Paul's Ponderings

Thoughts about following Jesus

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5 Ways We can Contribute to the Great Commission

Our calling to follow Jesus is not just a calling to salvation, but also a calling to join God in His great redemptive work.

Peter and Andrew heard this call:

Jesus called out to them, “Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!” (Matthew 4;19; NLT)

To one degree or another each Christian receives a similar call. This calling for all the disciples of Jesus is found in Matthew 28:18-20, the passage of Scripture we often call the Great Commission.

Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (NLT)

The question that many of us who follow Jesus ask is: “What is my responsibility in carrying out the Great Commission?”

Here are 5 practical ways we can participate in carrying out the Great Commission:
  1. We love one another. “Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” (John 13:35; NLT) According to Jesus, the way we treat and serve other Christians, shows the world what it means to follow him. Most people are practical, and what they are looking for is whether or not something works. Our love for each other shows people that following Jesus is better than living in the hostility and rejection of the world. 
  2. We pray. And pray for me, too. Ask God to give me the right words so I can boldly explain God’s mysterious plan that the Good News is for Jews and Gentiles alike. (Ephesians 6:19, NLT) The apostle Paul asked for prayers to speak boldly about the Gospel. We may not have the talents and opportunities to always share the Gospel with people, but we can pray for people who do. This is one of the ways we  join with each other in making disciples of the nations.
  3. We use Scripture. All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. (2 Timothy 3:16; NLT) The Bible is one of the ways God has equipped us to carry out the Great Commission. It isn’t up to us to convince people of the truth of the Gospel. The combination of Scripture and the Holy Spirit will convict people of the truth, our responsibility is to share Scripture with people. In our sharing we must do it correctly. Throwing out verses and constantly shoving the Bible into the face of people is not an effective way of sharing Scripture. Learning to share Scripture with grace and gentleness is important.
  4. We live faithfully. Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it. (1 Peter 3:15; NLT) Peter wrote that by living a faithful life, a life that recognizes Jesus as Lord, we demonstrate hope in all circumstances. This hope will mark our lives as different and will cause people to ask about the source of our hope. When people ask about our hope we are given the opportunity to tell them about Jesus. Do not under estimate the power of a faithful  life.
  5. We use our gifts. God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another. (1 Peter 4:10; NLT) Another way God has equipped us to participate in the task of making disciples of all nations is to bless us with certain talents and resources. These blessings are unique to us and can be used to reach people with the Gospel of Jesus. Be a good steward of God’s blessings by blessing other people.

The Great Commission is a task that is bigger than any one person, but it is something that each one of us can contribute to doing.

You are an important part of the work God is doing in the world. Find a way you can contribute and do it.

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6 Helpful Scriptures to Guide Our Choices

I was recently asked to think about the Scriptures I use to make decisions.

When I am uncertain about the next step to take what passage do I turn to for help?

The following 6 passages are key verses that I return to time and time again. Ephesians 5:15-16 is what I consider to be my life verse and has influenced me in my decision making many times.

This is by no means an exhaustive list. I would bet that your list is completely different from mine. That is okay.

This reality  is a reminder of how God works with us as individual people. God uses different Scripture passages to speak to our hearts. The key is to identify those passages that are meaningful to us and use them to build a solid foundation for our lives.

What verses serve as a guide for you? Leave comment and let me know.

3 Steps to Experience God’s Power

What is the central truth of Christianity?

If I asked this question to American Christians the answer I would hear would be; “Jesus died on the cross for our sins.”

While this is a tremendous reality and a vital truth of the Christian faith, it is not the foundation on which Christianity is built.

The central truth of Christianity is the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Every other truth is validated by this reality.

The Apostle Paul wrote; “For if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, then all our preaching is useless, and your faith is useless.” (1 Corinthians 15:13-14; NLT)

Paul declared that everything else that Christians believe is based on the reality of Jesus’ resurrection. If there is no resurrection then our faith is useless. This includes our belief that Jesus death secured forgiveness for our sins.

I believe many of us miss out on the power that is available to us because we focus on the cross rather than on the resurrection.

We have settled for a faith of forgiveness, when we have been promised a faith of transformation.

This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! (2 Corinthians 5:17; NLT)

The promise of the Gospel is not only that God will forgive our sins, but that He will make us into new people.

God intends to make us into new people right now, not some distant point in the future. We can be certain of this because of the power that is available to us.

The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you. (Romans 8:11; NLT)

What an amazing thought!

You and I can have our lives transformed because of the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit raised Jesus to life and transformed his dead physical body into a new resurrected body. This is the power that is at work in our transformation.

In his book Absolute Surrender Andrew Murray wrote:

The cause of the weakness of your Christian life is that you you want to work it our partly, and to let God help you. And that cannot be. You must come to be utterly helpless, to let God work, and God will work gloriously. It is this that we need if we are indeed to be workers for God (p. 113; Humility and Absolute Surrender).

For a long time in my walk with Jesus I walked in weakness. I thought it was my job to overcome sin, to break the chains of addictions, and to work up the courage to face my fears.

The result was discouragement, condemnation, and isolation. I felt like I was a poser, trying to convince others I had it more together than I did.

There was a part of me that believed if I truly loved God then I would naturally want to read the Bible, pray, and serve. Not only would those things come naturally, but it would take little effort to overcome my sins, even the sins that had become addiction.

Since my reality did not match my belief, the only explanation I had was that I did not love God.

This line of thinking is a death sentence for a person’s faith.

Thank God my perception of reality was wrong!

Jesus didn’t die to make up for our shortcomings. Jesus died to give us a brand new way to live life.

This new way of life begins and ends by surrendering our lives to God. It is only through God’s power that we are able to live the life that He created us to live.

This is what the apostle Paul wrote about God’s power:

14 When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, 15 the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth.16 I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit.17 Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong.18 And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is.19 May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.
20 Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.21 Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen. (Ephesians 3:14-21; NLT)

If we are going to experience God’s power we need to take 3 steps.

  1.  We need to surrender our lives to God. Paul wrote; I fall to my knees and pray to the Father. The image of falling on our knees is an image of surrender. It is an acknowledgement that God is the Lord and we are the servants. In prayer we need to lay down our agendas and ask for God’s will to be done. Too often we operate on our schedule, only asking God to bless our day. To truly surrender our lives, each day, we need to lay down our expectations and ask God for His direction and strength. What matters is for God’s will to be done.
  2. We need to invite the Holy Spirit into our hearts. It is the Spirit working in our hearts that enables us to experience God’s power in our lives. This power roots us in love, helps us understand the amazing love of God, and allows us to experience the full and abundant life Jesus promised his followers.
  3. We need to ask God to work in our lives. God is able accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. He has the power to help us overcome the addictions that hold us in bondage, to forgive the people who have deeply and significantly hurt us, and to live in courage rather than to be controlled by fear. Many times we don’t experience this power in our lives because we don’t ask God to help us. Step out in faith and ask God to help you, to heal you, and to bind up your broken heart. He has the power to do more than you can even imagine.

God is interested in you having victory over sin, in living with courage, and experiencing true joy.

Don’t believe these things rest on your shoulders to achieve. Trust in God’s love and power to grant these things to you.

Surrender your life to Him and ask for Him for the strength to live the life He created you to live.

It is Foolishness

Good Friday is the day that we remember the crucifixion of Jesus.

It is odd that we would set aside a day to remember the death of a man. This is especially true when we remember that the focus of Christianity is on life rather than death.

Good Friday reminds us that God’s perspective is different from our perspective. From God’s perspective today is not a day focused on the unjust execution of a man, but a day to remember a great act of love.

For us who have been Christians for many years it becomes easy to forget the price that was paid for our sins. We need days like Good Friday to remind us that our salvation came at the price of God’s sacrificial love.

We also need to be reminded that from the outside looking in, the cross doesn’t look like victory.

In fact, from the outside the cross looks like defeat.

Consider the Apostle Paul’s words:

18 The message of the cross is foolish to those who are headed for destruction! But we who are being saved know it is the very power of God. 19 As the Scriptures say,

“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise
and discard the intelligence of the intelligent.”

20 So where does this leave the philosophers, the scholars, and the world’s brilliant debaters? God has made the wisdom of this world look foolish.21 Since God in his wisdom saw to it that the world would never know him through human wisdom, he has used our foolish preaching to save those who believe.22 It is foolish to the Jews, who ask for signs from heaven. And it is foolish to the Greeks, who seek human wisdom.23 So when we preach that Christ was crucified, the Jews are offended and the Gentiles say it’s all nonsense.
24 But to those called by God to salvation, both Jews and Gentiles, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God.25 This foolish plan of God is wiser than the wisest of human plans, and God’s weakness is stronger than the greatest of human strength.

(1 Corinthians 1:18-25; NLT)

Notice how Paul describes the cross.

From the outside the cross appears foolish. After all, the cross is a symbol of death and defeat. 

In the ancient world you could not preach a message of victory through the cross because the cross meant the Romans had won and the rebellion was crushed. For Jews and Gentiles alike the cross was to be avoided.

It is crucial that we understand this reality.

There should be an element of foolishness and folly when we think about the cross.

The cross shouldn’t automatically make sense to us.

Don’t get me wrong. The cross fits into God’s plan to rescue creation from sin, decay, and death. Therefore, even though the cross escapes human reason, it is the product of God’s wisdom.

I want us to step back from talking about the victory of the cross, as if it is the most natural thing in the world, and consider how it looks from the outside.

The victory of the cross cannot be discovered by logic alone. It can only be seen in the entire context of God’s redemptive plan for the world.

We may never grasp the full wisdom of God displayed through the cross.

We may not understand why sin requires death.

We may wonder how the death of one man is able save everyone from the consequences of sin.

We may have questions about the cross, but we can still experience its power.

To take advantage of the gift of forgiveness and mercy that is found in the death Jesus we don’t need to understand all of its complexities. We only need to trust the One at work through it all.

The death of Jesus redeemed an instrument of torture and death into a symbol of victory and hope. If Jesus can redeem the cross, he can redeem us.

The point of Good Friday is not that we understand all of God’s ways, but that we trust God’s love.

Transformation Begins in the Heart

Transformation Begins in the Heart from Paul Steele on Vimeo.

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