Not Will Power but Spirit Power

Romans 7:18 “I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.”

There’s no such thing as self-help in God’s kingdom. If self-help was as effective as its promoted to be, we wouldn’t have needed Jesus Christ to die in our place and rise again conquering sin, Satan and death. We all can identify things in our minds, hearts and lives that we’d like to change. Many of us search for answers in the strategies of human reason than the power of the Holy Spirit. The reality is our will is limited in its ability to bring sustainable and permanent change to our hearts. Stop trying to change yourself by your own will and just start following Jesus. When you surrender to Jesus as your Lord, and you start to follow him out of relationship, transformation is a natural byproduct of the work of the Spirit’s power in your life. Paul said to the Romans, “If you live according to the flesh you will die but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons (and daughters) of God.” Selah!

An Upside Down Kingdom!

John 12:24-25 “Truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, but whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.”

Jesus words are both compelling and convicting. His kingdom is an upside down kingdom to the popular voice of self-centeredness and self-absorption that we are saturated with in our culture. Jesus says that in order to truly live, you must love this temporary world less for the sake of others eternities. A life surrendered to Christ doesn’t exist for ones self but for the benefit of others. Following Jesus isn’t “me first” but “Christ first” and the application of that is in the way we relate to and treat others. 

The Greatest Revelation!

Mt 22:37 Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind.

Prophecy is a revelation of God’s heart and mind. The OT prophets became the message before they delivered the message. On the revelation of the OT prophets and the Law depends the greatest revelation God could ever give to us.

We often hear about how much God loves us and for good reason. Our flesh and the enemy of our souls tries to pull us away from this profound and central truth but there is no greater revelation and commandment than God’s call to us to love him with all of our heart, soul and mind.

The sort of love God is calling us to is characterised by sacrifice. Jesus said, ‘Whoever would save his life will lose it but whoever loses his life will save it.’ True love is demonstrated by what you are willing to give up for it. Every time God’s called me to embrace something, he’s asked me to let go of something else. You can’t go up in God, if you don’t give up something.

The greatest act of love is what Jesus did for us on the cross. Jesus left heaven. The word became flesh and dwelt among us. Jesus lived a sinless life. He was persecuted even though he was innocent and he was ultimately killed for his obedience to his Father.

The tragedy is in the last days the love of many will grow cold. Our affections have become more for this temporary world than for eternal things. The western church says, ‘What’s the least I can do and still follow Jesus?’ It doesn’t work like that. That’s an oxymoron.

Following Jesus requires everything. Empowerment comes from dependence upon him. Dependance comes from attempting that which only the Holy Spirit can achieve. The more out of depth you are, the more dependant you are and the more dependant you are, the more empowered you are.

You can’t clock on and clock off with God. You’re either all in or you are taking up space. God wants to be God alone in your life. It’s not God and my career or God and my hobbies or God and my house. It’s just God.. period. He’s a jealous God and he wants you and the affections of your heart.

All the Law and the Prophets depend on this one primary thing = Love God with all of your heart, soul, strength and mind. This speaks of whole-hearted devotion. How much we love God will be determined by our level of sacrifice, the affections of our heart, the passion of our soul and the content of our thinking.

The Oracle!

The Goal of Ministry!

Over a decade ago I began the journey of full-time ministry, failing to realise that as a follower of Christ, I was already in full-time ministry. Every single Christian is called to Ministry (Eph 4:11-16), every single Christian is gifted for ministry (1 Cor 12:7) and every single Christian can find enjoyment in their ministry (Ecc 2:24). However, unless you understand the goal and purpose of your ministry, you will never fulfill the point of it.

Colossians 1:24-29 is a key passage that points us to the goal of our ministry. Some of the key themes found within it are:

  1. God uses suffering as a means to advance the goal of ministry (v24)
  2. God’s called you to be a steward of the ministry he’s entrusted to you (v25)
  3. The mystery is fulfilled in Jesus Christ in us, the hope of glory (v26-27)
Paul brings us to verse 28 which is the crescendo of the text and outlines to us the GOAL of Ministry:
“Him, we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone, with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone mature in Christ.”
The GOAL of ministry is to present everyone mature in Christ. In between justification and glorification, there is this precious labor of love called sanctification. Some pastors and believers are only focused on the justification of the saints or even the glorification of the saints but Paul says, the goal of ministry is presenting everyone mature in Christ. This is discipleship 101.
The problem with some of our current approach to ministry is that we feel so overwhelmed by secularism, that we want to make Jesus look so cool, so badly and be liked by everyone that instead of aiming our ministry at presenting everyone mature in Christ, we get distracted by party tricks to get people in the door and once we get them in the door, we have no idea what we’re going to do with them.
If the goal of ministry is attracting a crowd only and getting a temporary bunch of decisions, then party tricks will work in the short-term but Jesus didn’t say GO and make converts, he said, GO and make disciples… this is the process of maturation in Christ and where there is no maturing in Christ, something is wrong in our approach to ministry.
Paul outlines to us how we are to go about the GOAL of presenting everyone mature in Christ: There are 3 key actions emphasized in this passage:
  1. Our ministry must be Christ-centered – It’s Jesus we proclaim because Jesus is the hero of the story from Genesis to Revelation.
  2. Our ministry must warn people of the consequences of sin – Romans 6:23 reminds us that the wages of sin is death but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus. If our ministry removes the doctrine of sin then what need has anyone to be saved.
  3. Our ministry must teach people to grow in Christ – We must be an example in our teaching and lifestyle of the re-prioritizing of kingdom values instead of worldly values.
I encourage you to not serve up a diet of candy, pizza, coke and cheeseburgers to attract a listening. This won’t truly serve them but instead nourish people’s souls with what will produce the full measure and stature of Christ in their lives.
Grace! 

The Place of Political Incorrectness!

I’m very amused by the incredible lengths we go to, to avoid controversy and conflict in the name of cultural approval. Australia is rampant with it. Especially the Christian Church.

It seems like criticism follows the individual who goes too far (in some people’s minds) but never follows the individual who isn’t prepared to go further than their thoughts. It’s far easier to hide in the shadows, then stand on a dock and give a reason for the hope that you have.

When it comes to the office of the sacred desk, there is no place for political correctness. Line up John the Baptist, the Apostle Paul and Jesus Christ against the majority of us preachers and we fall far behind their commitment to speaking the truth in love. Keep in mind, all three were killed by their enemies. There’s a price to pay for speaking the truth, even in love.

I’m not advocating arrogant rants or angry outbursts or being offensive for the sake of it (although a good shout in the pulpit, every now and then doesn’t hurt), I’m calling for a commitment to speaking and living God’s truth with Christ-like compassion, love, wisdom AND boldness.

Any preacher worth their salt will eventually have a long line of people wanting to offer their opinion on what they could do better or do away with.

Why? Cause the cross is folly to those who are perishing and Christ continues to be a stumbling block of offense for many people. When a preacher is committed to letting the biblical text speak for itself and systematically working through the bible, at some point, it’s going to hit a raw nerve. Preacher, rather than shying away from it, run to it and embrace it. It’s your job to herald such a gospel.

I pray for God’s grace, wisdom and boldness to mark gospel preachers everywhere to declare the full counsel of God’s Word without fear or favor, and to the end of God’s glory and the salvation of people’s souls, let the pulpit be a place of political incorrectness.

Grace! (Matt 13:57; Rom 9:33; Gal 5:11; 1 Peter 2:8)

God’s Goal isn’t your Happiness!

I recently did a video interview with Dr Allan Meyer (CEO Careforce Life Keys) and I asked him a question about some of the critical issues facing the western church at the present time. In his excellent response, he reflected on the current focus of many Christians and much preaching being the goal of an individuals personal happiness, rather than following Jesus Christ.

As I have reflected on this many times in my own preaching ministry, I think about Jesus’ words in John 10:10 “The devil comes to steal, kill and destroy but I have come that you may have life and have it in all of its’ fulness.” Unfortunately, some of us have wrongly mis-interpreted this verse through our western context and concluded that God’s goal for us is our happiness, which surely must mean, health, wealth and prosperity… Ah, NOT!

As I read the Scriptures, I don’t find the emphasis of my personal comfort being consistent with the biblical account of Jesus’ life or the Apostle Paul’s life or any of the other apostle’s life, for that matter, as is recorded in the New Testament. Money, success and well-being are all gifts from God and should be stewarded accordingly but God’s goal for me isn’t the obtaining of these things, alone. Me becoming more and more like him is his goal and this can be accomplished through a variety of circumstances and dare I say it, is often accomplished rather well through suffering.

The joy of the Lord is my strength but God’s joy is available whatever I am facing or going through, not just when things are going my way. As preachers, our goal should be to be faithful to the text and expose what the text is simply declaring in the most compelling way possible, not to proselytize people to a mirage of false hope.  As pastors, our goal should be to lead people into Christ-likeness and a biblically based worldview that equips them to grow in spiritual maturity and gospel grace, not to encourage growth in spiritual immaturity.

Churches that promise happiness and bliss to their congregation alone, if they follow Jesus and perform for him are setting people up for massive disillusionment. Following Jesus in the real world does fill me with joy but sometimes I do face circumstances that are quite the opposite of happy. When a close family member of mine attempted suicide in 2001, I wasn’t happy. When I didn’t get the outcome I was hoping for as a budding athlete, I didn’t feel warm, happy fuzzies. When I get criticized and ostracized by others for my faith in Jesus and commitment to my calling, I don’t necessarily feel happy but my joy in Christ remains intact.

What’s your goal in life? If happiness is your goal, then you will live a misdirected and self-pre-occupied life but if God’s goal of Christ-likeness and knowing him is your goal then you will live life on purpose. Refuse to settle for anything less.

Grace! (Video Interview will be uploaded very soon)

I was always on my mind!

If we only live with ourselves in mind, we will miss what God has in mind for us!

Too many of us are caught up with ourselves always on our mind. When you are pre-occupied with yourself, you have no room to be interested in others. The bible exhorts us to, “Look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Phil 2:4). When you are always on your mind, you only ever see life from your limited perspective. Your world becomes bigger when you start to seek first to understand rather than trying to always be understood. God has plans for you that are about your well-being and success (Jer 29:11) but as long as you are always on your mind, you will never understand or embrace the plans that he longs to reveal and outwork in your life.

If we want to follow Christ we must deny ourselves – Jesus said in Luke 9:23, “If you want to come after me, you must deny yourself…” This is a hard saying because it is difficult in our day and age to swim upstream and not be on about your agenda. Everything we are taught at school, in the media and in the culture around us promotes the idea that we are the centre of the universe. But Jesus calls us to live with the spirit of the kingdom of God in our minds and hearts, not the spirit of the world = self! You’ve got to leave yourself behind.

Leaving yourself behind looks like Sacrificing yourself for the Call – Jesus said, “Take up your cross daily and follow me.” You can’t follow Jesus and follow yourself at the same time. You have to choose. No one can serve 2 masters, you either follow one or follow the other. When Jesus took up his cross he sacrificed himself for others. Jesus said, “No servant is greater than his master.” If Jesus is our master and he is our ultimate example, then who are we to think we can follow Jesus and excuse ourselves out of the cost of discipleship. Everyday we have a choice – live for ourselves or live for Christ. Jesus said, “Not my will, but yours be done” and he has been exalted to the right hand of the Father. Satan said, “I will be like God” and the bible says, “He fell like lightning from heaven.” Who you sacrifice for will determine your ultimate destiny.

The Kingdom of God is an upside down kingdom – The spirit of the world says, “Live for yourself and you will have true life.” but Jesus says, “Die to yourself and you will have true life.” We are not to be conformed to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of our minds to think like Jesus thinks and order our lives after the pattern of the kingdom of God. One of the reasons why the world looks at the church and thinks that we’re weird is because we operate by a different law. The law of the Spirit of God is now in effect and what people perceive as normal, God perceives as weird and what the world perceives as weird, God perceives as normal. Living for God and others will be seen as weird but go ahead and live with others on your mind anyway.

It’s dangerous to live for yourself and achieve your goal – Jesus said, “What will it profit you, if you gain the whole world and lose your own soul?” The answer = nothing. You could live completely for yourself and even achieve your goal but be completely miserable because you are the only in your small little world. A Day is coming called the Day of Judgment when your work will be tested by fire and if it survives the test, you will be rewarded but if it is burned up, you will suffer loss (1 Cor 3:13-14). What profit are living for – Temporary or Eternal?

Insight!