What is God calling Christians to do? We are simply to be found faithful in the task of delivering the Gospel message. We are to bring the gospel into our workplaces, friendships, and families, to whomever and wherever. All that is required is to look to where God has placed us and simply to be found faithful to the task of proclaiming the good news to those who are dead in their sins. It requires that we not be ashamed of the good news of the gospel, which includes not being ashamed of the bad news of God’s judgment against sin.
Whatever the result of that proclamation of the gospel may be, whether a hardening or a softening of the heart, God effectually uses this message for His purposes.
Not every instance of proclaiming a message of repentance is designed by God to bring the people who hear it to repentance and faith. In fact, Scripture often demonstrates the opposite is true—that the proclamation serves to condemn the recipients rather than restore them. A great example of this is found in the commissioning of the prophet Isaiah:
Then I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here am I. Send me!” He said,
“Go and tell these people: Keep on listening, but do not perceive; keep on looking, but do not understand.Render the hearts of these people insensitive, their ears dull, and their eyes dim, otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts, and return and be healed.”Then I said, “Lord, how long?” and He answered, “Until cities are devastated and without inhabitants, houses are without people and the land is utterly desolate, the Lord has removed men far away, and the forsaken places are many in the midst of the land. Yet there will be a tenth portion in it, and it will again be subject to burning, like a terebinth or an oak whose stump remains when it is felled. The holy seed is its stump”Isaiah 6:8-13
As Brevard Childs ( Isaiah. Westminster John Knox Press, (2001): p56). puts it, “Isaiah, the prophet is to be the executor of death, the guarantor of complete hardening. His very proclamation is to ensure that Israel will not turn and repent.” How would you like to be called by God to deliver that message?
“If sinners will be damned, at least let them leap to Hell over our bodies. And if they will perish in the Lake of Fire, let them perish with our arms about their knees, imploring them to stay. If Hell must be filled, at least let it be filled in the teeth of our exertions, and let not one go there unwarned and unprayed for.” Charles Spurgeon
We may not necessarily like the implications of God using our proclamation of judgment and salvation to effectively harden an individual’s heart. We may not believe the implications of this are even fair—but we ought to remember in the midst of everything that we don’t want fair because our idea of what’s fair doesn’t square with God’s.
What’s fair is God condemning every man, woman, and child to eternal destruction in the Lake of Fire. What’s fair is that the only blameless One to have ever existed would not be put to the cross to pay for the sins of others. What you and I desire is mercy and grace, because mercy is not giving people what they deserve, which is condemnation, and grace is giving people what they don’t deserve, which is no condemnation. The gospel is a scandal to the world because it sees the murderer, rapist, racist, and the like, on equal footing with the sweet old lady who doesn’t confess Christ—and offers them all the same grace of God in Christ. What that very simply means is that the gospel is not barred from anyone on the basis of their own doing or choosing, but rather, on the sovereign choice of God Himself. If those who struggle with evangelizing were to focus on the sovereignty of God in evangelism, it would free many a burdened soul up to take joy in the work that God has given them, realizing that whether the person they share the gospel with rejects or receives it, God is glorified in accomplishing His work through the preached word.
This post was extracted from an article by Grayson Gilbert, A Lesson from Isaiah on the Sovereignty of God in Evangelism July 23, 2020, http://www.patheos.com
Global Catalytic Ministries (GCM) has witnessed exponential growth in disciple-making through one of their leaders, “Jav.”
GCM said, “We are always in awe of what God can do with just one ‘YES’. Jav was trained by the Iranian underground church and is leading the great move of the Holy Spirit in Afghanistan. Jav shared that he will baptize over 60 Afghan Muslims this week! He hasdiscipled 5,000 people and communicates using one of the phones that were purchased with your donations. 5,000 new disciples a year is 416 disciples a month, 13 disciples a day, which means there is a brand new disciple every 2 hours for 365 days straight. That phone allows him to train, disciple, develop other leaders, and grow the kingdom of God. We will continue to keep you updated with information like this in the future. It is our privilege to share stories like this of how the Spirit is moving.”
“But now I go away to Him who sent Me, and none of you asks Me, ‘Where are You going?’ But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. Nevertheless, I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you. And when He has come He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin, because they do not believe in Me; of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more; of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.”John 16:5-11
“Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?Romans 6:46
“If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.” Romans 8:11
“The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.” Romans 8:16-17
God’s people longed for God’s judgment because it meant that God would set things right (Psalms 72:4). This saving judgment entailed God condemning their enemies but they thought little about what God required of them.
Some readers might need to reorient how they think about “being saved.” Salvation concerns both what we’re saved from and what we’re saved for. Many people think almost exclusively in terms of the former. We are saved from wrath, punishment, condemnation, and hell. Though a glorious truth, it is a partial truth.
Nothing is wrong with stressing the importance of being saved from something. Being saved from the penalty, power, and presence of sin is glorious! But…. and this is an important “but” … no one is saved merely from fear of penalty. Ultimately, salvation requires love for Christ and obedience to Christ by obedience to the guidance of the Holy Spirit that dwells within your spirit.
The goal of salvation is believers’ conformity to the Son of God—their participation in his rule over creation as God’s eschatological family and as renewed humanity—but only and always with the purpose of extending God’s hand of mercy, love, and care to his wider creation. This was humanity’s job in the beginning; it is the believer’s responsibility now and will be the believers’ responsibility and honor in the future, first during Jesus’ Millennial reign on this earth when He and the resurrected Saints will rule the nations with a rod of iron. This is a transitional era when Satan is bound but he is released at the end of the Millennium when he is still able to raise an army like the sand of the sea. He and his army will be defeated and this earth destroyed with fire. The second resurrection and the White Throne judgement follow, before the newearth and heaven where only the righteous dwell.
This vision is compelling and sustaining. It creates a far more robust biblical perspective on following Christ.
People know that the world has problems. Moreover, the Holy Spirit convicts the world of sin and righteousness and He will guide and direct our steps to evangelize the lost. He will even give us the words to say so they know that we are being used by God. We just need to be obedient to the call of God on our lives regardless of the cost.
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:35-39
Can I suggest that before you read this post you read or re-read my post “The Key to Evangelism is God’s Power” on June 30th, 2022.
If we go into evangelism understanding that in some cases, God actually uses the proclamation of truth as a means to close one’s mind from repentance, we can guard our hearts by recognizing that God ordains whatsoever comes to pass. What that means with respect to evangelism is that sometimes, the preaching of the gospel actually serves as the means through which an individual’s heart is hardened against God. In other words, not every instance of proclaiming a message of repentance is designed by God to bring the people who hear it to repentance and faith. In fact, Scripture often demonstrates the opposite is true—that the proclamation serves to condemn the recipients rather than restore them. A great example of this is found in the commissioning of the prophet Isaiah:
Then I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here am I. Send me!” He said, “Go, and tell this people: Keep on listening, but do not perceive; keep on looking, but do not understand. Render the hearts of this people insensitive, their ears dull, and their eyes dim, otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts, and return and be healed.” Then I said, “Lord, how long?” and He answered, “Until cities are devastated and without inhabitant, houses are without people and the land is utterly desolate. the Lord has removed men far away, and the forsaken places are many in the midst of the land. Yet there will be a tenth portion in it, and it will again be subject to burning, like a terebinth or an oak whose stump remains when it is felled. The holy seed is its stump.”Isaiah 6:8-13
Many tend to focus on Isaiah’s answer to the commission, but the focus of the passages itself is on the content of the commission, which is fleshed out in verses 9-12. The Hebrew denotes the continuing nature of the commands to be given to the people in v. 9, yet also the subsequent result. The Israelites will be commanded by the prophet to continually be in a state of listening, but they will never come to understanding; they are to be continually in a state of seeking out understanding, but they will never come to an understanding. They are to constantly seek after God—yet they will not find Him. In other words, they will be given an impossible task and the preaching of the prophet himself will only solidify this reality. In v. 10 the prophet is actually commanded—the imperative form of the verbs is used here—to render their hearts insensitive (lit. fat), their ears dull (lit. heavy), and their eyes dim (lit. pasted shut). As Brevard Childs puts it, “The prophet is to be the executor of death, the guarantor of complete hardening. His very proclamation is to ensure that Israel will not turn and repent.”
Notice the prophet doesn’t ask any questions concerning the fairness of God’s edict in v. 11, but rather the duration for which he is to heed this commission. The answer, of course, is devastating. The prophet’s work of preaching a message that will only harden the hearts of his people will not be completed until the Lord has rendered the capital cities desolate and carried the Israelites away to captivity.
The passage plainly suggests the purpose and result of the prophet’s commission is to be an agent God uses to harden the hearts of those who hear him. In other words, his message, though one riddled with calls to repentance and faith in Yahweh and a future restoration of the nation, will never be heeded by the people because it only serves to intensify their immediate judgment. The promise of v. 13 still carries with it the tones of judgment simply because like their fathers before them who died off in the desert, they will die off in captivity. Thus, even this promise serves as a means of hardening their hearts against the Lord.
This theme comes up time and again not only throughout the book of Isaiah, but the other prophets as well, and likewise, in the New Testament.
“The elect obtained it, but the rest were hardened, as it is written, “God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes that would not see and ears that would not hear, down to this very day.” And David says, “Let their table become a snare and a trap, a stumbling block and a retribution for them; let their eyes be darkened so that they cannot see, and bend their backs forever.” Romans 11:7-10
The prophets Ezekiel and Jeremiah are called to a similar path as Isaiah, where they will preach a message of judgment and salvation, yet they will not be heeded (Ez. 2:7; Jer. 7:27). Christ Himself taught in parables for the express purpose of concealing the truth of the Kingdom of God, lest those whom it was not granted to would hear and repent (Matt. 13:10-16; Mk. 4:10-12; Lk. 8:9-10). The apostle Paul even picks this idea up when he speaks of God giving mankind up to the lusts of their hearts, dishonorable passions, and a debased mind (Rom. 1:18-32). When you look through the entirety of the Old and New Testaments, what is plainly seen is that God is at work to harden the hearts of whom He desires, which is most clearly expressed in Rom. 9:6-29. In every instance where the edict is rendered a “lost-cause” against the recipients of the message, the truth of God has been made self-evident so that man is without excuse.
None of this is a matter of controversy in Scripture. Instead, election and reprobation are simply part of the cosmic reality of judgment and salvation unfolding before us as the plan of God is revealed. In the midst of this, Scripture unabashedly upholds the tension between God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility without much qualification. The important thing to note in all of this is that it is not as if those under this severe indictment from the Lord are under it without cause. In every instance, the people have either forsaken the covenant or rejected their Creator willingly. The commission of Isaiah serves to show us this reality quite clearly, in that chapters 2-5 give clear evidence that the people plainly rejected the terms of their covenant with God, and as a result, He would send the prophet to seal their fate.
To put it in as blunt of terms as I can: there was no hope for their escape from judgment, as God made it an impossibility for them to hear the words of His prophet and repent. The fullness of the consequences had come upon that generation, showing the patience of the Lord had long been extinguished. The only thing one is left to conclude then from the call given to Isaiah is that his words would not serve to be a message of hope; his words tell them, “I have been given a command by Yahweh to preach in such a manner that your hearts become hardened, your ears become blocked, and your eyes become darkened.”
What all of this means for the church then is that we are simply to be found faithful to the task of heralding God’s message. We are to bring the gospel to the ends of the earth, which for most people, means you are to bring the gospel into your workplaces, friendships, families, and so forth. All that is required of you is to look to where God has placed you currently and simply be found faithful to the task of proclaiming the good news to those who are dead in their sins. It requires that we not be ashamed of the good news of the gospel, which includes not being ashamed of the bad news of God’s judgment against sin. Whatever the result of that proclamation of the gospel may be, whether a hardening or a softening of the heart, God effectually uses this message for His purposes. We may not necessarily like the implications of God using our proclamation of judgment and salvation to effectively harden an individual’s heart. We may not believe the implications of this are even fair—but we ought to remember in the midst of everything that we don’t want fair because our idea of what’s fair doesn’t square with God’s.
The gospel is a scandal to the world because it sees the murderer, rapist, racist, and the like, on equal footing with the sweet old lady who doesn’t confess Christ—and offers them all the same grace of God in Christ. What that very simply means is that the gospel is not barred from anyone on the basis of their own doing or choosing, but rather, on the sovereign choice of God Himself. If those who struggle with evangelizing were to focus on the sovereignty of God in evangelism, it would free many a burdened soul up to take joy in the work that God has given them, realizing that whether the person they share the gospel with rejects or receives it, God is glorified in accomplishing His work through the preached word.
Adapted from an article by Grayson Gilbert “God ordaims whatsoever comes to pass: including your suffering” http://www.patheos.com
“My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.” 1 Corinthians 2:4-5
Paul was incredibly well-educated and well-versed in the Scripture of his day. He would have had a doctorate and could have been a seminary professor if he so chose. If anyone could have pulled off being wise and persuasive, it would have been Paul. Yet Paul himself said thathis message and teaching did not rely on wise and persuasive words but on a demonstration of the Spirit’s power.
A demonstration of the Spirit’s power. That was Paul’s key to evangelism. With no Holy Spirit, there’s no option of demonstrating the Spirit’s power. This leaves us with wise and persuasive words and we know they won’t convert anyone.
How do we begin to demonstrate the Spirit’s power in our life, and how does that lead to effective sharing of the gospel?
“For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you because our gospel came to you not only in word but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction.” 1 Thessalonians 1:4-5
The fruit of the Spirit must be evident in your life: love, joy, peace, patience, faithfulness, gentleness, goodness, kindness, self-control. This will allow you to show supernatural grace: forgiveness, even to your enemies.
The gifts of the Spirit must flow as the Holy Spirit leads: words of knowledge, words of wisdom, prophecy, faith, healing, miracles, discerning of spirits, different kinds of tongues, and interpretation of tongues.
“Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.” John 14:12-13
Jesus was speaking to his disciples from the heart, in the knowledge that the cross awaited. Contextually, he is talking about his miracles, urging his disciples to believe in him as the Son of God because of the works he has done in their sight. Caught up in the Spirit, he prophesies that those who believe in him, including believers down through the ages, will perform the same, and even greater miracles. In the power and effectiveness of his children, Father God will be glorified. What a glorious promise!
Torben Sondergaad’s Last Reformation ministry demonstrates the truth of Jesus and Paul’s words. Check it out http://www.lastreformation .com. We must be walking in the power of the Holy Spirit if we are to accomplish anything for God’s Kingdom.
For further excellent articles like this one check out Duncan Edward Pile on the Patheos website.
A group of private investors has launched a massive multi-million dollar ad campaign to reintroduce Americans to Jesus.
“He Gets Us” will reach people via TV, radio, digital ads, billboards, and experiential platforms. With a $100 million budget, it’s expected to start conversations among a wide array of people.
“Our focus is getting Jesus into the places where people are consuming a lot of media right now,” said Jason Vanderground, president of the marketing firm Haven, and one of the creators of the campaign.
“He Gets Us” follows nationwide research last year showing many adults in the U.S. aren’t sure what they believe and that many have negative views of Christianity.
Haven founder Bill McKendry says the campaign is targeting that audience. “‘He Gets Us’ is disrupting misconceptions by pointing out how Jesus identified with the marginalized, how He didn’t favor the powerful, how He often offended the religious by associating with social outcasts,” he said.
Dr. Ed Stetzer, the executive director of the Wheaton College Billy Graham Center, says the research also shows that many people have a positive view of Jesus himself. “The hope of the ‘He Gets Us’ campaign is they might actually dig a little deeper,” he said.
The campaign’s ads focus on current issues like anxiety and crisis pregnancies.
“We looked at Jesus’ life and we looked at what the American public is going through right now and just said, ‘What are the things that are most relevant to people?‘” Vanderground explained.
In addition to the ads, the campaign also provides opportunities for people to chat, text and read passages of Scripture in an organized reading plan.
“The main goal is just to increase the respect and the personal relevancy of Jesus,” said Vanderground.
Stetzer says the campaign’s wide reach could lead to large numbers of people both seeing its ads and responding.
“We want to encourage people in this moment, a time of confusion and division,” said Stetzer. “Maybe this is an opportunity–not to vent everything we have an opinion about on social media–but to talk to our friends and neighbors about Jesus, who’ve seen these ads.”
The campaign is set to run through the end of 2022. It has to be good that Christian businessmen who do not want to be known are prepared to invest so much money in making Jesus known to people in a way that is relevant to them and who would not get to know Him any other way.
Anne Harley is passionate about seeing the church adapt to the needs of the community. Hear what has been accomplished in Townsville, Queensland Australia. It is only a six-minute video and well worth your time to hear what this veteran has done over twenty years in her city. Unless you connect with people nothing will change. Church buildings are a trap, we must move out into the community to see change.
We need males with the same passion and drive as Anne to step up and take the leadership role that God designed them to have. Of course, if they do not God will raise up the Deborah’s. The following story of Deborah addressing Barak the leader of the army demonstrates who God was using and why. Deborah had a relationship with God. She knew what He wanted to do and trusted Him to do it.
“Has not the Lord, the God of Israel, commanded you, ‘Go, gather your men at Mount Tabor, taking 10,000 from the people of Naphtali and the people of Zebulun. And I will draw out Sisera, the general of Jabin’s army, to meet you by the river Kishon with his chariots and his troops, and I will give him into your hand’?” Barak said to her, “If you will go with me, I will go, but if you will not go with me, I will not go.”And she said, “I will surely go with you.Nevertheless, the road on which you are going will not lead to your glory, for the Lord will sell Sisera into the hand of a woman.” Judges 4:6-9
REPORT FROM PASTOR CHARLES OTIENO OWINO LEADER OF THE KENYA HOUSE CHURCH (KHC) MOVEMENT
The report provides a brief summary of the history of the movement and more detail on their 16th mission trip of the year to Kogaja
We are happy to express our gratitude to brother Ron for his financial support and to any of the friends and followers of LEN that are praying for us. As you may know, KHC began in 2010, and our main calling and mission is making disciples and planting house churches. Thankfully, your prayers and support have helped us reach and win many souls for Christ, and establish house churches in different regions of Kenya and in the republic of Tanzania. Up-to-date, we have planted thirteen house churches, with twelve in Kenya and one in Tanzania. All these have been as a result of prayers and God’s leading. We are praying and trusting God to help provide Bibles for the three most recently established house churches, namely, Ogembo – Kisii, Kenya – Lidha – Nyatike, Kenya and Nyamuzi -Tanzania.
RECENT TRIP TO KOGAJA REGION: We safely arrived at Kogaja and were welcomed by Pastor Melkio, the leader of the one established house church there. That evening was largely spent in prayer, with the leaders, committing the mission trip to our Lord.
The four day trip was comprised of both Tent Meetings and evangelism in the marketplace, homes and even on buses. Many people came to our Gospel Tent Meetings. The Holy spirit gave many of them the power to understand our gospel message. Many lives were touched, changed and healed by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Our evangelism team went wherever people congregated to preach the Gospel message. Led by elder, Glack Samson, they visited a market place, and shared the gospel message with many people. Ten people opened their hearts to Jesus Christ! One of these an elderly woman gave her testimony at one of our meetings: ” Due to many bad things that happened to me I decided to abandon God and was not interested in Christianity. But after hearing the word of God I understood more about the love of God. And how Jesus gave Himself to die on my behalf for my sins. Today, I decided to receive Jesus in my life as my personal Saviour! His Joy and strength is now in my life forever, and one day I will enter with Him in His Kingdom”. Amen
A NEW NINE MEMBER HOUSE CHURCH FOUNDED:
A new house church was established on the outskirts of Kogaja. We found some people there who confessed belief in God and Jesus but were not born again believers. They were open to us preaching the gospel message from Acts 2:38, and God opened their hearts to understand our message. They repented of their sins, believed and we’re baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. This new young house church will be under the leadership and spiritual care of pastor Melkio the existing leader of the Kogaja house church.
INDOOR MEETINGS During the evenings and daytime we held Bible studies with the new converts to get them started in regular bible study. The outcome was largely positive but some need help to purchase Bibles.
Sadly, on the 4th day of our ministry, Elder Glack Samson started feeling unwell, and he was rushed to a nearby medical hospital, where he spent the whole of night, undergoing treatment. He was diagnosed as having fever and malaria, resulting in body pain, runny nose and headache. We thank God that after considerable prayer, he was healed. We appreciated your help to pay his medical bill.
KHC FOURTH COMING MISSION TRIP: As I have mentioned, we have held 16 mission trips, and all these trips have been solely funded by brother Ron. We kindly request well wishers, friends and believers in Jesus Christ to help join hands with brother Ron in supporting the KHC movement. Our next mission trip will be to KOKENDI & ONG’ER house churches on September 14th-19th and we are praying and trusting God to help provide the funds.
If you would like to help financially support the KHC movement you can do by clicking on the Donation icon on the Home Page.
Thousands of Men on Their Knees, Crying Out to God: Promise Keepers Returns With Massive Response
Nearly 30,000 men attended the 2021 Promise Keepers Men’s Conference last weekend in Dallas, Texas with hundreds of churches hosting even more men online.
The two-day event aimed to bring a positive message that would inspire transformation and empower men so they could return home equipped to lead their families, communities, and country.
The conference took place at the AT&T Stadium, home field of the Dallas Cowboys, and featured a special panel of prominent speakers including Nick Vujicic.
David Closson, director of the Center for Biblical Worldview with the Family Research Council, said it was a powerful sight to see men committing their lives to Christ in such an extraordinary place.
“Here is a stadium known for football, but instead of beer and profanity, it was filled with men confessing their sins, praying and praising God,” he said. “It was encouraging to see men kneeling at the 50-yard line on the Dallas Cowboy star, surrounded by thousands of men on their knees, crying out to God. That stadium became a sanctuary.”
The following report on usage of the YouVersion Bible App demonstrates how God uses catastrophes for His purposes. How important it is we seek the Holy Spirit’s guidance so we are in step with His purposes in our sphere of influence.
Searches on the YouVersion Bible app increased by 80% this year, to nearly 600 million, as the pandemic created a sense of uncertainty and turmoil. The verse Isaiah 41:10, which is about God’s promise for strength and help, was the verse that was bookmarked, highlighted, and shared the most.
“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10
With 43.6 billion Bible chapters read, 7.5 billion audio chapters played and 1.4 billion Bible Plan days completed, YouVersion says it “saw its highest levels of global Bible engagement in app history.”
“This has been a challenging year with many people facing devastating loss, loneliness, and fear,” said YouVersion founder Bobby Gruenewald. “While 2020 is a year so many say they’d like to forget, we see it as a year to remember how God used the Bible App to help so many people who are searching for answers. Through every hardship, people continue to seek God and turn to the Bible for strength, peace, and hope.
The results reveal how people are seeking God as they wrestle with the difficult circumstances they’ve faced in 2020, and that’s something we can celebrate.