How To Walk Like A Brother

The relationship of blood brothers started thousands of years ago with the birth of Abel. He became the brother of Cain, the first person born on earth. We don’t know much about their childhood, but it was probably pretty cool. Can you imagine living in a world where there is just one mom and dad and two children? That’s what Abel was born into. Adam and Eve would have other sons and daughters, but the first brothers would have been an amazing relationship. They would have played together, laughed together, fought together, played tricks on their parents together – just like brothers today.

What we do know about Cain and Abel after they grew up is not good. God called them to worship Him and Abel presented the proper sacrifice with the right heart attitude. Cain’s offering was not acceptable to God and God called him on it. Instead of repenting and doing what was right, Cain turned on Abel and killed him. Cain failed to walk like a brother.

God often spoke about the importance of the brother relationship in the Old Testament. One of my favorite verses about the importance of brothers is in Proverbs:

“A friend loves at all times,  And a brother is born for adversity.” Proverbs 17:17

When Jesus came to earth to restore members of the human race to a right relationship with God as His children, He introduced the brother relationship to His followers as the model for their relationship to each other. It’s interesting to note that the first disciples He called were physical brothers – Simon Peter and Andrew (Matthew 4:18; Mark 1:16), and James and John (Matthew 4:21; Mark 1:19). Jesus used real-life relationships to teach powerful principles about what it meant to belong to Him.

“Then one said to Him, ‘Look, Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside, seeking to speak with You.’ But He answered and said to the one who told Him, ‘Who is My mother and who are My brothers?’ And He stretched out His hand toward His disciples and said, ‘Here are My mother and My brothers!” Matthew 12:47-49

Jesus was not denying that He was related to His physical mother and brothers, but was using that opportunity to emphasize His purpose for leaving His throne in Heaven to walk among the human race as one of them. Jesus made that clear with His next statement: “For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother.” (John 12:50) The fellowship of faith is based not on human birth, but on doing the will of God. Physical birth does not gain entry into Heaven for anyone, no matter who their parents may be. Heaven is only for those who belong to God through the spiritual birth of faith in Jesus Christ (John 3:16; Acts 16:31).

Jesus taught His disciples the importance of family and brotherhood through many examples:

“Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother.” Matthew 18:15

“Then Peter came to Him and said, ‘Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.” Matthew 18:21-22

“And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him. So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.” Matthew 18:34-35

“Take heed to yourselves. If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him.” Luke 17:3

“But Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 19:14

“He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” John 1:11-13

“Little children, I shall be with you a little while longer. You will seek Me; and as I said to the Jews, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come,’ so now I say to you. A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” John 13:32-34

Jesus’ message was clear – being a member of the family of God meant treating each person in the family as a brother and sister with the same love they had received from their Lord. Think about that for a minute – we are to love every member of God’s family in the same way Jesus has loved us! That’s a tall order. We will need God’s help to do it.

One of the things I first noticed when I became a Christian was how believers loved God and each other. I soon found out why. The Bible is clear about the importance of showing love toward others. It’s not an option.

“Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: ‘Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?’Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:34-40

The religious leaders did their best to defeat Jesus with their wisdom and knowledge, but what they did was give the Lord the opportunity to present powerful truths that have changed people’s lives. I find it interesting that “an expert in the law” thought he could test the great “Law Giver.” The Law of Moses had a central theme and it was love – love God and others. That’s the Gospel in four words. Look at how God wants us to respond in life:

  1. Love God with all your heart, soul, and mind
  2. Love others as yourself

First, we give God everything because we love Him so much. Second, we love other people in the same way we love ourselves. That second one, loving others as we love ourself, is much easier to do when we love God with all our heart, soul and mind. If we don’t take care of the first one, we can’t do the second. Our journey to “walk like a brother” begins with loving God with our whole being. Take care of that and the rest is easier.

Now that we know why we are to walk with others like a brother, it’s time to get practical and see how to do it. We’ll look at that next week in GraceLife Thoughts.

Blessings!

Mark McGee

GraceLife Ministries

“Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”

How To Solve A Big Problem

How do you solve big problems? Find someone who is successful at solving them and do what they do.

The apostles of Jesus Christ faced a big problem in Jerusalem – dissension in the fellowship. It had the potential of slowing the progress of their primary ministries of prayer and preaching the Gospel.

“Now in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplying, there arose a complaint against the Hebrews by the Hellenists, because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution.” Acts 6:1

It’s interesting to note that prior to Acts 6 the apostles had been imprisoned and beaten. The leaders of Israel commanded the apostles not to speak in the name of Jesus, then let them go. The apostles rejoiced that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for the name of Jesus and spent every day in the temple, and in every house, teaching and preaching that Jesus was Israel’s promised Messiah (Christ). The apostles were doing exactly what their Lord had told them to do, so when complaints of mistreatment  from the Hellenist (Greek speaking) Jews rose in their growing fellowship, they knew it was something they needed to address quickly and wisely. Jesus had taught His apostles the importance of unity and the dangers of disunity, so they knew that this dissension could become a major problem.

How did they solve it? Based on what we read about these 12 apostles, they prayed about it – together. They asked the Holy Spirit for the best answer. What they faced was not a small problem. It was personal. The Jewish believers from Greek speaking nations complained that the Jewish believers from Israel were neglecting to take care of the Hellenist widows in the daily distribution of food. Jews born in Israel had long thought of themselves as superior to Jews who were born in other countries. In turn, Jews from other nations resented the way they were looked down upon and overlooked. However, the message Jesus taught the apostles was to love others as themselves. Here’s a quick look at the history of the Jewish assembly to remember how it began:

“Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need. So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.” Acts 2:44-47

That was the ideal – all believers were together, and had all things in common. They sold what they owned and divided it among themselves so everyone had what they needed. They continued daily with one accord in the temple and ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, and the Lord blessed them with people being saved every day. So, what happened to that simplicity of heart? Why did the Hellenists complain against their Hebrew brothers? We can call it by a variety of names, but the simple fact is that sin raised its ugly head in the fellowship. It may have been simple neglect on the part of the Hebrew believers or they may have purposely overlooked the Hellenist widows. It may have been real concern for their widows by the Hellenists or it may have been jealousy or anger that drove them to complain about the neglect. Whatever it was had the potential of disrupting the powerful movement of God in Jerusalem. The apostles realized that this problem could have interrupted their calling to preach the Word of God.

“Then the twelve summoned the multitude of the disciples and said, ‘It is not desirable that we should leave the word of God and serve tables.” Acts 6:2

As we will see, the apostles had met together, prayed together, sought God’s will together, then decided what to do. The Holy Spirit had given them the solution to their problem.

“Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business; but we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” Acts 6:3-4

What a wonderful idea! The apostles knew what Jesus had called them to do and they were going to stand strong for their calling. It’s very helpful to know where you stand with God and what He wants you to do. Having that settled in your heart and mind will help you solve many, many problems in the future. My tendency is to say ‘yes’ when asked to help people in one way or another and that has led to many challenges through the years. Knowing what God has called me to do helps me say ‘no’ to good things that will take me away from God’s primary calling in my life. Serving food to the Hellenist widows was a good and necessary thing to do, but it was not what Jesus had called the apostles to do. They realized that and asked for His wisdom – and wisdom they received.

Telling someone to solve their own problem is not helpful. In fact, it often communicates to people that you don’t care about them and their problem. That would not have been a wise solution. Neither would it have been wise for the apostles to do the work of serving tables.  What the apostles did was show the community of Hellenist believers that they cared very much about their widows by demonstrating a prayerful and considered response. “… seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business …” The apostles showed that the ministry to the Hellenist widows was important and they gave them specific directions about how to handle it. The people would find seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, and the apostles would appoint them to the work.

Let me stop here for a minute to share some thoughts about appointments in the Church and how they can impact the ability of Christians to solve problems quickly and wisely. I love the simplicity of our Lord’s message. It’s not complicated. He’s the Master – we are His servants. He is the Savior – we belong to Him. God is our Father – we are His children. Nice and simple – clear and easy to understand. Problems are easier to solve in a simple system. Jesus is Lord. He called people to follow Him. He appointed some of His followers to be leaders. Those leaders are known as apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastors and teachers. The job of those leaders is to equip followers of Christ for the work of their ministries and for the edifying of the entire Body of followers. Simple and effective. In the business world, it’s called Flat Organization or Flat Management (also called Horizontal Management) – few, if any, levels of management between staff and managers. There is no distance between leaders and followers, so problems can be addressed quickly and effectively. Leaders approve solutions and delegate authority to the people immediately.  That’s what we see in the way the apostles solved this big problem in Jerusalem.

What I have trouble with is the complexity of the Lord’s message as presented to the world by the Church today. As we study Church history, we see the system of leadership go from Horizontal to Vertical Management within a few centuries. Church leaders developed layers of oversight that put a greater distance between them and followers of Christ, and even worse, a greater distance between the followers and Christ. Even with many Church councils and massive reforms during the last 1,700 years, the world views Christianity as a religious system gasping for air in the 21st Century. And what about Christ’s followers? So many of them are confused about what they believe about their relationship to God, that their confusion has led to dormancy in fellowship and ministry. Confusion is paralyzing. When people don’t know what to do, they often do nothing. Those who do something often do the wrong thing. Who should we blame for that? The people in the pews? God in Heaven? I think followers of Christ have some responsibility in this, but the greater responsibility goes to those who God called to lead His people. It’s the job of leaders to lead God’s people toward God – not toward themselves or their personal doctrine or pet projects or favorite institutions. Good leaders are first good followers – they follow Jesus closely and faithfully, then they know where to go and how to lead others there.

So, what should we do to make sure that our churches have the ability to solve big problems? Return to the simplicity of God’s original plan. God has always called people to be close to Him. The earliest picture we have of God and the first human being is of God creating Adam with His hands and breathing into him the breath of life. Next, we see God placing Adam in the beautiful Garden of Eden to enjoy it and care for it. God brought all of the animals and birds to Adam so he could name them. God placed Adam into a deep sleep, took out one of Adam’s ribs and created a wife for him. Do you see how personal and loving this early relationship was between God and man? God created man to have a loving relationship with him. Sin came between God and man and the distance grew as the sin grew. When Jesus came to earth to teach, preach, and die for sin, He introduced God’s original system of creative relationship. It would be close and personal. Just as Jesus the Great Creator walked with Adam in the Garden of Eden, so Jesus the Great Savior walked with those who followed Him when He was on earth. When Jesus prepared His disciples for His death, resurrection, and departure to Heaven, the Lord told them He would give them the Holy Spirit to help and comfort them. The Spirit of God would be so close to them that He would actually be “in” them. God’s Spirit protects and provides for those who follow Christ. There was no distance between Christ and his followers 2,000 years ago, and there should be no distance now.

The apostles’ solution to the problem of feeding the Hellenist widows was brilliant. The Lord called apostles to equip His followers for the work of their ministries, for the edifying of the entire Body of followers. That’s what the apostles did in Acts 6. They equipped the Hellenist believers to solve their own problem and the people loved it.

“And the saying pleased the whole multitude.” Acts 6:5

Everyone saw the wisdom in the apostles’ solution – both Hebrews and Hellenists. They immediately got to work finding the right people for the job.

“And they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit, and Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas, a proselyte from Antioch, whom they set before the apostles; and when they had prayed, they laid hands on them.” Acts 6:5-6

The people chose seven wise and compassionate men to meet the needs of the Hellenist widows and brought them to the apostles. The apostles prayed for the men and laid hands on them as part of appointing them to the ministry. What was the outcome of that decision?

“Then the word of God spread, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith.” Acts 6:7

The seven men ministered to the widows and the 12 apostles continued in prayer and preaching the Word. Because of that, the Word of God spread and the number of people who followed Jesus multiplied “greatly” in Jerusalem. In fact, a great many priests were obedient to the faith! That was amazing in light of what it meant for those priests to become followers of Jesus. Many, if not all, would have lost their positions as priests and become a disgrace to their families and friends. God blessed the Jerusalem fellowship greatly because of how the apostles stayed true to their calling and message.

This solution met the needs of believers so well that it became a permanent part of God’s plan for His people. The Apostle Paul addressed the Philippian church this way many years later: “To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, with the bishops and deacons.” Paul also wrote about deacons and their requirements in his letter to Timothy. The position of deacon is still important to the Church to this day.

If you want to solve a big problem in your life, in your church, in your ministry – look to God and His Word. The apostles dealing with dissension in Jerusalem is just one example of how to solve big problems wisely, quickly, and effectively. Search out the Scriptures and you will find so many other wonderful examples you can use. Remember, solving big problems is part of serving God and bringing glory to His Wonderful Name.

Blessings!

Mark McGee

GraceLife Ministries

“Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”

Cheating Death 2

Last week we began looking at how we can cheat death. I wrote this in my book, “A History of Man’s Quest for Immortality” (Fifth Estate Publishing, 2007): “Human beings want to live – not die. They want their lives and the lives of people they care about to continue forever. Anything less than continual, unbroken life brings grief, mourning, and deep pain.” However, no matter how much we want to live, the fact is that we all will die. We can do a lot of things to lengthen the number of years we are alive on earth, but given the history of people in all human families – we know we will die. So, how do we cheat death?

Before we can understand death, why people die, and how we can live forever, we need to understand what happened “in the beginning.” If you haven’t read the first part of this study, please take a look at it before reading further. Knowing who God is will prepare us to understand how He, and only He, can help us cheat death.

God’s first work (action) was to choose us in Christ. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.” (Eph. 1:3-6) Something important to see here is that God blessed us with “every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world.” Last week, we looked at “the beginning,” and that beginning was when God began what we know as life on earth (Genesis 1). He created all things for us. But what we see in Ephesians 1 is that God did something before the beginning – before He created the heavens and the earth: He blessed us and chose us. The blessing came first, then the choice.

The opportunity for us to “cheat death” began with God’s blessing and choosing. The Greek word for “choose” is exelexato. It is the first aorist middle of eklego, “to pick out.” The middle voice means the subject of the verb (He–God) acted in His own interest — “to pick or choose out for one’s self.” This word is also used when presenting God’s choice of Israel from all nations for the purpose of bringing salvation to the world. The object of such choice is for a certain object or goal. The stated purpose for this choice is that Christians would be “holy and blameless in His sight.” God chose us for Himself in a past time. The aorist tense in the Greek is like a snapshot. We can pick it up, look at it, and enjoy the memory.

Paul gives us a reference time for God’s action of choosing us. It was “before the creation of the world” – pro kataboles kosmonKataboles, “creation,” is a compound word: kata, “down,” and boles, “to throw.” It describes the act of the Almighty God throwing down the world. The world did not exist prior to God’s creating it. The world began in space and time. God was above space and before time. Kosmon, “world,” means “order, arrangement, ornament, adornment.” What God created was beautiful and perfect in its simplicity and complexity.

What we see here is a splendid and wonderful plan. Before God created the world, He thought about us. He considered us. He made everything, designed everything with us in mind. As we see in the first chapter of Ephesians, God chose us in Christ, He predestined us, He redeemed us, He made known to us the mystery of His will, and He included us. This speaks strongly of a very special plan.

Ephesians 1:11 says it well: “In Him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of Him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of His will.” The word “chosen” is eklerothemen. It translates “we were chosen as inheritance.” It is first person, plural, aorist, indicative. God chose us in the past (before the creation of the world). It comes from the word kleres and means “to assign by lot.” The ancients would place the names of people on a pebble, a potsherd or piece of wood and then place it into a vase. They would shake the vase until the object fell out. The first person whose name or “lot” fell on the ground was chosen. In this case, Christians were the ones chosen as an inheritance. Think about that! Do you realize how special you are to God?

Paul uses the word again in Col. 1:12 (klerou ton hagion en to photi) — “lot of the saints in the light.” The entire verse reads, “giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light.” God wanted to give something special to a group of people. That something is an inheritance. The people are the saints (hagion), “holy ones, those separated for holy use.” What God wanted to give His chosen ones was a special relationship with Himself. That is our inheritance — a deep and satisfying eternal relationship with God. No other inheritance can compare with what God has given us.

We find God’s desire for relationship with humans throughout the Bible. It began when He created man “in his own image.” When the first man sinned against God and broke the relationship, God instituted a path back to the relationship. He gave His Son Jesus Christ as the payment for the sins of mankind. Through Christ we can get back to God!

One of the best examples of God’s desire for relationship with mankind and His merciful provision is found in John 14. Jesus is speaking to His disciples: “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.” Jesus continued that theme a few verses later: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” Jesus is the only way back to God!

Another insight to God’s desire for relationship is what He calls those who love and follow Him. Jewish followers are called “children, a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, the flock of God, and the wife of the Lamb.” Gentile and Jewish followers are called childrenheirs, and joint heirs (Romans 8:16-17 — “The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.”), fellow workers, God’s field, and God’s building (1 Corinthians 3:9 –”For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building.”), the temple of God (1 Corinthians 3:16 — “Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?”), the church, the body of Christ (Ephesians 1:22-23 — “And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.”), a holy temple, dwelling place of God (Ephesians 2:21-22 — “in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.”)

Let’s pause right here. Think about who you are – who you really are. We are sinners – saved by Grace. That’s who we are. Now, think about what God has done for us sinners. He has saved us from the penalty of our sins. He has placed His Holy Spirit in us. He has made us His children, heirs and joint heirs with Christ. We are fellow workers – we work with God. We are God’s field, God’s building, His church, the body of Christ. We are a holy temple, the dwelling place of the Almighty God. Think about who you are – who you really are – in Christ.

Chief among examples of God’s desire for human relationship is His love for the world. Jesus said, “For God so loved the world that He gave His One and Only son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16) Think about that for a minute. The great God of Heaven, Who created this world and all that is in it, loved it so much that He gave His One and Only Son to die for sin, so that anyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. That’s amazing in light of how the human race has treated God from the first man to the present man. Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” (John 15:13) He said it – and did it.

God’s love for the world led to His mercy for people. David, King of Israel, knew about God’s love. He wrote, “But I have trusted in Your mercy; My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation.” (Psalm 13:5) Nehemiah, leader of Israel, wrote, “They refused to obey, And they were not mindful of Your wonders  That You did among them. But they hardened their necks,  And in their rebellion They appointed a leader  To return to their bondage.  But You are God,  Ready to pardon,  Gracious and merciful, Slow to anger, Abundant in kindness, And did not forsake them.” (Neh. 9:17) The Queen of Sheba told Solomon, King of Israel, that he served a God who had “loved Israel forever” (1 Kings 10:9). In Psalm 136, the people responded 26 times that God’s love and mercy “endures forever.”

God’s love for humans has never been passive. His love is active, powerful and life-changing! Paul the Apostle wrote, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Rom. 5:8) He taught that Christ’s love “passes knowledge” (Eph. 3:19). It is a love of self-sacrifice — “And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma … Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her … ” (Eph. 5:2, 25)

Cheating death is not about just living longer – it is about living better. It is about reaching your full potential in Christ. It is about returning to the truth and purpose of your creation. God created us to love us. He made us to be with Him forever. God wants a personal relationship of love with us. Everything else follows that goal. If we have a close and abiding relationship with God, we will have the spiritual, mental and physical support for all other relationships and challenges of life.

O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?‘ The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.” 1 Corinthians 15:55-58

In Christ’s Love and Grace,

Mark McGee

GraceLife Ministries

“Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”

Where He Sends I Will Go

The Words of Jesus Christ are Keys from Heaven that unlock the Storehouse of God’s Eternal Wisdom. Some of the greatest Keys are in the Words Jesus shared with His disciples the night before He died for their sins.

The first Key is found in John 13:1: “Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that His hour had come that He should depart from this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.” Jesus knew that the great Hour of His Sacrifice had come. He knew that He was going to depart from this world and go to God the Father in Heaven. Jesus loved His disciples very much and gave them Keys that would help them unlock the many gates they would walk through in their service to God. Those Keys are found in John Chapters 13 – 16.

In John Chapter 17, we see Jesus talking privately, intimately with His Father. He prays for Himself, then His disciples. That prayer for His disciples includes remarkable insight into our topic this week that every Christian is a missionary:

“As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world.” John 17:18

Do you see it? God the Son said He sent His disciples into the world just as the Father had sent Him into the world. We learn a lot about being a missionary (on a mission from God) from the context of that Prayer:

“I pray for them. I do not pray for the world but for those whom You have given Me, for they are Yours. And all Mine are Yours, and Yours are Mine, and I am glorified in them. Now I am no longer in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep through Your name those whom You have given Me, that they may be one as We are. While I was with them in the world, I kept them in Your name. Those whom You gave Me I have kept; and none of them is lost except the son of perdition, that the Scripture might be fulfilled. But now I come to You, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have My joy fulfilled in themselves. I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth. As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also may be sanctified by the truth.” John 17:9-19

Well, you say, that was just for Christ’s disciples at that time. He certainly couldn’t mean us – now. Oh,  really? Look at the next verses:

“I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.” John 17:20-23

Jesus prayed for you and me on the night before He redeemed us with His Blood on the Cross. We have all believed in Christ through the Words of the Apostles. That’s what Jesus said. His prayer goes on to show He wants us to “be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You.” Jesus prays that we will be unified in Him. Why? “… that the world may believe that You sent Me.” There you have it. That’s the mission. That’s what God wants us to do with our lives. Jesus sends us out into the world that people will believe that God the Father sent God the Son into the world to accomplish His Mission for them.

The Bible is filled with “defining moments;” amazing moments in time when God cements His Truth in the hearts and minds of His chosen people. Jesus prayed for His disciples the night before He died on the Cross asking God the Father to send them into the world just as He had sent Jesus into the world. Our Lord shared that prayer with His disciples three days later, on the evening of His Resurrection.

“When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. So Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.’ And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.” John 20:20-22

What a day for the disciples! They had gone to sleep ( if they were able to sleep) the night before filled with great sadness because the body of their dear Lord lay dead in a grave after a brutal beating and crucifixion the day before. What they didn’t remember that night were the words Jesus had spoken to them many times before that He would be killed and then raised from the dead on the third day. It was several hours later, in the early hours of Resurrection Sunday, that Jesus rose from the grave. Later that same day, Jesus showed Himself to His disciples. He showed them the nail scars in His Hands and His Side. Then they were glad. Jesus then gave them their great mission and all the Power they would need to succeed in that mission – “As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.’ And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.”

Jesus spent a little more than a month with His disciples after His Resurrection teaching them great spiritual insights that they would be able to understand in greater depth because of the Holy Spirit, the Promised Comforter, living in them. Here are some of those insights. Notice how many of them pertain to the mission Christ had given them.

“Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had appointed for them. When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’ Amen.” Matthew 28:16-20

“Later He appeared to the eleven as they sat at the table; and He rebuked their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they did not believe those who had seen Him after He had risen. And He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.’ So then, after the Lord had spoken to them, He was received up into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God. And they went out and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word through the accompanying signs. Amen.” Mark 16:14-20

“Then He said to them, ‘Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And you are witnesses of these things. Behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high.’ And He led them out as far as Bethany, and He lifted up His hands and blessed them. Now it came to pass, while He blessed them, that He was parted from them and carried up into heaven. And they worshiped Him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple praising and blessing God. Amen.” Luke 24:46-53

“And being assembled together with them, He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, ‘which,’ He said, ‘you have heard from Me; for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.’ Therefore, when they had come together, they asked Him, saying, ‘Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?’ And He said to them, ‘It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority. But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.’ Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight.” Acts 1:4-9

Jesus sent His disciples into the world “just as” God the Father sent God the Son into the world. It was the answer to Christ’s pre-crucifixion prayer. And what did those disciples do when Jesus said “Go”? They obeyed and went, carrying Christ’s Message for Israel and eventually the world. The 12 Apostles spent most of their “mission” time in Israel, while the Apostle Paul spent most of his “mission” time taking the Gospel to the cities and nations of the Gentile people.

Paul is probably the most prolific human missionary who ever lived. God prophesied to Ananias about Paul’s mission - “Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel.” (Acts 9:15) And that’s exactly what Paul (Saul) did. Where and how did Paul begin his missionary journeys?

“Now in the church that was at Antioch there were certain prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’ Then, having fasted and prayed, and laid hands on them, they sent them away. So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia, and from there they sailed to Cyprus. And when they arrived in Salamis, they preached the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews. They also had John as their assistant.” Acts 13:1-5

Paul conducted at least three major missions taking the Gospel of Christ to the world. He started churches all over the Gentile world and kept in touch with them through his letters and personal visits. In so doing, he wrote almost half of the New Testament. That’s a remarkable feat for one man to accomplish in less than 30 years. No other human being since Paul has come close to matching what God did through him. What did Paul do when Jesus told Him to “go”? He went. What should our response be when God asks us to “go”? We should say, “where You send I will go.”

You may be asking, “where do I get the courage and strength to go wherever God sends me?” It begins with loving God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength, then loving your neighbor as yourself. The next step is to give yourself to God for His service.

“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” Romans 12:1-2

So then, in light of all we’ve seen this week about missions, how should we pray?  Jesus gave His disciples the clear answer: “Then He said to His disciples, ‘The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.” (Matthew 9:37-38) Look around you. What do you see? People – people by the thousands, by the tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, millions, billions – people whose greatest need in life is Jesus Christ. We need more laborers, more people on a mission from God, to speak the Words of Eternal Life to the hearts and souls of men and women, boys and girls.

That is our prayer – send us Lord, and we will go.

In Christ’s Love and Grace,

Mark McGee

GraceLife Ministries

“Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”

Worship — Here and There — Forever

Love and Worship go hand in hand. God Loved us before He created the world. He created us with the innate ability to return His Love. That love for God is Worship. We know from the beginning relationship of God and man that obedience is vital to Worship. “Then the LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it. And the LORD God commanded the man…” (Genesis 2:15-16) Worship has never been about what we want to do; it’s always been about what God wants us to do. Obedience and Worship go hand in hand. We cannot have one without the other.

Worship is an important part of the fabric of faith in God. We worship God because He is worthy of our worship. We worship God because we trust Him. We worship God because He has done everything for us. He has saved us from the penalty of sin and provided us with eternal life. We love God because He first loved us.

This week we’ve looked at personal and corporate Worship. We’ve seen Worship through the eyes of God and His people. We’ve watched as the faithful through the centuries bowed their heads, lowered their bodies to the ground and praised God’s Holy Name. Worship is a top priority in a believer’s life. Jesus says it should be priority #1.

“Then the Pharisees and scribes asked Him, ‘Why do Your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashed hands?’ He answered and said to them, ‘Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: ‘This people honors Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men—the washing of pitchers and cups, and many other such things you do.’ He said to them, ‘All too well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition.” Mark 7:5-9

Remember that obedience is vital to the Worship of God. The Pharisees and scribes were among the most religious people in Israel, but they worshiped God in vain because they “rejected the commandment of God” so they could keep their human traditions. They actually taught “as doctrines the commandments of men.”

“Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” John 4:20-24

The woman from Samaria had been raised with a narrow and incorrect view about worshiping God. The Samaritans came from a long line of people who had populated the land once belonging to the Northern Kingdom of Israel. The Kingdom fell to invaders in the late 8th Century B.C. and many of the children of Israel living there were taken into captivity and to other countries. The invaders brought people from many other nations to repopulate the land of Israel. Samaritans of Jesus’ time included remnants of the northern tribes of Israel along with descendants from Gentile nations. Jews did not like them. Samaritans did not like Jews. They disagreed about how to worship and where to worship God. Jesus had compassion on the people of Samaria and went right to the heart of their view of worship: “You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth.”

True Worship of God is far more than nationality, religious background or location. True Worship is about the heart, the mind and the will. True worshipers will worship God in spirit and truth.

“No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.” Matthew 6:24

We have to make a choice. We cannot serve two masters because that will lead us to hate the one and love the other. We will be loyal to the one and despise the other. We cannot serve God and ___________. Fill in the blank. Jesus was speaking to people in the context of money. It’s also true about anything else that could master you. It might be love of another human. It might be personal fame. Anything that could master you is something that can keep you from worshiping God.

“He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me.” Matthew 10:36-38

“Jesus said to him, ‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” Matthew 22:37

“But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs, and pass by justice and the love of God. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone.” Luke 11:42

Jesus closed the door on approving any kind of relationship with God that does not include devotion. Love and adoration and devotion lead naturally to a desire to worship and praise God.

Christians love the complete story of God’s Love for them. Our relationship with Jesus Christ does not end at our death. In fact, our physical death opens the door to the most intimate of love relationship with Jesus. We enter into His Presence at our death!

What happened to Adam and Eve immediately after they sinned against God? They sewed fig leaves together to cover their nakedness and they hid themselves from the “presence of the Lord God.” (Genesis 3:7-8) What did God do? He “drove out the man” from the Garden of Eden. (Genesis 3:24) Human beings were removed from the Presence of God. What have human beings tried to do ever since that terrible day? Find their way back into His Presence.

I wrote extensively about this in my book “A History of Man’s Quest For Immortality” (Fifth Estate Publishing, 2007). For thousands of years, the human race has tried every imaginable way to regain their lost immortality and standing in the Presence of God. God blessed the people of Israel with the amazing privilege of His Presence. He appeared to them as a Cloud and Fire. He inhabited the Holy of Holies in the Tabernacle and Temple. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, walked among men and women, boys and girls, and made His Presence known in powerful and unforgettable ways. It is through Jesus Christ that Jews and Gentiles can know God and actually have His Spirit live inside them!

That brings us to our future. We know that when we die we will enter into the Presence of God. Paul wrote to the Corinthians believers that to be absent from the body (death) is to be present with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8). It sounds strange to non-believers for us to say that to be absent is to be present, and to be present is to be absent, but it’s true. We can’t experience complete presence with God unless we also experience complete absence from our earthly bodies. Paul wrote extensively about that in his first letter to the Corinthians. I invite you to read all of Chapter 15, but here’s a small portion that addresses this idea of absent from the body and present with the Lord. The secret is the fact that God will give us a new body that is immortal, unlike the mortal body we have now.

“But someone will say, ‘How are the dead raised up? And with what body do they come?’ Foolish one, what you sow is not made alive unless it dies. And what you sow, you do not sow that body that shall be, but mere grain—perhaps wheat or some other grain. But God gives it a body as He pleases, and to each seed its own body. All flesh is not the same flesh, but there is one kind of flesh of men, another flesh of animals, another of fish, and another of birds. There are also celestial bodies and terrestrial bodies; but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another. There is one glory of the sun, another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for one star differs from another star in glory. So also is the resurrection of the dead. The body is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption. It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body. And so it is written, ‘The first man Adam became a living being.’ The last Adam became a life-giving spirit.” 1 Corinthians 15:35-45

We also know from Paul’s letters that there will be a time in the future when some Christians will be present with the Lord without experiencing physical death. We don’t know the day or hour, but we do know it’s coming.

“Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed—  in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory.’ ‘O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?’ The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Corinthians 15:51-57

Paul gave us more details about this amazing experience in his first letter to the Thessalonian believers.

“But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.” 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

This is wonderful! Whether we die first or are alive when Jesus returns for His own, we will go into the Presence of the Lord forever. So, what happens to Worship when we’re in Heaven? Will we sit on clouds strumming on harps as many in the world believe? No. Our lives will be rich and full and busy and fruitful. We will Worship God in His Very Presence. We will rule and judge nations. We will experience all that God intended for us when He created Adam, plus more because we will have our Savior and Lord with us for eternity!

Jesus was always Lord, but He became our Savior on that special Day when He shed His precious Blood and died on the Cross in the ancient city of Jerusalem. That Day almost 2,000 years ago expanded the Worship of God in Heaven to new heights. The first Heavenly Song we hear in the Book of Revelation is an old Song that has been sung for thousands of years: “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, Who was and is and is to come!” (Revelation 4:8b) “You are worthy, O Lord, To receive glory and honor and power;  For You created all things,  And by Your will they exist and were created.” (Revelation 4:11) The next Song we hear in Heaven is a new Song:

“And they sang a new song, saying: ‘You are worthy to take the scroll, And to open its seals; For You were slain, And have redeemed us to God by Your blood Out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, And have made us kings and priests to our God; And we shall reign on the earth.” Revelation 5:9-10

Our Worship of God kicks into high gear when we come into His Presence. We will sing the old song and the new song of praise to our Risen Lord. We will be standing among the millions of angels and hundreds of millions of redeemed saints when we all worship Him together:

“Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne, the living creatures, and the elders; and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice: ‘Worthy is the Lamb who was slain To receive power and riches and wisdom, And strength and honor and glory and blessing!’ And every creature which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, I heard saying: ‘Blessing and honor and glory and power Be to Him who sits on the throne, And to the Lamb, forever and ever!’ Then the four living creatures said, ‘Amen!’ And the twenty-four elders fell down and worshiped Him who lives forever and ever.” Revelation 5:11-14

And we say with them — Amen and Amen!

In Christ’s Love and Grace,

Mark McGee

GraceLife Ministries

“Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”