A message text for Sunday, July 31, 2016 from Melvin Gaines:
I have been actively involved in ministry now for over twenty-five years. This is just a personal observation, but in that time, I have seen the actions and behaviors of many who profess to know Jesus Christ as personal Savior. I witnessed people who serve with dedication and with the desire to truly see people come to Christ.
You have to get your hands a little dirty to see the first fruits of the power of the Holy Spirit working according to God’s will, which is for every person to come to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ:
1 Timothy 2:3-4 HCSB
This is good, and it pleases God our Savior, who wants everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
2 Peter 3:9
The Lord does not delay His promise, as some understand delay, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish but all to come to repentance.
God desires for everyone He created to be saved. Not everyone will experience His salvation, but that does not change His will. You are to live an abundant life for Jesus Christ to help people see the love of Christ, and have the desire to recognize the need for salvation in Christ.
I’ve seen many hardworking people that have found a way to tap into their talents and skills to serve Jesus Christ. They are on the front lines with their words and actions declaring the gospel message. They are concerned about the people who do not know Jesus Christ. They are making themselves available to seek the lost.
Yet, there are many, many more people that I have observed who profess belief in Jesus Christ but are absent from many church activities, such as neighborhood outreach, visitations, or even the customary church gatherings (except for those when free food is being served!). They may have even seen those that are working in the trenches for Christ, but they are not compelled to get involved. It has nothing to do with how busy a person’s life is, for even the busiest people still have the desire to jump in somewhere—wherever they are—and work for the Kingdom from time to time.
While it would be wrong to question the motivation of these people, or even give consideration to the authenticity of their faith, it is my conclusion that these people, who can readily watch others working for the gospel, just don’t get it.
They just don’t get it. They just don’t get “It.”
What is the “It” that they don’t get?
For this discussion, “It” refers to a believer’s progression within their relationship with Jesus Christ—a progression where service is not seen as a duty or as an act of drudgery. It is when a believer equates service with the love for other people as a reflection of Jesus Christ. This progression is something that not every believer will attain, or even realize is possible. It requires a devotion to Jesus Christ that must continue throughout the life of a believer.
When you become a believer, it is done with the immediate acknowledgment of the need for Jesus Christ as a personal Lord and Savior. It is done with humility, repentance and with the sincere desire for a new life trajectory.
2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
Your new life in Christ now begins, and in the same way a child grows into adolescence, your relationship with Jesus Christ consists of a series of growth spurts. It is now an ongoing training and life experience progression where you develop a heart of flesh—a sincere concern—for the fate of the lost. Only Jesus Christ, through the Holy Spirit, can orchestrate such a change.
Why do we need more believers who really “get it”? It is because of the millions of people throughout the world that are lost. There are many who are lost because they do not know Jesus Christ as Savior, and the tragedy of this is that many don’t even know that they are lost. They are in spiritual darkness because of sinful behavior and willful disobedience. Ravi Zacharias noted in his podcast, The Lostness of Men, “the worst effect of sin is the enslaved spirit” (Zacharias, 2008). Sinful behavior gives the sinner the illusion that he is free to do whatever he pleases; in fact, he is merely a slave of sin. When it comes to the heart of the unbeliever, it is a heart of stone that prefers conforming to the world instead of seeking Jesus Christ. Because of this, Zacharias noted that “man is condemned eternally without Christ” (2 Thessalonians 1:8-10) as “sin is not just an act—it is an attitude” (Zacharias, 2008). The failure of the lost to acknowledge Christ as Savior results in dire consequences. There is eternal condemnation and separation without Christ (Zacharias, 2008).
People who are lost need to see the love of Christ as often as possible. More believers need to see the importance of this. All of the world’s confusion and unrest today reflects the importance of believers possessing the “It” Factor as being more important than ever before.
The “It” Factor is what needs to be present in the life of a believer in order to effectively proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit is the One who enables this progression to participate in Christ’s Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20).
A. B. Simpson refers to this progression as sanctification (Simpson, 1890). Sanctification is the growth of one’s relationship with Jesus Christ that promotes behavioral and relational change in the life of a believer. Jesus is the source of our sanctification (Simpson, 1890). It begins with the desire of a believer to separate from sin. Simpson noted “the sanctified Christian is separated from sin, from an evil world, even from his own self, and from anything that would be a separating cause between him and Christ in the new life” (Simpson, p. 14, 1890).
Along with separation from sin, there must be a dedication to God and a conformity to the likeness and will of God (Simpson, 1890), which are the critical growth spurts that every believer is to experience as one yields to the Holy Spirit. Simpson noted, “A sanctified Christian is submissive and obedient. He desires the Divine will above everything else in life as kinder and wiser for him than anything else can be. He is conscious that he misses something if he misses it. He knows it will promote his highest good far more than his own will, crying instinctively, ‘Thy will be done'” (Simpson, p. 14-15, 1890).
It is this progression within sanctification that reflects God’s love to everyone that the believer comes into contact with, especially those who are lost. It is God’s love, and His desire to fellowship with believers, that turns hearts of stone into hearts of flesh—a greater propensity for humility and obedience in a consistent practice of godliness before others:
Ezekiel 36:25-28 HCSB
I will also sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean. I will cleanse you from all your impurities and all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will remove your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. I will place My Spirit within you and cause you to follow My statutes and carefully observe My ordinances. Then you will live in the land that I gave your fathers; you will be My people, and I will be your God.
In order for people without Christ to be compelled to leave their lost state of being, they need to see the love of God as often as possible. This is the “It” factor.
It is not a given that a believer grasps this sanctification—the “It” Factor. Simpson noted, “Many people make a mistake about some of these steps. Some of them are clinging to a little of their old goodness and therefore meet with failures. Others stumble at the second step. They do not see that Jesus is their complete Sanctifier. And many cannot take the third step and make a complete surrender of everything to Him. Multitudes fail even when they have taken these steps in not being able to believe that Jesus receives them” (Simpson, p. 17, 1890). The flesh, reminders of the past life, or confusion from life’s distractions, can keep a person from making progress. Satan and his followers desire to wreck the relationship of a believer in Jesus Christ, and only reliance upon God’s strength through the Holy Spirit can overcome them:
Ephesians 6:10-13 HCSB
Finally, be strengthened by the Lord and by His vast strength. Put on the full armor of God so that you can stand against the tactics of the Devil. For our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the world powers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens. This is why you must take up the full armor of God, so that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having prepared everything, to take your stand.
The believer who is still trying to “get it” must see the urgency and importance in the progressive development in a relationship with Jesus Christ. In order to develop that heart of flesh, he must be willing to—and strive to—learn more about Jesus Christ. He must do the following:
- Investigate the Bible. Read the bible daily, and not just read it, but dig deeply into its meaning. Knowing Jesus means knowing His Word as much as possible. A believer should not only make a plan to read, but also use study references and commentaries to provoke and compel thought to create a greater understanding of who Jesus Christ is. A habit of daily Scripture reading is a process of growing to appreciate God’s way of communicating, instructing and teaching a believer.
- Meditate on His Word. For a fruitful relationship with Jesus Christ, a believer must communicate with God through active prayer and meditation (Psalm 1:1-3). The practice of meditation is a way to close any gaps of communication between the Holy Spirit and the believer, and to promote greater instruction and knowledge of the character of Christ.
- Act on His Word through obedience. The Spirit compels the person who is faithful to Jesus Christ to go and reflect the love of Christ to everyone the person interacts with each and every day. A believer who is closely following Jesus Christ impacts the world around him with the presence of Christ in everyday life!
- Grow each day in sanctification. The Holy Spirit enables the believer with the capability to progress over time to learn more about Jesus and resist those things that can hamper his relationship with Him (2 Peter 3:18).
- Endure each day through any hardship or difficulty as you glorify God. It is through endurance that one develops the character of Christ (Romans 5:3-5).
James 1:2-4 HCSB
Consider it a great joy, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. But endurance must do its complete work, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.
Perhaps you picked up on the fact that the five points of progression and development in your relationship with Jesus Christ make up the acronym IMAGE. It is fitting that you live out this IMAGE in Christ, for it is His desire for you, as His creation in His image (Genesis 1:26-27):
- To live a life for Him that becomes more fulfilling and fruitful as you are sanctified in His presence.
- He desires for you to experience the fulfillment of the love of Christ and share it with others through your powerful words and your actions!
- This results in a mutual effort, with you and the power of the Holy Spirit, to show the love of Christ to anyone and everyone that you come into contact with!
- It is the culmination of your obedience to the proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ!
The strong believer in Jesus Christ truly gets “It.” He is willing to live openly for Jesus Christ and is compelled to reach the lost because Jesus wants the very same thing—to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10). A believer who is still learning about what it means to live a life of totality for Jesus Christ will soon get “It” as long as he seeks the Lord Jesus Christ with all of his heart.
There is a great need for people to join Christ in the Great Commission to seek and reach the lost. There is a lot at stake, and it is for all eternity:
Matthew 9:35-38 HCSB
Then Jesus went to all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and every sickness. When He saw the crowds, He felt compassion for them, because they were weary and worn out, like sheep without a shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest is abundant, but the workers are few. Therefore, pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.
If you don’t get it, and you don’t get “It,” I pray that you do, and that you do it very soon. The body of Christ needs your help to reach the lost.
Holman Christian Standard Bible (2009). Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers.
Zacharias, R. (2008, June 22). The Lostness of Man [Audio podcast]. Retrieved from http://www.oneplace.com/ministries/let-my-people-think/listen/
Simpson, A. (1890). The Fourfold Gospel. Harrisburg, PA: Christian Publications.
Developing your IMAGE:
Investigate God’s Word
Meditate on His Word
Act and apply His Word
Grow in Jesus Christ
Endure the hardships that will certainly come
Copyright © Melvin Gaines