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First Things @ First

Pastoral Perspectives;

As we quickly approach the fall, winter and spring season of service, opportunities abound for those in the body of Christ at First to find their place and fulfill His purpose. In addressing that, I am in no way asking those who are already engaged, (some in multiple areas) to do more. I am inviting/encouraging those who once served and no longer do or those who have never served to join the work.

As we are seeing/sharing in our small group fundamentals of faith class, the body of Christ only functions properly when ALL the members are first placed and then present with respect to their God designed purpose.

Service survey sheets are available weekly for the next few weeks to give you opportunity to join the kingdom work of God here at First Baptist. Your engagement in the work is essential for an effective ministry.

That said, I was reminded this past week of an illustration once used many years ago in describing the proximity of the apostles to Christ and how that may apply to disciples today. As you know there were twelve in the beginning; all chosen by the Lord and all agreed to follow. However, within that group of twelve you and I can see some things that may be applied today with respect to the N.T. Church of the 21st century.

From that group of twelve, 25% of those who were called to follow and serve as disciples are seen with Him more often than the others. Peter, James & John are mentioned more than the rest as being with Jesus, especially in the most intimate times. These three were seen with Jesus on the mount of transfiguration. Matthew records (26:37) that upon arriving at the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee (James & John). For the other 67% of that group, we know that eight or at least some of them were there, just not as close to Jesus as the rest are pictured. Why? While there may be several reasons, I believe one reason, (especially as it applies to followers of Christ today) is that they wanted to be. And Jesus permitted them to be, as a result. That is what it really boils down to. Those in the family of faith are as close to Jesus as they desire to be. And they are as involved as they choose to be in the ministry of the gospel. The point is not exclusivity, as some in the gang of eight percenters might wrongly assume today. Jesus welcomes all who desire to be closer because Jesus includes all who will to come. Every believer is blessed each day with the opportunity to be as close to Jesus as each desire being under His command and joyfully joining Him in His work.

The eight mentioned as being His disciples were not any less a disciple than the other three but their lack of print, so to speak reveals a different level of relationship to Jesus. These eight were not any less chosen or gifted by God than the others. For whatever reason, known only to them and the Lord these eight (67%) were not as close to Jesus as Peter, James and John were. Something else, it need be noted, Jesus didn't love these eight any less nor were they of any less importance in His purpose. History reveals that 11 of those who started with Jesus gave sacrificially to follow the Lord.

If you're doing the math, that leaves one; Judas. Judas represents that 8% who are counted in the group but who are not yielded to Christ. We'll discuss Judas a little more in the message for Sunday as Jesus confronts Judas directly for rebuking Mary's display of love for her Lord. The word of God tells us that Jesus chose Judas, but Judas never chose Jesus. Judas, like the rest of the apostles was a sinner from the beginning. Difference was/is that Judas never allowed the Lord to change his heart as the others did. Judas was counted in the group but was never a part of the family of faith. And sadly, he chose to die in that spiritual condition of being under the condemnation of sin. Judas was close, but not connected and His soul perishes even today in hell as he awaits his final sentence. No doubt it will be severe, as it will be for all those who identify with him in the church today.

So what? How may any of this be applied today? Jesus is still calling disciples out of this world and commanding their devotion in service. Like the earliest disciples, some are more willing to be commanded in their devotion than others and some like Judas are not willing to be commanded at all.

In every church fellowship today, a similar scene unfolds. Approximately 25% are more involved than the rest. And they are because they 'want' to be. They're not more special, more loved or more gifted by the Lord than the rest. They just desire to be closer to Jesus. Approximately 67% percent are still very important in the work but are less involved with Jesus. Again, it's that way because they want it to be that way. It doesn't have to be that way and it would be better for them and others if it wasn't that way. They're in Christ, just not with Him as much or as often.

I don't believe for a minute that Jesus wanted it that way for those eight apostles. I don't believe Jesus wants it that way today, either. It's that way because of a free will that prefers it be that way.

The remaining 8%, those who are counted among the group but can't be counted on. They've been exposed to the light of truth but have not yet experienced the life Jesus offers. They're on the membership roll at church because that's all they seem to want. Many have been around for many years, but they've never joined with Jesus in faith that surrenders all. And like Judas, (who is their personal representative in the original group of twelve) they're often more interested in money and the material than they are in ministry. Like Judas in John 12, they're often the most critical of how funds are spent having never contributed much of anything. The control of the purse strings reveals they're more interested in serving mammon than God. And Jesus said no one can do both! (Matthew 6:24)

The 8 % in the church today may be counted as closer to the Lord than the rest of the world at large but they're content to remain in the camp of the condemned. Like, Judas, so long as they refuse to yield their will and permit Jesus to change their heart, their 'want to' remains centered in another source; their own. Eventually, if nothing changes, all will go the way of Judas and suffer the same fate as the one who represents them.

So, in this continuing journey of discipleship, in which camp of Christ followers do you most readily and often identify. The 25%? The 67%? OR the 8%? The good news is--there's always room for you to move into the inner circle of those who are pictured as being most connected to Jesus. Jesus invites each of us to join Him more. More intimately and more often. And you and I may join Jesus at any point from any place so long as His purpose is/remains the priority. However, the blessing of joy is determined by our 'want' to in being under His command.

It always boils down to 'want to'. Do you 'want to'?

If you're counted 'in', are you able to be counted 'on'?

If you desire, there's a place for you in the fellowship of the Lord's church to love Jesus and live out your devotion under His command in the coming year!

Jesus welcomes one and all who desire to embrace a deeper level of intimacy!

Be encouraged!

Pstr K

Hebrews 10:35-36