Monthly Archives: October 2011

5 Minutes with K.P. – A Major Trap

Reflecting His Image - KP Yohannan Books

Click the image to download your free copy.

Recently, one of Gospel for Asia’s Bible colleges faced serious trouble from anti-Christian authorities in a neighboring country. A number of the people in a border region of that country had accepted Jesus through the witness of our students. The school received a letter with an order to close down immediately.

In every country where Gospel for Asia works, our native missionaries, staff and friends prayed earnestly for God to intervene. The decision was reversed a week later, and the school was allowed to remain open. Praise God for His wonderful answer to prayer.

If I could pick out one thing that Jesus—as well as Paul and the rest of the apostles—constantly emphasized, it would be prayer. In the Scriptures, we are charged to “watch and pray,” to “pray without ceasing,” that “intercessions . . . be made for all men” and so on.

Most followers of Christ are convinced that prayer is a vital part of our Christian life. Through prayer, we communicate with God. As we petition Him, in His love He meets our needs, heals our sicknesses and delivers us from Satan’s attacks. In fact, we know from Scripture that prayer is our mightiest weapon to defeat the enemy. As we pray, all heaven fights for us.

Amazingly, despite our vast knowledge about the importance of prayer, we struggle constantly to find time for it. Prayer usually ends up near the bottom of our priority list.

There is a reason for this! You see, the devil hates prayer. He hates it more than choir practice, seminars, conferences and Christian concerts. He will do everything in his power to stop us from engaging in this dangerous activity. In fact, prayer is so destructive to him that he is more than happy to see us choose instead to listen to a sermon, read a Christian book or work for charity.

However, if the devil can’t hinder us from praying, he uses several other effective tactics to zap the power out of our prayers. One of those tactics is this: Without us knowing, he slips in slowly and makes us believe that all these great victories have happened because of us and our prayers. For example, this endangered training center was saved because we knew how to defeat the devil. The radio broadcast received 10,000 letters this month because we made it happen through our intercession.

Unless we are very careful and extremely sensitive, we can end up at a place in which even our prayers can become a major trap. You see, when things are happening, the enemy tempts us to trust in our prayer activity, our expertise on spiritual warfare, our elite group and our dynamite church leadership. Suddenly our confidence is placed in ourselves and what we are able to accomplish instead of in the Lord alone. Thus, our prayers have turned into a work of the flesh, something God detests and always rejects.

On every page of the Bible, we see a battle between the flesh and the Spirit. God clearly demonstrates and proves throughout history that no product of the flesh is accepted or receives any glory. We have a good example of this in the life of Abraham.

Abraham’s entire struggle was to learn to quit placing his confidence in his own flesh and his ability to father the promised son. When he trusted in his flesh, he produced Ishmael instead of Isaac. With great hopes he brought Ishmael to God, asking Him to bless his son. The Lord looked at Abraham, and (to paraphrase) He said, “You can pray a thousand years, Abraham, and it will change nothing. I had nothing to do with producing this child. It’s your own work. He looks real and is absolutely healthy, vibrant and strong. He talks, walks, moves and jumps. But if you look behind the story of Ishmael’s conception, you will not find Me there.”

God had to bring Abraham and his wife, Sarah, to a point in their lives where there was no hope left whatsoever. It was then that God commanded Abraham to be circumcised. This was Abraham’s testimony that he no longer had any confidence in his flesh. God became his only hope for receiving his promised son. And that’s when Isaac was born.

Our prayers and intercession are vitally important to reach the lost world. There is no substitute for pulling down the strongholds of the enemy. Therefore, we must keep our weapon of prayer sharp and effective at all times, which happens only when we examine our hearts daily to see if we are placing our confidence in anything other than Jesus alone. God seeks followers and intercessors who believe with all their hearts that it is “ ‘not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the LORD of hosts” (Zechariah 4:6).

A few minutes of prayer with total dependence on the Lord are worth more than days of weeping in our own strength. Don’t forget the priorities. We may cry out all day long and see nothing happen, yet Elijah prayed a few words and fire came down from heaven!

When will we ever learn?

 

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. – Who Qualifies to Stand in the Gap?

Reflecting His Image - KP Yohannan Books

Click the image to download your free copy.

It was by far the darkest hour in the history of the people of Israel. The lives of the entire nation were hanging by a very thin thread. At any moment, the judgment of their righteous God could wipe them off the face of the earth. They knew that each breath they took was only on borrowed time.

Frightened and trembling, the people stood at the foot of Mount Sinai, watching one old man slowly climb up the rough terrain to reach the top and meet the Holy God face-to-face. Moses’ mission: to plead for mercy on behalf of several million people, to ask God to forgive their sin and continue to lead them to their promised land.

Moses himself must have felt the weight of the whole world on his shoulders. He knew God better than anyone alive. God couldn’t simply forget His righteous standard and pretend the people’s worship of the golden calf had never happened. He had to punish sin in accordance with His own character and His law, which demanded death for such a grave offense.

Considering all this, why did Moses even try to make this tiring hike and approach God in such a hopeless situation? I believe he must have said to himself: “I have no doubt that because the people have broken their covenant with God, He must punish them. But from all my previous encounters with Him, I have learned that He is also a merciful God who dearly loves His people. Perhaps there is a chance He will spare them if I stand in the gap for them.”

Chapter 32 of the book of Exodus contains the dialogue between God and Moses on Mount Sinai. The first part of their conversation had taken place when God gave Moses the tablets with the commandments and informed him of the idol worship that was going on in the camp of Israel. The second half happened after Moses went down to see for himself, smashed the tablets in the process, destroyed the golden calf and then came back up the mountain to plead for the lives of his people.

Here we see Moses standing in the breach of a broken dam, fighting to hold off the imminent flood of destruction that is about to wipe out an entire nation. Imagine with me, if you will, their conversation: God says, “Moses, step aside and let Me destroy them. They have gone too far—there is no hope for them. I will raise you up as a new nation instead, and your descendants will be My people.” But Moses simply answers, “Please, God, You cannot do that. These are Your people. You are the One who led them out of Egypt. If You are going to destroy them, then please kill me also. Wipe my name out of Your book.”

God heard Moses’ prayer as he pleaded for millions of people who had walked away from the living God. Amazing! His standing in the gap allowed the entire nation of Israel to be saved.

What was it that compelled God to listen to Moses? Why did God accept him and grant his request? God looked at Moses’ heart, and He saw a man who was totally unselfish in all his ways. His heart was pure. His motives were without hidden agendas. God could say this about him: “Moses, My servant, with whom I share all My secrets.” He walked with God in such a way that he could go up the mountain and sit and talk with God, and then go down and speak to the people. He was able to identify with them yet at the same time remain God’s faithful servant.

We can learn a valuable lesson from Moses’ life. When souls are hanging in the balance, it is not the majority of the crowd that will make the difference. All God needs and looks for is one individual whose heart is pure. My brothers and sisters, this means you and I can make the difference in our home, our workplace, our community, our state and our nation. Please believe me, we can—if our hearts are right.

The history of the nation of Israel is marked by terrible times of judgment, devastation and exile, yet there is always the hope of God’s promise—that He will not wipe them out completely and will show them mercy if they seek Him again.

When we read the Old Testament, we encounter a God who takes no pleasure in judging and punishing His people for their rebellion and sin. On the contrary, He is deeply grieved; and He actually looks for a reason to keep from having to go through with His judgment. In Ezekiel 22:30, we see the pain and sadness of His heart when He tells us through the prophet: “So I sought for a man among them who would make a wall, and stand in the gap before Me on behalf of the land, that I should not destroy it; but I found no one.”

The background to this verse is this: God’s people—the entire nation—had forsaken the living God. They were totally given over to idolatry, corruption, self-centered living, greed, lust and seeking after the things of this world. God was deeply grieved over His beloved people. He knew He would have to send His severe judgment and wipe them out. But in the middle of all this chaos, He must have paused and remembered Mount Sinai, and how Moses selflessly stood in the gap and saved his people. Right then, in His love and desire to find a way to ward off judgment, God must have decided: “I will look for just one individual—not 10, 15 or 10,000—with a heart like Moses’, whose intercession I can accept; one, among all My people, who is honest with total integrity, who has a deep concern for others and is pure in his intentions, who will stand in the gap on their behalf and pray and plead for their lives. I will carefully search through the entire nation, among the thousands of priests, prophets and people who declare they belong to Me and work for My cause.”

God made the most thorough search ever conducted on the face of the earth, but He came up empty-handed. “I found none,” He lamented, and the land was destroyed and the people killed or taken away into exile.

Why was there no one at all who could have stood in the gap for God’s people? At least among the priests and Levites there should have been someone who qualified. Were God’s standards higher than in Moses’ time? No, not at all. But something very alarming had happened in the lives and ministries of those priests and Levites who had been specifically appointed by God to teach and lead His people according to His Word. In Ezekiel 22:26, God describes very clearly why the spiritual corrosion among the nation was so total: “Her priests have violated My law and profaned My holy things; they have not distinguished between the holy and unholy, nor have they made known the difference between the unclean and the clean.”

When I read these words, they really spoke to my heart. I want to draw your attention to the part of Ezekiel 22:26 where God says, “They have not distinguished between the holy and the unholy.” This particular verse is interestingly paraphrased in the Living Bible: “Your priests have violated my laws and defiled my Temple and my holiness. To them the things of God are no more important than any daily task.”

Incredible! Among these thousands of priests and prophets, God could not find one person—even though every one of them was busy in ministry. What were these people doing? What was their problem? God says, “They took the ministry lightly and treated My work just like any other secular job. They lost the heart of the whole thing!”

The motive behind each action is what gives the action its value. The motive behind your service, your prayers, your toil—whatever you do—is what the Lord examines and evaluates. Your work may be minimal, or it may be a sleepless, 24-hour job. No matter what it is, the reason you do it is so much more important, in God’s eyes, than what you actually do. In other words, the question “why” is far more crucial than the question “what.”

Over the years I have watched Gospel for Asia expand to many countries and touch the lives of millions of people. All the while, this one burden and longing continues to grow in my own heart: “Lord, create in us a deeper reality. Make us authentic in our hearts, that we will be pure before You.”

You see, authenticity is what it takes to stand in the gap for a lost world and to do a work for God that will last throughout eternity. Otherwise, we will only end up with a huge pile of wood, hay and stubble that will be burned up into just a pinch of ash.

Do you remember how strongly and angrily Jesus spoke to the Pharisees and scribes of His day? These people were believed to be righteous and holy because externally, they did everything perfectly: They fasted, prayed, memorized the law of Moses and taught the Holy Scriptures. In fact, these men were scholars—the equivalent of Ph.D.s in theology. They were employed full-time in the work of God. Everything else in life was secondary. Their total lifetime commitment was to God and His law and to the task of teaching and practicing it.

But you know what? Jesus pronounced His worst judgment, not on the prostitutes, drunkards and the most wicked crooks in this society, but on this religious crowd. His words to them in Matthew 23:27, 33 are extremely strong: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. . . . Serpents, brood of vipers! How can you escape the condemnation of hell?”

Why did Jesus deal so severely with them? What was their problem? They did everything so correctly and according to all the rules and regulations. But Jesus was not looking at their outside deeds, but at the “why”—the motives of their hearts. What He saw there was the exact same problem as what occurred in the days of Ezekiel: They served God with an external form, but their heart was not in it. And thus they disqualified themselves from being used by God to stand in the gap for the people.

What about us as New Testament believers? What is our track record with the living God? We can boast of thousands of impressive churches and accomplishments in the name of Christ, and many of our preachers and evangelists have huge followings. But how would we fare as individuals if God would evaluate us by the same criteria He used in Moses’ and Ezekiel’s days? Would we qualify to stand in the gap for those who are about to be destroyed and plunged into hell?

Jesus had much to say about the heart motives of those who claim to be His followers. In fact, in Matthew 7:22–23, He described a scene from the future, the Day of Judgment: “Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ ”

This is a very sobering passage of Scripture. Imagine for a moment how sad and terrified these people will feel as they cry out in desperation, “Jesus, You somehow must have made a mistake! Don’t You remember me? I’m the one who saw thousands of people healed in my ministry. Demons trembled and left people when I commanded them to get out in the name of Jesus. And Lord, how many thousands made decisions for You at my evangelistic meetings?”

Amazingly, Jesus doesn’t reply, “No, you’re lying. You didn’t do any of these things.” In fact, He makes no comment at all about the subject they used for their defense. His silence about the whole matter of their ministry accomplishments is proof and declaration that they did perform all those miracles and works.

But then Jesus very plainly tells them, without further explanation or qualification: “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!”

Let me ask you, how did such an incredible amount of spiritual Christian work, which received the applause of the whole world and drew enormous crowds, turn out in the end to be “works of iniquity”?

I believe the answer is this: Those workers did all their ministry not for the glory of God, but for their own name, their benefit, man’s approval and man’s honor. Their motivation and reason for serving God were carnal, and in the depth of their heart their intentions were impure.

My brothers and sisters, I know these are very strong statements. For all of us who desire to serve the Lord and are committed to reach our generation with the Gospel, my deepest concern is that we have a pure and authentic heart before the Lord. We must never work and serve because of a challenge, money, a title, a position or even because millions of people are going to hell and we have to do something about it. It is my prayer and hope that we serve the living God for one reason, and no other: deep down in our hearts, we love Jesus more than anything else in this life, and His love is our only motivation for action.

Only those things done out of sincere love will last in eternity.

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. – Walking into the Fire: Living on the Front Lines

Reflecting His Image - KP Yohannan Books

Click the image to download your free copy.

While traveling in the Midwest, I was looking forward to meeting an old friend of mine. Years ago we had worked together on a Gospel team. I remember how I was challenged by his zeal for the Lord, his burden for the lost and his example as a servant.

The more we talked, the more I realized he was no longer interested in reaching those who have never heard the Gospel. His whole life now revolved around his career and providing a more affluent lifestyle for his family. He had no more tears or passion for the lost. His reaction to everything I said about the mission field was cold and without enthusiasm. I returned to my hotel room that night, sadly wondering what had happened to my friend.

Thinking about my friend, I realized that the most difficult part of maintaining a radical walk with the Lord is not practicing a new lifestyle. It’s not just mastering the basic teachings of the Bible or sharing our faith with others. It’s not even praying effectively in faith for those in need or fighting the devil over public schools and politics.

The toughest challenge for believers today is to stay close to our Lord on the front lines, practically engaged in reaching the lost. When we first come to know the Lord or enlist in His army, we are so full of zeal and enthusiasm we can’t wait to do combat.

However, as time goes by and we move from one battle to the next, we get weary. We wonder when the struggles will end. We discover that constant alertness and attack are exhausting.

We suddenly long for peace, relaxation and early retirement. Most of us have no plans to quit the army altogether. We still want to serve, but no longer on the front lines where we are under constant attack.

Quitting the battle is not an overnight decision. It’s a slow erosion of heart that often started long before. The shift is so subtle and gradual that we don’t see it coming. When we discover our compromise, we try to defend and justify our position. But in reality we have already lost much of the love and commitment we once had for the Lord and His kingdom.

How did it all start? What was the root cause? How did we backslide, get sidetracked, quit the battle and miss God’s perfect will? What was the powerful temptation that overran our post?

Let me answer these questions with a quote I read recently that went something like this: None are more formidable instruments of temptation than well-meaning friends who care more for our comfort than for our character.

Whenever you decide to live radically committed to Christ and His call to win the lost, watch out! Immediately you will find well-meaning people rallying around you to help you stay “balanced.” They’re not your enemies—but your friends, your family members and your brothers and sisters in the Body of Christ.

These people are truly concerned about your welfare. They give you heartfelt council: “Don’t overdo it. Think about your future. What about your family? You have rights too. You will burn out. This can’t be God’s will for you. God never wants you to go overboard with this commitment. Think about your wife and children. You will regret it later.”

The hardest decision you will ever have to make is to firmly tell those who love you, “I have decided to follow Jesus. Today I have put my hand to the plow and cannot look back. I have determined to give my life for the more than 2 billion people who are unreached by the Gospel and are dying without Christ. Don’t hold me back or feel sorry for me. My heart is fixed. Don’t hold me back from pursuing the cross.”

Unless you make a firm stand to choose Christ over comfort, you will sooner or later end up on the sidelines. The temptation to give in is powerful because of the relationship and love that bind you to these well-meaning people. Jesus knew this very well. That’s why He told His disciples, “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple” (Luke 14:26–27).

Why do so many of our Christian brothers and sisters try to persuade us to seek our own comfort instead of laying down our lives? I believe the reason stems from a basic misunderstanding—they don’t recognize that following Christ means to embrace the cross and, with it, death to our own self.

A careful study of Hebrews 11 reveals that everyone in the “hall of faith” paid a tremendously high price to be mentioned as our examples. Some left their countries, others high positions and riches. Many were persecuted, faced loneliness and rejection. A great number were beaten, killed, sawn apart, imprisoned or burned alive. Yes, God rescued some of them to demonstrate His power, but many of them died at the front lines in the battle. The Bible says the world was not worthy of them.

When we look at the disciples and many of the Christians down through the centuries, we see thousands who died as martyrs while others suffered severe persecution for their faith. Paul’s proof of his apostleship was not his “successes,” but the price he paid for preaching the Gospel. His account in 2 Corinthians 11:23–28 lists scourging, imprisonments, beatings, a stoning, shipwrecks and being betrayed by his own countrymen and false Christians. He could boldly say, “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” (2 Corinthians 4:17).

If we want to be serious about taking the Gospel to the more than 2 billion unreached people of our generation and the 80,000 who die every day without Christ, then we must come back to this kind of Christianity. We must be determined at all cost to stay on the front lines until Jesus comes back. We must encourage one another daily to reject the temptation of choosing comfort over Christ. We must walk into the fire of battle with everything we have, paying the price as Jesus did.

If we are determined to stay in the battle, we need to constantly examine everything we do in the light of eternity. Think about the lifestyle you have, the vacations you take and the money you spend on yourself. What value do these things have in eternity? Do they help you maintain a broken heart for the lost world? If not, you need to make some changes. Consider one or more of the following:

•   Set aside one day of the week for fasting and prayer for the unreached countries of the world. Read the book Operation World by Patrick Johnstone to help you know how to pray for specific nations.

•   Be a bold witness to your coworkers at your job, the checkout lady at the supermarket, the man who sells you gasoline and other people wherever you go.

•   If you don’t currently support a native missionary, decide to support one today.

Think about what extra “stuff” you could cut out of your budget to free up just $1 per day. Do something that counts!

“For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?” (Mark 8:36).

How many souls does it take to make our inconveniences worthwhile?

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, Break My Heart Afresh”

Reflecting His Image - KP Yohannan Books

Click the image to download your free copy.

Even though I was on a crowded airplane high over my homeland of India, it took all the energy I had just to hold myself in the seat. Only moments before I had finished reading a shocking story on page one of a national newspaper. It pierced my heart with deep pain. It made me want to jump up and preach—to scream like one of the Old Testament prophets would—against the national sin of my people.

It was September of 1987, and India was still reeling in revulsion mixed with pride over the grotesque sati death of a teenage bride named Roop Kanwar in Rajasthan. Sati is an ancient Hindu religious practice in which a wife is burned alive on the funeral pyre of her husband.

In this instance, police stood helplessly by and watched the flames consume her living flesh before a crowd of 300,000 Hindu devotees. They were afraid of the fanatic mob. These Hindu pilgrims came from all over India to witness the ritual sacrifice of the 18-year-old girl.

Later, under pressure of public opinion from other parts of the country, family members were arrested for her murder. However, fanatic devotees declared that they planned to keep up their own pressure on the authorities until the organizers of the ritual killing were released.

What distressed me was that millions of my people were praising her religious devotion and saying, “We’re finally getting back to being real Hindus!”

I shook my head in horror. “Can’t they see the depravity of such a dark doctrine?” I asked myself over and over. “Who but the enemy of mankind could incite followers to such a fiery death?”

Sati was outlawed by the British at the instigation of William Carey, the modern pioneer of Christian missions in India. However, like the caste system, numerous evil rituals are still secretly practiced in many parts of the land. What shocked modern Indians of all religions is the fact that no attempt was made to keep this sati sacrifice secret. Police and government authorities were warned not to interfere because the sacrifice was a “religious affair.”

In the past few years, “back to Hinduism” movements have become bolder and bolder in their militant demands for revival of ancient practices and suppression of other religions such as Christianity.

I used to hear the reports of this growing fanaticism yet remained untroubled. But God touched my heart on that plane, and I spent the rest of the flight crying out to God for India. I realized my need to pray and repent of the numbness I had allowed to grow in my conscience. I began asking God to break my heart afresh with the agony of the lost millions—people living in utter darkness.

Can you imagine the mindset of religions that allow and promote this kind of fanaticism? What is the fate of a nation whose people desire and glorify human sacrifice?

Since this last sati death, a lot of money was raised to erect a temple to honor Roop Kanwar, and devotional chants celebrating her “piety” have become popular.

As we read and hear these reports, we must pray that God will tear our hearts and grip us with a genuine burden for these millions of lost souls. Bob Pierce, founder of World Vision International, once prayed, “Break my heart, Lord, with the things that break your heart.”

Today, God is looking for those who will cry out that prayer and allow the Holy Spirit to take away their comfortable Christianity and totally transform their hearts. We need to let the Lord stamp a vision for eternity in our hearts and minds.

The situation in the Subcontinent and throughout Asia is not hopeless. Christ is the answer. Millions will be freed from their bondage to darkness if only we will send messengers to them with the truth. The Word says, “For ‘whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved.’ How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent?” (Romans 10:13–15).

Even if you personally cannot go to many of these nations in Asia, you still can make an impact. You can pray and be a sender of native missionaries, who will go and preach the Good News to those who have never heard. We are called to go and send to win the lost.

If your heart is stirred to do something to reach the most unreached in our generation, consider sponsoring a native missionary. For more information, write to any of Gospel for Asia’s national offices listed on page 192, or visit our web site at www.gfa.org.

If you truly desire to have a broken heart before God, I encourage you to pray this prayer, as I have for many years: “Lord, baptize me with desperation for souls.”

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. – A Reason to Live

Reflecting His Image - KP Yohannan Books

Click the image to download your free copy.

“You are trying to make us feel guilty,” the woman protested loudly, interrupting the meeting of one of my staff members who was out sharing about the lost world and the work of the native missionaries.

“No,” he assured her, “that is not my intent at all, but I believe God has put us here for a reason besides living for ourselves.”

In my own travels, I often encounter similar situations. People get upset or defensive because they don’t want to be disturbed in their comfort, the pursuit of their goals and in living their peaceful lifestyles. To be confronted with the reality that over 2 billion unreached people will plunge into hell unless they receive a chance to hear the Gospel is irritating, troublesome and uncomfortable to many believers. Why? Because their desire is to enjoy their salvation, families, church fellowships, seminars and conferences without such a painful interruption.

When Jesus was telling the story about the rich man and Lazarus the beggar, He illustrated very clearly that the two had nothing to do with each other. The rich man was in his mansion enjoying the best of life, while the sick beggar was outside the gate hoping for a handout. It wasn’t Lazarus’ fault that there was no interaction between the two. He had positioned himself strategically at the door where the rich man could see him clearly every time he went in and out of his gate. However, the rich man chose to ignore the beggar for a very calculated reason. If he looked at Lazarus and the dogs licking his sores, he wouldn’t be able to enjoy his steak dinner in peace!

What was his sin? He was selfish with his life and with all God had entrusted to him.

Similarly, when the apostle Paul described to Timothy why the last days would be so difficult, his number one reason was: “For men will be lovers of themselves” (2 Timothy 3:2).There is no statement that more accurately describes the mindset of our present generation. We are constantly bombarded and counseled to be protective of ourselves, our possessions, our rights and our wants. Everywhere we turn we are told that we deserve the best. In fact, we are offered self-help books and services on every conceivable subject.

What about the Church? It is sad to say that this self-centered mindset has infiltrated much of the Body of Christ, especially in more affluent countries. Our worship, our teaching and our spiritual desires are primarily focused on, “Lord, bless me, give to me and let me enjoy.”

Whatever happened to the war we are supposed to be in and to the command: “And do not be conformed to this world” (Romans 12:2)? Jesus taught us that the laws of the kingdom of God are in sharp contrast with the mindset of this world. For example, “For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it” (Matthew 16:25). We are fooling ourselves if we attempt to practice a Christianity without embracing the cross and death to our own selves. Winning this world for Jesus will never happen until we have the mind of Christ: “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).

A few months ago while on the mission field, I met a brother who has a death warrant on his life for preaching the Gospel. He has been imprisoned many times, beaten, stabbed, shot at and on the run for months at a time. Yet he is eager to endure all these things in order to win one more soul to his Savior and King. “My life is nothing,” he says. “It all belongs to Jesus.” This brother has a wife and children who suffer alongside him—willingly. For them, Jesus is worth it all—the best reason to live.

Having the mind of Christ sets us free from our self-centeredness and enables us to minister to the Lazarus in front of our door!

How can we get that mind of Christ? Jesus gave the answer: “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me” (Luke 9:23).

It starts with a deliberate decision to walk away from the mindset of self-preservation and allow the Lord to pour out our lives for the millions who have never before heard the name of Jesus.

The tragedy of the modern-day Church is that we have misunderstood obedience as legalism.

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.