He Was Baptized, But Never Matured
I have a plaque in my office which has always resonated in my mind. It reads, “True leaders focus on building great people, not just great organizations.” While we understand that the Lord has built His church, it is imperative for us to understand as well that His church is His people! The ultimate goal of everything we do as Christians is to grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ so as to develop into mature servants of God (Ephesians 4:13; 2 Peter 3:18). God ordained the local church to serve as a means of such spiritual growth and yet in many local congregations this is not being experienced (Ephesians 4:11-16). There seems to be a “revolving door” of new converts who never realize their potential in Christ and sadly fall from the Lord. While one must himself want to grow before he will truly flourish in his relationship with the Lord, issue and their role in raising the probability for true spiritual development of new Christians is vital to the work of the Lord. I would like to consider with you some of the factors that contribute to the growth of new converts.
Biblical Presentation of Real Conversion
The true and thorough presentation of the gospel will positively contribute to helping the listener understand the commitment associated with authentic discipleship and the nature of true conversion to Christ. A superficial view of the gospel in order to rush people into the baptistery often insures later failure on the part of those who did not count the cost of a relationship with Christ. Jesus never diluted discipleship in order to swell numbers. Our Lord demands the highest allegiance of heart: “If anyone come to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple…For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it” (Luke 14:26, 28). Jesus teaches us that there is to be such a chasm between the love we have for God and the love we have for those we cherish in our human relationships that the only way for such to be described is in the terms of “love” and “hate.” Biblically expounding on the true nature of saving faith, the impact of genuine repentance, the commitment of confession of faith and the surrender of baptism into Christ will prepare the heart for union with the Savior (Hebrews 11:6; Acts 2:38; Romans 10:9-10; Romans 6:1-7). Our life in Jesus is not a snapshot event — it is the journey of a lifetime.
Substantive Spiritual Feeding
In a faithful local fellowship there must be a discerning evaluation of where someone is in their understanding of the word of God. Only then will their greatest needs be addressed in a relevant and practical way. The individual’s past may dictate the wisest course to take in nurturing their faith. Peter wrote, “Like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation” (I Peter 2:2). The “milk of the word” refers to the foundational truths which lead one to faith in Christ (Hebrews 5:13; 6:1).
However, it is critical that both private and public teaching and preaching is committed to in-depth expositional study of the scriptures. Some brethren attempt to use the new convert as an excuse for superficial teaching, but he should be fed with God’s word in a way that stimulates growth and challenges him to press on in his dedication to the Lord. The Hebrew writer reproved his readers for not growing and thus missing out on profound truths regarding the priesthood of Christ. He wrote, “Concerning him we have much to say and it is hard to explain since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant. But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil” (Hebrews 5:11-14). Notice that not only were these Hebrew Christians not progressing, but they were going backwards and were in need of being re-taught.
Elders who understand their role as servant-shepherds in knowing, guarding and feeding the flock will greatly help the new convert by striving to provide teaching that will encourage him to grow in Christ (Acts 20:28; I Thessalonians 5:14; Hebrews 13:17). Pastors who are distanced and remote from those under their oversight contribute to the problem of babes in Christ falling away.
Due to lack of teaching some new converts fall right back into past sinful behaviors and are not convicted of their need to pursue holiness. Congregations which refuse to practice church discipline are not helping new Christians – they are debilitating and discouraging them through negligence. Such contamination of the fellowship actually provides gateways back into sin and leads to the downfall of those young in the faith. Discipline refers to a process which includes instruction and edification, not merely the withdrawal of fellowship from those who have departed from the truth. The more loving our fellowship is, the more effective our corrective instruction.
Fellowship: The Family Dynamic
There has been much abuse of the biblical term “fellowship,” but scripturally we understand that it refers to joint-participation among believers in the gospel and communion with God (I John 1:3; Philippians 1:5). In order to appreciate the fellowship principle in the Bible the Holy Spirit uses the imagery of the family. God is presented as our father, Christ as our brother, fellow-believers as our brothers and sisters in Christ and we are described as being members of the family and household of God (Ephesians 2:19; 3:15). Sadly, in our culture there will be more and more new converts who have never truly had the family experience. Sons and daughters who have never had a father who cared for them and lovingly instructed them. Divorce has plagued our country with the destruction of the home and even when divorce has not taken place the dysfunction of many families due to sin is abundant. We must realize the great value of the spiritual family of God and how crucial it is in the spiritual growth of the new Christian.
The family perspective of our fellowship will naturally express itself in offering love and mercy, but also demanding transparency, honesty and accountability. In fact, these are the very qualities that lead to spiritual growth. Why are we so afraid to help someone do better? We do so with tenderness for the new convert, but it must be done (Jude 22, 23). This is not only the responsibility of the elders and preacher, but of every Christian. When the environment in our spiritual family is characterized by the engagement of the membership as a whole the influence on new Christians will be evident. Rather than members feeling that they are spectators, they must come to view themselves as active participants in the fellowship and work. Building deep relationships will have a long-term effect on those who obey the gospel of Christ. The mentoring of new Christians by sharing not just our worship times together, but our lives together will have a tremendous effect on the growth of the body of Christ. Paul wrote, “Do not sharply rebuke an older man, but rather appeal to him as a father, to the younger men as brothers, the older women as mothers and the younger women as sisters in all purity” (I Timothy 5:1, 2). Paul described Timothy as his “son in the faith” (I Timothy 1:2). The counsel and teaching of mature believers will enrich the faith of the new Christian and what a great opportunity for us to encourage others to serve God!
Perhaps if we invest ourselves into the people of God we will see the growth, rather than the demise of new converts. We all have made mistakes and fallen short of the Lord’s expectations, but we have enjoyed his grace and forgiveness. John Mark had Barnabas and Timothy had Paul, but the question is who will you encourage in the work of the Lord?
By Bruce Reeves, February 3, 2013
Are you passionate about your faith, your life, your family and your future? Hopefully you are but if your enthusiasm has diminished, it is now time to redirect your efforts and recharge your spiritual batteries. That means refocusing your priorities by putting God first.
Each day is an opportunity to serve God and to do His will. Are you enthused about life, or do you struggle through each day giving scarcely a thought to God’s blessings? Are you constantly praising God for His gifts, and are you sharing His message to the world? Are you excited about the possibilities for service that God has placed before you, whether at home, at work, or at church?
Nothing is more important than your whole-
hearted commitment to your Creator and to His only begotten Son. Your faith must never be an afterthought; it must be your ultimate priority, and your ultimate passion. When you become passionate about your faith, you will become passionate about your life.
By getting absolutely engrossed with spiritual deeds you will get out of yourself. Never settle for a lukewarm existence, instead, make the choice to become genuinely involved in doing God’s work. To live for Christ is to be passionate about our Lord and about our lives.
|We must focus on prayer as the main thrust to accomplish God’s will and purpose on Earth. The forces against us have never been greater, and this is the only way we can release God’s power to become victorious.|
PUTTING GOD FIRST
Have you made God your top priority by offering Him your heart, your soul, your talent, and your time? Or are you in the habit of giving God little more than a couple of hours on Sunday morning? The answer to these questions will determine, to a surprising extent, the direction of your days and the condition of your character.
As you contemplate your own relationship with God, remember that all of mankind is engaged in the practice of worship. Some choose to worship God and, as a result, reap the joy that He intends for His children to experience. Other people are stubbornly determined to do it their way, distancing themselves from God by worshiping such things as earthly passions or personal gratification, and when they do, they suffer.
In the book of Exodus, God warns to place no gods before Him (20:3). Yet all too often, we place our Lord in second, third, or fourth place as we worship the gods of pride, greed, power, or lust.
Does God rule your heart? Make certain that the honest answer to this question is a resounding yes. If you sincerely wish to build your character and your life on an unshakable foundation, you must put your Creator in first place.
God deserves first place in your life, and you deserve the experience of putting Him there.
By Brent Hunter
In the previous issue we looked at three barriers that must be overcome to be successful at soul winning. In this issue three more barriers will be analyzed.
4. We are not prospect conscious. We get busy and allow ourselves to become distracted. Too often we get involved in many worthwhile activities that may even be strengthening to us spiritually, but they can fill up our time and use up our energies so that there are no resources available for outreach. Maintenance is important, but so is mission! An individual's discipleship must go beyond just showing up at worship and doing Bible lessons. While these are vital, they are not a substitute for winning souls. Every Christian needs to see himself as a soul winner. Should we not care enough about the souls of the lost? It is a privilege to share our faith. Should we not constantly be looking for those who are in the need of Jesus? Let's make it a top priority to pray for God to send us seekers. We should be looking, asking, and cultivating relationships along the way. We should also be eager to share the gospel with anyone who is willing! Are we focusing on the right things, or are we distracted from what really matters? We must become prospect conscious if we are to be successful.
5. A lack of joy and assurance of one's salvation. Sadly, many Christians don't possess assurance. John tells us, "These things I have written to you, that you might know you have eternal life" (I Jn. 5:13). God's intent was for His children to have peace and joy in their hearts. We possess joy when we come to trust in Him and God's grace as we "walk in the light as He is in the light" (I Jn. 1:7). Obviously, if Christians don't possess the assurance of their salvation, they can't have joy in their hearts. Beloved, it is this joy that should naturally flow out of us! Our words should not be cold and mechanical, but warm and heartfelt. Criticizing people for not doing "personal evangelism" and trying to get them to be motivated primarily from guilt is not a long-term solution for changing the culture in a congregation. We must be insightful enough to deal with the real underlying issues, and not just deal with symptoms. A better course is to encourage and strengthen personal commitment, and the Christian's faith in the promises of God, and the "joy of your salvation" (Ps. 51:12). It is noteworthy that after God promises us that His word will not return void, He says, "For you shall go out with joy, and be led out with peace" (Is.55:12).
6. A lack of a model. Perhaps the reason why many congregations do not offer classes on "How to do Personal Work," is that it is rarely being done, so consequently, there is no one to teach the class. It is true that soul winning is the privilege of all mature Christians (Heb. 5:12), not just the preacher, but if the local evangelist is not willing to set an example and spend a good share of his time teaching the lost, how can he expect the members to do so? Who is going to teach good training classes if the leadership is not engaged, and it is not a part of the lifestyle of those who are to be an example to the flock (1 Tim. 4:12, 1 Pet. 5:3)? One has to look hard at the congregational culture of which we are a part. If winning souls is not an expectation of what mature Christians should be doing, and there is little or no model of this by church leaders, is it any wonder that in this type of environment, personal evangelism becomes rare or non-existent?
Beloved, let's make it a top priority to pray for God to send us soul seekers
By Brent Hunter
The reasons why so many Christians report that they feel uncomfortable sharing their faith are multifaceted. We must be aware of what these barriers are, because any successful soul winning effort must start by laying a foundation of preaching and teaching that deals with these six key barriers and how they can be overcome. Let's deal with the first three in this article, and barriers, # 4-6, in next week’s installment.
Three Key Barriers Which Must be Overcome
1. People just aren't interested anymore! I hear this all the time. Jesus said, "Lift up your eyes, and look unto the fields, they are white unto the harvest" (John 4:35). On another occasion Jesus told His disciples, "The harvest is great!" (Mt. 13:38); First and foremost, we have to believe what Jesus said. We must stop making excuses! We need to lay up in our hearts the powerful promise that if we faithfully spread the word, "it shall not return unto Me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper" (Is. 55:11) If we believe that there is no one in our community who will respond to the gospel if taught, why bother? That is one of the reasons why it is important to be informed of the faithful congregations that are having evangelistic success. It can help to provide us with hope and assurance that people not only need the gospel, but if approached in the right way, many will respond. If others can be successful, so can we!.
2. Fear of Rejection, I just feel uncomfortable: We are surrounded by a culture that is "politically correct," and people today are very easily offended. Unfortunately, many Christians have allowed the culture to change them, instead of the reverse. Indeed, this is often why there is a fear of rejection. This is the most commonly stated reason why Christians say they don't talk to their friends and neighbors about the gospel. We need to be reminded that the opposite of fear is faith and that "without faith it is impossible to please Him'' (Heb.11:6). John admonishes us, "Perfect love cast out fear!"(l John 4:18)! Say that little spiritual gem to yourself when feeling afraid, repeat it over and over again, and you will find it will not be long until a courage fit, replaces a fit of fear! This is not surprising because Jesus has told us that when we go out and share the gospel, "I will be with you, even to the end of the age" (Mt 28:20). Picture Jesus by your side and it will help you to build courage.
3. A lack of training and practical instruction. Many congregations see the need and value of men's training and singing classes which I commend. What about training classes on "How to Teach Others the Gospel,” or "How to Effectively Share One's Faith''? Too often we forget that the Lord's plan of evangelism is to "Teach these things unto faithful men, who will be able to teach others also" (2 Tim. 2:2). Evangelism is not complete, until the evangelized becomes the evangelist! How can we obey this command and "equip the saints for the work of ministry" (Eph. 4:12), if we don't regularly provide instruction and training in how to do so?
I have found that one of the reasons why so many Christians are so afraid is that they are not shown or taught how to win souls. Think about it. All of us are filled with fear, in any area of our lives, when we are told to do something, but have no idea of what we are doing. Uncertainty will always lead to inaction. Many good hearted, well-meaning Christians do not share their faith! Jesus said that the problem is not the harvest; the problem is the lack of reapers going into the field (Mt.13:38). "Pray the Lord of harvest to send out not laborers into His harvest" (Luke 10:2).
We are saved to serve, won to win, taught to teach!
By Lauren DeMoss
I have been taught to dress modestly all my life, and there is nothing wrong with my mindset or view of myself because of it. In fact, I believe that modesty has done quite the opposite.
My body is something special and was not meant to be seen by just every average joe I walk by on the street. I have saved my secrets for the man who makes me the promise of a lifetime. He alone is the only man who will be allowed to uncover what God has made. I have nothing to be ashamed of in that. God made me special, unique, and valuable and to dress immodestly would make me ashamed to cheapen God's creation.
That's what the Bible means when it talks of "shamefacedness." Any woman with a proper sense of shame will dress in such a way as not to be the source of temptation. I would be ashamed to dress in a manner that would cause others to sin or to bring shame on myself or my God. I am not ashamed of my body, I'm not ashamed to be a woman, I am not ashamed to be the beautiful masterpiece that God has made me to be. My body is the temple of God and it belongs to Him. I am proud to be His daughter and I am proud to dress like it.
God designed marriage to be a beautiful and wonderful covenant between a husband and his bride. Modesty has taught me to keep that covenant sacred. It has taught me more than anything that God owns my body, and when the time comes, my husband will receive all that God intended for me to give alongside my marriage vows. He will get it all, and I will be happy to give it to him.
I have heard it said that women who attempt to live modesty sacrifice their freedom and control to the men around them, this couldn't be more backwards. In keeping my body covered, I have chosen to remain in control of who sees what. I have chosen to walk down the street and know that I am free of the responsibility of causing men to lust or look at me in a perverted way. No, modesty will not stop all men from dirty thinking, but modesty has put me in control of what I allow them to see for free. Modesty actually puts me in control.
The lust in the hearts of the men around me is not my responsibility. However, allowing my body to be used as a catalyst for that lust is. I dress modestly for Jesus Christ - so that he will be pleased with what He sees when He looks at me. I also dress modestly for the sake of my brothers in Christ. God created them to be visually stimulated for a reason, and God gave women rules to follow in regard to this area. I understand that men are responsible for every thought they think in regard to me and my body. They can control their thoughts. However, because I have love toward them, I will take them into regard as I choose my wardrobe. I will take responsibility for my part in the equation so that I am not responsible for luring men into temptation with what I wear.
I limit my fashion choices in order be obedient to God, serve my brothers in Christ, and to be in control of how the world views my body. Modesty never ever means that you have to look ugly or unfashionable. You are beautiful, and there is nothing more beautiful than a woman who embraces her femininity in her appearance while keeping true beauty and modesty in mind. To me, that is truly being in control of my wardrobe.
To me, modesty is a beautiful word. It has taught me to value my body, to keep desires inside of my marriage, to take control of my body by keeping it covered, to understand my responsibility in this area toward Christ and my brothers, and to embrace beauty and femininity. This is how I choose to live not because I have to, not because I'm forced to, but because I want to and because this is where I find freedom to be the beautiful person God has created me to be. Girls, embrace modesty, for your own sake, and for the sake of Jesus Christ, and you will not be ashamed of your decision.