Greetings once more friends! There is a great disservice being done to the work of the Gospel in the world today. And a greater disservice for not informing believers their role in the matter of the Gospel’s work. Let me elaborate.
We have this mistaken belief that the Gospel can only be “preached” through television, social media, outdoor crusades, radio, churches, and church programs, and what-have-you.This has been the great shortcoming in modern Christianity in the “preaching” of the Gospel. The gathering of believers in a “church” setting in the first century, which was really ‘house churches,’ was not for preaching the Gospel. The Gospel was already known to believers who gathered in house churches. They came together to “break bread.” What does that term mean? It simply means sharing a meal. In today’s terminology we may call it a potluck. The phrase was also used to describe partaking of the Lord’s Supper. Whether that was the case or not, the essential meaning is sharing of common meals. (Acts 20:11) And, as is usual in such gathering, the converts would have shared their experiences and testimony of the Lord’s work in their lives. They retold stories of the move of the Spirit in the work of the Gospel. It was a place to come together and receive encouragement and be fortified in the Lord’s work as they leave for their homes and journeys.
Crucifixion of Jesus (Wiki Commons)
The preaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ was focused on non-believers as Matthew 28 clearly shows. (Matt.28:18-20) History shows that in about two to three centuries the whole Roman Empire had adopted Christianity, so much so that even the Emperor was a convert himself. The open persecution had stopped. But how did that happen – there were no television, social media, great outdoor crusades, radio, or any decisive programs to speak of. In fact, the exact opposite was happening – Christians were being persecuted for their faith and many faced martyrdom. They congregate underground to avoid tremendous and severe persecution. Despite such opposition, the work of the Gospel grew and expanded. Essentially, it was the work led by the Spirit, as is shown amply in the New Testament, beginning at Pentecost.
Recall the story of Pentecost in the book of Acts. Three thousand were converted that day in the move of the Spirit through Peter’s testimony. But that was not all Herald (Spirit) did, He worked in the 3000+ and they became the prime carriers of the Gospel message to the Roman world. Wherever they went, they spread the sweet aroma of the Gospel message of Jesus Christ. Like an unstoppable tsunami, the message was taken across the empire, so much so that it was said, “These that have turned the world upside down.” (Act 17:6) Yes, their influence profoundly impacted the empire that the world was beginning to witness a sea change in the religious order of the day. They did what no television or radio network could have done. Or for that matter, any other programs. All 3000+ on Pentecost, and the multitude that came to Christ thereafter, were living, walking, talking, Gospel of Jesus Christ. The work of the Gospel was not centralized in the lives of the twelve apostles, it was impossible for them to do on their own, and they knew this. They knew it had to be the work of the Holy Spirit. The work was decentralized in the believers as the Spirit led them. Paul explains, “The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. You are controlled by the Spirit if you have the Spirit of God living in you. (And remember that those who do not have the Spirit of Christ living in them do not belong to him at all.)” (Rom.8:9,11)
Humans – Natural Attractants Like Rivers
What we see here is how people’s gifts are brought to bear to make the Gospel known in their unique way as the Spirit moved in them. The circumstances and environment may have changed from the first and second centuries, but the method remain constant – people and their respective gifts endure as platforms for the Gospel dispensation. Likewise, the Spirit is using our hearts and our gifts to share the Gospel with the people of our valleys. People are natural attractants because of the uniqueness of their personalities and gifts given them by the Creator. Their gifts and their destiny are like rivers with life-sustaining “living waters.” (John 7:38-39) Humans naturally gravitate to rivers because of its life-giving waters. We do not see rivers flow to people, rather, people flock to rivers for sustenance and life. This is the same way people’s gifts work – a river is the metaphor for a person’s gift and is an attractant to people. Each human has a gift from God which attracts a person to him or her.
A person has a gift which can be helpful to someone. It is an attractant to people and they naturally go to that person and ask for his or her gift which one lacks. We see this happening all the time. We go to a person with the gift of plumbing because he can help us fix our plumbing problems. We go to a motor mechanic who has the gift of fixing cars to help us fix our car problems. I go to a teacher for knowledge in a particular area of life I wish to advance myself. Everybody is searching for something in life, and there is someone God has given the gift to fill that void. The Spirit will orchestrate a meeting of minds so the gift is made the platform upon which the Gospel can be made known. This is how God intended for relationships to be built with those in your valley and community. Your gift is the platform for the Gospel, not to place yourself on a open market for goods and service to sell to the highest bidder. Just as the goal of every business is make a profit monetarily, so the core aim of God’s spiritual business is also to make a profit – spiritually! In man’s business, profit is defined by money. In God’s business, profit is defined by Love and the fruits of Love! When we keep the Gospel as priority in our lives, God will bless us materially as well, but this is not true in man’s business when we keep money as our primary aim. (Matt.6:33)
We Have Corrupted Ourselves
But here is the Christian’s conundrum, we have turned our gifts into a product for commerce. Jesus did say we cannot serve two masters – God and money! Either we will hate one and love the other. (Matt.6:24) We have turned our gifts into ATM machines for a materialistic life. We have a repugnant term we give those who have corrupted and debased themselves by selling their gifts for monetary gain. Jesus asked a poignant question in regard to life and gifts, “What good would it do to get everything you want and lose you, the real you?” (Luk.9:25, The Message) We have converted our gifts for a mint to print money, and for the exchange of goods and services; when rightly, the true purpose gifts are conferred upon humans is to glorify the Maker, from whose treasure trove gifts are bequeathed upon humans. This is the biggest difference between the first century believers with us today. We must return to the model laid down by the Spirit. We are not doomed, all is not lost, for Paul speaks of how this situation is remedied.
“As To The Lord”
Paul said, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ” (Col.3:23-24,17; Eph.6:7) In other words, don’t sell your gifts for money, it is for a greater purpose and for a greater inheritance that’s beyond any material thing you can ever want. Paul said it this way, “What no eye has seen, what no ears has heard, and what no human mind has conceived – the things God has prepared for those who Love Him.” (1 Cor.2:9) Modern churches have turned people’s gifts into a money mint to fund ministries, churches, programs, and many other projects. They are oblivious to the fact that the Gospel dispensation is primarily the work of the Spirit. And He chooses the method for its dispensation. We have not been taught to use our gifts to the Lord first. That is to say, to use it as a platform to make the Gospel known to people who come to us as rivers with “living waters” (Holy Spirit), not for goods and services, and the exchange of money, primarily. Again we turn to Paul for inner focus, “It’s God we are answerable to – all the way from life to death and everything in between – not each other. That’s why Jesus lived and died and then lived again: so that he could be our Master across the entire range of life and death, and free us from the petty tyrannies of each other.” (Rom.14:7-9, The Message)
The Correct Paradigm
Can you imagine how far the Gospel message can go if this was the paradigm that’s utilized to take the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the world. This is the Trinitarian way of taking the Gospel to the world for it involves the Father, Son, and Spirit. Jesus said, “As You sent Me into the world, I have sent them into the world. For them I sanctify Myself, that they too may be truly sanctified. My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as You are in Me and I am in You. May they also be in Us so that the world may believe that You have sent Me.” (John 17:16-21) What we see here, is the blueprint presented in a nutshell, on how the Gospel is to be taken to the whole world, for all time. When we live the “Triune Life” in the Spirit, we enter into the miraculous movement of the most powerful Being in the universe to do His will and purpose. Why do we think any other way would be more effective – be it television, radio, or any method we think. I’m not saying radio and television and other methods are wrong and should not be used. They have their place, no doubt. Am I saying money is not needed, no. All I’m saying there is a Trinitarian blueprint. As a matter of priority, the effectiveness of centralized focus compared to the decentralized Triune method of the Spirit, is institutionally deficient and will be found wanting. There is no better way than to spread the Gospel through human relationships, for that is based upon the relationship of the Father, Son, and the Spirit.- the Trinitarian way!
…To Build a Sanctuary
Why has God chosen this decentralized way in the Spirit? Because the use of gifts is intended for more than one purpose and activity – it is not only for the spreading of the Gospel, but in the midst of the work of God, the Spirit is preparing a people for God’s dwelling. So, the Gospel has a two-pronged interface. Peter said, “Present yourselves as building stones for the construction of a sanctuary vibrant with life, in which you will serve as holy priests (“bridge builder”) offering Christ-approved lives up to God.” (1Pet.1:5) The work of the erecting the sanctuary – how we fit into God’s overall familial structure – is known to no one except the Spirit who does the will of the Father and the Son. (John 16:12-15) No religion or church can erect this sanctuary except God’s own hands. He has not divulged nor devolved this responsibility to man. It is Christ’s responsibility. (1 Cor.15:20-28; Rev.21:1-5) And the Spirit remakes us into the image of Christ through the work of God (Gospel). (Rom.8;29) So the work of the Gospel through the Spirit has a two-fold purpose – it makes the Gospel known while erecting a sanctuary for God’s dwelling. (Rev.21) We cannot sit idly in church and expect religion – those in charge of church institutions – to do the “preaching” of the Gospel for you. How can we share the work of the Spirit’s move in our lives like the first century ‘house church’ gathering did, if we are not out there doing the bidding of the Spirit with our gifts? You are to take ownership of “preaching” the Gospel, and as we’ll see, you will be answerable.
One Centralized, The Other Decentralized
The work of the Gospel in the first century was not centralized in the 12 apostles, but decentralized in the converts beginning with the 3000+ on Pentecost following the blueprint in John 17 we saw earlier. A centralized model is not the way God has chosen to do His work. We say we give our money so the church can take the Gospel – let me be clear about one thing. God does not need money to get His work done. Jesus told the Jews, “And do not think you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham.” (Matt.3:9) God could utilize anything to get His work done following His blueprint. We don’t have to follow the old tradition as ‘gospel truth’ and only way. One is a centralized form of getting things done in a religious setting, and the other is a decentralized way in the Spirit’s power, through and in the gifts of the people interacting with others through the Spirit’s lead.
Using Your Gifts as Platform for Making Christ Known (Photo: Wiki Commons)
Let me repeat, it pales into insignificance what man can do in any modern centralized setting. So, wherever you are, do something for the Lord today – invert the paradigm and use your gifts for the Lord first. We live in a world where just about everything is commercialized and traded. Don’t let that happen to you as far as your true self in Christ. Do not look to the centralize method through man’s doing, instead take ownership of the Gospel in the Spirit’s power, and let Him use your gift as the platform to make the Gospel known to all in your valley and community. You have the Spirit flowing in you as “living waters,” and you are the riverbed He flows through. (John 7:38-39) God has set a steadfast destiny for you like the course of the river’s flow. You cannot communicate the Gospel other than where God has called you to share and convey His word. The Bible says a person can do “only what is given to him from heaven.” (John 3:27) Your gift is your God-given validation on how you are to live your life on earth, and His sanction to reach the people you have been predestined to share the Gospel. Jesus said that when we put His business (Gospel work) first, He promises His blessings will follow into our lives. (Matt.6:33)
The Parable About “Gifts”
In the parable of the ‘bags of gold,’ Jesus shows clearly individuals are answerable for “preaching” the Gospel, not institutions or ‘churches.’ (Matt.25:14-30) He gave and entrusted each with gifts (bags of gold) to his servants, not to religious institution. (see my post, dated 08/26/14, “Bags of Gold”) They were to trade and bring back a profit for the master. The faithful servants had made one hundred percent profit based upon the gifts they were given. The commodity that was traded was the Gospel of Jesus Christ. But to the servant who did nothing with his gift, he was called out to account for his actions. He said he was afraid and went and buried his gift instead of trading with it. What does this mean, where did he bury his bag of gold (gift)? Look, there is no doubt he had used his gift during his life.There is no human who is without gifts with which to find meaning and purpose in his or her life. This is the Creator’s blessing to each and every human.There is only one way to look at this: you either use it for the benefit of the master’s business, or you use it for your own self-centered objective. So, burying your talent symbolically means to put it to death. Its demise results from not being utilized for its intended purpose. It refers to a person who buried his gift (bag of gold) in himself for his self-centered ambition and selfish gain. He has turned his gift into a commodity for goods and services to be traded for material gains. Gifts are for one purpose, and one purpose only – to glorify God and His purpose for our lives. Is it wrong to be materially prosperous? No, but there’s an authentic way to it, as John said, “Dear friend, I pray that in all respects you may prosper and be in good health, just as your soul prospers.” (3 John 1:2) We become enriched materially with our gifts as a consequence of doing God’s work, not for our selfish objectives. Jesus said, “God will give them (material stuff) to you if you give Him first place in your life and live as He wants you to.” (Matt.6:33) Such blessings from the Lord don’t come with all the heartaches, worries, and stress common to man. When our lives are misdirected, we will not find His true purpose for our destiny. The Bible tells us this about God’s blessings on His people, material and otherwise, “The blessing of the Lord brings wealth, and He adds no sorrow with it.” (Pro.10:22) His blessing is true prosperity which brings abundance with joy and contentment.
Let’s Rededicate Ourselves in Our Gifts and Purpose
So, let us rethink this matter about our gifts and talents as it relates to our participation in the work of the Gospel. As we approach the time and season when we are going to be inundated by our consumer culture, let’s rededicate our lives for the Master’s purpose. For the Bible clearly tells us that our personal gifts are what He has “given out of His wealth and treasure.” (Matt.25:14-15) So, gifts, talents, calling, purpose, and destinies, are blessings He has given humans out of His treasure-trove. Peter reminds us, “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.” (1 Pet.3:15) Doing what Peter says cannot happen unless the Gospel is at the forefront of our minds and marches with our heart-beat.The Gospel will see to it that our examples will speak for itself and will be a light that goes before us. Let’s give ourselves as instruments in the Spirit’s hands in the work of the Gospel. Remember, you have the ‘bag of gold,’ what are you going to do with it? – you’re answerable!
Wrought iron cross on Blassenstein mountain (Lower Austria), with fog over Erlauf valley and Danube (Wiki Commons)
Until we meet again in my next post, may the blessing of the God who ceaselessly expresses Himself in His dependable Triune Love, be with you today and give you strength for authentic creative “Triune Living” as a Bula man-river.*
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to write me in the space provided below, or email me on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kiang (Your Servant in Christ)
* The “Bulamanriver” is the metaphor describing the union of man with the Love of the Triune God flowing in humans, making possible the “Triune Life” – the source of the miraculous life in man. Man is the “riverbed” and the Spirit is the “living waters” that cover him and flows to all in his valley (destiny). (John 7:37-39)
All scriptures are taken from the NIV Version 2011, unless stated otherwise.