Monthly Archives: July 2011

5 Minutes with K.P. – The Foundation of All Service

Destined to Soar - KP Yohannan Books

Click the image to download your free copy.


align=”left”>Imagine with me, if you will, the night before Abraham was going to sacrifice his son Isaac:

After supper Isaac rolled out his blanket and, a few minutes later, was sound asleep. Not so for Abraham, who didn’t close his eyes all night. In the sky over their small camp, he could see the stars shining brightly. They reminded him of the promise God had given him long ago, that one day his descendants would be just as numerous as the stars in the sky. Tears rolled down the old man’s face, and he couldn’t take his eyes off his beloved Isaac. He was hurting deeply. Tomorrow he would have to lay his son on an altar and plunge a knife into his heart.

How extremely difficult it would be for him to give up Isaac, but there was no complaint as he prepared to sacrifice his son to serve the Lord his God. He was willing to do it, not because he understood God’s reason, but simply because the Lord had told him to. What a perfect picture of the type of intimate relationship God wants to have with us! However, this relationship is not possible without our sacrifice of true obedience to Him.

It is nearly impossible for us to picture ourselves as servants or slaves of a supreme ruler. We live in a time and culture in which we are basically the architects and masters of our own lives. Freedom of thought and speech and the right to choose our own destiny are at the very heart of our democratic constitutions. The forefathers of many nations fought and died in order to give and preserve this freedom, and we rightfully cherish it as our greatest human inheritance.

However, when it comes to our relationship with the living God, things are totally different. The Bible declares that He not only created us for Himself, but that we were bought with a price, the blood of Jesus, and therefore, we are no longer our own!

We acknowledge this fact when we repent of our sins and receive the free gift of salvation. Yet even if we declare that we have submitted to Jesus as our Lord, our confessions often have hardly any impact on or relevance to our individualistic lifestyles. Basically, we still keep on doing what we want to do.

Paul’s description of himself throughout his epistles as a bond servant (or freewill slave) of Jesus Christ is a totally alien concept to us. We can’t even relate to his “slave thinking” whenever he expresses convictions such as this: All that I am and do in the service of my God is because He is Lord. He is my Master, and I have given up the right to run my own life.

Moreover, when we are confronted with God’s call to lay down one of our own plans and follow His instead, we refuse, debate our options or demand a logical explanation for such a costly requirement. That He alone is God, and we are not, seems to be insufficient grounds for us to submit without reservation. In fact, we frequently label the call to unconditional obedience as legalism.

No wonder our Christian walk and service are so shallow and fruitless—in spite of our Ph.D.s, our extensive personal libraries and our participation in dozens of seminars.

What is wrong with us? Why don’t we have an intimate relationship with God like Abraham, whom God called His friend? And why are we not a blessing even to our own families, when Abraham became a blessing to all nations? After all, we are God’s children and His Spirit dwells in us.

I believe our root problem is that we know nothing about the fear of the Lord that Abraham had in his life. You see, Abraham never considered God as his “buddy” or as a means to get his wishes granted. Most important, Abraham never separated his personal life from his “ministry” or service to the One who called him out of a people of idol worshipers in Ur. He willingly accepted pain, inconvenience and sacrifice in order to worship and serve the living God.

When God told him, “Abraham, take your son, your only son, whom you love, and offer him as a sacrifice,” he didn’t tell anyone. He hurt deeply but accepted the pain and followed God’s instructions. To obey the Lord unseen—in secret—is the foundation of genuine godly service. Abraham had a reverence for His God that did not question His purpose, lordship or wisdom. He did not panic at the thought of how all this would affect the future. He responded with complete obedience, loving Him supremely even in the midst of his greatest pain.

Just when Abraham was about to slaughter Isaac on the altar, God held him back and said to him, “Now I know that you fear God” (Genesis 22:12). The literal translation of this verse actually says, “Now I know that you are a fearer of God.” God definitely knew beforehand that Abraham would be willing to follow through with this ultimate sacrifice, but Abraham himself needed to know for sure how far his commitment to God would go. And it is extremely important for us to hear, from God’s mouth, the bottom line of Abraham’s obedience: the fear of God.

For each of us to build our life, family, future and service on the correct foundation, we too must understand what it means to walk in the fear of the Lord.

Luke 2:40 says this about Jesus: “And the Child grew and became strong in spirit, filled with wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him.” How did this happen? Psalm 111:10 tells us, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom,” and Hebrews 5:7 testifies that Jesus had this godly fear during His life on earth.

Furthermore, when Paul talks about authentic ministry in 2 Corinthians 7:1, he writes, “Let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” We cannot become like Abraham or Jesus without submitting to the fear of the Lord in this manner!

But how can we even begin to develop this fear of God, which compels us to obey God just because He is Lord?

When God first called Abraham, he had the fear of idol and demon gods in him, but not yet the fear of the true and living God. After all, he didn’t know Him or His nature of righteousness and love. Considering this, God did not tell Abraham at their first encounter that down the road He was going to ask Abraham to sacrifice his son. You see, Abraham first had to grow in his closeness with God and come to a place in which they were very intimate friends before God could entrust to him such a request.

A definite start in our quest for the fear of the Lord is walking with Him one step at a time and practicing obedience with a joyful heart and without complaints. Our thinking about our rights must drastically change as well. Actually, we need nothing short of a revelation in our spirit of what it means to be bought with a price—and I believe God will give that to us if we ask Him! Truly recognizing our place and God’s position will place in our hearts the reverence and fear of God that we so desperately need to walk in obedience as Abraham did.

Our true service, that which lasts throughout eternity and brings multitudes to Jesus, originates from an Abraham-like sacrifice: a willingness to offer all we are and all we have for His purpose. This sacrifice starts with the fear of God in our hearts.

It is time for us to recognize that the God we serve is also a consuming fire.

Reflecting His Image © 1998, 2004 by K.P. Yohannan, the president and founder of Gospel for Asia. It was written with the intention of encouraging and edifying the Body of Christ. To learn more about Gospel for Asia or to receive additional free resources, visit Gospel for Asia’s website.

 

5 Minutes with K.P. – Rivers of Living Water

Destined to Soar - KP Yohannan Books

Click the image to download your free copy.

After the initial excitement and tremendous joy over our salvation ebb away a little, we make an amazing discovery: God isn’t satisfied yet with what we look like! We learn from His Word that “God didn’t create man to tend His garden, and He didn’t save us to have workers for His harvest field. God’s original and sole purpose for man has always been to manifest His image.”1 That’s what He is after when He begins to seriously deal with our human nature.

Perhaps at first we are confident that He can complete this job in no time at all, because we don’t look so bad in our own eyes. To help us understand how far away from His likeness we really are, He shows us His true image in Scriptures like these:

For thus says the High and Lofty One who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: “I dwell in the high and holy place, with him who has a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones” (Isaiah 57:15).

“For all those things My hand has made, and all those things exist,” says the LORD. “But on this one will I look: On him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, and who trembles at My word” (Isaiah 66:2).

God actually expects His children to possess the same kind of deep humility and total submission that Jesus had, so that we too will have rivers of living water flow from our lives to this dying world.

But how can we ever become like this when by our very nature we are proud, stubborn and selfish? In addition, we are part of a world that has taught us from birth to fight for our own rights; to be ambitious and unbending; and to value success, ability, and position above all else.

The Bible tells us, without a doubt, that God is indeed able to change us into His likeness—but only through one way: the process of brokenness.

We must recognize that being born again is just the beginning of God’s work in us. Ninety-nine percent is yet to be done. God is continually at work in our lives, breaking us, changing us and putting to death our selfish desires, until His nature shines through.

How important really is this brokenness for our service in God’s kingdom? Could we somehow get by without it? A.W. Tozer once said that he doubted seriously if God could ever use a man until He had broken him thoroughly and empowered him.

I once received a phone call from some of Gospel for Asia’s leaders in India. A very well-known, highly educated man had showed an interest in teaching at our seminary. These leaders wanted to know what I thought about it. I simply said to our leadership: “As far as academics are concerned, he would be one of the greatest assets we could have in our school. We could not find a more intellectual man or one so incredibly gifted and able to communicate. However, his coming would be dangerous and disastrous for our institution. The reason is simply this: you know as much as I do that this man is not broken. He is so self-sufficient, strong and sure of himself. If there is an argument, he always wins. In a group, he acts important so he will be noticed.

“He has been to many places, but he’s never remained anywhere. It’s not because he’s not able; it’s due to his lack of humility. Even if he gave us thousands of dollars and begged us to allow him to teach, I would never allow it. If he were at the seminary, he would produce unbroken, stubborn students just like himself. God is not looking for able people, but for broken people.”

Above all else, God’s greatest concern is our brokenness. Just like our potential professor, we will only reproduce what we are ourselves. And only in the same measure in which we allow ourselves to be broken can we experience resurrection life and rivers of living waters flowing unhindered from our innermost being.

In the work of the Lord, the need to fill a position is often so great that we end up searching for someone with matching gifts and abilities but ignore their unbroken condition. What are some of the clear signs of unbroken people?2

•   They focus on the failures of others.

•   They must be in control of their situation.

•   They exhibit a self-protective spirit, guarding their time, rights and reputation. They will not allow anyone to walk into their private world.

•   They are driven to be recognized and appreciated. They will do anything, even spiritually, to find that appreciation from others.

•   They are wounded when others are promoted and they are overlooked. They feel confident in how much they know and feel the organization they work with is privileged to have them on staff. They are quick to blame others and become defensive when criticized.

•   They work hard to maintain their image and protect their reputation. Consequently, they find it very difficult to share their real spiritual need with others. They try to make sure no one finds out about their secret sins.

•   They have a hard time saying, “I was wrong; I sinned. Would you please forgive me?”

•   They compare themselves with others and feel deserving of honor. They are blind to their own heart’s true condition.

•   They don’t see any need for repentance . . . and the list goes on.

When you read this list, do you find yourself in it? By our human nature, all of us are unbroken. Our usefulness to God and our ability to reflect His likeness are directly linked to our giving Him permission to break us and our willingness to yield to God’s work rather than resist it.

Take some time to open your heart before the Lord. Allow Him to shed His light on areas of your life in which you have refused His work of brokenness. Instead of fearing loss and pain, you can rejoice that God is making you more like Himself. His life can now flow through you, bringing many to His kingdom.

Rivers of living water will not flow out of us unless the earthen vessel is broken.

Reflecting His Image © 1998, 2004 by K.P. Yohannan, the president and founder of Gospel for Asia. It was written with the intention of encouraging and edifying the Body of Christ. To learn more about Gospel for Asia or to receive additional free resources, visit Gospel for Asia’s website.

 

5 Minutes with K.P. – “Lord, Cut Me Open”

Destined to Soar - KP Yohannan Books

Click the image to download your free copy.

Why haven’t we yet fulfilled the Great Commission? Why are we so ineffective in building God’s kingdom?

Is it because we lack money or literature or because the Bible is not translated into all the world’s languages? No, I don’t think so.

The deepest reason is this: We who form the Church—that’s you and me—are not real in our walk with the Lord and in our obedience to God’s Word. Unless our hearts change and we become genuine, transparent, open and humble in our faith (and through that, in all areas of our lives), we will never make an impact on the lost world!

Many of God’s people have felt a deficiency in their Christian lives, especially when they read God’s expectations for them in the Bible. In order to fix this problem, they have gone from one seminar, book, conference or convention to the next, always looking for a formula or recipe to become a powerful, effective Christian overnight.

Churches have also recognized that something vital seems to be missing. In hopes of reviving their people, they constantly come up with new plans and activities. They invite the best music groups they can find, the most eloquent speakers and even prophets to breathe new life into their congregations. But after all the excitement is over and everyday life sets in once again, nothing much has changed. So they search for new plans and new speakers, hoping for better results next time.

David had a deep longing to be close to God and to be used of the Lord. He too felt he wasn’t all God intended for him to be. However, his approach to meet this spiritual need was entirely different from most of us.

David was a man who didn’t go to one of the prophets—Samuel, Nathan or Gad—to ask for a formula. He didn’t invite them to hold a seminar at his palace with the hope that some of their anointing would fall on him.

David simply went into the presence of his God with a prayer that shows he knew exactly where his root problem was.

He cried, “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23–24, KJV).

David wanted to be real, not only with his outward actions, but beginning with his innermost thoughts. He recognized that his words and actions were only a reflection of his thoughts, and his thoughts were simply the evidence of what he was really like in his heart.

Therefore, David prayed and asked the Lord to try him and to cure those wrong tendencies of his heart that showed up in his thought life.

Many years later, Jesus said, “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts . . .” (Mark 7:21). In other words, we reflect the true reality of who we are by what we think. Everything first happens in our thought life before it is translated into words and actions. What we speak or do is only what has been going on inside of us for a long time.

Our problem is not that we lack Bible information, speakers, or opportunities. Rather, our problem is that we don’t want to face the truth of who we really are. We don’t want others to know it either, and we even try to fool God. We never ask Him to search our heart and reveal our secrets. Instead, we pretend with a spiritual life we don’t live, a peace we don’t experience and a holiness and commitment we don’t possess.

We will never make any progress in becoming more like Jesus unless we permit God to cut us open, search our hearts, try us, know our thoughts and then change us from the inside. Only then can we become real according to the Word of God.

That reality will make us powerful witnesses for Jesus, even if we don’t say a word. We will be so transparent and so genuine that if the world around us tries us with fire, we will come out as glittering gold.

If you truly desire this reality, stop looking to plans and activities as your solution. Begin today to call out to the Lord as David did. Say, “Lord Jesus, cut me open. Please search my heart, try me, know my thoughts, reveal to me who I am, and change me, at any cost, to become what Your Word says I ought to be.” Believe me, there is no prayer the Lord delights to answer for His people more than this one!

There is no anesthesia for this radical surgery.

 

Reflecting His Image © 1998, 2004 by K.P. Yohannan, the president and founder of Gospel for Asia. It was written with the intention of encouraging and edifying the Body of Christ. To learn more about Gospel for Asia or to receive additional free resources, visit Gospel for Asia’s website.

 

5 Minutes with K.P. – Authentic or Synthetic?

Destined to Soar - KP Yohannan Books

Click the image to download your free copy.

The plant in the clay pot looked so vibrant with such lush green color. The blooming flower was so attractive, so beautiful. I began to gravitate toward this plant. Other people in the room were engaged in conversation, but I was determined to touch the leaves and smell the flower. As I got near, the scent that came from the plant was even more inviting.

As I leaned over to touch the lush green leaves, someone from behind said, “Brother K.P., that plant is not real. It is synthetic.” “No, it can’t be,” I said. “Then you see for yourself,” he replied. Sure enough, to my shock and surprise, the plant was man-made and the fragrance artificial. It had fooled me for sure.

Today so much that passes for Christianity—Christian ministry, serving the Lord—is like this plant, that is, not authentic. It looks real and smells real, but the life of God is not in it. Man creates and sustains it by his own cleverness and strength.

Great zeal in serving God, giving money, worshiping the Lord—it all looks wonderful, yet the motivating factor is not from a deep-down inner reality.

It is all for show and to gain something for the self . . . even just a word of praise from men.

People who seem to have great zeal in serving God, giving money for a worthy cause or worshiping the Lord with devotion and joy easily impress us. Although we look with awe at the outside appearance, God searches hearts and judges motives (Jeremiah 17:10). He will reject even the best of Christian activity as a show—a means to gain glory and praise from men—if the motivating factor does not come from a pure heart. These people “draw near with their mouths and honor Me with their lips, but have removed their hearts far from Me” (Isaiah 29:13).

God is looking for those who are pure in their heart to serve and worship Him. He longs for a bride whose only goal is to please Him and be approved by Him. Her deep devotion and singleness of heart toward her soon-coming Bridegroom are reflected in her overwhelming desire to do His will. Her heart’s cry is, “Behold, You desire truth in the inward parts” (Psalm 51:6).

The church at Ephesus was such a bride. It had an incredible beginning. These pagans turned to the Lord with all their heart. They made a clean break and publicly burned all their false religious books and idols. Their love for Jesus didn’t come cheaply. They had to pay a heavy price in following the Lord. But with joy they endured great persecution and suffering. To them, Jesus was worth the loss of all their possessions. He was more important than the whole world. God was pleased with them because their love for Him was authentic.

Yet as time went by, the Lord told them that He was going to put out their light and walk away from them. Why?

Revelation 2:1–4 tells us the answer. They were fundamental in faith, they gave freely, they were fully involved in ministry, and they worked hard. Their lives were filled with tremendous labor and activity. But it was all out of their own fleshly energy, not out of love for the Lord Himself. For this reason, Jesus rebuked them. He didn’t say, “Stop all your activity.” He told them to repent of their inner carnality and shallowness and then to do the same work with a motivation that He could accept.

If all this could happen to a church that was doing so well, what about us? It is vitally important that we take a good look at ourselves and honestly examine our motivation. Is the activity we claim to do for Jesus in reality done for personal gain or honor from men? Jesus rebuked the Pharisees not for the “ministry” they did, but for the reason they did it: “How can you believe, who receive honor from one another, and do not seek the honor that comes from the only God?” (John 5:44).

Why do we so easily fall into the trap of seeking our own gain and consequently lose our pure and correct motivation? Paul explains in 2 Thessalonians 2:3–10 that it is the spirit of the Antichrist, through the mystery of lawlessness, which is at work all around us, even seeking to infiltrate the Church. This spirit displays Satan’s foremost desire: to exalt himself over God and take His place.

Whenever we listen to the deception of this spirit, we will also seek to exalt ourselves above others and draw attention to ourselves through our excellent preaching, teaching, healing or music ministry.

Jesus encountered the temptation of this spirit as well, but He always refused to yield. Throughout His life on earth, Jesus did everything for the glory of the Father. He did not do one thing of His own or for Himself (John 6:38). His motivation was absolutely pure. God wants us to become like Him in all things, and that’s why He is deeply concerned about the motivation behind our service.

So often we are careless and undiscerning when it comes to our Christian activities. We are easily fooled into thinking that if it looks good it must be real. But only a pure, authentic life can produce fruit that remains for eternity. All else will turn into ash.

You may be able to buy a bushel of apples and tie them onto a barren tree. To an onlooker, the tree will appear fruitful. Yet time will tell. Eventually, the fruit will all rot and fall to the ground. Likewise, all that is done through our carnal reasoning, human ingenuity, talents and money may appear great and authentic in the sight of men. Yes, it may be done in the name of Jesus and for His kingdom; yet in the day of testing, this all will be turned into a pinch of ash.

“There is going to come a time of testing at Christ’s Judgment Day to see what kind of material each builder has used. Everyone’s work will be put through the fire so that all can see whether or not it keeps its value, and what was really accomplished” (1 Corinthians 3:13, TLB). Our motives for giving, preaching, sacrificing, and doing all that we did will be exposed and examined by the Lord Himself.

Only authentic life can produce fruit that remains for eternity. Let us not forget that what is great in man’s sight, God despises (Luke 16:15).

Seek only God’s approval in all that we do.

Reflecting His Image © 1998, 2004 by K.P. Yohannan, the president and founder of Gospel for Asia. It was written with the intention of encouraging and edifying the Body of Christ. To learn more about Gospel for Asia or to receive additional free resources, visit Gospel for Asia’s website.