Basic Battle Training
Chapter 11: Battle Expectations
In today’s Christianity the driving force in what is preached is the response it generates. Current philosophy finds that that one should seek a good response and therefore tailor his message only to that end.
Men today are saved to a shallow and compromised Jesus, a weak God, and an incomplete understanding of how things will eternally be. While this approach is successful in drawing converts, those converted often fall away and have no root (It is approximated that 80-90% of converts won at major evangelical outreaches end up falling away). With these things in mind, we turn our attention to what Scripture has to say on the subject of response.
What response should we expect?
There are only two possible responses to any communication concerning God and His Kingdom: acceptance, or rejection. In accepting the message the hearer must receive correct information and be pursuing the knowledge of God.
· Jesus said, "seek, and ye shall find", "knock and it shall be opened" (Matthew 7:7).
· Jeremiah tells us that God is found when He is "searched for with all one's heart" (Jer. 29:13).
· Further Scripture teach: "Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you" (James 4:8)
This shows that the acceptance is up to the hearer, not just the proclaimer. Jesus taught in the parable of the sower and the seed that 3 out of 4 seeds bear no fruit at all, not because of the sower or the seed, but depending on the soil (Matthew 13)
Get used to it: Rejection is the norm!
Jesus declared in Matt. 7:13-14 that the road to destruction is wide, "and many follow it”...those finding the narrow way to God and life are few.
Rejection can and will range from hearers just ignoring you to their active violent persecution, depending on what is said, to whom, and with what strength (salt). The proclamation of God's mind in bold public rebuke by the prophets and apostles often met with their persecution and even death.
The Bible repeatedly warns us to expect a negative response and persecution.
Jeremiah 1:8,19: "...They shall fight against thee...."
Jeremiah 7:27: "… they will not hearken to thee: thou shalt also call unto them; but they will not answer thee."
Ezekiel 2:4-5,7; 3:6,7,11,19: God sends Ezekiel to "a rebellious house" that "will not hearken," and instructs him to deliver the message "whether they hear, or whether they will forbear." (See also 33:9)
Ezekiel 33:31: "...They hear thy words, but they will not do them...."
The instructions of our Savior to His followers are likewise full of exhortations to expect rejection:
Matthew 5:11: "Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake."
Matthew 18:7: "Woe unto the world because of offenses! For it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh!"
Matthew 23:34: "Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city."
John 7:7: "The world cannot hate you; but me it hateth, because I testify of it, that the works thereof are evil."
2 Timothy 3:12: "Yea, and all they which live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution."
As well as active persecution, those charged with this work often received no response at all. Jeremiah preached through the reigns of 4 kings with no record of any converts. Noah preached for 120 years without one convert. Jesus Himself ended up on a cross with even His disciples having fled. John 6 records that in one day He even had 5000 leave him!
While there are times of revival, most who serve God see negative results
Exodus 6:9: "they hearkened not unto Moses...."
2 Chronicles 24:19: "Yet he sent prophets to them, to bring them again unto the Lord; and they testified against them; but they would not give ear."
Jeremiah 20:2: Jeremiah’s preaching resulted in his being put in the stocks.
Jeremiah 32:3: Jeremiah is imprisoned by the king for his preaching.
Jeremiah 37:15: "The princes were wroth with Jeremiah, and smote him, and put him in prison...."
Jeremiah 38:6: Jeremiah is rewarded by being cast into a dungeon, “…and Jeremiah sank in the mire."
John the Baptist begins the New Testament.
Matthew 14:3: "Herod had laid hold on John, and bound him, and put him in prison...." He later was decapitated.
And Jesus finds negative responses in the following:
Matthew 12:14: "the Pharisees went out, and held a council against him, how they might destroy him."
Mark 3:21: "And when his friends heard of it, they went out to lay hold on him: for they said, he is beside himself."
Mark 5:17: "And they began to pray him to depart out of their coasts."
Luke 4:28-29: Jesus preached in a synagogue, "and all they in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath, and rose up, and thrust him out of the city, and let him unto the brow of the hill whereon their city was built, that thy might cast him down headlong."
And finally, Christ is betrayed by Judas and arrested, falsely condemned, and executed.
On to the early Church: The book of Acts records the Apostles persecution in numerous examples:
Acts 4: Peter and John are arrested and threatened by the high priest and captain of the temple.
Acts 7: Stephen is stoned.
Acts 9:29: Grecians try to slay Paul.
Acts 13:50: Jews raise persecution against Paul & Barnabas.
Acts 14:4-5: Assault made "to use them despitefully & stone them."
Acts 17:13: Jews stir up people against Paul.
Acts 19:9: Some were hardened & spake evil of that way.
Acts 22:22-23: Paul’s listeners want Paul killed.
Acts 26:24: Festus accuses Paul of being mad.
Finally, it is recorded that the apostles preached in the following places, with no record of any conversions:
Acts 8:25: Many villages of the Samaritans, Acts 8:40: All cities between Azotus and Caesarea, Acts 11:19: Phenice, Cyprus, and Antioch, Acts 13:5: Salamis, Acts 14:24-25: Pisidia, Pamphilia, Perga, Attalia.
So how do we Biblically assess Godly Fruit?
In John 15 Jesus proclaims that any man who does not bear fruit is hewn down and cast into the fire (Chapter 15:1-8). In this passage, Jesus clearly warns us to bear fruit…yet in the entire context He never once mentions converts. Nowhere does He define "fruit" as followers… in fact He states the exact opposite!
Here the Lord gives His disciples one of His biggest warnings about rejection and persecution. So based on this passage, it would be more accurate to say that the fruit Christ is referring to is faithfulness in persecution, not proselytes!
2 Timothy 3:12. "Yea, and all they that will live Godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.
The real Biblical teaching on a favorable response is that the false teachers are the ones that usually see it
· 2 Peter 2:1-2 says, "Many shall follow their (false prophets) pernicious ways."
· Jesus, deserted by His disciples, was certainly in the minority when the crowds were yelling, "Crucify him! Crucify Him!"
· All the prophets of the day were united against Micaiah, yet he was the only faithful one with the truth. (1 Kings 22),
· Jeremiah (and all the prophets) found himself alone against the majority of priests and prophets of his day
Look at today’s at the growth of Mormonism, Jehovah's Witnesses, and the other cults. Do their large numbers and converts certify they are of God? God's true people have always been persecuted and in a very small minority":
Jesus said, "Blessed are ye, when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil for the Son of man’s sake. Rejoice ye in that day and leap for joy: for, behold, your reward is great in heaven: for in the like manner did their fathers unto the prophets," and "Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you! For so did their fathers to the false prophets" (Luke 6:20-26).
So what did the Apostle Paul glory in? Do we read in his writings the long lists of his converts, or the churches he started? No! Rather we find that he spoke of his rejections and persecution at the hands of men:
· "Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool,) I am more; in labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned...." (2 Cor. 11:23-25).
These then are the credentials Paul sets before the Corinthians in his appeal to appeal to them to follow him and turn away from the false apostles.
Follow the Instructions!
Open air preaching is often the object of ridicule with the justification that one seldom sees converts in a street preaching ministry. This "lack of fruit" (read: popularity) is cited as evidence that it does not work and that God does not bless it, etc.
The truth is, open air preaching leads to changed lives as much as any other method. While it is true that only a few respond positively, this is true of all methods. Most people you witness to individually will not repent and most people you hand a tract to will not get saved. No method results in huge conversions.
Conversions are in the hand of God and no method will reach anyone without His Spirit working in their hearts in conjunction with their desire for that to be so. We need to be careful to not try to do God’s job. Our work is to disseminate the information about Him and His Kingdom, pray for the hearers, and allow God to work on their heart
The Bible says that he who sows bountifully will reap bountifully, and he who sows sparingly will reap sparingly (2 Cor. 9:6). Open air preaching is sowing BOUNTIFULLY!
Within the range of preacher’s voice many hear. Some will avoid you, some will think you mad, some will challenge you, and a few will choose Christ. Most of this work will not be tangibly known until Judgment Day, so we again accept God’s Word by faith that “His word will not return void” (Isaiah 55:11).
With the information presented in this chapter it becomes abundantly clear that any "success" to be enjoyed in this world must be measured in the terms of God's faithfulness to His Word and the eternal glory to come! Though the negativity of response presented here could be viewed by some to be a glum appraisal, it follows the clear pattern found in the Word and should serve as a warning to any whose ministry reflects otherwise.
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