You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; so that it gives light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father, which is in heaven. (Matt 5:14-16)
Summertime in Illinois is sure to bring with it little creatures we call lightning bugs. During those few weeks a year, some fields are literally full of little, blinking bugs that intermittently flash with fluorescent light. Small children have captured them and put them in glass jars for generations. The children hope that placing enough bugs in the jar will provide a natural flashlight.
Most of us have tried to catch lightning bugs. It seems so easy when they are lit, but then their light goes out they are hard to see. Recently, it came to me that many Christians are like those bugs. Instead of giving off enough light that our works become evident to those who look on, we blink off and on without providing adequate illumination.
We live in a dark world! Darkness is crowding out most every thing that believers hold sacred. The success of darkness is not due to its strength. Light will always displace the dark. It succeeds because we are not constant lights. We are like those little bugs, going through life blinking on and off without ever shining brightly.
We need a true spiritual awakening! Just because someone attends a church and calls himself or herself a Christian, does not make them an actual follower of Christ. Many people consider themselves to be a Christian but demonstrate little evidence of a life-transforming personal relationship with Jesus. The point is that being a “Christ-follower” is much more than merely calling your self a “Christian” or attending church, or adhering to some religious code. Being a true Christ-follower implies you are actually following Christ, embracing His attitude, and committed to carrying out His mission. The problem is people calling themselves Christians but not evidencing their faith by walking out what they say they believe.
Our Lord has told us to shine so bright that our good works become evident. If we keep blinking every so often, the darkness will continue displacing us. If ever we needed to shine, it is now. As Paul said in Philippians 2:14-16; “Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life….”
“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus…” (Romans 8:1). “When he (the Holy Spirit) comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin…” (John 16:8). “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord” (Acts 3:19). The topic of this article is the difference between conviction, condemnation, and repentance.
Conviction is the work of the Holy Spirit. Conviction always comes from God. Conviction is always specific (you lied, you made a wrong choice, your attitude is wrong, your motives are impure, etc). With conviction there is always a solution (repent, take responsibility, make restitution, etc). And conviction always produces hope and restoration (God is making a difference in you so He can make a difference through you).
God uses conviction to get our attention, to remind us of areas of our lives in need of His transformational touch, to lovingly discipline us, to restore us, to draw us closer to Himself, and ultimately to make us more like Jesus in our behaviors, attitudes, motives, and intentions. God wants to use conviction to give you life to the fullest (John 10:10) by setting you free to be all He has purposed you to be.
Condemnation, on the other hand, never comes from God. Condemnation is usually very general (you are a failure, you can’t be forgiven, you will never get out of this mess, etc). Condemnation never has a solution (you can never change, you deserve this pain, you will never be free, etc). And condemnation always intends to produce despair, depression, fear, anxiety, and hopelessness.
The enemy uses condemnation to kill, steal and destroy (John 10:10). Satan wants to destroy your hope because he knows that without hope you will not even make the effort. The enemy wants to use condemnation to keep you beat up, discouraged, afraid, and imprisoned by his lies and deceitful ways.
Repentance is the turning away from one’s sin. Repentance should be our response to the conviction of the Holy Spirit. Repentance is goes far beyond mere agreement with God that you have sinned. Repentance implies change. The best way I know to define repentance is as a change of mind, a change of direction, and a change of purpose. Repentance means to change one’s mind, disposition, and behavior toward God by acknowledging personal error and turning toward God’s universal, objective, constant, absolute truth as found in Scripture.
God uses repentance to help us maintain proper relationship with Him, to help us walk out the practical side of forgiveness and to follow-through with the spiritual development and life-change process, as well as to give us spiritual renewal, restoration, and refreshing.
Bottom line: If Jesus is your Savior, you no longer have to cope with condemnation. Jesus died on a cross to set you free from condemnation. Every week I remind people that ALL of their sin, shame, and guilt was nailed to the cross. When the Holy Spirit convicts you…reject condemnation….choose repentance…. and God will restore you and give you renew your hope!
Life is full of figurative storms. Some of the storms we face are financial, some are relational, and some storms regard our health, and so on. We each realize that we have either just weathered a storm, are currently in a storm, or are about to endure a storm. Storms are simply a normal part of our reality. In light of that allow me to make nine observations about the storms of life using the story of Jesus and Peter walking on the water found in Matt. 14:22-33.
Storms may come into the lives of Christians even though they are obeying Jesus (v.22). Life happens! God always wants to “give you life to the fullest”, and the enemy always “wants to steal, kill, and destroy” (John 10:10). Everything life and the enemy want to use to destroy you, God will use to make you exactly who He wants you to be; the testing of our faith develops perseverance. And “perseverance must finish its work so that we become mature and complete and lack nothing” (James 1:2-4).
Sometimes what starts to be a routine journey can become a real battle (v.24). Have I mentioned that life happens yet?! No matter how perfect our planning process may be, we really have no idea what a day may have in store for us. Sometimes we see the storm coming…sometimes it catches us unaware and unprepared. The good news is that God is never caught off guard. He is already in your tomorrow.
Times of crisis are merely opportunities for God’s intervention (v.27). God specializes in things once thought impossible! Miracles only happen in a place I call Miracle Territory. Peter could walk on the water until he got out of the boat. Get out of the boat of your comfort zone… God’s got everything under control.
Sometimes God calms the storm, other times God chooses to calm the person (v.29-30). Trust Him! He knows you better than you know yourself. Good day or tough day… God always has a plan.
Fear and doubt will cause a Christ-follower to sink into their circumstances (v.30). As true Christ-followers develop spiritually they learn to “walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor. 5:7). Fear and doubt always paralyzes God’s redemptive potential in and through you!
Jesus will respond immediately when a believer calls (v.31). When you can’t see God’s hand working on your behalf, you can always trust His heart. God will never leave you or forsake you. In your darkest moment He is there.
How we respond to life’s lessons showcases our spiritual maturity (v.31). When you squeeze a lemon you get lemon juice because that is what is inside the lemon. We can present ourselves to be sweet on the good days but when we are squeezed by the storms of life what comes out is what is really inside of us.
When the lesson is over, Jesus will calm the storm (v.32). What a truth!!! By the way, the lesson is over when the lesson has been learned.
The level of trust you have in Jesus depends greatly on whether you see his deeds or you know His ways (v.33). God is always faith and true! His grace will always be sufficient and His power will always be immeasurably more than all you can ask or imagine! You can trust Him!
(a picture of Billy Graham’s official decision card is at the end of the article)
Here are my points for this post (then the longer story behind these points will follow)
Children’s Ministry & Student Ministry are some of the most important things a person or a church can generously invest its resources into year after year.
85% of people, who do not accept Christ by age 18, never will. Only 4% of people give their lives to Christ after the age of 30. (CrossChurch is one of the rare churches that year after year, regularly sees many adults giving their lives to Christ)
We NEVER know the end-result or the lifetime impact we will have simply because we are willing to invest our lives in people. Talk about Jesus. Explain the gospel. Speak life. Give hope.
The church is a volunteer-powered organization, yet most the time, volunteers never think about the potential impact their time, energy, sacrifice, and willingness to invest their lives in a person can produce over a lifetime.
For decades church leaders have made comments like “The children and youth are our future”, while investing very little to reach, develop, grow, and mature “their future”.
Children and youth need to experience encounters with Christ, not just be entertained. Flashy ministry is a horrible substitute for the power of the living God.
You can count the apples on the tree, you can even count the seeds in an apple, but none of us can count the apples in a seed. You never know the impact your one life can have over time. Only God knows the number of apples one seed can produce.
Now the Back Story to this Post & the Picture
At the end of this article is a picture of Billy Graham’s decision card from 1934! How cool is that!! If you know who Billy Graham is, then you probably think it is very cool. If you have no idea who Billy Graham is, then you probably don’t think it is all that cool. hahahahahhaa IF you don’t know who Billy Graham is, then please google it.
Short version; Billy Graham’s estimated lifetime audience, including radio and television broadcasts, is in the neighborhood of 2.5 billion people. He gave his life to Christ in 1934 during a series of revival meetings in Charlotte, North Carolina, which were led by evangelist, Mordecai Ham. Billy Graham has shared the gospel with more people than anyone else in history, but do you know who shared the gospel with him? It actually is a series of events that has been traced over the years and starts out with one Children’s Ministry volunteer named Edward Kimball.
I’m fairly sure you have never heard of Edward Kimball, just like most people have never heard of you or me. Kimball was just the ordinary Children’s Ministry volunteer “trying to manage the rowdy boys in his Sunday School class”. He prayed for each of his students and sought to lead each one of them to believe in Christ as their Savior. If you have ever taught the Bible to young boys, you know that the experience can often be like herding cats with almost zero attention spans. hahahhaaha
One young man, in particular, didn’t seem to understand or even care about the gospel, so Kimball went to the shoe store where he was stocking shelves to talk to him in the stock room with the importance of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. That young man was Dwight L. Moody. In the stockroom on that Saturday, he received Jesus Christ as his Savior. Later, he became an evangelist who proclaimed the gospel and impacted two continents for God, with untold thousands coming to faith in Jesus Christ, in his lifetime. That’s a great story, but I’m not done.
One of the people who came to Christ through Dwight L. Moody’s ministry was Wilbur Chapman. Then Chapman became the evangelist who preached to thousands. One day, a gifted professional baseball player for the National League’s Chicago White Stockings named Billy Sunday, had a day off and decided to attend a service where Chapman was speaking. That night he gave his life to Christ.
Billy Sunday quit baseball and became part of Chapman’s traveling evangelistic team. When Chapman accepted the pastorate of a large church, Billy Sunday began traveling and holding his own evangelistic crusades. Through Billy Sunday’s ministry another young man named Mordecai Ham gave his life to Christ.
In 1934, Mordecai Ham came to Charlotte, North Carolina, to hold some evangelistic church services. Billy Graham was a sandy-haired, lanky high school student who vowed that he wouldn’t go hear him preach, but eventually, Billy decided to go to a service because he had heard a group of students intended to interrupt the service after Mordecai Ham announced that he “knew for a fact that a house of ill repute was located across the street from the local high school and that male students were skipping lunch to visit the house across the street”. Billy decided to attend the service just went to see what would happen.
At that time, Billy’s hero was Babe Ruth. So far as he was concerned, “nobody ever attended revivals services except a old, effeminate men and crazy women and children”. But that night Billy and his friend, Grady Wilson, went and “were intrigued by what he heard. Billy was impressed by the size of crowd, and the preacher’s communication skill, but soon had heard all he could take” because Billy “didn’t like being told that he was lost and going to hell”. They “felt as if the preacher was talking directly to them”.
They got out as soon as they could and Billy said, “I am through,” but he was miserable all night and all the next day and later said, “I couldn’t get there soon enough the next night!”
However, since they thought the preacher was talking directly to them, they “decided to sit in the choir the second night, so the preacher couldn’t point his finger at them”. They didn’t pretend to be singers. They “just wanted to be behind the preacher so he couldn’t see them”.
During that series of revival services, Billy responded to the invitation to give his life to Christ, and Grady dedicated his life to Christ and ministry as well. Billy changed his hero from Babe Ruth to Jesus Christ.
Billy eventually became known as Billy Graham, the evangelist who preached to more people than any other person who ever lived. Million of people have believed in Christ as their Savior because a Children’s Ministry volunteer was simply concerned for his rowdy boys and their eternity. The actions of this unknown man triggered a fascinating chain of events that has changed the eternity for millions.
If you are like most people, you have served in some capacity and wondered at times if you were making a real difference or not. Maybe you’ve thought about quitting because you didn’t think you were making any difference.
Next time you are tempted to give up, please remember Edward Kimball, whose persistence and faithfulness was tremendously honored by the Lord. The story would have looked very differently if Edward Kimball did not take his Saturday to seek out young Dwight Moody to talk to him about Christ.
As I said earlier, you can count the apples on a tree, and even the number of seeds in an apple, but only God knows how many apples are in a single seed.
Only God could know the journey of the gospel from a kids ministry volunteer named Edward Kimball through Dwight L. Moody, through Wilbur Chapman, through Billy Sunday, through Mordecai Ham, and eventually through Billy Graham into millions of people.
Faith is a very critical step in our spiritual development process. Faith is biblically defined as “being sure of what we hope for, and certain of what we do not see” (Heb 11:1). Scripture even pushes a little further a few verses later, “Without faith, it is impossible to please God” (Heb 11:6). Faith, or the lack of it, is serious business to God.
Faith is also a gift of the Holy Spirit (Rom 12:6-8, 1 Cor 12:7-11, Phil 2:13) that fuelsthe immeasurably more power of God (Eph 3:20). Faith releases the power of God, just as the absence of faith forfeits the power of God. Let me repeat myself, “Faith, or the lack of it, is serious business with God”.
Faith grows out of three basic root systems. First, there are the “figurers”; they say, “I think”. Their faith tends to be based in, and limited by logic, experiences, and opinions, which sounds right, until you realize that God loves to do the impossible and the unlikely, so He alone gets the glory.
Since our ways and thoughts are not the same as God’s, people in the thinkers group, tend to be misled by doubt and fearful thinking. The problem with basing your faith on your thinking is that your thinking is flawed.
Second, there are the “feelers”; they say, “I feel”. Their faith tends to be based in, and limited by their own emotional roller coaster. If they feel positive, then all is right with the world, if they feel down, then all is wrong with the world.
Faith should not be based on our emotions. Emotions waver, but biblical faith is stable, steady, and unwavering. People who tend to base their faith on their feelings tend to be misled by those very same fickle emotions.
Then there are the “believers”; they say, “I believe God”. Believing God is not based on logic, or emotions. It is not based on our opinions, or our changing feelings. Faith that is rooted in believing God is based on the unchanging, unwavering, nature and character of God.
Our thinking will deceive us. Our emotions will deceive us. But faith that is rooted in the nature and character of God is stable and dependable. Hebrews 10:23 says it this way, “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess for he who promised is faithful.”
Faith is God’s invitation to partner with Him. It is a tremendous gift (1 Cor 12:9). What we believe is proven not by what we say, but more so, by what we do. Biblical faith is active and powerful. Active faith releases the power of God, just as the absence of faith forfeits the power of God. Think that last sentence through for a few minutes today, there is tremendous truth contained in those eighteen words.