"Take now thy son, thine only son Issac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon oneof the mountains, which I wil ltell you of." KJV, Genesis22,2
"Come, follow me," Jesus said, "and I will make you fishers of men." 20 At once they left their nets and followed him." Matthew4,19-20.
"He said to another man, "Follow me." But the man replied, "Lord let me go and bury my father." 60 Jesus said to him, 'Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God." 61 Still another said, 'I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say good-by to my family." 62 Jesus replied, 'No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God." Luke9,59-62.
"May the God of peace who throught the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him." Hebrews13,21
"Going on from there he saw another pair of brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John; they were in their boat with their father Zebedee, mending [equipping, restoring, preparing] their nets. Jesus called them, 22 and immediatly they left the boat and their father and followed him." Matthew4,21ff
"I am coming quickly." Revelation 22,7 and 12
"Yes I am coming soon." Revelation22,20
Rush Limbaugh, and I'm paraphrasing, makes the point that liberals are real political activists while most conservatives are more fond of making statements. Instead of political activism Amercian conservatives prefer to hear themselves talk while liberal Democrats prefer winning elections. Campaign politics is a lifestyle for many liberal Democrats (that's what my email says anyway) whereas it's just a part time hobby for Republicans, armchair activism.
Besides what public figure could ever stand the accusation of setting his or her hair on fire?
There's something similar that goes on in the Christian church. Many of us are happy to play the role of "Christian," attend church on Sunday, and fund "foreign" missions. But as for the souls to be won right in front of us, or five miles down the road in a city that is way more diverse than the "foreign" missions, that's a part time hobby for the "outreach minister."
Let's not get too carried away. We wouldn't want to rustle any feathers, or say light the church up with Holy Ghost fire.
My message today is "Faith Is Always Now."
There's a spiritual priggishness that tempts us all to merely make statements about Jesus, but includes very little activism and ministry. Hopefully I have been fully released from this priggish "religious" spirit. Now I don't think my own salvation depends on what I do to spread the gospel, but as Jesus said "the harvest is rich, but the laborers are few."
And as James reminds sleepy armchair Christians "faith without works is dead."
Sometimes new people come in with the idea of being laborers in the vineyard and they are full of the Holy Ghost. And rather than putting them immediatly to work with the beginner's enthusiasm that so often wins souls, it seems some want to slow the enthusiastic folks down.
It's not our role as church to slow the gospel and the enthusiastic down, our role as leaders is to empower them.
Remember when Jesus said in Matthew24,34 "I tell you the truth, this generaton will not pass away until all these things have happened." A generation was forty to seventy years.(Br. Ryrie in his study bible tries to explain that one of the Greek meanings of "generation" is this race or people, ie the Jews, but that seems strained to me.) No, Jesus promised that the end would come within the lifetimes of his hearers. And thus this verse is often used against Christianity, and has scandalized many believers too, in that Jesus obviously didn't come back within a generation.
But it can be explained.
Jesus not only said just two verses later that only the father knows the day and the hour. He was prophesying in the speeded up time table of the gospel that was meant to move like a fire storm throughout the whole world: "I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!" Luke12,49 The cross and resurrection were the kindling, and the resurrection faith and Holy Ghost baptism were the fire. This kindling and our fiery missionary faith was going to propel the gospel to burn throughout the whole world within a generation.
Matthew24,14: "And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come."
Only man's wickedness and inertia slows the fiery spread of the gospel. Only because our love grows cold is the gospel slowed down. This is why Jesus' prophesy was apparently wrong. In faith he expected more enthusiasm! He expected more fire in the mission! He expected that the gospel would reach the ends of the earth in one generation, and then He would come back. That was his faith in the human flesh.
Just like there is nothing like poltical activists, enthusiasts, who do the nuts and bolts of electoral politics, right now, and send all those emails, and make sure all the affiliated partisans work together, there's nothing like Christians who actually share the gospel with strangers and newcomers, that pray with people, that take Jesus into people's lives, right now, that are open to working with each other.
Don't get me wrong, I've been well trained up in the church system of slowing people down, of hierarchy, and yes I know it's better to measure twice and cut once, even in ministry, but so much of Christianity suffers from a type of inertia, 'a let's-just-pay-the-pastor', a 'let's-just keep-building-up-our- denominational-power-base, and a perfectionism that our "precious like" faith never becomes a "now" faith.
It's more often a "some other time" faith. That's what the Athenians told Paul on Mars Hill (Acts17,22).
We look at how and when Jesus calls folks and we realize that when He calls we are expected to get into a "now" mode, as in right now. It used to be parents would command this "now" mode with their children with a stern tone of voice. In today's day and age, some make six or seven ever so kind and melodius entreaties, to heads buried in personal devices, and then a sort of embarressed verbal command of "right now."
The Lord Jesus calls, and we answer and do what he says.
And this is all meant to be right now.
The problem with slowing down the call and our gospel response is that we never get up to the speed of the Holy Ghost, and to Jesus Himself, and we never end up experiencing how powerful and attuned God is to our own personal lives, or do much of anything on his behalf.
Always planning, always meeting, talking about ministry, but not much time now to do ministry.
We're also afraid we'll make mistakes in ministry. This is one of the biggest reasons faith is not often "now" in church. Yes we will make mistakes, with or without the best laid plans. We can and will go to seminary and bible college, twice over, and still make mistakes. But faith is still always now, mistakes or not. Jesus is always knocking on the door of the church, now. Are we listening for his knock?
First we listen and then somebody in the church has to let him in, to let him speed us up, and tell us what to do.
Holy Ghost baptism is our empowering our equipping and our sending. We know this from the early church on the day of Pentecost, when the always "now" of faith really happened. They got this second baptism, and then they immediatly started evangelizing, and water baptizing newbies, and spreading the gospel to the ends of the earth. That's Acts 2,36-Acts3.
Think about one person like Stephen, or the Apostle Peter or Paul, prophesying the word of God. Their prophecy, their "now" word, to the church and non church, the word of one person, was more effective than any corporate board making statements, and counting the wampum.
Jesus doesn't tell church councils and commitees to do something and say something. He tells individuals like Peter and Paul, and He's telling you and me too. And this waiting for the commitee to compromise, and then decide, is one of the reasons why our faith never gets into the "now" mode.
We too often wait for someone in power and authority to deputize us, or ask us, or delegate to us, or pay us, or give us a chicken dinner after a ceremony. But the gospel says "go" "baptize" and "teach." It says "pick up your cross, and follow me."
Jesus said the paralytic "pick up your mat and walk." As in right now do it.
And "Let the dead bury the dead. You come follow me" now!
Just as Abraham was told "now" take your son to Moriah and sacrifice him. Genesis22,2 (Oswald Chambers, "The Supreme Climb," My Utmost For His Highest, Harbor, 1991, p. 234)
Just as Jesus was told in the garden of Getsemane, "now" is the time of the cross.
These right now moments happen all through our lives of faith.
Can you or I remember any of them?
Why Worry About The So Called Competition?
Christians also get slowed down by the approval or non approval of other "Christians," as if we we're in competition with each other. Haven't we read "he who is not against us is for us?"
Go for it anyway! And, we best encourage each other.
As Paul also said "I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow." 1Corinthians3,6-7.
Imagine of Paul asked permission from his detractors? We wouldn't have half the New Testament scriptures!
Each person or group of us is called to do the grace of the moment. This is the way the gospel grows and gets spread.
There was an urgency about everything Jesus said and did, a 'what-are-you-waiting-for?' quality to his will and call. He repeated three times in the last chapter of the last book of the bible "I am coming quickly." Why three such repetitions? Because he wanted His sense of urgency to always be a part of our faith.
Where's Our Urgency?
Have you ever seen how fast people get to the mall on a payday.
Or how fast a teenager will find his beloved after school.
Where's our faith urgency?
If you're not baptized in the Spirit, if you're not fully equipped to do ministry at God's speed, it's time to make the faith decisions that will see to it that you do get baptized in the Spirit. If you're holding back on forgiveness, the Spirit of God right now is telling you to forgive: "Unless you forgive your brother from your heart, your heavenly father will not forgive you." Matthew18,35
Ouch that hurts. Hurry up then. Forgiveness is a decision. He knows it hurts. He said it. It likely hurt him to say "Father forgive them, they do not know what they are doing?"
When we have a physical hurt and it's not getting any better, we go to the doctor right away or have an operation right now, can't wait, our life and health are in jeopardy! It's the same way in the spiritual realm, if we're sick and hurting, well then it's time to do something about it, now.
Still not baptized in the Spirit?
Perhaps your life is bound up in some sort of sin, the grace of God is telling you now to repent, and cut it out.
God's grace is always now and we're Christians now, so what are we waiting for?
We're being called to labor in his vineyard now.
Who or what are we waiting for?
It's His Ministry So We Have No Right To Slow It Down
Very shortly after I started pastoring it was clear to me that God was calling and equipping people way faster and better than I could ever attempt to do it. I learned that I didn't have to give permission for folks in the congregation to be Christians in ministry right now. I didn't have to give permission for music groups to play at other churches. It's your ministry, go do it. I didn't have to view everyone's weekly lesson plans. He even had me putting up to preach folks that didn't agree with my style, or church adminsistration. So what I learned, it's his ministry, not mine.
Again, "He who is not against us is for us."
Why are we keen on slowing each other down? We are all anointed ones, Christians now, what are we waiting for?
And I learned a couple of things about his ministry. First, when the Spirit of healing and gospel ministry is flowing, the best thing we can do is stay out of the way of what God is doing. Go with it. If it's in accord with the Word, go with it. And secondly, I learned that it is a beautiful thing to watch folks get quick feet for the gospel. It makes pastoring very fun.
Yet so many of us Christians live in the past, the way we used to do things, the traditional ways. But churches should and must live in the present, if there's any ministry that is going to be done. Prophets preach what God wants done now as Stephen did to the Sanhedrin. And yes there will always be people who want to avoid the now. As Stephen told them "was there ever a prophet your ancestors did not persecute." Acts7,52. Was there ever a prophet with a now word from the Lord that your ancestors did not harass and delay?
Jesus tried to gather up his people right then and there in Jerusalem, quickly, before the cross, but they were unwilling: "Jerusalem, Jersualem, you who kill the propehts and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings and you were not willing." Matthew23,37.
Living and Faithing In The Present
We should be more like kids in our approach to worship and ministry. Kids have less memories and more hopeful expectations, and they live in the present. Good and bad things happen to them, but they remain enthusiastic about the present. Whereas we adults, we have more memories, and preconceived ideas about Jesus' mission, and our part in it, and this can be a hinderance to doing our faith now.
But the word of God as Jesus is, is "living and active, sharper than a two edged sword," and still speaking.
God is still acting, and speaking, so why aren't we?
Why are we in the "energy saver" or delay mode?
I was visiting a church that was looking for a pastor and the Lord was trying to speed them up, get them into a "now" mode and out of the past, and the Lord gave me the word that "it's time to jump out of the plane." We Christians talk as if we're seasoned skydivers, yet I don't see many folks jumping out the plane, or walking on water, or praying over the sick, or "doing greater things" than even Jesus did. I see folks trying to slow each other down.
I see and hear "this is the way we do it here" and a lot of group conformity.
Our church and the mission of Jesus is not about our own pet ideas and traditions and groups. It's about the priorities of the gospel word, and these priorities are always now: repentance, faith, baptism in the Spirit, service, love of neighbor, spreading the gospel, preaching the word in season and out, and all of these can be done right now.
The Apostles Dropped Their Nets Immediatly
The initial apostles, Peter and Andrew, and then James and John, immediatly dropped their nets and followed him. That's what the Lord and His grace said right then and there. His call demands an immediate response. Not a slow and sad response like the rich young ruler, who was thinking about worshipping and counting his mammons rather than Jesus.
In our service to the Lord, the call and the gifts are eternal just as they were for Israel (cfRomans11,29). I've seen guys and gals who ran from the call at 25 years old and answered it at 75 years old. The call to serve is eternal, but the moments of grace, they come and go. They are to be used or they go wasted. If we miss these moments, yes the Lord may, and often will, send others, but never in quite the same situation that is "here and now."
I worked with a young woman who had great favor with God and people. She was excellent in her relationships, and could talk a blue streak. In her mid twenties it was celar that God wanted her to start preaching and I shared that with her. I used to call her for months and "You're preaching this Sunday." But she never said yes, or "now" is the time.
Whether this gal did or didn't believe her call to preach, I don't know. But the fact was church wasn't something to be urgent about yet. She had her whole life ahead of her. And yes God's grace might bring her back to that opportunity again, and I believe He will, but we are called to respond to the particular grace of God now in our lives. Not later, but right now!
Right now may seem the hardest time to respond, as it was for Abraham sent to Moriah and Jesus sent to the cross, but if God's really in it, it really is the easiest time, the most opportune time, the time of fullest grace.
He's the one that has perfect plans for us, just like he had plans for Judah after exile in Babylon. Jeremiah29,11: "For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."
God is the one who knows his plans for us. And he's the one that knows the day and hour He wants us to do something about them.
We are Christians now. We need not wait for a Christian deputy to come and make us his sub deputy. It's nice when we are tapped for leadership, like invited into a fraternity, but most of the time grace and ministry doesn't happen that way. It's right there in front of us. God calls us and equips us, but he doesn't take away our own freedom and our own will, or our inertia.
Now, when the grace of God is moving, is the time to respond. There was a "now" time to respond to Jesus and John the Baptist, yet the vast multitudes were quite happy to delay the grace of the kingdom (Matthew4,17) right there in front of them. Today was the day of their salvation and they said "manana, some other time."
And we all have done this, on occasion.
Remember when Peter took Jesus aside and tried to prevent him from going to Jerusalem and the cross. In other words, Peter was not understanding the grace of the moment, or accepting it, and instead he was trying to delay Jesus, like 'What's your hurry Jesus?'
Jesus said "get behind me Satan." (Matthew16,21ff)
Remember when Mary and Jesus' brothers were concerned Jesus was doing too much ministry, too much deliverance, too much of the will of 'my Father in heaven," and thereby drifting away from their influence (Matthew12,46ff). They wanted to slow him down. They wanted to control him. "Who is my mother, and who are my brothers? 49 Pointing to his disciples, he said, 'Here are my mother and my brothers. 50 For whoever does the will of my father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother."
Jesus was about His Father's will in every moment! And he lived his life of faith in the "now" mode and made his faith decisions accordingly.
Remember when Mary tried to hang on to Jesus after he rose, but before his sacrifice was complete (John10,17), before he ascended to the Father. He had more "work" to do, and she was trying to slow him down.
We also have all received words from the Lord, from the scriptures and words of knowledge from fellow servants. Often these demand a "now" response from each of us.
What are we going to do about them?
We have the Spirit, after the baptism inthe Spirit, that gives us feet that will move with the Spirit. Why don't we use them.
We have vineyard full of ministry wherever we turn. Walk into Walmart- there's the vineyard. Walk down a city street, there's another vineyard. What are we waiting for?
We touched on the fear of making mistakes and perfectionism. The biggest mistakes in ministry are not ones of haste and lack of preparation, but lack of will or thinking we need to have lots of money to do ministry or spread the gospel.
So many of us call ourselves "evangelical" Christians, but perhaps most of us are really denominational Christians, or emoticon email Christians, trained up to act or not act as the business structure demonstrates. But I wouldn't call too many of us activists or true evangelicals.
Why is that?
To be truly evangelical, it's time to understand the full revelation of Revelation18,4, to come out of that slow-you-down denominational system, and become an evangelical in fact, in nature, to have Jesus and the gospel on our lips and in our hearts, and actions, and feet, not just to make statements and arguments, but to spread the gospel, to represent him, to grow strong and unashamed of the gospel.
Salavation Sometimes Depends On Now
Unless we continually act on the "now" demands of faith, the word says we will not receive salvation in the end.
This is the parable of the wise and foolish virgins, Matthew25,1ff. All the virgins were wise enough to have lamps, and all were wise enough to go out and meet the bridegroom, but five of the ten were foolish. They had no oil in their lamps. They had no salvation in their souls. Perhaps, they believed just what their church told them about salvation and baptism in the Spirit, no more no less, rather than what the word says.
Perhaps they didn't want to follow the gospel words of Jesus and the bible, they were too hard. So their church told them their words and made them seem more important than Jesus' words.
At midnight the bridegroom comes, and the foolish virgins realize they are doomed because they have no light, and no oil to get light, nothing burning in them at all, and they beg the wise virgins to give them some oil.
But I can't give you my salvation, and you can't give me yours. Salvation is something you and I get for ourselves, and this oil of salvation comes only from Jesus himself. from Jesus alone. This oil doesn't come from our momma or auntie, or pastor, or church but from the bridegroom.
And it's something we keep for ourselves. It's our oil. We don't have the power to give it away.
So the wise virgins tell the unwise, go buy some salvation, go buy some of that oil from those who sell it.
This refers to the false prophets all through the history of the church. They sell salvation, they sell a sweet smelling oil. They sell that false Holy Ghost power that Simon wanted to buy from the Apostles.
But the fact is this is the one oil that can't be bought or sold.
And the fact was for the unwise virgins, their faith was too little, too late, they had not acted on the grace of God at the opportune time.
They had put off so many "now" moments of grace, had ignored and delayed the gospel, that in the end the door of salvation was shut to them. And then they come banging on the door, bawling and squalling "Sir, Sir."
Do you call your beloved "Sir?"
They don't even know Him.
"Sir, Sir... Open the door for us."
His name is Jesus! (That's why baptism in his name is so important.)
And v. 12 Jesus says "I tell you the truth. I don't know you."
v13 reveals the kernal of the lesson: "Keep watch [keep in the now], because you do not know the day or the hour." Keep living in the "now" moment of faith. Or there may come a time when it's just too late for you.
Today is the day when our soul is meant to cling to the Lord.
As David says in the desert said, far from the safety of the temple, "My soul clings to you, your right hand upholds me." Psalm63,8. Our souls are called to quickly grab onto Jesus and not let go.
Willie Nelson has a love song, "Always Now" from His "Moment of Forever" 2008 Lost Highway label release. The point of the song is that there is always so much love between the two of them, that it's an always "now" relationship, ie a relationship never ends. Many of us have not got to this point in our relationship with Jesus. It's not now. It's when we feel like it. It's on Sundays. It's part-time.
Delaying Has Consequences
I'll close with this hoky example.
I was in a convenience store in rural Vermont recently and I had been on the bike all day. And I was hungry and I was surveying the limited offerings of a country store-gas station which are so vital as to news and sustenance to a small town. It was the only place within miles to eat. And I saw sandwiches in cellophane and french fries and pizza cooked on a two hour cycle I suppose. And I was sort of dawdling to make up my mind. So I went hunting for some milk, which I knew I wanted, and by the time I got back the piece of pizza I wanted, it was way gone. So I ended up having undercooked chicken wings, and was thoroughly dissapointed.
Sometimes in life, as in salvation, we have to get up to speed, and make our decisions without dawdling too much.
I knew I wanted the pizza, that was the grace of the moment, but I lost out.
Oh well, just a piece of pizza.
But the stakes are a little higher when it comes to salvation, in case we hadn't noticed.
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Tobin Hitt is the founder of the Zion Pentecost Mission. He is open to gospel partnership with all, and identifies with Paul's description of our mission as ambassadors for our king, Jesus, urging all to reconcile with God (2Cor.20-21). He resides in Cheshire, Connecticut.read more...