MAKE DISCIPLES

Jesus said, “Go make disciples…” Are we missing something? I heard a preacher say once, “When reading the book of Acts, you will not read of one person who ate a bite, drank a drop, or slept a wink after hearing the gospel before he surrendered his life to Christ.” I suspect I have repeated that a thousand times in the past, but not in the last decade. Am I missing something?

Isn’t it also true that those first disciples went out with a message so powerful that, for the most part, converts were made after one presentation? What was their message? Do we have the same message and the same power? Are we missing something? “Is the book of Acts a book of examples or a book of exceptions?”(Rick Atchley) What did these folks have that we don’t have?

I invite you to examine the nine (9) conversion stories in the book of Acts and see if you can discover what we are missing.

I also ask, “If you had the opportunity, right now, with someone sitting right in front of you, that you could share the message of salvation with, what would you share?” Do you have a plan? What are we missing?

The Christian and Politics


Jesus said, “If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.” (John 15:19)

Can Christians avoid being political? One definition is “activities within an organization that are aimed at improving someone’s status or position and are typically considered to be devious or divisive.” For instance, check out this text:
Proverbs 31:8-9 NIV [8] Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. [9] Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.

Doesn’t this apply to the unborn? It is right to speak out to defend the unborn against being killed, but not without being political. Dr. Devin Swindle, a Professor of Bible at Harding University, recently wrote, “If you preach this, you will be accused of being political, but remember this: if you claim citizenship in the Kingdom of God, you will be pledging allegiance to another King who makes political claims on your life, and those claims will be diametrically opposed to the kings and kingdoms of this world. Preaching the King’s politics does not make you a republican or a democrat; it makes you faithful”.

Some want to sit on the sidelines and criticize those who speak out on such issues as abortion. In doing so they are being political themselves. This should not be a surprise since Paul wrote, “You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.” (Romans 2:1)

You would have to go into a monastery to avoid being political, and even in that move you could be political. A Pacifist is being political by refusing to join the military. Taking a non-combat role in the military is being political. Paying taxes to support our government is being political.

Personally, I spent over 8 years in the U.S. Navy. Over 5 of those years was on/in the same conventional diesel driven submarine, the USS Trout (SS-566). I have served 28 days submerged in that “boat” with 100 other men (not very romantic). One year I was at sea, away from my wife and children, for nine months. Others have done so much more for our freedom. I can’t imagine life in a foxhole or eating the dust of a desert storm or jumping from an airplane into enemy fire. To speak up for our great Nation is political. I can’t be otherwise.

I am a Christian and I am political. I say I am independent but most of the time I vote Republican. I am in ministry working with women in addiction (John 3:17 Ministry for Women with Addictions) I am a supporter of our President. In today’s vernacular I am a “right-leaning conservative.” You may oppose what I have shared. If you do you are being political.

The Lord’s Church

Jesus said, “Upon this rock I will build my church.”  The Lord’s church was “bought with his own blood” (Acts 20:28).  It is described as the “body of Christ” (Ephesians 1:22-23), and the “family of God in heaven and on earth”(Ephesians 3:15).

Early in my Christian walk I thought, was even convinced, that the Lord’s Church (i.e.  The Church of Christ) could be identified by physical characteristics. I thought the Church of Christ and Kingdom of God was one and the same. But, when speaking about the Kingdom of God, Jesus said, “The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:20b-21).  Wow! Couldn’t see it. Couldn’t really give it a physical address.

When we use the term, “The Lord’s Church,” if we mean, “the Kingdom of God,” it consists of all the saved, both living and dead (Ephesians 3:15). Paul said it like this, “We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him” (1 Thessalonians 4:14), those who have died.  Paul described the second coming of Christ this way: “For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.  After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17)  

Notice this: Ananias and Sapphira physically joined up with the Church but were not members of the Kingdom of God (Acts 5:1-11). You can see from verse Acts 5:13 that they had joined the Church but their hearts were not with God. Membership in the Kingdom of God, His Church, has to do with the condition of the heart (Romans 10:9-10). The heart will move a person to physical action (Luke 6:45). 

A great disservice has been done to Christianity by making external characteristics the model for the Church. The right name, the right organization, the right steps in worship, the right steps in the plan of salvation and the right mission have, in too many cases, created legalists rather than humble followers of Christ. Suggesting you change just one of these physical, external “essentials”and see what it generates! 

For instance, take the name: Church of Christ.  The term Church of God is used eleven times in Scripture; Churches of Christ is mentioned only one time.  Why does it cause such a stir to not have the name Church of Christ on your sign and letterhead? 

My friend and mentor, Jimmy Allen, often preached on, “How to make the Church of Christ a denomination.” He was dynamic in his presentations and got a number of amen’s, but little changed. When he served as an elder at the College Church in Searcy, AR he had a slot placed in the sign in front of the building that read, “College Church of Christ,” and every week another designation was slid into that slot, such as: Church of God, New Testament Church, etc.  He used a handful of scriptural designations. None of these changed the hearts of those who worshiped there. 

Paul said, concerning himself as a Pharisee, “…as for legalistic righteousness, faultless.”  He went on to write, “But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.  What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things.  I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ – the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead” (Philippians 3:7-11). Paul gave up his legalism for a relationship with Christ.

I now worship with Remmel Church, a Church I preached for in the early 70’s.  It is one of the oldest Churches of Christ in Arkansas, dating back to late 1800’s. This is also where John 3:17 Ministry for Women with Addictions is located (www.john317ministry.org). About ten years ago this congregation built a new building closer to the main highways.  When the move was made the label, Church of Christ, was dropped. It is now labeled as “The Church at Remmel.” This is very fitting since there is not another group, with any label, that meets within this community. However this has not been done without having critics line up to disparage the change. 

Anyone who reads the New Testament with an open mind surely realizes that there were several ethnic groups represented. The big three were Jews, Samaritans and Gentiles.  There was a reason Peter went to the Jews and Paul went to the Gentiles (Galatians 2:8); they were just different in their customs.  The Gentiles did not naturally line up with the Jews in their practices, nor were they expected to. Vice-versa. The one thing they had most in common was Jesus Christ. 

So, who is the Lord’s Church? All of the saved; past, present and future. The Kingdom of God also consists of all of the saved; past present and future.  When someone talks of the Lord’s Church, but does not include all of the saved, they are making the Church a denomination.   

Jim Woodell

Searcy, AR 72143

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Free in Christ

 

Free in Christ

I served in the U.S. Navy for 8 and one-half years, five of those years on the same Submarine, the USS Trout (SS-566).  When I first became a Christian some of my shipmates said, “Woody has got religion!”

There are many religions in the world including Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, etc.  Each requires strict adherence to a set doctrine or list of rules.  Christ did not come to issue a new set of rules to live by, he came to rid humankind of the guilt of sin and have a relationship.

There is a tendency to make Christianity simply a religion among religions of the world; just a different set of rules and doctrine.  It is not so.  Christianity is about a relationship with the founder – Jesus Christ.

G.C. Brewer wrote, “People would rather Jesus give us a set of rules to save ourselves rather than accept him as Savior.”  In his 2013 book entitled, “gods at war,” Kyle Idleman wrote, “One of the most common gods of success is the worship of religious rules. We put our trust in our own mastery of rule keeping. The god of success invites you to save yourself instead of depending upon Jesus to do it.” (P. 135)

Paul had lived under the restraints of Moses’ law, but he gave all of that up for a relationship with Christ (Philippians 3:2-11).  In his letter to the Galatians he wrote, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.  Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1)

The big deal in your life and mine is to decide WHO Jesus is.  Is he the Son of God or not? In Matthew 16 Jesus asked, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”   It was Peter who had the insight to respond, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”  Peter was right on!  Then Jesus revealed that it would be upon this truth that he would build his church.  His church is us, me and you.  Acknowledging and receiving this truth is what gives us freedom.

“Jesus paid it all.” “Nothing in my hand I bring, simply to the cross I cling.”  “What can wash away my sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus!”

Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) It appears that this revelation has been hacked. Jesus stated plainly that He is the way, the truth, and the life. Adding obligations takes away freedom. Often it is more about tradition and ritual than it is about Christ.

Ask yourself, “What have I put my trust in?”

When Paul was fighting within himself about his imperfections he exclaimed, “What a wretched man I am!”  And then he cried out, “WHO will rescue me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:24)  Notice, he did not ask “what” can rescue me.  There is no system of religion that will erase our sin. Jesus alone has paid that price.

At the end of his life Paul wrote Timothy, “I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day.” (2 Timothy 1:12b)

Jim Woodell, Executive Director
John 3:17 Ministry for Women

 

Afraid of the Holy Spirit?

The Holy Spirit may be like slick okra – we are afraid to take in anything that we don’t have control over!  Even to the most intellectual and sharpest among us the Holy Spirit is a mystery.  In the words of Jesus he operates like the wind (John 3:8) coming and going as he likes.  In spite of his mysterious existence, he is real. But, I am convinced, he is only real to those who experience him.

It was Jesus who said, “It is for your good that I am going away” (John 16:7).  Why? Because, “I will send the Holy Spirit to you” (John 16:7).  Jesus was bound by his physical presence with the disciples, but the Holy Spirit is not so bound.  He dwells in all the earth. Peter quoted the prophet Joel in Acts 2 saying, “In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people” (Joel 2:28-29). There are no physical limitations on the Holy Spirit of Jesus.

We should be challenged when we read the book of Acts by asking, “Is this a book of exceptions or examples?” (Rick Atchley, May 3, 2013) The Holy Spirit was active among the people of God then, what about now?  Paul was clear, “His Spirit HIMSELF testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children” (Romans 8:16).  Those who were to be chosen to serve in Acts 6 were to be “full of the Spirit and wisdom” (6:3).  No doubt they visibly demonstrated the “fruit of the Spirit” (Galatians 5:22-23).  Acts 13 records the Holy Spirit speaking to the worshipers in Antioch saying, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them” (13:2).  Barnabas and Saul were “sent on their way by the Holy Spirit…” (13:4).  The Holy Spirit remained active in the ministry of Paul and his companions as you can see from Acts 16:6-10. He wants to be active in our ministry also.

I asked in a Bible class, “Would you believe me if I told you that God called me to preach?”  One brother was quick to speak and said, “NO! I wouldn’t believe you.”  I have met some who have said that God was “dealing with me for years before I decided to surrender to his will.” Others have said, “God spoke to me and said…”  Language that conveys that God is working  in our life or ministry, apart from the Bible, is met with skepticism in many circles.  Sad.

Why not open yourself up to the Holy Spirit rather than resist (Acts 7:51), grieve (Ephesians 4:30) or quench (1 Thessalonians 5:19) Him? Why not “fan into flame” this great gift of God? (2 Timothy 1:6-8) Then, watch out!