Archive for February 2011

Evangelism 3

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Evangelism 3 – Method & Message

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For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." Mark 10v45

Jesus Christ was the man born to die – this is what we celebrate at Christmas – when God who is outside of both time and space, entered history in the form of a human baby. His purpose as explained in Mark 10v45 was “to give his life as a ransom for many.” The Apostle Paul also preached this, but what was his methods and his message in full?

Paul’s Method

Reasoned from the Scriptures

  • Paul knew that Scripture had been revealed, inspired and illuminated by God
  • Paul knew that Scripture equipped for service
  • Paul knew that Scripture helped get to know God more
  • Paul knew that Scripture revealed God’s programme
  • Paul knew that getting to know Scripture was vital in order to be used in Evangelism.

Meet where people are

  • Synagogue (Acts 18v4, 6)
  • Market place / work (Acts 18v3)
  • Invited people to home (Acts 18v7)
  • Forged relationships (Acts 18v2, 8, 17)
  • Prepared to change strategy (Acts 18v6)
  • Paul overcame his own fears and limitations of his own weaknesses and relied totally on God’s power when witnessing

Why is the cross so central to the Gospel?

Paul’s Gospel was “Jesus and Him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2v2). The Gospel is the cross! As important as the incarnation, resurrection and ascension are, without Jesus’ death on the cross there would be no Christianity, and subsequently no hope for the world! Therefore, the interpretation that we place on Jesus’ death is paramount! That He died is without doubt, but why did He have to die and what gain do we have as His Disciples?

The Gospel Message!

By His very nature, God is loving and compassionate, forgiving, faithful and slow to anger (Exodus 34v6-7). This is the part, if we are being honest all of us are most comfortable with!! Yet God is holy, righteous and just and must punish sin because of this very same nature. That is the part we as 21st century people are uncomfortable with! We love to think of God as being all love and gentleness, but don’t like to think of Him as a Judge who must punish disobedience.

But remember that God loves righteousness and hates wickedness (Psalm 45v7). Therefore sin & disobedience must be dealt with and it cannot simply be ignored. Sin is humanity’s problem.

The Problem - Humanity's sin

Sin is what separates humans from God and as a consequence leads to both a spiritual and physical death (Romans 6v23, Isaiah 59v2). Nobody escapes as all have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory (Romans 3v23). In the Old Testament, sins were dealt with by blood sacrifices of atonement as coverings for sin (Leviticus 17v11), for without the shedding of blood there can be no remission of sin (Hebrews 9v22).

The Solution – God to the rescue!

The solution lies not in continual animal sacrifice of the Old Testament because Hebrews 10v4 reminds us that the blood of animals cannot take away sin but was only a veneer or covering. That was why it was necessary to repeat time and time again! It is only through the death of Jesus, that sin is taken away (Hebrews 9:v11-15, 26-28), and that was only needed once! Therefore Jesus is our permanent sacrificial substitute! That is why the elements of bread and wine in Communion or Breaking of Bread are symbolic, and not somehow changed into actual flesh and blood, as some would have us believe.

Substitution

Jesus died for our sin, the just for the unjust (1 Peter 3v18). That is how God is both just and the Justifier of sinners and that is why Jesus needed to be both fully God and fully human! If he lacked either, it would not be the full substitutionary sacrifice that was necessary to bear the permanent consequences of sin! This substitution was the sacrifice, required in order that Jesus as the Lamb of God could take away the sins of the world (John 1v29). He was the propitiation for all sin!

Propitiation

Propitiation is the turning aside of God's anger by the offering of the sacrifice of Christ. Towards sin and sinful behaviour God necessarily has great fury, anger and wrath (Jeremiah 21v5). Hebrews 10v30-31 reminds us, “It is dreadful to fall into the hands of the living God.” Yet as Micah 7v18 “He is slow to anger and quick to forgive”. God's anger and judgment of sin falls on Christ, instead of us. We need to approach God to appease His anger, in order to accept it (Romans 3:25; Isaiah 53:5; John 2:2, 5:6).

1 John 4v10: This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice (or propitiation) to take away our sins.

To some people, even some in the church, this is abhorrent! The very thought that God could willing send His son to be a blood sacrifice for sin is tantamount to child abuse! Richard Dawkins calls Jesus’ crucifixion an act of sado-masochism! Neither of these opinions is valid or true. God’s requirements are very clear as John 3v16 says it all in response to this “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life”. If there were any other way, would not God have done it that way?

Redemption (Ransom) Mark 10:45

Not only was it propitiation, but also an act of redemption! In the time of the New Testament, this word was used to refer to the buying back of a slave - the price paid to buy the slave’s freedom. God paid redemption so that humans can be freed from the slavery to sin (John 8:35 Romans 7:14). The price was paid (1 Peter 1:18-19) and so we are redeemed with the precious blood of Christ (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). As Christian Disciples, we are bought at a price, and we have a new position before God! We are bought out of slavery to sin, into glorious freedom where we are now slaves to righteousness (Romans 6:19); slaves to Christ (Romans 6:22). We are also Jesus Christ’s personal possession (1 Corinthians 16:19). But it is our responsibility to choose that way! God does not coerce forcefully – He leaves it as a choice for humans to make as individuals.

What is our response to this to be? Sacrifice, substitution, propitiation and redemption can be summed up in one word: love. For 1 John 3v16 states: “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.” Jesus told us to take up our cross if we are to follow Him as His Disciple (Luke 9v23). Are you as a Christian Disciple willing to take up your cross and do all you can do to love others?

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For more to think about please do read Acts 17 & 18, ask yourself the following questions, writing them down if you can, and see how you respond or react to them. Then why not share your answers with your spouse or a close friend, so that you can pray over any issues together.

Q1. When I evangelise, what is the message I proclaim?

Q2. What can I adapt from Paul’s methods in order to help my evangelise?

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Evangelism 2

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Evangelism 2 – Endure

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But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry. 2 Timothy 4v5

Dealing with Evangelism

All Christian Disciples are called to do the work of evangelism.  Not everyone will be an evangelist, yet we are called to tell and show others about Jesus – that is evangelism.

a. Overcoming barriers. There are at least six main reasons why Christian Disciples do not evangelise:

  • · Do not know the bible well enough to answer questions
  • · Entire friends are already Christian Disciples
  • · Testimony is perceived to be dull and tedious
  • · Others will wonder what took you so long, if you evangelise them now
  • · Don't know if my friends are true Christian Disciples or not
  • · There is no easy way to tell the Gospel

Christian Disciples overcoming these hindrances, are then liberated to evangelise their local community.

b. Early starters! New believers were actively encouraged to evangelise from the time of their conversion. There seems as if there was not a two step process of conversion and then later undergoing evangelism training. More likely, that they gained perceptions about evangelism, whilst they were being evangelised. Evangelism is to be what a Christian Disciple is, rather than an activity that a Christian Disciple engages in.

c. Changing perceptions! The approach to evangelism has changed over the last few years. As Christian Disciples, it is the job of all Christian Disciples to evangelise and witness about Jesus, using the skills and perceptions they inherently hold.  We are not to leave it up the Billy Graham’s and Luis Palau’s of this world. There is not just one style of evangelism. Interpersonal, invitational, serving, testimonial intellectual or confrontational styles are available for churches and Christian Disciples to use. An Christian Disciple's use of any or all of these styles would be dependent on their own personality, talents and skills.

d. Lead by example! New Testament church leaders led by example, and actively persuaded others to do as they did. Paul commanded that the Corinthian church follow him as he imitated Jesus (1 Corinthians 11v1) This is a model imbued with dynamism, by which others can go on doing the work in their own way, without relying upon the church leaders!

e. Lead by teaching! As evangelism is prayed about, activated upon, discussed and enacted, Christian Disciples undergo evangelism training, even if they aren't aware of it at the time. A good method is for training to be given, not just as a one off exercise but throughout the year. The reason for this, is so that every member has an opportunity to undergo some formal training when it is convenient for them as they see the leadership committed to evangelistic training! This training needs to be promoted from the front, so that every member can see the seriousness that the leadership think about evangelism. Bill Hybels recommends that every member of his church undergo evangelism training every two years!.

f. Neither powerless or alone! The main lesson for Christian Disciples to learn, is that evangelism can only truly be effective when undertaken under an umbrella of prayer and the work of the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit's power and authority, which allows the skills and talents of all people to be used as effective Gospel messengers. As Christian Disciples we need to continue reminding ourselves that it is Jesus Christ who is building the church, and that with the Holy Spirit's power, we are neither alone nor powerless! After all, He is a Holy Spirit of evangelism.  That is why as Christian Disciples, we need not fear the supposed rise of fundamental atheism or any other religion or –“ism”.  We have the power of the Living God within us, to equip and use us for His glory and mission.  People may be able to remove the supposed ‘spirit of Christmas’ from schools and other government buildings, but they can never take away the Spirit of Christ that indwells all Christian disciples.

g. Innovative evangelism! Not only would this make it new for the congregation, but possibly add an element of excitement, particularly if old evangelistic methods are being employed, and seemingly ineffective. Some ideas such as, having a prayer stall at the local market, or taking over a vacant shop on the high street for the explicit purpose of praying for people. The church could offer the use of its website as a local community forum, or 'virtual local community hall, for community notices. Another way would be to hold internet-based events and/or forums, so that those who are housebound or are part of what some call the Internet Generation, have a platform to converse and discover about Christianity, particular for their youth and student work. Rightly or wrongly, the truth is that people are gathering like that, and discussing Christian issues. New methods also can be seen as making use of every opportunity, or as Michael Green puts it “godly opportunism”.

When in Corinth, despite his nervousness and worries, Paul knew God was in control (Acts18v10) and that’s why he stayed a further 18 months following his vision where God promised protection, security and companionship (Acts18v11).  Paul endured in the face of opposition (Acts18v12-16).  The Jews went to the Roman proconsul Gallio, complaining that Paul had started a new religion, for starting new religions was forbidden under Roman law.  Anything that was a religion before the Romans assimilated was seen as a legitimate religion ie Judaism.  Gallio however dismissed the Jewish case as mere internal bickering about minor details, and kicked the case out of court as it were.  In doing so, Gallio had now made Christianity a legitimate religion within the Roman Empire, and this is why Paul stayed in Corinth a good deal longer (Acts18v18).  Paul did not succumb to the temptations around him, because he only sought one thing – to declare “Jesus and Him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2v2).  Perhaps that is how Paul won Sosthenes for Jesus Christ, as we read in 1 Corinthians 1v1, how he was travelling with Paul at the time of writing.

The world around likes to play clever tricks with us, just as the Jews did with Paul in Corinth.  But we are to be, as Jesus commanded in Matthew 10v16, “shrewd as snakes and harmless as doves.” We are to stay faithful to Jesus and sometimes it is difficult! It means staying faithful to Jesus and His will, regardless of opposition and alternatives. By doing this we endure and remain faithful to Him.

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For more to think about please do read 1 Thessalonians 1v3-10, ask yourself the following questions, writing them down if you can, and see how you respond or react to them.  Then why not share your answers with your spouse or a close friend, so that you can pray over any issues together.

Q1. What are the barriers that you need to overcome in order for you to evangelise?

Q2. Are you enduring and being persistent in your Christian lifestyle and evangelism?

Q3. How am I as a Christian Disciple, living a life that is shrewd like a snake and harmless as a dove?

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Evangelism 1

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Evangelism 1

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Paul writing in 1 Corinthians 2v1-5 regarding his first contact with the city of Corinth: “When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit's power, so that your faith might not rest on men's wisdom, but on God's power.”

When he was going the 50 miles or so from Athens to Corinth, Paul was alone.  He had left the intellectual centre of the ancient world, Athens, and entered Corinth, the cultural capital of the ancient world.  Do you sometimes think that Paul was like a superman, always brash and utterly confident when engaged in evangelism? According to that passage, he entered with great nervousness, weakness and fear.  He was not confident in his own ability or the way that he spoke and reasoned.  But why should Paul have been this way with the city of Corinth?

Corinth

The city of Corinth is located on the narrow isthmus linking northern and southern Greece.  It had two ports on either side, where small ships and boats could be dragged on greased planks the 3-mile journey across the isthmus, thus saving themselves a 200-mile journey through dangerous waters.  It was therefore a natural place for fantastic links for commerce and culture across the known world.  The world famous Isthmian games were held there. Paul’s reasoning for deciding to go there was probably along the lines of “If its good enough for commerce and culture to be spread from Corinth, even better for the Gospel to travel far and wide from that hub.” So he enters Corinth. But alas, with culture and commerce came its evil triplet – immorality.  The temple, which overlooked Corinth, was dedicated to the goddess Aphrodite and had 1,000 prostitutes.  Aphrodite was the goddess of love and sex.  In those days to go “corinthianizing”, meant to go actively seeking immorality.  These reasons are why Paul entered Corinth nervously – the proud and cultural intelligentsia, endemic immorality and the many temples to many gods including Aphrodite and Poseidon.  The Corinthians were post-modern people, even before post-modernity!  Their motto – “If it feels good, do it!”

Paul

Paul was nervous and weak in his own strength, but he was supremely confident in the Lord and the power of the Spirit to use him.  What can we learn from Paul’s visit to Corinth and how do we apply them to our lives today in the 21st century?  After all our modern cities and towns are no different from ancient Corinth!

Evangelism

Paul’s Message – The Gospel

  • The Gospel is Trinitarian – The Gospel is The Father’s mysterious revelation through the Son’s work on the cross in the power of the Spirit
  • The Gospel is Three Dimensional
  • Breadth of the Bible – all of Scripture is about God’s plan of Salvation.
  • Depth of the cross
  • Length of God’s mission

The Gospel is anathema and unpopular.  The Gospel is never popular, and if it is, then it is not a truly Biblically Gospel.  We have a false Gospel being preached where financial prosperity is the central claim.  We have a false Gospel where Jesus is a cure all being the central claim.  For Paul, and for all true Christian Disciples, “Jesus and Him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2v2) is the true Gospel.

Paul faced Jewish opposition

  • To the Jewish mindset, it was unthinkable that the Messiah would be crucified on a pagan Gentile cross (Acts18v6, 12-17).

Paul faced Gentile opposition

  • Jesus’ exclusive claim to be the only way, the only truth and only life challenged Corinthian pluralism & universalism!  The Corinthians lived a life filled with many gods, why would they want to settle for just the One – particularly one who had died?

· A life of holiness challenged Corinthian immorality!  Exercise self-control?  You are having a laugh, Paul.  Ha ha.

  • God’s power challenged Corinthian cultured intellect!  Some of the Athenians told Paul he was a babbler, and so would have the cultured and refined Corinthian intelligentsia.
  • Humility challenged Corinthian pride.  To kneel at the cross, takes great humility.  The Corinthians were a proud and cultured people, to whom the thought of humbly kneeling before a God was anathema.  Much better to be devoting yourself to a goddess of sex.  What more could a young Corinthian want than the mixture of religion and sex?

The same applies today.  We are shouted down if we dare exclaim that Jesus is the only acceptable path to God.  We are told there are no such thing as moral absolutes any more, and what’s right for you may not be right for me and providing I am not hurting anyone, stay out of my private business.  Sex and sexuality are worshipped and adored as if they were gods in themselves.  In an age of Scientific materialism and hyper-rationalism, people cynically laugh at us and say that we worship a dead man. We are often called fools for believing in Original Sin and deluded for believing in a God.  Have you been called those things? I know I have.  Humility is not looked upon as a strength today, its frowned upon as a weakness.  The world says that if you want to get ahead in life, you need to be strong, show some backbone and don’t ever back down to anybody or anything.  Certainly never admit you were wrong and had made mistakes!  The way of the Gospel is to kneel before the Cross, admit your mistakes and sins and be prepared to serve and take up your own cross.

The world is quite willing to accept a harmless baby at Christmas, but not the violence of the cross that followed.  That is why even atheists like Richard Dawkins like to sing Christmas Carols!  The danger of Christmas is when the glorious incarnation of Jesus Christ, being both fully God and fully human, is diluted into fantasy along with Santa and his elves.

For more to think about please do read Acts 18v1-17, ask yourself the following questions, writing them down if you can, and see how you respond or react to them.  Then why not share your answers with your spouse or a close friend, so that you can pray over any issues together.

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Q1. Am I using all opportunities to build relationships and tell others a truly biblical cross-centred Gospel?

Q2. Am I growing and changing into the very likeness of Jesus?

There are 2 more about Evangelism over the next 2 days! Stay tuned!

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Doubt

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Dealing with Doubt

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Jeremiah in Lamentations 5v20-22 writes “Why do you always forget us? Why do you forsake us so long? Restore us to yourself, O LORD, that we may return; renew our days as of old unless you have utterly rejected us and are angry with us beyond measure.”

Living the Christian Life

When you became a Christian, you started an exciting journey in the Christian life. Success in the Christian life is not an accident, but rather it is a direct result of living in harmony with the basic principles of life set forth in the Bible.  The Christian life is not a matter of expecting spiritual maturity to occur overnight.  The Bible lays down standards and principles of living which we need to follow with God’s strength, if we are to continue living at peace with God, our fellow men, and ourselves.  We need to know what God expects of us and what guidelines He has given us to achieve this quality of life.  As we apply the principles and guidelines of Bible to our lives, we are transformed into the likeness of Christ – which is the journey we are on (Romans 8:28-29; 2 Corinthians 3v18).

Jesus said ‘I have come to bring them life in all its fullness’ (John 10:10). This is achieved as we allow Jesus Christ to live this life through us so that we start to think and respond like He does, to the people and circumstances around us.  We need to learn how to see circumstances and people from God’s perspective, rather than reacting on the basis of feelings.  When we respond to circumstances on the basis of our feelings that is when conflict, stress, tension and depression enter.  When we respond to circumstances by looking from God’s perspective, it builds and shows a transformed character as we become more like Jesus.

When Doubt Sets In

However, it is a very rare person indeed who has not suffered some form of doubt, and asking questions similar to that of Jeremiah in the passage of Lamentations I read earlier.  By doubt, I do not mean as in doubting God’s very existence, but rather doubting some aspect of the Christian life such as assurance of salvation, any of the other of God’s promises or doubting an attribute of God such as His innate sovereignty or His infinite goodness.

When your doubt arises concerning God’s assured promise of salvation of you; that usually occurs after engaging in wilful sin or having lost a spiritual battle.  Doubting God’s sovereignty will usually occur after experiencing a great personal tragedy or of reading about an international disaster.  When this occurs, it is important to have faith.  Have faith in your knowledge of Scripture, and to trust in its authority as God’s Word.  When we sin, not only do we forget who we are as His children, but we also doubt what God has said is true in the Bible.  The Christian Disciple leans to believe and trust God regardless of circumstances however divergent the experience is or was.

Origins of Doubt

The originator of a lot of doubt in the life of a Christian Disciple is Satan, just as it was for Adam in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3v1).  Remember that Satan roams the earth like a devouring lion in order to stop Christian Disciples trusting in God and their testimony about God’s goodness (1 Peter 5v8).

Another source of doubt is the world we live in, with its own moral codes and perceived wisdom contrary to that of God expressed in the Bible.  Whereas the Christian Disciple gains wisdom from God through having the indwelling Holy Spirit and reading the Bible, the world often has wisdom that is contrary.  One only has to look at the perceived wisdom of atheistic scientific materialism countering the Christian arguments.

One final source of doubt, is the spiritual immaturity of the Christian Disciple.  Doubting prayer works is often down to being double minded (James 1v8).  Elsewhere Paul writes that doubt arises because of not knowing the basic doctrines of God (Ephesians 4v14).  This source of doubt is only defeated through experience and having a maturing, disciplined life of obedience through prayer, studying the Bible and allowing the Holy Spirit to transform.  In doing these things, the relationship between God and a Christian Disciple is nurtured and growing.

Overcoming Doubt

Confess – Confess your doubt as sin to God, and He will listen and cleanse you (1 John 1:9).  If doubts persist,  try talking to somebody whom you trust and confessed to them of your doubts, and they may well be able to help you (James 5v16).

Salvation – have assurance of salvation.  Be assured and let your mind be controlled by the Holy Spirit, so that you are not led astray.  Your salvation rests in nothing apart from God’s promises and Jesus’ righteousness!  Test yourself as Paul exhorts in 2 Corinthians 13v5.

Righteousness - live a righteous life.  Live the truth! When we started as a Christian Disciple, before God we were given the righteousness of Jesus!  But that righteousness needs to be lived out in the lives of Christian Disciples.  Living right helps overcome any doubts!

Faith – show total trust in God for your life.  The faith we have is a defensive weapon against the mistruths the doubts that enter our minds.  By maintaining our trust in God’s promises and God’s power, doubts are extinguished.

Bible - read and study God’s Word so as to know, understand and live truth. Our lives are to be controlled by truth as revealed in Bible. When we know truth so well, we can recognize the lies that we are told!  The Word of God, the Bible, is there to be studied diligently so that by trusting in the Holy Spirit to lead and reveal it to us, we get to know God and His promises!  We are to grow in grace and in the knowledge of Jesus according to 2 Peter 3v18 and that is only achieved through studying the Bible!  Then when we hear that nagging little voice that says “God didn’t say that”, we can say “Oh yes, He did!!”

Prayer – talk to God.  This is how we are energized!  Fighting doubt in our own power is useless! Ask Him to help you overcome your doubts, and He will help you!  When we talk to God, we strengthen our relationship with Him!  When we ask other Christian Disciples to pray for us, the Church unity is strengthened!  When we see God answer prayer, our faith is matured and doubts are easily cast aside.

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For more to think about please do ask yourself the following questions, writing them down if you can, and see how you respond or react to them.  Then why not share your answers with your spouse or a close friend, so that you can pray over any issues together.

Q1. Read Hebrews 6v1-9. What does this tell me of the link between maturity overcoming doubt?

Q2. Read 2 Corinthians 13v5. What comfort can I gain from knowing I have salvation as a means to overcome doubt?

Q3. Read 1 John 4v1-3.  How can “testing the spirits” help me overcome any lingering doubts?

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Discernment

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Discerning Biblical Teaching

As in the days of Paul, there is a lot of false teaching in the church about God and about Jesus Christ.  How can we discern what is correct teaching about Jesus Christ and what is false and to be avoided?

1 Timothy 4v1-2 – Now the Holy Spirit tells us clearly that in the last times some will turn away from the true faith; they will follow deceptive spirits and teachings that come from demons. These people are hypocrites and liars, and their consciences are dead.”

Discerning True or False Teaching

a. Christian Disciple is aware of the false (1 Timothy 4v1-5)

Hallmarks of false teachers are:

  • ·False teachers, used by satan and his demons, seduce spiritual slaves.
  • ·False teachers are marked on their conscience as being owned by satan.
  • ·False teachers are hypocrites controlled by secret sins, pride and covetousness. (1Timothy 4v2)
  • ·False teachers lead people away from Jesus (1Timothy 4v1b)
  • ·False teachers deny God’s Word (1Timothy 4v3-5)

b. Christian Disciple is training in the truth (1 Timothy 4v 6-9)

  • ·True teachers are used by God and are slaves to the Holy Spirit.
  • ·True teachers are marked as being owned by God.
  • ·True teachers are totally controlled by the Holy Spirit.
  • ·True teachers are devoted to both reading and teaching Scripture (1Timothy 4v6)

True godliness gives itself every effort to achieve the goal, casts off burdens and sets itself a goal of total self-dedication to Jesus.

c. Christian Disciple is diligent with the truth (1 Timothy 4v 10-16)

  • ·True teachers stick to the task given.
  • ·True teachers are models of godliness.
  • ·True teachers give wise counsel and practise wisdom.

d. Areas in which the Christian Disciple is to show godliness

Outward Conduct

  • ·Purity of speech when conversing with people
  • ·Purity of conduct when dealing with different peoples customs and habits.

Inward Manner

  • ·Purity in love, a deep personal attachment to friends and showing real concern for all people, even enemies.
  • ·Purity in faith, exercising the gift of God, which is the root from which love springs.
  • ·Purity in moral law – Total and complete conformity, in thought and act, with the moral law of God.

The best way to do these things is by getting to know the truth, for by knowing what Scripture actually says, will any false teaching be easily recognizable.   But how do we get to know the truths of Scripture?

God has spoken and He has communicated His Word to us. Firstly by revelation when God spoke to the writers.  Secondly, through inspiration as the writers were divinely guided by God, in the process of writing His message.  However, in order to understand God’s revealed and inspired message, illumination is required. This is where God causes the Bible to be understood by both the heart and the mind of the person. The Holy Spirit was promised by Jesus to illuminate the Bible to the hearts and minds of all people willing to listen, both Christian and non-Christian (John14v26).

How does the Holy Spirit illuminate the Bible to us?

Firstly, pray that the Holy Spirit will help you as you read.  That is part of His role in the life of a believer.  He will use the Bible to enlighten and illuminate the mind, heart and will of all those willing to be obedient to God.

Secondly, as Christians we believe that the Bible is inerrant and that it is totally trustworthy. It does not contain errors or mistakes in its original form.  That is in the original manuscripts and in the original languages of Hebrew and Greek. We maintain the Bible as our final authority over all things.

Thirdly, no part of the Bible will explicitly contradict another part.  It is a balanced and unified message from a God who does not change.  God is not a God of confusion, but a God of order. By reading it regularly, you will be amazed how it holds together.

Fourthly, we are to keep what we are reading in context - not only in its immediate context, but also in context with the rest of the Bible.  Take for example Psalm 14 verse 1 where the Bible says “There is no God”.  What Psalm 14 verse 1 actually says is that the fool in his heart has said “There is no God”.  It is also out of context with the rest of the Bible where God is said to exist, such as Genesis chapter 1.   You can make the Bible say whatever you want it to say by merely taking sections out of context, and thus creating pretexts like that.  Ask yourself questions about the passage: How, who, when, where, why and what? When you hear someone speaking from the Bible, don’t just accept what they say, but question it in your own mind or with others who were with you.

Fifthly, use a Bible you can read easily.  There are many translations available to suit the taste of anybody.  Also use a Bible reading plan such as that devised by Robert Murray M'Cheyne.  If followed, it will take you through the Old Testament once and the New Testament twice.

Lastly, expect to be changed when reading the Bible with an obedient heart, mind and will.  The Bible is God’s living word because it is active, and God will not cease changing you into the image of Jesus.  God does not abandon us, but when we are being recalcitrant, we abandon Him!

One of the very key teachings from the Bible is that God can be known personally.  People are not naturally born possessing this knowledge, even though they know God’s very existence. Knowing that God exists is not the same as actually knowing God personally.  Personal knowledge of God is ultimately crucial however, since knowing God personally and developing the relationship is what being a Christian disciple is all about.  As Christians, we should be rejoicing that God earnestly desires us to attain this knowledge of Him, in order to know Him more and more. For this reason, He has spoken to us in the Bible, revealing Himself and disclosing how we may know Him more.

Whilst God can be known, our knowledge of God is partial and we will never know everything there is to be known about Him. Knowledge of Him is both wondrous and without end.  As we grow spiritually, knowing the Bible and thus knowing Him more, we will grow in spiritual maturity.  The Apostle Peter commands that we grow in the knowledge of Jesus.  We do this as part of our spiritual journey in order to become more like Jesus.  One of the Christian life’s’   greatest delights, is developing an intimate knowledge of God and of developing an intimacy with Him.

The gospel, or the news of Jesus we share to others, is entitled: ”the power of God to salvation”.  The Bible, and its gospel whereby people come to know God is found in that the gospel is the agent of the new birth; it is the soap or cleansing agent whereby God gives the believing sinner a spiritual bath resulting in salvation and the Bible is a teacher that brings wisdom which leads to salvation.

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For more to think about please do read Matthew 7v15-23. Ask yourself the following questions, writing them down if you can, and see how you respond or react to them.  Then why not share your answers with your spouse or a close friend, so that you can pray over any issues together.

Q1. How can I discern what I am being taught from the Bible?

Q2. What fruit am I showing as I teach and receive teaching?

Q3. When was the last time I disagreed with a bible teacher?

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Guidance

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Guidance

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Solomon writing in Proverbs 3v5-6 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.”

The Prophet Isaiah speaking in Isaiah 6v8: “Then I heard the Lord asking, “Whom should I send as a messenger to this people? Who will go for us?” I said, “Here I am. Send me.”

Perhaps the most common question all Christian disciples ask at some point is: “How can I know God’s will for my life and His guidance?” There are at least three main parts about being guided, as a Christian disciple, into what is God’s will for them. These involve being controlled by the Holy Spirit, through counsel and circumstances and through making wise decisions. Of course being active in prayer and studying the Bible also play major roles, but we have already discussed those previously.

1. The Christian disciple is guided by being controlled by the Holy Spirit

So firstly, the Christian disciple is guided by being controlled by the Holy Spirit. Another way to say this is by submitting to the Spirit’s leading. Fundamental to being guided by the Spirit, is for the Christian disciple to be filled with the Spirit, or controlled by the Spirit. When the Spirit is quenched (1 Thessalonians 5v19) or grieved (Ephesians 4v30), then the Spirit no long has control of the Christian disciple. In order to allow the Spirit control, the Christian disciple needs to resubmit them self to God and do the following daily:

  • · The Christian disciple confesses all known sin (1 John 1v9) and accepts the assurance of being forgiven for quenching or grieving the Holy Spirit.
  • · The Christian disciple devotes themself to being a living sacrifice (Romans 12v1-2)
  • · The Christian disciple enable the Holy Spirit to convict them of sin (Psalm 139v23-24)
  • · The Christian disciple seeks the Holy Spirit’s divine power in order to serve Jesus Christ (Galatians 5v16; Ephesians 3v16)

Part of being controlled by the Holy Spirit, the Christian disciple is to yield to Him. Romans 6v13 and James 4v7 command this. In yielding to the Holy Spirit, the body (1 Corinthians 6v20) and mind (Romans 12v1-2) are given to Him sacrificially for the glory of Jesus Christ. Both the body and the mind are yielded, because the body activates what is conceived in the mind. It is a total dedication of all thoughts, plans and actions into God’s hands and the seeking of His divine wisdom.

2. The Christian disciple is guided through Counsel and Circumstances

Additionally to submitting to the Holy Spirit, other people and circumstances are also great helps in regards to guidance. Proverbs 24 reminds us that: “The wise are mightier than the strong, and those with knowledge grow stronger and stronger. So don’t go to war without wise guidance; victory depends on having many advisers. Wisdom is too lofty for fools. Among leaders at the city gate, they have nothing to say.”

We may not go to war, but seeking the advice of others in trying to understand God’s guidance, plays an important role in deciding God’s will in the life of the Christian disciple. When seeking the advice of others bear in mind that the person should be a reliable, godly and faithful servant of God. As Proverbs 25v19 says “Putting confidence in an unreliable person in times of trouble is like chewing with a broken tooth or walking on a lame foot”. However, the Christian disciple must also be aware that even the godliest of people make mistakes, such as Nathan the prophet when he exhorted David to construct the temple (2 Samuel 7). In the end, each Christian disciple is responsible for his or her own actions and for knowing God’s guidance for themselves.

Then we have circumstances, which are a great learning tool. Circumstances surround us 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. However, Christian disciples are to live above all circumstances, yet be aware of them. Through circumstances, God often discloses his perfect will. As Paul writes in Romans 8v28: “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.”

Some examples of where God’s will was discovered through circumstances include:

  • Abraham being asked to substitute a ram caught in a thicket for his son, Isaac (Genesis 22).
  • God arranging for Pharaoh’s daughter to be bathing in the River Nile as the baby Moses floated by (Exodus 2).
  • Paul’s nephew over hearing a plot to murder Paul, and then reporting it to the authorities and therefore saving Paul’s life (Acts 23).

Now some may sceptically claim that these are purely coincidental, but if they are, and all others like these are, its an awful lot of coincidence!

3. The Christian disciple is guided by making wise Decisions:

A great way to make wise decisions is by endeavouring to maintain a right attitude, and asking yourself the following questions:

  • · Have I prayed and meditating on God's Word regarding the decision?
  • · Have I given every area of my life to Christ?
  • · Am I prepared to be obedient to God? (Proverbs 3v5-7)
  • · Am I willing to sacrifice my desires for God's Will?
  • · Am I loving towards the other person?
  • · It should not control me habitually (1 Corinthians 6v12)
  • · Will it cause another person to sin/stumble? (1 Corinthians 8v9-13)
  • · Does it build Christian character? (1 Corinthians 10v23)
  • · Does it bring glory to God? (1 Corinthians 10v31)
  • · Can I thank God for this activity - could Jesus accompany me?
  • · If in doubt, throw it out! (Romans 14v22-23)
  • · Abstain from all appearance of evil (1 Thessalonians 5v22)

For more to think about please do read Isaiah 6. Ask yourself the following questions, writing them down if you can, and see how you respond or react to them. Then why not share your answers with your spouse or a close friend, so that you can pray over any issues together.

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Q1. Am I willing to do whatever God commands me to do?

Q2. Am I willing to be humble enough to ask other people’s advice?

Q3. Am I willing to sacrifice my desires so that God’s Will is achieved and His glory acclaimed?

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