“I love single-mindedness. I love to see an entire life devoted to one great thing. To me it is beautiful when a human soul, instead of flitting from one interest to another, sets a course of life and stays on it till the end.”
That is the way John Piper described Paul in his new book, Why I love the Apostle Paul, (page 27). In fact, Paul reflects the same feelings when he spoke to the Ephesian elder; “But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24).
John Piper continued by saying, “it’s better to lose your life than to waste it.” I am deeply saddened when Christians tell me they have not figured out what to do with their life. First and most important, Jesus said “follow me” which is repeated about 24 times in the gospels. In fact, Jesus puts it in very strong terms when he says, “And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me” (Matthew 10:38). Jesus wanted single-minded people to be His disciples.
This does not mean that normal responsibilities are not properly cared for. If we allow the authority of ALL Scripture to govern our lives, everything will be in proper balance and given the attention God intended. To be out of spiritual balance means that there is something we are doing that is not the will of God and needs to be brought into alignment with His Word.
Is your focus on ONE THING? Read Luke 10:38-42 and then answer this question.
One of the marks of Paul’s life and ministry was that he displayed a consistent zeal for the Lord. This in itself is a proof of the power of Christ that worked in Paul at his conversion. If nothing else, the sufferings he received at the hands of the Jews and trials he went through for the gospel never caused him to deviate from a deep passion for Christ and His message to the Church.
Was the strength of his zeal and commitment just because of the dramatic conversion experience? I don’t think so. Was the power and scope of his ministry something that no one else could ever experience? Perhaps not to the same extent or with the same degree of intensity. I am afraid that most of our excuses for not being driven by the power of the Holy Spirit and knowing Christ in the same way Paul did is because we doubt God can work in the same way today. Has God changed?
As Paul was witnessing to King Agrippa, and the point of persuasion was getting close, “Paul said, “Whether short or long, I would to God that not only you but also all who hear me this day might become such as I am—except for these chains”” (Acts 26:29). Even before those of high earthly status, he never weakened his passion and desire to present the gospel so others would be saved.
Paul holds out this same standard for all of us. “But earnestly desire the higher gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way” (1 Corinthians 12:31). The “more excellent way” was total commitment to Jesus Christ. When this desire consumes our hearts, we will see God work in amazing ways for His glory and the salvation of the very last unreached people group!
Many years ago when I played football, my coaches drilled into my thinking some key life lessons which are also found in God’s Word. My recent trip to Uganda highlighted these truths and your prayers helped give them lasting impact in me and my brothers: Tomas, Henry & Charles.
“Do the basics really well.” I shared with my brothers the true story about Vince Lombardi, arguably the most famous football coach of all time. On the first day of training camp in July 1961, Coach Lombardi gathered his team together with these words: “Gentleman, this is a football.” From there he focused on the basics, and the team that lost the previous NFL championship never lost another playoff game again…at least under Lombardi’s leadership.
During the few days I had with these key African leaders, we focused on the basics of our faith and how to pass them on to others. Using “God’s Plan for His Disciples,” we explored how to renew our own faith and lay a foundation for others that will grow & spread throughout East Africa. All three completed this manual.
“Keep your eye on the goal and you will advance toward it.” The goal of any discipleship plan is to establish others in the faith, making them strong & fruitful. The Apostle Paul committed his life to following up new believers & new churches, while always expanding to new places where people had not heard of Jesus. We challenged each other to keep our eyes on God’s goal for individuals and the movement of Christ’s kingdom, and we prayed and planned for advancement. May God take us into the 10/40 Window!
“Love each other like a family, & you will fight on & overcome all obstacles.” Our days together, and the ones that followed, brought us to new levels of loving each other. By caring enough to confront, we have challenged some cultural strongholds that have held back the work in Africa for decades. Please continue to pray for Tomas, Charles & Henry as they seek to spread the gospel and train leaders.
Many believers speak of how wonderful it would be to have lived on earth when Jesus was here and walked among people. This desire often motivates some to travel and tour the Holy Land.
John writes with glowing joy of what they had seen when Jesus was here: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory” (John 1:14). Or, “that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you” (1 John 1:3). Or Peter who said, “we were eyewitnesses of His majesty” (2 Peter 1:16).
Jesus questioned those who saw and spoke in parables for a reason. “This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand” (Matthew 13:13). When Thomas said he would not believe in Jesus’ resurrection “unless I see in His hands the mark of the nails and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into His side, I will never believe” (John 20:25). This unbelief was met with the Lord’s grace that invited Thomas to come and do what he requested. “Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed”” (John 20:29).
It was critical that the Holy Spirit come so we would not be limited by physical vision. In one of Paul’s prayers, he asked for the Ephesians to “have the eyes of your hearts enlightened” (1:18). While the disciples saw Christ’s glory with their physical eyes, the Spirit enables us to see far more with spiritual eyes.
The question we must ask ourselves is which eyes are we using to see His glory? It makes a big difference to our whole outlook on life.
How do you see yourself as a result of the gospel changing your life from darkness to light? Is it just the fact that you are saved from Hell and eternal judgment?
What if we saw our salvation through the eyes of God our Savior? What if we realized that God had a purpose far greater than just a rescue operation? What if we saw a plan in our new birth and new life in Christ that brought God glory for the rest of our lives and on into eternity?
We referred to this verse yesterday, but look at it again; “God…said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (4:6). Notice the plan and purpose right now in God shining His light into our hearts. He wants to use us “to give the light” to the whole world. So great and wonderful is this light because it is “the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”
What if you and I laid aside everything that hindered that light from shining brightly the knowledge of God to others? What would change in your life, your marriage and family, your ministry, church and work? Would souls chained by sin seek freedom in the light you have?
Why is it that so many of the world’s population are still chained in darkness? As we yearn for the last people group to hear the gospel and believe in Jesus so the end will come and Jesus will return for His Bride, the death grip of spiritual darkness appalls us. Paul wrestled with this issue.
“In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Corinthians 4:4).
This goes back to the original lie that Eve received and Adam believed. Their minds were blinded by accepting a lie which in turn kept them in darkness and “from seeing the light.” I have often spoken with persons who attempt to figure out how the gospel works with their minds. This results in a wall of unbelief. They refuse to accept God’s truth by faith, and therefore they are prevented from seeing the light of the gospel. Let’s get to God’s solution.
Like Paul, we proclaim that “God…said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (4:6). It is God who speaks into the heart of mankind and shines His light and reveals His glory in Jesus Christ. We must be in earnest, both in prayer and in proclamation, that this light be broadcast where it is not yet shining. Will you join us by holding out this light for others to see?
The god of this world has blinded the mind. God gives faith to believe what we do not understand.
It is important to learn what the real source for Paul’s gospel was. Looking at this carefully, helps protect ourselves from the dangers of receiving a false gospel. The reference below is from the first letter that Paul wrote which shows how concerned he was at the beginning of his ministry about the purity of the gospel of grace. Galatians is believed to have been written right after the Jerusalem council in 50 AD. We can understand from the influences at work at that council that Paul wanted to make it very clear how works of law were not part of the gospel of grace.
“For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man’s gospel. For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ” (Galatians 1:11–12).
It is evident from this letter that persons had “deserted him (Christ) who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel – not that there is another one” (1:6-7). This problem has plagued the Church from the beginning. Therefore, it is incumbent on us to make sure we are not “turning to a different gospel.” If we are concerned about reaching the unreached, preach the pure gospel. If we are concerned about church growth and multiplication, preach the pure gospel. This is the foundation of all ministry. Without it, we rob God of His glory.
What is your source document? Take time to read 2 Timothy 3:16-17 and 1 Peter 1:20-21.
Many of you follow what the Lord is doing through this ministry in prayer. It is impossible for us to express how grateful we are for this vital support. As Tim has been in Israel for three weeks introducing and challenging Chinese students in the Study of God’s Word though God’s Plan for His Disciples, the Lord is opening new doors of opportunity. Here are a few comments from Tim:
“Finished at Chinese church tonight and showed Tears of the Saints which brought several to tears. Afterwards, several came up and committed themselves to go back to China and take the gospel to the unreached people groups. I go to Nazareth (see picture) in the morning for baptism of about 15 Palestinian new believers. Four of the Chinese disciples are going with me. So much happening here at the very end of this trip. There is an open door in the West Bank where there is a tremendous need and hunger for the Word of God. It is amazing the things that are happening here!”
After tomorrow, Tim will be spending time with a Palestinian pastor. Pray that the Spirit will continue to direct Tim throughout his remaining week there so it is fruitful and the Lord will leave behind him seeds that will quickly grow and produce mature fruitful disciples.
That is something I do not have! At the same time, the more I study the life of my Savior and this most unusual servant Paul, the more I want humility as the character quality that was woven through the fabric of my being. With Jesus, that was His nature (see Philippians 2:8). With Saul, it took divine intervention to bring a very proud man down to his knees in blindness before humility started to be developed in his life.
One of his most beautiful expressions of humility is in the section where Paul is seeking to convince the Corinthians of the resurrection. Jesus was seen by Peter, James, the twelve apostles, and five hundred brethren at one time after the resurrection. Then Paul adds this fact about himself:
“Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God” (1 Corinthians 15:7–9).
Here we see the genuine humility of a man who wrote more of the New Testament than anyone else, who received what he taught by divine revelation, planted more churches than any other apostle, and cast more vision for what the Church should look like than anyone in history. Yet he places himself at the bottom of the list of Apostles – then says he is not worthy to be there.
This should deeply challenge our hearts! This quality of humility has been sadly overlooked in the Church, and the lack of it has hindered the power of the Spirit from accomplishing God’s plan. Will you kneel with me in repentance for not making this a character quality in our lives as we should?
Because the Jews were determined that Jesus’ own words would not take place, “chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate and said, “Sir…order the tomb to be made secure until the third day, lest his disciples go and steal him away and tell the people, ‘He has risen from the dead,’ and the last fraud will be worse than the first”” (Matthew 27:63-64). I am certain that Saul knew about this order, and perhaps believed the resurrection was a lie.
The next seven years of training as a devoted Pharisee must have sealed the death of Jesus in Saul’s mind so there was no possible way for him to think that Jesus was alive. All the rumors about His resurrection had to be false. When the moment came “as he approached Damascus…suddenly a light from heaven shone around him” (Acts 9:3). This was no ordinary experience. Plus, the light was from a source outside any human experience. Saul was forced by the power of this experience to pay attention to what was happening.
Then “he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” (9:4). With all his ‘higher education,’ he had never been taught how to handle a moment like this. He realized that what was taking place had an authority that could only come from the Lord. We do not know whether Saul was there in Jerusalem when Jesus was crucified, and recognized His voice, but there was something in the voice that spoke to him that commanded complete submission.
The man that was put to death in Jerusalem was very much alive! In the same way that Saul was required to respond to Jesus on that day, you and I must respond to His challenging voice today. What is the LORD exposing to your heart right now that demands your submission.
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