SHOULD WE BE MORE CONCERNED?
By Rodney W. Francis
Almost daily we are receiving reports of Christians with all kinds of personal problems, Christian marriages falling apart, Christian families at odds with one another, and even Christian Ministers committing suicide (it is especially on the rise in USA). Those who are affected by these negative happenings go through “hell” as they try and work out the reasons behind such things. It is not for us to condemn them, because the problem is one that is for all Christians to find positive answers to. These things are not what Jesus Christ taught us in our following of Him. Our personal lives, marriages, families and ministries should all be a testimony to a lost and fallen world that Jesus Christ came to make us whole; to give us the keys to the Kingdom of God so that we are living testimonies to His power at work within and through us. Christian marriages, families and ministries should be so much the more loving, stronger and united when Jesus is Lord of our lives. It certainly is not His will that these negative things happen. Because these things are on the increase, it is important that we seek to find out where we are falling short on the promises and purposes of God.
The first question I ask myself is: “What is being taught in our Christian circles these days?” It is important what we receive and believe. We are what our believing is. “As a man thinks in his heart, so he is” (Proverbs 23:7 , KJV). I know how true this is, as God had to challenge me to change the way I thought about myself. My thoughts of myself were so very different and negative to what God said about me as a new creation in Christ Jesus (Isaiah 54 ). When I set about to agree with God I discovered that there were years of negative thinking that did not want to change! But I worked on it and changed! The more I changed to agree with what “God said rather than what Rod said”, the more I noticed my Christianity flourished; and my ministry as well began to multiply.
Do you check up in the Bible on what is being preached? (So many Christians do not even take their Bibles to Christian meetings these days)! There is so much deception about today that no one can “take for granted” that what is preached is anointed of God’s Holy Spirit. We need to be like the Bereans who “received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things (they heard preached) were so” (Acts 17:11 ). If Jesus Christ is indeed Lord of our lives, then we will do our best to make sure that we have a very good knowledge of the Scriptures. There is no other way of testing what is preached, whether it be right or wrong, reality or religion, but by the Scriptures. There is such a huge responsibility upon preachers today to make sure they are preaching what the Holy Spirit leads them to preach! People do not need “another sermon”! When the word of the Lord is preached, then the hearers have a responsibility to mix faith with what they hear, so they can get the God-benefits from it (Hebrews 4:2 ).
Where is the conviction and power of the Gospel that makes us want to yield all to Jesus Christ and to be available to the doing of His will?
The conditions for following Jesus are quite clear: “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whosoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the Gospel’s will save it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels” (Marks 8:34-38, NKJV). Jesus also declared: “Most assuredly I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain (“fruit”)” (John 12:24 ).
Other Scriptures make it clear that to be a follower of Jesus Christ we have to be born-again by His Holy Spirit (John 3 ). This involves the yielding up of our lives and will to Jesus Christ. It means allowing Jesus Christ to be the Lord of our lives, so that we learn a total new way of living known as “being led by the Holy Spirit” (see Romans 8 ). “He (Jesus) must increase, but I must decrease” in the words of John the Baptist (John 3:30 ). There is nothing in the Christian life that requires us to carry anything from our old, natural, sinful life-style into the new. If that were so we would not need to be born-again (which is a total new beginning). Somewhere along the way Christian Churches have allowed the influences of the world to permeate into their teachings, beliefs and actions. We have gotten away from being led by the Holy Spirit and have allowed religious practices and traditions, plus the world to infiltrate our ranks (those things render us powerless ~ religious but powerless)! Some churches have become like a night-club on Sundays! The tragedy is that many today do not know where the world finishes and spirituality begins! It concerns me that this generation of Christians does not seem to carry the same convictions of right and wrong as those of my generation. We were taught that separation from “the world, the flesh and the devil” was essential to know a genuine walk with Jesus Christ. And before anyone “writes me off” as an “old school narrow-minded bigot” just remember what the Scriptures declare: “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world ~ the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life ~ is not of the father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever” (1 John 2:15-17 ). Christians stand or fall according to their obedience to the Scriptures!
I was saved in a Pentecostal Church. I have experienced the baptism in the Holy Spirit and the speaking in other tongues (I pray in tongues daily). When I look at the “progress” of the Pentecostal Churches within New Zealand I observed that the 1970’s and 1980’s were the years when Pentecostal Churches were actively growing and making a far greater impact than they seem to be today. I noticed that in those years those Movements were all led by Apostolic and Prophetic men. They were seeking to run with the Scriptures. However, in the 1990’s some Leaders were found out in sin (for various reasons) and there seemed to be “a knee-jerk re-action” that resulted in Administrative gifted men becoming Leaders of those Movements. Unfortunately (generally speaking) Administrative giftings find it difficult to understand the Holy Spirit way, and so Spiritual Gifts, Prophetic Ministries, Evangelists, etc., were slowly but surely eliminated from their important functions. Programmes replaced Holy Spirit-inspired happenings in meetings. Sadly the “programme mentality” does not have time for Holy Spirit Ministry (and Holy Spirit Ministry takes time); so it is no longer seen as being important enough to make room for. Friends, if we do not do things God’s way, then we will reap the consequences. It is sad but true that so many more problems have arisen in Christian Church circles as we have left out the Holy Spirit and His creative ways. It is no wonder that so many Christians are disillusioned with church services these days. True Holy Spirit-filled believers long for things of the Holy Spirit. Copying the ways of the world will never fulfil God’s purposes within us! Unless and until we return to the Biblical foundation and pattern, things will continue to decline and drift further and further away from that truth which sets us free through the power of the Holy Spirit.
“Well, what is the answer, then?” some will ask. It really is quite simple, but perhaps not as easy to apply. We simply need to know what the Scriptures are declaring and seek to walk accordingly. The form/order of service in so many churches today is not to be found in the New Testament. It should not be easy to “prophesy next week’s order of service” today as we currently can (generally speaking). Preachers need to get “the word of the Lord” for every meeting and be obedient to that word. It is the word of the Lord that changes lives ~ not sermons about Jesus!