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The Now and Not Yet
A while ago I spoke at Submerge about the ‘Normal Christian Life’. In essence, what we looked at was that the lifestyle that Jesus modelled, a life of compassion and supernatural power, is available to anyone who is in a relationship with the Father – that is all his kids, you and me!
Jesus never intended the lifestyle he led to be something that was just for him or a chosen few, but to all that would know God as their Father and know their identity. The miraculous is not open jus to the few - all the King’s kids get to play.
Again and again we see throughout the gospels that Jesus sends his disciples (and us) out to declare, through words and wonders that His Kingdom is near.
On this basis we looked at the five Ps of Evangelism:
• Persuasive Words – that is ‘Apologetics’, a systematic argumentative discourse (or a reasoned arguments or writings) in defense of something
• Practical Love – practical acts of servant love to those around us, allowing people to experience love. In the words of Bob Johnson– “practical evangelism is seeing the opportunities all around and doing what we can to meet the need. If someone is hungry, we take the time to get some food. If someone is sick, we take the time to get them medical treatment; if someone is cold, we give them our jacket. Practical love means caring for the hurting, intentionally looking for those who need a taste of Heaven and giving them an encounter that they will never forget”
• Prophetic Evangelism - where God will give you insights into people’s lives and situations, that when shared will open up an avenue for them to experience (or want to talk about) God’s grace and be open to prayer. This could be through things like:
o A word of knowledge
o Picture / Image
o You may hear a song or a voice (audible or internal)
o Gut feel / intuition
o Through a physical/sympathetic pain
• Power Evangelism - this is where we give God an open door to demonstrate His power through us and encounter people trough signs and wonders. Practically speaking this would be through situations like where we would pray for the sick when out-and-about and see them healed
• Presence - At the end of the day, all others flow from this. Our role is to fall more in love with Him and be more full of Holy Spirit, and as we do we will leak out. This requires that we spend regular times in his presence, corporately and individually. As we do:
o We will be filled with Holy Spirit and His power.
o It helps us focus on the truth of who he is
o We find ourselves emboldens
o Our hears start to get broken for what breaks His
But all that being said, a question that I often wrestle with is “Why it doesn’t always work?”. Why when we pray for healing, either in Church or on ‘the street’, do they not always get healed? Why when I think I have a word of knowledge for someone does it not seem to be right?
Well there a probably a number of answers to that, but I think part of it that although the Kingdom of God is near, it is not fully here. We live in the Now and Not Yet of His Kingdom. It broke out when Jesus turned up but won’t fully come until Jesus comes back again in person.
But that being said there are things that we can do to grow in this area and see more of the Kingdom break out in our lives.
1. Get angry and desperate
• When did you last hear in Church that we should get angry, but there is something in that.
• So when did you last feel anger at the status quo all around you? When did you last feel such indignation that you knew it would be a sin for you not to pray? Augustine of Hippo taught that “Hope has two beautiful daughters; their names are Anger and Courage. Anger that things are the way they are, and Courage to see that they do not remain as they are.”
• True humility means having anger and courage. Eugene Peterson challenges us in his book ‘The Contemplative Pastor’: “With the vastness of the heavenly invasion and the urgency of the faith decision rolling into our consciousness like thunder and lightning, we cannot stand around on Sunday morning filling the time with pretentious small talk on how bad the world is and how wonderful this new stewardship campaign is going to be.”
“Hope has two beautiful daughters; their names are Anger and Courage. Anger that things are the way they are, and Courage to see that they do not remain as they are.” Augustine
• Tenacity is “the quality or fact of being very determined; determination” or “the quality or fact of continuing to exist and persist”. When someone the breakthrough doesn’t come you can make a choice the next time you are faced with the same situation, you can either back down or step up, determined.
• Sometimes this process can be a bit like trying to crack a rock with a hammer; sometimes it takes a few blows. There is a bit of mystery here, but it does something inside of us when we rouse and steel our faith, making the choice to take hold of God’s promises and our God-given privileges and push through, and keep going, until we see break through.
3. Must be quick to express and process disappointment
• This is one of the biggest killers of kingdom growth, and so we must be quick to process disappointment when, laying down out right to understand, and then go again.
• I have written about this in an earlier blog so won’t repeat that here but go check it out here
4. Cultivate a lifestyle of thanks giving
• Don’t grumble at what God is not – focus on what He is doing. Often as we cultivate a thankful heart God entrusts us with more. This comes from recognising that even something as small as a headache going when we pray for someone is a miracle given to us out of God’s grace. Let’s ensure we don’t despise the day of small things, otherwise we may not be entrusted with more, and worse, grieve His heart that we are not thankful for the gifts He has given us.
• Really celebrate, and I mean REALLY celebrate. I have been so convicted and provoked that I don’t properly celebrate when God works a miracle. When we hear stories at Church of people being saved at Alpha (for example), why do we not jump to our feet and celebrate in a manner that really reflects what has happened – someone who was dead has been saved to life from certain eternal damnation. I wonder whether the angels in their celebrating (Luke 15:10) every look at us in wonder and confusion as we sit there and barely mutter a tone of approval!
• Share stories to raise faith - Feed yourselves on stories, modern and old
5. Make a plan to remember
• Record the acts that God has done, build your bank account of faith stories. I recently preached on this as part of a sermon on how to respond when you are waiting for God’s promises to be fulfilled – you can check it out here
6. Change your view of success
• This is a biggie, so often we can get so consumed with getting it right and being fearful of getting it wrong that end up either becoming full of pride or falling into fear and doing nothing.
• We need to change your view of success – simply put ‘The love language of heaven is obedience’, our focus should not be whether we ‘got it right or wrong’ but whether we stepped out and tried in response to what we thought was God’s leading. It is in these times that, I think, most receive His affirmation of ‘Well done’. When someone tells us that they tried to bring a word/prayed for someone and ‘got it wrong’ lets jump up and cheer, high-fiving them, because it helps remind them (and us) that ‘the love language of heaven is obedience’ and God’s definition of success is very different from whether we ‘got the right word’ or ‘saw the healing’
7. Take some risks / be intentional
• Lastly, the only way to grow is to try. The only way to know what might have been (whether your word was accurate or whether healing would have come) is to step out and try.
• Folks we need to take our identity seriously, that we are dearly loved and nothing can take us out of His love, and so make the decision to kill fear by walking through it. Freedom and liberation are waiting for you on the other side of fear, all you need to do is take His hand, keep your eyes locked on His smile, and walk through it.