Saturday, July 26, 2008

I Must Decrease

One of my favorite areas of ministry is mentoring young believers and young leaders. I enjoy seeing new believers discover more and more about Jesus, His grace and His call to reach others. I enjoy seeing young leaders take more responsibility and come up with ideas better than my own. I am also a little selfish here because if the young leaders will do more then I will have to do less.

LESS. Now that is not a popular word. As in fashion where “Green is the new Red” we now find that “Less is the new More.” I am hopelessly colorblind, green really is red for me, so I probably ruined that last example. The problem with this new – actually ancient – spiritual fashion is that some leaders just can’t get enough of “more”.

I often hear of leaders still trying to hold the reigns on peoples’ lives, on the creativity of their leaders and lastly on the pulpit. In its extreme it is both sad and tragic as a whole generation is stunted in their growth because of one person.

John the Baptist set the bar when he said, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” Jn 3:30 I think that this frightens many leaders because they simply cannot see the Holy Spirit moving in anyone except themselves. Other leaders think that the most talented has to be the one up front, and some are more simple-minded in their approach. They think that they are Moses incarnate.

“Less” and “Decrease” do not mean a decrease in the kingdom of God. This actually means increase in the right context. A kingdom that depends on one man being the conduit of the power of God will surely blow a fuse. The fuse is often the pastor. However, the increase comes from the enormous magnitude of effectiveness when God’s power, creativity and purpose are manifested in all His people. We want the lordship of Jesus to increase in the lives of all people, not our lordship.

There are several areas where this principle causes more growth:

  • The more I come to Jesus on a daily basis and rely less on my natural strength, the more His kingdom will be manifested in my life. Still working on this!
  • My daughters are at the age where I am mentoring them to make their own decisions. I often ask them what they think God would lead them to do in a specific situation. This sharpens their discernment, and this is necessary now because in a few years they might have their own families. They will still probably call me though to babysit.
  • Young believers have to be carried at times, but we need to help them stand on God’s word, and we have to instill a personal faith in them that does not rely on the people or things around them. They need to be weaned from us so they can feed themselves.
  • Young leaders need to be able to express their own creativity, and we need to give them reasonable latitude to make important decisions even if we might disagree. Letting people skin their knees a little with some not-so-so-well-thought-out-plans can be a valuable lesson. We can’t insulate them from pain and failure, but we can help them grow in wisdom to make mature decisions.
  • We can also simplify the vision so that our personal gifting is not projected over them. Let them be creative. They hear from God as much as we do. Let them take the wheel sometimes.
  • Let them take the wheel more.
  • Then give them the wheel.

When we hold on to the wheel we will eventually lose it, and God’s kingdom invariably suffers a setback. When we decrease and let Jesus increase in the lives of others we actually lose nothing. People grow, God’s kingdom grows and the leaders whom we helped only invite us back in as wise counsel and eventually peers.

Even Jesus wanted His disciples to do more miracles than He.

Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father. Jn 14:12

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Great World Religions or How to Give Yourself CPR

Salvation by works has often been compared to saving yourself from drowning. Many religions essentially teach that they can give proper swimming techniques in the midst of a vast ocean of personal depravity. Of course, they move you closer to the shore and decrease the depth of the water. In other words, they teach that you are not really that lost, and if you are not that lost then you do not need a savior. You just need a guide or a teacher.

Those who call themselves Christians often fall into a similar trap in their understanding of keeping God’s laws. They imply that these laws are also instructions to at least “keep us saved”. However, swimming instructions written on stone tablets are not the best thing to throw someone who is still in deep water. The deep water I speak of is the propensity of the flesh to steer left like a grocery cart with a bent wheel. It does this when God’s law steers right.
Rom 7:7-25 Denying this is like trying to hold a beach ball under water in a pool. It will come up somewhere.

The religions of man have it all wrong; we are not drowning at all! We are actually already dead, spiritually dead that is. Scripture teaches us that we are all dead in our sins and that none of us seeks after God.
Eph 2:1-10; Rom 3:9-20 The absurdity of saving oneself in this predicament is the same as thinking a drowned man can administer CPR to himself. He is utterly helpless. Yes, we do have a responsibility to hear and repent, and “NO” this is not a Calvinist argument about total depravity. We are dead in our sins, but a totally depraved person grazes naked in the field with cows. Sorry for that tangent.

Jesus had an interesting way of bringing religious people to an understanding that they needed salvation. He did not bring in grace at first unless people were humble. He brought in the law. He reinforced the fact that the tablets of the law were weightier that the Pharisees thought. He pressed this until the hearer exclaimed, “Who then can be saved?” This is when He introduced grace and mercy because it was only then that it could be appreciated.

One of the evangelistic mistakes that we often make in communicating the gospel to people of other religions is trying to explain the person & ministry of Jesus before they see their need for salvation. Even though our postmodern world rejects moral absolutes many world religious still accept them. In these cases we can establish a degree of righteousness using their own standards that brings in self doubt. We can then bring in the gospel that brings a correct fear of God. The terror of an inescapable judgment is actually desirable. It is not popular, but facing the
Dark Night of the Soul puts a person in the best position of understanding the hope of trusting in the finished work of Christ.

As He passed by, He saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting in the tax booth, and He said to him, "Follow Me!" And he got up and followed Him.

And it happened that He was reclining at the table in his house, and many tax collectors and sinners were dining with Jesus and His disciples; for there were many of them, and they were following Him. When the scribes of the Pharisees saw that He was eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they said to His disciples, "Why is He eating and drinking with tax collectors and sinners?" And hearing this, Jesus said to them, "It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick; I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners." Mark 2:14-17