Dear Friend in Christ:
Grace and peace to you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ! My Grandpa Simpson used to tell a funny story about an old country veterinarian who was called out to a farm to tend to a sick horse. He decided the horse needed a pill, and to administer it, he placed the pill into a tube, stuck the tube into the horse’s mouth, and prepared to blow the pill down the horse’s throat … except the horse blew first!
How many times have we wanted to share the Gospel with the world, but then the world “blew first?” Too often it seems we are more influenced by what the world is offering than the world is being influenced by what we have to offer. We have inhaled many perspectives and attitudes that reflect the carnal mind rather than the mind of Christ. Some of the toxic things we inhaled came cloaked in religious costumes or smooth words of deception. In the process, many Christians have forgotten their “first love” in Christ and the mission that He gives to all of us.
The Holy Spirit has been calling us out of distraction and back to Himself, His Word, and His purpose in the earth. As we fix our eyes on Jesus and offer our lives to Him in worship, He heals our vision, renews our minds, and washes us in sweet times of refreshing. But worship is not cheap; true worship always involves a sacrifice (see Romans 12).
The historic hour in which we live is calling forth those who are committed to God and His purpose. That commitment will cost us something, and it’s not just the time it takes to attend a church service, though that is a good thing. It is not just giving a tithe or an offering, though those are good things. Those are just “the basics;” the bare minimum.
Jesus isn’t just after our time on Sunday morning or Wednesday nights; he’s not just after 10% of our money. Jesus gave all that He has and all that He is so that our lives could be ransomed from sin, self, and futile living. To share that life-giving message with others through proclamation and demonstration, there is a price to pay.
IMPORTANT NOTE: We cannot pay for or earn God’s love and grace; He gives these to us freely. But one of the leading indicators of an authentic transfer of grace from God to us is our passion to then share that grace with someone else … no matter the cost.
The enemies of Christ’s Kingdom are willing to pay a price to advance their cause. Some are committed to the spread of darkness–some are committed to following lies. And they are impacting entire generations of young people. This is our world today.
As Christ followers, we must look closely at how we are reaching and preparing our own children and grandchildren for life ahead, which will be quite different from the times when many of us were growing up. It is not sufficient for us to send our young people out into the world without loving them, equipping them with Scriptural truth, bathing them in prayer, and seeing them baptized in Holy Spirit power.
Despite some discouraging and challenging obstacles, I still believe that Jesus calls us to be “salt and light” in the world (see Matthew 5:13-16); to serve as life-giving influencers (as opposed to dominating culture warriors). Our message is the Gospel of the kingdom of God; the ever-increasing knowledge of King Jesus Christ; the righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit that His government brings (see Romans 14:17). This results in the regeneration of our hearts and minds, the transformation of our perspective and lifestyle, and our blessed hope of eternity with Him.
Too often, we have watered that message down, reducing salvation to a mere fire insurance plan, or peddling cheap grace as a license to sin. We see our Christian label as a “get out of hell free card” or as some kind of badge that grants us access to transactional political power. The result is that there are multitudes in American churches who do not know the Lord, do not walk in His ways, and will not go to heaven when they die … “Having a form of godliness but denying its power” (see 2 Timothy 3).
We want to lay the blame for our world’s problems on politicians, bankers, big business, schools, the media, or on Hollywood. Is there brokenness and corruption in those places? Yes! But when the Lord comes, the first place where He will look for an account will be within the Church (see 1 Peter 4:17). This knowledge should produce in us a holy fear of God; a recognition of our complete and utter dependence upon Him. He is reminding us–His Church–of our own need to repent from sin and to be washed by the precious blood of Jesus Christ. He is stirring up among us a new hunger for His Word, for discipleship, and for the infilling of the Holy Spirit.
This should also drive us to our knees in prayer for those who are lost and perishing, that salvation and authentic revival would sweep through our land once more. (I say “authentic” because we must beware of many clever counterfeits.) If there is any benefit in our current global troubles–and these troubles are very great indeed–it is that we might yet hunger and thirst for the Lord’s presence, to return to God in humility and brokenness, and find His grace, wisdom, and strength once more.
Hebrews 10 says that “we are not of those who draw back….” The true faith which was delivered once and for all to us is worth contending for and passing along to others–especially the next generation. Our precious and powerful inheritance did not come from timid souls–the quitters, the whiners, the power hungry, the sowers of discord, the gossipers, the back biters, or the cynics.
In Christ, we come from good stock: the redeemed, the faithful, the hopeful, the grateful, the gracious, the courageous, the humble, the prayerful, the repentant, the diligent; those strong of heart who in turn gave heart to their companions. In so doing, they not only gained an eternal inheritance for themselves, but lit a fire that has burned across every continent and continues to burn today.
The heroes of our faith were not known as pundits or holy hermits, but as doers of the Word and workers of great exploits! I love the story recorded in Acts 16-17: Paul and Silas have just been in prison in Philippi, beaten and put in chains for preaching the Gospel. In the midnight hour, as they were singing and praising God, an earthquake occurred. Not only were they set free, but the jailer and his family were also saved through faith in Jesus. Soon, there was revival in the city, and a culture was transformed by God’s grace and power.
This was happening everywhere Paul and Silas traveled: “…they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. Then Paul, as his custom was, went in to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and demonstrating that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus whom I preach to you is the Christ.” And some of them were persuaded; and a great multitude of the devout Greeks, and not a few of the leading women, joined Paul and Silas. But the Jews who were not persuaded, becoming envious, took some of the evil men from the marketplace, and gathering a mob, set all the city in an uproar and attacked the house of Jason, and sought to bring them out to the people. But when they did not find them, they dragged Jason and some brethren to the rulers of the city, crying out, ‘These who have turned the world upside down have come here too. Jason has harbored them, and these are all acting contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying there is another king—Jesus.’ And they troubled the crowd and the rulers of the city when they heard these things” (Acts 17:1-8).
Early Christ followers were known as “those who have turned the world upside down,” and they were always on the move, wherever the Holy Spirit was sending them. How are we known today in the world? What happens when we go into a city? When Paul and Silas showed up, it was never boring!
THE GOSPEL IS THE POWER
When writing to the Christians in Rome, Paul told them, “I am not ashamed of the Gospel, for it is the power of God unto salvation for everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16). Faith releases power; belief produces action. Holy Spirit-led action is always infused with Holy Spirit wisdom and power … believe it and lay hold of it by faith!
Too often, in our minds, we have divorced faith from power, faith from action, or power from action. But wherever Paul and Silas went, the world was turned upside down! When the true Gospel is released in the Holy Spirit, true power for living is released as well.
Real revival produces transformed lives, transformed cities, and transformed nations. Politics can’t do it. Culture warring can’t do it. Finger pointing can’t do it. Human strength can’t do it. Fear and outrage can’t do it. Neither can mere religious rituals or man-made syncretistic pseudo-spiritual spectacles. We can no longer think that loud noise, ego stroking, frantic hype, or mere goosebumps equals real revival. Come, Holy Spirit! God wants us to turn the world upside down wherever He has placed us.
He chose us so that we might bear fruit–the fruit of His Holy Spirit–which is fruit that remains and reproduces (see Galatians 5:22-23 and John 15:16). He also said that a tree can be discerned by what fruit it produces (Matthew 7:16-17). Allow Him to examine the fruit of our lives and ask Him for the fresh infilling of His Holy Spirit. Repentance leads to times of refreshing (see Acts 3:19-20). Let us ask God to lift our vision to Him and His purpose. He is worthy of all we have and all we are. The world that He loves so much is worth the life of His own Son; is it not worth our lives as well?
“God is God. If He is God, He is worthy of my worship and my service. I will find rest nowhere but in His will, and that will is infinitely, immeasurably, unspeakably beyond my largest notions of what He is up to.” –Elisabeth Elliot
Revelation 12 says that we overcome the enemy by the blood of the Lamb, the word of our testimony, and not loving our own lives … even unto death. This speaks of our salvation in Christ, the necessity of receiving and sharing His Word, and our willingness to take up His Cross daily. Jesus is calling forth a generation who will know Him and be known by Him, to display strength, and to do exploits in His name!
RHYTHMS OF GRACE
We would love to see you May 9-11 in Gatlinburg at our annual CSM Conference. This year’s theme is “The Rhythms of Grace” from Matthew 11:28-30. Our speakers are Charles Simpson, Gerard Montenegro, Tim Parish, and myself. If you haven’t registered yet, please call (251) 633-7900 to check for availability. Please continue to remember us in your prayers and in your giving this month as well. We continue to reach out with the Gospel and support other ministries doing the same. Thank you for your friendship and support! We love you and pray for you.
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.