How do I make decisions that will be obedient to God's global purposes?
Every decision we make is important. It is surprising how easily we can be distracted from being obedient . As a result we are like a ship without a compass with no direction or purpose. We should be running to win the race [Phil 3:8-14]. Each step should have a purpose.
To be a "Global Christian" means to be focused on God's unchanging purpose that all the peoples of the earth would be blessed through those who know Him.
So far in this course you have learned God's unchanging purpose. You now have a compass to guide you. Now the challenge before you is to stay on course. Pleasures and distractions hit you from every direction. What do you do? How do you prioritize your time?
To make this more difficult sometimes it is not even "pleasures" that distract us. Is the "good" the enemy of the "best"? As we strive towards seeing a church established in those groups that don't have access to the gospel, we will face obstacles. Some of them may be obvious but some may be very subtle. Some good opportunities may become available to us. Will we be able to make good decisions and stay focused on the best?
GROWING SPIRITUALLY WITH A KINGDOM MINDSET
based on an article by Ted and Annette Elder
Why does God save us? What is His purpose for our life, after we are saved?
Does God save us and leave us on earth simply to know and worship Him, or to gain health and personal wholeness? Certainly these are things He desires for us, but surely we could worship and love Him far better if we were in heaven with Him right away! Why then has He left us here?
It is because Jesus calls us to the awesome privilege of fulfilling the Kingdom work He began on earth!
Let us think through this together.
In day-to-day living, seeking God's kingdom goes against the grain.
Christ so pursued the things of God that He refused to turn away from pain and suffering. This seemed strange to His first disciples!
When Peter suggested fleeing from imminent death, Jesus strongly rebuked him for not having in mind the things of God [Mk 8:31-33].
The apostle Paul joyfully set aside his own personal ambitions to follow Christ [Rom 1:5; 5:20]. He was so set on following his King that he had a hard time deciding whether to live and advance the Kingdom or go to be with Him in heaven [Phil 1:21-24].
For both Christ and Paul, their life choices flowed out of a Kingdom mindset. All their values and beliefs determined the choices they made.
Many Christians today want to seek first the Kingdom of God in their daily choices. However, most struggle with what it actually means to live for one kingdom, rather than the other. There are at least three reasons why it is true that we struggle to have a kingdom mindset:
1. Ignorance of the existence of opposing kingdoms
Satan actively prevents worship going to God. As we look around the world today we notice that, when two adjacent nations are at peace, their citizens mix so that culture and language tend to blend. However, when two nations are at war, mixing and blending do not occur. Each opposing party is aware of the distinctions between them. Christians can go through life unaware of the two opposing kingdoms, the distinctions between them and the battle which is continually raging all around. Although we do not hear bullets whizzing past our heads, nor the sound of bombs exploding, Satan is constantly waging war against the army of our God and King. Not only does this destroy our relationship with God but it also prevents non-Christians from coming into God's Kingdom.
Although Christ's victory is sure and His sovereignty is working in every situation, we must fight bravely for our victory. What is this victory? The victory is more than a safe, Bible-believing, growing church. The victory is God being glorified in our lives so that His glory is shared with all peoples through us. As Rev 7:9 tells us, world evangelisation will then be completed! Depending on the decisions we make, we are always siding with one or other distinct kingdom. Ignorance of the existence of both kingdoms results in making wrong choices.
2. Lack of role models
We do not have a mindset for God's kingdom because of a lack of role models. As we look around, it appears that most Christians are living and making decisions just like we are. Unconsciously, many are living according to the values and standards of the world around them. There are few who live in the world, yet are not an actual part of it.
3. Unwillingness to give up control or comfort to live for Christ
Sometimes, the problem lies within ourselves. While we profess to live for Christ we still don't want to give up control or comfort to do this. We explain away Christ's words, "whoever wants to save his own life will lose it" and instead believe Satan's lie that we need to take care of ourselves. This way the Enemy not only destroys the joy of knowing Christ but also the impact we make in His Name!
So, how do we learn to live with a kingdom mindset?
It begins with acknowledging the fact that trusting our lives to Christ for work in His Kingdom is the wisest and most rewarding choice we can ever make.
Trust is the very foundation of the spiritual house we build. Our mindsets are transformed when we enter into a relationship with Christ [I Cor 2:16, II Cor 5:17]. His Spirit instructs us how to live for Christ [Jn 16:13] . "Thy Kingdom come!" becomes the cry of our heart. We want to see the glory of our Lord fill the earth [Hab 2:14].
Paul tells us how. "Do not let the world squeeze you into its mold, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind" [Rom 12:1-2]. To retain His values we saturate ourselves with His Word which, in turn, guides us to fulfill His redemptive purpose among all the peoples.
Our renewed mind first shows itself in our day-to-day choices. Previously we made decisions in the light of our own ambitions and goals in life. Now we first look to how our decisions affect our contribution to the fulfillment of His desires. Slowly, as we surrender our wills, we come to realize that God is not a "kill joy." Rather, in losing ourselves in Him, we find life. Now let us look at how we would approach a few decision areas, and compare possible choices with kingdom mindsets.
1. CAREER/ JOB/ MAJOR
a. I should do my studies in whatever area I'm most gifted in.
b. I should get a job as a __. Since that's what my training is in.
e. We need a call to be a missionary but a call is unnecessary for any other vocation. Until I receive a call from God to be a missionary, I'll just choose my own career in the secular world.
f. I need to take on a job with a reasonably good salary in order to provide for myself and my family, and to ensure a comfortable future.
a. While a gift is important, it is not the only factor I need to consider. I am willing to study any subjects, and serve in whatever position God wishes to place me in His global army.
b. I am willing to change my career even if it seems foolish according to the values of this world.
c. Missionaries are not "super spiritual" Christians; they are normal people seeking to be used by God among the unreached peoples of the earth.
d. No matter where I am, I will always try to see that His name is known among all the peoples.
e. I need God's direction to be an engineer, a lawyer, or a nurse, just as I do to be a missionary.
f. I will seek God's direction for my career, trusting that as I follow Him, He will provide for the needs of myself and my family [Matt 6:33].
a. I can make friends with whomever I please, just as long as they are Christian.
b. If my parents arrange my marriage, He'll lead my partner into missions just like He led me.
c. I need to be married to serve on the mission field. So I cannot go; until my marriage is arranged.
d. I am so busy with my career in a really competitive field that I do not have any time to give to relationships with other Christians.
e. Why establish relationships with unbelievers? We don't relate anyway.
a. I'll only make friends with someone who has the same commitment to Christ and His purposes as I do. My partner will need to have a vision compatible with the one God has given me.
b. God has given me responsibility for my heart. I should steward it well by not marrying someone who does not share my vision.
c. I'm willing to serve God, whether I am single or married. Yet I recognize that God has created me with a real need for a good relationship. I know as I seek His purpose I can trust Him to take care of my needs.
d. I'm purposefully investing in relationships with other Christians so that I'm a part of a thriving, challenging, supportive community.
e. Establishing relationships with unbelievers can be hard but it is worth it to be able to eventually share Christ with them.
a. It would be too difficult for me to serve God overseas and be away from my family.
b. I cannot consider a cross-cultural ministry, nor a counter cultural lifestyle. My parents expect me to succeed in a career and they would be disappointed in me otherwise.
a. It will certainly be difficult to serve God overseas so far from my family, but I am willing to go where He sends me. As I work in His vineyard He will provide for my family needs.
b. I am willing to honor my parents, just as God has commanded me. But I am also willing, if necessary, to make career and lifestyle choices with which my parents disagree, so as to follow Christ first.
c. I'm working hard on my relationship with my parents and other family members. I'm seeking to include them in my journey to God.
4. POSSESSIONS/ FINANCES
a. As long as I give ten percent to the church, I can do what I want with the rest of my money.
d. Poor people are poor because they are lazy and don't work hard enough. I don't really feel sorry for them.
e. I should be careful with my money and not waste it. I should only give after I have first provided for my own family needs.
a. All that I have and own is God's. He has entrusted it to me and I shall always seek His direction when I invest it.
b. I cannot claim a right to comfort when the average income of most of the world is far below mine. The advance of the Kingdom of God takes precedence.
c. If God blesses me financially, it is so that I can be a blessing to others.
d. I'll seek to care about the poor in the world whenever and wherever it is possible. Christ is my example. Many of the poor are victims of a more powerful segment of society and many are also unreached.
e. While Scripture teaches us to wisely steward money (Luke 16:11), it also teaches us to "cast our bread upon the waters" (Eccles 11:1) and give without expecting anything in return.
5. LEISURE TIME
a. Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we may die (If it feels good, do it!).
b. As long as I go to church on Sundays I can do whatever I want for the rest of the week.
d. Why exercise? God's only concerned with spiritual things. OR
e. I exercise to keep my body in excellent physical shape. It's important to look and feel good.
f. My entertainment habits (TV, eating out, movies) are determined by how much money I have to spend or by what my peers like to do.
a. While modern living says I should seek to be as comfortable as possible, like Jesus, my food is to do the will of God and accomplish His purpose [Jn 4:34].
b. I am careful to use my time as well as I steward my money. Life is from God, to be lived for Him and His Kingdom.
c. We need times of refreshment so that we will have something to give others.
e. Physical exercise is important but it is secondary to spiritual exercise and fitness (I Tim 4:8).
f. Rest and relaxation are a healthy part of God's design but all I do is ultimately done for Christ. So His purpose determines how I spend my time and my money.
a. I want to live in ____ because I like this town/city/region best.
a. I will choose to live where God can use me the most to work towards His worldwide purpose.
b. I am willing to live wherever Christ sends me, trusting Him to provide for me and care for me there.
c. Recognizing the difficulty of going far from my comfortable home environment, I trust God will help me to adjust and also minister effectively where He has sent me.
The difference between the possible mindset and a kingdom mindset is not necessarily the actual decision reached. Rather it is in the ambition and end goal. When our desires (rather than God's will) are considered first. Two people could end up making the same decision, one seeking his/ her own kingdom first and the other seeking God first.
An example: Two students want to know what they should study as a major. The first, not considering God's Kingdom purposes decides to study electrical engineering, and then on for a masters in business administration. He likes it, knows he can excel in this field and will become financially comfortable. These are not wrong desires per se, but he has left God out of His decision. He is pursuing his own ambitions and putting his trust in the world system rather than God.
The second person brings the decision to God. Making sure he is clinging to nothing, He asks God to guide his decisions. Then he evaluates the option in the light of how each decision he makes would enable him to grow closer to his Master and contribute to the Kingdom. He checks if there is anything in his options that hinders his relationship with God and also the natural desires God has given him.
He may be unclear as to his long term role in God's plan, but he pursues his studies believing God will use the things he learns, whether as a missionary or in the secular world. Rather than grasping choices tightly he opens his hands before God, ready and willing to be redirected at any time.
As Jim Elliot, martyred missionary, testified, "He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose."
Everything in this world will turn to dust in the end, only what is holy and Christ like in our lives endures. Let us live in such a way that speeds that fulfillment [II Pet 3:11-12; Hab 2:14 and Rev 6:9-11].
MISSIONS : The common goal of all church functions.
Donald A. McGavran was known as perhaps the worlds foremost missiologist. He was born of missionary parents in India. He returned to India as a third-generation missionary in 1923. In his later years he traveled extensively and developed a good understanding of global priorities. He gave us this illustration in an article called Today's Task: Opportunity or Imperative, of how all the functions of the church should have a common goal of missions.
"It is difficult to speak about today's task when hundreds of tasks lie before the Church and God calls her to every one of them.
Internal tasks abound: raising church budgets, helping Christians grow in grace, erecting new buildings, training lay leaders, teaching the Bible, and many more.
External tasks abound: building brotherhood in the midst of racial strife, giving underprivileged youth a chance, working for peace and justice, reaching unevangelized men and women with the Gospel, establishing new churches in suitable locations, and scores of others.
The calls from across the seas were never more numerous. Great numbers of persons die each year of hunger and malnutrition. Yet there are still refugees to house, illiterates to teach, the sick to heal and three billion who have never heard the name of Christ to flood with knowledge of their Savior.
In spite of all, for the welfare of the world, for the good of mankind according to the Bible, one task is paramount. Today's supreme task is effective multiplication of churches in the receptive societies of the earth.
The many tasks that lie at hand should be done, there can be no two opinions about that. Preaching good sermons, teaching illiterates to read, working at planned parenthood or the world's food supply, administering churches skillfully, applying Christianity to all of life, using mass media of communication, and hundreds of other activities are not sinful. They are good. Some are urgent. But are they all of equal importance?
We must not oversimplify the situation, as if Christians could do one task and leave all others undone. We can and should do many tasks together. When Nehemiah built the wall, some carried stone, some brought water, some mixed mortar, and some laid the stones in place. All were controlled, however, by the overriding purpose: all were building the wall. The supreme aim guided the entire enterprise. Stones and mortar arrived at the wall in the right proportions at the right time to guarantee maximum wall-building.
One of the purposes of this course is to help you answer Donald McGavran's question about priorities. You must make good decisions. Decisions to help you set priorities and be good stewards. To do this you must become a constant learner.
SPIRITUAL LIFE IS A JOURNEY – You can make it!
All of us, I am sure, remember the clear awareness we receive, of the amazing love of God through Jesus Christ, when we first commit our lives to the Lord. I had a deep desire to live only for what was important to Him. But, like most new Christians, I was not sure what that meant. What is it that is important to Jesus?
The answers came as I began to read and hear about God's plan. To redeem for Himself a people from every tribe, people and nation. I realized that my life would only become meaningful when I found my place in history as it related to the Great Commission.
I wanted to make my life count for something. When it hit home to me that almost half the world's population still had no knowledge of the Christ of God, I was shocked. I, together with God's people, certainly had a lot of work ahead of us! Yet, when I looked at my own life I realized how it only revolved around self-centered concerns – growing in a knowledge of the things of God for my own spiritual well-being. I realized I had to develop life patterns that would help me, consistently, to reach out to the unreached.
My prayers, gifts, lifestyle and planning all needed to be changed so that they would line up with God's goal in history.
The Old Lifestyle
When I prayed, it was for my family and those people who were my friends. I never prayed for the millions who were without a Christian witness. Even my prayers for missionaries was for those I had met personally or heard talk at my church or at a meeting. Then it was for them and not for the people they interacted with.
When it came to giving, it went to local Christian work. Besides my church I would invest in fund-raisers such as book sales. Spending reflected that I thought were needs rather than Christ's kingdom values.
As I reflected on my life, I knew I wanted to change. My life would count only as it revolved around things that touched the heart of God. I had to begin somewhere.
For me, that somewhere was in my daily praying and spending. A few friends and I got empty jars, stuck labels on them to remind us to pray for the unreached and empty our loose change into the jars at the end of each day. At that time, we would stop to pray for the unreached.
We tried different tools to help us pray. We started with Operation World and prayed for a different country each day. As the unreached gained a place in our hearts, we began to leave notes in the jar instead of just change. Instead of a coke we drank water. We learned many practical ways to invest what we owned in what was most important to God. As the jars filled up, we would send our savings to a group who were attempting to make a difference for the unreached.
In this way, the unreached people touched our wallets, thoughts, prayers and lifestyles each day! These were some of the first few steps in my journey and it was most encouraging to take these steps with like-minded friends.
This journey in God's spiritual kingdom for His purposes will work out differently for each one of us. We begin at different places, at different ages, and take varied steps in really diverse circumstances but all of us actually contribute to the same end. The really encouraging thing is we can be significantly involved right where we are. We can center our lives to become an active part of Christ's purpose on earth.
The New Lifestyle
Let us together think through four areas in which we can grow spiritually, taking encouragement from Paul who says, "For we are God's fellow workers; you are God's field, you are God's building." [Corinthians 3:9]
Work on prayer habits that lead you to constantly invest in the lost, as well as those unrelated people who do not have a relevant church in their own culture. When Christ was deeply moved over the sight of the lost, He did not command the disciples to go and rescue them right away. Instead, He commanded them to first pray [Mat 9:37-38].
Prayer is meant to be our first strategic action in aligning our lives with God's plan for the world and to discern His will [I John 5:14]. Only as we receive Christ, to that degree can we communicate Him.
Only through prayer can we resolve issues such as: Who are the unreached and what do I pray for? How do I pray for people I do not know and don't feel compassion for them? How can I fit prayer into my already-crowded life?
a. Who do I pray for?
Today there are many tools that help us pray in an informed way about a specific people. We could use one of these – such as Operation World (to which I have already referred) to answer, the 'Who' we pray for.
b. How do I pray for people I do not know and don't feel compassion for?
Compassion and Christ-like love are traits which develop in us as we yield our lives to Christ. We can, however, choose to pray for them and ask the Lord to work on our hearts. Compassion is not a prerequisite for prayer. It is a reward which will come as you invest time caring for a people in need.
c. How can I fit prayer into my already-crowded life?
We really do have full programs. Begin by setting it up as a priority. Then plan time for this priority in your schedule. Set a goal, starting with perhaps five minutes, going on after a week to fifteen and eventually, making an hour your goal. A country a day, a people group a day, or a page of a prayer tool a day. Besides the allotted time, you can whisper a short prayer throughout the day whenever you remember this new and exciting facet of your spiritual life!
Take to the Lord the questions which will come up in your mind; Who or what do I give to? How often? How much? [II Cor 9:7]
Find out whether your church is supporting a missionary
Make investments among unreached people by supporting Bible translation, the training of potential workers and by sending out church planting teams.
You can even adopt one people group and, as you invest in them, you can watch them grow over the years. How often you give is up to you but it is important to give regularly. Pray about the amount. Pray about ways of economizing – you may be agreeably surprised by how the Lord can release this area to enable you to give even more than you felt you could, originally.
If giving to missions is new to you, you might begin giving to one missionary once a month. Eventually you may decide to give to different aspects of Christian outreach whose work fulfills the Great Commission.
Develop a lifestyle that reflects Christ's values and purposes. It is possible to live within our own communities with as much commitment as those who are called to be missionaries among a different people group.
The Christian discipline of Simplicity is an inward reality that results in an outward lifestyle. Jesus waged war on the materialism of His day when he said, "No servant can serve two masters – you cannot serve God and mammon." [Luke 16:13]
Those who become missionaries, and live cross-culturally, sacrifice friendships, family and many comforts, as they give of themselves. Back home, by choosing to live economically, we can release resources for the Kingdom. There are also other ways of giving, such as interceding, mobilizing others and encouraging those who go. Each play different roles in fulfilling the Great Commission.
4. Planning for the future
Your first step should be to ask God in what ways He would want you to contribute to His kingdom purposes. At the same time, begin reading about the unreached and learning all you can about the world of Mission. God rarely guides us on the basis of information we do not have. Talk to your pastor about what you are doing. Keep an open mind on whether you will 'go' or select another career option. Pray as Isaiah did, "Here am I, send me". As you listen you will receive guidance that will make you an effective tool in the hand of your Master.
Kingdom living is challenging, with periods of uncertainty and pain. It is stimulating but always deeply challenging. It will meet the needs of your heart. To become a member of God's army is an honor indeed!