I met a friend for lunch today, and afterwards, I felt strongly led to go to Midtown to tell a friend of mine how to be saved. She is a friend who works at a gym there. I just felt that I should tell her how to be saved before taking off for Israel next week. So, I had the glorious opportunity of sharing with her how she can know for sure how to get to heaven. She said she could only “hope to make it” the other day to me, and I have been praying for her. God worked it out so that a couple of other people were there, too, to overhear a sweet and kind Gospel—the only Gospel with the power to save—and one all about our “Jesus” and not about humanistic endeavors to attain good standing with such a loving God.
As I was coming home, the public bus broke down, and we all had to get off the bus and onto another bus. I thought, “Was it worth it, all just to tell her about Jesus and how to know for sure she could go to heaven when she dies? Was it worth it?”
I prayed silently, “Yes, it was worth it,” back to the Lord. I smile even now as I think about it.
As we all got on another bus the woman beside me said, “There must be something up with the spirits today. The elevator was broken in my building at work.” I said, “Huh.” I paused and smiled and said, “Thank God, Jesus rules the spirits, and I am safe in Him.”
She looked like she did not know what to say. I explained, “Jesus rules over the spirits, and I am a Christian. He protects people who belong to Him from the spirits.”
Well, that was more than she was expecting to get beside a stranger on a bus in a culture that assumes if anyone is "spiritual" that spirituality is benign.
There are witnessing opportunities all around us. I buy multi-vitamins at GNC monthly and go there the first of the month to take advantage of their special discount on “Gold Card” day. Today I went into my neighborhood GNC in Manhattan, and the man behind the counter spoke, knowing me by name, since he sees me there regularly. He is a very warm person who looks to be from India or some other country in Asia. He started talking to me about exercise and yoga, explaining that he needed “peace” in his life. There was a line behind me, and it was not the right time to share about peace through Jesus and the difference. The man said that he had to learn how to calm down.
As I was riding back home on the bus I was reminded of that man and how that he needs to know the Gospel. Tomorrow I plan on going back and giving him the tract “Steps to Peace with God”, as well as a booklet I wrote called “Meditate on This” with Scripture verses. At least then he will know that he can ask more questions the next time he sees me about the difference in peace in Jesus and worldly peace. After all, the world does offer peace. But, Jesus said that He comes to give peace, not as the world gives.
There is a movement today that would attempt to demean the experience of sharing the saving Gospel of Jesus to just another “conversation.” If it was just another conversation today, why go to so much trouble to visit my friend who works in the gym? If it is just another conversation, no need to ever speak about Jesus and suffer any misunderstanding for our love for Him. Oh, but it is not just another conversation! We pray for people; we love them; we want to see them brought to life in Jesus. It is serious work to take before the Lord. Tonight I look forward to praying for these people with whom I spoke today. I look forward to spending time before the throne of my Lord and just telling Him how much I love Him, “just” singing hymns to Him, “just” worshiping Him for all He has done.
Believe it or not, I got in some research last night pertaining to conferences now being held in churches and conservative seminaries on “spiritual formation”. Evidently, people sign up for classes on how to turn off the TV and read and spend time in prayer.
I know it sounds hard to believe, but evidently Christians actually think this is worth having a conference over! People must not have enough witnessing to do or Bible study. Perhaps they are just bored with too much time on their hands. Whatever the case, there sure is a lack of hunger, a lack of appetite for Jesus and spending time in Him. They are turning to a cozy "conference" on picturesque "disciplines" instead.
These “practices” and “disciplines” cannot be humanly manipulated for eternity and God's glory. “Abiding” in Jesus is NOT a human step by step "practice" or "discipline" as if Step 1, Step 2, Step 3= “abiding”. Abiding in Jesus is done by Jesus through the work of the Holy Spirit. It is not the work of man.
These classes are very trite with all that we have been called to do in this short life. We learn to abide in Jesus when, just like the hymn sings above, we leave our sin and idols of the heart and GO to Jesus with our hurts, our fears, our longings. As the Bible says, “Whom have I in heaven but Thee, and besides Thee I desire nothing on earth. My heart and my flesh may fail, but Thine art the portion of my heart forever.”
No wonder people need to sign up for classes on how to be “spiritual” (with no real explanation offered, by the way, on how to “test the spirits”). People never hear about their own depravity in churches, for the most part! They don’t get even a tidbit in a sermon about leaving sin. They don’t even know what an idol means, unless it is wooden carved figure. I spoke to a woman who had been attending Redeemer Presbyterian Church here in Manhattan (a large "missional", "seeker sensitive" church here) for over a year, and she had NO idea that sex outside of marriage is wrong.
No wonder these people think that it is a human step by step process in attaining a close walk with God. The truth is IT IS ALL GOD’S WORK. Only He can break us and humble us and get us to the point of “putting off the old” (i.e., sin) and putting on the new (i.e., Jesus and newness of life in Him).
The TV is not on right now, but I have not had to go to a conference to tell me to turn it off. I walked in the door to my apartment feeling spent and did not want the TV on. I simply wanted to feel the Lord near and His precious Spirit as I wrote about Him tonight and the difference in the work of the Holy Spirit and the work of people, attempting to do the Holy Spirit’s work!
I read a lot. I did not go a conference to learn “Step 2: Read.” (It makes me laugh). No, “Step Two” came when I stopped running to idols. Step one, step two, step three…..ONLY when I stopped running to idols and determined to fight the good fight of faith in VICTORY and not live with sin having a stronghold on me.
When we don’t live for the opinion of others or whatever area in our lives God convicts us of that is sin—when we stop that sinful behavior, we will either run to another idol to replace it, or we will have to go to Jesus. The fears are just too much without Him.
So, yes, I need Him A LOT. It is noteworthy that I NEED Him so desperately but have absolutely no need or use for a conference on “spiritual formation”. That is nothing compared to all HE offers me by His mercy alone in the DEEP work of the Holy Spirit in my life.
Back years ago when I carried around 3x5 cards of Scripture verses to just help me through the day, that was a result of God’s mercy on me, to draw me closer to Him. Isn’t it something that that growth happened in my life without a silly conference? This has been the work of the Holy Spirit long before books were written recently and conservative seminaries decided to hold “spiritual formation” classes.
[However, if all I had had years ago was one of the pop-slang "translations" of the Bible as I was going through God's pruning process of pain, no conference on earth could make me want to memorize that sort of "scripture" I am sure. "Yo, Dude," and such is not Scripture! Yet, the "Christian bookstores" are full of slang, unholy "Bible translations" these days. It is another attempt to demean the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and "God's" Word].
It is also quite humorous when the first step of the “spiritual formation” is usually “spending time in silence or solitude.” Wow. What a concept. These "spiritual formation" classes must be for baby Christians.
At best it shows immaturity. NO ONE HAS TO TELL A CHRISTIAN TO SPEND TIME IN SILENCE WHEN THE HOLY SPIRIT IS DRAWING THE PERSON. There is nothing I can say to make someone “want to witness”. Oh, but when Jesus comes into their lives and the Holy Spirit is at work, there is nothing I can do to make the person stop!
It has been another wonderful day with the Lord. It has been a lot of fun. I am reminded though, here in my quiet room, that what is fun to me ONLY comes without the rush of sin. Overeating, over-shopping, over-working, fornication, losing tempers, gossip, self pity/pouting, over-exercising—these can all become “addictions” where sin has dominion over people. The “spiritual formation” classes can offer no more help than any other human, secular class can offer help.
Why? It is because no human being can do the work of the Holy Spirit. God will not share His glory with another. If we are going to give up the sinful habit, we must go to Jesus to replace the sinful habit in order to survive. That is why it is called “abiding in the Vine”. He says we can bear no fruit apart from Him.
Repentance is the key, fleeing temptation…and living in victory. If a person is truly saved he or she knows when Jesus speaks to the heart through the Holy Spirit to say, “This is an area that is coming between us. I want you to COME TO ME and love Me MORE.” We think, “Well, You mean love You THAT much? You mean, NEED You THAT much? I would REALLY be WEAK and NEEDY for YOU ALL OF THE TIME if I were to give up these crutches of mine.”
Right. We would be broken vessels for His honor. He would get all of the glory and we would get none for our victory in such a state of neediness and child-like dependence on Him.
If the thought scares you, never fear--just go on to the "spiritual formation" classes and tip toe through the daisies (which you may be asked to draw or envision). You will be safe there in "church" with an "escape" from the pain of repentance and the work of fleeing sin and growing up (sort of like a drug addict is safe from his or her anxiety). The result will be nothing close to a true LONGING FOR JESUS. But, it will give you something to discuss with others at church! You might really feel "disciplined" when you don't speak at the next "silent retreat"! It is fun and easy (and meaningless) compared to the real thing.
Believe me, if we leave our sinful habits and determine to not pick up another idol of the heart, we will GO TO THE LORD with no “spiritual formation” books needed. Anything apart from repentance is counterfeit.
My mother has spent the last two days in Bible study, making copies of her notes in her Bible for my brother and me to treasure forever. Huh, how did she know to “practice” such a “discipline” without “spiritual formation” classes? Answer: The Holy Spirit.
I am going to go and spend time in prayer now with Jesus getting all of the glory for my “spiritual formation”. For Jesus has changed my life, not a conference on "how to be spiritual".
The “spiritual” humanly contrived “formation” is nothing in comparison to the POWER of a witness for Jesus and the work of the Holy Spirit. A “witness” for Jesus can only be done by Him and not ourselves. He gets all of the glory, and we should apologize down on our knees to Him for running off to the idol of a silly “spiritual formation” class in comparison to knowing our Lord.