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Friday, October 21, 2011

Maybe We Have Made Disciples

Many churches and Christians in the United States are languishing over the state of those who call themselves Christians. Christians are getting divorced at roughly the same rate as non-believers. They break the law as often and even answer ethical questions similarly to non-believers. Most people don't know who or who isn't a believer. Surely, church attendance can't be the litmus test for proof. Shouldn't there be such a distinct difference that anyone would be able to distinguish between the Christian and non-believer without a verbal confirmation?

Maybe the problem isn't that Christians aren't acting like Christians but that they are acting like the Christian leaders that they know. Maybe they are looking at the rich pastors who live above the people and seek to live like them. Maybe they have recognized the lies that their pastors have told and make lying part of their own lifestyles. Maybe they know that there are Christian leaders who cheat on their taxes, have affairs with impunity and live licentiously behind the backs of their fellow believers.

I remember a pastor bragging to me about one of his members who had a bad reputation in the community. He told me that privately this man was very compassionate toward people. It didn't matter that he had swindled, lied and had underhanded dealings which may have been considered legal but were certainly unethical. It didn't matter that the people in the community thought of the man as evil. Honestly, I didn't care that the man may represent himself as one who is compassionate when he was meeting privately with his pastor. I saw him as dragging the Bride of Christ (the church) through the mud. What difference were his words in private when his character revealed a totally different person?

So, when I look at the condition of the Christians in the US (I don't know if the same condition exists in other countries for I hear of great revivals going on everywhere but the US.), I wonder if we are reaping what we have sown. Are these the disciples whom we have made for they have became like their teachers?

I am afraid our efforts to shun the righteousness of the Pharisees may have put us in an entirely different dilemma. We have wanted to avoid judging others. We have rejected any idea of setting ourselves as examples. Therefore, we have allowed our own state to become lax in pious living. We have not taught our people to live holy lives. We have not shown what holiness is. They have had no vision but our own lives to follow. Of course, the result is what we see today.

Christians must stand up and be counted as those who are striving to live holy lives if this trend is to be reversed. I must. All who are believers must.

I have been preaching a message for the last two Sundays that I want people to hear if we are to be the people who are full of the Holy Spirit.

1. Confess all your sins. Ask the Lord to reveal them to you and make sure that you ask for forgiveness for each one of them.

2. Make peace with others. The greatest hindrance to the infilling of the Holy Spirit is the presence of an unresolved conflict. Ask for forgiveness and forgive others if you want the Spirit to fill you.

3. Proclaim Jesus to someone ever day. Tell others that you are a believer. It will change the way you live.

4. Obey the Holy Spirit immediately. Delayed obedience is disobedience. Do what He says, when He says it.

I believe we would create a different character in our disciples if we would simply follow these points.

After all, we will make disciples regardless of how we live.

Matthew 10:24-25 (ESV)
24 “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. 25 It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household.

Matthew 23:15 (ESV)
15 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.


Anthony Chia said...

How true it is, that we are examples to others all the time. Where there is relationship there is also a modeling involved. A teacher is a model to his students; a father is modeling for his children, for examples.

The saying, "Like father, like son", is NOT without its frequent occurrences. People tend to think that if the father is a drunkard, the children will NOT be drunkard when they mature; or be a violent character, when the father had been one, at home. Actually, it happens. People tended to associate the saying to the good attributes or examples set by the father or the teachers, but the saying does NOT say that.

We are fathers and teachers to all those who look up to us. Pastors are all fathers and teachers. So are preachers, ministers of the Lord, and even home-group cell leaders. We just cannot think that, what we do is just our business – “I did NOT ask you to imitate me!”

Years ago, before I became a believer, I was told that “Christianity is a way of life”. Later, after I became a Christian, I then thought the saying was just a way of making it more acceptable to the people whom we were trying to reach out to; when we are saying it was a way of life, it kind of sound less threatening or demanding to the listener. I thought that, that was not the way to hold out the Gospel of Jesus Christ; we did NOT need to dilute the exactness of the gospel. Then when I matured further, I began to realize that the gospel demanded a certain way of life; it is NOT just A WAY of life, but a CERTAIN WAY of life. When Christianity is being presented as a way of life, it is sounded so optional, so politically correct; but to view it that way is actually wrong.

Christianity necessarily is a way of life. It must be; otherwise it is of little real use; if it is being applied only within the 4 walls of a church building, what good it is to the men in the street? If we do NOT view Christianity as the required way of life, then chances are that we will compartmentalize what will govern our thoughts and actions in life. We will end up, putting on different robes, in different scenarios! I may end up like this: When I am in church, I put on the robe of Christianity; when I am at the work place, I put on the robe of the serpent, shrewdness and cunningness (but NOT the innocence of the dove); and when I am at my leisure and recreations, I put on the robe of self-indulgence. And then, every now and then, I will put on an overcoat of pretence. Christianity is about God, and it is about a way of life demanded by God, nothing less.

Brother Anthony, the way you put it, it sounded so much like there is a lot of rules or laws that we need to abide by, and we have to effort and work on so many things; isn’t that no more grace, but works? But have you considered these: How can there be no restraints, no rules, no laws? How can there be no works, no effort exhorted in Scripture? Stop deceiving yourselves; God is a holy God; He did NOT send His Son, Jesus Christ to die on the Cross so that we could live a law-less way of life, doing anything we like or doing nothing at all, except just basking in grace.

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Anthony Chia said...

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The way of life demanded by God is the way of obedience to God. How can there be obedience when there are no restraints, instructions, rules or laws. How can God count it to you, if you do NOT observe obedience? Obedience is NOT saying, “I obey, but do nothing about it”; when you say “I obey, but do nothing about it”, that is called “You are ignoring God”. That is what we do, so every often; we just ignore God or promptings of His Spirit who dwells in us. To ignore God is telling God, “I know better, and I am capable of running my life myself, my way.” Frank Sinatra’s “I did it my way” is obviously NOT the way to go; but the world likes it, because it is of the world.

But brother, where then is love? Our love is in the obedience. If you are on the street, and you are hungry, and you see a teenager (stranger), and you ask him to do you a favor, to cross over the street to the bakery shop, and buy for you a loaf of bread so that you can satisfy your hunger, but the boy refused to do it for you, would you be sad? No, I won’t, and I am quite sure you won’t, too. Now, what if the teenager was your son? I would be sad, and you would, too! Because we love our son, and we expect him to obey us in his show of love. God has given us, through His Word, and by the Holy Spirit, things to do and not to do, and what do you do with them? You turn a deaf ear to it, ignore it, “treat Him or His Spirit as invisible”, as the saying goes! How can we be a good model if we do NOT want to receive it in, what Christianity is truly about, and attempt to live it out.

It is one thing to fail in our attempt to live it out; it is another when we ignore the need to live it out. And it is still another, to propagate we only needed right standing, no need of right living. Yes, we need right standing, but having right standing is NOT the end of the story, we have to live rightly, for “The test of pudding is in the eating”. I will be as bold as to say that, that is the way God looks at us, “The test of pudding is in the eating”. It is utterly wrong to preach that it is possible to be a Christian, by just acquiring a right standing, with no need of change in way of life if that way is running contrary to the Word of God.

It is already bad that we are tending to find it a “chore” to live right, for it is of course, not an easy thing to do to start with; but there are now blatant teachings by skewed overly grace teachers telling Christians to effort NOT, or ought NOT. Although they do NOT “spell it” that way, they are in fact, cleverly deceiving believers to push all responsibility for their thoughts and actions back to God, holding God ransom, for His purported lack of faithfulness to prevent the thoughts and things that they are NOT supposed to have or do. Such would casually insinuate that, that they had NOT done anything meaningful, it was God did NOT move them enough to do something! In other words, they cannot be at fault, since their argument is that it is all about God, and by God; all God’s part, there is no “our part”! As a minimum, all such teachings lead to complacency in a believer’s life, making him unproductive to the Lord, and also making the believer vulnerable to the evil ones roaming around to devour. Like father, like son; bad disciples are being produced by such teachers.

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Anthony Chia said...

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Concerning corporate America, as far as I understand it, in the dynamics of God, there is the individual dynamics and there is the corporate dynamics. There is therefore, such a thing as a corporate atmosphere. America needs to draw lessons from the journey of Israel as a corporate dynamics. The Old Testament (OT) recorded what went wrong with corporate Israel over many, many years; actually there are many big pictures of wrong moves in corporate Israel that America or any body-corporate like a church can learn from. Will America still have room for the applicability of the OT, or have overly grace teachings taken so firm and widespread a grip that OT is thrown down the rubbish chute, on the ground that we are in the era of grace! Are you NOT teaching your congregation concerning the need to live right, because the wind of change of the world is sweeping people towards easy-believism? Are you afraid of losing your sheep if you harp on Christianity is about God’s demanded way of life for men? What example are you setting? Ps Prentis is sure putting up a fight. Scripture said that he who honored God, God will honor him (1 Sam 2:30) How about you?

Lastly, in Titus 1:16, the Apostle Paul gave the formula to tell apart those who are truly pure, and those who are corrupted in their mind and conscience.

They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him. They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good (Titus 1:16)

Paul said, you look at their actions, and you can tell. Those that claimed they know God, their action will be consistent with that, if their actions betray them, then we know that they were not what they claim they were. Such people are detestable, disobedient, and they are unfit for doing anything good.