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What are the three things that I would like you to remember most of all:

The first one is a simple one: Love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. Make Him the ultimate focus of your life. As you know, this is the first and most important commandment, and the commandment from which all others flow, including loving others.

These two commandments are simple, but they’re not easy.

But there is another biblical truth that we include as we try to keep the commandment to love God: We are unable to do that, in and of ourselves.

Jesus tells us in John 15:5, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”

Paul wrote in Ephesians 2:8–9 that even the faith to believe in God’s grace is a gift from God: “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

Try as hard as we might, we are unable to remain as steadfast as we should in our love for Jesus. The Lord said through Hosea the prophet that Israel’s love was like the dew that came in the morning and was gone by the morning: “What shall I do with you, O Ephraim? What shall I do with you, O Judah? Your love is like a morning cloud, like the dew that goes early away.”

Loving God as the ultimate focus of our lives must be accompanied by a willing admission of our weakness and inability to do that. Our inability to do what we want to and know we should, leads us to this other, foundational, biblical truth: we have all sinned and fall short of the glory of God. There is none righteous, no, not one.

I would encourage you to read all Scripture with this mindset of inability always running in the background. When you read the Word of God you see what it requires of you. Hold your life up against it. You will always fall short. If you don’t think you always fall short, then I would encourage you to take up your disagreement with John the apostle, who said in his first letter that if you say you don’t sin, the truth is not in you. So your primary response when you encounter Scripture is a combination of a willingness to be obedient to it and an admission that you are unable to be obedient to it. Your response should not be simply to try harder to be obedient and then feel guilty or condemned when you fail. There is no condemnation in Christ Jesus. No, your response should be, “I want to be like that but I’m not. Please forgive me, Father. Please change my heart so I am.”

The other side of feeling guilty and condemned when we fail is feeling self-righteous and proud when we succeed. This kind of thinking is based on the wrong premise. Although our aim is to please Him, as Paul said—and there are times when our walk is stronger than other times—everybody is a failure as far as living as they should before God.

There are many examples of scriptures that challenge us like this. Read 1 Corinthians 13 and ask yourself, “Are these characteristics of love in my life? Am I ever rude or irritable? Am I always kind and patient?” Our inability to live up to the biblical criteria for love should work humble prayerfulness in us. The Beatitudes are another example. You should ask yourself, “Am I always poor in spirit? Am I always hungry and thirsty for God? Am I always meek? Am I always merciful?” Again, our inability to have these kingdom characteristics in our lives as we should, should keep us on our knees before Him in prayer, asking for help.

Secondly, I would encourage you on a regular basis check to see if you are fulfilling Jesus’ requirements for discipleship from Luke 14—to love Him more than we love our families, to be willing to give up our lives for Him, even unto death, and to give up from our hearts all we possess. After he listed these challenging requirements that must be met in order to be His disciples, Jesus said that salt is good, but if the salt has lost its savor it’s not good for anything, not even the dung pile. However, just as we are unable to love like 1 Corinthians indicates or have the attitudes of the kingdom that Jesus outlines in His Sermon on the Mount, we are also unable to keep Jesus’ requirements for discipleship. These requirements are very difficult to be sure. We must wrestle before Him in prayer with our inability to keep these requirements, because we can’t be leaders in the Church if we’re not disciples of Jesus Christ. So we admit our inability to meet these requirements and ask Him to give us the love for Him so we can fulfill them. Ask Him to give you the love we need so you can love Him more than you love your family. Ask Him for the love you need so you will be willing to die for Him. Ask Him to give you a love for Him that is greater than your love for the things of this world.

Third, I want to encourage you to hold up our current church structure against what we see in the NT.

Compare how we do leadership in our churches to what we see in the NT.

You have heard me teach that Jesus tells us that leaders are to be like those are the youngest, like servants and the least. So we have all been challenged, I hope, to ask the Lord how He expects us to lead in our current structure as if we were the youngest in a family or on the job. Ask the Lord how He expects us to lead like servants. Ask Him how He expects us to lead like we’re like the least, like we were dalits. How do we lead as if we were dalits? That’s impossible, you may say.

Yes it is. Exactly. But again, I ask you to take up your impossible argument your Savior and the Creator of the world. He is the One who said these things, not me.

Leading this way is very difficult as things are now, because we tend to lead from the top. Being at the top is great if you’re at the top, but being at the top is not where Jesus tells us to be. He tells us to be at the bottom. Jesus was very clear. He told us not to lead as the Gentiles lead, which is from the top. We have steadfastly ignored His command. We like being at the top. We like being in charge and telling others what to do. However, the youngest in families, the servants in families, the least on the job aren’t in charge and aren’t the ones who are telling people what to do. This is very challenging.

How do we do follow Jesus within the church structure as it exists today? Great question. The answer circles back to where I began. We must ask Him to tell us how to do this. If we want to follow Him and obey what He tells us that is.

Consider these following statements.

Servants are leaders. It’s not just that leaders serve; it’s that servants are leaders. Jesus was a servant who was a leader. It is through His servanthood that He revealed this foundational characteristic of God.

Not only are leaders servants, they are servants who sacrifice. Jesus was a leader who sacrificed Himself and died. Ten of the twelve disciples of Jesus died as martyrs. Paul died a martyr. Stephen died a martyr. This is what leaders do. Leaders are not people who remain at the top and then teach others to go sacrifice because the leaders themselves must stay behind to keep the organization running.

You may be saying, “But Jim, if I end up sacrificing myself and dying, there won’t be anyone to take over when I’m dead. I won’t be doing anything good for anyone. I can’t do anything if I’m dead.”

Aren’t you glad Jesus didn’t think this way? Or maybe the better question is, “Why didn’t Jesus think this way?”

Second, we should look at the characteristics of the NT church and what it did when it gathered, when we hold up what we do against what we do today. Here is one of the verses that bothers me a lot, since it’s a snapshot of what the church looked like in Paul’s time: “What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up” (1 Corinthians 14:26).

What stands out to you in this verse?

Each one has a hymn.

Each one has a lesson.

Each one has a tongue or an interpretation.

So, a question. How does what this verse talks about compare to how we do church?

There are three things that burden me about this.

One is that the way that we do church is contrary to God’s purposes. How? It’s contrary to His purpose of every member participation. On Sunday mornings in much of the world, we have a very limited number of people who are actively participating. We have one man teaching like I am today. We have a worship team. We have people who run the soundboard. Ushers. Sunday school teachers. Everyone else sits and listens. Is this what we see in 1 Corinthians 14:26?

So this requires the people who now simply come and listen during our church services to be prepared to share a song, something that they want to teach about from the Bible, something that God has shown them through revelation or, if moved upon, a tongue or interpretation.

This strengthens the church, according to this verse. Just coming and listening isn’t really very strengthening. It has some value, to be sure. But it’s contrary to God’s purpose of every member participation.

Secondly, the way we do church is contrary to God’s purposes because it denies the use of the gifts that God gives. This is very sad to me. 1 Corinthians 12:7 says, “To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.”

To whom is given the manifestation of the Spirit? To each. And for what purpose? For the common good. What manifestations are we talking about? Well, if we read the next verses, we’ll see.

“For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills. For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ” (1 Corinthians 12:8–12).

Now it seems to me that several of these gifts could be in use anywhere. But it also seems clear that all of them can also function in the context of a meeting, especially in light of verse seven, where Paul says that these gifts are for the common good.

God has something to say, He has something that He wants to do, and it’s not just through one or two people. God has encouragement to give, and it’s not just through one or two people.

Can you see how the church has been weakened because of our current structure?

The way we do things is sad, not only because it’s made the church weak but also because we have denied the use of His gifts.

Can you imagine if you gave a starving, weak child a plate of food and he refused it? What would you think? Would you think he was foolish? Or perhaps you would be concerned that he didn’t know he was starving. That is much worse. Being foolish in one thing. But not being aware of your starving condition is another matter entirely. That’s the condition the church is in today. We’re starving, and we don’t even know it.

God’s heart must be broken. He has given us gifts. The Bible tells us this. He has given us the opportunity so these gifts can operate. He’s instructed us how to use them. We just simply ignore this. We ignore His gifts, the gifts He has given for the strengthening of the church and for the common good. Do you think this should be a cause for concern?

However, there is no condemnation in Christ Jesus. He is waiting for us to respond. He is waiting for us to admit our lack of ability to do what we see in His word. Let’s pray that He will, by His grace, do His good work within us as we admit our weakness.

Finally, I would encourage Shalom Foursquare to earnestly pray for three things:

First, pray for miracles to be done through your hands, which will give you opportunities to preach about our wonderful Savior and Healer, Jesus Christ. Most of the time this is what happened in the gospels and the Book of Acts. A miracle occurred, people gathered and the opportunity was given to talk about the One who had done the miracle, and what He is like.

Second, pray that the Lord would give each one of you at least one person to disciple, which is what Jesus told you to do.

Making disciples requires little funding and little organization.

Making disciples requires relational accountability.

Making disciples makes it necessary that you have resources that you will be able to impart to your disciple—and that you live like a disciple yourself. Remember, always keep Luke 14 running in the background.

Making disciples requires that you pray with them, as Jesus did.

Making disciples requires that they minister alongside you, as the Twelve did with Jesus.

As you teach them, teach them about weakness, our inability to follow God, about His grace and forgiveness because He knows we are weak and unable.

Teach them to always ask for help, to be poor in spirit.

Teach them why the tax collector went home justified when he simply cried out, “Lord, be merciful to me, as sinner” and the religious Pharisee did not.

Teach them about true leadership, the kind we see in the NT, not the kind we see in the world, in business like a CEO or in sports like coach—and live it.

Third, pray that Shalom Foursquare will begin to move to establish small groups after the model of 1 Corinthians 14:26. Think about that. Think about God’s gifts being manifest through each one for the common good. Think how exciting and growth inducing that will be.

Laurie and I will be praying for these three things—that God will do miracles and that He will give you disciples—when we’re in the States. We believe He will answer these prayers.

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