Do You Want To Get Well?

There are three types of people that cannot be helped. The first are those who will not acknowledge they have a problem or realize their need for God. The second are those who know they are in trouble, but their pride won’t let them ask for the help they need. Their self-sufficiency is keeping them from finding their sufficiency in Christ. Life has a way of bringing these two types of people to the end of their resources. The confident Paul had to be struck down before He would turn to Christ for his confidence (2 Corinthians 2:4-5).

The third type of people we can’t help are those who really don’t want to get well. Such was the case of the man who was an invalid for thirty-eight years. He would lie by the pool of Bethesda where the blind, the lame and the paralyzed came to be healed. Supposedly an angel would come and stir the waters and whoever was in it at the time was healed. The Lord asked him, “Do you want to get well” (John 5:6)? That was a very profound question, not a cruel one. The invalid answered with an excuse. There was no one to put him in the water and someone always got in ahead of him! This man showed no faith in God, but the Lord in His sovereignty chose to heal him anyway. Jesus warned him to stop sinning for the eternal consequences of sin are far worse than his physical ailment. To show his gratitude, the man turned Him in for healing him on the Sabbath!

Jesus took away his excuse and probably his source of income through begging. There are some people who really don’t want to get well. They have a built in excuse for not rising above the circumstances. Because of their illness, they get attention and pity from others. Many try to have their basic needs met through begging, welfare and charity. If the invalid really wanted to get well, he would have found a way to get in that pool. If we really want to get well, we would make whatever commitment it takes to overcome our infirmities. We wouldn’t get mad at God or blame anybody else. We would choose to believe that we can overcome our deficiencies in Christ and that we can do all things through Him who gives us strength. If we have to swallow our pride and humble ourselves, we do it. If we have to submit to a process that trusted people advise us to take, we do it. If we have to give up an unrighteous lifestyle, we do it. If we have to ask others to forgive us, we do it. If we need to forgive others, we do it. If we need to persevere under pressure, we do it. We do whatever it takes to become the person God created us to be, because Jesus did what it took for us to be alive and free in Him. The test of a person’s character is determined by what it takes to stop them from pursuing their convictions. “As you know, we consider blessed those who have persevered” (James 5:11).

Dr. Neil            www.disciplesshipcounsel.com For Spanish see www.ficmm.org/blog

Renouncing

In making a public profession of faith, the early church would stand, face the west, and say, “I renounce you, Satan, and all your works and all your ways.” This generic declaration is still practiced by many expressions of Christianity throughout the world. More specifically, the early church would renounce every counterfeit religious experience they had, every false vow or pledge they made, and every false teacher or doctrine in which they believed. They would then face the East and make a public declaration to follow Christ and believe the truth.

It was said in the Old Testament, “He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy” (Proverbs 28:13). In a similar way, Paul encouraged the church to renounce secret and shameful ways and choose the truth. Renunciation involves giving up a claim or right. When we renounce, we are making a definite decision to let go of any past unrighteous commitments, pledges, vows, pacts and beliefs that are not Christian. We have not truly repented (changed our mind) if we make a decision for Christ and continue to hold on to past and believe what we have always believed. That would make salvation an experience of addition rather than transformation. At salvation, we didn’t just receive something new to be added on to what we already were. We are new creations in Christ and that potentially sets us free from our past. To decisively let go of the past is the first step in repentance. It is not enough to say we believe something to be true and at the same time continue to believe the lie. The truth will set us free only if it nullifies the lies that we have believed.

The Apostle Paul reveals the close link between renouncing and not losing heart (2 Cor. 4:1,2). Many new believers can easily lose heart if they simply add a little Christianity to their existing world experience. The finished work of Christ took care of our sin and provided for us a new life in Christ. But at the moment we were born-again, we had not fully repented nor were our minds instantly renewed. We needed the Holy Spirit within us to lead us to the truth that would set us free. Only then can we fully repent and be transformed by the renewing of our minds. As new believers we can repent because it is God who grants repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth. Only then can we come to our senses and escape the trap of the devil (2 Timothy 2:25-26). A failure to do so will leave many Christians defeated and bound to their pasts. They are trying to have the best of both worlds and doing so has caused them heartache and pain. “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1).

Dr. Neil            www.discipleshipcounsel.com   For Spanish see www.ficmm.org/blog

Establishing Your Freedom In Christ

James reveals the ongoing battle that we have with the flesh (James 4:1-3), the world (vss. 4-6), and the devil (vs. 7). To resolve these personal and spiritual conflicts we need to draw near to God and repent of our old ways. If we try to resist the devil without first submitting to God we will be attempting to set ourselves free by our own strength and resources. In the flesh we are no match for Satan. On the other hand we can submit to God and not resist the devil and stay in bondage. The critical issue is our relationship with God and the following seven issues need to be resolved in order to live a free and productive life in Christ.

  1. God said in Leviticus 20:6 that He would cut off from His people any who consulted mediums and spiritists. Those who have been falsely guided by and/or made some commitment to any cult or occult teaching must specifically renounce that teaching and any pledges or vows they have made. We cannot draw near to God and stay attached to spiritual counterfeits.
  2. We must recognize the ways that we have been deceived and choose the truth that will set us free. False prophets and teachers can deceive us, we can pay attention to deceiving spirits, and we can deceive ourselves. To get out of denial, we must face the truth about our own sinful condition, and learn how to overcome old flesh patterns, mental strongholds, and defense mechanisms. The finished work of Christ is our defense.
  3. We must forgive others from our hearts. Nothing will keep us more bound to the past than an unwillingness to forgive, and Satan will take advantage of it (2 Corinthians 2:10-11). God, himself, will turn us over to the tormentors if we refuse to forgive as we have been forgiven (Matthew 18:21-35).
  4. We must humble ourselves before God, because He is opposed to the proud (vs.6). Humility is confidence properly placed in God. The truly humble believer worships God and puts no confidence in the flesh (Philippians 3:3). The proud cannot draw near to God.
  5. We must be submissive to governing authorities (Romans 13:1-5). We cannot submit to God and rebel against the authority that He has established.
  6. We must confess all known sins and renounce any use of our bodies as instruments of unrighteousness. The latter allows sin to reign in our mortal bodies (Romans 6:11-13). Then we must submit our bodies to God as living sacrifices (Romans 12:1).
  7. We must renounce the sins and iniquities of our ancestors that have been passed on from one generation to the next and take our place in Christ (Exodus 20:5).

Dr. Neil            www.discipleshipcounsel.com   For Spanish see www.ficmm.org/blog

Humble Intercession

Moses was the most humble man on the face of the earth (Numbers 12:3). He showed his humility when his staff, congregation and elders challenged his authority and leadership. First Miriam and Aaron began to talk against Moses (see numbers 12). The Lord called all three out to the Tent of the Meeting and spoke to them. The Lord wanted to know why Miriam and Aaron weren’t afraid to speak against Moses whom God had chosen to lead His people. When the Lord departed, Miriam had leprosy. It would be human nature to agree with God’s discipline, but Moses interceded on her behalf and God relented. The leprosy would last only for a week.

In Numbers 14, the whole assembly is discouraged because of the bad report from ten of the spies. They were ready to stone Moses when the Lord intervened again. God said He would strike them down with a plague for their unbelief and make Moses into an even greater nation. How many Christian leaders would pass that test? If your congregation was about to stone you and God Himself said He was going to do away with them and give you an even greater ministry. Wouldn’t you feel just a little bit vindicated and maybe excited about your new of having a bigger ministry? That is not how Moses felt. He was concerned about God’s reputation. What would the pagan nations think if God brought these people out into the wilderness and destroy them? Moses prayed that God would withhold His judgment and God did. Like Miriam, the people would have to suffer some consequences.

In Numbers 16, Moses is tested again. This time the community leaders who had been appointed members of the council rose up against Moses. Again the Lord intervened and said to Moses and Aaron, “Separate yourselves from this assemble so I can put an end to them at once” (Numbers 16:20). How many of us wouldn’t be making a fast retreat? Moses again cried out to God. “O God, God of the spirits of all mankind, will you be angry with the entire assemble when only one man sins” (Numbers 16:22)? Again God relented and the ground swallowed up only the leaders and their families.

If you are a pastor or leader and wonder why God doesn’t intervene for you when the people reject your leadership, you missed the point. Moses wasn’t praying that God judge those who rebelled against him. He was praying that God would withhold judgment. Would our churches profit more if their pastor prayed for God’s judgment upon his staff, board and congregation, or would they profit more if the pastor prayed that God would withhold His judgment? God said in Ezekiel 22:30, “I looked for a man among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not destroy it, but I found none.” God is looking for more servant leaders like Moses.

Dr. Neil            www.discipleshipcounsel.com   For Spanish see www.ficmm.org/blog

Principle of Shared Leadership

Every Christian leader has felt the burden of ministry. Some have felt so inadequate for the task that they wished they were dead. Like Moses they would rather die than to be around for their own demise. No matter how well the pastor preaches and teaches there will always be some who say, “I’m not getting fed around here.” Christian leaders who feel the burden of ministry should keep in mind that the two most powerful kingdom figures in the Old Testament, Moses and Elijah, both requested to die during their ministry experience.

The Lord told Moses, “Bring me seventy of Israel’s elders who are known to you as leaders and officials among the people” (Numbers 11:16). The Lord would take of the Spirit that rested on Moses and put it on them and they would carry the burden of the people. Jethro gave similar advice to Moses in Exodus 18:17-23. Jethro wasn’t suggesting an authoritarian or hierarchical rule. The organizational structure was for the purpose of appointing others so as to relieve the burden of Moses who was trying to do it all by himself.

Why don’t Christian leaders enlist the help of others who they know to be leaders and officials? Some are co-dependent and need to be needed. Others are overly conscientious, thinking, “I have been called to do this, so I better do it.” For some, it just never crossed their minds to enlist the help of others. Sadly some have a messianic complex. They think they are the only ones who can do the ministry. Professionalism can impede the work of the church if we believe that only the elite are qualified to help others. The purpose of Christian leadership is “to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the son of God and become mature” (Ephesians 4:12-13). Paul wrote, “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2).

When the Spirit rested on the elders they prophesied only once, but Eldad and Medad continued prophesying. Joshua wanted them to stop prophesying. But Moses said, “Are you jealous for my sake? I wish that all the Lord’s people were prophets and that the Lord would put his Spirit on them” (vs. 29)! As Christian leaders, do we want the Spirit of God to rest on others as He does on us? Do we want the Lord’s anointing to be as obvious on others as we would have it rest on us? Do we get as much delight when others have the spotlight in the kingdom of God as we do when it is our turn? Do we earnestly seek to help every person in our churches reach their highest potential even if they can do some aspects of ministry better than us? Do we rejoice when others bear fruit and get more attention than we do? We do, if we are servant leaders.

Dr. Neil            www.discipleshipcounsel.com   For Spanish see www.ficmm.org/blog

Purposeful Leadership

If you know how, you will likely have a job, but you will work for the one who knows why. Why we are here and why are we doing what we are doing? Those are the most basic questions in life. Every Christian should have a sense of purpose in life and a reason for doing what they are doing. Our purpose is to glorify God by manifesting His presence in this world, and then do all to the glory of God. We are to know Him and make Him known by fulfilling the great commission. All this is to be done in keeping with the great commandment, to love God with all our being and love one another in the same way we have been loved by God.

The descendants of Noah decided that they were going to build a tower that reaches to heaven. The Lord said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them” (Gen. 11:6). What did God observe about these people that led Him to make such a statement? There are four key ingredients that are essential for the success of any Christian ministry. These people had the first three. First, they had a common objective. A well-defined purpose or mission statement keeps people moving in the same direction. Second, there was unity among the people. They were one people. Leadership is the ability to gain consensus and commitment to common objectives that are obtained with the experience of contribution and satisfaction on the part of the whole church.

Third, they had an effective communication system. They were one people speaking the same language. Very little will be accomplished if the work force cannot walk in the light and speak the truth in love with one another. Fulfilling our purpose in our homes, and churches requires us to keep the communication lines open. Building consensus requires good communication skills. People need to be heard, not just told. It is hard to get a commitment from people to do your will, but it is easy to get a commitment from others to do their will. People are already committed to do what they think is right. If they are heard and sense that they have contributed to the plans, they will get behind the leaders and support them. To disrupt their plans to build the tower, all God had to do was destroy their communication system. When they couldn’t speak to each other they scattered.

The fourth ingredient is the desire to do God’s will. They never completed their task, because they had never consulted God. Building a tower and making a name for themselves was their idea. If we collectively discern the will of God resulting in a common objective, have an effective communication system and unity among the people then there is nothing we purpose to do that will be impossible.

Dr. Neil            www.discipleshipcounsel.com   For Spanish see www.ficmm.org/blog

Balance of Power

In Deut. 17:14-18:21, the Lord sets forth the roles and responsibilities of the prophet, priest and king. The concept of having checks and balances in government as well as the idea of having executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government originated from this text. The prophet brought the law, the priest interpreted it for the people, and the King executed it. The king would be roughly parallel to our executive branch of government. The Lord never told the Israelites to have a king, but He anticipated that they would ask for one in order to be like other nations (17:14,15).

The King must be chosen from one of them and not a foreigner. The President of the United States must also be a natural born citizen. The king was not to use his office as a means of personal gain (horses, gold, or wives). Solomon, the third king of Israel, violated every one of this restrictions (see 1 Kings 10:21-11:3). Laws are also in place to make sure that the Presidents of the United States do not use their office for personal gain. Finally, the king was to keep for himself a copy of the law so that he would revere God and follow carefully the word of the Lord. The king was to execute the law as interpreted by the priests.

The Priests represented the judicial branch of government. They could not have an allotment or inheritance with Israel. In other words, they could not have any conflict of interest. Judges in the judiciary branch of the American government must recuse themselves if they have a conflict of interest. The Prophets were to speak the words of the Lord. They wrote the law. If they spoke presumptuously, they were to be removed and they were not to be feared if what they said did not come to pass. The legislative branch of government creates the laws of the land. In a representative form of government, legislators (senators and representatives) are supposed to speak on behalf of the people who put them into office. If they speak presumptuously and fail to represent the people, they are voted out by the people in coming elections (or they should be).

Only Christ is qualified to be prophet, priest and king. No person is good enough to rule without checks and balances. Under the New Covenant, we have pastors (pastor-teacher), shepherds (elders), and administrators (overseers). Although the terms pastor, elder and overseer refer to the same office, they do not describe the same function. They roughly parallel the roles of prophet (pastor), priest (elder), and king (overseer). They make up the leadership of the local church. The New Testament teaches a plurality of elders so that one person doesn’t rule. Christ is the head of the Church and He rules. Elders collectively discern the will of God and lead the people by proclaiming the word of God, caring for the people, and by overseeing a ministry that ensures every member of the body of Christ is contributing to the good of all.

Dr. Neil            www.discipleshipcounsel.com   For Spanish see www.ficmm.org/blog

Servant Leadership

Secure Christian leaders have found their own identity and security in Christ. Insecure leaders try to establish their identity and sense of worth in titles, degrees, and positions of authority and power. Insecure parents promote their children to such attainments. Such was the case when the mother of Zebedee’s sons approached Jesus (Matt. 20:20-28). She wanted her children to sit on the right and left side of Jesus. The Lord said it was not His to offer, and asked if they were prepared to drink from the cup He was about to drink. When the other ten disciples heard about this, they became indignant.

When people clamor for power and position, it creates interpersonal problems in any organization. What are the others supposed to do when someone climbs over their backs to get ahead? They neither want those kind of people ruling over them nor do they want to succumb to the same self-serving tactics. Jesus exhorted them not to be like the gentiles who exercise their authority and lord it over others. Instead, they were to be like a servant or a slave if they wanted to be great.

There is no position lower than a servant or a slave. Christian leaders are not supposed to rely on their position as the basis for their leadership. Christian leadership is not position based, it is character based. Those aspiring to the position of an overseer must show they are qualified by their character (1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1). The ability to lead may be somewhat dependent upon gifts, talents, intelligence or personality, but that is not what qualifies them to be a Christian leader. Even though someone may be gifted, talented, intelligent, and personable, they should be immediately disqualified if their character is deficient. Christian leaders should be loving examples to those under their authority and not lord it over them (see 1 Peter 5:1-4).

Leaders are subject to the needs of those who are under their authority. Every great leader should sense the burden of being responsible for those who follow them. Jesus certainly did. He served us by giving His life to meet our greatest need. Jesus had no human position of authority in the religious establishment or the state. And yet, “the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law” (Matt. 7:29).  The recognized His authority because of the quality and conduct of His life.

While Christian leaders are not to appeal to their position or demand loyalty to themselves, those who are under authority are required to respect their position. “Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you” (Hebrews 13:17).

Dr. Neil            www.discipleshipcounsel.com   For Spanish see www.ficmm.org/blog

Peace

Everybody wants world peace, but it may not always be possible. It is a desire that we all share, but it is not our primary objective. Suppose a wife seeks counsel with the goal of having some more peace in her home. Nobody can guarantee that. To do so they would have to be able to control every person in the home and that is impossible. Jesus said you should “seek first his kingdom and his righteousness and all these things will he given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33). Isaiah said, “The fruit of righteousness will be peace” (Isaiah 32:17). That kind of peace is related to our internal order, not to the external order of this world. Jesus said, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

Peace with God is something we already have (Romans 6:1). The peace of God that guards our hearts and our minds is something we need to appropriate on a daily basis (Philippians 4:7). The only one who can give us that peace is the Prince of Peace. Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your heart be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27). The peace of Christ that rules in our hearts stands in stark contrast to the false prophets of this world. “They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. ‘Peace, peace,’ they say, when there is not peace. Are they ashamed of their loathsome conduct? No, they have no shame at all; they do not even know how to blush” Jeremiah 6:14-15).

We should pray for the peace of Jerusalem and for all the troubled spots of the world. We should seek to unite this world in peaceful reconciliation, because Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:9). Peace can be humanly negotiated so that we can co-exist without destroying ourselves. That kind of peace only heals wounds superficially. The tension will always be there unless we resolve the inner conflicts. To accomplish inner peace we have to work toward righteousness, “the effect of righteousness will be quietness and confidence forever” (vs. 17). We can have an inner peace in the midst of an external storm. Peace comes when we quiet our hearts before the Lord. In the midst of external confusion, submit to God’s presence in your life.

Dr. Neil            www.discipleshipcounsel.com   For Spanish see www.ficmm.org/blog

Security

At the beginning of this twenty-first century, it is apparent that God is shaking the foundations of this earth. Nations are rising and falling, uniting and dividing at a pace never observed before. Over sixty countries in this world are in political chaos and many more are suffering from economic insecurity. The population of the world has doubled in the last thirty years. Of all the people who have ever lived on planet earth, one half are alive today. The population is exploding, but our natural resources are decreasing. This trend cannot continue without serious ramifications for an overcrowded earth. Consequently there is a growing sense of insecurity all over the world. People are insecure because they are depending upon temporal things they have no right or ability to control. In the midst of ensuing conflicts, we have a shepherd who will guide us even through the valley of the shadow of death.

Security is relating to that which is eternal, not the temporal and transitory things of this world. We are secure in Christ and our security is found in our eternal relationship with Him. No one can snatch us out of our Heavenly Father’s hand (John 10:35-39), and nothing can separate us from the love of God (Romans 8:35-39). We were marked in Christ with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance (Ephesians 1:13-14). Conflicts in this world are inevitable, but in the midst of them we can have a sense of security.

Those who have a high regard for relationships and want to accomplish something seek to resolve conflicts. They yield for the sake of relationships if the need to achieve isn’t that great. Those who have a high “need” to achieve, but a low regard for relationships seek to win in every conflict or argument. They withdraw if they have no regard for relationships or achievement. The most secure people are those who seek to resolve conflicts or yield for the sake of relationships. That is because security is found in relationships not achievements. You probably felt secure in your home if relationships were valued over achievements. The secure person doesn’t always have to be right and win every time there is a conflict, nor do they walk away from meaningful relationships. They have found their security in their eternal relationship with God and living in peace with others.

Dr. Neil            www.discipleshipcounsel.com   For Spanish see www.ficmm.org/blog