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Thursday, April 3, 2014

How Do You Respond When Someone Responds to God?

How many times do we openly pray that the Holy Spirit will work and secretly hope that He doesn't?

Each week I offer an invitation for people to respond to what God is telling them. We sing but I don't prod people into making a public statement. I tell them that it is an invitation which they can respond to, not a inquisition in which they are hounded into. They must respond based on what God leads them to do, not based on my pleading or shaming them into walking down the aisle.

I stand at the front and wait while many people sing. I can't help but read the faces of many in the room. They are hoping that no one responds because this extends the invitation. We usually share what God has said to those who respond. We generally ask people to come forward and give them words of encouragement. It takes time.

Of course, they could leave without waiting but that would reveal how uninterested they are to see God move. It would reveal that they really don't want to see the Holy Spirit work. So, they fold their arms, refuse to sing and wait until its all over.

The brother of the Prodigal Son never wanted to see his brother come home. He never wanted to see his father delighting in him. He despised his brother for leaving, for taking his inheritance, for leaving him with all the work and for treating his father like he was dead. He didn't think that his father should rejoice in his brother's return. The party his father gave really bothered him.

His brother's homecoming made things extremely inconvenient. It is a matter of degree between this return and those who respond to the invitation for those who hope it doesn't happen don't realize that they are opposing those whom God loves. God loves those who come home to Him. He celebrates when one of His comes to his senses and returns home humbly.

The one who opposes those whom God love are opposing God as well. They hope that He will not work. They create an atmosphere where His work is made difficult. Their actions complain to God about those who come to Him.

This makes me think that the one who is already in the church is and has been farther away from God than the person who has not darkened the door of the church for years. They have been in the building but far from God. They have said the right words and prayed the right prayers but do not have God's heart for seeing people come home.

I was one of those people who came home one day. I didn't notice at the time whether there were people who didn't want me to come home. It really didn't matter I needed to come home.

And I knew one thing. God was more happy than I was that I returned. Are you glad when someone responds to God?

Luke 15:25-32 (ESV)
25 “Now his older son was in the field, and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 And he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. 27 And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he has received him back safe and sound.’ 28 But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, 29 but he answered his father, ‘Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!’ 31 And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32 It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.’ ”


Anthony Chia said...

Firstly, preachers and pastors should often, try to make an “altar call”, encouraging people to come to the Lord (enter into salvation), in every service. The point is that we don’t often to go out to where the non-believers are; in fact, the way we operate most of the times, is we are hoping the non-believers to come to where we are, into the 4 walls of the church. In many modern cities, it is so, much are regulated, we do “our things” within the 4 walls of the church; but one of the 3 major missions of the church (and so, of the pastors collectively) must be to preach the gospel so that non-believers may hear and be possessed of the salvation faith, and be encouraged to step into salvation.

The other (mission), which many churches don’t even do it properly, despite having the resources, is that the church must help in the discipling of believers. The 3rd one is that the church is to be the place where the compassion of God is to be felt by those in afflictions of life.

Discipling is work done on the believers; and we minister to both believers and non-believers, in their afflictions of life (in sickness, in grief, in emotional struggles, spiritual bondages, even in basic physical needs, etc). Salvation of course, means we need to attention the non-believers. Frankly speaking, if we pay NOT attention to non-believers, where then would the believers of the church come from? Organic growth? Believers beget believers? Sure, but even that we need to teach properly the Christian parents on how to bring up children in such a way that the children would be encouraged to personally embrace salvation (Those born in Christian families do NOT automatically mean they have given their lives to the Lord. Each has to come into salvation, personally). In Singapore (soon will be celebrating 50 years of independence) there are now many greying-out churches, where we see only the grandfathers and grandmothers, sometimes, with their little grandchildren, but their children are missing from their own churches. These churches could eventually be closed off, because there was no renewal of leadership and congregation.

The church must want people of all ages to come, and non-believers and believers to come. We have even to make conscious effort all the time to secure proper demographic balance. For example, if you have a home cell ministry, it is very obvious there – the olds stick to the olds, and the young ones to the young ones, and if you reach the state of all the cell members of a cell are old people, and you have a young person come into the cell, that young person will leave soon, if you don’t make deliberate effort to make him/her welcome, or that you don’t make an effort to fit in one or two more young persons into the group.

“Oh, bro. Anthony, you are going into works and human effort, and trying to do things by human wisdom.” Years ago, when I was in school, there was a Malay boy who did something silly (I cannot remember what he did, though), and the teacher, a male teacher (ah! I can still remember how he looked like), he posed to the boy, “Where is your common sense?”, but the boy heard it as “Where is the common sand?” The boy replied, “At home, sir!” We all laughed. We were never exhorted to leave our common sense at home and come to church!

Scripture personified wisdom as a living thing, a “she”. It means wisdom is alive, and it can grow and it can evolve. It depends on what you let her have, the Word or worldly fixes. It depends on you letting her come into the presence of God and godly people, or allows her to “fellowship” with worldly characters. It depends on whether you practices Phil 4:8 which we have looked at, a couple days ago, here.

“Bro Anthony, did God NOT suggest we live one day at a time, NOT to worry about tomorrow” Yes, but please, it does NOT mean we are NOT to think or plan for tomorrow. Please, the emphasis there is “NOT to worry”; it is NOT we don’t consider the future or make any plans.


Anthony Chia said...

cont. from above

Coming back closer to the issue on the blog entry, of the unpleasant posture of congregation towards inconvenience, the taking up of time, and variation to service liturgy, it is about members of congregation NOT identifying with the heart of God, that central in the heart of God is His wish that none should perish. In other words, He wants to see men coming into salvation.

We have to ask ourselves, if we have discipled the flock rightly? We have to ask if we did teach them that, that the heart of God wants to see as many men come into salvation as possible and that we are to work with Him and facilitate that, and NOT doing the opposite, opposing or hindering His works. If you have done and continue to do that, disciple rightly, your conscience is clear; otherwise, start discipling well, the flock; it is never too late to do that.

Corporate atmosphere, I often said, is important. Why is, when the corporate atmosphere is right, God moves by His Spirit mightily, and when it is NOT, often, He moves little, if NOT at all? It is because He need to teach the people, and there has to certain degree of consistency if we are to teach people.

It is common sense, if we think about it (if people want to leave their common “sands” at home, what can I say!), when we try to teach children, that if we want the kids to keep quiet and still, so that lesson for the day can be started or continued, we cannot be inconsistent with how we handle kids still yakking away, and moving about, in class. If you just begin to teach or continue to teach and ignore the mischiefs, soon enough, it will be everybody for himself, is it NOT?! Is it NOT a disrespect for the teacher? Just in this example, we can learn of one thing, that we often forget when it comes to us, our case before God, and it is: That we would want the kids to learn certain basics (e.g. be still and quiet, in class), before we teach them other stuff (e.g. arithmetic), God, too, is waiting for us to fall in, for the basics, before He is going to dish out the more meaty stuff.

Somewhere along the line, every believer has to identify with this – that the heartbeat of God is that He desires none be lost; instead He would like to see as many as possible be saved. We are to work with Him on that, facilitate that, and NOT against that.

Anthony Chia, high.expressions

Prentis McGoldrick said...

Sometimes I overstate an issue. Most of the congregation rejoices at the work the Lord is doing. It is the minority who quench the spirit but the spirit remains quenched. I suppose an unfettered Spirit is the precursor of revival.

I am not looking for success. I desire God's work. I want to see revival.