The Lights In The Windows

windowsatnight

My former pastor, Jack A.SanFilippo, was a man among men. It was through his preaching that I was introduced to Jesus. As a teen, on several occasions after evening services, he would drive me home. I can still hear him, as on more than one occasion he would say to me: ‘Michael, do you see all these buildings? Do you see all those lights in the windows? I would answer, ‘Yes,’ and he would say, ‘Each light represents a soul; someone who is lost and needs Jesus.’ The absolute profoundness of this statement escaped me then, but I’ve understood it now for many years. His words may seem a bit extreme to some, but the fact is, he associated each light with a person; a potentially lost person. His statement was an expression of the burden that he had for souls. I’ve never known anyone since then who had the passion for the lost that he had. He would cry, pray, and even walk the streets to reach out to the lost. It was through his example, I began to learn the value of a lost soul. No one is to be thrown away. No one is a hopeless case. Though he went to be with the Lord over thirty years ago, I have tried to keep his example and his words about ‘the lights in the windows’ in my heart every day.

Jesus, first and foremost, had a burden for the lost. We see this truth spoken by the Lord himself:

For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost. Luke 19:10

When we speak of ‘the lost’, it is sort of an in house phrase. It is a phrase sprinkled throughout the New Testament used to identify those who are not saved. People are lost because they don’t have a relationship with Jesus and have lost their way. This is the universal condition of those who are without Christ. Here’s what the Apostle Paul told the Ephesians about the fact of being lost:

That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. Ephesians 2:12‭-‬13

It is an unfortunate condition because most who are lost, don’t see themselves in this way. Some may even be offended at being described in this manner. Aliens? Without hope and without God? Far off? No way! Most will tell you that they know who they are, where they are, and where they are going. Of course there will be exceptions. These see their lives as sort of a wandering maze, going from one thing to another and not quite knowing what it’s all about. They probably wouldn’t tell you, but they are searching, but have no idea what they are seeking for. They go from job to job, weekend to weekend, party to party, club to club–even relationship to relationship looking for that elusive peace and satisfaction. Oh, they do manage to find occasional happiness and a pseudo-peace that temporarily masks their need, but nothing quite gives them the peace they seek, because like sin, pleasure is but for a moment.

Why did Jesus have this burden for the lost? It was because He knew and understood several things. First, take a look at this verse:

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised. Luke 4:18

As we have seen in Luke 19:10, Jesus came to seek and save those who were lost. Here they are. They are described by Jesus in no uncertain terms. So concerning the lost, Jesus understood that:

They were BLIND
In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.
2 Corinthians 4:4

Satan and this world system of which he controls has effectively blinded the very minds of the lost, causing them not to see or understand their dangerous condition.

They were in BONDAGE
And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will.
2 Timothy 2:26

This blindness keeps them in bondage to the enemy. He has managed to both trap them and enslave them-because he could. The lost have no personal power over him.

They were in DARKNESS
And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.
John 3:19
To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me. Acts 26:18

This is part of the lost condition; blindness implies darkness, and for the lost, it is preferable. This is because the lost are under the dominion of Satan.

They were in DANGER
He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. John 3:18

This is the culmination of blindness, bondage, and darkness–condemanation. The lost in this condition. Daily, they are on the precipice of destruction, one heartbeat away from an eternity without the Lord. Yes, the lost are in great danger.

In light of these things, what should the Christian’s response be to the lost? Our response, I believe, should the same as the Lord’s. We should have a burden for the lost. A burden that causes us to remember the most important part of men and women. The soul. Until the soul is brought into union with Christ, that person will wander; that life will be incomplete. A great old chorus says it all:

Souls are crying, men are dying,
Won’t you lead them to the Cross?
Go and find them, Please help to win them
Win the lost at any cost!

Win the lost at any cost–are you doing your part?

That’s the Word! Take it with you. God bless you.

Too Much Church And Not Enough Jesus

Grabbed Frame 102 (2)

Pizza parties. Game nights. Movie nights. Seemingly clever little ideas to draw youth into the church or keep them in. It all sounds good, maybe done with good intentions. Food! Fun! Fellowship! Make it all worth their while. Give them a reason to want to come. We do need to at least make it a little more exciting, right? After all, who wants to go to another boring service? Give them something to do. How about a dance ministry? Step team? Mime? Anybody down for the drama team? Let’s call another week or two long revival, with an exciting guest speaker–or maybe a concert. That’ll bring them in won’t it? Here’s a novel idea: we’ll let them preach to one another and let them have their own worship team. Not a problem here; except let’s make sure that all the parties involved are saved first please? Let’s top it all off with some good music; not that slow old fashioned kind–something new, fresh, rhythmic and LOUD—because every little bit helps.

Unfortunately, the church has dug deep into the world’s grab bag and tried to implement many of these things into itself.  We cannot win the world to Christ using the worlds’ methods. The church has also, without realizing it, tried to improve upon the gospel message. By that I mean to make it more palatable to the taste. Let’s not talk so much talk about sin, and the blood; that’s not appealing. Let’s give them something more soothing and inviting. When this is done, it becomes watered down. A watered down Word will not and cannot save anyone.

I’m well acquainted with most of the arguments for these things. One,  for example says ‘Young people need to express themselves; they need an outlet.’ Take dancing for one. They say, ‘After all, didn’t David dance before the Lord?’ Oh yes he most certainly did! Only David’s dance was not choreographed; his was spontaneous praise.

If all any church can do is to play the music louder and faster to get the youth, (or anyone else for that matter), to jump higher, sweat harder, dance better, and shout louder, then what has been done? Nothing. Where’s the anointing? The doing of all those things does not guarantee the Spirits’ approval or presence.

Today’s church is off track, out of line, and gone astray. It has abandoned the old fashioned gospel and has made a plate at the table of entertainment and a ‘feel good’ message; a catchy, alluring and psychologized message that invites you to, among other things, ‘live your best life now’. It has gotten away from the mission statement given by the Lord Jesus Christ: ‘…Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.’ (Mark 16:15)

The church is not an entertainment outlet. Instead of ‘shakin’, rattlin’ and rollin’, the church should be evangelizing and preaching and reaching the lost with the gospel. Not prosperity. Not social justice. Not a ‘happy, feel good’ word. You go ahead and live ‘your best life now’, and be as ‘purpose driven’ as you want to be, but there are hard times coming. Much harder than the hokum that’s being preached now can handle. The true, cross-centered gospel will liberate the sin-chained souls of men and women. None of the pseudo-gospels (which are actually no gospel at all), have any power to save or set free. For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. (Rom.1:16). These so-called gospels only pander to the flesh and to those with itching ears; yearning to be told that everything is alright.

From where I stand, young people are disenchanted; many are deceived, and even more are lost. I see young people leaving the church because they do not see and have not experienced anything that is real. Sheer emotionalism will not cut it; and it is the fault of the church. Young people and others are being fed a steady appetite of ‘church’–or what is called church, and not enough Jesus. More dancing, more sweating, more jumping, more shouting–and no anointing. No power. There is nothing wrong with these things in themselves, but is that all you have? When the enemy attacks and comes in like a flood, if that’s all you do have, then the enemy will come in like a flood, and overtake them!

The church needs to come home to the Cross. That’s where our life in Christ began and where it needs to stay. There are no alternatives. It cannot be improved upon or minimized. Preach it. Teach it. Proclaim it. Live it. Cherish it.

So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross,
Till my trophies at last I lay down;
I will cling to the old rugged cross,
And exchange it someday for a crown.

That’s the Word. Take it with you. God bless you.

The Forgotten Commandment

Grabbed Frame 25

There she was. On a subway train with a bible in her hand, trying to gather herself. I sat at a distance on the same subway car and watched as the fear and apprehension seemed to overtake her. I could sense what she was dealing with, because I’d experienced this type of fear before. What to say? How to say it? What if someone does not like what I say? What if someone has questions? I watched her and began to pray for her silently. I don’t believe anyone else on that car knew what was happening. But I did. As I recall, she did pass through the car passing out tracts, and saying ‘God bless you.’ When she got to me, I accepted the tract and looked directly at her smiling, hoping to encourage her. She went on to the next car. I never saw her again.

In its simplest form, evangelism can be defined as being the active transmittal or communication of the gospel from a saved individual to an unsaved individual. Whether it be one on one verbal witnessing, by tract, or by preaching from the pulpit, evangelism is the forgotten commandment. Nowadays it seems the church is more concerned with ‘bettering’ itself. From ‘health and wealth, to ‘name it and claim it’, to ‘blab it and grab it’, and now the so-called grace ‘revolution’, the unsaved have gotten lost in the shuffle. While the church continues to be seduced by these doctrines of demons, the lost are perishing. Where is the gospel? We would rather dance and shout and leave God’s house ‘feeling good’ because we ‘had church’; folk actually leave the church still in bondage and need of a Saviour.

Jesus’ words in Mark 16:15 are explicitly clear, and they should pierce us. He said ‘Go ye.’ This was not a passing thought or idea. It was not a good suggestion. It was a command; plain and simple. He expects us to evangelize, and any excuses are feeble at best.

The reasons why Christians do not evangelize are varied. The reasons can range from fear, ignorance, or just plain apathy. Whatever fear Paul and the other apostles may have had was replaced by boldness when the power of the Holy Ghost came upon them. Ignorance cannot be claimed if one knows what Jesus said in Mark 16:15 and other places, and if that is the case, then its open disobedience-or maybe rebellion is a better word. In most cases apathy rules. Not that we do not care at all what happens to the unsaved; in most cases we know what scripture says. It also cannot be said that we are oblivious and have a total disregard for the lost. So what’s the problem? I believe that we are simply unwilling. Unwilling to go the extra mile. Unwilling to put our time and effort into it. Unwilling to (in some cases) put ourselves in peril. We want to fit in and not really make any waves. The quiet life. Live and let live. You do your thing and I’ll do mine. Invite folk to come to your church every once in a while, or to a concert your church is involved in. That’s about as far as many will go.

The proclamation of the true gospel will turn heads. It will cause the masses to do a double take. The true gospel will cause people to reassess and rethink all that they’ve known and heard. The true gospel, through the power of the Holy Ghost, will convict the world of sin (John 16:8).

The following is an overview of the meaning, purpose, content and results of Spirit led and inspired evangelism, taken from Acts 17:1-10.

Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where was a synagogue of the Jews:

• EVANGELISM TAKES YOU WHERE THE PEOPLE ARE. Be led by the Spirit of God. (Acts 16:7). Whether it’s at school, on the job, or wherever you find people-that’s where the Spirit will send you.

2 And Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them, and three sabbath days reasoned with them out of the scriptures,

• EVANGELISM IS THE HEARTBEAT OF CHRISTIAN MINISTRY. Evangelism is what Paul did; He had an occupation as a tentmaker, but this was his calling. This was his manner or his custom. Wherever God places you in the secular world, you are only there as a means to spread the gospel where you are. More often than not, we get caught up in the culture of the job, and our Christian witness suffers because we become ‘one of them’. The gospel needs to be at the center of all we do in Christian ministry-regardless of our ministry. Whether you sing, sweep or simply sit, evangelism is something all of us should do. Also note he reasoned with them, ‘out of the scriptures.’ A working knowledge of scriptures pertaining to salvation is vital. Do you know how to lead someone to Christ through scripture?

3 Opening and alleging, that Christ must needs have suffered, and risen again from the dead; and that this Jesus, whom I preach unto you, is Christ.

• EVANGELISM IS THE PROCLAMATION OF THE GOSPEL. This verse contains all the components of what the gospel is: the fact that He lived, He suffered, He died, and He rose again-He is the Anointed One (1Cor.15:3-4). The gospel is actually the message of the cross. 1Cor.1:17 states, For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect. The gospel is not about me or you or what ever church we go to and what is done there. The gospel is about Jesus.

4 And some of them believed, and consorted with Paul and Silas; and of the devout Greeks a great multitude, and of the chief women not a few.

• EVANGELISM IS MEANT TO BRING AND CAUSE CHANGE. The whole idea behind evangelism is to point lost people to Christ. When the gospel is presented, it will ultimately either be received or rejected. Let the Holy Spirit work. Leave the results with Jesus. If you give your testimony to someone, it is only as a means to point them to Christ and what He has done. Make sure you do not become the showcase and highlight as you speak. Keep Jesus at the center.

5 But the Jews which believed not, moved with envy, took unto them certain lewd fellows of the baser sort, and gathered a company, and set all the city on an uproar, and assaulted the house of Jason, and sought to bring them out to the people.

• EVANGELISM IS AN INTRUSION INTO ENEMY TERRITORY (SATAN’S KINGDOM). Because Satan is the prince of this world, many are hardened in their lifestyle and thought. Everyone will not believe and all will not receive. Remember the words of Paul in 1Cor.1:18: For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God. When opposition is encountered, it is an indication that the Word has touched a nerve; the Holy Spirit is doing His ministry of convicting the world of sin.

6 And when they found them not, they drew Jason and certain brethren unto the rulers of the city, crying, These that have turned the world upside down are come hither also;

• EVANGELISM ACCOMPANIED BY THE POWER OF THE HOLY SPIRIT WILL TURN THE WORLD UPSIDE DOWN. A watered down version of the gospel message will be embraced by the world, but the undiluted gospel message will either draw men to Christ or repel them. Jesus said, And I if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me (John 12:32).

7 Whom Jason hath received: and these all do contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, one Jesus,

• EVANGELISM HAS KING JESUS AT ITS CORE. Paul states in 1Cor.2:2, For I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ and Him crucified. Remember what we said previously-we are not the focus, and our testimony is only a means to point people back to Jesus.

8 And they troubled the people and the rulers of the city, when they heard these things.
9 And when they had taken security of Jason, and of the other, they let them go.
10 And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea: who coming thither went into the synagogue of the Jews.

• EVANGELISM WILL TURN YOUR WORLD UPSIDE DOWN. Once you begin to take the gospel message to heart, and understand the need and purpose for it, and get a burden for the lost, it will change your life; how you respond to, and relate to the unsaved. The question must be asked, why did Paul and the others do what they did, with a seemingly reckless abandon, continually disobeying the powers that were at the time? I believe that they were thoroughly convinced, and were responding to the call and burden placed in them by the Spirit of God. It was a ‘woe unto me if I preach not the gospel’ mentality (1Cor.9:16). It was something they had to do. They understood the ramifications of not knowing Christ, and did not want to see anyone enter into eternity without Him.

So, at the heart of evangelism is the belief that people are spiritually lost and that the only remedy for this spiritual ‘lostness’ is Jesus; not therapy, not psychology, not ‘happy words’ telling them that they need to discover the ‘champion’ within them. The gospel endorses Jesus. Rather, the gospel is Jesus. He is the only answer to man’s dilemma. Do you believe that? Or have you forgotten this great commandment? And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature (Mark 16:15).

That’s the Word. Take it with you. God bless you.