Sunday, June 27, 2010

The soul winner’s heart

Proverbs 11.30 " ... he that winneth souls is wise."

For the sake of this Bible Study, I want to clarify or establish certain things.

· God does not change.

Malachi 3:6For I am the LORD, I change not”

Hebrews 13:8 “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.”

Jesus of the New Testament is the God of the Old Testament. The Word tells us that He is the image of the invisible God. He is the representation of the God we are not capable of beholding with our natural eyes. God told Moses that no man could see his face and live. Moses stood in the cleft of the mountain and was covered by God’s hand as he passed. When he was past him, God took away His hand and Moses saw the back parts of God. Even this alone caused Moses face to shine with such a glory that the Children of Israel were afraid to approach him when he came down from the mount. Moses put a veil over his face so that he could speak to them without then being fearful.

· God’s attitude about sin has not changed.

While Jesus’ death on the cross fulfilled the law (sacrifices were no longer necessary to push our sins ahead for one year,) His attitude about what is right and wrong did not change. If God hated it in the Old Testament, He still hated it in the New Testament. The ushering in of the dispensation of grace did not change Gods attitude about sin, it merely created a space for us to repent and turn from our wicked ways. It merely holds the judgment of God at bay for a time. In the Old Testament, where judgment was often swift and final, grace now steps in and gives us time to repent.

Now, let me make a statement you are welcome to disagree with and see if we can come to an understanding. The murderer will not go to hell for murdering. What? Surely, everyone must consider that murder is a sin. One of the commandments clearly proclaims, “Thou shalt not kill.” True.

However, the Word of God tells us, in Romans 8:7, that, “Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.” An unrepentant person is not subject to the laws of God. When the murderer stands before God, God will be looking for the blood. If the blood is not there, he will be cast into the lake of fire. This will not be the result of his act of murdering, but rather his lack of repentance, baptism, and Holy Ghost infilling. The sinner has one commandment, “Repent.”

Now, once a sinner becomes a blood bought child of God, they are subject to all the laws of God. Then, the laws of God apply. Then can one be sent to hell for a murder. Then can one be sent to hell for sin.

On the Day of Pentecost, Peter told the gathered crowd that God had made this Jesus both Lord (controller) and Christ (Messiah.) They realized that their actions had caused the death of the one that came to save them. Jesus was the Messiah promised from the Garden of Eden to bruise the head of Satan. Jesus was the promised one of Isaiah. They were convicted (pricked .. stung to the quick) in their hearts, not of their individual sins, but the knowledge that their sins, individually and collectively, brought about the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, and this knowledge was unbearable to their souls, and for this reason they cried out, “What must we do?”

Peter did not point them out individually and recount their sins. There was only one thing they needed to know. They needed to know that their sins placed Jesus on the cross. Their sins made them worthy of the death that Jesus died, and yet, He took their place.

There is a difference between convicting and accusing. When we stand in our position of imagined superiority and point our finger of judgment at those around us, we are not convicting. We are accusing.

I wonder if at times, if we listened closely, we might hear Jesus saying, “Ye know not what spirit ye are of.”

Luke 9:51-56

And it came to pass, when the time was come that he should be received up, he stedfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem,

And sent messengers before his face: and they went, and entered into a village of the Samaritans, to make ready for him.

And they did not receive him, because his face was as though he would go to Jerusalem.

And when his disciples James and John saw this, they said, Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elias did?

But he turned, and rebuked them, and said, Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of.

For the Son of man is not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them. And they went to another village.

What spirit are we manifesting when we speak derogatorily of sinners? What spirit is it that seeks to destroy with the raining fire of words? In the scripture just read, it is obviously not the Spirit of Jesus. Since Jesus remains the same yesterday, today, and forever, we can extrapolate that it is no more acceptable today than it was then. These were not words that Jesus was fine with. These were words, exemplifying a spirit that Jesus felt was worthy of rebuke.

John Tillotson, Archbishop of Canterbury (1691-1694), said, “Let us never do anything for religion which is contrary to religion” We need to check the motive for our religious zeal. James and John were, no doubt, motivated by the long standing prejudice the Jews had against the Samaritans. This seething hatred was such that if a Jews accidentally brushed against a Samaritan in the street, he would immediately find a place to wash himself.

Have we, as Children of God, become so intolerable that we cannot see past the sin to find the redeemable heart of the sinner?

Have we forgotten, as Paul stated, that we may have been the chiefest of all sinners?

Have we forgotten that but for the grace of God, that might be us?

We cannot win a soul after we have murdered it.

1 Corinthians 6:9-12

9 Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind,

10 Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.

11 And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.

12 All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.

Here in Corinthians, Paul gives a litany of those that will not inherit the kingdom of God. He goes through his list; not these or those, not this one or that one, not this sin or that sin, will inherit the kingdom. Then, when he is finished with his list, he adds, for the sake of all those listening and reading, “And such were some of you:”

We are sinners that have been washed (cleaned.) We have been sanctified (set apart for a purpose.) We have been justified (Conviction overturned.)

John 13.35 .. “by this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if you have love one to another.”

‘Have love’ In the original text, have is ‘echo’ and the verb for love is ‘agape’. ‘Agape is one of three primary Greek words for love. Each is similar and diverse in meaning. I like to use the words ‘give’ and ‘take’ to describe them.

The first is ‘eros’ from which we get the word erotic. ‘Eros” is a destructive love. It is a take/take love. It does not give anything back to the giver. It drains the giver of strength and vitality.

The second word is ‘phileo’. It is a brotherly type of love. Philadelphia is the city of brotherly love derived from the Greek words ‘phileo’ and ‘delpha’ ‘Phileo –brotherly love. ‘Delphia’ – city. This is a give/take love. It is the most common love.

The third is ‘agape’. This is a sacrificial love. It is a give/give love. It is a love not based on performance. This is the word used in John 13.35.

Jesus was saying, when the sacrificial love of God echoes through us, all men will know that we are the children/disciples of God.

We need to learn to speak against sin without speaking against the sinner. When we can do this, we begin to have the heart of the soul winner. We must condemn the sin without condemning the sinner. We must condemn the theft without condemning the thief. We must condemn the murder while reaching out to the murder. We must condemn homosexuality while reach out to the homosexual.

Genesis 18.20-31 .. here we find Abraham pleading for the souls of the sinners living in Sodom. Even if one would claim he was concerned about the soul of his nephew in the city, he was still pleading for souls in the city. He was asking that the entire city be spared.

1Corinthians 3:6 “I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase.” What is that watering? It is the tears of the soul winner pleading for lost souls. I can see saints in churches as they cry tears for their lost children. I can see them as they plead for the souls of their families. Who cries for Ruth? You know Ruth. She was the Moabite daughter-in-law of Naomi. She was a pagan. Her tribe was an enemy of Israel. She and her descendants, by Mosaic Law, were not permitted to enter into the congregation for ten generations. Who cries for the Ruths of the world? Who cries for those without heritage? My Pastor will tell you that he didn’t grow up in this. He didn’t know the Lord in his youth or through his family. I am third generation church family. My grandmother came to God years before I was born. My father came to God before I was born. My father became a pastor when I was three years old. I grew up in this. Who cries for Ruth? She had no heritage which brought her to God. Someone, with the heart of a soul winner, cried for her. She was the great grandmother of David, the greatest King of Israel.

Jude 1.23 “and others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh.”

The soul winner reaches beyond the sin to find the heart of the sinner.

The Bible reminds us that, while we are saved from sin, we were once sinners.

1st John 4:20 “If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?”

It might be easy, at first glance to dismiss this scripture as meaning only those of like faith, but closer inspection does not hold up the belief.

The word ‘hateth’ is ‘miseo’ which means ‘to detest, especially to persecute, by implication, to love less’.

The word for ‘love’ in this scripture is ‘agape’. Yes, it is the sacrificial kind.

The word ‘brother’ and find it to be ‘adelphos’ which means ‘ a common birth’ or the family of mankind.

Even if we seek to dismiss the general usage of the word for brother and try to narrow it down to just the family of believers, are we then saying that it is okay to hate some, as long as they are not believers?

The scriptures do not uphold such a narrow view of our responsibility to express and show the love of God in our daily lives.

1 John 4:11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love (agape’) one another.

1 John 3:11 For this is the message that ye heard from the beginning, that we should love (agape’)one another.

1 John 3:14 We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love(agape’) the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death.

What is ‘passing from death unto life’? The scriptures tell us that we were once dead in sins. It further tells us that ‘whom the spirit hath made alive is alive indeed’.

1Corinthians 15:22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.

1 John 3:18 My little children, let us not love (agape’) in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.

1 John 3:23 And this is his commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love (agape’) one another, as he gave us commandment.

Matt 22:36-39 Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love (agape’) thy neighbour as thyself.

Mark 12:28-31 And one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, and perceiving that he had answered them well, asked him, Which is the first commandment of all? And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love (agape’) thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.

Luke 10:29-37 But he, willing to justify himself, said unto Jesus, And who is my neighbour? And Jesus answering said, A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him, And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee. Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves? And he said, He that shewed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise.

John 15:12 This is my commandment, That ye love (agape’) one another, as I have loved you.

Galatians 5:14 For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love (agape’) thy neighbour as thyself.

1 Thessalonians 4:9 But as touching brotherly love ye need not that I write unto you: for ye yourselves are taught of God to love (agape’) one another.

1 Peter 4:7-9 But the end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer. And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins. Use hospitality (philoxenos .. love of strangers) one to another without grudging.

Clearly, the scriptures show that we have a mandate from God to love others.

What is the soul winner’s heart? It is the heart that loves.

Are we so afraid that the conversion we experienced will somehow be diminished but loving sinners, that we have constructed a wall with the materials God gave us to build a bridge?

A term used many times in the Bible dealing with the interaction between opposing sides of an issue is ‘persecute’ which has the base word meaning ‘to flee’. When we persecute others, we seek to cause them to flee from us. When we use harsh derogatory words, we seek to create a space between those we persecute and ourselves. We seek to build a wall. It is an ironic thing about being walled in, in that, while things cannot get in to you, the things you are commanded to display cannot escape. We cannot show the love of God from behind our walled fear.

The heart of the soul winner is an open heart.

I accept the every person has a God given right to make their own choice, guided or misguided, of how they want to live their lives. Accepting this does not mean I accept that it is okay to steal. I do not accept that it is okay to kill. I do not accept that it is okay to lie. I do not accept that it is okay to be a fornicator or adulterer. I do accept that, as a child of God, I will show love to those that do these things. This does not make it alright. This does not change the holiness of God. This does not change the scripture. This does not diminish my salvation or walk with God. This simply makes me accessible to win souls for the Kingdom of God.

I heard someone say once (sadly, from a pulpit,) “Do we want this kind of person in our church?” (speaking of a specific sin.)

I will answer without reservation.


· I want sinners in my church.

· I want liars in my church.

· I want thieves in my church.

· I want gays in my church.

· I want adulterers in my church.

· I want fornicators in my church.

Luke 5:31 And Jesus answering said unto them, They that are whole need not a physician; but they that are sick.

Lord, give me the soul winner’s heart.

Create in me, a clean heart, one not defiled with hatred and prejudice, one not shackled by fear and intolerance of my brother, washed or unwashed, one filled to overflowing with your love and mercy, and willing to reach out to lost humanity.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Moving into a relationship with God.

Deuteronomy 6.4-5

Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD: And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.

This is the advice of Moses before he goes into the mountain to die. He knows his time is near and he wants to impart to the Children of Israel the words he feels are important for them to keep.

His words: The Lord is one Lord and love the Lord thy God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.

The core of his message to the Children of Israel is not to adhere to the commands of Joshua, even though that is important. It is not the avoidance of the immorality of the Philistine culture that they will encounter over the mountain in the promise land, which is also of large importance. Moses understood that if the Children of Israel could just love God with everything they had, everything else would fall into its proper place.

Love God! It is that simple.

Jesus' take on it: The Kingdom of God is like a treasure buried in a field. A man, when he finds it, sells all he has to purchase that field.

In that day, there were no safety deposit boxes to keep your valuables. Your home security system was to be ever watchful. There were no hidden bedroom safes. One way to protect your valuables was to bury them. This is not something you would tell people. It was a secret place. The land would pass to sons and then to the sons of sons. The secret would be passed on as well. However, suppose a tragedy claimed the life of an owner with no one to continue to work the land. The secret dies with the owner. The land is on the market.

The law of the day was that whoever owned the land, owned anything found in it or under it. This man, passing through the field finds the treasure. He goes to buy the land. The cost is high. He sells everything he owns to get the purchase price. He knows there are immeasurable riches to be found on the land.

If we love God, we will desire to do that which is right in His sight.

A kindergarten class was working on their art projects. One particular little girl was working diligently on her drawing. The teacher asked her what she was drawing. "I am drawing God," was the reply. "Sweetheart," the teacher responded, "no one knows what God looks like." Without missing a stroke in her drawing, the little girl replied, "They will in a minute."

We have varying ideas of who God is. Sometimes those ideas are motivated by what we need at the time. How do we see Jesus?

· Bobble-head Jesus

o God is there when I want to consider Him. He is there when I need to know He is there. He is there to uplift my day. He is there to remind me we have a relationship. He is our good luck charm. When my day becomes hard or unbearable, I can look to the bobble-head Jesus and be encouraged.

· Action Figure Jesus

o Jesus is there when I need Him to come to my rescue. He is off in his secret identity most of the time. He is unobtrusive. He moves in and out of my life unawares. However, when I need him, He slips on that cape and swoops down and rescues me.

· Baby Jesus

o Jesus is still there in the manger. He is the hope of the world. He is the answer to prayers. He requires nothing of me other than believing that he is. When the world is chaotic, I can look to the manger and know that my Savior lives.

· Shroud of Turin Jesus

o He is my mystical and metaphysical Jesus. He operates in a higher plane. He is off solving world issues. He doesn’t have time to worry about my car keys or my electric bill. He is full of mystery and wonder.

· Shepherd Jesus

o This is the one that leaves the 99 and searches for me when I have gone astray. He finds me in my tears and lifts me to His shoulder. He comforts me. Nestled in His arms, I can feel the peace of His heartbeat. He finds me when I am lost. He returns me to the fold.

· Soft and Tender Jesus

o This is like the Jesus that wrote in the sand as the woman faced her accusers and accused her not. When I make a mistake, He does not come in judgment. He shows love and forgiveness. When I falter and when I fail, He is kind and nurturing.

· Tough Guy Jesus

o This is the Jesus that can be seen taking a stand and protecting me. He is like the Jesus that chased the crooks from the temple. He will rout the forces of the enemy for the sake of my soul. He is swift in His action against the enemies of my soul.

· Holy Jesus

o He is the standard by which the world shall be judged. He is the plumb line. He is the measurement by which we will be assessed. He is the reflection by which the actions of the world will be arbitrated.

· Suffering Jesus

o He is the sufferer of the consequence of sin. He is on the cross. I can see His blood dripping. I can see the sweat. I can hear the crowd call for His death. I can hear the soldiers casting lots for his garment. I can hear the cries of His earthly mother. I can see the anguish of His followers.

To which role have we relegated Jesus in our lives?

Moses summed it up nicely. The Lord is one God. He is the all in all. He is the express image of an invisible God. He is the reminder of our faith. He is our defense. He is our strong tower. He is our peace that passes all understanding. He is our metaphysical wonder working God. He is our Great Shepherd. He is gentle and caring to us ward and yet He is a powerful force against evil. He is Holy. He is the plumb line in the midst of the people. He is the suffering Christ, the recompense of my sins, the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world, the one everlasting sacrifice for my sins.

He goes on to tell us that we are to love Him as such. We are to love Him as He is one. We are to love undivided. Our love is to be with all of our heart. It is to be with all of our soul. It is to be with all of our strength.

When Jesus was questioned as to which commandment was the greatest, He responded “And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.”

This goes far beyond so rules scribbled on tables of stone.

There comes a time when we must abandon religion for a relationship.

Too many have a checklist relationship.

Pay tithes

Dress holy

Attend church

Pray daily

Fast weekly

Witness to people

We must stop measuring our Christianity by our neighbor’s yardstick (religion) and worry about how God feels about our life (relationship.) Religion is external. A relationship is internal.

"God loves me more because I do this or I do that," or "I love God more because I do this or I do that."

That is the spirit of the elder brother. When the prodigal lost son returned and the feast was given, he refused to attend and celebrate the return of his brother. He bemoaned, "I have served you faithfully and you never gave me a feast." He had his checklist.

Stay home

Keep the flocks

Labor for Father

Keep the commandments

"See here, Father. I have done this, and this, and this."

The elder brother was as wrong in his spirit as the younger brother was in his actions. He was resting on his religiosity. He was convinced that the culmination of his good acts was to be enough. However, his bitter spirit was hurt when the Father gave a blessing to someone he felt was undeserving.

There is a line in a song by Casting Crowns that says, “Jesus paid much too high a price for us to pick and choose who should come.”

Religion draws the lines. Religion identifies by outward acts. Please understand, I am not denying that there are to be outward acts and signs. When we come to a new relationship with God, we will walk differently. The Word says we will walk in newness. Old things are to pass away. All things will become new. “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” 2 Corinthians 5:17

There will be an instantaneous and continuing change in our lives. However, this change will be the result of a new relationship, not a new religion. Paul. In his letter to the church at Corinth, told us, “Forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart.” 2 Corinthians 3:3

God did not save or deliver Israel because they were good, but because He was good. The Ten Commandments were a reminder of what a life dedicated to God looks like. They were never meant to be the checklist for religion. The rich young ruler came to Jesus asking what he had to do. Jesus told him to obey the commandments. He proudly displayed his checklist. "I have done all of these from my youth." Jesus looked at him and loved him. Jesus saw a man that was ready to move beyond religion and into a relationship. "Sell all you have, take up the cross, and follow me."

It was time for that young man to move beyond religion. It was time to move into a relationship.

There comes a time when we must push beyond the rules of religion and move into the freedom of a relationship. Those that love God with all their hearts, mind, and strength, desire to do the things which please Him. This is freeing. Rules of religiosity are confining.

Let me show you the difference.

A person living a religious life can often be heard complaining about the life. There are too many ‘cannot dos’ and not enough ‘can dos’. They will describe their life by their actions. If you ask them about their salvation, they will tell you the rules of their religion. “I do because the church says so.”

A person in a relationship with God will answer the question with a glowing monologue about the goodness of their Savior. The conversation will be about blessings and goodness. The talk of service will be a joyful service. “I do because I love God.”

Where are you?

Are you living a checklist life or do you have a real relationship with God?

There is a definitive difference in the ways we treat infants, toddlers, children, teens, and adults. When our children are small, we surround them with protections. We make the house safe. We put outlet covers on unused outlets to prevent electrocution. As they grow, we establish rules to protect them. We have a checklist. Do this and don't do this. Eventually, we hope they have reached the time when they have learned enough and have their own relationship with right and wrong. We remove the rules. We remove the protections. We trust that our training has taken hold.

Paul said in his letter to the Hebrew Church, "Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment." Is Paul saying that these things are no longer important or necessary? No, he is saying that we know them well enough that they do not need to be rehearsed daily in our ears. It is time to move from the religion to the relationship.

Earlier in his letter to this church, he challenged them with, "For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil."

Paul is telling them, at this time they should be moving into a deeper relationship with God. There will always be a need for teacher, but they should be the teachers by this time. They should have left the checklist of religions and moved into the freedom of willing service in a relationship.

Where are you?

Do you converse openly and freely with God concerning the contents of your life and the way you live, or do you have a by-law book in your hand?

I cannot emphasis enough how much I believe there is a standard of holiness to which Christians will gravitate and to which they will adhere. Those in a relationship with God will live holy. They will joyously relinquish the things of the world for the things of God.

You can set your timer and pray for an hour and never really talk to God at all. When you have a relationship, the conversation comes.

You can set days and/or meals to fast and never really reach a sacrificial level. When you have a relationship, the sacrifice comes with joy.

I am not talking about a free loving, live any way you want, lifestyle. But, we do need to understand that God is looking for those to worship him in spirit and truth. He is looking for the same thing today that He was looking for when He created Adam and Eve. He is looking for individuals to make a choice to have a relationship with Him.

He is looking for those that will love him with all of their hearts, with all of their minds, and with all of their strength.

There are as many issues as there are pet peeves. Paul addressed a church that had issues with others in the same congregation. They took umbrage with those that were uncircumcised. Paul told them that circumcision was under the law. Jesus fulfilled the law. If they, the detractors, chose to live under that old law, they would die under that old law, in it was not perfect, or a perfect sacrifice would not have needed to be made.

Put away your yardstick of religion and get a relationship.

Seek God.

Find the one true God.

Love Him:

With all of your heart,

With all of your soul,

And with all of your strength.

Then, and only then, will you move past religion and into a relationship.