Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Simple Faith: Deployment

Thursday night, God was definitely in Rowe 130 as Jon spoke what had been on his heart. The third installment of the Simple Faith series was about deployment. Many people hear that word and think of deployment as losing a loved one as they leave to serve our country. This is a different type of deployment. Being deployed in gospel labor is what we are talking about. First, we have simple faith that Jesus saved us...then we have faith to grow and be like him through the Holy Spirit. Now, because of what he did for us...it's our job to continue his work.

There are a ton of college students out there that have so much potential to do great things for God. There are so many stories of people who have made an impact on this world for God and many of those stories begin when they were in college. We have to step out in faith and pursue what God has for us.

Jon talked about his interest in the military and specifically WWII. So many gave their lives for a cause so much greater than themselves. He mentioned "Band of Brothers" and explained what it was about. The story followed those men from draft all through the war. Their lives changed at boot camp...they were marked by what they were apart of and the sacrifices they made. Their time during the war formed them as men. What would have happened if Band of Brothers was a reality show...what if those men never left boot camp? They would be a waste of soldiers, resources, and money...unproductive.

It's the same with Christians. If we come to know Jesus and are trained in basic discipleship but are never deployed - then we are never going to do anything to further the gospel. In comparison, our conversion is like the draft or boot camp and the Church is our training base. If we never use our training or the gifts we have been given, then we are wasting Christianity and that is NOT God's plan for us.

A Christian is saved from God's wrath to growth and Christ-likeness for the momentum of the mission.

So then a few questions you have to ask yourself are - Are you deployed? Have you ever been used by God for the mission? Is your view of God so small that it only contains him and you?
Acts 9:1-19a But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him. And falling to the ground he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one. Saul rose from the ground, and although his eyes were opened, he saw nothing. So they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. And for three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank. Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” And he said, “Here I am, Lord.” And the Lord said to him, “Rise and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul, for behold, he is praying, and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.” But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem. And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on your name.” But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” So Ananias departed and entered the house. And laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he rose and was baptized; and taking food, he was strengthened.
The Saul that you are reading about now is the same man as was called Paul after his name was changed by God. 13 of the books of the Bible were written by Paul and I would argue that no man has had more influence in Christian history than Paul.

To get a little background on Saul/Paul's, read Acts 7 and 8 to understand who he was before his conversion. In those books, you'll see Saul was a Roman citizen...he was trained under the smartest teachers (probably the equivalent of a Harvard Graduate) and he hated Jesus with everything he had. He was a major part of Stephen being stoned for sharing the gospel and now he was on his way to Damascus to root out the Christians there. Saul was willing to travel 150 miles in order to rid Damascus of Christianity. Then we see that he was literally breathing threats and murder...he was completely living for himself and doing his own thing.

Then, he has an encounter with God. Jesus stopped him. Think about it...in that moment, it had to be like God's tazer gun...light came down from heaven and Saul hit the ground immediately. Jesus spoke to him and said "why are you persecuting me?" This was a revelation that changed Saul's life. His persecution of Christians also was persecuting his Lord. He was gripped by Jesus' realness...that he really is who he said he was. Paul met Jesus and his whole life did a 180 in only a moment. He couldn't help but do what Jesus told him to do.

We read for a few verses about a man named Ananias. His response to Jesus request was basically unbelief...he was flabbergasted and unsure if they were speaking about the same man. He couldn't believe that God wanted him to go to Saul and restore him after all Saul had done against God.

The thing that is important for us is that Saul was not only saved, he was used. God hand picked Saul/Paul. Everything about his personality, education, childhood, and environment was played out in such a specific way as to prepare him for the mission. After Ananias prayed for him, Paul was healed and filled with the Holy Spirit. The power by which we are deployed comes from the Holy Spirit, not from our own power...we are only instruments. It's like a water bottle...the plastic isn't important, it's the life-giving water inside that is important. Paul was then empowered for ministry.
Acts 20:24 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.
We see only a few chapters later in Acts what a difference his life is from what it was in Chapters 7 and 8. His life mission was to testify Jesus. He met the ascended King Jesus and knew that before Jesus would return, all nations had to hear of him.

We are here because there are still people on this earth that do not know him. The only reason you are here is to introduce people to Jesus. Too often, we are more concerned with who we will marry, what degree we will achieve, what job we will land after school, and if we will have a family...but the only reason we have to think about those things is because those are the ways through which God means to use you to save those around you.

This is the mission that gripped Paul. His life before, meant nothing. What you do for yourself is not the point of life...it's not valuable. The whole aim in life is to finish what God called you to. To spread the gospel and train others for deployment themselves.

A few weeks ago, I was talking to my dad about this blog and how excited I was to share what God's been doing in my life and in the lives of those around me and this was his response and his charge to me:
"There is a group thing called the Church but you are called to be a disciple who shares the Gospel and bring others to the understanding that you have so they can go out and share the Gospel and bring others to the understanding that they have so they can go out and share the Gospel and bring others to the understanding that they have so they....!  You get the idea.  Can the Holy Spirit fall in a place and transform everyone that hears...OH YA!  3,000 hit their knees at Pentecost and joined the Church and became students of the Apostles.  If they had remained in that state we would not have had the opportunity to join in the fun.  They were called to make disciples and went out and it all began from there.  Your Blog can reach thousands all over the world and that is really cool but those thousands must come to a point where they are disciples and go out or it is just pretty words on the Internet that is not directing them to a good Bible believing church where they can be raised up."
My dad makes a great point that goes right along with what we're talking about. If your Christianity only involves reading your Bible and going to Church, then you are not deployed. Just because I write a blog that talks about God does not mean that I'm deployed. I still have to go out in my daily life and share the gospel with every breath I breathe. The reason we are here has not changed since Paul's time on Earth.
Ephesians 2:1-9 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
God wants to use you. Right now. Right where you are. He doesn't want you to be stuck in sin, he wants to raise you up.
Ephesians 2:10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
This verse can change your life...if you don't believe this, then life will look different than if you do believe it. There will be no forward momentum in your life if you don't believe what this verse tells us. We are his workmanship...we went from death to life...God did that, not us. God allowed everything that happened in your life to happen...it's his sovereignty. God knew every effect life would have on us to make us into the person we are today. We are created in Christ Jesus, we are God's children and we are united with him because Jesus took our place on the cross. The gospel brings death to life.

Some of us have stopped at salvation. We live in a consumer culture where even religion and a relationship with God becomes a selfish thing. In reality, it's easy for 'Jesus people' to be selfish...we fall short of being used and don't go past salvation because we become concerned with ourselves. But the thing is, we were created for good works...and not just helping an elderly lady across the street or picking up your dirty socks...works that God prepared before time began so that we can walk in them. Notice the phrase "walk in them"...that's not stopping at salvation...that implies movement.

If you are a Christian...God has works for you to do even this week that he prepared for you before you were even saved. What happens is we don't try because we don't expect that God wants to or will be able to use us. We say 'I want to do_________ but am I being presumptive that God wants me to do that?' or 'I can't do ___________ on my own so God obviously can't want me to do that.' But the promise is that he has works for us to do that he has prepared for us...we are his workmanship specifically and specially made for his agenda. Our calendars are full of only what he has called us to do. All you need is a willingness to be used and an expectation to go in faith because God will use you. He formed you to be used mightily for him.

There are too many of us on the sidelines...saying that because we're struggling with something, we can't be used. No! Don't count yourself out...he saved you in order to use you! Don't worry about what the person next to you is doing or thinking...just go in faith that God can even use your struggles for his purposes. Do you believe what this verse says? He wants to use you now! You don't have to be a grown up! History is full of Christians who made a difference because they took Ephesians 2:10 seriously...they had faith.

So where do you go from here?
  • Take God at his word.
    • That sounds obvious, but our fundamental problem today is that we don't believe what the Bible says.
  • Go to God full of faith.
  • Have an expectant heart that God can and will use you.
  • Have an openness to hear God speak
  • Use your gifts in the gospel mission
    • You will gain training and wisdom for how and where and when to use them...it's about God, not you.
  • Be filled with the Spirit
    • Be prayed for
    • It's not about the bottle/vessel(you) it's about whats inside it.
    • Don't attempt anything without the Holy Spirit's power.
  • Have an unflinching resolve to do what God puts in front of you.
  • Finally...Work...it's as simple as that
Work...to move forward requires work. Life isn't going to be easy just because you're a Christian now. Suffering happens when you do great things for God. We will face opposition everywhere we turn...and many times, even from ourselves. Things - even good things - distract us and yell at us to live a life of ease and comfort. But we are to count it all as loss...ease and comfort are not what life is about. Like Christine Caine said, "Life isn't about arriving at death safely." Not even Saul was a match for God's power. He resides in us and empowers us to do work. Be encouraged because the Christian life was not meant to be lived alone. You'll get burnt out if you try to do it like that...we are to do work together.

So for you...right now...consider this: How has God empowered you? How can you step up? What gifts do you have that you can use for the gospel mission? What do you need to let go of?

If soldiers were to go to war without armor or guns or weapons...it would be a short war and we would lose. Pray about these things...read your Bible, get an accountability partner, and find a good church. These are the things that will help you to move forward. Don't stop at salvation...make sure that you are deployed and active in the forward momentum of God's mission and all that he has called you to. He will use you!

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