Loving All

I recently attended a denominational church conference with a staff member.   The theme for the conference was praying for an open door for the gospel.  This is based out of Colossians chapter four verses two to four.  The leader of this denomination in his keynote address said, “There is a manifest desperation in the prayer that I’ve observed which is of God and is exactly the place that he would love to work. In a sense God has backed us into a corner and we have no other option but to pray for revival.”

loving-all-prayer-gospelforasia-rt11-07807Their denomination has had some struggles, which was the reason he mentioned being backed into a corner.  What about us, are we waiting for struggles to drive us to prayer, or are we actively seeking the Lord now?  Am I, are we praying for an open door for the gospel?  I think far too often my prayers are focused on the little picture of what is happening in my life so that I fail to pray for what our Saviour is doing on a larger scale.

I realised again recently that my outlook on life is so much restricted to myself.  This was highlighted in one of the books I was assigned to read this year.  It was written by a godly man of the last century – Watchman Nee.  In this particular book he pointed out that our love cannot be limited only to other believers.  He states that God loved and died for the whole world, so we are not true imitators of God if we only love the brethren.  This statement really hit me, as I have been one that would heatedly argue that our love is for other believers almost exclusively.  Sure I would say that the entire world is to be loved, but that was mainly defined as a lack of hate, rather than an active serving.  I would’ve said that we need to care and serve believers, but don’t really need to make the effort for others.  We share with them the gospel and once they received it then we show love.

The Lord Jesus Christ, however, did not act in this way.  He came to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.  He came to serve all men and women regardless of whether they would receive his love.  When I refuse to love those who do not love me, I am, in the words of Jesus, no better than a tax-collector (Matthew 5:46). The attitude and love we are to have is summed up in this prayer that came out of the reformation:

Lord Jesus Christ, you stretched out your arms of love on
the hard wood of the cross that everyone might come within
the reach of your saving embrace: So clothe us in your Spirit
that we, reaching forth our hands in love, may bring those
who do not know you to the knowledge and love of you; for
the honour of your Name. Amen.

Written by a Discipleship Program Student

Evidence of My Love

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There are many points in my life where I hear the question that Jesus asked Peter “Do you love me?” As much as I eagerly respond with a confident yes, I begin to wonder if my life verifies my answer. Jesus responded to Peter’s answer by giving him the responsibility over His flock, appointing him to serve in the kingdom of God, but He also warned Peter of the death that was to come along with it:

 “I tell you the truth, when you were young, you were able to do as you liked; you dressed yourself and went wherever you wanted to go. But when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and others will dress you and take you where you don’t want to go.” Jesus said this to let him know by what kind of death he would glorify God. Then Jesus told him, “Follow me.” (John 21:18-19)

This was the verse that the Lord used to turn my solid heart into a heart of flesh. He revealed to me the transformation that must take place in my life if I truly want to follow Him and make my life a display of the love that I have for Him. As I grow into Christian maturity, I can no longer pursue my own desires and clothe myself with pride and self-righteousness. I can no longer hold onto my life and surround myself with comfort in order to avoid suffering. As He sends me into the world I need to put to death my flesh by daily stretching out my hands in complete surrender, and allow Him to clothe me with His Holy Spirit so that I will be able to say yes to wherever He chooses to send me.

The strategy the enemy uses towards those who are willing to suffer is clearly visible in the life of Jesus. Throughout His ministry Satan tried to prevent Jesus from suffering death on the cross because he knew that it would lead to his destruction. He tempted Jesus in the desert before he began His ministry. On the cross, through the mouths of the rulers he reminded Jesus of the power He had to save Himself from bearing the pain and agony. It was not selfish ambition that kept Jesus on the cross, but rather His love for the Father and willingness to endure anything that came with fulfilling His will.

Brother K.P, in his book “Against the Wind” reminds us that Satan will also tempt us to avoid the cross we are to carry daily, because just as Jesus defeated the enemy through suffering, we also can defeat his evil forces by having a mind to suffer. I should expect to be tempted into living a life free from suffering and surrender in order to walk the easy road, but that will not prove my love for the Father. I must surrender my will, embrace the cross and follow Him into a life of victory wherever it may lead me.

—School of Discipleship student

A High Calling and Great Purpose

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God has angels, why does he not use them for His work instead of man?

In Pastor Damian Kyle’s message “The Fall of a Great Man” from the series “The Making of a Psalmist” he asks this question and also answers it.

Damian Kyle is focusing on the time in David’s life where he falls into sin with Bathsheba. Now there isn’t any way we as humans can be perfect. Sin will always find a way to express itself but Damian Kyle said that when we are occupied with doing the Lord’s work, we are less likely to fall into sin. That would be one of the reasons why we are chosen to do God’s work.

Even when we do fall into sin, He gives us the victory in trials. He picks us up and tells us to try again.  Being in God’s will, might be hard but being outside of His will, would be even harder. “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” Ephesians 2:10. We are God’s masterpiece, Christ has restored us to Himself and we are now holy and blameless in His sight. “Yet now he has reconciled you to himself through the death of Christ in his physical body. As a result, he has brought you into his own presence, and you are holy and blameless as you stand before him without fault.” Colossians 1:22

This brought a new question into my mind; why wouldn’t God use us for His work? Without the perfection of Christ I am nothing. Because I am incapable of living a perfect life I need the application of the righteousness of Christ.

When Christ came to die, His joy was set before Him and that joy was me. In His eyes, we are nothing less than perfect. “Once you were dead because of your disobedience and your many sins. You used to live in sin, just like the rest of the world, obeying the devil – the commander of the world of the powers in the unseen world. He is the spirit at work in the hearts of those who refuse to obey God. But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised from the dead.” Ephesians 2:1-2, 4-5a

—School of Discipleship student

School of Discipleship CA

The Joy of Following

One of the first things Jesus did in His public ministry was to call the four fishermen to follow Him.  Throughout the Gospels we see Jesus calling individuals to follow Him some of which heeded the call and others who did not.  However, they were all called to the same thing i.e. to follow Him.  Some were called to give up their vocations, others their wealth, but all were called to follow.

The primary call of God seems to be one of following.  Paul was called to the Gentiles and Peter to the Jews, but both of these callings would be encompassed in following God.  What does it mean to follow Jesus?  As I mentioned previously, it requires us to give up something.  However, if we focus only on what we give up we miss the point and often become defined by what we don’t pursue rather than by the One we do pursue.  Some have pointed that when we choose to follow Christ we must take up our cross as He took up His.  This is true, but we must remember the goal isn’t to take up the cross.  Taking up the cross is merely the process on our way to the goal.  I have sometimes lost my focus on Christ because I was focusing on the cross and suffering that I was to take up.  It is not suffering in itself that we are to pursue but Christ who lies beyond the suffering.  In the same way Christ pursued the goal set before Him and accepted His cross.  In Hebrews 12, the author of Hebrews tells us the goal Christ had to enable him to bear His cross.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.
–Hebrews 12:1-3 ESV

It was for joy–the joy of reconciling the world to himself–that Christ despised the shame.  I recently had the privilege to study a portion of Colossians chapter two.  The one thing that continually stood out to me was the triumph that Christ had in the cross.  A believer from the early centuries of Christianity said of the passage that Paul had never spoken with a more lofty tone.  Through the cross and the shame of it, Christ received the joy that was set before Him and now He is seated beside the Father.

As Christ had a joy set before Him, so we also have a joy set before us.  Because of this joy, we can endure the cross that we take up despising its shame.  We will be united with Christ in Heaven and because of this fact anything that the world and the enemy hurls against us in this life will be worth it when we see Christ face to face.

following-joy-DSC_0179“It will be worth it all when we see Jesus,

Life’s trials will seem so small when we see Christ;

One glimpse of His dear face all sorrow will erase,

So bravely run the race till we see Christ.”

–Esther Kerr Rusthoi

—School of Discipleship student

School of Discipleship CA

Glorious Redemption!!

Glorious Redemption!!picture of cross glorious redemption

The Son of God is hanging on a cross, suffering unimaginably but not just from physical pain but from the weight of the sin of the whole world, my sin included! He has the choice to call ten thousand legions of Angels to His rescue but He stays, He submits to the will of His Father to redeem mankind from their sin. He knows He is their only hope, and so He willingly gives up His life on the cross. All creation trembles and the sky grows dark, it acknowledges what has taken place.

It was here at the cross when Jesus died that redemption was made possible for us. Ephesians 1:7 “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of God’s grace.” (NKJV)

I have known the truth of this for almost my whole life, having grown up in a Christian home, but only recently has it actually changed my life. I have been a Christian for a couple of years now; I gave my life to Christ at a revival meeting one night when I was 18. The joy of being forgiven of my sins was amazing! I was on fire for God; unfortunately it didn’t last very long… I didn’t know what I had done wrong and I started doubting my salvation. I had many doubts and had no victory in my Christian life, I felt confused and alone. I lived this way for many years and eventually I began searching Scripture and started believing the promises of God about how He has called us and will complete the work He has started in our lives. I didn’t have complete victory over this until recently.

We had a speaker come and teach our class a couple of weeks ago and his topic was not about redemption but while teaching he mentioned briefly what redemption means and how it impacted his life and I was just struck by this truth and it has stayed with me ever since. He said that when we come to the cross in repentance and salvation we exchange our lives for the Righteousness of Christ, so that when God looks at us He does not see us in our sinful flesh but He sees Christ’s Righteousness in us. Galatians 2:20 “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (ESV)

This verse was not foreign to me, I just never really fully grasped it’s meaning but it makes so much sense now and it has really encouraged me and helped me be victorious in my life! Through Redemption Christ lives in me, by understanding this truth I now can fully surrender my life to Christ and trust Him to work in me and make me more like Him; I don’t have to try and overcome my sins and failures on my own.

1 Corinthians 1:30 God has united you with Christ Jesus. For our benefit God made him to be wisdom itself. Christ made us right with God; he made us pure and holy, and he freed us from sin.” (NLT)

—School of Discipleship student

School of Discipleship CA

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