New Wine for New Wineskins June 2018

By , June 1, 2018 8:49 pm

First Things First (Part 2)

It is always important to put first things first, because the main thing is keeping the main thing the main thing.

God is a God of order – he created order out of chaos, and he still does. It makes sense that you have to recognise and respect and submit to his order if you want to experience his good and acceptable and perfect will for your life.

God always says something before he does something, and so you have to hear what he says if you want to see what he does. Faith which comes by hearing what he says is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen. If God says it he will do it.

John 14: 21

21 “He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.”

If you love him you will hear what he says, and if you love him you will do what he says, and if you do what he says you will see what he says.


Mark 12: 29 – 31

29 Jesus answered him, “The first of all the commandments is: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. 31 And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

Recognise the order.  The first commandment is to love the Lord your God with all of your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second commandment is to love your neighbour as yourself.  It’s like the first because that is how we tend to love ourselves – with all of our heart, all of our soul, all of our mind, and all of our strength.

Love God first, and your neighbour second. Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and a close second will be the abundant addition to you of all the things your Father already knows that you need.

First things first, because the main thing is keeping the main thing the main thing.

In the first part of this series we saw that the main thing is not getting people to like you – it is preaching the good news of the kingdom and the full and free salvation that is offered in Jesus Christ to all who are lost. If people like you that’s a bonus, but even those who don’t like you will come to respect you if you are consistent in your proclamation of the message. And the truth is that respect is actually a stronger bridge than likeability.

Last time I also explained the difference between a vision statement and a mission statement. Organisations summarise their goals and objectives in both mission and vision statements. Mission and vision statements both serve different purposes for a company or organisation but they are often confused with each other. A mission statement describes what a company or organisation wants to do now, whereas a vision statement outlines what a company or organisation wants, or aims, to become in the future. Or you could say that a mission statement describes or outlines the road map to the fulfilment of what is set out in the vision statement.

So we could ask which comes first – the vision or the mission? Actually, the answer is neither, because before vision can be realised there must be a statement of purpose or we will struggle to make sense of and accomplish our mission.

In the beginning, God made a purpose statement.

Genesis 1: 26 – 28

26 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27 So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. 28 Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

God created man in his image and in his likeness in order to give him dominion in the earth, and so that man could be first in his order of creation. He wasn’t created first but he was given first place. God kept the best until last and then turned everything on its head and placed the last first.

Tragically, as a result of sin, man fell from that exalted position and the only way back is to humble himself under God’s mighty hand and allow him to exalt him again to that position of dominion under the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

The new covenant statement of purpose is found in what is arguably the most well known of all scripture verses – what Billy Graham described as the Gospel in twenty-five words.

John 3: 16

16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 

This explains the purpose of God’s giving his only begotten Son and of Jesus’ coming into the earth as the second and last Adam. Jesus came to restore the human race back into fellowship with God so that we could once again fulfil the purpose for which God originally created us.

His purpose is further stated in Romans 8: 28 – 29.

28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. 29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.

In the Passion Translation it puts the next verse this way:

30 Having determined our destiny ahead of time, he called us to himself and transferred his perfect righteousness to everyone he called. And those who possess his perfect righteousness he co-glorified with his Son!

And so, after we understand the purpose, what comes first – vision or mission? The easiest way to remember is to add the suffix “-ary” at the end of each of them.

A visionary is someone who sees into the future and can visualise a clear destination, a missionary is someone who helps realise that vision by reaching that destination.

I read the following tongue-in-cheek story some time ago that highlights what can happen when people have no vision:

The pastor of a church decides that God is calling the church to a new vision of what it is to be and do. So at the elders meeting, he presents the new vision with as much energy, conviction and passion as he can muster. When he had finished and sat down, the senior elder called for a vote. All 12 elders voted against the new vision, with only the pastor voting for it. “Well, pastor, it looks like you will have to think again,” says the senior elder. “Would you like to close the meeting in prayer?” So the pastor stands up, raises his hands to heaven, and prays,”LORD! Will you not show these people that this is not MY vision but it is YOUR vision!” At that moment, the clouds darken, the thunder rolls, and a bolt of lightning bursts through the window and splits in two the table at which they are sitting, throwing the pastor and all the elders to the ground. After a moment’s silence, as they all get up and dust themselves off, the senior elder speaks again. “Well, that’s twelve votes to two then.”

If you have vision you are a visionary.  When you add work to vision you become a missionary.  However, work without vision can become drudgery. Sadly a lot of church stuff has felt like drudgery because of a lack of vision. Where there is no vision the people perish, and they miss their purpose. Our purpose is mission because we have been given a commission to fulfil Jesus’ vision.

Jesus’ vision statement – what I believe to be one of the greatest faith statements ever spoken – sets out what he aims to achieve.

Matthew 16: 18

18….I will build My church, and the gates of hell (the powers of the infernal region) shall not overpower it [or be strong to its detriment or hold out against it].

Jesus’ mission statement reveals his strategy and how he plans to achieve or fulfil the vision.

Luke 4: 18 – 19

18 The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the good news to the poor; He has sent Me to preach deliverance [announce release] to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty [send forth as delivered] those who are oppressed [who are downtrodden, bruised, crushed, and broken down by calamity], 19 to proclaim the accepted and acceptable year of the Lord [the day when salvation and the free favours of God profusely abound].

I think it is fair to say that every company or organisation’s vision is to be the best that they can be at what they do, and that every company’s purpose of being in business is to make a profit and to take as much of the market share as possible.

As local churches we are not supposed to be in competition with other sections of the church but we are in competition with other world religions and ideologies, including the rise of secularism and the influences of humanistic and new age philosophies.

According to the organisation Pew Research’s figures from 2015 there were 7.3 billion people in the world. 2.3 billion were Christians, which is a 31.2% market share; Muslims accounted for 1.8 billion or a 24.1% market share; unaffiliated were listed as 1.2 billion or 16% market share; Hindus were at 1.1 billion or 15.1% market share; Buddhists at 0.5 billion had a 6.9% market share; folk religions accounted for 0.4 billion or 5.7%; other religions 0.1 billion or 0.8%; and Jews 0.01 billion or 0.2% market share.

And so, in 2000 years of business the church that Jesus is building has succeeded in taking the largest share of the market but is still two-thirds short of its target as set forth in its purpose statement.

Microsoft was founded in 1975. I don’t know when they formulated their mission statement but it says, “At Microsoft we work to help people and businesses throughout the world realise their full potential. This is our mission. Everything we do reflects this mission and the values that make it possible.” Microsoft rose to dominate the personal computer operating system market with MS-DOS in the mid-1980s, followed by Microsoft Windows. The company’s 1986 initial public offering (IPO), and subsequent rise in its share price, created three billionaires and an estimated 12,000 millionaires among Microsoft employees. In the 1990’s part of Microsoft’s vision statement was, “A computer on every desk and in every home; all running Microsoft software.” Since then they have succeeded in achieving and holding a market share of 90% of the PC operating system market. In comparison Apple’s MacOS has only an 8.4% market share.

You may wonder what on earth this all has to do with our message of first things first and keeping the main thing the main thing.

Do you know how many people there are who say they don’t like the Windows operating system or who moan and complain about it and yet they work with it every day because it helps them reach their goals and fulfil their potential.

It is my desire that we see what it is possible to achieve when we put first things first and keep the main thing the main thing.

Our primary purpose – our main role and function – is to reach the world with the good news of the kingdom, and to see every person living according to God’s design and by the kingdom of heaven’s operating system. We could say that our vision is to see every person reconciled to their heavenly Father and running with his program.

We will always do out of who we be – who we believe that we are and the purpose that we believe we are here to fulfil.

McDonalds’ mission statement is “to be the world’s best quick service restaurant experience.  Being the best means providing outstanding quality, service, cleanliness, and value, so that we make every customer in every restaurant smile.

Starbucks’ mission statement is “to inspire and nurture the human spirit…one person, one cup and one neighbourhood at a time.

And so, it is important to look afresh at Jesus’ mission statement because Jesus’ mission statement is our mission statement.

One of the first things Jesus did when he launched into public ministry was he began to call disciples who he could teach and train as those who would continue and accomplish the mission that would fulfil the vision.

Remember, the purpose is the salvation of all who will believe; the vision is the building of his church that is made up of all who believe; and the mission is to preach the good news because they can’t believe if they haven’t heard and they can’t hear without a preacher.

Romans 10: 13 – 15

13 For “whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” 14 How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?  15 And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, who bring glad tidings of good things!”

First things first because the main thing is keeping the main thing the main thing.

I want to establish that there is a main thing that we have to keep as a first priority if we are going to successfully continue the mission that will fulfil the vision.

Jesus came for a purpose and with a vision and the first thing he did as he set out to fulfil that vision was announce his mission statement.

Luke 4: 18

18 The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the good news to the poor.

So what is the main thing?

The main thing in Jesus’ mission statement is not a what but a who. The Spirit of the LORD is the main thing, the Holy Spirit is the main thing. This makes perfect sense of Jesus’ statement to his disciples regarding waiting until the Holy Spirit came upon them before attempting to fulfil their mission as the continuation of his life, the amplification of his message, and the extension of his works.

 

First things first because the main thing is keeping the main thing the main thing.

We often make a big deal of “the anointing” but the main thing here is the Spirit of the LORD.  The anointing is his presence upon our lives.

LORD or YHWH is God’s covenant name.  For the old covenant people of God YHWH (Yod Hei Vav Hei) became the ineffable or unutterable name, but LORD is the name by which he reveals himself to be everything we need him to be whenever we need him to be. In my understanding LORD or YHWH is the old covenant expression of Father.  We can now call the One whose name was regarded as so holy that it was deemed unutterable, Father. If that doesn’t blow away all of our religious cobwebs and bring us to our knees in worship and awe then I don’t know what will. Religion crucified Jesus because he dared to call God Father.

He has anointed me, He has sent me. Later, Jesus told his disciples, “You shall receive [the same] power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you shall be witnesses to me, and you will do the same works I do.

If you neglect the ‘who’ you will get diverted to a ‘what’ or get hung up on a ‘what’. There are so many side issues and doctrinal disputes that have the potential to divert you from the reality of who is upon you.  There are always people who want to ask what you think about this or what is your opinion about that. We need to get them back to who.  The Spirit of the LORD is the starting point.

First things first because the main thing is keeping the main thing the main thing.

Jesus began with a ‘who’ because he was anointed to preach the good news of who loves you, who wants you back, who wants you to be reconciled with him, who wants to deliver you and restore your purpose, who wants to restore your vision, who wants to restore your mission, who wants you restored to the security of his protection and the abundance of his provision.

First things first because the main thing is keeping the main thing the main thing.

Acts 1: 7 – 8

7 And He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority.  8 But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

The main thing is not power. We can be overly fascinated by power. Remember the disciples coming back from their test run.

Luke 10: 17 – 20

17 Then the seventy returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name.” 18 And He said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.
19 Behold, I give you the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the
power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you. 20 But don’t rejoice because evil spirits obey you; rejoice because your names are registered in heaven.”

 

The Holy Spirit is the main thing. We have been born again of the Holy Spirit and the kingdom is within us through his presence in our lives. We are connected with heaven so that God’s will can be done on earth as it is in heaven – in us and through us.

1 Corinthians 6: 17

17….he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him.

The Holy Spirit is God’s manifest presence in the earth right now. He is in us from the moment we are born again, and he comes upon us when we receive his baptism of power.

The kingdom of heaven and the kingdom of God are the same thing. In Matthew’s gospel he speaks of the kingdom of heaven because the Jews came to use the Hebrew word for heaven – shamayim – as a euphemism for God, but the other gospel writers use the term kingdom of God.

Wherever there is a believer willing to believe then the kingdom of heaven / God is there.

Matthew 10: 7 – 8

7 And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’  8 Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons. Freely you have received, freely give. 

Just like Jesus who was conceived of the Holy Spirit and born full of the Holy Spirit we are incapable of doing anything supernatural until the Holy Spirit comes upon us.

If we are going to engage with Jesus’ mission statement we must put first things first and keep the main thing the main thing.

John 14: 12

12 “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father.

The works Jesus did were the works he saw the Father doing.

John 5: 19 – 20

19 Jesus gave them this answer: “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. 20 For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. Yes, and he will show him even greater works than these, so that you will be amazed.

We have tried to do what Jesus did instead of getting involved with what he is doing. When we put first things first and keep the main thing the main thing by prioritising our relationship with the Holy Spirit we will know what he is doing, and he will be doing it through us.

That is why it is important whenever possible to put prayer before breakfast and to start the day soaking in his presence and feeding on his word.  We can tune in to his agenda for the day and ask him to give us today our daily bread.

John 14: 15 – 18

15 “If you love Me, keep My commandments. 16 And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever—17 the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. 18 I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.

I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you. What do we do with him when he comes? Do we welcome him? Or do we resist, quench or grieve him?

The main thing is his presence and the only way to have his presence is to have the Holy Spirit. When the Holy Spirit comes upon us he never leaves. We have to believe that.  And where he is love is, healing is, deliverance is, conviction is, salvation is, freedom is, the glory is, and abundant supernatural provision is.

When we put first things first we keep the main thing the main thing.

More next time…

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