God’s Expectations vs. Man’s Expectations

God’s Expectations vs. Man’s Expectations

There are major differences between our expectations and God’s expectations. God’s expectations are objective and real. Our expectations are subjective and can be mistaken.

God's expectations are different than mans.

God’s expectations are different than mans.

An expectation is a personal desire or belief relative to future events. God’s expectations can never be disappointed because He has full knowledge of the future. Our expectations, however, may be disappointed because we have no knowledge of the future.

When we have expectations, specifically in regard to other people’s behavior, we risk becoming an unrighteous judge(James 4:11-12). If others fail to meet our expectations, and we become unhappy about it,we risk disappointment, which can have an impact on our joy (Philippians 4:4). Expecting other people to behave in certain ways (even if God does expect such behavior) risks putting us in the position of making our subjective beliefs the standard of others’ behavior.

It isn’t the case that others must meet our expectations. They must meet God’s expectations.  (We are not co-standards with God!)  Let God be true! (Romans 3:4). So, it is best to generally avoid forming expectations about others’ behavior, and let God’s expectations stand on their own. My task is to love my neighbor (Matthew 22: regardless of how he behaves toward me–to be gracious to him even as Jesus was gracious to those who killed him (1 Peter 2:18-25).

Having said that, there are some situations that call for us to form expectations. As a father, I let my children know what are my expectations for their behavior. I also let them know that these expectations come from God, not me, and that God has empowered me to train them (Ephesians 6:1-2). Even so, my expectations must be holy (separate from sinful desires and especially envy and pride) or they will produce unholiness in my life.

God bless you, and I love you.

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Light to Influence the Darkness of the World

The Light of the World

Jesus wanted His followers to influence the world.

“You are the salt of the earth,” He told them. (Matthew 5:13) He then added, “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 15:14-16; NKJV)

This theme of light in relationship to God’s people is one that is expounded upon throughout the New Testament. God is, tellingly, the Father of lights. (James 1:17) The Lord’s saints are to walk as “children of light,” (Ephesians 5:8; cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:5) receiving and manifesting the light of Christ in themselves. (Ephesians 5:13-14) In reminding Christians of the difference between those in Christ and those in the world, Paul asks, “what relationship does light have with darkness?” (2 Corinthians 6:14) Christians should remember that they have been called out of darkness and into the light of God. (1 Peter 2:9)

Over and over again, the image of light, shining into darkness, is used to convey the sense of what God wants from His people. They are to be a lamp He has lit, and placed on a stand in order to give light to all. They are to be the shining city of lights set on a hill where all can see it. They are to have a light that cannot be hidden.

Stream a light that cannot be hidden.

Stream a light that cannot be hidden.

This light is to be manifested in the doing of good works (Matthew 5:16), through heeding the word of God (2 Peter 1:19), through living according to the pattern God provides (1 John 1:7; Philippians 2:16), through loving-kindness shown to our brethren (1 John 2:10), through sobriety and being ready for Christ (1 Thessalonians 5:6-10), through patient cheerfulness in the face of trials and labors (Philippians 2:15) and by exposing the unprofitable works of sin and darkness (Ephesians 5:8-13).

Unfortunately, men frequently want to hide the light that God has lit.

Unbelievers have historically sought to suppress the teaching of the truth of the Gospel. In extreme cases, persecution, execution and banishment have all been used to try and keep Christians from shining the light of Christ. Nor should we think that such behavior is a relic of the distant past. Those who take the time to measure such things estimate that more Christians are persecuted for their religion in the modern age than were ever persecuted in the days of those Roman Emperors who gladly burned Christians at the stake and threw them to the lions.

In less extreme cases, Christians are told to be quite about their faith; to stop trying and convert other people. Some countries have even made such attempts to convert non-believers a crime.

While such attempts to quash Christianity are unfortunate, they are not unexpected and they have never been successful. Today, the word of God is available in more languages than ever before, and is more readily accessible than ever. With each passing year it is only more so.

As Christ implied, God did not give light to the world in Christ in order for men to hide it. Men are unable to suppress the light of Christ for long, and always that light will continue to shine through the true followers of Christ.

More unfortunate then, than the world seeking to extinguish the light of Christ is when Christians themselves work to cover up, or hide, that same light in their own lives. The world cannot extinguish the light, but believers can suppress the light God has given them. They can suppress it and hide it by refusing to do good works. Or through living as the rest of the world lives, without distinction. Or through failing to show the love of Christ, and instead acting hateful and crass. Or through constant complaining and grumbling. Or through refusing to share the Gospel message with those around them.

The light of Christ cannot be hidden. If a man let’s Christ shine through Him, there is nothing the world can do to quench that light. It will burn eternally.

But if those who have been given the light work to remove it from their own lives; we have free will. God will let us. We can successfully fail to let the light shine within us. But Christians should ask themselves: if the light of Christ does not shine in their lives, does not the removal of light allow darkness to come back in? And when the darkness returns to the soul, what does it bring with it?

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Graying instead of Growing

Graying instead of Growing

It is no secret to any of us that the Lord’s church is shrinking; that we are graying instead of growing. If we are ‘growing’ at all, it is only in the area of ‘growing older’ and getting smaller. The 2018 edition of “Churches of Christ in the United States” (© 2018 by 21st Century Christians, Inc.) reveals that as recently as 2000-2018, a whopping 1,047 congregations of the Lord’s church in America have simply ceased to exist. That is a staggering loss of some 59 congregations per year, on average. During that same time period, they also report the loss of nearly 200,000 adherents (pg. 22). This devastating decline is occurring despite the countless millions of dollars and hour’s worth of effort being poured into radio, T.V., D.V.D. and internet ministries, as well as V.B.S., gospel meetings, “bring a friend to church” events, and a vast variety of other well-supported and conducted outreach projects annually. How is that even possible?

Is there rust on your gears?

Is there rust on your gears?

Conversely, when we look into our Bibles however, we see that the first century church of Christ grew like wildfire! Despite massive governmental persecution, deadly opposition from other zealous religious groups, and without the benefit of any of the modern-day technological advances which we now enjoy and utilize for evangelistic purposes, within about three decades after the death of Christ and the establishment of His one, New Testament church, that generation  had so successfully taken the gospel into the whole world (Colossians 1:23), that they were accused by their adversaries of having “turned the world upside down” (Acts 17:6). How on earth did they do it?

We today, in the churches of Christ, claim to be the same church as we see in the Scriptures. We profess to “Call Bible things by Bible names, and do Bible things in Bible ways” – and rightly so and well we should. But if that is truly the case, then we must be about doing what they did, in order to see what they saw. But alas, we apparently are not. And so, we must look deeply into the word, uncover the ‘secret’ to their vast evangelistic success, and then follow that divinely-documented pattern if we are to see that same incredible congregational and kingdom growth today.

One of the first and most obvious things which we discover when we look deeply into the pattern of that first-century, explosively church-growing generation, is that they never once ‘invited someone to church’ in order to convert them! No, not once. If so, where so? Where, in the Book of Acts, did anyone, ever, under any circumstances, invite a lost sinner to church, in order that the preacher might perhaps then convert him/her? They didn’t. You won’t find that phrase – ‘invited them to church’ – alluded to anywhere in the New Testament. It is no more biblical than the so-called ‘Sinner’s Prayer.’ The ‘Sinner’s Prayer’ which, by the way, we rightly reject due to the fact that it is never once seen taught as the way to be saved anywhere in the New Testament. However, we have to understand that ‘inviting people to church’ so that the preacher might possibly convert them falls into the same exact category. So how did our first century brethren manage to carry out such successful evangelism then? Let’s look and see.

Once the miracle of Acts 3:1-11 had gotten the crowd’s attention and made them curious, what did Peter do? Did he then invite them all to church on Sunday so they could have explained to them all that had just happened? No. He took advantage of the opportunity right then and there to tell them about Jesus (Vss. 12-26)! No waiting or inviting whatsoever! (Therefore, they also did not enjoy the luxury of having several days’ worth of time to come up with a convenient excuse as to why they were sorry but could not go to church with him the next Lord’s Day either.) And what was the result? Church growth exploded (Acts 4:1-4).

In Acts 5:42, we see that people were being taught “daily, in the temple, and in every house” about Jesus – not just on Sundays, and not just in their assemblies. What happened as a result? Folks weren’t just simply reported as being ‘added’ to the church; disciples were rapidly “multiplying” (Acts 6:1).

After the martyrdom of Stephen, the persecution of the brethren, and the scattering of the church, what did those normal, everyday saints (and not the apostles as Scripture clearly notes) abandoning their homes and ‘running for their lives’ do everywhere they went (Acts 7:54-8:4)? Did they invite those they came in contact with to go to church with them in their new towns on Sunday? No. They themselves – the everyday members – preached the word everywhere they went (8:4). What happened when Phillip did that down in Samaria? Both men and women were being baptized (Acts 8:12). In other words, the number of souls converted continued to climb rapidly.

In Acts 8:26-34, we read of Phillip’s encountering the pious, religious, and inquisitive (but as of that point still unconverted) Ethiopian eunuch as he was reading from the scroll of Isaiah. When the eunuch posed a religious question to him, what did Phillip automatically do? Did he hesitantly invite the eunuch to join him for church on Sunday so as to possibly get his scriptural question answered by another such as the preacher? No; not hardly! Instead, “Phillip opened his mouth, and beginning at this Scripture, preached Jesus to him” (Acts 8:35). What happened as a result? Another baptism and another new brother in Christ (Vss. 36-39).

Whether we turn to the story of Cornelius and his entire household’s conversion as recorded in Acts 10; or we take a look at the biblical account of how church growth exploded as “a great number believed and turned to the Lord” in Acts 11:19-21; if we explore the austere beginnings of that great and faithful first-century congregation in Philippi by examining the conversion accounts of both Lydia and the jailor which we read about in Acts 16:10-34; or, should we examine such events as we see resulted in the fact that “all who dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus” in Acts 19:8-10, we would note the same exact pattern of effective evangelism always in evidence. And never once did it involve any saint ‘inviting anyone to church’ so that the preacher or some other ‘professional’ teacher might somehow perhaps help convert them to Christ – no, not once.

What we discover instead, is every saved and grateful saint, explaining to everyone they ever encountered, everywhere they ever travelled, all about the infinite love, grace, and mercy of our beloved Lord Jesus Christ – instantly and on the spot! This they did in the streets, the marketplaces, and the prisons; in private homes, from house to house, and on a daily basis; and even on the banks of a river – indeed “everywhere” they ever went” (Acts 8:4, 21:28)! God’s precise and divinely-documented pattern of infinitely powerful, productive, and effective evangelism, always was, is, and shall forevermore be, exactly that.

Therefore, if we would grow today like they did in the first century, then we must do today what they did then to achieve it. As individual Christians we must stop neglecting our God-given duty by insisting on a process that is as Biblically non-existent and therefore anti-scriptural as the so-called ‘Sinner’s Prayer.’ In other words, we, as grateful and Christ-clad individuals, must stop simply and ever so occasionally just inviting someone to church and thinking we’ve done our Christian duty. Instead, we must start instantly and individually involving everyone we possibly can, in an in-depth, on the spot investigation of the scriptures with us personally – no matter who we are (Matthew 25:14-30; 1 Peter 2:13-16) – at each and every opportunity we have or can create! THAT’S how THEY did it!

We must get away from this man-made and self-justifying reasoning that we pay the preacher and/or the elders or other ‘professionals’ to do the congregation’s evangelizing. We must study and retrain ourselves to understand that biblically speaking, evangelism is every, single, individual saint’s responsibility – no matter their age, gender, or church status.

Yes, the preacher and the elders do have the same responsibility to evangelize as everyone else – but no more and no less than any other saved and grateful member of the Lord’s church to be sure! They also have the added and God-given responsibility of making sure they are providing the proper biblical tools and training to the rest of the congregation, so as to most effectively equip the everyday saints in the pews to carry out their God-given duty. That is precisely what scripture says that the Christ gave those leaders to His church for in the first place. We see this providentially proven in Ephesians 4:11-16:

And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting,  but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head–Christ– from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.

My beloved brethren; it’s time to do what God told Moses to do (Exodus 14:13-15). God has provided us with His perfect and timeless blueprint for explosive church growth. We’re just not following it. It’s time to stop complaining because we’re shrinking, graying, and going backwards, and to start following God’s divine plan to get growing forward once again (Matthew 28:18-20). Will you join me now in implementing the Lord’s infinitely powerful instructions, for initiating effective everyday evangelism?

And please note that you can now explore and take a look inside of

Effective Everyday Evangelism, at: www.amazon.com/author/douglasdingley).

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