Number 1 – What the Holy Ghost has said to the individual matters most. Not what we have to say.
God speaks to every soul.
“My spirit shall not always strive with man…” ~ Genesis 6:3
This lets us know that from the very beginning, and even until today, that God’s Holy Spirit is faithful to deal with the heart of every individual. And of course this scripture also shows us there’s a time when he stops dealing with mankind. And that is when mankind ignores what he knows God has shown him.
But most importantly, this also informs us that if a person will turn, and pay attention to what God has already shown them, then God will begin to speak to their heart again.
So let us pay attention! These are huge principles concerning the way that God’s Spirit works. When reaching the lost, let us pick back up the conversation that God has already started with them. Let us bring their attention back to where they pay attention to what God already told them.
Did you notice in all of this, that this has nothing to do with what you and I think should be said to them?
And we are talking about anyone. Even those who have never heard the gospel, nor heard about Jesus.
“For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another;) In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel.” ~ Romans 2:14-16
Did you fully catch and understand what the apostle Paul just said in this last scripture? The gentiles that have never heard the gospel from a preacher, have something already working in their hearts, that God has set in motion. And by this, God’s Spirit judges even the secrets of what is in their heart. And it says that this is by Jesus Christ, according to the gospel. So this very personal interaction with the Spirit of God and the conscience of man, is also part of the gospel. In fact, it is the first gospel that everyone will hear in their life.
But do we know how to work with this part of the gospel? The very beginning of the gospel, that starts the work within the hearts of people? If we miss this first step, will we still have the opportunity to work with them in the rest of the gospel? If people never fully process the first step of the gospel (their first interaction with God’s Spirit) then are they actually ready for the next step?
Remember we are supposed to be workers together with God. We should never go out with the Bible to labor, unless the Lord has sent us, and is directing our steps. In other words: We must follow the Holy Ghost’s lead.
“Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour. For we are labourers together with God: ye are God’s husbandry, ye are God’s building.” ~ 1 Corinthians 3:8-9
Many are waiting for the right time to testify to someone the word that they have prepared in their own mind. And sometimes the Lord may work that way. So I don’t want to belittle someone’s sincere desire to help, that they have prayed and saught the Lord about. But often the right time, and the right words, are actually determined by the right question to ask, rather than the “right thing” we have prepared. Because when we prepare, the right time often never comes. But when we know how to ask, then the right time comes much more often, and the right answer is given to us in that very moment.
This takes us out of our own comfort zone. Because we tend to want to be in control of most everything in our lives. Because deep down we are more fearful than we want to admit. And so some of us even formulate “our gospel” for our own protection. I’m sorry, but as individuals, as ministers, and as congregations, we must be broken of this overly self-protective way of operating. Or else we become irrelevant to the lost souls around us.
“Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest.” ~ John 4:35
So according to Jesus there’s actually a huge field of opportunity out there, because the Spirit of God has already been speaking to everyone. But do we really desire to find out what he has already been saying to them? That may lead us into a conversation that we have not prepared for. But nevertheless, that is the conversation that needs to happen.
“But when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak. For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you.” ~ Matthew 10:19-20
Often, it is not about you and I having the answer. But rather about knowing the one who has the answer: Jesus Christ. And then praying with the individual that Christ would help them with the answer for their need. Ultimately the answer to their need will be Jesus Christ himself! And when they respond to that call and that love relationship, then the answer to their needs will also come.
Jesus himself relied on the Spirit of his Father to direct him and show him what to speak, and when to speak. Jesus followed the Holy Ghost’s lead with all his heart.
“I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me. If I bear witness of myself, my witness is not true.” ~ John 5:30-31
Now almost anyone you meet today has been deceived in some way into believing in some kind of false doctrine, or belief system. And if we know the truth, we have to be careful that we just don’t classify them by their false belief system. As if that is who they truly are spiritually. Let me explain what I mean.
Who they truly are; is that determined by Satan who deceived them? Or is who they truly are, based on what God has already spoken to their heart about, and what they did with that? The gospel actually clearly tells us, that who people are spiritually, is determined by what they do with what God has already shown them individually.
“Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.” ~ Romans 1:19-21
Your spiritual heart is darkened when you ignore what God has been speaking to your heart. And that is what determines who you are spiritually.
Through ignoring God, one may open up the door further to Satan’s deception. But realize, there is a world full of people who have only known some false doctrine that was taught to them since they were a child. Their deception is not based on their own personal rejection of what God has shown them. So may God help us to not be so quick to classify them as someone who cannot be reached with the gospel.
Additionally, often the first touch of the gospel on a person’s life, is not about us showing something to them, but rather about us helping them to have faith to do what they already know. To do what the Holy Ghost has already personally shown them. Please, I plead with you, seriously consider this!
People of all religions, many with no knowledge of Jesus Christ, recognize that there are two spirits striving with mankind. The Spirit of goodness and love, and the spirit of evil and selfishness. In our conversation with them, if we focus on what the good Spirit has impressed upon their heart, and avoid doctrinal arguments, we will get much farther. And a deep discussion about personal and intimate true spiritual insights, will get us beyond the religious doctrinal defenses. And it will enable us to go much farther towards the truth, as we compare personal witnesses of the Spirit of truth with one another, rather than going to the doctrinal differences first.
For example: perhaps in conversation (because of a question you asked) a Muslim shares with you a time when they knew the Spirit of God spoke to their heart, convicting them of something. And perhaps you share something that God did similar with you in the past. (Again, avoiding your doctrinal differences.) You could compare both of your experiences this way: If the Muslim ignored what the spirit of God said to them, and they continue the rest of their religious observances, including daily prayer: would those religious observances absolve them from what the Spirit of God showed them? And if I claiming to be Christian, ignore what the Spirit of God has shown me, but yet I continue my daily prayer and religious practices: would those religious observances absolve me from what the Spirit of God showed me?
And so the conversation continues. And by this type of conversation, I have brought their mind and conscience back to paying attention to what the Spirit of God is speaking to them. And if they continue to pay attention to the true Spirit of God, eventually he is going to lead them to the full truth!
Now if we have become rigid and legalistic in our walk with the Lord, this is usually because we ourselves have neglected responding to the Spirit of God. And if that is the case, we have no authority to be able to have this type of conversation with anyone. Because we are no longer responding to the Spirit ourselves, but rather we have adopted a religious observance.
So like Jesus, we’re going to also have to follow the Holy Ghost’s lead. And yes, even Jesus did that by first asking questions. (Remember Jesus said “I can of my own self do nothing.” While on Earth, Jesus was subject to the same limitations we are. His ability to do all that he did, was through his spiritual connection with God. And we also can only accomplish anything spiritual, except by our spiritual connection with God, and letting him lead.)
Let us follow the scripture on Matthew 19:16-22 where Jesus speaks to the young rich man.
“ And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?  And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.”
Jesus begins the conversation in a very general way. Not speaking to anything specific about the young man. Because he had not discerned anything deeply spiritual yet about him.
“ He saith unto him, Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness,  Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.  The young man saith unto him, All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet?”
Now Jesus, after listening to the answers from this young man, and observing his honest and very sincere spirit, is able to answer him to his need. Note this very important difference in this young man. He is not just observing commandments, but rather the young man is responding to a pricking of his conscience by the Holy Spirit. He senses that he needs to be doing more than just following the commandments.
So now discerning the working of the Spirit, Jesus recognizes that God is actually calling this young man.
“ Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.”
And so recognizing this man’s need, and the fact that God is calling him, Jesus also calls him, and invites him to follow him. Even using the same words that Jesus called his apostles and disciples by. “Come and follow me.” Jesus was giving this man a call to the ministry. But anyone called to the ministry, does not make their own choice for that calling. Jesus always requires us to have to let go of something that is important to us, so that we might fulfill the specific calling of the master for us. And in this case, it was this young man’s riches that needed to be let go. And this man’s first calling from God was to minister to the poor. That is why Jesus said: “go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor.”
“ But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions.”
The young man was not willing to answer the call. And sadly, throughout history, and even today, many a person has been called, but few could be chosen. Because few are willing to forsake, in order to answer the call of God on their lives. God calls us to more than just following commandments. And that calling is specific and unique to each one of us. Jesus will not force himself on anyone. He accepts our service when it is done willingly from the heart, and under his direction.
In another scripture of this same account (but found in Luke), we see clearly that Jesus gave the call to this young man, only after he was able to hear what the young man said.
“Now when Jesus heard these things, he said unto him, Yet lackest thou one thing: sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me.” ~ Luke 18:22
Do we know how to take the time to listen, and to discern what the Spirit of God has already been speaking to the heart of another?
Finally one last example, the account of when Philip witnessed to the eunuch. Philip was an evangelist. And he accomplished much by carefully following the Holy Ghost. And so we read in Acts 8:29-35:
“ Then the Spirit said unto Philip, Go near, and join thyself to this chariot.  And Philip ran thither to him, and heard him read the prophet Esaias, and said, Understandest thou what thou readest?”
First Phillip was led of the Spirit to go to the man. Not to try to get the man to come to him, or to his church. And Philip did not have a prepared thought or lesson to tell the man. Instead he asked the man a question.
The question was about what the man was doing, not about what Philip was doing, or was prepared to do. He asked the man if he understood what he had been studying. Philip knew how to ask questions important to those he was directed to reach, and then to listen to them.
“ And he said, How can I, except some man should guide me? And he desired Philip that he would come up and sit with him.  The place of the scripture which he read was this, He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and like a lamb dumb before his shearer, so opened he not his mouth:  In his humiliation his judgment was taken away: and who shall declare his generation? for his life is taken from the earth.  And the eunuch answered Philip, and said, I pray thee, of whom speaketh the prophet this? of himself, or of some other man?  Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus.”
Philip began where the man already was. Where the Spirit of God had already been troubling the man.
We also need to learn to start where God has already been speaking to them. Following the Holy Ghost’s lead.
I realize there is a common time where we gather at the house of God to worship. And in that place there are times where the Word of God is taught or preached to a larger audience. And in that case it is one way message, and the Holy Ghost can speak to the hearts of individuals through that message. Therefore if that type of service is going to work, the teacher or preacher has to carefully and prayerfully study to get the mind of God about what they should bring. But that is only part of the plan of God for helping people with their spiritual needs. Please continue to read on and you will understand even more about this.
Number 2 – understanding “why” more than “what” or “how” the scripture teaches. Understanding the principle under the scripture, and being able to be led of the Holy Ghost to apply that unchangeable principle to different people and different situations.
Note: It is the principle underneath a particular scripture, (that which reflects the true nature and purpose of God), that doesn’t change.
“Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation. Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever. Be not carried about with divers and strange doctrines. For it is a good thing that the heart be established with grace; not with meats, which have not profited them that have been occupied therein.” ~ Hebrews 13:7-9
Notice that this scripture passage above is giving us a complete thought in understanding what is most important when we are teaching. Concerning those who teach it states: follow their faith, considering their testimony. And to make it explicitly clear as to what their faith and example should be reflecting, the apostle Paul states:”Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.” Jesus Christ is the son of God, and God does not change. And then he immediately goes on to state that the heart should be established in grace, and not in the specificity of a rule of the scriptural law.
So the contrast: a minister could change, therefore remember you must always compare them to the testimony of Jesus Christ, that doesn’t change. That way you will know whether the minister is doing right or not.
Also, the administration of a rule of spiritual law could change. Therefore the way you will know if it is still aligned with the gospel, Is by comparing it to the testimony of Jesus Christ which never changes. It is talking about the principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Those are the things that don’t change. Grace is one of those unchangeable principles. Therefore the scripture stated:
“For it is a good thing that the heart be established with grace; not with meats”
To understand this teaching in even more depth, study on your own in Acts chapter 15:19-20. There the leaders of the church established a rule of scriptural law for the gentiles. This rule directed the gentiles to not eat meat that was sacrificed unto idols. But then later, the apostle Paul provided us the principle underneath this teaching, and he explained to us when we should be concerned about it. (Read on your own 1 Corinthians 10:19-33)
So because the scripture earlier in Hebrews 13:7-9 also states that the heart should be established in grace, and not in the specificity of the administration of a rule of scriptural law; this also begs the question: how do you establish the heart in grace, and not in the rule of scriptural law? Well again, in that same scripture, the apostle Paul points to Jesus Christ, who never changes. He doesn’t point to the rule of law as something that never changes.
So to deeply understand what is really meant by being established in grace, we must deeply and intimately know Jesus Christ. We must get “the mind of Christ.”
“Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man. For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ.” ~ 1 Corinthians 2:13-16
So this scripture above shows us it takes a spiritual understanding, and not a lawyer or legal mind. Rather, someone who can let the Holy Ghost lead. But letting the Holy Ghost lead does not mean the scriptures can be ignored! To the contrary, it means you must not be shallow in your understanding of scripture. You must not just take scripture and legally dissect it. You must understand the reason the scripture was given in the first place. You must understand the principle behind it, or the reason “why”. You must understand the original intent or purpose of the author.
From the dictionary, the definition of principle:
“a fundamental truth or proposition that serves as the foundation for a system of belief or behavior or for a chain of reasoning.”
Example: “the basic principles of Christianity”
It is very appropriate for the dictionary to use Christianity to explain principles. Because true Christianity is based on biblical principles. Not on biblical literal and legal interpretations.
The “why” or purpose of the scripture is the part that never changes. Because it reflects an unchanging principle. The “what” that was addressed, or “how” it was addressed changes according to the need. Because that is how God works. He addresses each need with an answer that comes from himself, to meet the specific need.
That is why in the book of Revelation, in each letter to each church (chapters 2 and 3), the answer to their specific need, came from some characteristic of Jesus Christ already described previously in the book of Revelation. Because Jesus still is the answer for every need in the church. And that is why at the end of each letter it also states exactly the same words: “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.” It is the spiritual meaning, or principle, that needs to be understood. And you will need the Holy Ghost to help you with that.
In the epistles that the apostle Paul wrote, whenever he addressed a need, he almost always explained the principle that was behind his directions. It is most important to understand the principle that the apostle Paul taught! More than the specificity of his direction addressing a particular need of his day and age, and in a particular place of a specific culture. Pay careful attention to his explanation of the principle.
As an example, consider the teaching of the apostle Paul concerning short hair for men, and long hair for women. Paul explained the principle behind his teaching.
“For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God: but the woman is the glory of the man. For the man is not of the woman; but the woman of the man. Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man. For this cause ought the woman to have power on her head because of the angels.” ~ 1 Corinthians 11:7-10
The long hair for the woman is to reflect her subjection to the man. The principle is much more important than the specificity of the implementation. Because of environmental and heredity reasons, in some countries there is almost no difference between the length of a woman’s hair compared to a man’s. But yet the scripture still has meaning, because the Christian principle behind the teaching must still be taught in every country.
Additionally, when we take the time to understand the principle, then we are better prepared to understand other scriptures also, because we can compare spiritual teachings to other spiritual teachings. As an example related to the length of hair, consider the prophetic meaning of this scripture in Revelation chapter 9. By symbolic language, this chapter identifies the characteristics of a false ministry.
“And they had hair as the hair of women, and their teeth were as the teeth of lions.” ~ Revelation 9:8
If we understand the principle behind the teaching relating to the long hair of women, then we can interpret this scripture to represent a ministry that is operating in submission to a man. Rather than operating in submission directly to Almighty God. The hair principle informs us of this.
Please do not be shallow in your understanding of the scripture. You cannot simply “parrot” a gospel message that someone else has preached before. Even though that someone else was mightily used by God. Although a parrot can speak in amazingly accurate tones and words of the original person, they do not have the underlying understanding to know how to apply language in real world situations.
The gospel is established upon fundamental principles that reflect the very nature of God himself. That is why we often refer to the scriptures as “The Word of God.” God is not static nor dead like a legal document. Nor is his Word intended to be a literalized directive applied by people who study the letter.
Even though it is important to study the Word of God. We must never forget that it is the Word of the Spirit of God. Therefore the Word has life when it is directed by God himself, and by who he is.
“And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” ~ Ephesians 6:17
This scripture clearly shows us that the administration of the Word of God belongs in the hand of the Spirit of God. That is why it says “the sword of the Spirit” and not “the sword of the minister.” Therefore ministers must be careful that they understand the spiritual principle behind the teaching, so that they can prayerfully keep the teaching of the Word under the direction of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus told the Samaritan woman, one who had been influenced by an incorrect translation of scripture and tradition:
“But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.” ~ John 4:23-24
So also a true ministry must teach and administer the Word “in Spirit and in truth.” For we are also warned in scripture:
“Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.” ~ 2 Corinthians 3:6
So it is very clear, that the application of the scripture without the direction of the principle behind the scripture, which reflects God himself, will woefully fail. In fact it will have a killing effect. So how do you avoid being a tool for this killing effect? This is a very important question that every gospel worker should be concerned about! Because if you are not concerned about it, you will certainly administer some seemingly powerful, but killing messages. And you most certainly will have a very difficult time reaching anyone new, beyond those of your own local congregation.
Many have become so hyper focused on preserving just the existence of their own local congregation, that their gospel has become a “cookie cutter” style of teaching, passed on from one generation to the next. And so the next generation becomes very shallow in their understanding of scripture. And the pastoral administration of the gospel tends toward a “nursery effect” where the congregants never spiritually grow up to become soldiers of the cross. They go about focusing mostly on their own needs and spiritual life, and rarely are taking on new territory in the gospel work.
Number 3 – following where the Holy Ghost is working, rather than rerouting the work for our own convenience.
Today, most of the Western world has settled into their localized congregations. And in doing so we have created whole cultures and norms for protecting the continuance of the local congregation identity and existence. Although the notion of reaching the lost may exist once in awhile in a message. The actual reality of doing the work in an effective way, has been majorly reduced.
Consequently, any notion of missionary work, where we go out into a new field of labor: seems far-fetched and extreme. How can you consider that, when we ourselves are just trying to survive?
We need again to carefully seek the mind of Christ. And to help us do that, let us consider an observation that Jesus had, while he was preaching in the Jewish synagogues.
“And Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people. But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd. Then saith he unto his disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few; Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest.” ~ Matthew 9:35-38
Most every Jewish town had a synagogue. And very much like what we do today in church, at the synagogue they would:
- Gather together to attend regularly
- Have leaders and teachers who would instruct the people in the scriptures
- Have people lead the singing
- Have people lead the prayer portion of the service
- And they regularly prayed for individual people to be healed
And of a certainty, Jesus approved of this, because he took part in it himself. As it tells us, “Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues.” But in the scripture above, Jesus is also telling us his burden: the church-like synagogue service is not enough. Because I am looking over the people, and I still feel the burden that they are fainting, and are scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd.
They were doing everything that we do today. But apparently it wasn’t enough. Could it be that Jesus would express the exact same burden, if he was to personally preach in our churches today?
Fainting, scattered, sheep without a shepherd; Even while Jesus was there preaching among them? Is that possible?
That’s where Jesus felt the burden. And to understand why this was happening, and what he meant by sheep without a shepherd, we have to look at the prescription Jesus gave for the solution. First he directed:
“Then saith he unto his disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the laborers are few; Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth laborers into his harvest.” ~ Matthew 9:37-38
His view of a shepherd (which he said they needed) is not just a pastor. For he calls them by the more general name of: laborers.
And so in the next chapter, following what he had asked them to pray about, Jesus sent out his apostles into the villages and towns. He specifically was sending them to the exact same people: the Jews. And he specifically directed them away from the synagogues. He told them to visit them personally, in their homes. Remember he said: we need laborers. People willing to work with people individually, like a shepherd works with sheep. And he said the place of the harvest is not according to our preference. Because it is “his harvest” not ours.
Remember what Jesus told us about how a good shepherd works. If you consider it, it goes beyond what just a single person can do for a whole congregation. That is why he said: “The harvest truly is plenteous, but the laborers are few.” It takes a number of others who also have the spirit of a good shepherd. Because the work of a good shepherd is very personalized. And as a congregation will grow, one person cannot accomplish that for everyone. It doesn’t mean that you wouldn’t have an overseer for the entire congregation, like a pastor. But it does mean that it takes more than just one person, to grow that congregation and for the people to flourish.
“I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep. The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep. I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine.” ~ John 10:11-14
And throughout history, every effective gospel work that has prospered, typically started with a very personalized work in the homes, in the fields, etc. And they continued to focus on laboring within the homes, even though they may have eventually gathered together weekly for a larger church service.
And whenever they quit reaching out to the homes, the work again began to stagnate. And as they quit reaching out, the natural human tendency is that they would focus on their own organization and survival. And then the Spirit of God becomes less and less effective among them.
How can we expect to grow spiritually if the Spirit of God is saying: “Go ye and make disciples of all men.” And the scriptures teach us “become like them, so that you may win more.” But we are only saying: “come to us, and become like us, and take part in the worship services in our church building.” It seems like we have turned this around to be more convenient, and more manageable: for us.
Every congregation needs to learn again to see themselves as a missionary outpost, and not a church services program endpoint. And not the establishment of a static entity that serves its own spiritual well-being at the expense of others. Because if there is not a serious connection to the purpose of Jesus Christ in saving souls and expanding into new territory, then what the congregation is doing: is at the expense of others.
This is a very human and natural way to fall into. So every one of us will easily follow this pattern if we don’t resist it. Consider what happened in Jesus’ day:
The apostles tried to turn the inconvenient interruptions of children away. But Jesus said: allow them to come to me. (Note: These children were not the children of the apostles. Consequently the apostles did not feel the attachment that they should have had, to those children’s needs. – read Mark 10:13-16)
When the apostles were upset at those who would not receive Jesus, they wanted to command fire to come down from heaven upon them. (Is that what we do today with our preaching? Command fire judgement upon them whenever they seem to reject Jesus?) But Jesus said: “You don’t know what spirit you are of. We are not here to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.” So do we know what spirit is motivating us today? (Luke 9:51-56)
When the apostles tried to tell Jesus to take care of himself and eat something, Jesus said: I have meat to eat You know not of. Look up at the Samaritans whom you would prefer to avoid, for the fields there are white and ready for harvest. (John 4:3-42)
What is Jesus saying to us today? Is he still telling us “Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature”? Are we willing to follow where the Holy Ghost is working? Or are we rerouting the work for our own convenience? According to Jesus, a new work often starts in the homes. And from there the Holy Ghost takes charge in leading his laborers “into his harvest.”
Number 4 – complete willingness to lifelong commitments.
Almost no one will willingly make huge changes in their life, unless someone is committed to them, to help them through that change.
Think long and hard about this.
If somebody is seriously considering salvation, and they come from outside of the church, having never been raised there, it is really difficult! Take a moment to think about everything that the gospel will change in their lives:
They must put aside sinful habits that often they have lived with most of their life. This has been who they are. And now they are going to become somebody completely different. Are we going to expect them to do this alone?
They will be changing their friends that they have had all their life. And some of them know in their hearts that their own families will disown them to a degree. Shall we expect them to suffer such a loss, and then live their lives alone?
They will change some of the places that they used to go to.
They potentially will be changing much of what they used to read and watch.
Do you think they don’t have a concern about doing all this alone?
Jesus never intended that anyone should have to go through life alone. This was even reflected in one of his last directives while he was on the cross.
“When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son! Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home.” ~ John 19:26-27
We should never ignore the commitment directives coming from the shepherd who committed his life on the cross! But are we ready to accept a commitment that we didn’t choose for ourselves? A commitment choice that Jesus makes for us?
Every missionary that has ever been successful throughout history, was successful, because those whom they were sent to, knew that the missionary was committed to them. This is what spells “success” in every age of time, and in every field of labor. And many gospel workers have failed, because they wanted to make the choice for whom they would commit to. But that is not what “answering the call” of Jesus Christ means.
The reality is, that it is very hard to find people who truly are willing to commit to helping someone outside of “their choice.”
Note: It is a known fact that in every type of recovery program (whether it is recovery from drugs, alcohol, gambling, or whatever) that most people drop out of the program because of emotional pains that they cannot face alone. And in every program, there comes a time that they must find an individual that they can seriously trust. Because they need someone they can share and unload some very personal emotional pains from their own past.
And why is it that most dropout? Simply because they can’t find someone who truly cares enough to be that committed to them. You see most of their emotional pain comes from being betrayed by someone in their past. So how can you expect them to share such sensitive information with someone that they can sense is only halfway committed to them?
We often see many people come inside our doors of the church building. And at times different ones may come up to them and casually say hello. But you can be sure, if someone does not eventually connect with them in a personal way (giving them a sense of genuine commitment) they will leave, and not come back. It happens all the time.
In John the 10th chapter, verses 11 through 14, Jesus shows us what the good Shepherd is like.
“I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep. The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep. I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine.” ~ John 10:11-14
The hireling flees because he is not committed to them. As a gospel worker, are we a reflection of Jesus, or of the hireling? Do you realize that true commitments to other people are for life? That is why we do not want to make our own choice about our calling. Because it is only the calling that comes from God, that we will have the grace to stay committed to.
This does not mean that God could not redirect us to another work. But the souls that he has given us to work with in the past, our hearts are still committed to them. We pray for them and show that we still care for them: even if they should not get saved, or even if they should backslide.
The lost world is in desperate need of people who really care about them. And God wants to use us, to show them that he cares about them.
“A father of the fatherless, and a judge of the widows, is God in his holy habitation. God setteth the solitary in families: he bringeth out those which are bound with chains: but the rebellious dwell in a dry land.” ~ Psalm 68:5-6
Is our family one of those families that God can set the solitary into? I have known many people around church that are very much into their own families. But it takes a special family that is willing to have their doors open to a solitary one. Are we teaching our families about commitments that God would choose for us? Or by example, are we teaching them to make their own choices for whom they want to commit to?
In all our commitments let us be: “wise as serpents, but harmless as doves.” And let us remember “a friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.”
“For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” ~ Matthew 25:35-40
Number 5 – allowing the Holy Ghost to change who we are, again
For a certainty, God is in the business of completely changing who we are. The very initial call of God to repentance and salvation, is a call to a complete change in us.
“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” ~ 2 Corinthians 5:17
“All” covers everything spiritually about us. And because of this, he also completely changes our life in terms of how we live, and the relationships we have with others.
But in the same scripture where he talks about the new creature, he then immediately afterwards, talks about something that will again require another change in us.
“And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation” ~ 2 Corinthians 5:18
He has given us the ministry of reconciliation. But how do we go about it? Well how did Jesus start his ministry of Reconciliation? He first became like us, so that we spiritually could become like him. He changed, so he could reach us where we are. And he taught us, along with the apostles, that we need to change so that we can reach people where they are. That is the ministry of reconciliation.
We don’t want to become a castaway, simply because we will not allow the Lord to change us again, so that we may reach others. Let us seriously take a look at what the apostle Paul was trying to tell us in 1st Corinthians the 9th chapter.
“ What is my reward then? Verily that, when I preach the gospel, I may make the gospel of Christ without charge, that I abuse not my power in the gospel.  For though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more.”
Did you notice that the apostle Paul considered it a path to abusing ministerial authority, if the purpose was not to be a servant to all. Jesus himself taught that if you are going to minister to others, you must become their servant. You must be willing to change to do this.
“ And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law;  To them that are without law, as without law, (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ,) that I might gain them that are without law.  To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.”
According to the apostle Paul, he changed often. This was not just a one-time spiritual change when he got saved. But this was a change to enable him to reach one that he was sent to serve in the gospel. Whenever the Holy Ghost sends someone into a field of labor, he also expects them to change: again.
“ And this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I might be partaker thereof with you.  Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain.  And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible.  I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air:  But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.”
So critical was this responsibility to change, that the apostle Paul emphasizes to us: if I’m not willing to do whatever it takes to be successful, when I preach to others, I myself can also become a castaway. Why? Because I will end up abusing my power in the gospel, by causing others to become more like me, for my own convenience. Rather than me becoming like them, so that I might draw them to Christ.
It is much easier to try to build the church to suit ourselves. To create a work that is more convenient and modeled after ourselves.
It is much more difficult for us to change and become like others. So that we might effectively attract them to a church that loves Christ more than us. If we build the church around us, it will certainly become a snare to us. And it will set us on a course for becoming a castaway.
Are we willing to allow the Lord to change us, by him selecting where we will go, and whom we will become like? Let us seriously consider the lesson the scripture teaches us when it talks about the potter and the clay.
“The word which came to Jeremiah from the Lord, saying, Arise, and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will cause thee to hear my words. Then I went down to the potter’s house, and, behold, he wrought a work on the wheels. And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter: so he made it again another vessel, as seemed good to the potter to make it. Then the word of the Lord came to me, saying, O house of Israel, cannot I do with you as this potter? saith the Lord. Behold, as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are ye in mine hand, O house of Israel.” ~ Jeremiah 18:1-6
It is very clear by the scripture, that the Lord believes he has the right to change us more than once. And sometimes when he does this, it might seem very drastic and painful. Can you imagine how our lives could be completely changed in a moment, by some disaster or catastrophe affecting us?
But is that the only way that he could put his hand upon us, to get us to change, again? Would it not be easier to simply respond to the Holy Ghost, when he says go and change, so that we might reach new people? But how many of us know how to be led by the Holy Ghost this way? And how many of us are willing to be led by the Holy Ghost this way?