Publication: Pastoral Letter, December 2004
Dear Friend in Christ:
We have wonderful and urgent news to share…Jesus Christ is Lord over all the earth, and He shall reign forever and ever! The implications of His Kingdom rule must be declared boldly on every continent, in every nation, to every tribe and family. And there is no better time to do this than right now, as we celebrate His birth.
Even as the earth shakes and tumultuous events roil the hearts and minds of people across the globe, I am not discouraged. There is something going off in my spirit right now that shouts:
“Do not be afraid, for behold I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11).
That same Good News that the angel proclaimed to shepherds tending their flocks in the fields is resounding today in our hearts. Within that message is a seed that not only brings love, joy, and peace to those who receive it, but also a burden and mandate to become proclaimers of the Good News.
What is this Gospel that we proclaim and why is it so urgent and relevant RIGHT NOW?
Let’s take a quick look back, 700 years before the birth of Jesus, when the prophet Isaiah saw by the Holy Spirit and foretold Christ’s birth. Isaiah declared:
“For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given, and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end” (Isaiah 9:6-7).
The message that we proclaim is the Gospel of the kingdom of God; that is, we are declaring that Jesus Christ is the King of kings and Lord of lords, who presently rules, reigns, and governs in the affairs of people and nations. The kingdom of God is not simply heaven; the kingdom of God is over all the heavens…over all the earth, over all the planets, over all the galaxies and over the entire universe.
We all hunger for peace on earth and goodwill toward all people, but too few understand that this proceeds out of the kingdom of God and the rule of King Jesus. The sad fact is, many people today get nervous when we discuss the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Yet, the implications of His rulership are so blessed and so wonderful. Our enemy, the devil, is terrified that the truth about Christ’s reign will be revealed, and so he has launched numerous “pre-emptive strikes” to try to keep the earth in darkness.
Perhaps the most effective strategy of the enemy is to use our own flesh against us. Our human tendencies towards pride, rebellion, laziness, lust, greed, anger, and other carnal weaknesses can make us afraid or unwilling to totally surrender to Christ’s lordship in our hearts, minds, and bodies. This makes the sinful heart resistant to the idea of “regime change.” And, it can make even the Christian person “prone to wander.”
A byproduct of this is that the enemy has deceived many into believing that Christians are mean-spirited, arrogant, narrow-minded, ignorant, dangerous, bigoted, or hypocritical. Sadly, there have been times in history when Christians have played into the hands of the enemy by displaying some of these bad traits and succumbing to our own fleshly weaknesses.
One man told me, “Christian people can be such jerks.” I replied, “Yes, Christian people can be jerks sometimes, but it’s not because they are Christians…it’s because they are people.”
The fact is, the apostle Paul had it right when he said, “I must die daily.” Jesus said, “If you want to follow me, take up your cross daily.” Every day, we face the choice to die to ourselves and follow Him, or to go our own way. When we follow the path of selfishness, it means we need a regime change in our hearts, minds, and bodies. Each day we persist in sin – in going our own way – it becomes more difficult for us to get back on the right path.
What is at stake is not only our own lives, but the lives of those witnesses out there who are watching and waiting for a genuine manifestation of the sons and daughters of the Living God…waiting for us to rise up and live out what we preach.
In Mark 1, we see Jesus proclaiming the Gospel of the kingdom and giving His followers the charge to do the same. What is this Gospel? I believe the essence of the Gospel is what Jesus said as he read the prophecy of Isaiah, as recorded in the book of Luke:
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord” (Luke 4:18-19).
When you are poor, the Gospel of the Kingdom is Good News indeed! When you are brokenhearted, the Gospel of the Kingdom is Good News indeed! When you are in captivity, the Gospel of the Kingdom is Good News indeed! When you are blind, the Gospel of the Kingdom is Good News indeed! When you are oppressed, the Gospel of the Kingdom is Good News indeed!
But there are a couple of problems here. Many who seek to proclaim the Gospel seem confused about the nature of their message. How is it sometimes that we who have received such great grace from God, or even can expound on the theological issues surrounding grace, sometimes fail so completely in demonstrating grace to others? It’s way too easy to go to the blind man and say, “Hey, guess what? You’re BLIND! You must have really committed some major sin to be that way.” Or to say to the one who is oppressed, “Wow, you really are oppressed, aren’t you? Shame on you, naughty boy!”
Here’s a second problem: we have become so accustomed to enjoying God’s grace in our own lives or even surrounding ourselves with false comforts, that we have lost our hunger and desire for His daily presence and rule in our own lives. We become complacent and casual about our deep need for daily fellowship with Him and submission to Him.
Jesus was moved with compassion. His compassion was a result of His close, ongoing fellowship with Father God, and the desire of Jesus to yield to Father’s will. Christ’s love energized and validated His message. What He had to say proceeded out of His heart. And so it will be with us. We cannot give what we do not have. It’s no good to shout “PEACE! PEACE!” when our teeth are clenched and our eyes are twitching.
Romans 14:17 tells us that the kingdom of God is righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. Ern Baxter was fond of saying, “The Kingdom is…in the Holy Spirit.” The Kingdom doesn’t come out of our human initiative. It is birthed and administrated in, by, and through the Holy Spirit. We need a fresh infilling of the Holy Spirit in order to live Kingdom lives.
Recently, a pastor traveled from Washington state to visit the Ern Baxter Memorial Library and to spend time fellowshipping with the CSM staff. We were honored to have him here, and his visit reminded us once more of the great teaching resources that the Lord has entrusted to us…and the urgency of proclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom. The library is not meant to be simply a “museum,” but it’s a place of ongoing work, prayer, and study, and it is now the center for new teaching and video recording that will soon be distributed via internet streaming and DVD.
This recording is part of the launch of Covenant Institute, which is an exciting new concept in distance learning. There is an urgent need to identify, equip, and release the emerging generation of Christian leadership to effectively proclaim the Gospel of the Kingdom. The first Covenant Institute course, “Words That Changed Our Lives,” by Charles Simpson, provides twelve one-hour lessons complete with teaching and on-camera questions and answers from CI students. (If you would like to view a free highlights DVD from this course, which provides more information about Covenant Institute, please contact us.) More courses are being recorded by Charles Simpson and other teachers, and local church mentors are being prepared across the USA as on-site facilitators for cell-group classes.
In order to record, edit, and produce these resources, CSM has invested a tremendous amount of money over and above our budget (and our income) this year. Charles Simpson has personally invested heavily out of his own pocket, as have others, in order to move this vital project forward. In truth, this project is much bigger than we are, and apart from the Lord’s leading and provision, attempting it could sink us…financially, logistically, and in terms of work load.
I have worked with this ministry for more than 25 years now, and I have seldom seen circumstances as difficult as the ones we have faced throughout 2004. We are literally going from day-to-day financially, and our bank account has been sitting mostly on empty (or in the red) for months. Suffice it to say, we have been praying more! And, praise God, He has met our needs at each point along the way.
Despite challenges, we have been able to advance with the Covenant Institute project, as well as with our new Marketplace Exchange emphasis (more news to come soon) and to continue publishing One-to-One Magazine and our monthly Pastoral Letters. Exciting new ministry resources such as books, tapes, and CDs have been distributed all over the world during the past year, and we have continued to support many other ministries outside of CSM.
In truth, we could not do it apart from God’s faithfulness and your generosity. Would you prayerfully consider a special year-end, tax-deductible gift to support this great cause? It’s the cause of proclaiming the Good News of Christ’s Kingdom across the globe…equipping and encouraging the emerging generation of Christian leadership…innovatively and effectively utilizing new technologies to maximize the spread of the Gospel…raising up marketplace ministers who go beyond the “four walls” of the local church to bring the Kingdom message to a lost and dying world.
During this season of celebrating the birth of our Lord Jesus, let us all re-commit ourselves to drawing closer to Him, that we might know His heart, hear His voice, receive His Spirit, and carry His message in His power. We are privileged to live in these days, difficult though they may be. What opportunities there are right now to share and demonstrate the Good News of the Kingdom!
May His blessings and peace be with you and yours during this Christmas and New Year season…now and always.
STEPHEN SIMPSON is the Editor of One-to-One Magazine and the Director of CSM Publishing. In addition to publishing ministry, Stephen has served in leadership for churches and ministries in Costa Rica, Florida, Mississippi, Texas, and Michigan, as well as being the Senior Pastor of Covenant Church of Mobile (2004-2013). He continues to travel in ministry across North America and in other nations.