Fulfilling our Commission

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.

Once again the Lord has my wife and on out of the United States bringing the Word of God to those in other parts of the world. It is an exciting opportunity to impact the church. Over the next 8 1/2 weeks we will be in 10 cities in southern and western Kenya as well as an airplane trip to a city called Lodwar in the north of the country. We will be in minister’s seminars in most places as well as conducting marriage seminars in 4 of them. In the city of Narok we will participate in a women’s conference. My wife, Pastor Elaine, is the headliner there, but last time they let me speak as well.

We believe that this is the time in our lives to take the great commission on a global scale seriously. We have traveled for many years but we are in the process of handing over the local responsibilities for our church to our son and daughter-in-law as well as a wonderful team of elders and leaders God has raised up. This frees us to step up our involvement in other parts of the world as well as around the United States. It is an exciting time. Please keep us in your prayers.

The word “commission” has a military connotation. Military officers are said to be commissioned whereas the enlisted men and women are not. One definition of commission is an instruction, command, or duty given to a person or group of people. It can also mean to be authorized to do a job or build something. In the military sense the officer is given a commission for a job or assignment and the enlisted personnel under him or her are to help them fulfill the commission. Even under the senior officer may be other “commissioned” officers who are there to help the higher ranking officer do the job.

The main idea behind being commissioned is that the one commissioned has been given an assignment and he is duty bound to carry out that assignment to the best of his ability. That is what Jesus gave us when he told us to go into the world and preach the gospel. One major difference is that there are no enlisted in God’s army. We are all given the same commission. We all carry the responsibility to fulfill our duty and build the church for which Jesus died.

There are ranks in the Kingdom. Although we are all commissioned there is divine order that helps us function together so we may accomplish the goal. However, each one of us carries the duty aspect of the commission. Just as an officer has no choice but to do his duty, a Christian has a duty to win the lost and make disciples. An officer’s life is given to his duty. A Christian must be willing to lay down his life for his duty. All other things in an officer’s life are secondary to his duty. He or she has been commissioned. The same is true of us.

Good commanders know that the commissioned officer must be given times of recreation away from his duty. They recognize that family is important and do whatever is possible to make sure that the officer can also be a husband or wife and mother or father. However, there are times when even family must take a back seat to the duty. Because the officer has accepted the commission, it is not his choice as to when other important things of life must take a back seat to the commission. That is up to his commander.

Jesus is a good commander. He takes care of his officers. He makes sure there is room for marriage, family and all the necessities of life. Nevertheless, it is not up to us to determine how that will work. We were saved and we are now called to accept the commission. It is up to us to make obedience to our commander the highest priority of life and trust him to be sure we have time for other things. Part of obedience is to make sure we are sensitive to listen to him when he says to give time to other things. When the order comes to get back to work we must be ready.

An officer in the military does not do what they do for money. Although higher ranks are compensated according to their authority, any good officer could always make more money in the private sector than he can in the military. A good military will do everything possible to provide for the needs of its officers. Food, clothing and medical care will be available. It may not always be according to the preference of the officer. His needs will be met and if it is possible the saying “rank hath its privilege” will be applied to him. That is not the point of his life or service. He or she has been given a commission. That is the point.

I am a Christian. I was washed in the blood of the Lamb and my eternal life was purchased with a price. When I accepted salvation, I accepted the commission that comes with it. I have been doing so for more than 38 years. I have found my commander to be as wonderful a Lord as he is a savior. He has taken care of me, blessed me and allowed me to have a wonderful wife and family. He has helped me care for them and made me a better husband and father than I could have ever been without him. He has provided health and healing. He has always provided for my needs and most often the desires of my heart. That said, I am commissioned.

I do not do what I do for money, although God takes care of me and provides for the work abundantly. I do what I do because it is my duty. I do not do what I do for fulfillment though I know that I could never be as fulfilled as I am in doing what God commissioned me to do. Nevertheless, I do it because I am commissioned. It is my duty to fulfill that commission. That is my highest priority outside of relationship to God and the partner with whom he made me one, my wife.

I was talking with my son-in-law after one of the trips describing some of the conditions we deal with and he was amazed. He knew we were moving towards doing this on a more fulltime basis. He asked me with a great degree of question in his voice, “You want to do this?”

I thought about it for a minute. I do enjoy much of this assignment. I enjoy teaching and ministering to hungry people. I enjoy making relationships with people who are so totally different from me and yet so much the same because of our relationship to Jesus. I do like seeing new things and new places but there are many things I do not like.

I enjoy comfort as much as the next person and at times our duty requires that we sacrifice comfort. Right now what we do costs and rarely pays even enough to cover the costs. We have to believe God for every trip. I do not like being away from my children and grandchildren. I miss the wonderful presence of God in our church. My answer was, “It does not matter what I want. What matters is my assignment.”

I believe that attitude is necessary in the body of Christ. Some years ago I was studying the book of Acts looking for what made that church so powerful. Although there are many things we could say, what I found most significant was that the people were committed to the commission above all else. It cost some their lives and some their livelihood. It consumed there focus and everything else in life took a back seat. I know that life requires balance. However, I think to come to balance we need to move closer to their kind of commitment not farther away.

It is not up to me to judge you or anyone else. Each of us must examine ourselves and determine if we are fulfilling our duty as commissioned offices in the service of Jesus Christ. My role may not be the same as yours but we share the same duty. It was stated in today’s scripture. Give it another look and receive your commission today.

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Submit to God: The Body of Christ

James 4:11-12 (NKJV) 11 Do not speak evil of one another, brethren. He who speaks evil of a brother and judges his brother, speaks evil of the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. 12 There is one Lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy. Who are you to judge another?

In James 4 we learn that the Lord has given us a promise. If we resist the devil he will flee from us. We also learn that we must be in proper position if that resistance is going to be effective. That position is in submission to God. Proper submission to God leads to effective resistance of our enemy, the devil, which leads to walking in God’s possibilities.

Let us review the attitudes that we must cultivate to be in true submission to God from James 4:8-10.

1. We must draw near to God in prayer, praise and worship and the Word.

2. We must deal with the areas of known sin in our lives by repentance according to 1 John 1:8-10.

3. We must put away “double mindedness by choosing to believe and Act on the Word of God.

4. We must be serious about our relationship with God. We must elevate our relationship with God in our priority structure and take serious issues we may have in that relationship.

5. We must humble ourselves in the sight of the Lord. This is not a matter of thinking of ourselves as worthless but rather focusing on our value in God. We must elevate God and others above ourselves in our thinking and in our actions.

Today I want to look at something that I believe is also a necessary aspect of our submission to God. Look at 1 John 4.

1 John 4:20-21 (NKJV) 20 If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? 21 And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also.

Although this scripture is speaking of love, I believe the principle also applies to submission. We may say we love God, but what is the evidence of that love. We cannot see God. We can see one another. If we love God we will demonstrate that love by loving our brother. The same is true of submission. We may say we are submitted to God but if we cannot submit to those in authority over us, how can we say we submit to God?

Ephesians 5:21 (NKJV) 21 submitting to one another in the fear of God.

We see here that Paul tells us we should submit to one another in the fear of the Lord. There are different levels of submission. In the next number of verses, he defines the order of submission in marriage. Leaders require a different type of submission than do those who are under us or who are our peers. Yet he makes it clear that there is a type of submission we give to all in the body of Christ. Let me introduce another word. That word is respect.

Submission to God flows from our respect for him. If I cannot respect, and therefor submit to my brother in an area where he is right, how can I say I will submit to God who I cannot see? That brings us to today’s scripture. I never saw this as part of cultivating our submission life to God or part of drawing near to him, but I realize now that it is integral to both.

If we want to draw near to God and grow in submission to him, we must not speak evil of one another. Just as we cannot say we love God and hate our brother, we cannot say we submit to God and speak evil of our brother. If I speak evil of him I do not respect him and I am not cultivating respect, and thereby submission, to God.

James says something interesting here. He brings in the Law. If I speak evil of my brother I speak evil of the Law. I believe James is pointing to the fulfilment of the Law in Christ. Verse 12 tells us that there is one Lawgiver who is able to either save or destroy. We know that in Christ he chose to save us. If I speak evil of the one God chose to save, I speak evil of his application of the Law. He is the one who chooses who is saved and how. Who am I to question that by speaking evil of the one God justified.

The more we criticize and undercut one another the less we cultivate respect for the body. The less we respect the body the less we truly submit to God. When we choose to love and honor our brother we choose to love and honor the God within him. Our submission to God is strengthened and made more real.

I want to quote from Ephesians 3. This a a long section of scripture but I want to tie some things together.

Ephesians 3:14-21 (NKJV) 14 For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, 16 that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, 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.

I believe that to see God’s possibilities as valid for our lives we need to touch the fullness of God. Submission to him is vital. Without submission to God we cannot resist the devil. However, Paul shows us here that the only way to see the fullness of God manifested in the church is through the interaction of “all saints together.” We need one another. We need to respect one another as well as love one another. The two go together.

The more we love and respect one another the more we love and respect God and the more our submission to him will be a natural thing. When we make these things priority in our lives we will know the manifestation of the prayer at the end of this scripture. God will do in our midst things that are exceedingly and abundantly about what we can ask or think.

As I read that phrase I see the release of God’s possibilities. I see the impossible in our lives swallowed up by the ability of All Mighty God. We cannot see that if we do not love and respect each other as we cultivate love and respect for God.

Look around you at the church in your life. Love them. See them as God sees them. Do not judge them, for God is the judge. Respect them and even submit to them as it is proper to do so. You will see that your relationship to God will be enhanced as well.

Galatians 5:14-15 (NKJV) 14 For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 But if you bite and devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by one another!

Submit to God: Humbling Ourselves In His Sight

James 4:10 (NKJV) 10 Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.

We are looking at what it takes to successfully resist the devil. James tells us in chapter 4 verse 7 of his letter that if we resist the devil he will flee. However, there is a qualification. We must first submit to God. Submission in word is not true submission. We must submit in life and deed as well. We must examine ourselves to see that certain attitudes and actions are present. If they are, we are in position to resist the devil and see God’s possibilities instead of being limited to what is possible for us in the natural.

Today let us look at another of these qualifications. Remember, we want to see if they are in our lives and if they are not, we need to put into place so we will be in the right position to resist. James tells us in verse 10 that we must humble ourselves in the sight of the Lord.

Humility is an important quality in the life of any Christian. In verse 6 James quotes Proverbs 3:34 telling us that God resists the proud person but gives grace to the humble. It is interesting to note that in verse 7 he is talking about our resisting the devil. In this verse he says he will resist us if we are proud. We cannot be submitted to God and be proud at the same time.

The Greek word translated proud here means appearing above others. Humble means to be cast down or of low degree. God resists people who place themselves above others. He resists people who think they are better than those around them. He resists people who elevate themselves. He gives grace to those who choose to see themselves as less important than others. This is a key indicator that we are submitted to God.

The bottom line is who is most important in our eyes. If I am more important than the people around me, I am proud. If what is good for me is what is foremost in my thinking and decision making, I am proud. If I cannot be blessed if others are blessed but instead am angry or depressed, I am proud. God resists the proud.

The English definition gives further clarification. It means having or showing a high or excessively high opinion of oneself or one’s importance. How important are you to you? If your motto is “Look out for number 1.”, you are proud. God resists the proud.

James gives us the solution to pride. He tells us to humble ourselves in the sight of God. It is important to remember the last part of that statement: In the sight of God. We are not talking about emphasizing our own worthlessness. That is not what the bible teaches. The worth of anything is what someone will pay for it. I was worth the blood of God’s only begotten Son. Anytime you pay all you have of something for what you want, the only word to describe its value is priceless. God gave the only one he had to purchase you and me. That makes us priceless.

To humble ourselves means that we recognize that our value compared to God is nothing. He is the important one. He is the one who is “all in all.” I have value because he places it upon me. He created me and gave me worth.

We humble ourselves before God because of how worthy he is not because of how unworthy we are. That is what James is talking about here. We are truly submitted when we see how great he is compared to us. We are valuable. We should not walk around with an attitude of worthlessness. We should carry ourselves with the knowledge that he who is truly great is our Father who rescued us from worthlessness and death.

This then will translate to our relationship with others. When I understand that my value is in God, I do not have to compare myself with others to feel valuable myself. My worth is in who I am in God not what I am compared to others. I am then free to consider others more highly than myself and treat them with respect and value because I know their value comes from the same place mine does.

I will also be submitted to God because I choose to accept that he is higher than I am. The Lord is my shelter. I submit to him because I know how great he really is (Psalm 61:2-5). This attitude is something I must cultivate and choose. We cannot wait for the feelings of humility and submission to come. We must “humble ourselves.”

Paul knew this truth. There are many things in his letters that would indicate he had a problem with pride. He was well educated compared to the other Apostles. Jesus appeared to him personally. I think it is safe to say that Jesus sought Paul out because he needed someone with his educational background in the Old Testament to understand what he was bringing in the New Testament. Paul spent time with Jesus in the desert, was taken up to the third heaven and many signs and wonders were done by his hands. It was from Paul’s body that people took cloths and handkerchiefs to heal the sick and cast out devils. This caused some problems for Paul.

2 Corinthians 12:11 (NKJV) 11 I have become a fool in boasting; you have compelled me. For I ought to have been commended by you; for in nothing was I behind the most eminent apostles, though I am nothing.

He knew it was foolish to boast in himself. It was Paul who told us that we are saved by grace through faith so there would be no room for boasting. Yet there were times when he found it difficult to resist the tendency toward pride because of who and what he was. He declares that he was behind “the most eminent of apostles” in nothing. However, in the end establishes the proper balancee by saying, “I am nothing.”

This was not true! Paul was far from nothing. He had great gifts and talents. God chose him because of them. God used him mightily. Yet in the end he realized that his real worth was in his relationship to Jesus. He did not always “feel” humility but he chose it. So can you and I.

There is a reason we can be free to choose humility over pride and self-preservation. It is in stated in 1 Peter 5:6-8.

1 Peter 5:5-7 (NKJV) 5 Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for “God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.” 6 Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, 7 casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.

Peter also quotes Proverbs 34:3. He speaks of submitting to one another as well as humbling ourselves under God’s mighty hand. However, he adds the real reason we can humble ourselves and how we are to do so. We humble ourselves under his hand because he cares for us. The word used here when Peter says he cares for us means something that is of interest or something that matters. It also means to take care of someone. God is interested in you. You matter to him and he is committed to taking care of you.

How do I humble myself? I must cast the whole of my care onto Jesus. I cannot carry the burdens of life alone. I was never meant to. Jesus is the one who gave himself to carry my burdens. I know this is not always easy, but we must remember that he cares for us. He is almighty God and we are not. I am submitted to him when I realize that he is higher, stronger and more powerful than I am. He can carry the burden and he will help you do your part.

Cast your care on him. Submit to God’s goodness and his power. He will lift you up into impossible things.