Monthly Archives: January 2014

Ichabod

Reflecting His Image - KP Yohannan Books

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The earth seemed to tremble at the mighty shout of the Israelites as the priests carried the ark of the covenant into their war camp. Now the battle could begin. Their guarantee for victory had just arrived! The people cheered and celebrated. It would be just like in the days of Moses and Joshua: The ark would go before them, and no enemy, however strong had even the slightest chance of defeating the armies of Israel.

With great confidence the Israelites marched out to meet the Philistines, who were shaking in their boots, expecting to be wiped out by the God of Israel. But to everyone’s amazement and horror, God was not with His people. The two priests Hophni and Phinehas, along with 30,000 soldiers, were slaughtered on the battlefield. And the enemy captured the ark of God.

What went wrong? The Israelites had counted on their past experiences and assumed that God was still with them! Their earlier shout of triumph turned out to be a vain and empty noise. Their actions seemed genuine, but in reality they were clinging to shadows from the past. All of these events were brought into focus by Phinehas’ widow, who named her son Ichabod (which means no glory) as she was dying, saying, “The glory is departed from Israel.”

After this tragic defeat, the entire nation must have asked, “When did our God leave us? And why didn’t we—His people—notice it sooner?”

Over and over we read throughout the Bible and Church history how God commits Himself to an individual or a group of people. But then, somewhere along the way, His presence is no longer with them. The sign on their front door now reads “Ichabod”—the glory has departed. They may still be running all their “good,” religious programs, along with preaching, shouting and doing every kind of thing imaginable. But basically all they are doing is clinging to shadows, while He is no longer there.

It is tragic, and we feel deeply hurt, when “Ichabod,” this severe judgment of God, is pronounced over a fellowship to which we belong or a Christian organization that we value. However, rather than joining them in clinging to shadows, we still have the option of moving on. But when God begins to write this word over the door of our own hearts, “Ichabod” becomes extremely personal. Once there was genuine love and reality in our worship, giving and service to the Lord, but over time it all turned into a well-rehearsed religious performance. Others around us might not realize what has happened to us because we continue to do all the things we did before. But when God looks at our hearts, He sees an empty shell: The freshness of our walk with Him has disappeared.

What is the cause of this shift in our spiritual life? It’s the same as it was for those Israelites in the Old Testament: self-centeredness. The God who delivered them from slavery and whom they were commanded to love supremely over all else had now become in their minds a genie to fulfill their wish for a comfortable and successful life. We fall into the same trap when we forget that we were made for Him alone. Belonging to Him means that we must lay aside all our own plans, wishes and ambitions and out of love and with joy seek to fulfill His will instead. This keeps us coming to Him every day, asking afresh what we can do to please Him, and showing Him that He is our greatest treasure and all we desire in our lives.

Excerpt from Chapter 1 of Reflecting His Image (ISBN 978159589005X) © 2004 by K.P. Yohannan, the president and founder of Gospel for Asia.

Waiting for Orders

Road to Reality - KP Yohannan Books

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Often, in India, in front of office buildings, you will see a messenger boy sitting on a stool, apparently doing nothing. But when he hears a bell ringing inside, he hurries in and asks, “Sir, what do you want me to do?”

Whatever the instructions may be, the boy follows them without complaining. Then he returns and sits, waiting again to hear his master’s voice. This is the kind of commitment God wants from us.

But this is the opposite of the mad, rushing, pragmatic, modern-day evangelical Christianity most of us are caught up in today.

Somehow we assume God is in some big mess, that we should run around and frantically take His side, or He will be in big trouble. On the other hand, I believe God is waiting for those who are willing to become bondslaves, men and women who will wait and watch to hear the Master’s voice and only do those things He asks them to do.

A half hour with God, limited to doing His will in His way, is worth more than a million years doing the best in our own self and energy. All fleshly effort will be burned to ash and will not make it into eternity.

Have you recognized the fact that you are bought with a price, that you are not your own? If so, you have no right to decide even the smallest matters in your life. What kind of commitment have you made to Christ? Are you just “returning a favor” in your Christian service, or have you surrendered the totality of your life and everything in it to His control?

Are you still the one who is running around with brilliant ideas, seeking to do this and that for God? Or are you one who is so committed to Christ that you are not motivated nor persuaded by anything external? Are you dead to the voices of others, your own ego and ambitions, but alive to the voice of the Holy Spirit?

If the life of Paul has any secret for us, it is this, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21).

Excerpt from Chapter 26 of The Road to Reality (ISBN 9781595891136) © 2012 by K.P. Yohannan, the president and founder of Gospel for Asia.

Paul—A Man Like Us

Road to Reality - KP Yohannan Books

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Apart from the Lord Jesus Himself, there is no person, living or dead, whose life has encouraged me more on this journey than the Apostle Paul.

Before his conversion, Saul’s life was similar to that of many affluent people today. Born and raised in the rich seaport of Tarsus, he enjoyed the best of all worlds. His cultural background combined Roman citizenship, Greek culture and Hebrew scholarship.

Saul was intellectually brilliant, savvy to ways of the world and a global thinker. In an information culture where knowledge was power, young Saul was uniquely positioned. In addition, he had the right connections in Jerusalem. He had the educational and family pedigree needed to go to the top in any field.

If God had not intervened, it is interesting to speculate on where Saul’s ability, determination, intellect and zeal might have led him. He might have become a powerful political leader, a judge, a general or a successful businessman. Saul had everything, including a religious fanaticism so powerful that it sent him off to track down and destroy the early Christians.

But then it happened. Saul met Jesus on the Damascus Road, and his life was changed radically. Blinded by the Living God, Saul had little pride and self-confidence left as he was led by the hand to the house of Ananias.

Lying in the dust before the Lord Jesus Christ, he asked this all-important question, which I believe is the key to the secret of Paul’s life: “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?” (Acts 9:6).

Up until then, Paul had been living for his traditions, his religion—and above all, himself, governing and running his life. But when he met the Lord Jesus Christ, he turned over the rulership of his life to Jesus. That word, kurios, in the original text means “the one who has authority over, ownership.” Saul threw up his hands and said, “Lord, here, take my hands and chain them to Yours. I want to be Yours now and forevermore. I am giving up the right to run my own life. From now on, You will take charge.”

The rest of Paul’s life is history, as the expression goes. You can read about it in the book of Acts, experience it through his letters in the Bible and see its effect on the Church for the next 2,000 years.

Wherever Paul went, people could not forget the impact he made upon their lives and community. In Thessalonica, the unbelievers testified, saying, “Here comes a man who has turned the world upside down” (Acts 17:6, paraphrased).

In Ephesus, the enemies of the cross, those who hated everything Paul preached, confessed, “Throughout all Asia, this Paul hath persuaded and turned away much people, saying that they be no gods, which are made with hands . . .” (Acts 19:26).

In other words, wherever he went, whether people liked him or not, one thing they could not deny was that this man, Paul, was dangerous. His very presence brought changes in their thinking and living.

So what was the secret of Paul’s extraordinary life? Was it his education, background or abilities?

No, it was none of those things.

The secret of Paul’s life was none other than his submission to the lordship of Christ. Paul recognized that blood was the price Jesus paid for him, and he was no longer his own. For so long, he had robbed God. He had held his life back. Now, in repentance, he gave his life back to the Lord.

It was because of Paul’s absolute submission to Christ that God entrusted Paul with power and spiritual authority. It wasn’t Paul’s giftings that earned it, nor a flawless life that sustained it. It was simply that Paul yielded so that Jesus could do His work through him.

This is what has encouraged me so much about the life of Paul. I see that any person indwelled by the Holy Spirit can surrender his or her life in the same way that Paul did. And that means, the same spiritual reality that Paul lived is possible for every man, woman, boy and girl today. What God did in Paul, He can do in anyone.

Excerpt from Chapter 25 of The Road to Reality (ISBN 9781595891136) © 2012 by K.P. Yohannan, the president and founder of Gospel for Asia.

God Wants Servants

Road to Reality - KP Yohannan Books

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In 1976, when God called me back into missions from the pastorate, one of my first excuses for not moving ahead in obedience was my pulpit. After all, I argued, this church is obviously being blessed, and “God needs me here.”

How foolish! We have to learn that God doesn’t need us anywhere. He is not helpless!

Regrettably today, too few volunteers are ready to do the work of the Gospel. Almost every day we have a missionary conference on how to win the world to Christ—but the work remains undone because we don’t have men and women with servant-hearts who will go out and lose their personal identities in getting the work done.

Unless we are willing to see ourselves unknown, unrecognized and working behind the scenes, there is no hope for our spiritual service ever to bear real fruit in the economy of God.

Jesus said that “the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister” (Matthew 20:28). And we are to “let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5).

Individual believers, Christian churches and missions that refuse to recognize servanthood are traitors to the cause of Christ and do untold harm. Sadly, there are many Christians in our day for whom the New Testament concept of servanthood remains a mystery: “And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant” (Matthew 20:27).

Education, family background, talent, beauty, voice, riches and intelligence mean absolutely nothing to God. He doesn’t need our abilities any more than He needs our money.

How sad it is that many talented believers go along for years looking good on the outside, but remaining absolutely useless to the Lord. It is quite possible to be doing the Lord’s work and still not to have entered into servanthood. And so enormous efforts, studies, plans and labor are extended—all uselessly because they cannot stand up to the fires of judgment.

How tragic! And what a contrast from the Spirit-filled service of a surrendered Christian servant. When you really commit yourself to God, He commits Himself to you. Lives are changed. Souls are saved. People are healed in body and spirit. God gives fruit, and the fruit remains.

Excerpt from Chapter 24 of The Road to Reality (ISBN 9781595891136) © 2012 by K.P. Yohannan, the president and founder of Gospel for Asia.