By Elisabeth Elliot
When my brother Dave was very small we spent a week at the seaside in Belmar, New Jersey.
In vain my father tried to persuade the little boy to come into the waves with him and jump, promising to hold him safely and not allow the waves to sweep over his head. He took me (only a year older] into the ocean and showed Dave how much fun it would be. Nothing doing. The ocean was terrifying. Dave was sure it could mean certain disaster, and he could not trust his father. On the last day of our vacation he gave in. He was not swept away, his father held him as promised, and he had far more fun than he could have imagined, whereupon he burst into tears and wailed, "Why didn't you make me go in?"
An early lesson in prayer often comes through an ordeal of fear. We face impending adversity and we doubt the love, wisdom and power of our Father in heaven. We've tried everything else and in our desperation we turn to prayer--of the primitive sort: here's Somebody who's reputed to be able to do anything. The great question is, can I get Him to do what I want? How do I twist His arm, how persuade a remote and reluctant deity to change His mind?
For the rest of Learning the Father's Love, download the free September/October edition of RTM Magazine.
We like our Gospel to be cut and dried.
When giving the Gospel we desire to get to the point--we are all sinners, Jesus came and died for our sins, by faith in Jesus our sins can be forgiven and our guilt removed, so when we die we can go to heaven and live forever. One neat package. All it needs is the bow, and it's ready to give away.
We must not think the sinner has to become a first-rate theologian before he or she can be converted. Nor must we complicate the Gospel message with periphery issues like election, free will, eschatological issues, or church membership. No argument--the Gospel of Jesus is simple, but it isn't simplistic.
The call to preach the simple message of grace has been confused and reduces the Gospel to a few common denominators. This reduction has oversimplified the Gospel. That is why most people think of the Gospel in terms of Jesus dying so we can go to heaven when we die. Salvation is something that happened to me in the past and until I die nothing else is on my salvation radar. This mindset is the result of this reductionism. Therefore, most people sitting on church pews are mostly unexcited and uninvolved. The Gospel doesn't motivate them to live; it only motivates them to die and go to heaven. Thus, in between conversion and dying, most Christians don't know how to live.
We modern expositors of the Bible have presented a Gospel in seed form, but in doing so we have lost the root, vine, branches, and fruit of the Gospel. We've made the act of salvation punctiliar, something occurring at a definite point in time, by making it historical, an event that happened to a sinner in the past.
The New Testament writers' Gospel package was much larger than ours, and although simple, its simplicity was enhanced by the beauty of its complexity. It is both simple and complex. There is a depth in the Gospel that is matched only by God's omniscience, because that is where its origin lies--in the infinite wisdom of God. The apostles would never be guilty of stating that salvation is something that happened to a person in the past. They saw the movement of salvation starting in a person's past, when they trusted Christ, and continuing into the unending and ever unfolding eons of eternity. Especially the Apostle Paul.
Take 1 Corinthians 9:23 for example. Paul says that everything he did was for the Gospel and so he could participate in it.
Now this I do for the gospel's sake, that I may be partaker of it with you.
Paul did everything he did not only to save some as he says in verse 22 but also that in the end, he too will be saved. This is not an unusual way for the apostle to talk. He said in similar fashion to Timothy, "Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you" (1 Timothy 4:16).
This plays with our minds and makes our little neat Gospel package appear as it is: too small. What does Paul mean that he "may be partaker" of the Gospel? And what did Timothy understand when his mentor said, "save both yourself and those who hear you"? Both Paul and Timothy were already saved, weren't they? Yes, in the way we speak of salvation, but Paul saw salvation much better than we do. He knew that it was more than something that happened to him on a road leading to Damascus. He believed the Gospel was more than just an evangelistic message but also a way of life. It not only was a telling of what Jesus did on the cross but what Jesus continued to do in Paul that made him the man, the witness, the preacher, and the apostle he was.
For the rest of Participation in the Gospel, download the free September/October edition of RTM Magazine.
I'm the first one to admit that I can see the negative quicker than I can the positive. And it doesn't look that promising--at least in the near future--for the American Christian. We live in an hour when normal Christianity looks very abnormal. The soulish is mistaken for the spiritual and the spiritual is viewed as heretical. Yes, the real spirituality of the Bible has been dumped for a spine-tingling, hair-raising, foot-stomping good time. They say God no longer cares about holiness; rather He is into the happiness scene like everyone else.
The geo-political radar for the nation doesn't look very promising either. If God doesn't change, then His righteous judgment of unrighteous nations hasn't changed either. How can anyone with a brain in their head who believes the Bible not say that America is receiving pre-cursor judgments that are like the smaller waves which precede the high tide? It means something worse is on the horizon if the country doesn't change course.
But as pessimistic as all that may sound, I'm very hopeful about the future. Stop and think about it: can't it be said in the history of the evangelical church that it has at different times appeared as dried up as a valley of bones? The life of the Spirit of God seemed to depart and all that occurred was the motions of religion?
Surely acts of religion without the Spirit of God is death. Like Lazarus of Bethany, men and women have said of Christianity, it "stinks, for it has been dead." The world has been trying to tell us for years that God is dead. They must wonder why we hold out hope in what appears to be a hopeless cause.
But who can deny what God has done in times past when the religious and political landscapes were just as worse as today, if not more so? Could not what God has done in past revivals and awakenings be compared to a resurrection?
God asked Ezekiel in a vision, "Can these dry bones live?" He caused Ezekiel to look on a valley entirely covered with human bones. "Can these dry bones live?" asked God. Ezekiel answered cautiously, "O, Lord God, You know."
Come on Ezekiel, you are speaking to a God of resurrection, a God of new beginnings, an omnipotent God. Mr. Prophet, "They must live," is the answer of faith. And live they did. God caused the dry, dusty bones to come together and stand clothed with muscle, flesh and skin; and then He breathed on them and the lifeless bodies became living souls.
It was a picture of the resurrection of the nation of Israel. But, if God can resurrect a nation as He did in the last century, then surely it is no more difficult for Him to resurrect a church. Surely it would require no greater power, if not less.
I do believe where I once heard the death rattle, I now hear the sounds of life. Where there was moroseness there is jubilation. God can do it!
Be like the two Emmaus road disciples and live in the past if you please. Be a Thomas and doubt if you want to. Be as the Pharisees were and deny what God has done if you must, but the truth remains the Jesus rose from the dead.
It is perfectly fine to give up on man, and its quite acceptable to give up on organized, institutional religion, but do not give up on a God of resurrection power. The church of Jesus Christ is not dead; she doesn't even need resurrection. She only needs someone to blow the trumpet and arouse her out of the slumber of defeatism. Remember, dear saint that God loves to arrive and silence the naysayer by doing the unexpected, the unpredictable, and the impossible. This thing isn't over. My bet is on God. Don't count Him out.
Kofi was a good kid.
A pastor's son.
He assumed he was a Christian. So did everyone else.
Then he realized he wasn't.
And Grace came down.
As a kid, Kofi Adu-Boahen could be found at his dad's London church helping whenever needed, saying please and thank you, and addressing all the older folks as "sir" and "ma'am."
He knew all the right words to say and all the right things to do, but his heart had never been transformed by the Gospel.
A self-proclaimed moralist, Kofi, whose parents are originally from Ghana, struggled with an explosive temper in secondary school and was suspended semi-regularly between the ages of 11-13. His harsh temper continued to escalate so much that he would sometimes have temper flare ups at church when other kids would annoy him.
Despite the anger and violent tendencies, 13-year-old Kofi was offended when a Sunday school teacher asked to speak with him in November 2004 and then proceeded to share the Gospel.
"I was a pastor's kid, and sure I had my problems but the Gospel was for unbelievers," Kofi remembered thinking. "But she was faithful to the message and as I began to think on it, I became convicted that I had religion but no Jesus. At first, I fought and fought to hold on to my 'righteousness' but finally in March 2005, God opened my eyes to see the emptiness of all and His sufficiency and so at age 14, I repented of my sins and placed my faith in Christ and what He had done for me."
Within months, his once volatile temper had calmed down and he was doing better in school and in relationships with other people. "More important than all that, for the first time, Christianity didn't feel like just a list of moral dos and don'ts--it was a living, dynamic relationship with a real Person who changed my life."
But the real battle was just beginning.
"Unfortunately, the church I had grown up in was an unusual mix of legalism, prosperity gospel, African spiritualism and traditional Pentecostal-Holiness theology," he said. "Before long, the grace I had experience was mixed with a lot of legalism with the promise of God's blessing on my life financially, emotionally, and spiritually, just as long as I would do what God expected of me and fight against the Devil with my prayers."
Considering that was all the Christianity he knew, Kofi, the oldest of four children, bought into it wholeheartedly and subconsciously sought to substantiate his conversion by earning spiritual bonus points with his lifestyle.
"The same moralism which had followed me around pre-conversion now put on church clothes and followed me into my Christian life," he said. "I was saved by grace but now that I was in, I had to prove myself. So I went to every service with my Bible and a notepad, taking meticulous notes, I was first in with my dad and last out when he went home. I went to lots of events and conferences and watched Christian TV religiously (excuse the pun). If I had to prove myself, I was definitely going to prove myself."
Interrupting 16-year-old Kofi's quest for spiritual validation, God grabbed his attention back to Christ in the summer of 2007, using a most peculiar avenue to do so.
For the rest of Kofi's story, download the free September/October edition of RTM Magazine.