Saturday, October 25, 2008

DOES THE BEHAVIOR MATCH THE NAME?

A seminar on evangelism was being addressed by well known, very experienced leader and preacher from the USA, whose intense focus on training people in evangelism exceded almost anyone else I am aware of.

He spoke with an enthusiasm which is often not seen. It wasn't that apparent enthusiasm which comes from inexperience, and often seen in many a young preacher, like an excited yappy puppy with far too much energy. No! It was an enthusiasm which came from much experience in seeing the fruit of his endeavors.

He came to a point in his talk where he addressed the issue of what causes evangelism to be more difficult than it ought to be. It wasn't the evil one, it wasn't that the unbeliever was ignorant of Christian things.


The biggest hurdle to overcome was the fact that the unbeliever DID know a Christian or Christians!

Many times I had heard the comment, “No! I don't want to talk about those things. My experience with Christians (often very specific comments) has been enough to make me not want to be one.”


Alan Knox has been talking about the Truly Local Church and there is some discussion regarding how such a group should meet in the local area, such as in a home.

I have been reminded of what another great old servant of Christ , who is deceased, Dr.David Martyn Lloyd-Jones, who has written a book “Studies on the Sermon on the Mount”, which has a large bearing upon our attitude in meeting in our homes which are generally surrounded by unbelievers.

He describes the Sermon on the Mount thus: "The Sermon on the Mount is a description of character and not a code of ethics or of morals. It is not to be regarded as a law- a kind of new ‘Ten Commandments’ or set of rules and regulations which are to be carried out by us-but rather as a description of what we Christians are meant to be" .

He declares that we, “constantly have to remind ourselves of the Beatitudes”


How I wish I had taken that advice as a young elder,pastor,teacher! Even if I had heard it, like many other bright young folk, I probably would have thought it the simple ramblings of a fellow past his use-by-date!

From where I sit today his words have so much wisdom in them!

We need to be reminded that, regardless of our educational qualifications, our knowledge, our enthusiasm, zeal and bold confidence, we are to “remind myself daily that I am to be poor in spirit, merciful,meek, a peacemaker, pure in heart, and so on”.

He goes on to say, “In everything I do and say, I am to be like the man I see in the beatitudes”

All who knew the Godly author would say he reflected the very spirit of the Beatitudes, and that he knew what he was talking about.

You see, he lived what he taught, “But, not only are we to remind ourselves of the Beatitudes, we are to live accordingly. What does this mean? It means we are to avoid everything that is opposed to this character, we are to be entirely unlike the world. It is a tragic thing to me that so many Christians, because they do not want to be different, or to suffer persecution, seem to be living as near as they can to the world. But this is a contradiction in terms. There is no mean between light and darkness; it is either the one or the other, and there is no communion between. Either it is light or it is not.........”.


In response to a comment on Alan's blog regarding complaints from neighbours, I said, “ I would complain on behalf of the community, if, as we have witnessed, a group seemed to believe it had a divine right to fill the street with cars, assume that "worship" must be accompanied by as much noise as they pleased, allowing children to run riot while the parents met.

I have strong convictions that local congregation meetings in homes ARE the right way to go, but, as members of a secular community we must bend over backwards to show love and consideration towards them
(unbelievers).” “ ........over a period of 10 years of no complaints, that regardless of the make-up of the community, respect for others, good manners and moderation in all behavior are well regarded. “

During those ten years God drew many into His Kingdom , and some wonderful testimonies of His gracious working in the lives of older believers, mine included, have been shared.


Martyn Lloyd-Jones wrote, “The world is becoming more rude; rougher,uglier,louder. I think we all agree with that.” But it is clear that what passes for Christianity is also becoming more rude; rougher, uglier and louder and the world around us are not slow to notice.

As our author suggests, it is far too easy to say,”I'm a follower of Christ” , loudly proclaiming the benefits, and in the same heartbeat be rude and inconsiderate of those around us.

We are to be humble, peaceable, peacemaking in all our talk and behaviour, and especially in our reactions to the behaviours of other persons. I believe that the individual Christian is having a greater opportunity today than he has had for many a century, owing to the whole state of the world and of society. I believe that people are watching us very closely because we claim to be Christian; and they are watching our reactions to people and to the things they say and do to us. Do we flare up? The non-Christian does; the Christian should not. He is like the man in the Beatitudes, so he reacts differently. And when confronted with world events, with wars and rumours of wars, with calamities, pestilences and all these other things, he is not overanxious, troubled and irritable. The world is; the Christian is not. He is essentially different.”

Far too many claiming to be Christians are mimicing, and emulating the ways of a lost world.

Two of Jesus illustrations of the life He initiated were salt and light.

Salt doesn't mimic the food in which it is placed, it enhances and, sometimes makes the food vastly more pleasant.

The same with light, it doesn't emulate darkness, it disperses darkness, and yet we have those who claim to be Christians who think that they have a mandate to inconvenience the neighbors in their area with the clutter of cars, unruly behavior of their children and the noise of their singing. Many seem to have found a verse of Scripture which says that God is deaf.


Our God is much more interested in the state of our heart, which is reflected in the character revealed in our daily lives. Jesus said, Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” (Matt.5:16)

The genuine Christian never draws attention to himself. Genuine poverty of spirit means that self has last call on our plans, desires,and inclinations, that our first concern is to reflect the Christ who denied Himself for us, before a lost community, seeking to serve them, not antagonise them, to love them, not disregard them.

At the same time we must have great sorrow in our hearts for the lost, not despise them. They are lost, and don't know it. We must have concern for them, not ourselves. We must have compassion for them, not contempt.

It is so very true that the reason some don't want to hear about the saving work of Jesus, is because the DO know one or more, who claim to be Christian, who are loud, bombastic, inconsiderate of others, arrogant about their spirituality, who love to display their great learning!


I have known very quiet people who, some claimed Christians deride as simpletons and dumb mice, yet make such an impact for the Kingdom of God that they leave those who know utterly amazed at the fruit of their, almost underground, ministry of God's grace in Jesus Christ.


I am reminded of a story told about Alexander the Great. The great soldier had sent out a conscription party. One young man had hidden in a cave to escape conscription. He was brought before Alexander, who demanded to know his name. The young man whispered tentatively,

“A -a-a lexander.”

Alexander the Great drew himself up to his full stature and exploded, “WHAT!!”

The young man again said, “A -a lexander, sir”

Alexander the Great, in full voice, said, “Young man! Change your ways, or change your name!”

Our Commander in Chief says, “Christian! Change your ways, or change your name!”

13 comments:

J. R. Miller said...

John, you write, "In response to a comment on Alan's blog regarding complaints from neighbours, I said, "

Interesting how you in your original comment you addressed Alan but did not acknowledge me directly, but here you do acknowledge you were responding to me.

If you have a judgement to make about the complaints my church received, why would you assume we were being rude or arrogant? Is that how you treat your neighbors by assuming the worst of them? And then not even have the moral courage to address me directly, but judge me with your comment? Are we not more than your neighbors, but your brothers? Then why use our experience to make a point?

You talk a good game, but your response to my comment which judged the nature of the complaints against my church put the onus on us and is a poor demonstration of the charity you speak on so boldly.

And yes, for the record, I am offended that someone who is my brother would say those things without knowing any of the details. Maybe that makes you feel superior to brag that you have never had a complaint because you are so loving, but to me it demonstrates your hubris.... shameful you would treat a brother in such a way.

Aussie John said...

J.R.,

Thank you for your comments.

J.R. I will try to respond to each of your thoughts as you have written them.

"John, you write, "In response to a comment on Alan's blog regarding complaints from neighbours, I said, "

J.R. I actually WAS addressing Alan, NOT you. It is Alan's blog, but if I want to comment on what another has contributed, I will always address Alan first and then the other. In this instance I had no intention to address you.

"Interesting how you in your original comment you addressed Alan but did not acknowledge me directly, but here you do acknowledge you were responding to me."

Did I mention you? The object of your comment (complaints) evoked my response, NOT you. I certainly have not acknowledged that I addressed you,even obliquely, as you suggest.

"If you have a judgement to make about the complaints my church received, why would you assume we were being rude or arrogant? Is that how you treat your neighbors by assuming the worst of them? And then not even have the moral courage to address me directly, but judge me with your comment? Are we not more than your neighbors, but your brothers? Then why use our experience to make a point?"

I made no judgement about complaints, nor did I say, or assume, for that matter that you, or your church, were being arrogant or rude. I don't know you, or the area you live in, or the people around you. I am totally ignorant of those facts and am unable to speak on them.

I live on the opposite side of the world to you, and can only speak on what I know to be true in this neck of the woods, and would no more try to use your experience to make a point than fly.

"You talk a good game, but your response to my comment which judged the nature of the complaints against my church put the onus on us and is a poor demonstration of the charity you speak on so boldly."

Again! My response was to the object of your comment (complaints) I had, and have, no desire or inclination to make judgments regarding you, your church, or anyone else and their church.

Charity IS so very important!

"And yes, for the record, I am offended that someone who is my brother would say those things without knowing any of the details. Maybe that makes you feel superior to brag that you have never had a complaint because you are so loving, but to me it demonstrates your hubris.... shameful you would treat a brother in such a way."

Dear J.R. It is ONLY by God's great grace, and much care and concern by my brethren for those around us ,to whom we wanted to show the love of Christ, that we had no complaints over those many years.

I make no comment about the last portion of the paragraph. I think it has its own answers.

May our precious Lord bless you abundantly!

J. R. Miller said...

John, let me quote from you again, you wrote in this very post,

"In response to a comment on Alan's blog regarding complaints from neighbours, I said, “ I would complain on behalf of the community, if, as we have witnessed, a group seemed to believe it had a divine right to fill the street with cars, assume that "worship" must be accompanied by as much noise as they pleased, allowing children to run riot while the parents met."

You wrote your comments in response to MY post, not Alan's post. My comment IS the OBJECT of your remarks.

You did not say, "In response to Alan's post" you said you made this comment as a response to my post.

And in response to MY comments you said complaints come when people are rude and arrogant in their treatment of neighbors. That is your assertion based on MY comment, not Alan's and your assertion to the contrary is incredulous.

You make a clear contrast between the complaints our church had vs. the perfect record of your church.

You mean to tell me you do not even see how this can be construed as an offense against our church?

I am here to tell you that it is an offense and if you refuse to make this right I will continue on the Matthew model of reconciliation and bring in a brother to help work this out.

J. R. Miller said...

John, Alan seems to think I have read too much into your post so I will trust his judgement and concede that I overreacted. My apologies for reading into your comment and I ask your forgiveness if I offended.

J. R. Miller said...

PS
John, you are free to keep our conversation up or delete it. As far as I am concerned, there is no need to keep my comments on that have misconstrued your pot. But it is your blog so feel free to do what you feel is best.

Aussie John said...

J.R.,

Again, I reiterate, that you are extremely mistaken in your opinion of why I wrote.

I AM sorry, and shocked by your being offended, and that you cannot accept my word.

I stand by what I have explained to you. I cannot apologise for something which was furthest from my mind.

My admission to you is that my first response, to your comment on my blog, was to be offended, but, believe it or not, I do try to remember Jesus words at the begining of Matthew 7 and remember that when I look at another's faults, it is one sinner observing a sinner. As those who know me will testify, I am very aware that, when I point my finger at another, there are three fingers pointing at me.

Proverbs 19:11; 18:19 (NIV) are a part of my life.

My years have taught me that honouring my profession of Christ doesn't always lend itself to political correctness, which is the the vain attempt not to offend people who want to be offended.

What can you do about people who insist on taking offense where none was meant? Where the people supposedly responsible for giving the offense weren't even talking about the person who has chosen to be offended?

Maybe I should preface anything I say or write with a rider, "Any resemblance to persons living, dead, or fictionalized elsewhere is purely coincidental".

J.R., your comments regarding "offense" have given me food for thought about writing an article about giving and taking offense:

I can think of headings that it might contain, such as:
What is an Offense, The Sin of Giving Offense, The Sin of Taking Offense, How These Work Out in Practice of One's Faith, and, I guess the conclusion would contain something such as the following, "I would be remiss not to acknowledge that it is a sin to give offense. In saying that it's clearly a sin to be “touchy,” to take offense when none is specifically intended (by the use of names or personal detail)".

I don't intend to write such an article, but, be rest assured, if I have something to say to you, or about you, I will address you personally. If your name is not mentioned, it is not addressed to you or about you.

As I have already said, I am sorry you have taken offense.

Aussie John said...

J.R.,

Again, I thank you for your last two posts (which, for some reason, which I cannot understand, are out of the order which you sent them).

I have left them in, at least for the time being, because they speak volumes about your willingness to listen to the wise counsel of Alan.

I have come to respect him immensely as a brother who desires to be a genuine disciple of Christ, and, in turn, a discipler of others. His mentor,Dave Black is also such a man.

Thank you for the grace you have shown. I pray for God's blessing upon you and yours!

preacherman said...

As a young minister I am trying to sink in as much knowledge and information that I can. I am so thankful that God works in the lives of us as believers. I am so glad that he is interested in our hearts and daily sacrifice. I want to thank you for sharing this wonderful post with us all. I take pride in the name. I think we all should take pride in it. No matter what happens in life God is with us and for us. I love what Romans 8:25-ff tells us that nothing. NOTHING can seperate us from the love of God. We as believers need to remember that God has given us a spirit not of timidity but of POWER! Again, thanks for sharing all of this with us. I hope you have a wonderful week! :-)

Aussie John said...

Preacherman,

Thank you for your encouraging words. Your words echo my own heart.
An enormous amount of water has gone under the bridge since I began to minister the word of God, and I'm still learning, but my learning is now much to do with the fact that I didn't know what I thought I knew at the beginning. As a matter of fact, I thought I knew more than I did. Now I know I don't know much at all,and there is not enough time to learn it.

You are so right about Rom.8:25ff.












i

Lionel Woods said...

Aussie John,

Your words always and I do mean always makes their way to my heart brother. I also appreciate your comments on the Calvin post. Your wisdom and inisight and way with words always and I do mean always keep me dumbfounded.


This post had me all broken up. It is exactly what God has been teaching me in so many ways Sir. Wished you weren't so far. I can't wait to meet Alan (I had the great privellage of meeting the Blacks). God bless and thanks for a timely and convicting post. Full of wisdom and grace!

Aussie John said...

Lionel,

I truly appreciate your comments, and trust that our Lord is glorified in what I write.

I certainly appreciate the inquiry I see in your posts. I would love to see more young men and women who will do the work of thinking through their faith rather than simply soak up what someone said or wrote and declare it as the final word.

Ike said...

Our "TRACKS" as we walk are far more convincing than the "TRACTS" we hand out!!!

Aussie John said...

Ike,

You are so right! Thanks for commenting.

Post a Comment