Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Jesus the Master Evangelist invites each of us to be trained as fishers of men.

In this short series we will be looking at different New Testament evangelists Paul, Peter, Andrew and Philip(Peter and Philip can be found in a few recent posts).

However each one of these evangelist learnt from the Master Himself. Christ also invites each of us to learn from Him and to allow Him to make us 'fishers of men'.

The importance of Personal Evangelism

Imagine the situation where one Christian leads only one person to the Lord in a year. Then in the following year that same Christian invests their time bringing that new convert into spiritual maturity. The next year, the two Christians then each lead a person to the Lord and spend a year leading them into spiritual maturity. Every year, this doubling process will continue. As a result, in 20 years there would be one million converts!

When Andrew brought Peter to Christ, Peter later led 3000 to Christ on the day of Pentecost. When a Sunday school teacher brought D.L.Moody to Christ, through him, millions came to Christ.

Jesus himself also showed us through his parables and stories how the Church would grow through multiplication (Matt. 13- Parable of the Sower and the Mustard seed) These I believe were to encourage the disciples to keep on doing the work of evangelism.

Jesus: The example of an evangelistic lifestyle

1. He lived a life of intimacy and obedience to the Father. ‘I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. Yes, to your amazement he will show him even greater things than these. For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it.’ (John 5 19-21).

2. Jesus ministered in the power of the Holy Spirit

‘The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor’ (Lk 4.18).

3. He knew his mission which was ‘to seek and save the lost’ (Lk.19.10).

Jesus and the woman at the well a model for personal evangelism(John 4)
In his relationship with the woman notice:

1. His relevance. Just before Jesus had been talking to Nicodemas ,Jewish male and learned Pharisee. He doesn’t use the same language but tailors it to suit the woman. He asks for water then offers her living water things which she could relate to.

2.His humanity and naturalness. Despite the different backgrounds and the breaking of social taboos ( the Jews do not associate with the Samaritans:Today read Roman Catholics , Muslims, Hindu’s. J.W.’s ) Jesus puts her at her ease.

3. His knowledge. Jesus knew the history of the relationship between the Samaritans and Jews. ( It is therefore important to know about those who we seek to reach though studying other religions, races etc so we don‘t make serious social mistakes that will alienate them ).Jesus also was given supernatural knowledge regarding the woman’s husbands.

4. His moral integrity and directness. It was not ‘easy believism’. He confronted her with her sin which she was prepared to acknowledge.

5.He refused to be side tracked. His goal was that she put her faith in him. Her question over the Jewish/Samaritan divide is not dismissed but neither does it deflect Him.

6. His compassion and sensitivity. ‘People want to know that we care before they care about what we know.’ Jesus deals with her as a woman in her own right. He takes into account her background : religious, moral and emotional. He could easily have condemned her out of hand. It was for those like her he came to save. ‘our failures in evangelism are often failures in love.’

Notice in this story recounted by John that Jesus was always sensitive to what his Father was doing.It should be noted that in doing sensitive personal evangelism that God will often be working with the person we are trying to reach in a way we will never understand. Such a divine appointment might be viewed as a door that God has opened for us which must then walk through.

In the story of Jesus with the woman at the well we see that he was both tired and thirsty and had merely asked the woman for a drink, but out of this meeting a great revival was to break out in the village. It was the woman who brought the question of religion and spirituality into the conversation not Jesus,then from this Jesus was able to respond in kind, this time offering her 'living water'. She gave him the opening which he walked through. Consider the many examples of how an effective message was proclaimed in response to a question from a seeker.

a)The Philippian Jailer who had experienced the earthquake and only for Paul and Silas would have killed himself cried out ‘ What must I do to be saved’ (Acts 16.30).

b) In response to the 'Speaking of tongues' at Pentecost some of the Jews asked ‘What does this mean’ (Acts2 v12). From this event three thousand became believers.

c) When Peter and John healed the beggar the crowd came running to them obviously wanted them to give some sort of explanation. The healing was also in response to a question. It says the number of men grew to about 5000 (Acts 3).

It would therefore seem that God the Father had prepared these people for the ‘evangelist’ who was to become something of a spiritual midwife. His job was to lead the person to faith even though the greater work of the Spirit had been going on apart from him. This takes the glory away from the evangelist who is merely an instrument in the hands of God.

Notice also how Paul in his letters often refers to having a door opened for the message
‘And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains’ (Colossians 4:3.See also 2 Cor 2.12., 1 Cor 16.9)

Giving out tracts with sensitivity

Even in the ministry of giving out tracts we should also be looking for evidence that God is working in this way. Our aim is connect. Sometimes when we give out tracts the person does not want to talk. They are possibly too busy or uninterested at that time: we should always let them walk away. We must respect that. We can not force them or cajole them against there wishes (we are actually asking them for a favour : to take a tract). But if ,when we ask them would they like a pamphlet ( I don’t normally use the word tract), they smile and take it gratefully, I sometimes take this as an invitation to speak further. They may of course be Christians but on the other hand they may possibly be interested by Christian things and would be prepared to have a spiritual conversation.

I would then ask them are they a Christian. Nowadays the word ‘Christian’ can be ambiguous for some and they will not feel threatened by it. Depending on their answer it may result in a fruitful conversation. If on the other hand you ask them are they ‘born again’ or ‘saved’ this may cause a person to get their back up right away and the conversation might end sooner than hoped. Though these are biblical concepts, nowadays they carry so much baggage that I personally prefer not to use them. Jesus certainly used the term ‘born again ’ to Nicodemas but he was the only one and he was trained in the Scriptures. Jesus used different approaches with different people.

General conversations with non Christians.

In this story Jesus started with the natural and finished with the spiritual. He acknowledged his natural thirst and went on to speak of her spiritual thirst ‘If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water’

At the end of the day most people will acknowledge that there is something beyond the natural realm. Even David Beckham one of the most ‘worldly wise’ who has everything the world has to offer acknowledged once that he had ‘a spirituality‘.

In this Post-modern era, spirituality is popular and people are willing to talk about it. Let us talk to them and listen in order to be able to understand what they are saying. If we do this, and listen to the Spirit within we can respond with words that are both relevant and effective. If we don’t listen well to them they may well do the same to us.

Can we too have an evangelistic lifestyle like Christ: Having an intimate relationship with God;Being empowered by the Holy Spirit and also having a sense of the call of God 'to seek and save that which was lost'.

I believe we can. Jesus invites us to come follow him and he would make us fishers of me. He also invites us to come to him, take his yoke and learn from him. To add to this, even when we fall and fail seven times a day, he encourages us again and again to stand on our feet again as he is gentle and lowly of heart. We just need a willing and good heart to serve him.

As regards intimacy with God he tells us to abide in Him and that if we love him and obey his commandments he promises that he and his Father would come and make their dwelling in us.

As regards being empowered by the Holy Spirit-He declares to all the thirsty:'If any man thirsts, let him come onto me and drink and out of his belly will flow rivers of living water.'

As regards the call of God, what more could be plainer Jesus declared to his disciples: 'As the Father has sent me:so I send you.

Charles Wesley writes:

'Now is the time no more delay,now is the acceptable day,
Come in this moment at His call and live for Him who died for all.

My gracious Master and my God assist me to proclaim
To spread through all the earth abroad the honours of His name'

Paul writes here for both his own ministry and that of the Church in general.
Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone (Colossians 4.2-6)



Monday, 22 December 2008

The Gaze of the Soul by A.W.Tozer

This is a inspiring essay taken from Tozer's book 'THe pursuit of God'. The rest of the book can be found on my favourite links.

Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith.

Let us think of our intelligent plain man mentioned coming for the first time to the reading of the Scriptures. He approaches the Bible without any previous knowledge of what it contains. He is wholly without prejudice; he has nothing to prove and nothing to defend.
Such a man will not have read long until his mind begins to observe certain truths standing out from the page. They are the spiritual principles behind the record of God's dealings with men, and woven into the writings of holy men as they `were moved by the Holy Ghost.' As he reads on he might want to number these truths as they become clear to him and make a brief summary under each number. These summaries will be the tenets of his Biblical creed. Further reading will not affect these points except to enlarge and strengthen them. Our man is finding out what the Bible actually teaches. High up on the list of things which the Bible teaches will be the doctrine of faith.
The place of weighty importance which the Bible gives to faith will be too plain for him to miss. He will very likely conclude: Faith is all- important in the life of the soul. Without faith it is impossible to please God (Heb 11:6). Faith will get me anything, take me anywhere in the Kingdom of God, but without faith there can be no approach to God, no forgiveness, no deliverance, no salvation, no communion, no spiritual life at all.
By the time our friend has reached the eleventh chapter of Hebrews the eloquent encomium which is there pronounced upon faith will not seem strange to him. He will have read Paul's powerful defense of faith in his Roman and Galatian epistles. Later if he goes on to study church history he will understand the amazing power in the teachings of the Reformers as they showed the central place of faith in the Christian religion.
Now if faith is so vitally important, if it is an indispensable must in our pursuit of God, it is perfectly natural that we should be deeply concerned over whether or not we possess this most precious gift. And our minds being what they are, it is inevitable that sooner or later we should get around to inquiring after the nature of faith. What is faith? would lie close to the question, Do I have faith? and would demand an answer if it were anywhere to be found. Almost all who preach or write on the subject of faith have much the same things to say concerning it. They tell us that it is believing a promise, that it is taking God at His word, that it is reckoning the Bible to be true and stepping out upon it. The rest of the book or sermon is usually taken up with stories of persons who have had their prayers answered as a result of their faith. These answers are mostly direct gifts of a practical and temporal nature such as health, money, physical protection or success in business. Or if the teacher is of a philosophic turn of mind he may take another course and lose us in a welter of metaphysics or snow us under with psychological jargon as he defines and re-defines, paring the slender hair of faith thinner and thinner till it disappears in gossamer shavings at last. When he is finished we get up disappointed and go out `by that same door where in we went.' Surely there must be something better than this.
In the Scriptures there is practically no effort made to define faith. Outside of a brief fourteen-word definition in Hebrews 11:1, I know of no Biblical definition, and even there faith is defined functionally, not philosophically; that is, it is a statement of what faith is in operation, not what it is in essence. It assumes the presence of faith and shows what it results in, rather than what it is. We will be wise to go just that far and attempt to go no further. We are told from whence it comes and by what means: `Faith is a gift of God,' (Eph 2:8) and `Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.' (Rom 10:17) This much is clear, and, to paraphrase Thomas à Kempis, `I had rather exercise faith than know the definition thereof.'
From here on, when the words `faith is' or their equivalent occur in this chapter I ask that they be understood to refer to what faith is in operation as exercised by a believing man. Right here we drop the notion of definition and think about faith as it may be experienced in action. The complexion of our thoughts will be practical, not theoretical.
In a dramatic story in the Book of Numbers faith is seen in action. Israel became discouraged and spoke against God, and the Lord sent fiery serpents among them. `And they bit the people; and much people of Israel died.' Then Moses sought the Lord for them and He heard and gave them a remedy against the bite of the serpents. He commanded Moses to make a serpent of brass and put it upon a pole in sight of all the people, `and it shall come to pass, that everyone that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live.' Moses obeyed, `and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived' (Num.21:4-9)
In the New Testament this important bit of history is interpreted for us by no less an authority than our Lord Jesus Christ Himself. He is explaining to His hearers how they may be saved. He tells them that it is by believing. Then to make it clear He refers to this incident in the Book of Numbers. `As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life' (John 3:14-15).
Our plain man in reading this would make an important discovery. He would notice that `look' and `believe' were synonymous terms. `Looking' on the Old Testament serpent is identical with `believing' on the New Testament Christ. That is, the looking and the believing are the same thing. And he would understand that while Israel looked with their external eyes, believing is done with the heart. I think he would conclude that faith is the gaze of a soul upon a saving God.
When he had seen this he would remember passages he had read before, and their meaning would come flooding over him. `They looked unto him, and were lightened: and their faces were not ashamed' (Ps.34:5). `Unto thee lift I up mine eyes, O thou that dwellest in the heavens. Behold, as the eyes of servants look unto the hand of their masters, and as the eyes of a maiden unto the hand of her mistress; so our eyes wait upon the Lord our God, until that he have mercy upon us' (Ps.123:1-2). Here the man seeking mercy looks straight at the God of mercy and never takes his eyes away from Him till mercy is granted. And our Lord Himself looked always at God. `Looking up to heaven, he blessed, and brake, and gave the bread to his disciples' (Matt.14:19).Indeed Jesus taught that He wrought His works by always keeping His inward eyes upon His Father. His power lay in His continuous look at God (John 5:19-21).
In full accord with the few texts we have quoted is the whole tenor of the inspired Word. It is summed up for us in the Hebrew epistle when we are instructed to run life's race `looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith.' (Hebr 12:2) From all this we learn that faith is not a once-done act, but a continuous gaze of the heart at the Triune God.
The rest of this essay is found as a first comment on this post. AK

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Philip the Evangelist: A man filled with the Holy Spirit

Both Philip and Stephen were among the first deacons in the first Church in Jerusalem that were marked as being full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom. Stephen became the first martyr and Philip became the first Christian who was known as an evangelist. He was a married man and Acts records that he had four daughters who were all prophetesses (Acts 21.9).

Things had not being going well for the Church as they were under immense pressure from the Jews primarily led by Saul. Nevertheless as Tertullian the early Christian writer wrote: The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church'.

It was the banishment of Philip from his hometown that resulted in many Samaritans finding Christ and it proved to be that the death of Stephen resulted in the salvation of Saul and his great witness to the Gentiles. We must therefore never underestimate what God through his Spirit may be doing 'unseen' in disappointments or outside pressures that we have no control over. God may actually, in love, be forcing us out of our comfort zones in order that He may use us in ways we never imagined. We must therefore always refer back to Him with the prayer: 'Why is this happening',what are you saying to me in this situation', or as Paul said after his confrontation with the risen Christ when he lost his sight: 'What would you have me to do.'

It might not always appear to be significant but at the very least it would mean drawing close to Christ for succour and help in such a time of need (Hebrews 4.16). I sometimes wonder why Paul ended in prison so often, perhaps the Lord wanted to minister to him and allow him time to pray and reflect-and write.

Stephen was not only an evangelist but also had the gift of miracles being able to heal the sick as well as cast out demons. In Samaria we see Philip as a sort of mass evangelist (Acts 8.4-25), but we also see him as a personal evangelist when he deals with the Ethiopian eunuch ( v 26-40). In God's dealing with the latter it reveals to us his concern for the individual and how he will use his servants to reach those individuals.

The first mission to Samaria seemed to be almost forced upon Philip and others through the onslaught of persecution. Philip's mission to the eunuch would appear to have been more directive with 'an angel of the Lord' directing him to a certain area where he would meet a prominent member of the Ethiopian government. There are perhaps times when the Spirit moves us and speaks to us more clearly than other times. Certainly if we are not open to Him speaking to us we are less likely to hear.

How does God speak to us today? Have you heard Him speak to you recently through his living word or through a sermon or book or even through 'a still small voice' from within? In the first lecture we saw that Jesus had an intimacy with the Father and did only what he saw his Father doing. He also said that his sheep knew his voice. It is through the experience of listening to him, then stepping out on his word that will teach us to discern the Shepherd's gentle voice from the Adversary's lies.

In the instance with the eunuch, Philip does not need to rush or push too hard to discover that God has opened up the wonderful opportunity to witness. The eunuch was reading Isaiah 53 out loud which was how they read in those days (Stott).He was at least 'a God Fearer' if not a Jewish convert and had just been to Jerusalem to worship. Philip asked him if he understood what he was reading and was then invited on to the chariot to explain the meaning of the passage. Then Philip 'beginning with this Scripture he told the good news about Jesus.' Philip didn't have his pet verses or his 4 Spiritual laws that he had to impress upon the eunuch, but rather started where the seeker was and from that explained to him the way of salvation. The result was that the Eunuch believed and wanted to be baptised! After he baptised the eunuch his work was then done. Philip was then called away to preach and minister in other areas. The eunuch armed with spiritual food 'went on his way rejoicing'.

What lessons can we learn from Philip?

1. Experiencing difficult times in forcing us out of our comfort zone can provide opportunities for us to witness for Christ. Would Philip have preached to those in Samaria and later to the Ethiopian otherwise?

2.Philip by listening to God was open to what the Spirit was doing. Have you ever felt God speak to you in regard to moving out of your comfort zone?

3.Philip was prepared to preach to the Samaritans who were half Jew, half Gentile and saw great fruit. Would we be prepared to speak to those who are different from us?

4. The Ethiopian eunuch had been spiritually prepared for Philip by the Holy Spirit. Have you met people that are 'not far from the kingdom' who only need an encouragement or word of invitation to become a disciple of Christ? In this situation little sowing is required but the important work of reaping certainly is.

5. Paul encourages us to be filled with the Spirit continually. When was the last time we asked God for more love, more power, more of the Spirit in our lives?

6. Jesus declared that they would receive power when the Holy Spirit came upon them and they would be his witnesses in Jerusalem, in Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth (Acts 1. 8.). Where is your Samaria?


' On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, "If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, 'Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.'"

John 7.37-38

Monday, 8 December 2008


THe martydom of St Peter took place in Rome under the emperor Nero around A.D.62-64. As far as we know from tradition, he showed no fear at his execution, in fact it is recorded that he told the guards that he wanted to be crucified upside down as he was not worthy to be killed the same way as his Master.He was originally brought to Jesus by his brother Andrew (John 1.41-43)and later Jesus then called both Andrew and Peter at the Sea of Galilee saying to them :‘Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.’(Mk1.14).

At another time whenthe two brothers were out in their boat and had failed to catch any fish Jesus told them to cast their nets into the deeper waters to which Peter replied: ‘we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets."(Lk.5.5) As a result of their action they caught so many that Peter fell down at Jesus’ knee and cried out:”Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord". Jesus then responded to him and said; "Don't be afraid; from now on you will be catching men." Peter therefore knew at an early stage the ministry that he would one day have.

It should be noted that in any list of the disciples recorded in the gospels Peter is always mentioned first and among the inner three along with John and James. Peter was truly devoted to his Master, however sometimes he was too quick to show it,which resulted in failure.It would seem that when he had first of all listened to Jesus then obeyed him, things went well; however when he took the initiative in order to help Jesus out, he ended up letting himself down.

For instance in Matthew 16.13-23 we see these both happening. First of all Jesus asked the question: ‘but who do you say that I am?’to which Peter repliesd: ‘you are the Christ the Son of the living God’. This was good and Peter was commended by Jesus, who then told him that it was the Father who had revealed this to him...
However shortly after when Jesus was describing what would happen to him in Jerusalem with regard to his suffering, death and resurrection, Peter starts to rebuke Him. This Jesus did not commend, rather strongly rebuking with the words: ‘get thee behind me Satan you are a hindrance to me, you are not setting your mind on the things of God but of man.’ Poor Peter!

In the story of Jesus walking on the water, again Peter wants to get involved. This time he asks Jesus: ‘Lord if it is you will command me to come to you on the water.’ This Jesus did and Peter succeeded in walking on the water, at least until he started to doubt.

Some time afterwards, Peter, despite Jesus stating the opposite, boasted that though all would leave Jesus during his time of trial, he would not. Jesus then predicted that he would deny him three times! After Peter denied his Master he was probably very much a broken man,but it is recorded that the Lord had prayed for him and prepared the way for him to be fully restored.

In John 21 which records the events after the death and resurrection of Jesus we read the story of the disciples being unable to catch any fish, even though they had been fishing all night. The next morning on discovering that they hadn’t caught any, Jesus teld them to cast out on the right side and immediately they caught a full load. John then realised it was the Lord and told the rest. At this, Peter, fully clothed jumped in the sea and made for the shore. Remember that the last time a similar event took place Jesus had promised Peter that he would from then on catch men. Perhaps he thought, despite his failure, that Jesus still had a work for him to do!

When the rest of the disciples arrived on the shore Jesus had already prepared a fire to cook the fish. Remember again that when Peter denied the Lord it was beside a fire. I’m sure when Peter saw any type of fire it brought him pangs of guilt and shame as it remind him how he denied his Master. But here we see how the Lord in his mercy brought him back to the fire, but instead of denial Peter was able to affirm three times his love, and three times the Lord commissioned him to feed his sheep and tend his lambs.

Gone was Peter’s boasting, instead a great sense of humility when he stated in his third reply: ‘Lord you know all things you know that I love you.’
Peter was no longer the self confident apostle but one who had been chastened by the Lord and had learned to listen before he spoke out of turn.

In Acts 2 it is recorded that on the day of Pentecost when the disciples started to speak in tongues Peter responded to the people’s comments : ‘they have had too much wine’ with an explanation, then a sermon which ultimately saw three thousand come to the Lord.

Peter’s next opportunity came after he healed the cripple at the gate called Beautiful (Acts3). After the healing had caused such a stir Peter again gave the people an first an explanation, then a sermon, and even though he and John were both arrested, five thousand believed through their message!

Note that these were not evangelistic crusades as such with lots of organization with lots of money spent on publicity. On the morning of these events Peter did not even intend to preach a sermon, though I'm sure he was always open to the Spirit's leading. He just responded to the commotion of the speaking in tongues and the healing in a dignified way, through explanation, then a sermon.

The gospel reaching the Gentiles was in the first place due to a God given vision, and obedience to the Spirit (Acts 10). It was not Peter’s own idea for sure- in fact he was, if anything a little hesitant. Peter’s letters also do not portray the brash evangelist. He seems concerned with Christians being a good witness in the world and staying steadfast in the midst of suffering and trial. He does however have a few things to say about speaking the words of Christ or words for Christ.

In 1 Peter 3 he tells wives not to preach at their non-Christian husbands, rather that they might be won without a word if their behaviour is right.In verse 15 of the same chapter Peter also writes: ‘But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect’.

Always be prepared like the scouts. Like Jesus with the woman at the well he was prepared for what the Father opened up for him. If we do not expect to see doors open we more than likely will miss them. We must learn to see and seize them! We must still be gentle and respectful as Jesus was with the woman at the well, and as Paul was with the woman who were praying along with Lydia by the river.

We don’t need to be brash , we don’t need to bully people. We just need to be willing and prepared to speak when He does open up the door. We must also be willing to persevere and not give up at the first sign of inconvenience or trouble.

I used to think that Jesus and the apostles just preached and always got great results in terms of people becoming followers of Christ. Then one day I read again one of my favourite verses: ‘Behold I stand at the door and knock, if any man opens the door, I will come in and eat with him and he with me’. It made me think of Him knocking and waiting at the doors of the hearts of men and women.How long did he have to wait for us. Think of how many times we ignored his knocking before we responded. Are we sometimes too ready to give up on people too soon?He waited for us can we not wait in his name for others.We like instant coffee but we will never get instant saints.

Peter learned to listen to the Spirit within as well as listening to the people. Despite that he still needed boldness to take the opportunities when God had opened them up to him.

It didn’t have to be an organised evangelistic event (was there any in the New Testament or were they all spontaneous?, but it could be just going about doing everyday things: that is what makes the Christian life exciting.

Peter was no longer self reliant but God reliant and seeking always to please the Master, practising the presence of God.