Soul Saving and Spirituality

Is the church’s single-minded emphasis upon rescuing souls hampering the growth of the church?

For many individuals this will seem like a very controversial question and whom would say that obviously the more souls that are saved, the larger the growth of the church. However, I would like to question that assumption and suggest that this mindset hampers an individual’s spiritual growth.

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“Every Christian needs to be a pastor. They need to be able to study and teach God’s Word just as well as a pastor does. Not every Christian should be a pastor. What I mean by this is that not every Christian should pursue a pastoral occupation.” – Hudson Farrell

Fathers and Mothers need to especially be able to teach God’s Word to their children. Every person needs to be able to help another believer study the Bible, and should also be able to clearly lay out the Gospel to a non-believer. Are you prepared?

Reading the Bible is our primary way of listening to God… he speaks to us through the Bible. Sometimes He clearly speaks to us while we are reading it, but often he speaks to us later as we are doing our thing. Often He will remind us of something we read. Like if I’m getting angry, He may remind me to dispel an argument with peace and not animosity.

So, you may be praying, but are you listening? Read your Bible. Remember its a relationship and not a religion. And if you aren’t in a relationship you may be more religious than you realize.

The Great Commission

Matthew 28:18-20

18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 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, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

I feel like we take this passage for granted many times. Its the Great Commission, a John 3:16, a widely known passage. But I feel like we don’t quite get it (we being Christians in America). So I want to break it down a little:

  • “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” is a bold declaration that Jesus is God! I don’t know about you, but I always skim right past this part. This is loaded! Jesus is LORD over heaven and earth. No human could ever hope to attain that (unless you believe in Mormonism where each of us supposedly will become gods and rule over our own planet). Jesus is basically saying that HE IS GOD! He is the Christ, the ruler of the universe, the Son of God.
  • The next part “Therefore…Holy Spirit” is the best known part. Most Christians would say that this is the Great Commission right here in four words “go and make disciples”. Yet, we take this part for granted every day. I would say that at least 75% (probably more) of Christians don’t even share their faith every week (myself included). And this is supposed to be “what Christians are supposed to do”.*
  • The third part “and teaching…you.” is what I consider part of the Gospel. This is a part that I think is skipped over too much. I believe that the Gospel message needs to be preached to non-believers AND believers. That is the Great Commission. We generally focus on the lost, but we need to just as much if not more focus on the saved so that they may share the good news with the lost. This part is often lost in the message.
  • And finally Jesus gives a promise to us. He knows many of us will be persecuted for following His instructions. This last line is a wonderful promise that He will help us say the right words to the lost and will give us the right words to teach the saved. PRAISE GOD!!

*Keep in mind I’m referring to American Christians, not necessarily global Christians (although if you feel convicted then you probably count too!)

Leadership and Listening

A good leader is a good listener. Paul indicates this in Philippians (2:4). Earn the right to speak. A good leader will listen to those around him. This is one example of being a servant-leader. When a leader exercises good listening skills, he/she displays humility. He is saying, “You are important. I am leading you and I want to know you. I want to consider your ideas.” It no longer is about the leader; he may have his mind set, but he takes the time to listen and show respect to his followers. People are attracted to a leader who displays humility. They are attracted to a leader who doesn’t lead with his authority, but leads with his humility. A good leader takes the time to lead by making himself nothing, getting things done using his humility, not using his authority (Philippians 2:5-11). And generally, to become humble, you need to learn to listen.

Election and predestination

Really these controversial doctrines, are quite amazing if you think about it. As a Christian, basic doctrines such as believing that Christ saved us for 0ur sins and nothing else, are essential. I would like to suggest that election is essential. If, we chose Christ by our own will, then we could claim (although most of us won’t) that we have made our way into heaven that we have found forgiveness of sins; if we had not found Christ we would have gone to hell. In other words Christ saves us for 99%, but, we contribute to saving us by 1% because we accepted Him. Election, however, eliminates any possibility for us to claim we saved ourselves. Not only did Christ save us by dying on the cross for our sins and coming to life again, He also chose us to accept Him and ask forgiveness. We do not have a say in this. Yes, we do the act of speaking out desire for Christ, but, God gives this desire in us (Ephesians 1:9). He prompts us to accept Christ. Not only does Christ get the credit for doing the 99%, He also claims the 1%. He accepts us. Therefore, we cannot brag in our living in Christ because we did not do anything to deserve it or help in any way to get it (Ephesians 2:8-9).

Now you, and I too did once, may be thinking that this is cruel. God favors one to another. This is an easy trap to step in. We have to remember that none of us deserve anything good. And to assume that God favors one to another is wrong because, that is assuming that we all should be equally treated by God. None of us deserve to be treated by God in any way ( this is because of our sinful nature).

If you were to ask a person who has not accepted Jesus (or may I say that Jesus has not yet entered into), you would never see any progress in them for the rest of their life towards Jesus if they were not part of the elect. They may become interested but they would never accept Christ. Being on the “not elected” list does not mean that the person wants to follow Christ, but can’t because they aren’t on the right list. No,  they do not want to be on the right list.

If you were to tell a person (who is not a Christian, at least not yet) that God elects people to believe in Him, I would suggest that you would get multiple reactions. Some I would guess, would scoff at you and your “unjust god”. They would say “what kind of god would not let everyone go into heaven?”. Another would probably wonder if he were an elect, not care and go on in life thinking that if God were to claim Him, God could do it at any time, but until then he would just keep living life how he wanted. And finally, there would be a person who would wonder if he were part of the elect, and then try to find out more. He would worry if he were part of the elect, and might ask God. I would suggest that he would be part of the elect, that God is working in him at that moment. The other two groups, might or might not be, maybe God would work in their hearts later at a better time. My point being, that those who are not part of the elect, really won’t care about not being part of the elect while they are on this earth. This is contrary to how we might think.

My last point that I would like to make, has to do with missions, and sharing your faith. Many will see election as an excuse to not share the Gospel. This simply is not true as we have no idea who is and who isn’t part of the elect. Meaning that the elect do not start out on the “sunny side” of things. God may work in them to accept Him by using you! You may counter, that if God elects people then He will find a way eventually, therefore why waste your time. If that thought just crossed your mind, then I would like to suggest that you need to rethink things. If you don’t care about the lost, then you need to do a major study on hell, heaven, forgiveness, and love. Also, if I am wrong on this idea of election, then anyone can come to Christ and you just blew your life away thinking that they were going to be fine, and you are now responsible (to some extent) for them being in hell.

Please remember that these are just my thoughts, and no one can really know the mind of God. However, I believe that God has made it clear that there is an elect to some extent. The book of Ephesians talks a lot about this.

Are you part of the elect?

The Message of Christianity

This is in response to a question (below) that I received.
“If you were to ask the average Christian sitting in a worship service on Sunday morning to summarize the message of Christianity, you would most likely hear something along the lines of . . .  ‘The message of Christianity is that God loves me enough to send his Son, Jesus, to die for me.’
… The message of biblical Christianity is ‘God loves me so that I might make him–his ways, his salvation, his glory, and his greatness–known among all nations.” (p. 70)
Radical: Taking back your faith from the American dream by David Platt
What do you think?

Profound thought. I think it is easy to get caught up in the average understanding. But I think really that that average thought is really only the gospel message. Don’t get me wrong, the gospel is the immediate need and very important! However, as Platt assesses, there is more to biblical Christianity than just the gospel. It is a Christian’s duty to spill over and give generously all that God has given him/her. So because God loves a Christian, the Christian should love others as he/she loves him/herself. Because God cleans a Christian of his/her sins, His cleansing makes it possible for the Christian to do good. Therefore, God shared it, a Christian should share it (in a way that is loving). God is great and amazingly glorious and has shown it to the Christian. A Christian should tell others of this amazing God.
I would say that ‘The message of Christianity is that God loves me enough to send his Son, Jesus, to die for me.’  is the gospel message, and God loves me so that I might make him–his ways, his salvation, his glory, and his greatness–known among all nations.” is the biblical message that incorporates the gospel.