching and a catching, to use a baseball analogy. In this passage, Paul is speaking to the Gentiles who “have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which was given to Paul for them” which means, by definition, someone must have spoken that truth in order for them to have “heard” the same truth. Someone must have gone out of their way, taken an interest in their lives, possibly suffered, as a Jew, some sort of societal sanction for talking to an unclean Gentile in order to tell them about the grace of God.
We see in the book of Romans, right after it says “Whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Rom. 10:13), there is a clear sequence in evangelism that demands a verbal proclamation of His truth. It follows, “How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?” (Rom. 10:14). Did you catch the second sentence in this verse and the pointed question it asks of each follower of Christ? How shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And who is to tell them about Jesus? Not just the hired holy man. Not just the paid professional. Not just the pastor, preacher or priest. No, the command is to each of us to “Whatever I tell you in the dark, speak in the light; and what you hear in the ear, preach on the housetops” (Matt. 10:27).
For me, since we are just a few days away from the end of a decade and the beginning of a new year, and since this is the customary accepted time for making resolutions, I can’t think of a better time to commit to the Lord that we can be counted among the ones who proudly proclaim His message so others can be blessed to hear. Which means, as uncomfortable as it may seem, we will commit to Him to open our mouths and actually be bold and overt when it comes to telling others about the love we have in Christ. This is not designed to bring guilt, but to help us fulfill the Great Commission and become faithful followers of Him.
The problem with much of the church today, and maybe even with you and me, is our love for Christ is not to the point where it naturally bubbles to the surface and we are irresistibly compelled to talk about Jesus. Maybe that’s because our relationship with Him is at arm’s length, more stoic than passionate. Or maybe it’s more like a work associate than an intimate family relationship with someone we love. And if so, that needs to change.
The truth is, what we love, what’s in our heart, what is the center of our being, what brings us passion and love and joy, whatever that may be, we will naturally speak about. We can’t help it. It just bubbles to the top of every conversation. Evangelism should be the same way. It’s not to be something based on duty, it should be something that springs forth from love.
Time to Pray
As we begin praying today, ask yourself how many people have heard about the love of Christ from your lips. If that number is embarrassing or shameful, or something you’re not satisfied with, now is the time to ask the Holy Spirit to create in you a hunger to tell people about Him. Jesus prayed for you regarding that very desire. He said, “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest” (Matt. 9:37-38). You and I can pray the same. Right now. Today. We can ask Him to help us become His laborers to bring in those He has chosen for harvest. And in doing so, we can bring glory to His name and do what a true follower of Jesus is called to do.
Pray this along with me and let’s see what amazing things our Lord can do in our lives and in the lives of others in the days to come.
Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Matt. 5:9 ). Which ponders the questions:
What is a peacemaker?
What does peace really mean?
And with whom does the peacemaker make peace?
Who is calling the peacemakers “sons of God”?
And what does this look like in real life?
Amazingly, the answer to these questions might very well change your world. To find out more, keep listening.
The following is a study on Matthew 5:9.
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One of the reasons the church is in the condition we now find it, is because many, if not a majority of those who claim Christ as Lord, are actually lost. They have their faith placed in something other than the true, Biblical Jesus. And their allegiance is usually to something other than Christ Himself.
But this really shouldn’t surprise us. For the mark of this church age is the simple fact that Jesus is on the outside of the church longing to come in. And His call is not to the group, the church, or the institution. It is to the individual.
Consider the following:
Revelation 3:20 – “Behold, (what) I (Christ) stand at the door (of His church) and knock. If anyone (personal) hears My voice (John 10:27) and opens the door (of His church), I will come in to him (personal) and dine with him (personal), and he with Me (personal).”
Could this be you? Could it be someone you know? If so, then keep listening.
The following is a study on True Salvation.
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When Jesus begins to close His public ministry He makes a statement that, if not understood correctly, casts the Father in the light of a cruel taskmaster, a petty ruler, or a cold, cynical, calculating Nazi. But when this same statement of Jesus is understood properly, in context, it shows the breathtaking love and grace of the Father in a way that will astound each of us.
We find the controversial statement in John 12:39-40:
Therefore they could not believe, because Isaiah said again:
“He (God) has blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts, (why) lest they should see with their eyes, lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, so that I (God) should heal them.”
Does this really mean what it says? Does God really harden people’s heart so they can’t believe in Him? Yes. And no. But you’ll have to keep listening to find out more.
The following is a study on John 12:37-50.
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One of the greatest tightrope walkers the world has ever seen was a man named Charles Blondin— or, as he was known internationally, the Great Blondin. Charles Blondin was born on February 28, 1924 and rose to international fame by being the first person to tightrope across Niagara Falls. He was a master showman, highly skilled at his craft, and gifted with a unique, riveting flair for the dramatic. For the better part of three decades he entertained huge, mesmerized audiences on both sides of the Atlantic.
But his greatest feat took place on June 30, 1959, when he became the first man to cross the great Niagara Gorge or, as we call it today, Niagara Falls.
On that day over twenty-five thousand people gathered on both the American and Canadian sides of the Falls to watch the Great Blondin attempt the impossible. He was to walk on a thin rope only 2 inches in diameter and made entirely of hemp, stretched 1,100 feet across the gorge, and suspended 160 feet above the raging river— all without any safety net or harness. One small slip, one slight loss of concentration and focus, one unforeseen gust of wind, and the Great Blondin would fall 16 stories to his death.
The crowd watched with nervous anticipation and he slowly, carefully, step by step, one foot in front of the other, made his way along the swaying rope, crossing a distance of over three football fields in 23 minutes. When he finally reached the Canadian side, the crowd burst into a roar of triumphant applause.
But the Great Blondin wasn’t finished.
Over the next few days he walked across Niagara Falls many times and each time with increasing dramatic theatrics. Today’s walk, it seemed, must be greater than yesterday’s show. One time he walked across blindfolded. Another time on wooden stilts. Still another while wearing shackles and another while wearing a gunny sack. He crossed riding a bicycle, he crossed in the dark, and one time he carried a stove on his back and cooked and ate an omelet over the middle of the Falls. With each crossing he pushed the limit of what the audience believed he could do and each time they responded in praise and adulation for the Great Blondin. It seemed they believed he could do anything on a tightrope. “Nothing,” they said, “was too difficult for the Great Blondin!”
One day he walked across Niagara Falls pushing a wooden wheelbarrow. The audience enthusiastically cheered . Then he placed 350 pounds of cement in the wheelbarrow and made the return trip. When he arrived back at the American side, the crowds broke into thunderous applause.
Looking at a man who seemed to be cheering the loudest, the Great Blondin asked him, “Do you believe I am able to carry a man across in this wheelbarrow?” The man eagerly proclaimed, “Yes! I believe you can. In fact, I know you can!” To which the Great Blondin replied, “Then get in.”
The man refused.
Blondin then turned and addressed the watching crowd. “Do you believe I am able to carry a man across the Falls in this wheelbarrow?” They all responded loudly, “Yes!” And again, “Which one of you will get into the wheelbarrow and let me push him across?”
They all refused.
No one was willing to get into the wheelbarrow. No one was willing to place their life in the hands of the Great Blondin. No one was willing to have him push them across the Falls, yet they all firmly believed he could do it. In fact, they’d just seen him push 350 pounds of cement across in that very wheelbarrow but refused, to the man, to get into the wheelbarrow themselves. Why? What’s the disconnect between faith and trust. What’s the difference between simple belief in something or someone and trusting them with your very life?
Simply this: It’s the difference between saving faith and non-saving faith. It’s the difference between true salvation and being deceived into thinking you belong to Christ. It’s the difference between the wide road of destruction and the narrow path of eternal life Jesus warned about (Matt. 7:13-14). And it’s the difference between a living eternity in heaven with Christ and all that means, or a horrid eternity of dark torment in hell.
It’s the difference between life and death, light and darkness, heaven and hell.
No Wheelbarrow, No Salvation
Are you one of the ones that believe the Great Blondin can do what you’ve seen him do, yet you refuse to place your life in his hands, you refuse to get into the wheelbarrow?
You see, eternal life with Christ does not come from simple, cognitive belief. Just believing is not enough. You might believe in Jesus. You might even believe that Jesus is the Son of God and that He died on the cross for your sins. You may even believe He rose from the dead and ascended into heaven and is now seated at the right hand of the Father. You may even go so far as to believe Jesus will someday come again to defeat Satan and bring in eternal righteousness. You may even believe that day is coming soon… but none of that belief alone leads to salvation. None.
Why? Because Satan also believes the same things about Jesus (James 2:19). In fact, Satan doesn’t just believe, he knows Jesus is the Son of God. Satan knows He rose from the dead and he knows Jesus is coming soon to judge the living and the dead and that thought makes him tremble (1 Tim 4:1). Yet Satan defiantly refuses to bend his knee to the Lordship of Jesus (Rom. 10:9) and Satan will spend eternity in “everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matt. 25:41). Do you believe like Satan believes?
It doesn’t have to be that way. Your life now and your future eternity can be different. But please know, your time is running out.
Head knowledge, mental assent, is not enough for salvation. Believing the Great Blondin can take a man across Niagara Falls in a wheelbarrow is not enough— unless you are willing to be that man. You’ve got to be willing to get into that wheelbarrow. You can’t watch from the sidelines and think you’re saved. You’ve got to place your faith and trust, your entire life into the hands of the Lord Jesus, for salvation to take place. You’ve got to surrender your will to Him, everything.
Jesus’ terms are simple: It’s all or nothing. Jesus gives you all that He is for all that you are. It’s called the Great Exchange: His Perfect Life for Your Broken Life. You give Him your life, all of your life, the good and the bad, and He comes to live in You. Permanently. Forever.
You must die for Him to live. It’s called being born again and it’s the most amazing thing this side of heaven (John 3:3-4).
Not What We Say, But What We Do
If you claim to be a Christian, you’re probably pretty mad right now that I would be so bold as to “judge” you and your spiritual life. And I know that if you had a Facebook page, you would probably put “Follower of Jesus” or “Christian” or something like that as your religion tag. But look at your life. Look at the fruits of your years of living. How much of it has any eternal value or significance? How much of what you do every day gives glory to the God you claim to serve? How much of your actions and deeds are good, holy, just and righteous? Jesus called them fruits, “spiritual fruits” that the Holy Spirit alone gives those who belong to Him (Matt. 7:16-20). In fact, Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.”
Did you get that? It’s not those who say they believe in Jesus that will enter the kingdom of heaven, it’s those who “do the will of the Father.” It’s not our words, but spiritual fruits that only the Holy Spirit gives.
Examine yourself. Are these the spiritual fruits you have manifest in your life? If not, be honest with yourself. You know you’re not a Christian. And if you would let yourself think beyond the immediate, you know you’re not going to heaven.
And that breaks my heart. I know we, the church, have failed you many times and haven’t lived the Christ-like example we should before you. I ask for your forgiveness for our failures. But I also ask you don’t judge Jesus by me or any other Christian. We’re a poor example of who He is. He’s all love and, as you know, we’re not. He’s gracious and forgiving, and we’re not. He’s more than I can describe and more than you’ll ever need or want— but you must put your trust, your entire life into His hands and let Him change you from the person you are into His own image, the person He created you to be. He doesn’t want to make you better, He wants to make you new.
All you have to do is ask— and then get into the wheelbarrow and let Him take you wherever He wants. You must put your entire life into His hands and hold nothing back.
My dream and prayer is for you to know and experience Jesus for who He really is and not who you think He is or who the church has portrayed Him to be. He’s far more than anything you can imagine (Eph. 3:20-21). In fact, my prayer for you has been the same as Paul’s prayer for those he loved. He says to those he loves the same thing I want to say to you:
That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come (Eph. 1:17-21).
Don’t wait. Get into the wheelbarrow. Give everything to Him. Ask Him, beg Him to be the Lord of your life and watch the transforming power of His Spirit change everything about you and make the rest of your life a blessing to many.
Ask Him today.