The Sending – Part 2

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The Sending – Part 2

This is the second part of a three part series of posts. If you have not already read the first part, you may do so by clicking here.

In the Name (cont’d)

Jesus not only had the audacity to claim that he was sent by the Father, he also claimed to have come in the name of the Father. This is so much more intense! But we must realize that the sending, if it is a spiritual reality, will always be “in the name”. So, in order to understand sending, we must also understand “in the name”.

  • In the name” is NOT some kind of mantra that we are tack onto the end of a prayer.

  • In the name” is NOT a magic formula that we use to get special attention from God so we can be assured that our prayers are answered.

  • In the name” is NOT some kind of religious slogan that we can use to find favor with God.

In the Name is something extremely powerful for God to fulfill His eternal purpose!

In the first century when someone claimed to be coming “in the name” of someone else it had some depth to it. But when the Son came claiming to have been sent by the Father in HIS name it meant so much more. Here is a quick and simple formula to remember what it means:

The Name = The Person

That is quite literal. The name is the same as the person. Coming in the name of someone is the same thing as the sender actually coming himself. The “sendee” or the one sent is the SAME as the one sending. THEY ARE ONE! The one sent carries the same authority, character, and life as the one sending him. But this only applies inasmuch as the Sendee and the Sender share the same mind and life. Note: I realize that there is no such word as “sendee” but this made-up word here seems to apply very nicely! :-)

Notice with me that there are many things that happen “in the name” besides being sent in the name.

* You can receive a prophet in the name of a prophet (or righteous man).

“He who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward; and he who receives a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s reward.” (Mat 10:41)

* You can baptize in the name.

“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit” (Mat 28:19)

* You can believe into the name.

“He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” (Joh 3:18)

* You can speak or teach in the name.

And when they had summoned them, they commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus.” (Act 4:18)

* You can pray in the name.

“Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.”

(Joh 14:13)

It’s very obvious from these verses that “in the name” is something much more than a phrase we tack onto the end of a prayer! In the name means in the Person, in Christ, in the Spirit. So much so that if you pray in the name it is actually Christ Himself who is originating, initiating, and executing that prayer.

So, this means that when someone is sent by God he is actually coming as totally representing and expressing God. It’s really the same as God coming Himself! The Son was sent in the name of the Father. And we know that everything the Son said and everything the Son did came from the Father Himself. (see John 5:19,20; John 6:57; John 14:10; John 15:5)

In the name means by and in and one with another life that is dwelling within you!

The Sending is Corporate

One thing that we must realize here is that Jesus Christ was not only sent by the Father but he was also sent by the Holy Spirit.

“THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD IS UPON ME, BECAUSE HE ANOINTED ME TO PREACH THE GOSPEL TO THE POOR. HE HAS SENT ME TO PROCLAIM RELEASE TO THE CAPTIVES, AND RECOVERY OF SIGHT TO THE BLIND, TO SET FREE THOSE WHO ARE OPPRESSED”

(Luk 4:18)

It’s important for us to see that the Lord Jesus was sent out by a community, that is, the community of the Godhead (Father, Son, and Spirit). He was not only sent out by that community but he was also sent out with that community! The Father and the Spirit were always with him and always guiding and empowering him. He told Phillip that if he had seen him then he had seen the Father (John 14:8-10). The divine community (the Three-in-One) really are one! And They (as a community) sent the Son to the earth to fulfill God’s eternal purpose.

Sending – Level Two

“He who receives you receives Me, and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me.”

(Mat 10:40)

Now we can see the second tier or level of sending. Not only was Jesus Christ sent by the Godhead but he also sent others. He sent the twelve.

And He sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to perform healing.” (Luk 9:2)

He also sent out seventy others.

Now after this the Lord appointed seventy others, and sent them in pairs ahead of Him to every city and place where He Himself was going to come. And He was saying to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.” (Luk 10:1-2)

You may be thinking that the sending is the end product. No so! Actually, in some sense, it is but the beginning. However, there is much that is before the beginning!

The Calling and the Preparation

Before the sending there is the calling and the preparation. You could say that it’s a three step process. This is first seen in the life of our Lord, since He is the “Prototype” for all who would come after him. First, God calls.

The Calling

When was Jesus Christ called by God? The answer is simple: before time and creation! He was called in eternity past from within the Triune God. After (which is a word that doesn’t really apply when you are speaking from within the eternals!) the Godhead conceived His eternal plan and purpose then He called the eternal Son to fulfill that purpose by being incarnated as human flesh (Eph. 3:11,12). This calling is obviously very important for without it there will be no preparation and no sending forth.

People have asked me, “how do I know that I am called?”. Actually, there are two aspects of this “calling” that we are talking about. In the basic sense, all believers are called.

“For many are called, but few are chosen.” (Mat 22:14)

… to all who are beloved of God in Rome, called as saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Rom 1:7)

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.” (Rom 8:28-30)

but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” (1Co 1:24)

There are many other references to our calling as believers. If you are in Christ then you are both called and chosen by him! This is the general aspect of the calling that applies to all true believers in Christ. But there is also a more specific calling that has to do with the work of God. We will look into that in the third part of this series. If you are called to his work then it will not leave you no matter what. One of the ways to know you are called to the work is that it will not go away. You may try to make it go away, but it will not leave you for the duration of your life.

That applies to both the general and the specific calling.

The Preparation

The problem here is that many people (and organizations) try to skip this all important step. I don’t know how many times I have heard churches, missionary boards, etc. tell young people that since they feel called to the Lord’s work they need to get out there right now! The need is great! The world is going to hell in a hand basket! You need to get out there! The problem is these people probably don’t even know the Lord very well and almost definitely don’t have any experience in authentic biblical community life. So why are we sending them? To see our conversions lists go up? To get more money for our annual budgets? Of course, none of this has even entered the mind of God as seen throughout the scriptures!

Actually, God takes his time (years!) preparing individuals for his work. What about Moses? Forty years on the backside of the desert. What about David? Being chased and persecuted for years by an maniac king. What about Paul? About 10-14 years of true body life in the Lord’s house before he was sent out by the church in Antioch with Barnabas.

What about Jesus Christ? How about an eternity living inside of the Godhead learning to lay down his life and receive his only life from the Father in the Spirit!

Why is preparation so important? It’s because during that time God is working on the individual’s character to make them safe for God’s people! A person may have many gifts but it is their character that will make or break them in the Lord’s work. And that character of Christ is only worked into an individual as they learn to know him intimately, turning from the soul-life and the self to behold the living Christ inside of them! This takes some years. This takes the work and way of the cross in the life of the believer.

But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.”

(2Co 3:18)

According to the contextual story of the New Testament, the environment to receive this training and preparation is the local body of believers. There is no exception to this! All of those who were sent out were first prepared by living in an authentic community of saints first.

Stay tuned for the next part of The Sending to be released soon!

The Sending – Part 1

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The Sending – Part 1

As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world.” (Joh 17:18)

This post is (hopefully) the first of a three part article on the mind of God concerning “sending”. This is, from my perspective, a very much misunderstood, misapplied, and downright ignored subject. For example, you dear reader, how many messages have you heard or read on the subject of God’s sending? Usually this topic is related to the modern concept of “missions” which literally has very little to do with “the sending” we see happening in the contextual story of the New Testament. Therefore, I believe that this series of blog posts will help to fill the void and (hopefully) will bring some light and understanding to believers who have not had that before.

The Sending of the Eternal Son

Most Christians are familiar with the fact that the eternal Son of God was sent into time and space by His Father.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. (John 1:1-4)

But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:12-14)

We call this the incarnation. But there is more to it than just that.

“He who receives you receives Me, and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me.”

(Mat 10:40)

Here we see two “levels” of sending. First, the Father sent the Son. Then, the Son sent His disciples. It’s very clear in the context that Jesus was here speaking to his disciples. Read the whole chapter and you will see that he is speaking to the twelve.

I don’t think that any sane believer would argue the point that the Son was sent by the Father. The question we need to ask is: what does it mean to be sent by God?

Joh_5:36 “But the testimony which I have is greater than the testimony of John; for the works which the Father has given Me to accomplish–the very works that I do–testify about Me, that the Father has sent Me.

Joh_5:37And the Father who sent Me, He has testified of Me. You have neither heard His voice at any time nor seen His form.

Joh_5:38You do not have His word abiding in you, for you do not believe Him whom He sent.

Joh_6:29 Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.”

Joh_6:38For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.

Joh_6:39This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day.

Joh_6:44No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day.

Joh_6:57As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats Me, he also will live because of Me.

Joh_7:16 So Jesus answered them and said, “My teaching is not Mine, but His who sent Me.

Joh_7:18He who speaks from himself seeks his own glory; but He who is seeking the glory of the One who sent Him, He is true, and there is no unrighteousness in Him.

Joh_7:28 Then Jesus cried out in the temple, teaching and saying, “You both know Me and know where I am from; and I have not come of Myself, but He who sent Me is true, whom you do not know.

Joh_7:29I know Him, because I am from Him, and He sent Me.

This is just a very small sampling of the verses about the Son being sent by the Father in the Gospel of John alone! Obviously, Jesus held being sent by the Father in very high regard! We must keep in mind here that Jesus had some major hurdles to jump over pertaining to the Jewish mindset. Here are just a few:

  1. The Triune God – the nation of Israel did not have the revelation of a God who is revealed as three Persons! They believed that God is one Person, not three who are one. That was some thing totally new as far as the Jewish nation was concerned. Remember that they were not even allowed to mention the sacred name of God let alone to call him Father.  The fact that He would have a Son was actually blasphemous to many in the first century.
  2. The Son of God – by Jesus stating that he has been sent by the Father strongly implied that he was the Son of God and was divine Himself. This was a major problem in the Jewish mind. But yet he kept telling them over and over again that he had been sent by the Father.
  3. Claiming to be the Messiah – here was another major issue. All of Israel was waiting for the coming of the Messiah, but this poor son of a carpenter just didn’t seem to fit the bill in their list of expectations.

When the Son presented himself as being sent by the Father he was doing so to validate what he said and did to the house of Israel. However, the very concept (reality) of a Father who is divine sending a Son who is divine, blew the minds who were listening to those words. Of course the divine Son did this on purpose so that only those who had eyes to see and ears to hear would understand. Only those who were “poor in spirit” (Matt. 5:3) would see and have the kingdom. It was only those who would empty themselves who could receive. And this brings us to one of the major aspects of The Sending.

The Sent One Must Be Received by Those to whom He is Sent!

This receiving requires an emptying of those to whom he is being sent. If the potential receivers are haughty, puffed up with pride, and full of themselves, then the sent one can never be received. The Sent One is the Son of God Himself! And yet how many rejected He who was sent from God? Why did most of the Jewish nation reject him? Because he did not live up to their expectations! They had major veils (filters) that were hindering them from seeing this One. They were looking for a Messiah who would overthrow the Roman government and take physical, political, and military control to place the nation of Israel into the seat of power. This poor carpenter’s son from a slum just didn’t fill that bill at all!

Many Sent and Many Rejected

Of course, the Lord Jesus was not the first one to be sent to the house of Israel. There were many prophets sent before Him.

“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling. “Behold, your house is being left to you desolate! “For I say to you, from now on you will not see Me until you say, ‘BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD!'” (Mat 23:37-39)

Wow! What a powerful statement made by our glorious Lord!

from now on you will not see Me until you say, ‘BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD!’”

Can you apprehend this with me? The majority of Israel was not able to see (receive) Christ because they would not welcome He who came in the name of the Lord. Here, we not only see the sending but we also see the name of the Lord! In the next part of this series we will delve into what it means to be sent in the name of the Lord and many other aspects of The Sending!

Stay tuned for the next part of The Sending to be released soon!

Don’t Pray for the Lost to be Saved – its not scriptural! (part 2: Jesus)

This is the second in a two part series. If you haven’t read the first half, please do so now.

There are two spiritual truths that are the foundation of why there is little emphasis in the New Testament on praying for the lost to be saved.

Jesus didn’t pray that people would respond because he knew that people were desperate for Him even if they didn’t realize it. In Matthew 9: 37-38, Jesus commanded his disciples to pray for not for salvation for the lost, but rather for more workers in the fields: “the fields are white, pray that The Lord would send more workers into the fields.”

Lets consider Jesus’s “evangelistic mission” when he sent out the 72 in Luke 10 and the 12 disciples in Matt 10. When he instructed the 72 and the 12, did he give them extremely specific instructions? Yes. Did those instructions include telling them to pray? No! He told them that he had given them authority, just like he has been given authority for the benefit of the church (Eph 1:22-23). He just sent the workers into the field and knew that those the Father has called will respond.

As an ekklesia that is healthy grows and operates in unity, it will naturally produce workers that will be sent out to plant other ekklesias. This is the example in scripture, and His pattern still operates in the same manner as it did back then. I am living proof of this, as well as the other trainees currently with Milt.

Additionally, imagine if all the praying for the lost that we do suddenly turned into praying for more workers in the fields, as Jesus instructed his disciples? Would that not lead to more of the lost actually hearing the good news? Would that not also make our prayers more personal and more concrete in their application? I think they would.

Lets get back to Jesus’s view of evangelism.
John 14-17 is a window into Jesus’ heart. Its the speech and prayer he gave to his disciples the night of his arrest. I consider this his “deathbed” words, and just like someone in the hospital on their deathbed, whatever they say in that moment is what is truly in their hearts. So lets focus on his prayer in ch 17. Amongst other issues, he prays for you and me: future believers, and I will include that portion of his prayer here:

JOHN 17:20-23 I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message. I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one_as you are in me Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me. I have given them the glory you gave me, so they may be one as we are one. I am in them and you are in me. May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me. [after this he prays again for the disciples]

Notice that he didn’t pray that they would have sound theology, or great ministries, or even great evangelism. He prayed that we would be ONE. Why? Because Jesus knew that the church that is most reflective of him would be the church that has the most true conversions. Right there Jesus just displayed his heart for the church AND his plan for reaching the lost. He said it clearly himself in verse 23: when we are in unity, the world (i.e. the lost) will believe. This is true because in some mysterious way, He knew that unity and oneness was an extremely effective at winning the lost. I’m sure there are multiple reasons for this, but one of them is that some people are longing for a taste of Heaven, and will convert simply on the “heavenly taste of the Godhead” that unity provides.

Imagine this: what if all the efforts we as believers have made towards evangelism in the past 100 yrs was instead put into becoming one heart and one mind? I GUARANTEE you that we would be more plentiful harvest of souls than we have had.

Lets also look at what we label as “the Lord’s Prayer” in Matt 6 {Which, by the way, is not the Lord’s Prayer, thats in John 17. In Matt 6 he gives instructions on how we should pray}. Read those instructions from Him on how to pray; is there any hint of evangelistic tone in it? I say no. The only line that could even be construed to touch upon reaching the lost is “let your kingdom come on earth as it is in Heaven” however, lets remember that Jesus also said “the kingdom is within you.” The Kingdom of God does not exist in an unbeliever, but only in believers, so I think it is fair to interpret that line of his instruction to be interpreted in the following manner: “I know the kingdom is in my people, but let them exhibit the qualities of Heaven-love, unity, compassion, forgiveness, etc- to a greater degree” because Jesus understood that if his people exhibit the kingdom of God in their own lives, some people will be drawn to it.

Let me share with you my personal journey: the great majority of my family (including extended family, roughly 40 people) do not know The Lord, and most of my grandparents have died without knowing him. So don’t think that I’m not intimately concerned with the lost getting saved…but I must subject my paradigms to the example seen in scripture in Paul as well as the commands that Jesus gave.

Also, we must remember that in reality it is only those that the father draws (John 6:44) that will be saved, also, lets remember another unpleasant truth: that most people will not come to a saving knowledge of The Lord (John 7: 13-14). Of course, he also said that when he would be lifted up, he would draw all men to himself (John 12:32).

I am NOT telling you not to pray for the lost. “What???” you say? I’ll repeat that: I am NOT telling you not to pray for the lost. My goal here is just to give you information. What I recommend you do is to take this info, research it yourself, and allow Jesus to reframe your thoughts and actions, not just some blogger you’ll never meet.

Lastly, I final word from my heart: I only desire for the Bride of Christ to love unabashedly and worship with full abandon. If anything in this post is not Truth, scrap it. I have thought of the subject matter for over 10 yrs, and other than telling my friend mentioned above about it, this is the first time I’ve really shared. I would love for everyone to know the King, but thats just not going to happen, and we must be realistic about it (Matt 7: 13-14).

In all of this, don’t just take my word. Look for yourself :)
your brother,
Thomas

Don’t Pray for the Lost to be Saved – its not scriptural! (part 1: Paul)

By Thomas Fortson

The title of this post is not a clever trick to get you to read it: it really isn’t scriptural to pray for the lost to be saved.  I will try to show you this from scripture, and all I ask is that you think objectively about what this post says and allow Holy Spirit to lead you into all Truth.  This is a two part series: this one covers Paul and the next is about Jesus’ teachings on this subject.

[A disclaimer: I am NOT speaking of when a nonbeliever approaches a believer and asks them to pray for something; that is certainly a godly thing to do.  I am strictly speaking of believers praying for nonbelievers to become believers.]

“Praying for the unsaved is clearly scriptural!” you say?  Really?  Prove it.  You will find it is actually much more difficult to make a Biblical case for it than you think.

Think about this: if praying for the lost was so important, why didn’t Paul instruct the churches to do it in his letters?  I extoll you to verify this yourself.  Prayer was clearly part of his life and ministry based upon his letters, but exactly what did he pray?  In his letters, when he does describe how he prays for them, or when he asks for prayer, or even when he writes out his prayers in the letter itself, he never (that I have read) asks for prayer for the lost.  Think about that.

Lets go through some examples.

When he asks for the Ephesian church to pray for his evangelistic messages, he does has for prayer, but not that people would respond: he asks that his words would be clear.

Eph 6:18-19 “Pray for Gods holy people and pray that I would proclaim the message clearly.”  Ephesians was one of the last letters he wrote; if praying for the lost was something he endorsed, wouldn’t this be the perfect place to include it?

Lets consider the last letter Paul wrote: 2 Timothy.  In it he basically gives Timothy instructions on how to lead the churches in times of crisis etc…   In 1:8 he encourages him to proclaim the truth without being ashamed, but nothing about prayer.

When I was first realizing this, I did a study of the New Testament and could only find one clear example: when Paul is before Herod, he alludes to praying for it: Acts 26:29.

Paul is speaking before King Agrippa and starts evangelizing to him and Agrippa rebuffs him and Paul responds “…whether quickly or not [for you to convert], I pray to God that both you and everyone here in this audience might become the same as I am, except for these chains.”  So thats it.  Thats the only example I came up with in all of the New Testament.  (I could have overlooked something, and I’d appreciate it if someone else could provide one…)  Given the amount of text that is given to prayer and the instructions of both Paul and Jesus, it would seem that Paul’s prayers for them was not nearly as frequent as his prayers for the churches.  Also, lets not forget that this was an event that Paul had anticipated for a long time, and was likely more focused on it than his daily witnessing activities.  In that sense, he would be more likely to ‘branch out’ from his typical pattern.  [It’s the same argument that surrounds whether or not Christians are to pray prior to every meal.  Simply because Jesus prayed before the last passover meal, and gave thanks when feeding the 4/5,000, that doesn’t mean that he prayed every single time physical food entered his body.]

I told a brother my thoughts on this years ago, and his response was: “Thomas, that means we don’t pray for the great commission…” implying that he disagreed with me because it was too ludicrous to imagine not praying for something so important.  To this argument, I have two things to say. 1. the “great commission” is the name we have given to Jesus’ last words to the 120 before he ascended and not what Jesus himself entitled it…also, the point of this statement has been overblown and misconstrued (see blog entitled the great assumption).  2. Even if you disagree with reason #1 and the other blog entry, think of it like this: its not that I think we shouldn’t pray for evangelism, its that I think we should pray DIFFERENTLY than we traditionally have been, to greater reflect how the Kingdom operates and how Jesus displayed.

In the second half of this 2-blog series, I focus on Jesus and his prayers and how he instructed his disciples to evangelize and pray.  Stay tuned :)

Thomas.

What is Organic Church?

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475948121_e6217d6afd_oAgain, the folks over at 3rdRace.org have produced an excellent podcast concerning the definition and nature of what some are calling the organic expression of the church.

I highly recommend that you go over there and listen to this new podcast and all future podcasts as well.  By the way, if you don’t know, these are the people that Mary and I are training to be future church planters.  They have years of experience in the organic expression of the church and I also recommend that you subscribe to their blog.  You won’t be sorry!

Click below to listen to the latest podcast:

http://3rdrace.org/the-deuce/

Infusion NorCal 2015

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 You are invited to a very special organic church event in Northern California!

Jon Zens and Myself will be holding a special conference for those interested in organic church life in Northern California.  The event will be held in Sonoma and will run April 3-4, 2015.  

If you are involved with a group that is desirous of returning to the life and purpose we see in the New Testament, this event may be for you.

If you are an individual believer who is looking to connect with others who have this same desire in your area, this event may be for you.

For more information and registration click on the link below:

http://www.infusionevent.org/

Training the Planters

3478092302_6a4f72dc25_o Many of you may not know that my wife Mary and I plant organic churches. We have been doing this for the last 20+ years. It’s been full-time for the last five years. We have planted New Testament style organic churches throughout this country (U.S.) and in Australia. We are also working with others to help see new groups established in Europe and Africa.

Recently, we have entered a new phase of this work and that is the training of new future church planters.  This is very very exciting for us!  For the last five months, four others have been with us as we plant a church in Northern California.  This has been an incredible experience for all of us involved and we ALL are learning some very spiritual and practical lessons from this experience.

One of the desires of our hearts is to present these folks that we are training to you all, our readers.  You will definitely enjoy their writings as well.  They recently did their first podcast about them being trained and you can listen by going to this blog:

http://3rdrace.org/our-first-podcast/

Enjoy!!!

 

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