Posted in A Passion for Christ, A PERSON OVER A PRINCIPLE, Eternal Life, FALSE RELIGION AND TRUE FAITH, Knowing Jesus, Uncategorized

DO YOU KNOW JESUS as a FACT or as the TRUTH?

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It probably seems strange to ask whether or not you know Jesus by fact or truth.  Isn’t a truth also a fact? However, a fact may be far less than a truth, because truth can transform a person in a way that a mere fact cannot. The best statement to this effect that I know of is by A.W. Tozer.

“The essence of my belief is that there is a difference, a vast difference, between fact and truth. Truth in the Scriptures is more than a fact. A fact may be detached, impersonal, cold and totally dissociated from life. Truth on the other hand, is warm, living and spiritual. A theological fact may be held in the mind for a lifetime without its having any positive effect upon the moral character; but truth is creative, saving, transforming, and it always changes the one who receives it into a humbler and holier man. At what point, then, does a theological fact become for the one who holds it a life-giving truth? At the point where obedience begins. When faith gains the consent of the will to make an irrevocable committal to Christ as Lord, truth begins its saving, illuminating work; and not one moment before.”

I have one major question regarding Tozer’s statement. How does faith gain consent; or put another way, what part do you and I play in faith and obedience? It is not certain to me what Tozer meant by faith gaining consent of the will, but the Bible speaks in this way.

 “…just as you have always obeyed …work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:12, 13)

It is essential to understand that even the willingness to obey God must come from Him. Continuing from my last blog, intimacy with God is the most important and relevant factor. Jesus said, apart from Him we can do nothing. Therefore, abiding in Him, resting in Him, and allowing Him to take up residence in our heart is essential to obedience. To abide, rest, and desire Christ to reside in our heart are actuated through the privacy of prayer.

Prayer changes me 3There is one thing more than all others that will keep us from prayer – sin. Jesus said, we should go into the closet, that is to say, we should spend alone time with God. Prayer brings faith to its place of completion. Prayer is where we ask God for what we need, and learn to see ourselves as we actually are, that is, in desperate need of Him. However, praying is not merely saying words. If prayer is not deeply heart-felt and personal, it dishonors the One to whom we pray.

Prayer changes me 1The year was 1979, walking into the chapel of the Bible Institute a voice became audible. Someone was obviously having a conversation, but the closer I got to the person  the more evident it became that he was alone. He was having a heart to heart to be sure, but it was with no person that could be seen. It was not like any prayer that I had ever heard. The intimacy level took prayer to a place I’d never been. Suddenly it became clear that I was intruding on a private conversation. All I could do was to walk quietly backwards and let myself out. As serious as the conversation was, there is no doubt in my mind that he was not aware of my presence.

Prayer is never to be done as a ritual or something on a check list. If prayer is not as a personal transaction with the person of God, it accomplishes nothing good. When our faith goes to work, then we willingly invite God into our lives, recognize Jesus Christ as Lord, and thereby, live a life of obedience.

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As we pray and meditate on the truths of scripture, and consider them against the backdrop of our own ignorance, biases, cultural mores, and sinful desires, then God speaks to us through His word. Only intimacy with God can overcome the perils of the world, the flesh, and the devil that distort a proper interpretation of scripture.

Again I say, faith is made complete in prayer, and God honoring prayer always honors God’s revealed word more than our own misunderstandings. Only then do we hear Him with a willingness to believe Him and obey. To know Jesus Christ in this way is to live a new and transformed life.

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The best way to know the one true Jesus is to know well what the Bible has to say about Him. THE JESUS YOU NEED TO KNOW was written to give you much to meditate upon, regarding the person of the Son of God. 

There is nothing better than to know Jesus Christ.

Posted in A Passion for Christ, A PERSON OVER A PRINCIPLE, Discipling with Truth, Life-giving Truth, Powerless Preaching

PASSIONATE OR POWERLESS PREACHING

For more than 1,600 years the church has suffered from a malady called pride. Christians are those people who follow Christ and Christ is almighty God who humbled himself to become like those whom He created. It stands to reason that those who would follow Him would have to humble themselves to be like him. Certainly, the true Christian humbles himself and is humbled by His Lord. However, Christians are not perfect this side of heaven, and knowing that we fight against three powerful foes, the world, the flesh, and the devil, is essential to become victorious in the fight.

To know that we fight against three foes may be true of many Christians, but how the enemy works is not always as clear, and this can cause a tremendous problem.

In the Fourth Century Christians began to think that because they were trying to reach the Gentiles, who were very educated, they needed to be educated also. There is certainly nothing wrong with being educated, but the first century Church turned the world upside down for Christ and they were mostly uneducated slaves and common people. “For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise.” (1 Corinthians 1:26, 27)

The Elder’s Calling  The Christian needs to, ” Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.” (2 Tim. 2:15) However, there is a huge difference between the knowledge of God’s word and becoming a doctor of theology, by which a man is known as an expert in the things of God. Jesus, in speaking about such things, told the crowds and His followers,

“The scribes and the Pharisees …they do all their deeds to be seen by others ….But you are not to be called rabbi (a teacher respected for accumulating a great number of Bible facts), for you have one teacher, and you are all brothers. And call no man your father (one who imparts life) on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. Neither be called instructors (Master teacher, expert, professor, doctor), for you have one instructor the Christ. The greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” (Matthew 23:2, 5, 8-12)

Notice that Jesus first says ‘be not called’, then He says ‘call no one’, and then He returns and says, ‘be not called’. Two-thirds of the responsibility is placed upon the leader to be not called something he is not, and one-third on the follower not to overly magnify the office. We have been given teachers for the perfecting of the saints and the work of the ministry (Ephesians 4), but we have also been instructed as to how we are to view them. We are led by brothers, fellow heirs of the grace of God, not masters, doctors, or experts. The ground is level at the cross! If we are to compete for anything it is to be for the bottom and the place of humility, and not for the top or the place of pride.

The Cause of Powerless Preaching  Last night a man came over with whom I have discipled for about two years. He is young in the faith, has an enormous fervency and love for Christ. His zeal is apparent in his humble and teachable spirit. He is polite, quick to ask forgiveness and to forgive.

He was asked to speak in the church plant that he is now attending. Last night he asked me to critique the message that he prepared, which he was asked to give today. As he read his well prepared manuscript, I noticed that all his fire was missing. He prepared well, but their was no passion in his speaking, and more importantly, I could not even tell whether or not he believed what he was saying. If a preacher does not believe what he is saying why should we?

The imparting of knowledge during a sermon goes without saying, but that is not the whole of preaching. Passion is either in a sermon or it is lifeless. Pastors are to impart life giving truth, they are never to lecture as if they were a professor teaching a class at college. The great twentieth century preacher, Martin Lloyd Jones, put it this way,

The Christian does not begin at zero  “The Christian is not taught as those in other disciplines; the doctor, engineer, and architect all begin knowing nothing. However, the Christian is taught all things by God, who gives us of His Spirit, so that we might receive those things about Him. (paraphrased)” The pastor prepares for ministry by broadening the knowledge that he has already received from God, as we all have. The Apostle John said it this way, “But the anointing that you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as His anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie—just as it has taught you, abide in Him.” (1 John 2:27)

Jesus Christ through the work of the Holy Spirit teaches the Christian all things. He is the Father that gave us life and new life. We have a received a new heart to understand, and He is the one who imparts knowledge; He also imparts the fruit of the Spirit, and a passion for Jesus Christ, His work, and sufferings. No man can impart knowledge! Men can speak the truth, but the work of changing hearts belongs to God.

It was so encouraging for me to watch my disciple go from the fear of man and trying to say all the right things, but merely seeking to impart knowledge, to a fervent follower of Jesus, seeking to share Christ from an honest fear of God. May it be with all of God’s servants. Dead facts kill, living truth gives life. A.W. TOZER put it this way.

“The essence of my belief is that there is a difference, a vast difference, between fact and truth. Truth in the Scriptures is more than a fact. A fact may be detached, impersonal, cold and totally dissociated from life. Truth on the other hand, is warm, living and spiritual. A theological fact may be held in the mind for a lifetime without its having any positive effect upon the moral character; but truth is creative, saving, transforming, and it always changes the one who receives it into a humbler and holier man. At what point, then, does a theological fact become for the one who holds it a life-giving truth? At the point where obedience begins. When faith gains the consent of the will to make an irrevocable committal to Christ as Lord, truth begins its saving, illuminating work; and not one moment before.” A.W. TOZER

To know Jesus, a person must receive life-giving truth, and not merely hear cold, hard facts.