Monthly Archives: August 2014

A Lifelong Commitment to God’s Kingdom

Living in the Light of Eternity - KP Yohannan Books

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Jesus did not train His disciples in a classroom; He taught them through example. He lived His life before them and then willingly laid it down. No wonder that, after the disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit, they remembered Jesus’ words to go into all the world and preach the Gospel. And every one of them laid down his life for preaching the Gospel.

At one time I thought John was the only disciple who was not martyred. Later I learned that he was beheaded. Another disciple, Thomas, journeyed to India in AD 52, where he preached and laid down his life for Jesus. One of the seven churches he planted is located about three miles from where I was born and reared.

Doesn’t it seem strange that these men who walked and lived with Jesus for three years, men who saw miracles almost beyond belief and who must have had great faith, were not supernaturally translated to heaven, but died criminals’ deaths? How could they have traveled to places and done things they knew would put their very lives at risk?

Because Jesus was their example. Jesus was never the kind of Master who told them, “Do what I say, don’t do what I do.” No, He said, “Come, follow Me.”

Jesus also said, “I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father” (John 14:12).

I remember studying the book of Acts in Bible college. As we went through it, I thought it was a fascinating piece of history. But it is much more than history. The book of Acts is a living, open-ended book whose story continues even today in the lives of committed believers. It is a book filled with the stories of people who were absolutely sold out, who had only one thing on their minds: Jesus died, He rose again, He is our Lord, He is coming back and we must tell our generation!

These believers yielded their lives unselfishly to communicate this message. When they were misunderstood, mistreated, persecuted, stoned and beaten up, they did not go around mourning their losses and licking their wounds. They went right back out and preached the Gospel—and not just the apostles, but the believers, the everyday, “normal” people like you and me.

When we read about Jesus’ life and are challenged to follow in His footsteps, we feel overwhelmed. I can’t help it, we rationalize. I’m only a human being. Jesus is God. How can I expect to keep up with Him? And we excuse ourselves from total commitment.

Then we come to Paul. It is not easy to write Paul off because he was just as human as we are. “I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature,” he wrote in Romans 7:18. He considered himself an earthen vessel, a jar of clay (see 2 Corinthians 4:7).

Paul recognized that in his own strength he started from zero. He confessed his weaknesses and inadequacies continually. This is a man who argued with Barnabas, his co-worker. Acts 15:39 tells us that “they had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company.” But for this normal human being named Paul, following Jesus was not a nine-to-five job, nor did it have a finishing point. This was everyday life for him.
Let’s look at an incident that took place in Paul’s life when he came to Thessalonica:

The Jews were jealous; so they rounded up some bad characters from the marketplace, formed a mob and started a riot in the city. They rushed to Jason’s house in search of Paul and Silas in order to bring them out to the crowd. But when they did not find them, they dragged Jason and some other brothers before the city officials, shouting: “These men who have caused trouble all over the world have now come here. . . .”
Acts 17:5–6

This incident was just one of many for Paul, an everyday occurrence in his Christian walk. He was accused by the crowd of, in the words of the King James Version, having “turned the world upside down.” But to him this was simply part of following Jesus.
There was no dichotomy in Paul’s life or in the lives of the early believers. Their lives were not compartmentalized into “spiritual” and “secular” activities. Their whole existence was a solid commitment, a life given for the Lord and His kingdom.

Excerpt from Chapter 2 of Living in the Light of Eternity (ISBN 9781595891402) © 2014 by K.P. Yohannan, the president and founder of Gospel for Asia.

Jesus Lost His Appetite

Living in the Light of Eternity - KP Yohannan Books

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As we read through the Gospels and observe Jesus’ life, we find that He took every opportunity to teach His disciples about the kingdom of God. And whatever He taught, He lived before them. Everything He said was clearly reflected in His life. He was a living, breathing example to His disciples. These 12 men had an opportunity to watch His life and learn from His every action.

One of the occasions that challenged and changed them is recorded in John 4. It is as relevant for us today as it was for Jesus’ disciples. You are probably familiar with the story of the woman at the well to whom Jesus spoke about living water. The disciples had gone into the city to buy food, and when they returned they offered it to Him.

But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about.”

Then his disciples said to each other, “Could someone have brought him food?”

“My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. Do you not say, ‘Four months more and then the harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.” John 4:32–35

Can’t you identify with the disciples’ confusion? Jesus had to be hungry from His journey, so they had walked to the nearby village to buy Him something to eat. They had not eaten yet, either, and were probably just as hungry and thirsty as Jesus was. Then Jesus acted as if He had already eaten: “I have food to eat that you aren’t aware of.” This confused them even more: “We go to all this trouble and now He won’t eat! Has someone brought Him something?”

What was Jesus saying? He was seizing on an everyday event—eating—to illustrate to His disciples a principle of a different kingdom. Jesus was saying something like this:
“You’re horizontally oriented, thinking about the here-and-now—your tired and dusty feet, your growling stomachs, your parched throats. But pull your attention away for a minute. Lift up your eyes! Look into eternity and see what I see. You say there are still four months before harvest arrives. But I tell you, look right now to the souls of men and women around you. The fields are already ripe and ready to be harvested. If you wait a little longer, the crop will be gone—destroyed.

“Yes, I’m hungry, I’m thirsty. But the crisis out there is so real that it consumes all My being. Compared to what is happening, I no longer have an appetite. I am desperate to finish what My Father has given Me to do.”

Jesus could have used any number of examples to explain kingdom principles. Why did He use food?

Perhaps because it makes more sense to us. For us the barest of necessities do not consist of only a glass of water and a piece of bread. Yet to Jesus, even the most basic of essentials—bread and water—were unimportant when He knew people were dying without His Father’s love.

Jesus speaks to us today just as strongly as He did to His disciples. He gives us the same command He gave them: “Follow Me.” If we are His followers, we will hear this command and do the same things He did. But as human beings, made of the same flesh and blood as Jesus’ disciples, we are horizontally oriented, too. We focus on the here-and-now—clothes, houses, educations, careers, bank accounts, finances, cars.
But Jesus calls us to lift our eyes and look away from it all. He is calling us to see what He sees, to feel the urgency He feels, to share His heart for the harvest that will soon be gone—destroyed forever—if it is not reaped soon.

Throughout the Gospel accounts, Jesus’ life was marked by urgency: “I must go”; “I must work”; “Night is coming”; “You go and make disciples.” Phrases like these tell us how Jesus felt and what He lived for. He was so desperate that food and drink took a back seat.

Excerpt from Chapter 1 of Living in the Light of Eternity (ISBN 9781595891402) © 2014 by K.P. Yohannan, the president and founder of Gospel for Asia.

Empowered by the Holy Spirit

Against the Wind - KP Yohannan Books

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Imagine being Timothy. For years, you have been instructed by Paul, receiving his correction and encouragement and seeing the growth in your own life as well as in the ministry. You sit there reading Paul’s letter, knowing that the days have grown harder and once again he has written from prison. As you read, you sense an urgency in his words and realize what he is doing—he is passing the torch . . . to you! Paul’s race is over—now you must run, and run hard.

Listen to the hope and energy in Paul’s words as he passes the torch onto Timothy, saying, “My dear son! God has called you. I know your faith is sincere. I know that your heart is pure. Now remember the gift of God within you! He has put His Spirit inside you, and it is not one of fear or timidity, but of power! Now fan that into flame and run, Timothy, run!”

Paul knew that what lay before Timothy was a task humanly impossible, as is all Christian service. That is why he directs Timothy’s eyes not onto himself, but on the priceless gift of God within him—the Holy Spirit, who alone is able to work through Timothy, do the ministry and carry out the responsibilities that are now entrusted to him.

Unfortunately, the power of the Holy Spirit is one of those subjects that people in many parachurch or nondenominational organizations tend to avoid, often because of the extremism found in some sections of Christianity and their teaching on the Holy Spirit. Emotional upheaval and radical manifestations have caused many evangelicals to shy away from the balanced teaching of Scripture on this crucial subject.

We must never forget that even the Lord Jesus Christ—God in flesh and the perfect, sinless Savior—had to be anointed with the Holy Spirit before starting His ministry on earth (see Matthew 3:16–17; Acts 10:38). His powerful ministry was not just something granted to Him by virtue of the fact that He was the Son of God. It was by the power of the Holy Spirit that He healed the sick, gave sight to the blind, made the lame walk, raised the dead and preached the kingdom’s arrival.

And it was for this reason that Jesus “commanded [His disciples] . . . to wait for the Promise of the Father, ‘which,’ He said, ‘you have heard from Me; for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now. . . . You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth’ ” (Acts 1:4–5, 8, NKJV).

Not too long before leaving them with this instruction, Jesus came to these disciples and passed a torch on to them, saying, “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19–20). But when Jesus came to them, they were much in the state that Timothy was probably in when reading Paul’s letter.

For three years they walked with Jesus, sharing in the joy and thrill of His ministry. They stood beside Him as He touched the blind man’s eyes and rejoiced in amazement as sight came to him. But now things were different. Jesus had been crucified, they had fled in fear, Peter had denied the Lord and they had lost all hope to the point that they were returning to their fishing boats (see Luke 24:21; John 21:3–4). And now Jesus is telling them to go into all the world and do all the things He had done while with them? How impossible this task was! It must have sounded absurd. The disciples probably responded, “Jesus, we understand what You are saying, but physically You have been with us all these years. Now You say You are going back to the Father. How are we going to do this work without You?”

The answer? It wasn’t going to be without Him. He was sending the Holy Spirit, the One who would now lead them and give them the power to carry on the ministry. “Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).

Indeed, the Lord knew they would never be able to do what He asked in their own power. He had told them earlier that that was absolutely impossible (see John 15:4). That is why He commanded them to wait until they were baptized with the Holy Spirit and had received His power for ministry.

The same is true for us today. The power of the Holy Spirit is absolutely necessary. Why? Because the work to be done is not in the realm of flesh and blood alone. Our task is supernatural. And it is only by the Spirit’s power that we can accomplish the task our Lord and Savior left for us. It was the only way that Peter, the one who was so afraid of men that he ran away denying Christ, stood up with courage in the face of martyrdom to declare the Gospel and led thousands to repentance (see Acts 2). The power of the Holy Spirit is what enabled Stephen, a simple layperson in the Church, to single-handedly speak on behalf of the kingdom and then lay down his life for the faith (see Acts 7). And it is what enables and equips us for the task today, no matter how great or how small.

We desperately need men and women who not only understand doctrine, theory and teaching on the Holy Spirit, but who experience the reality of the Holy Spirit and His fullness in their daily lives and ministries, who know the precious gift of God within them that is able to set the captives free and who do just that!

Are you this kind of person? Are your life and ministry daily empowered by the gift of God within you, the same Spirit who raised Christ Jesus from the dead? My brothers and sisters, please, if not, cry out to God for this power so that you might rescue the perishing and win this generation for Christ. Stir up the gift of God within you!

Excerpt from Chapter 4 of Against the Wind (ISBN 978159589047X) © 2004 by K.P. Yohannan, the president and founder of Gospel for Asia.

The Integrity of Our Walk with God

Against the Wind - KP Yohannan Books

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Integrity makes us or breaks us. Integrity is a consistency between private and public life, being what you claim to be and doing what you said you would do. You are on the inside what you are on the outside. It is life lived with consistency, and it is the reason why Paul was able to entrust the ministry into young Timothy’s hands.

In 2 Timothy 1:3–5, Paul wrote to Timothy, saying:

I thank God, whom I serve, as my forefathers did, with a clear conscience, as night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers. . . . I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.

Timothy’s “sincere faith” and Paul’s maintaining “a clear conscience” stand out to me, revealing that both Paul and Timothy had no secret agendas in the ministry. They served from sincere hearts with honest motives.

“The man of integrity walks securely, but he who takes crooked paths will be found out” (Proverbs 10:9). And Psalm 51:6 (NKJV) echoes the importance God places on this character trait: “Behold, You desire truth in the inward parts.”

These verses show that God desires His children to wear no masks and live with no pretenses. When we live a life of complete integrity, we follow God’s path and walk under His blessings. “The integrity of the upright guides them, but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity [or pretense]” (Proverbs 11:3).

I want to highlight four areas of our lives and ministry that must be marked by absolute integrity.

Integrity in Your Finances
Handling money is often the primary area in which integrity is found lacking, and unfaithful stewardship is the number one destroyer of so many in ministry today.
In Matthew 6:24, Jesus said, “You cannot serve both God and Money.” Notice He did not say, “You cannot serve both God and the devil,” or “You cannot serve both God and the world.” Paul told Timothy that “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil” (1 Timothy 6:10). Notice it does not say “some evil,” but “all kinds of evil.”

Integrity in Your Work
Why did God choose David to be the king of Israel (see 1 Samuel 16:5, 10–11)? One reason is that when nobody was watching him he was faithful with his work. When he was out there in the wilderness watching over his father’s sheep and a wild animal approached, he did not say, “What can I do? I’m just a small boy and my stronger brothers aren’t here to rescue the sheep. I’ll just climb a tree and watch, even if the animal destroys part of the flock.” No, David went after the wild animals, killed them and saved his father’s sheep. He was faithful with his task. Even though there was no one looking over his shoulder to see what he did every minute of the day, he understood the importance of walking in integrity before His Lord.

We must live with the same understanding and let it direct the way we spend our day and do our work.

Loyalty Is Crucial
God puts great emphasis on the loyal heart, advising the wise man to “let not loyalty and faithfulness forsake you; bind them about your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. So you will find favor and good repute in the sight of God and man” (Proverbs 3:3–4, RSV, emphasis mine). Through this verse we see that loyalty is not just something that is cooked up, but weaved into the fiber of our hearts. And, by nature, loyalty is often costly.

Look at your life. Are you loyal to the church or organization that the Lord has called you to serve?

Often the first thing we do is complain, criticize and tear people down without taking even one day to stand in the gap, pray and agonize before the Lord for them. G.K. Chesterton summed it up well when he said, “We are all in the same boat in a stormy sea, and we owe each other a terrible loyalty.”

Integrity in Your Speech
Are you careful with the words you allow to come out of your mouth? So often, either by intent or carelessness, we do such great harm by the words we speak. We have forgotten that “the tongue has the power of life and death” (Proverbs 18:21), making it so important for the servant of God to hold to integrity in the things he says and the words he listens to.

Many start the race, but only those who abide by the rules laid out beforehand will receive the prize. Integrity is the rule of ministry. We must be an honest people, full of integrity in our financial responsibilities, our work, our loyalty to others and our speech. By living this, we can be sure to stay on the narrow road, and all that we do will not only be blessed by God, but bring glory to Him as well.

Excerpt from Chapter 3 of Against the Wind (ISBN 978159589047X) © 2004 by K.P. Yohannan, the president and founder of Gospel for Asia.