Prayer for a Disciple-Making Movement

Prayer for a Disciple-Making Movement

“And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

“And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Pray then like this:

“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
10 Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
    on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread,
12 and forgive us our debts,
    as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,
    but deliver us from evil.

14 For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, 15 but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

Matthew 6:5-15

Exactly what is a Disciple-Making Movement (DMM)? Why pray for one? There are a few different definitions of DMM, but they all fall somewhere in the range of the definition I will quote here from Jerry Trousdale and Glen Sunshine’s book, The Kingdom Unleashed. “Disciple Making Movement (DMM): a process of disciples making disciples, and churches planting at least 100 churches, with four or more generations of replication.”

Why is DMM necessary? Because if we continue to do what we have always done, we will get the same or similar results. Those results are insufficient to complete the Great Commission, which is the command given to every disciple of Jesus, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. ” We haven’t been doing a great job of this with our traditional methods.

Ideally, every disciple of Jesus will be equipped to not only be a disciple worth replicating, but each disciple will be intentionally discipling people into Christ and on to maturity in him. Only when this is happening will every nation, tribe, tongue, and people be reached with the gospel. Our historical methods of adding new believers one by one have proved inadequate. We must grow by multiplication, not by addition.

The goal of DMM is the Kingdom of God. Therefore, the prayer, Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven, is a DMM prayer. The goal of DMM is not just more disciples, nor just more churches, but more, the kingdom of God.

Points of prayer for DMM

  1. Pray for more laborers both from the existing churches and from the harvest. These prayer laborers will be what I call prayer missionaries and people who engage people far from God with God’s word.
  2. Pray for immediate obedience to God’s word. A DMM is based on obedience to God’s word more so than gaining more knowledge. This is not to say more knowledge is bad, but it is to say that more obedience is ideal and more important than more knowledge with minimal obedience.
  3. Pray for the release of ordinary believers to become disciple-makers. The Western church is hand-cuffed with a theology that limits ministry to professional Christians. Only the ordained are allowed to preach, baptize, share the Lord’s supper, and train new believers. Ordinary believers should be equipped, empowered, and released to do all of the above. It is essential to a disciple-making movement.
  4. Pray for God’s love to be manifest in all the disciple-making activity and God’s glory to be the motivating force in everything we do.
  5. Pray for repentance. We who have lived our lives not focused on the kingdom of God must repent. Ask God to convict us of our sins that hinder the advancement of God’s kingdom in our neighborhoods, sins of commission, and sins of omission. John the baptist’s message must ring true to us, “Repent for the kingdom of God is at hand.”

I believe it is the Father’s heart that DMM takes place throughout the earth.

After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”

Revelation 7:9-10

God promises that a great multitude from every nation, all tribes and peoples, and languages will be around the throne of God in heaven, giving him praise and worship. That will happen because of DMMs through history. Presently, extraordinary DMMs are taking place around the earth in Southeast Asia, India, Africa, the Middle East, and even Iran. Here in the United States, DMMs are infantile, just barely underway. But they are underway. Some say, “It can’t happen here.” That is what they said about India before the first modern DMM began to sweep what was once known as the Graveyard of Modern Missions. Now there are millions of Jesus followers. They said this about Iran, now the fastest growing church in the world. It is a DMM church. A traditional church is illegal. Believers put their lives in God’s hands daily in Iran. Therefore, great care must be exercised when baptizing new believers. If it becomes widely known that a person has been baptized, they may not live long.

I beg you, take these requests for prayer for DMM into your prayer closet. One common characteristic of every DMM in the world is extraordinary prayer and fasting. Join with Jesus to pursue DMM in the United States by praying and fasting for such a movement. Pray for a DMM in your neighborhood. God is delighted in such prayers because they respond to his command to pray for laborers and because they are prayed toward the fulfillment of God’s heart to bring all of his children home.

Why God doesn’t answer prayer

Why God doesn’t answer prayer

When you spread out your hands,
    I will hide my eyes from you;
even though you make many prayers,
    I will not listen;
    your hands are full of blood.

Isaiah 1:15

How often have you heard someone say, “God answered my prayer, he just said, No!” Well, maybe he said no, or perhaps he didn’t answer your prayer for a Biblical reason. There are times when God simply doesn’t answer prayer, but there is always a reason because God delights in answering our prayers. It gives him joy the same as answered prayer gives us joy. So, what is the path to more answered prayer?

First, let’s look at a couple of broad reasons why God doesn’t answer our prayers.

Practicing Empty Religion

The context of our text of Isaiah 1:15 is God’s chiding Israel because they are living wickedly and yet still coming to him with their sacrifices and religious practices and expecting God to bless them in spite of their wickedness. The practice of their religion is empty. God further chides Israel through Isaiah.

Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save,
    or his ear dull, that it cannot hear;
but your iniquities have made a separation
    between you and your God,
and your sins have hidden his face from you
    so that he does not hear.

Isaiah 59:1-2

Another version of Empty Religion is religion that does not ascribe to God his due in power and majesty. He is God Almighty, the resurrected King of kings, the one who created all that is and holds together all that is. Without Jesus Christ, the world could not exist. What men call the laws of science are actually the unwritten law of God manifest in nature. He spoke, and all things were made and currently hold together.

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

James 1:5-8

The principle in James 1 is not limited to the request for wisdom alone, but all prayer. We must ask in faith, nothing doubting. How can I not doubt? Pray in accord with God’s word. When he has stated a clear and direct promise, we can trust him and pray accordingly. James makes it quite clear; the doubting pray-er must not suppose he will receive anything from the Lord. Is this a hard saying? Yes, but it is God’s word. The solution will be addressed in a few paragraphs.

James adds to his instruction regarding unanswered prayer.

What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.

James 4:1-4

James is writing to Christians, not unbelievers who have never believed the gospel and repented from their former lives. These are Christians who have sinful problems in their lives. In this case, they still love the world. They have not yet recognized that they have “found the pearl of great price.” The greatest treasure anyone could ever gain. When you obtain the greatest treasure, how can you want something less? But, that is precisely what these folks are doing, lusting after this world that will perish when they already have eternal life and all the treasure that goes with it. Prayer that is motivated by a lust for this world is doomed not to be answered because it is prayed from the wrong motivation: the practice of empty religion.

Some walk with the Lord in a manner that I might characterize as less than zealous. These folks have been truly redeemed, and we will share the New Heaven and New Earth with them, but they are not benefiting fully from the New Covenant because they do not give themselves to the zealous practice of “all that Jesus commanded us.” Here are a couple of examples of what happens when Jesus-followers pray earnestly.

So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church.

Acts 12:5

Because the church prayed “earnestly” for Peter, he was miraculously delivered from Prison.

Elijah was a human being, even as we are. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. 18 Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops.

James 5:17-18 NIV

Elijah’s prayer wasn’t answered just because it was Elijah. Elijah prayed “earnestly” while being a human being, a man of flesh and blood like all of us, and God granted a miraculous answer to his prayer. People who are practicing empty religion, don’t pray earnestly.

Broken Relationships

Married couples can wreak havoc with their prayer life if they are not careful. I think I have a little bit of authority to speak to this issue since I have been married to the same woman for almost 55 years. When we allow ourselves to become alienated from our spouse, we also alienated ourselves from God. I don’t mean we lose our salvation. When we get into a spat without spouse and alienate one another, we are still married but aren’t getting along at the time. We must understand that the same thing happens to our relationship with God that occurs with our spouse when we alienate ourselves from our spouse. One quick marriage lesson here free of charge. Learn how to resolve spats with your spouse quickly. The faster, the better. If you leave them to fester just to prove that you were right, you will not only lose some joyful time with your spouse, but you will also kill your joy in Jesus because you have alienated him at the same time.

Why does this happen in marriage? It will happen to some degree in any relationship, but it is especially potent in marriage because of what God is demonstrating in marriage. Your relationship with your spouse is to illustrate the relationship between Christ and his church. When our relationship with Christ is broken, we should not expect to have a powerful prayer life. We need to submit to him and allow him to heal our broken relationship.

Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.

1 Peter 3:7

James connects the confession of our sins to answer to prayer.

Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. 14 Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. 16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.

James 5:13-16

In this case, the object of prayer is the healing of a sick person. It implies that in at least some cases (not all cases), sickness may be linked to unconfessed sin which, when confessed along with the prayer of faith by the Elders, results in healing. From this, I extrapolate that holding on to unconfessed sin creates a barrier to answered prayer of any sort. In Isaiah 59:1-2 above, we see that “your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear.”

So, we see that there are at least two broad categories of reasons for unanswered prayer, practicing empty religion, and broken relationships. These reasons are ones we can do something about. Repentance on our part and the confession of sin can heal the breach and open the gates of heaven. There is, however, another reason that we can do nothing about.

The Sovereignty of God

What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! 15 For he says to Moses,
“I will have mercy on whom I have mercy,
    and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”
16 It does not, therefore, depend on human desire or effort, but on God’s mercy. 

Romans 9:15-16

This passage is not speaking directly to prayer, but it does set out a fundamental understanding of the God with whom we have a relationship. When we talk about the sovereignty of God, we must be careful. God’s sovereignty is such a broad, grand, and glorious topic and such a magnet for controversy. I do, however, want to point out that we do not always know God’s secret will. There are some things that God has planned that he doesn’t reveal to us. If we are praying for something that would thwart that will, guess what, he won’t answer us with affirmation. God has something else in mind that will better accomplish his purpose and glory and consequently, our good. Some things he has clearly revealed in his word and those we can pray for with confidence and certainty. That is God’s revealed will. It is important to recognize these two categories of God’s will and do our best not to waste our time praying against God’s secret will.

The Solution: One Thing

I know it can seem depressing to see many reasons why God doesn’t answer our prayers. So, what are we to do to enter into a powerful, fulfilling prayer life in which we can see the power of God moving and actively expanding his kingdom? I am reminded of the movie City Slickers in which the character Curly, played by Jack Palance, was asked his secret. His answer was always, “One thing,” and he would hold up one finger.

Can it be that simple? Ask yourself this, would God make prayer so complex that the most simple believer could not enter into powerful prayer with Jesus? I believe not. Walking with Jesus is both simple and complex beyond comprehension. After all, we are talking about the infinite and compassionate, loving God.

If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.

John 15:7-11

The whole of John 15 is so rich that it is hard to take it all in. But, the “one thing” Jesus says is necessary for answered prayer is that we abide in him and his words abide in us. That is the “one thing,” reciprocal abiding.

Reciprocal abiding eliminates all expressions of empty religion and broken relationships. Reciprocal abiding also introduces us to the gentle promptings of the Holy Spirit in our prayer life that will lead us away from prayers that will be thwarted by the secret will of God and lead us to pray in the Spirit, i.e., the will of God. How does one abide in Christ? That is the subject for another writing or a dozen or so writings. Another day. For a starter, meditate carefully in John 15. If that is all you do, you will learn a great deal about abiding in Christ.

Here’s to a glorious, powerful, sweet, world-changing prayer life. May his kingdom come, and his will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

By my Spirit: Working and Winning During Opposition

By my Spirit: Working and Winning During Opposition

And the angel who talked with me came again and woke me, like a man who is awakened out of his sleep. And he said to me, “What do you see?” I said, “I see, and behold, a lampstand all of gold, with a bowl on the top of it, and seven lamps on it, with seven lips on each of the lamps that are on the top of it. And there are two olive trees by it, one on the right of the bowl and the other on its left.” And I said to the angel who talked with me, “What are these, my lord?” Then the angel who talked with me answered and said to me, “Do you not know what these are?” I said, “No, my lord.” Then he said to me, “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts. Who are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel, you shall become a plain. And he shall bring forward the top stone amid shouts of ‘Grace, grace to it!’”

Then the word of the Lord came to me, saying, “The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house; his hands shall also complete it. Then you will know that the Lord of hosts has sent me to you. 10 For whoever has despised the day of small things shall rejoice, and shall see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel.”

“These seven are the eyes of the Lord, which range through the whole earth.” 11 Then I said to him, “What are these two olive trees on the right and the left of the lampstand?” 12 And a second time I answered and said to him, “What are these two branches of the olive trees, which are beside the two golden pipes from which the golden oil is poured out?” 13 He said to me, “Do you not know what these are?” I said, “No, my lord.” 14 Then he said, “These are the two anointed ones who stand by the Lord of the whole earth.”

Zechariah 4:1-14

Human effort will never produce the Kingdom of God.

This fourth chapter of Zechariah contains questions with answers that seem initially to not be answers to the questions asked. But they are. For example: Regarding the two olive trees, the angel asked Zechariah, “Do you know what these are?” Zechariah answers, “No, my Lord.” Then the angel explains, “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts. 7 Who are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel, you shall become a plain. And he shall bring forward the top stone amid shouts of ‘Grace, grace to it!’” What does that have to do with who the two olive trees are? Later (v. 13), the angel again asks Zechariah (regarding the two olive trees), “Do you know what these are?” and again, Zechariah answers, “No, my Lord.” Now we expect the angel is going to give us a definitive answer, but instead, he provides an enigmatic response, “These are the two anointed ones who stand by the Lord of the whole earth.” The words, “the two anointed ones” literally mean “sons of new oil.” What does that mean? Well, while there is lots of speculation, no one has a definitive answer. It remains one of God’s mysteries as to the specific identity of the two olive trees or sons of new oil. We know that they represent the constant source of fresh olive oil to keep the lamp burning. This, in turn, is a symbolic representation of the work of the Holy Spirit producing the Kingdom of God.

Context is king, and this context in which Zechariah prophesied is the restoration of Jerusalem after completing the prophesied 70 years of captivity of Judah in Babylon. The pagan king Cyrus had given permission and provision for the Jews to return and rebuild Jerusalem as prophesied by Isaiah. Zerubbabel was a priest who was sent to oversee the rebuilding of the temple under hostile and challenging conditions. It did require lots of hard physical labor. The population was discouraged, and the prophet had to encourage those doing the work to keep to it and not lose faith.

There are two keys to this chapter. The first key is in verse six, “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts.” Here, God is making it clear that the completion of the work is not dependent on human effort, but on the work of the Holy Spirit. Just as God gave gifted men under Moses to construct the original tent of meeting in the wilderness and later the temple in Jerusalem, he is now providing special skills to the workmen to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem. It is the work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of human beings dedicated to God. Not by might nor by the power of human effort.

The second key, akin to the first key, is found in verse seven, “Who are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel, you shall become a plain. And he shall bring forward the top stone amid shouts of ‘Grace, grace to it!” In Zerubbabel’s case, the great mountain references the many obstacles that were always before him in the form of hostilities and opposition. God declares that that mountain of enemies to the Kingdom of God would become a plain, an easy bit of real estate to march over. The top stone, which is the final step in construction, is to be laid by Zerubbabel amid shouts of “Grace, grace to it!” The completion of the temple is a work of God’s grace and not human effort alone.

The points of the story are the work of the Holy Spirit and the grace of God. Did the people only have to sit back and watch God produce a temple, a finished work, a place to worship him? No. Many blisters and callouses were worn on the laborers’ hands who were privileged to be co-laborers with Zerubbabel and the Holy Spirit to complete the work. But they would not have had the ability to complete the task without the grace of God and the work of the Holy Spirit. Faith to continue would not have been sustained without the Holy Spirit’s constant flowing from the two olive trees, the sons of fresh oil.

Jesus announced that the Kingdom of God has come, the King is now reigning in heaven, and through his church, he is reigning on earth. We, the church, are God’s agent for extending his Kingdom on earth until he comes to finalize the Kingdom in the New Heaven and New Earth. Meanwhile, like the laborers who worked alongside Zerubbabel, we are co-laborers in the Kingdom, hewing out living stones to be added to the true temple, the body of Christ, the New Jerusalem, that will last forever in which the true King sits on the throne of David. Do we have opposition? Certainly. Jesus promised it. Can the mountain of opposition become a plain? Absolutely, as long as we do not depend on human might and power, but rely on the Holy Spirit and the grace of God. Then we will not labor in vain.

There are many examples of human effort to bring into being the Kingdom of God. But I don’t want to focus on those specifics. Like Zechariah, I want to focus on the main points, let us be sure we are being filled and relying entirely on the Holy Spirit and the grace of God to see the Kingdom of God produced amidst the darkness of this world. Millions of people are far from God. They are, at the moment, enemies of God. But they are also the raw material from which we as co-laborers are to hew out the new living stones to construct God’s temple.

The most critical work of labor that we can do, and every Christian can engage in this work is the labor of intercessory prayer. The proclamation of the word of God is required because the gospel is the power of God unto salvation. But, it is the work of intercession that empowers the proclamation to do its most effective work. Think of yourself as a prayer missionary. You go, during intercession, into the presence of lost people and pray them into the Kingdom. Then, the Lord of the harvest, at the behest of intercessors like you and me, send laborers into the harvest to harvest the souls of people who are far from God. Jesus declared that the harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore, plead with the Lord of the harvest to send laborers. This is a specific prayer request of Jesus; let us be obedient to pray that prayer daily in reliance on the Holy Spirit and the grace of God.

What has Jesus asked us to pray for?

What has Jesus asked us to pray for?

And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; 38 therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”

Matthew 9:35-38

WIG Take. That’s an abbreviation for “What’s it going to take? Before he ascended to heaven, Jesus gave a charge to go and make disciples of all nations. If we take a look at Jesus’ methodology, it becomes clear that one man, even a God-man, cannot do the task alone. Jesus took upon himself human flesh and thus limited himself to acting as a man, a man full of the Holy Spirit and unhindered by sin, but a man nonetheless. I know I am treading on thin theological ice when making such statements but stay with me. He was fully man and fully God. But, he still made it clear that it is better for us that he left us than if he stayed on earth with us. Why? Because until he left here and was glorified with the Father, he could not send the Holy Spirit to indwell and empower every man and woman who becomes a Jesus-follower.

Through the empowerment of the Holy Spirit, Jesus has distributed himself through every Jesus-follower on earth. Distributed empowerment is critical to the completion of the mission he gave to us. If Jesus had stayed on earth, he would have been limited to preaching/teaching to those who were in physical proximity to him. He would have been limited. He left so he could empower and release into the harvest every Jesus-follower on earth. This task is not relegated to professional religious leaders with Seminary or Bible College educations. In fact, they are subject to much the same limitations as Jesus would have been, along with a few more. These Bible College and Seminary graduates are not men who walk in perfect, sinless fellowship with the Father as Jesus did. They are subject to the failures of the flesh the same as every other Jesus-follower. They are just called to give themselves to equipping the rest of us to do the work of our ministries.

In the northern part of the county in which I live (North San Diego County), there is a population of just under a million people. Reasonable estimates are that only 10% of those are real Jesus-followers, leaving 90% far from God. The professional religious people currently living in this area cannot reach that 90% of the population with a personal proclamation of the gospel. What I mean by “personal proclamation” of the gospel is when the gospel is presented to someone by someone whom they know, have a relationship with, and trust. That is a friend, colleague, or family member.

Why won’t television broadcasts by excellent Bible preachers or literature distribution efforts do the job? Because Jesus commanded that we make disciples, not make converts. Television shows and literature aren’t equipped to do Biblical disciple-making. That can only be done in the context of a personal relationship person to person. Many disciple-makers are required to disciple the people from among the approximate 900,000 people in North San Diego County who are now far from God.

Jesus’ only prayer request that he submitted to his church is that we pray for laborers. That is because the harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. I certainly agree with Jesus that the laborers are few. Unfortunately, many Jesus-followers are not following Jesus in the process of disciple-making. So, Jesus’ answer to the problem is not a recruiting effort. It is a prayer effort. Pray the Lord of the harvest that he sends laborers into the harvest. The exciting part about praying that prayer is that you will probably become part of the answer to your own prayer. You will become a laborer in the harvest, taking the gospel to your own set of social contacts.

Another exciting thing about obeying Jesus and praying this prayer is that he will answer it. Some people have a hard time thinking Jesus will listen and pay attention to their prayers. But, do you think Jesus will ignore you when you pray the very prayer he has commanded us to pray? I don’t think so. Of this, I am confident, when I spend my time earnestly praying for laborers for the harvest, Jesus is busy working in the hearts of those whom he is calling into the harvest.

Jesus did qualify the request by labeling our effort in prayer as “earnest.” He didn’t ask us to do rapid fly-by prayer for laborers; he said we are to pray earnestly for laborers. This prayer request is to be high on our priority list of supplications we consistently bring before the Father.

The task is great, but I have learned a slogan, “start small, dream big.” You have a social network of people where you live, work (or go to school), and play. You are the laborer God has called to minister to them, maybe not the only one, but they are your mission field. Start small, focus your gospel efforts on your social network (not your online social network, but your in-person social network). And continue to pray earnestly for more laborers for the harvest.

The greatest need in the American church is to equip and release the members of the body of Christ into the harvest to reach those far from God. Don’t wait for someone else to lead the way. Obey Jesus and begin to love your neighbors with the intent to share the gospel with them as the greatest act of love you can give them. I’m not advocating harsh presentations to everyone in your network, but I am advocating engaging meaningful and spiritual conversations that can lead to a natural gospel presentation.

Let us earnestly pray for laborers. If we do, we won’t be alone in the harvest. Lost people for whom Jesus died will be found, and we will all be rejoicing.

I am reminded of an illustration my Pastor shared a while back that really struck a chord with me. You wind up coming before the Lord at the end and are stepping up for judgment (for reward, not for salvation). When you see Jesus face to face you are so excited to see him but even more excited to tell him as you point behind you, “Jesus, look who I brought with me!” There, lined up behind you are the people who became Jesus-followers because of your prayers and because of your personal gospel sharing with them. And then there are the one’s they brought with them. You get a lot of joy from the disciples they bring with them as well. What a happy time.

Multitudes of laborers are needed. Pray earnestly and be an answer to your own prayer.

SHOULD FASTING BE IN THE ARSENAL OF A JESUS-FOLLOWER?

SHOULD FASTING BE IN THE ARSENAL OF A JESUS-FOLLOWER?

And they said to him, “The disciples of John fast often and offer prayers, and so do the disciples of the Pharisees, but yours eat and drink.” 34 And Jesus said to them, “Can you make wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them?35 The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in those days.” 36 He also told them a parable: “No one tears a piece from a new garment and puts it on an old garment. If he does, he will tear the new, and the piece from the new will not match the old. 37 And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the new wine will burst the skins and it will be spilled, and the skins will be destroyed. 38 But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins. 39 And no one after drinking old wine desires new, for he says, ‘The old is good.’”  Luke 5:33-39 (parallel passages in Matthew 9:14-17 and Mark 2:18-22)

And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. – Matthew 6:16a

I want to answer one simple question primarily. Does Jesus expect his followers to include fasting as part of their spiritual life?

Fasting sounds so medieval like it is something monks do in monasteries. Surely it isn’t expected to be a part of the life of an average Jesus-follower, is it? I’m not a monk, and I don’t want to be one. Why fast? Besides, aren’t we saved by faith alone? I don’t really need to get into “spiritual disciplines” in order to have eternal life, do I? Of course not.

The simple answer to the question is pretty clear in the passages above. In Matthew 6 Jesus states plainly, “when you fast.” He didn’t say, “If you fast.” So, it appears that fasting is an assumed practice by Jesus.

In the Luke passage, Jesus again makes it clear to me. His disciples didn’t fast (he explains why), but there will come a time after his death, resurrection, and ascension that they (we) will fast.

So the simple answer to the simple question I started with is, yes, followers of Jesus are expected to fast until he comes again. (Not one long fast until he comes, I don’t think I could make it, but fast as a regular practice until we are reunited with the Bridegroom.)

Jesus explained why his disciples were not asked to fast while they were with him. To do this, he gave two examples, the one about new wine in old wineskins and the one about sewing a new cloth patch on old cloth. In both cases, the old couldn’t survive the new. The religious culture of the Jews included lots of outward expression including fasting among other practices. Jesus was wanting to “take a break” with fasting so it would be entered into in a new way once he inaugurated the new covenant. Actually, the “new way” was how it should have been practiced all along, but Jesus wanted to make clear that the New Covenant is indeed new. The New Covenant is to be practiced based on the inward power of the Holy Spirit and not based on any outward appearances. The new life in the Spirit will blow up the old wineskins of the Old Covenant practices of the Jews. This was clearly a problem since we have the book of Galatians largely because the practices of the Old Covenant were being carried over in a legalistic fashion and required Paul to write the corrective letter. In his corrective, he was direct with the truth that this life is experienced in the power of the Holy Spirit and not in the practice of outward expressions, in this case, circumcision.

So, yes we should fast, but not as the Pharisees whom he encountered often.

I plan to write some more on fasting so we can hopefully put it to practice with a Biblical view to glorifying God and enjoying him forever. I am in some cases being reminded, and in others, I am learning, as I write. Writing turns out to be good for me. I hope it is for you as well.

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