The Cross and Beyond by Juan Lopez, Indianapolis, IN
The cross of Christ, although crucial, was only one facet of THE MISSION. In the battle plans of time, God has one mission and that is to “seek and to save that which is lost.” In Luke 19:10, the “Son of man” came to do just that. John 3:16-17 states, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world though him might be saved.”
The work of Christ on the cross made a way for us to realign ourselves into proper relationship with God. The cross itself cannot necessarily save anyone; THE MISSION far exceeds that. God was made flesh and dwelt among us. He died in order to rise again and ascend to sit at the right hand of God. The promised Comforter was sent to empower the hearts of humankind.
This Holy Ghost power went far beyond human intelligence and aspiration. The Comforter was a continuation of God’s mission. When individuals receive the Holy Ghost, they are willingly drafted as a soldier into God’s Army.
THE MISSION was never intended to stop at the cross. There was a purpose and plan to fulfill. This work continues in the lives of those whose hearts have been washed in the blood of the Lamb. One might wonder why God does not just save all humanity in an instant.
Although God could reach man on His own, God desires to fill and enable us to work in His Kingdom. He drew the battle plans and wants you to play the part of the life and hope-speaking soldier to those who are lost. This is THE MISSION. Let us consider the biblical character, Gideon.
God chose Gideon to free the people of Israel. An army of 32,000 men were prepared to follow Gideon and battle against the large armies of the Midianites. God said that there were too many Israelites so he sent home 22,000 who were afraid and 9,700 who lapped water. Gideon was now left with 300 men.
In reality, God did not even need the help of those 300 to defeat the Midianites. God could have done it alone, but He chose to include man in THE MISSION. The elimination process allowed many more people to understand the magnitude of the Israelite victory. Those who were sent home for fear no doubt talked with their families about those who still remained. The men who lapped water and were sent home were waiting for God to do the miraculous.
With those 300 men, God brought a great deliverance for the children of Israel. Everybody knew that it was God, and He alone received the glory. It is interesting to note that even those who did not go to battle still played a part in what God was doing. God is still in the process of choosing men to join THE MISSION.
John 15:16 asserts, “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.” Deut. 7:7 harmonizes by saying, “The LORD did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people:”
When God chooses, it is not the same as when man chooses. God does not look at your abilities, looks, talents or dress. He chooses you because He loves you. He chooses us in all our brokenness. Our abilities are not MISSION CRITICAL; however, there are four things that are critical.
The Holy Ghost
It is MISSION CRITICAL that we are filled with the Holy Ghost. We need to know Him in order to be effective in our communities, at work and in our churches. The Holy Ghost empowers us to be world changers on the battlefield. God must work through us, and in order for that to occur, we must possess the attribute of humility.
God decides how THE MISSION unfolds. We must take our orders from Him. This requires us to humble our will. Although it is difficult for women, it appears that humility is much harder for men to demonstrate. We are full of pride and like to be in control. It goes against our flesh to enter into a relationship where we must submit our every will to Him. In other words, we must be willing to do whatever He desires and asks. Our ambitions must align with what God wants and not what we want. Humility is hard, but it is MISSION CRITICAL.
Today there are those who become a part of Christianity yet are unwilling to submit anything to God. What does Christianity mean to them when there is no change or deliverance? Why even go there if you are not submitted or sold out to it? These actions lead to unbelief and ultimately destruction.
Unbelief is something we all deal with, just as the father of a possessed child did in Mark 9:17-24. It is in this passage that we see unbelief transformed because of humility. This father’s plea of, “…Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief,” was the humble precursor to a miraculous deliverance.
If we can come to the place of humility that this man reached for his son, then we have met the MISSION CRITICAL mark. You have to humble yourself so God can use you. It is God using us, not us using God. He is God, and we are not! We have to humble ourselves so we can trust, rely and lean on Him. It is easy to say “I believe,” but we must go a step further and ask God to help us cast off those things that prevent us from completely trusting, relying and leaning on Him.
Jesus is the head of the church, and the church is the body of Christ. God has chosen and designated the body to do the work. He has picked you to be a part of what He is going to do today, tomorrow and to the very end. He has a church to seek and save those that are lost.
Preaching in a pulpit, leading worship service, and talking with people in coffee shops is the riveting action found on the battlefields. As men, we desire to be out where the action and public heroism seem to abound. Although there are many battles to be fought, not every aspect of war is battle.
When not in the heat of battle, the soldier is conditioning himself for combat. Any soldier worth his salt is doing either one of two things. He is either in battle or conditioning himself to step into battle. There is no off season. There is no down time.
If you coast or disconnect from the skill sets that are needed in the battle, then you will not survive when you return to the battlefront. You will not make it, and you will not be an effective soldier on the battlefield. In retrospect to the story of the humble father and delivered son, it is the disciples that shed light on the final two, MISSION CRITICAL aspects.
Mark 9:29 reveals Jesus’ answer to the disciples’ question of why they could not cast the demon out of the child. This deliverance could, “come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting.” These two vital pieces are critical because they keep you alert and aware of the battle, God’s orders, and the part you play.
Prayer is not glorious. It is often done alone in the trenches and not in the heat or glory of battle. Regardless, it is MISSION CRITICAL. Prayer is an opening of communication between you and God. It allows you to speak freely to Him. Praying in groups or with your spouse is important, but there are times when you must pray alone. It is in these times that you can truly be honest with yourself and God. You cannot pray in the presence of others like you can pray in only His presence. Every struggle, weakness and question that you have can be voiced at this time. It is here that God can speak into your life. You will not experience peace or that special touch any other way. Attending church services, preaching in the pulpit or teaching Bible studies will not bring you to that secret place.
Fasting is training. When you fast you are training your flesh. Food is one of the most desirable things for a person. It is natural for us to desire food and for us to eat. We do not have to tell our bodies that we are hungry. When we fast from food, or anything for that matter, we are telling our flesh that it is not in control.
The flesh becomes subjected to the Spirit when you fast. Fasting is training, and that is why you cannot do it just once. A one-time, 40-day Daniel fast will not be sufficient for the next five years. One must fast on a regular and consistent basis just as one trains for a sport, or works to master an instrument. In order to build up strength, you must continue to engage and practice it.
Fasting will enable you to resist temptation. Spiritual strength, gained through fasting, empowers one to say no when temptations come. If your flesh is familiar with denial, you will be strong enough to refuse the lures of the devil. You will be able to resist the temptation. You need regular, scheduled fasting. This world is coming too fast for you not to be training and conditioning your flesh.
It is God’s desire and mission to “seek and to save” the lost. Those who are not found are entering an eternity of damnation. God chose humanity to take part in the finding and freeing of those who are lost and bound. Although the battle is bleak and the task great, we can take courage in the reality that God has chosen us not for our abilities or talents but rather our involvement in a redemptive MISSION. He has placed a calling on our lives to complete this task. If we are going to be the vessels of honor, the body of Christ and soldiers of the King, then we must understand what is MISSION CRITICAL. The empowerment of the Holy Ghost coupled with humility, prayer and fasting will ensure the greatest victory known to mankind and the realization and culmination of THE MISSION.