No Reputation

I wonder why…

I wonder why some missionaries are still trying to replicate their home culture in the countries they are working in. I thought we had learned that cultural imperialism was not the way to extend the kingdom of God. Why do some denominations still land in a new country with the aim of building a copy of their home organisation instead of planting culturally appropriate churches? I have always preferred to listen to and work with indigenous churches in Cambodia and Myanmar rather than set up my own empire. How would Jesus do mission?

I wonder why Christians are so keen on criticising and judging others while seeking to justify or ignore their own failings. How would Jesus relate to the ‘tax gatherers and sinners’ of today? How would He deal with Christians who have made mistakes or fallen into sin?

I wonder why church politics are such a hindrance to the work of the kingdom. Why is there so much jostling for power and position in the church? Why is the ‘I did it my way’ attitude so prevalent? How would Jesus run your church?

I wonder why church meetings can so easily degenerate into a performance. Where are the servant worship leaders and musicians whose only desire is to lead us into the presence of God? How would Jesus help us to worship His Father?

Philippians 2: 7 (NKJV) tells us that Jesus ‘made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant’. He left the glory of heaven; as a newborn baby He was placed in an animal’s feeding trough; as an adult on the road He had ‘nowhere to lay His head’; He had to accept the hospitality and generosity of others; He ‘did not come to be served, but to serve’; He submitted to a mistrial, a brutal flogging and the curse of death on a cross.

Because Jesus lived and died in this way, all our sins, past, present and future, and all the sins of others whom we so easily condemn, have been forgiven.

Philippians 2: 5 (NKJV) instructs us, ‘Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus’, or (NLT) ‘Your attitude should be the same that Christ Jesus had.

How would Jesus do mission? Humbly, with grace towards the people he came to serve and save.

How would Jesus relate to the ‘tax gatherers and sinners’ of today? The same way as He did to the tax gatherers and sinners whose company He enjoyed in first-century Galilee and Judaea: with love, forgiveness and acceptance.

How would Jesus run your church? As a servant-leader, a gracious, patient pastor and teacher, whose chief desire is for the spiritual health and maturity of His brothers and sisters.

How would Jesus help us to worship His Father? He would turn our eyes away from ourselves, the band, the singers, and help us to give our all in focused adoration.

Which is more important to you and to me: our reputation? Or the glory of God?

Set Free From Law After 30 Years

As I look back on nearly 30 years of being a Christian I recall how I have been involved in everything from Sunday school to prayer groups, pioneering churches to door-to-door evangelism, street preaching to mission in other lands. Well, you get the picture.

I now realise most of this was to please God and was based in law. I have been in all kinds of churches: Brethren, Baptist, Pentecostal, Elim, Faith Churches and Church of England high church. Until just recently I have found I have preached hell fire to law, and in the last ten years law and grace. All this has changed since my Senior Pastor Andy Wall from Grace International Church, Bloxwich, has ministered on Galatians and Romans for about six months.

Romans 6: 14-15 declare: “For sin shall not (any longer) exert dominion over you since now you are not under law (as slaves) but under grace as subjects of God’s favour and mercy. What then (are we to conclude)? Shall we sin because we live not under law but under God’s favour and mercy?” (Amplified Bible). Paul says, “Certainly not!” The sad thing is we carry on sinning to the flesh and if we are honest we will till we die. So how can any of us be free?

What I have learned is we can not by our self-effort win brownie points with God our Father. He loves us the same today as He will tomorrow. I had always seen God as the policeman. If I stepped out of line He would punish me. The problem was I had never seen the Father heart of God. He loves the world so much he sent his Son the Lord Jesus to die for all mankind, past, present and future, on the Cross of Calvary 2000 years ago — and here is the rub — not just the church but the whole wide world.

So tell me why most of us are so judgemental in the Church and outside in the world. I too have been guilty of this and I for one have repented. Galatians 3 is one of the keys. Paul writes: “O you poor and silly and thoughtless and senseless Galatians! Who has fascinated or bewitched or cast a spell over you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified” (Galatians 3: 1, Amplified Bible). In the whole of the chapter Paul is warning the Galatian church not to go back under the laws of Moses as Jesus has set us free from the law by dying on the Cross. He paid the price for sin to his Father once and for all — for all of us. You can believe it or not; that is up to you. But I know my sin is forgiven: past, present and future.

When you understand this you really have good news to tell the world, and we will stop trying to bully people into the Kingdom. All they need is to be introduced to the Saviour and start their own relationship with Him. That is the good news of the gospel: Christ crucified and raised again to life.

Our mission is to speed this message in the church and to the world as the Holy Spirit allows us.

Why Do We Do Church the World’s Way?

I always thought the church was supposed to go into the world, but I am wondering whether too many Christians have let the world get into the church.

Let me give you three examples.

Giving

Do you give to God’s work? I’m sure you do. But what about your motive for giving?

  • Do you give only to your pet project or cause?
  • Do you give only when a man in a shiny suit on TV tells you to give to his ministry?
  • Do you give only because you think God will give back to you if you do?

I call upon the church (and that includes you if you are a Christian) to give as God directs, to give out of a pure heart, to give with no thought of any return, to give in secret and to give to the little guy — the low-profile, small-scale, grass-roots ministries.

The world’s way is to broadcast its generosity for all to see (just watch Children in Need for an example). Jesus said, “But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you” (Matthew 6: 3-4, NIV).

Gifts and Fruit

I am happy to be known as a Pentecostal Christian. I believe in spiritual gifts. I use the gifts. But the gifts are given for a purpose: for the common good (1 Corinthians 12: 7, NIV) ; for the building up of the church (1 Corinthians 14: 12, NIV); for the strengthening of the church (1 Corinthians 14: 26, NIV). They are not given to be paraded as badges of authority or status symbols.

What was Jesus more concerned with, gifts or fruit? Did He say, “by their gifts you will know them”? No, “By their fruit you will recognise them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognise them” (Matthew 7: 16-20, NIV).

I call upon the church to use the gifts of the Holy Spirit for the purpose for which they were intended by the giver, and to bear fruit that endures by abiding in the true vine, the Lord Jesus Christ (John 15: 1-17).

The world’s way is self aggrandisement, blowing one’s own trumpet (just listen to a politician being interviewed). Jesus’ way is humility, service and contentment. “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness” (1 Timothy 6: 10-11, NIV).

Power

I run my own business. My company’s chief objective is to generate funds for the work of God’s kingdom. The business is managed according to kingdom principles. It is a joy and a privilege to have Jesus as the managing director. What I am less happy about is when churches or Christian ministries take on the characteristics of business:

  • Rich and powerful organisations offering to help a struggling ministry ‘but only if you do things our way’.
  • Leaders of high-profile ministries insisting on using an executive jet when a scheduled flight would do.
  • Pastors functioning more like company directors than shepherds of the flock.
  • Churches treating their members like employees who have to toe the company line — or else.

I call upon the church to ponder the warning of Jesus to the church at Sardis in Revelation 3:1 (NIV): “I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead”.

The world’s way is to fight your way to the top and by all possible means stay there. Jesus said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10: 42-45, NIV).

I Did It My Way

When we stand before God and give an account for the way we have discharged our responsibilities, particularly those of us who are church leaders, I hope that we shall be able to say, not “I did it my way”, nor “I did it the world’s way”, but “I have done the will of Him who sent me.”

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