Filled With all the Fullness of God

Ephesians 3:17-21 (NKJV) 17 that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height– 19 to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. 20 Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, 21 to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

Yesterday we spent time looking at the importance of vision in the local church and I shared some of the process of how I received the vision for our church in Greene, New York. Just to summarize, I was in a stream that emphasized being big and professional as the goal and measure of success especially in local church. Certainly, not all the people in that stream felt that way. I am sure that to some degree this was my interpretation of what they were saying. Nevertheless, as circumstances and the Lord brought my time in one city to a close I rejected those ideas.

The principle that I felt God revealed to me about local church is that it is first a family, second a team and third an army. Depending on what God is doing and the season the church is in, any one of the three may be emphasized but I believe that the most important is family. God is a Father. To understand the nature of Christianity, we must realize that we are dealing with a Father and his family. That is first.

When the church is a family first, we cannot make the quality of the things done more important than the people themselves. Let me illustrate. In our previous church with the “quality for God” first mentality, we had a weekly bulletin. There was a woman who accepted the responsibility of doing that ministry. She enjoyed doing it. It was important to her.

One of the senior leaders in the church was a woman who was very good at design. It really bothered her that things were not lined up correctly. There may have been some spelling errors. In our mindset that anything done for God had to “excellent,” she took this job away from the lady who was not quite perfect and did it herself. I knew at the time that something was wrong with that but I was young and we were caught in that mindset that anything done for God should be excellent.

I believe we should give God our best. I believe things should be as high a quality as we can make them for the Kingdom of God. However, we must not forget that the people in the church are God’s children and the church is a manifestation of his family. That woman had a good heart and a good attitude. If that was not her calling, we should have worked with her until we found her calling. The bulletin being perfect should not have been more important than that woman. In our current church, it is not.

In Ephesians 3, I saw something that excited me. In verse 19 Paul tells us it is possible to be “filled with the fullness of God. I do not know what that would be. I cannot even imagine it but I want it. Verse 18 reveals a condition that must be met to have that. All saints must be together.

There will come a day the whole church will be gathered under Christ Jesus and we will all be together (Eph. 1:10.) However, today is not that day. We can begin to see a manifestation of the fullness of God if we begin to see all saints in the local church flowing together in peace, power and unity. That, along with the family priority, is the essence of the vision God gave me for our church.

I had seen certain things in my spirit but there was a prophetic word that came to me from someone who did not know me at all. He described a fountain of life that people would come to for all kinds of ministry. This is exactly what I saw and exactly what I believe Paul was describing in Ephesians 3. When all saints flow in each of their gifts and destinies but do it together working to fulfill the great commission in an area, we will see the fullness of God in that church.

In Galatians 2:20 Paul says that he has been crucified with Christ and yet he still lives. There is much to this verse but let me tell you one thing I believe about what Paul is saying. We died in Christ but we were raised again into a new life (Romans 6:4.) Jesus is the fullness of the fullness of the Godhead expressed bodily (Col. 2:9.) He was everything God could be within the limitations of human flesh. None of us is the fullness of God in our human flesh. However, when I was crucified with Christ, there was the capability for me to express all that God can be through my flesh.

I was Bill Kiefer. Once I was saved I became a new creature with a new kind of life. I am still Bill Kiefer. I still look the same. I still have same basic personality if more sanctified. I needed my mind renewed. There may be times we need emotional or other forms of healing depending on our lives before salvation. In any case, when I got saved I was a new creature and yet I am still the person God made to begin with. I am Bill Kiefer but I am a Jesus version of the person God created in my mother’s womb.

I cannot be everything that Jesus was. None of us can. I can be my part of what Jesus was. Paul made this clear in 1 Corinthians 12:12.

1 Corinthians 12:12 (NKJV) 12 For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ.

Christ is one body but today he is made up of many members. He was everything God could be through a human being. The body of Christ should be everything God can be through human beings. However, for that to happen we must have “all saints together.” That needs to be true in the universal body of Christ but it must start by being as true as possible in the Local expression of Jesus’ body. There are many local expressions of the body of Christ in any community or region. However, it must begin in my local church for it to ever be true in my community, my country or the world.

Now we understand that no local church, even the largest, ever comes to the place of expressing the fullness of God. We do not have to. We need to express all that God can be through the people he draws together under a corporate vision and destiny. The local church should be the place where each person finds out who and what part of the “fullness of the Godhead” can be expressed through his or her body, soul and spiritual and natural gifts.

Let me ask something of the pastors and leaders who read this. What are you doing to release the fullness of the Godhead in the lives of those you lead? That is your job. That should be your goal.

If you are not yet a leader, what are you doing to be the Jesus you that was created when you were saved. Are you spending time with the Lord in prayer, worship and fellowship? Are you involved in a local body, doing what your hand finds to do? As you do that, you will come to understand what part you are. Having said that, do not worry so much about what part of the body you are. Feet pretty much just do what they do. The same for hands, ears, mouths and all the other parts of the physical body. As you grow and apply yourself to what you can do, it will become pretty clear what you are. Than all you need to do is be that, find others who are the same thing and help them be that as well.

If you are not part of a local church that is actively involved in the Great Commission, find one. We need you being what God made you to be, where he made you to be it. We need the fullness of God in our world today.

All Saints Together

Ephesians 3:17-19 (NKJV) 17 that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height– 19 to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

As we have studied the importance of local church and vision in the local church e have been looking at the source and purpose of vision. First we must realize that the local vision is not the vision of the pastor. It is the vision of God communicated through pastors and leaders. It is not something God gives to the leader for the leader. It is something God gives through the leader for the people of the church.

We also see that any vision must be in harmony with the foundational vision Jesus gave to the church in the Great Commission. That is the reason and purpose for the church as a whole. We are called to make disciples of all nations. If we are not doing that we are not walking in Jesus vision for the church. Local vision is simply how God wants a given group of people in a given locality to fulfill their part of that Great Commission.

In our last post we talked about the purpose of vision. Habakkuk tells us that leaders should “Write the vision” plainly so that they that read it can run with it. I believe writing a vision statement for a local church is an important part of the process for establishing a church. However, whether it is in written form or some other way, any leader needs to communicate why that church, or ministry, exists. They need to do it in a way that the people can get involved and run with the vision.

Vision is progressive and generational. The basic purpose for the existence of the church or ministry remains until it is fulfilled or the Lord comes. However, there is always an evolution of vision. I have been in this church since my wife and I started it in 1987. In that time the basic idea has not changed but there have been additions and even some corrections as I have grown in understanding and experience. When the next generation takes over, there will be a change in some methods and personality. The basic vision for why this church exists remains.

Vision is necessary so that we can flow together towards the goal God has for the ministry. God gives leaders to communicate the vision clearly. Nevertheless, everyone is equally important in carrying out the plan of God. Leaders do a job. Those who follow do a jobs. All are equally important. Vision keeps us flowing together. (Proverbs 29:18)

Let me take a few moments to share a little of the process I went through in receiving the vision for where we are now. In 1987 I had already started two churches. I did not have a great deal of mature counsel at that time and I made a great many mistakes. When we were about to start our current work, I was involved in a stream of ministry that emphasized three main things as far as the local church was concerned. First, there was professionalism. Everything we do for God should be first rate. We should have the best buildings, the best music and the most professional organization.

This sounds good on the surface, but I found that in most local churches the resources just are not there to be quite that professional. Not only that, but the people do not always have the skills to do things that way. If we were going to take that approach, we were going to have to refrain from using people unless they were professional enough to produce a “top notch” product.

Second, was the idea that big was God and small just meant you did not have faith. We always seemed to talk about 10,000 seat auditoriums. I live in a village of 1500 people. I draw from something like 250,000 people over a 50 to 70-mile radius. Is it really practical or necessary for me to expect to build a 10,000-member church? In addition, I began to feel that something that big would stop being a church and become a large gathering of people where many would just hide. It would make the leader famous but what would it really do for the individual?

Third, I began to realize that we were committed to a doctrinal message more than to the Gospel. I believe in what I learned from the people in this particular stream. I believe there were many valuable things that came into my life because of my association with it. Looking back, I remember many more discussion about why our message was the best and most accurate in the body of Christ than I did about the necessity of “making disciples of all nations.” In many ways we were preaching the “gospel” of that particular message instead of the Gospel of Jesus

When it became evident that it was time for my family to move on, I rejected those ideas of what a church should be in favor of the thought that the church is a family first, a team second and an army third. In a family, participation, growth and training of the individual are more important than perfection or professionalism. In a family mistakes are made. The cookies might be a little burned. The Christmas decorations might not be the most beautiful. The lawn may not be perfectly manicured but what is most important is the love and growth in the members of the family not how much we impress guests and neighbors. That is what I wanted in our church.

I rejected the 10,000 seat auditorium in favor of a home where we could come together and grow in relationship. I decided to pay attention to the quality of our home and our relationship with the Lord instead of how big we were. I do believe there should be goals. However, I believe the wellbeing of the people is more important than goals for growth. I believe if we preach the gospel and work at making disciples, growth will take care of itself.

I rejected the thought that big was good and small was just a lack of faith or an indication of the quality of the preacher. Size is not an indication of quality. It is an indication of the area in which you live and the will of God for your church or ministry. It may be that the leader or the people are not doing what is necessary to fulfill the will of God and this can hinder growth but size in itself is not the measure of success or quality.

Finally, I rejected the need to defend a doctrinal stance or any particular message except the Gospel of Jesus Christ. There are things that I teach and that I believe. They involve healing, prosperity and faith. They also involve character, holiness and integrity. I am not going to spend my time defending what I believe or any stream of ministry. I am not going to close myself to what the bible says in areas where I may not be as informed and where I may be uncomfortable. I am going to preach the Word of God and defend the gospel first and foremost. Then and only then will we make disciples of all nations as the Commission dictates.

These were the things that went into the vision God gave me for our church. As I read todays scripture, I realized that this prayer by Paul was the essence of what I was seeing for our local church. Key in this prayer is the idea that it takes all saints flowing together to see the fullness of God.

What could we do if the fullness of God. I expect we could do anything. I expect arguments would cease. I expect evangelism would not be a problem. However, we cannot have that until we begin to flow with all saints together. It would be great for that to happen in the whole church. I do not believe we can look at it that way and have any realistic results. I believe we must first have all the saints gathered together in a local church working together to accomplish God’s vision for them. Tomorrow we will see some keys from this scripture.

Make the Vision Plain so They May Run With it

Habakkuk 2:2 (NKJV) 2 Then the LORD answered me and said: “Write the vision And make it plain on tablets, That he may run who reads it.

In our study of the importance of local church we have been looking at the source of all local vision, The Great Commission. The local church is the foundational ministry of the body of Christ. It is the place where Christians live, grow and interact with the people around them.

Christianity is a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. It is not a religious system alone. To build a personal relationship with Jesus, we must build personal relationship with Christians. The vision for a local church must be based in the Great Commission to make disciples of all nations. The local church is the best place for that to happen.

It is important to understand the role of vision in any ministry and especially the local church. Any group of people who are going to work together must have some kind of order so that they can all flow in the same direction. In Christianity this does not mean we lose our individuality or that the leaders in the organization or church are somehow better or more important than anyone else. It simply means that there are different jobs that the Lord has placed in the church in order for all of its members to fulfil their corporate destiny which is to build the kingdom of God.

Habakkuk 2:2 tells the leader to write the vision and make it plain on tablets for a very specific purpose. That is that the one who reads it may run with it. The idea is that a written statement of why the church exists can be read by anyone to determine if they are called to be part of the vision and to enable those who are a part of it to “run” or work in line with the vision and with the rest of the people who are working for the same goal.

We see the principle in the great commission. Jesus gave the disciples a simple three-part statement of why the church as a whole was sent into the earth. If we read and meditate on this simple statement, we will clearly understand why the church exists. There are many other teachings, admonitions and principles in the bible that reveal to us in greater detail how to do that, but the vision is simply the statement of why the church exists.

As I have already pointed out, the vision for the local church is not “the pastor’s vision.” The vision for any local church is the Lord’s vision for that church. It is a revelation of how that particular church is to fulfill their part of the great commission. There are many aspects to the Commission and the Lord raises up many churches in a given area to fill certain roles and different parts of God’s plan for each community. God then draws people to the leader so that he can fulfil the vision.

Why does the Lord give the vision to only one leader for the church? We know that God can speak to all of us. Have you ever heard of the game where a secret is whispered in the ear of one person and then passed from person to person through a group? By the time the secret is said openly at the end it usually sounds nothing like the original secret. Why is this?

Every person hears through their own filters and perspectives. Each person adds his own interpretation. The more people the secret goes through the more interpretations and perspectives are added. This distorts the original intent of what was said. When God gives a directive vision to the local church, he needs it to be imparted as closely as possible to the original thing he had in mind. The best way for that to happen is for him to communicate it to one person, taking the time to be sure that one person understands as accurately as possible. He then has that person communicate one clear version to the rest of the people.

That is the method for communicating vision in a local church. He gives a directive to a leader. That leader communicates it to others that God will draw to him or her. As each person finds their place in the vision, the way to implement the vision becomes more and more clear. The workers called to the vision begin to fulfill the purpose of God in their area in order, agreement and power.

I believe God causes churches to come into being with a destiny just as an individual is born with a destiny from God. That destiny stays in place as long as the church, or individual for that matter, is alive. Through the course of life, a person’s destiny becomes clearer and the methods for walking in that destiny change. The destiny itself does not.

In the same way, local churches are born with a destiny, or vision, that does not change as long as the church lives or until the it is completed and God reveals a further destiny. However, the way the church walks in that destiny and the methods used may change drastically over the life of the church. This is normal and even desirable.

The Great Commission has never changed. The message of the Gospel has never changed. However, Paul could not have imagined the tools and methods available today to spread that message. In the same way, if the vision is from the Lord it evolves but its essence should not change until the Lord comes.

Some pastors believe that each time there is a change in local leadership there is a change in vision. I do not believe that is true. If the vision was about the pastor, this would be the case. However, the vision is about the church. God brings people to the church to fulfill the vision for which he created it. When a new pastor or leader is raised up it will be to continue the vision not replace it.

The vision of a local church is usually something that takes generations to accomplish. If we do not understand the principle of continuing vision, we find churches “reinventing the wheel” every generation until the church finally no longer resembles what God established. Most of the time these churches degenerate into something that does not extend the Kingdom of God. They either become religious institutions, social organizations or they die altogether. This is not the will of God.

When new leadership comes forth in a church, methods may change. The personality of the church will change to match the personality of the new leader. Certain emphases may change but the vision given by God does not. The vision that came from God in the beginning of the church is the reason for its existence. It is what God has communicated as to that churches part in the plan of God and how they are to accomplish it.

Vision is progressive. There is often more revelation that comes over the course of years. New leadership may be what God uses to bring progression to the vision. When Jesus comes it is not important that we be done with the vision. It is important that we be where we should be at that point in time.

I encourage every pastor to find out the vision for your church. If you are the founder and you never wrote anything down, do so. I am not talking about just coming up with something that sounds good. I am not talking about short and long term goals although that is also important. I am talking about going before the Lord and finding out why God wants your church to exist. It may take some fasting and prayer.]

If you are not the founder, look into the history of the church. Find out why it was born. Then you will better understand why you are there and how to proceed.

If you are a member, find out if there is a written vision for the church. If not, ask to meet with the pastor and see if he or she can explain to you the vision of the church. Let them know you are only asking so that you can “run with the vision” and fulfill your part. As we give vision the place it should have we will all be in a better position to fulfill the plan of God for our world.

The Great Commission 3

Acts 1:8 (NKJV) 8 But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

We have been looking at the importance of the local church and the source of vision within the it. Vision is given by God so that the people called as a team in any ministry can work together to accomplish their part of the plan of God for the earth (Hab. 2:2.) Although God gives vision for churches and for individual lives, we must understand that Jesus gave the primary vision for all ministries, including all churches, in what we call the Great Commission. We have studied two statements of this commission over the last posts. Let me review them briefly.

Mathew 28:18-20 reveals 2 things about our commission. First, Jesus had the authority to give the commission to us. Any commission that is not based in valid authority can be challenged. Jesus said that “all authority in heaven and earth” was given to him. You cannot get a more valid authority than that.

Second, we learn what we are commissioned to do. We are to make disciples of all nations. We often think of the Great Commission solely in terms of evangelism. There is no doubt that to make disciples we must first win the lost. However, Jesus does not leave our commission there. We must also teach them to obey all the things we have learned about Jesus.

In Mark 16:14-20 we learn that we have been given power to go along with the authority of our commission. Authority can be defined as the right to use power. Authority without the power to back it up is generally ineffective. Power without proper authority to use it is illegal. We have both.

The last statement of the Great Commission I want to look at is found in Acts 1:8. This is the final statement of the Commission before Jesus ascends to heaven. In it, he reiterates both the idea of authority and of power. He tells us that we will receive power when the Holy Ghost comes upon us. This is the same power he detailed in Mark 16. He then reveals for what we have the authority to use the power. We are authorized to use the power of the commission to be “witnesses.” This is the same authority he transmits to us in Matthew 18 when he told us to go and “make disciples of all nations.”

We have seen that in both Matthew 28 and Mark 16 some specific aspect of the commission is detailed. The same is true in Acts 8. In addition to authority and the specifics of what we are to do, Matthew 28 tells us that we are to make disciples of all nations. Mark 16 details what kinds of power we are given but it also says that we are to go into all the world and preach the gospel. Neither gives us details about the scope of the commission. Acts 1:8 does.

Whereas both Matthew and Mark tell us that the ultimate scope of the Great Commission is every nation and whole world respectively, Acts 8 breaks this down to levels of priority. This is particularly important to the local church.

Acts 1:8 ends by saying we must go to the “uttermost parts of the earth.” (KJV) However, it also tells us that the “uttermost parts of the earth” include more local areas. Jesus tells them to start with Jerusalem then to look at Judea, then Samaria and then the “uttermost parts of the earth.

It is easy to say we should make disciples in the whole world. There is little that any of us living in our town or city can do to reach the world. The “world” is an unreal and unreachable goal. As long as that is all we focus on, we will usually do nothing. We may give money to support a missionary or even take a trip to a foreign land, but that is not a lifestyle. Jesus defines the “world” as beginning with your Jerusalem.

We are called to fulfill the Great Commission where we live. This is something we cannot put off to someone else. “Jerusalem” not a place far away. It is not a place we can relegate to the professional missionaries. Our “Jerusalem” is a real place with real people living in it. We see them every day. We may be the only ones who have the opportunity to tell them the message of the Great Commission. That is the message that reconciliation between them and God was made available in Christ. (2 Corinthians 5:19-20)

As a local church, we must realize that the Great Commission is very personal. It applies to us right where we live. Therefore, any vision for a local church must somehow include saving the lost and teaching them to become disciples. The local vision must recognize and believe that God has given us both the authority and the power to do that in our community. If we do not start there, the uttermost parts of the earth will always be out of reach.

He continues by saying that they should progress from Jerusalem alone to Judea. This means that we must recognize that the commission is not just for our town our city but that it includes our county, our state and our country. How can we help other churches in our region to fulfill the commission? Do we have resources we can share? Can we reach out to help another church? Has God called to us to plant churches outside of our “Jerusalem.” Is there some way we can influence our nation for the Gospel? If nothing else, we can and should pray.

It is important that we remember that God has given us responsibility for our community. It is also important to remember that God cares about people outside or our locality. If we do not, we become so inward focused that we forget we are part of something greater than ourselves. I believe in the local church as the most important ministry Jesus established. I also believe that we must remember that we are only one part of the whole body of Christ and, as such, we must always remember that the commission is to all of us for the whole world.

He then tells them to go to Samaria. Samaria was a place outside of the disciples comfort zone. It was a people who were hated by the Jews. Most of the early believers were Jewish. They avoided Samaria and the Samaritans. It would have been questionable to them that the Samaritans could even be saved. However, Jesus said specifically that they had to carry the Gospel to them as well.

There are those around us with whom we are not comfortable. They are not like us. They may be of a different class, race or nationality. They may just be unlikable people. They may be “sinners” in a way that we would never associate with them. They are also part the scope of our commission. As a local church we must go to them in whatever way we can. More important than finding some program to reach them is to be willing to reach them. And not just to reach them, but to love them and receive them.

One of the last great moves of God, the charismatic movement, involved something called “Jesus people.” They were unwashed, irreligious young people who, in the midst of rebellion and rejection of anything that was “establishment”, found Jesus. Many churches would not accept them because they were unwashed and brought some very different and often very wrong ideas with them. Other churches did receive them and they became part of the group that spread the power of the Holy Spirit throughout the world. They were the “Samaritans” of the 60’s and 70’s. Who are the Samaritans of your world?

Finally, every local church should also be willing to do something to reach out to the “uttermost parts of the earth. Some will send missionaries. Others will send money. All should pray for those who are called to leave homes and families to reach out to people who would never know Jesus. Little will strengthen a local church more in the spirit than being willing to invest in something from which they can receive no return.

The Great Commission 3

Mark 16:15-18 (NKJV)
15 And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. 16 He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. 17 And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; 18 they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”

We have been looking at the role of the local church in opening the gates of the supernatural into the natural world. The local church is the main vehicle for the transmission of the gospel and building the Kingdom of God. Local churches are born with a vision and purpose just as people are. The bible says that without a vision the people perish or go unrestrained. However, what is the nature of a local vision? Who does the local vision belong to? Is it something that belongs to the pastor or leader or is it more than that. I believe it is more than that.

The vision for any local ministry comes from God. He has a vision for what will happen in the future and how these things are to play out in our generation. He communicates a portion of that vision to leaders who communicate it to the people that are following him. The vision belongs to God. The pastor or leader is merely the vehicle God uses to communicate it to the people of the local church. It is the church that he is after not the leaders.

Every local vision goes back to the vision that Jesus communicated at the end of his earthly ministry. The Great Commission is the vision for the church. It is the vision for the whole church and local visions are no more than how that group of people are called to fulfill all or part of the Great Commission for their local areal. We must understand that the fulfillment of this commission is our duty as believers.

We see in Matthew 28:18-20 that Jesus had the authority to give us this commission. He also tells us in this statement what we are commissioned to do. We are not just commissioned to make converts. We are commissioned to make disciples. This means we must get people saved. However, we are not to stop there. We must teach them to be disciplined followers of Jesus. I like to say that a disciple is one who knows how to walk in both Christian privilege and Christian responsibility.

In Mark 16 we see another statement of the Commission. This one focuses on the power that comes with the it.

In the military, the government commissions officers to lead men into battle. The commission comes with the authority to lead. However, it would be useless without the power of the military to back up the authority. He may have the authority lead men to take an objective. Without guns, tanks, airpower or whatever other armament he may need to take the objective, his authority is useless. Jesus did not just give us authority he gave us power.

In Acts 1:8 Jesus tells his disciples that power will be available. In Mark 16 he tells us what power will be available and some insight into how it works. We are given power in a number of areas. First, is the power to preach the gospel.

We need to understand that we are not just proclaiming our opinion about a better way of life. Paul tells us that the Gospel is the power of God to produce salvation.

Romans 1:16 (NKJV)
16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.

When we speak that part of the Word of God that is the Gospel, we need to believe that power is attached to the words. I heard a story once of a preacher who went to witness to an older man who was a hard case. He did not want to hear about Jesus. All the man got out was part of one verse in Romans 10. “If you believe with your heart God raised Jesus from the dead.”

The man threw the preacher out declaring in no uncertain terms that he did not need and of that religious stuff. Later he began to think about what the preacher had said. He thought, “I don’t think I have ever done that.” Just that little segment of the Gospel had the power to get into this old man’s heart and he was saved!

We often think of power in terms of the things we will mention later. Do not discount the power in preaching. It is preaching that God uses to save people and we need to believe that when we speak, the words contain the power of God and not just our own wisdom. (1 Corinthians 1:21 KJV)

There are some other “bullets in our gun. It says that all who believe and are baptized shall be saved and those who do not believe will be condemned. Baptism is part of what we do if we believe, but it is clear from the negative side of this that it is believing that brings salvation. We have the power to bring salvation to people.

This is not something to take lightly. When we preach the Gospel, anyone who believes will be born again. They will become “New Creatures” in Christ. That is an awesome power for us to carry. Again, everything in the kingdom of God comes by faith. If we go into the world believing we have this power, it will change how we present the Gospel. We will speak with more conviction because we know the power at our disposal.

In verse 18 he tells us what signs or outward demonstrations of power we can expect when we peach. We tend to elevate these above the first two. However, they actually carry a slightly lower place than the power of preaching and the power to bring the new birth. Their purpose is to validate the preaching and draw attention to the gospel. We must understand that as important as these things are, they cannot produce salvation. The only way people get saved is by the preaching of the Gospel.

That said, we should believe for these outward manifestations as well. Verse 20 tells us why. The demonstrations of power are the evidence of the Lord working with us. We must remember that the signs follow the preaching not the other way around. We do not follow signs; they follow our preaching. They are not there to confirm us but to confirm the Gospel we preach.

What signs are promised to us as we preach the Gospel. They fall into two categories. First, we see the signs that meet the needs of people. They include healing of illness and casting out of devils.

Healing is most often associated with the physical body. That is certainly a major area where healing manifests. However, it is not the only area. People can also be healed in their emotions. Either way Healing is a sign produced by preaching the Gospel.

The second is casting out devils. This is a very controversial topic and I do not have space to go into it in detail. Suffice it to say that there are demonic beings who infest the world. They can and do gain control of people’s lives. We have the power as part of our commission to deal with them in order to set people free.

The second area he mentions here are signs and wonders that protect us as we preach. Some have perverted these statements to form doctrines where people will handle snakes as a demonstration of faith. That is absurd. What he says is very defined. When we are preaching the Gospel we can believe that nothing will hurt us and keep us from being able to communicate the message. That is part of the power given in our commission.

The Great Commission 2

Matthew 28:18-20 (NKJV) 18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.

We are looking at the importance of the local church and the need for each church to have a vision from God. I believe churches are like individuals. I believe churches that God calls into existence are born with a purpose. The vision for any church is the statement of what their part in the plan of God is and how they are to carry it out.

Having said that, we must understand that the vision for the whole church has already been clearly stated. Jesus himself gave it to us. We call it the Great Commission. A local vision is God’s statement of how a group of people fit into his vision. The general statement of that vision is in the Great Commission.

Let me remind you of the definition of the word “commission.” A commission is defined as an instruction, command, or duty given to a person or group of people. Jesus is the one who gave the commission and it is our duty to carry it out. Many churches and preachers today would balk at the word “duty.” They confuse duty with law. Although duty can be a legal obligation, the word also carries a much deeper meaning.

We do not fulfill the Great Commission to earn our salvation. That is already paid for and we could not work hard enough to earn it. We do not fulfil the great commission to try and be worthy of God’s love. We are worthy of God’s love because of what Jesus did in salvation. We fulfill the Great Commission because we owe Jesus our lives and because we want to extend his kingdom to those in our world. Duty is not law. Duty is a sense of gratitude and a sense of the value of what we are asked to do. Duty is a matter of relationship.

What is the Great Commission? We see a threefold expression of this commission in Matthew, Mark and Acts. In Matthew we see the authority behind the commission. After he is raised from the dead Jesus makes a very powerful declaration. “All Authority is given unto me both in Heaven and on earth.” The King James Version uses the word “power” instead of authority. However, authority is a better translation here.

When Jesus told his disciples in Acts 1 that they would receive power when the Holy Ghost came upon them he used the Greek word “dynamis.” We get our words “dynamo” and “dynamite” from the same root. In Matthew 28 he uses the word “exousia.” Although exousia can mean power it is in the sense of the power of authority. If you have authority, you have the right to wield power.

In Matthew 28 we see that Jesus has the authority to give us the Commission. In the military an officer is said to be commissioned. He or she is given a piece of paper saying they are commissioned as an officer in whatever branch they serve. The commission gives them the right to operate in authority over all soldiers who do not have a commission.

They have this right because the commission carries the weight of the authority of the government of the United States of America. Since the government has the authority to do the commissioning, the commission is valid and cannot be challenged by any authority lower than the commissioning authority.

Our commission comes from the one who was given “all authority both in heaven and on the earth.” We have the legal right to fulfill this commission and no power lower than the commissioning authority has the right to stop us. Although I believe we should respect the authority of a job, the school or the government, none of them have the right to keep us from carrying out the commission we have from The Lord of all.

We see this in the statements made by the disciples when they were arrested for the healing of the lame man at the Beautiful Gate of the temple.

Acts 4:18-20 (NKJV) 18 And they called them and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus. 19 But Peter and John answered and said to them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge. 20 For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.”

As I read this I do not hear a rebellious attitude. They are willing to obey the authority of the Sanhedrin but the authority of their commission supersedes the natural or religious authority. We should respect rules at our place of work or our school. We should not be obnoxious in preaching the gospel. However, when our ability to carry out our commission is taken away by any earthly authority we, like Peter, must point out that our commission comes from the one who holds all authority both in heaven and on the earth.

The Devil has authority in the world because of the fall of Adam. However, the Lord states in Matthew 28 that all power both in heaven and in the earth was given to him at the resurrection. The devil is constantly trying to intimidate us into not fulfilling the Great Commission. We need to remind him and ourselves that the authority of our Commission from the Lord is far above his authority in Adam’s fall. He cannot stop us from doing our duty in Christ. (Ephesians 1:19-23)

There is something very specific we are commissioned to do in Matthew 28. We are to make disciples in all nations. We are not just called to make converts. A disciple is a disciplined follower of the Lord. Of course, we must first preach the gospel of salvation so they can be born again. However, our commission does not end there.

Jesus tells us that we are to baptize them in the Name of the Father the Son and Holy Spirit. I believe that there is only one name by which God is known. That is the name of Jesus. I do not believe we are saved by baptism. I believed we are saved by grace through faith. However, baptism is where we outwardly declare the inward reality.

In India, for example, it is water baptism that really determines if a person is saved. Not because of the water, but because it is after the water that they may suffer rejection. In our society we will not suffer rejection for water baptism, but it is an outward declaration of inward faith. It is an act of identification with and submission to the Lord.

We are then told to teach those who believe to observe all that Jesus commanded us. If you have been saved any length of time at all you know more than someone else. It is part of our commission and part of the any local vision to teach others what we have learned. This is not limited to the pastors or professional ministry. It is the duty of every believer to impart what they have to someone else.

Finally, Jesus reminds us that we are not sent out alone to fulfill the Great Commission. Jesus tells us plainly that as we go he will be with us until there is no more need for the Commission itself. He will be with us until the end of the church age.

The local church has been given the authority to make disciples. That is why we are here. That is our duty individually and corporately.

The Great commission 1

Matthew 28:18-20 (NKJV) 18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.

This week we have been looking at the importance of the local church and the role it is to play in the Kingdom of God. We began by looking at the birth of the church on the day of Pentecost. We saw a group of 120 people hiding in an upper room. They were confused and frightened. They had lost their leader, Jesus the Messiah, only to have him restored at the resurrection. Then he leaves them again at the ascension telling them not to do anything until they were baptized in the Holy Ghost.

Just as we often do not know what God is going to do in order to accomplish his will in our lives, they did not know what to expect. When it finally came it was unmistakable. They were transformed from a small group of people who believed but did not have power to a dynamic force in the world. That is what the church today is supposed to be. We need the same inner empowerment and relationship that they had.

Then we saw a number of characteristics the Lord wants the church to have highlighted in the first message of the church age. We saw that Peter was the spokesman for the group but the whole leadership team stood together and the message was representative of the group not just Peter. The church is not a “one man show.” It is the body of Christ working together to accomplish the will of God in the earth.

We saw that the church was full of authority and confidence due to the infilling of the Holy Spirit. Peter was no longer hiding but he powerfully and publicly proclaimed Jesus as the Messiah and savior of the world.

In the message itself we saw that the empowered church is the will of God. We saw that what God was doing crossed generational lines as well as those of gender. Finally, we saw that it even crossed national and cultural lines. God is pouring out his spirit on all flesh. This is not limited to Jewish flesh or even “believing” flesh. All people are welcomed into the family of God. All they need to do is believe.

We found that the nature of ministry in the church that was born on the day of Pentecost was prophetic. Prophecy is a specific word to a specific person or people at a specific time. The church Jesus brought to birth at Pentecost was to be a prophetic church. They are to know what God wants to do or say at any time. Their ministry should be specific and directed by the active involvement of the Holy Spirit. This will lead to signs and wonders in the earth. The most important result of prophetic ministry is that “all who call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

Salvation should not be a simple change of philosophy or religion. It must be an encounter with almighty God that changes the nature of the person. I believe this kind of dynamic encounter has been lacking in the church and we need Holy Ghost powered, prophetically directed and love motivated ministry to see it restored once again.

Today I want to begin looking at the basis for every local church vision. There is much teaching on the necessity of vision. I believe this to be true. However, many times the teaching emphasizes the need for a person to have a vision for their life or ministry. Again, I would not disagree with that statement but I would qualify it. The vision for the church has already been communicated by the Lord every leader or person in it. It is called the Great Commission.

Any vision that does not have at its heart this commission is not a vision from God. Any vision that focuses on the person carrying the vision is not from God. I am a pastor and a leader in the body of Christ. I have communicated a vision to our local church and I am seeking direction for a vision that will define the next phase of my life. However, I do not have a vision. God has a vision. I only seek to hear how I am supposed to fulfill my part in his vision.

Let me talk about the word commission for a moment. The word commission is defined as an instruction, command, or duty given to a person or group of people. As born again people and therefore members of the body of Christ we have been given this commission by the Lord of the church himself. It is our duty to carry it out.

In the church today, it is not popular to speak about things like duty. We are told that since we are under grace we are not bound by law. This is true. We are told that we could not earn salvation. It is a free gift from God and we owe nothing for it. This is also very true. There are times when this thinking gets a little confused.

There are those who would equate duty with law. In the definition of the word “commission” we find that one of the main elements is duty. A commission is an instruction, command or duty given to a group of people. We are that group of people. We might say that we have been given the “great command” or the “great duty.” It is my duty as a christian to fulfill the commission given me by my Lord.

Law is a set of rules and regulations that carry consequences. They are the requirements that must be met to be in right relationship with a person or a government. In the Old Testament Israel maintained relationship with God by keeping the law and therefore maintaining relationship with the Covenant between God and Abraham. The New Covenant is different.

We do not keep a set of rules to maintain our relationship with the Father. Jesus paid for our salvation in full. We did not have the price to pay for it ourselves. We owe God nothing for our salvation. We are right with him on the basis of what Jesus did and by faith in that sacrifice. Some say that means we have no standards or obligations placed upon us under the New Covenant. This is not true.

We are not under law. We are under relationship. That is what Christianity is all about. Let me illustrate. I am married. I got married very young in life, but for our illustration we will assume that I had relationships with other women. I am not talking about sexual relationships but dating relationships or even close friendships. When I chose to marry my wife I had to accept that to be in that relationship, that covenant, there were certain things I could no longer do.

I could not asd another woman out to dinner. I could not take another woman to a movie. I could not spend hours on the phone with another woman. Why not? Am I under law because of these restrictions. No but I am in covenant with one woman and that covenant requires certain behavior. We are not under law, but our relationship with God requires certain behavior for us to please him and grow in our relationship with him.

That brings me to the commission. Duty is not law. Duty is a moral or legal obligation; a responsibility. In the case of our relationship to God and the Great commission it is not a legal obligation but it is a moral one. It is my responsibility as a Christian. God requires it of me, not by law but because I owe him my life.

We must not shy away from duty. Duty is not just obligation. Duty carries much more meaning than that. It is obligation born of gratitude. I do not owe Jesus anything for salvation. I owe him for my life. I was dead but now I am alive forever more. My sense of duty does not flow from a need to earn something from him. It flows from my gratitude for what he has already done in my life and the desire to extend that blessing to all around me.