Travel/Financial Policies

Many people ask us what our financial policy is for the speaking ministry of Jim Elliff, our founder and president. This is a brief explanation. Other questions may be answered by communicating directly with Jim at the following address:

Jim speaks at churches and conferences without remuneration. All of the CCW booklet distribution is free of charge also. In certain cases, for items not printed by CCW (i.e. books by other publishers), items will be sold for cost. Jim prearranges not to receive love offerings or honoraria for compensation for his speaking, either for himself or the ministry. It is obvious that money comes to the ministry, and to Jim through CCW, in other ways, but we do not intend to take such as payment for our services. It is Jim’s intention to give to others as freely as he has received from God.

It is the board’s request that you not violate this principle, even by delaying the gift. We will assume that any monies sent following a meeting falls into a category other than compensation. It is important to say here that this policy is in no way an indication of lack of gratitude for your desire to give, but is a policy that Jim has lived by in an attempt to demonstrate that God alone can answer prayer and provide all that is needed for the ministry and his own family.
We also ask that you not solicit money for Jim. It is the ministry’s stated policy that all gifts will come to us in answer to prayer and not by solicitation, either from its workers or from the pastors and leaders in the churches and conferences where Jim speaks. We do understand that our policy has to be stated to the appropriate people or groups when they need to understand. It has been an exciting journey for Jim to see how God can open the hearts of individuals and groups to contribute to the ongoing work of CCW without asking anyone but God.
We do ask that the church or organization, where possible, cover Jim’s travel and lodging. If this is an impossibility, please let us know and the ministry will gladly cover that expense as well. Usually Jim lets the church or ministry order the plane ticket. He prefers an aisle seat if available.
Occasionally a person will come to the pastor or leader on their own (unsolicited) desiring to give to Jim or to CCW. Since it is the ministry’s policy to receive unsolicited funds in answer to prayer, these gifts may be received. That gift may, in fact, be a very special answer to prayer! It should be noted that Jim and his family receive gifts personally only if they are designated as such. Christian Communicators Worldwide uses all undesignated checks for its operations and publications. It is helpful if either designated or undesignated checks be made out to CCW. It is permissible for these unsolicited gifts to be first given through the church or organization before being sent. A note indicating that the check contains unsolicited moneys is helpful. If you are able to indicate who provided the funds, then we can send a thank you.
Generally it is best to lodge Jim in a non-smoking motel room, giving the best possibility for preparation and prayer. We realize that this is not always possible. Jim is happy to stay in a home if best for those who have invited him. It is always helpful if Jim can have as private a place as possible though. It is easy to understand that thoughtful accommodations are a great help since Jim is away from home so often.
Jim enjoys fellowship around the table with pastors, leaders, and the people of the churches and conferences he attends. Normally eating after the evening speaking engagement works best. However, this is not always possible. You may discuss this with Jim before his coming.
Jim takes along a family member or intern on each trip. This means that lodging and meals for one additional person would be included in your expense. At times Jim is able to take his entire family, especially when on an extended tour. Please inform Jim if this is understood or if there are any problems making this impossible. This arrangement allows Jim to continue to minister both to his family and those he is mentoring while on the road.
The board of CCW realizes that these financial and travel policies are somewhat unusual. Jim certainly does not expect that other conference speakers should follow his method, nor does he feel spiritually superior by doing it this way. He is concerned that the Lord be honored in the way this ministry is conducted and that a testimony be given to the greatness of God.

The Board of Directors

 

Sanctifying Reason

Much of the argument in this book has been linked to what I have called “sanctified reason.” What does this term mean? As you have seen, I am rooted to the position that reason and Scripture are systemic and essential to sound decision-making. I am not constrained to limit God’s activity to that alone—God can do as he wishes—but the rational approach is the normal way.

We are to actually think through the given situation, wrestle with the options, weigh them, sift them, ponder the implications and consequences, and we are to do all of this in the light of truth as we find it in the Scriptures interpreted in context. And we presume, underneath all of this, God is working.

But if reason is unaided, if it is mere reason by itself, it will do little good. Reason standing alone might lead us to some sort of workable resolution, but it carries the liability of doing so without pleasing God. That circumstance is as unsatisfying to us as it is unsatisfactory to God.

God is always and only pleased with faith. (Hebrews 11:6) To sanctify our reasoning process is to yield to his infinite wisdom and to expect from him every ounce of help that is necessary to make a decision that is both wise and pleasing to him. If faith is anything it is an attentive and conscious recognition of God’s place in all the details of life.

We are to deliberately place our rational faculties at the feet of God. In the same way that one walks out of one room and into another, believers are told to “come before his presence” (Psalm 95:2). By this the writers of the Bible intend to convey that there is a “manifested presence” of God, which is that nearness of God that is experienced or felt. Lovers of God should not be satisfied with only the bare fact that God is everywhere, but should seek his face. And we must do so with an open Bible.

It is true that God works in us “to will and to do,” but this is no excuse for failing to consciously bring our thoughts captive to God—rather, for the believer, the undercurrent of the Spirit’s work within us is seen to be the very reason we will do so.

It is part of loving the Lord with all of your mind (see Mark 12:30) and setting your mind on the things above (see Colossians 3:2) for the Christian to habituate himself to thinking his thoughts after God’s. However, in the case of determining just exactly what God would have us do in a specific matter, there is motive to be even more intentional about it.

Placing a matter before God so as to seek his presence and to rest in his intervention, is to greatly reduce the options before us. While waiting on God, we often find that God simplifies our choices. There have been many times that I have come to him with a discomfiting jumble of options only to find that spending some period in his presence reduces my selection down to just two—and then, one. I am thinking out my thoughts before God, sometimes with a list of pros and cons, under the brilliant floodlight of the Word. Müller had something to say about this way God works:

God guides, not by a visible sign, but by swaying the judgment. To wait before Him, weighing candidly in the scales every consideration for or against a proposed course, and in readiness to see which way the preponderance lies, is a frame of mind and heart in which one is fitted to be guided; and God touches the scales and makes the balance to sway as He will. But our hands must be off the scales; otherwise we need expect no interposition of His in our favor.

The hazards of becoming a mere rationalist are obvious. We must be as vigilant to avoid running aground on that sandbar as we are of being swept over the waterfall of mysticism. The guided believer recognizes the decided value of appropriately relating to Christ and not just assuming, in a casual way, the blessing of God on his thinking. You need God. And the Father is far more likely to help you when you recognize the fundamental issue of our total poverty of thought apart from him.

We are not independent thinkers anymore. That describes our old life. Now we are to be God-saturated and Scripture-oriented thinkers.

 

The Unrepenting Repenter

The believer in Christ is a lifelong repenter.  He begins with repentance and continues in repentance. (Rom. 8:12-13) David sinned giant sins but fell without a stone at the mere finger of the prophet because he was a repenter at heart (2 Sam. 12:7-13). Peter denied Christ three times but suffered three times the remorse until he repented with bitter tears (Mt. 26:75). Every Christian is called a repenter, but he must be a repenting repenter. The Bible assumes the repentant nature of all true believers in its instruction on church discipline. A man unwilling to repent at the loving rebuke of the church can be considered nothing more than “a heathen and a tax collector.” (Mt. 18:15-17)

What is repentance?
Repentance is a change of mind regarding sin and God, an inward turning from sin to God, which is known by its fruit—obedience. (Mt. 3:8; Acts 26:20; Lk. 13:5-9) It is hating what you once loved and loving what you once hated, exchanging irresistible sin for an irresistible Christ. The true repenter is cast on God. Faith is his only option. When he fully knows that sin utterly fails him, God takes him up. (Mt. 9:13b) He will have faith or he will have despair; conviction will either deliver him or devour him.

The religious man often deceives himself in his repentance. The believer may sin the worst of sins, it is true; but to remain in the love of sin, or to be comfortable in the atmosphere of sin, is a deadly sign, for only repenters inhabit heaven. The deceived repenter would be a worse sinner if he could, but society holds him back. He can tolerate and even enjoy other worldly professing Christians and pastors well enough, but does not desire holy fellowship or the fervent warmth of holy worship. If he is intolerant of a worship service fifteen minutes “too long,” how will he feel after fifteen million years into the eternal worship service of heaven? He aspires to a heaven of lighthearted ease and recreation—an extended vacation; but a heaven of holiness would be hell to such a man. Yet God is holy, and God is in heaven. He cannot be blamed for sending the unholy man to hell despite his most articulate profession (Heb. 12:14).

What are the Substitutes for true Repentance?

1. You may reform in the actions without repenting in the heart. (Ps. 5 1: 16-17; Joel 2:13) This is a great deception, for the love of sin remains. (I Jn. 2:15-17; Acts 8:9-24) At this the Pharisees were experts. (Mk. 7:1-23) The heart of a man is his problem. A man may appear perfect in his actions but be damned for his heart. His actions are at best self-serving and hypocritical. What comes from a bad heart is never good. “Does a spring send forth fresh water and bitter from the same opening? Can a fig tree, my brethren, bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Thus no spring yields both salt water and fresh.” (Jas. 3:11-12)

2. You may experience the emotion of repentance without the effect of it. Here is a kind of amnesia. You see the awful specter of sin in the mirror and flinch out of horror yet immediately forget what kind of person you saw (Jas. 1:23-24). It is true, repentance includes sincere emotion, an affection for God and a disaffection for sin. Torrents of sorrow may flood the repenter’s heart, and properly so (Jas. 4:8-10). But there is such a thing as a temporary emotion in the mere semblance of repentance; this emotion has very weak legs and cannot carry the behavior in the long walk of obedience. Your sorrow may even be prolonged. Yet if it does not arrive at repentance, it is of the world and is a living death—and maybe more (2 Cor. 7: 10). It is an old deceiver. Judas had such remorse but “went and hanged himself.” (Mt. 27:3-5)

3. You may confess the words of a true repenter and never repent. (Mt. 21:28-32; 1 Jn. 2:4, 4:20) Confession by itself is not repentance. Confession moves the lips; repentance moves the heart. Naming an act as evil before God is not the same as leaving it. Though your confession may be honest and emotional, it is not enough unless it expresses a true change of heart. There are those who confess only for the show of it, whose so-called repentance may be theatrical but not actual. If you express repentance to appear successful, you will not be successful at repenting. You will speak humbly but sin arrogantly. Saul gave the model confession (I Sam. 15:24-26) and later went to hell. Repentance “from the teeth out” is no repentance.

4. You may repent for the fear of reprisal alone and not for the hatred of sin. Any man will stop sinning when caught or relatively sure he will be, unless there is insufficient punishment or shame attached (I Tim. 1:8-11). When there are losses great enough to get his attention, he will reform. If this is the entire motive of his repentance, he has not repented at all. It is the work of law, but not grace. Men can be controlled by fear, but what is required is a change of heart. Achan admitted his sin after being caught but would not have otherwise. Find his bones in the valley of Achor; his soul, most likely, in hell. (Josh. 7:16-26)

5. You may talk against sin in public like a true repenter but never repent in private. (Mt. 23:1-3) The exercise of the mouth cannot change the heart. Your sin is like a prostitute. You are speaking against your lover in public but embracing her in the bedroom. She is not particular about being run down in public if she can have your full attention in private. “Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God?” (Jas. 4:4)

6. You may repent primarily for temporal gains rather than the glory of God. There are gains for the repenter, but the final motivation for repenting cannot be selfish. Self is a dead, stinking carcass to be discarded. We are to repent because God is worthy and is our respected authority, even if we gain nothing. Indeed, our repenting may appear to lose us more than our sin had gained. (Mt. 16:24-26; Phil. 3:7-8) And this is a test of true repentance.

7. You may repent of lesser sins for the purpose of avoiding the greater sins. (Lk. 11:42) We try to salve our nagging conscience by some minor exercise of repentance, which is really no repentance at all. The whole heart is changed in the believer. The half repenter is a divided man: part against sin and part for it; part against Christ, part for Him. But one or the other must win out, for man cannot serve God and mammon (or any other idol); he must love the one and hate the other. (Mt. 6:24)

8. You may repent so generally that you never repent of any specific sin at all. The man who repents in too great a generality is likely covering his sins. (Prov. 28:13) If there are no particular changes, there is no repenting. Sin has many heads, like the mythological Hydra. It cannot be dealt with in general, but its heads must be cut off one by one.

9. You may repent for the love of friends and religious leaders and not repent for the love of God. (Isa. 1: 10-17) A man talked into repentance may reform for the love of friends or the respect of the spiritually minded, yet do nothing substantial. If a man turns from sin without turning to God, he will find his sin has only changed its name and is hidden behind his pride. Now it will be harder to rout for its subterfuge. You have loved others but not God. And you have loved yourself most of all. Lot’s wife left the city of sin at the insistence of an angel and for the love of her family, but turned back. She had left her heart. “Remember Lot’s wife.” (Gen. 19:12-26; Lk. 17:32)

10. ‘You may confess the finished action of sin and not repent from the continuing habit of sin. If a man is honest, he is a good man in human terms; but he is not a repenting man until the sin is stabbed to death. He must be a murderer if he would be God’s: “For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” (Rom. 8: 13) God knows what you have done; what He wants is obedience. (Lk. 6:46)

11. You may attempt repentance of your sin while consciously leaving open the door of its opportunity. A man who says ” I repent” but will not leave the source or environment of that sin is suspect. Though some situations which invite temptation cannot be changed, most can. A man who will not flee the setting of his temptation when he is able still loves his sin. A mouse is foolish to build his nest under the cat’s bed. “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.” (Rom. 13:14)

12. You may make an effort to repent of some sins without repenting of all the sin you know. The businessman learns to show concern for the needs of his clients, yet he batters his wife through neglect. Another gives his money in the offering plate weekly but steals time from his employer daily. Every man boasts of some sins conquered, but true repentance is a repulsion of sin as a whole. The repenter hates all sin, though he fails more readily in some than in others. He may not know all his sins, but what he knows he spurns. Repentance is universal in the believer; the spirit is willing even when the flesh is weak (Mt. 26:41).

Repentance and faith are bound together. A repenting man has no hope for obedience without faith in the source of all holiness, God Himself. In repenting of sins, he loses his self-sufficiency. God is his sanctifier. (Jude 24-25; 1 Thess. 5:23-24; 1 Pet. 1:5)
Repentance is a gift of God (Acts 11:19; 2 Tim. 2:25) and a duty of man (Acts 17:30; Lk. 13:3). You will know if it has been granted by the exercise of it. (Phil. 2:12-13) Do not wait for it; run toward it. “Be zealous and repent.” (Rev. 3:19) Pursue it and you will find it; forget it and perish.

Reformation or Revival?

If you have been around me very long, you have heard me emphasize that the crying need, the absolutely desperate need of the hour, is reformation. You have also been aware that for years I have also longed for revival. Recently I was asked what the difference actually is, if any, between revival and reformation. This is an important question worthy of your precious time to think it through.

Though many are blinded to the current dilemma, the fact is that a sound and lively truth-basis has been ejected from the premises of modern evangelicalism. Evangelicalism has been dispossessed of truth to such an extent that it is becoming frightening.

In its place experience and mysticism are house-sitting the church or, if not these, then church growth pragmatism or an unhealthy preoccupation with the psychological. But the necessary doctrines of the holiness of God and His just wrath, justification by faith alone, the transforming nature of regeneration, the sovereignty of God over all of creation and in salvation itself, the nature and extent of grace in justification and in sanctification—doctrines upon which the earlier revivals thrived—have been considered unimportant and useful only for wizened old theologs holed up in ivory towers who do not relate to the church’s future.

Many are unaware that Jonathan Edwards was preaching a series on justification by faith alone when revival came to New England, or that the many of the Scottish revivals, for instance, were precipitated by the preaching of series on regeneration, or that the highly doctrinal book of Romans has an illustrative history as a tool of great revival of the kind I am speaking. Sound doctrine was at the core of revival. But sadly, to large numbers of evangelicals, it doesn’t seem to make any difference what we believe, only that we are feeling something or enjoying any number of the other substitutes for biblical Christianity.

On such a foundation, does it make sense to revive the experience of believers alone? To revive a church’s experience alone when it has a mushy and insufficient doctrinal foundation is only to magnify our problems, to give credence to error, and to expand what got us into trouble in the first place.

Because of this dilemma, let me make an easily misunderstood statement: Revival, as we commonly understand it, would be ill spent on such doctrinally deficient churches as we find today. This may seem a strange comment to make since I, like many of you, have actually hoped for and preached for revival. But my conviction has to do with the usual, one-sided understanding of revival prevalent in most circles. As A. W. Tozer said, “A revival of the kind of Christianity which we have had in America the last fifty year would be the greatest tragedy of this century, a tragedy which would take the church a hundred years to get over.”

Merely bringing to vibrancy or bringing to life the experience of the believer alone may be extremely useful for dead orthodoxy—orthodox or correct belief without life. But we do not, on the main, have dead orthodoxy today. We have live heterodoxy. Hetero means “other” or “different.” Heterodoxy is divergent or even heretical belief. Reformation is that word we use to speak to the recovery of the correct doctrines and their vigorous application to all of life.

We should not want a revival of experience alone without true reformation. And so the term revival is not adequate for our day unless we add the qualifiers “reformational” or “word-driven.” It is not wrong to desire revival if we mean a revival that is a resurgence of correct believing along with the enlivening of our experience with God which comes out of (not apart from) that sound doctrine. This means that I believe the most long-lasting change would not come by only having merely warm, or even powerful, dramatic experiences with God. No, what is needed is for some of the major organizations and churches, for instance, to reshape their view of the gospel to conform to the Bible.

I pick this issue of the nature of the gospel, from among many choices, because the “gospel” which is being preached is resulting in such massive fallout (sometimes as high as 90% or more in certain campaigns) that failure to re-think doctrinally the nature of the gospel is one of the great anomalies of our day. But, unfortunately, if you gather the leaders of many of the religious organizations together today, they would make a very definite point of not discussing what they believe. Their aim, in terms of revival today, is to see more experience, or more expansive growth. I do not mean that anyone is malicious in this oversight, but somehow the importance of reformation is just not sinking in.

This incognizance explains why the theologians almost never invite the parachurch leaders to their meetings, and the leaders, who are planning and writing the future of evangelicalism, almost never get the theologians to speak to them about the message they are promulgating. There are exceptions which could be noted, but, in the main, we are really failing to help each other by going our own way.

Now, to clarify, I am not saying that experience with God is not useful or desirable. Remember that I said dead orthodoxy needs experience with God. And if that is a description of you, then you know just what you need. I don’t doubt the extreme value of renewed experience with God. What I am saying is that experience is the servant or handmaiden of the truth, and first things should be first.

If you shoot past truth to get to experience, then you will have at best something very limited and immediate only, something which, in the final case, will produce a greater heteropraxis (wrong living). Heterodoxy always leads to heteropraxis. God has already instructed us as to how transformation of behavior is to take place. It is through the truth, not by mere experience. “Sanctify them by Your truth; Your Word is truth.” Jn. 17:17.

Perhaps it will help to illustrate through the recent and rather short-term season of public confession which affected many of our schools and churches. Sadly, in the midst of this wonderful and blessed activity, there was the distinct desire, perhaps in more cases than we would like to admit, to suspend preaching or teaching of the Word in favor of on-going experience. Now I believe God brought the conviction we saw, and I believe that it is possible for a group to experience times of confession within biblical sanctions, but a major mark of the recent work was the stark absence of the centrality of preaching.

During this period of public confession, it seemed to be a matter of excitement in the testimony of people that there was no preaching at all. It was as if preaching was unnecessary, that truth explained would actually get in the way of the work of the Spirit. Compare this to the early church in the New Testament during their inaugural revival. These people would hang on to Paul’s teaching through whole nights if possible!

Again, I am quite happy to believe that God was involved in much of what happened, and we should all be thankful for that, but it is possible, unwittingly, to fail to obey God in our handling of this great blessing of conviction and Divine presence. You will find nothing like such minimizing of preaching, for instance, in the Great Awakening or other earlier revivals before the mid-1800’s. And even if we could point to a work of God here and there with a reduced emphasis on the preaching of the Word, our present dilemma would still demonstrate the need for such a reforming work of God. It is not just great experience over a few days or even weeks that will rectify our situation, but a complete re-orientation to truth and a return to thinking and doctrine.

Experience-driven revival is more like a flash flood than a mighty river. Heightened experience certainly leaves its mark, some of which may be good wherever it meets orthodoxy, but a reformational revival is a life-giving river which has continuing positive effects. When reformation takes place, the conviction is not just over our behavioral sinfulness but over wrong doctrine (or simply apathy toward pursuing truth itself) as well. As Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary professor and author, Dr. Don Whitney, said to me, “We must repent of our doctrine as well as our lives.”

 

October 31st, 1517 Wittenburg, Germany

It was October 31st, 1517 in Wittenburg, Germany.

Martin grasped a hammer and a long piece of paper covered with his writing. He walked out into the street and straight over to the castle church door. It was here that community messages were often posted.

Martin nailed his 95 points of discussion on the door. He only wanted to lay out his newly discovered views of the Bible to other church leaders in the Medieval Catholic church. He thought he was free to do so even though his thoughts were radical. After all, he was an Augustinian monk and a professor of theology.

Martin called himself a “stinking bag of maggots,” and certainly did not dream of being a leader in a revolution of thinking in Germany and across Europe that shaped history in a powerful way. But God had determined something far bigger than the monk Martin Luther expected when he penned those 95 Theses.

Without his knowledge someone printed his words on the newly invented Gutenburg press, distributing it all over Germany. Within a very few days, Martin found that he was the subject of everyone’s thoughts. In the cathedrals and great stone castles of his homeland, the pubs and peasant’s cottages—everyone was talking about the views of Luther. Without a signal to announce it, the Protestant Reformation had begun!

Just what was the Protestant Reformation all about? What did Luther and others protest?

The protesters were seeing something new about how a person is accepted by God—that is, new to them. They protested that the church had been teaching the wrong view about the most important issue of life. They discovered that the Bible says we are not accepted on the basis of our religious deeds, or even our good deeds along with our faith, but that we are accepted before a holy God only through faith in Christ.

“Through faith alone in Christ alone” began to be heard all over Europe. The people must transfer their confidence for salvation in the church’s religious traditions to Christ alone. The reformers wanted the people to return to the Bible’s plain teaching on how to be a true Christian. Because heaven and hell were at stake, the passions rose very high. Many would be persecuted and some even killed for this truth. But through it all, tens of thousands of people were converted to Christ and were assured of heaven.

We have been feeling the effects of the Protestant Reformation ever since. Many of our churches have their historical roots in the Reformation. Returning to the Bible as the source of understanding about how we are to relate to God has shaped nations. Perhaps no other religious period since the coming of Christ has been so influential as this one.

But many people, and even many churches, have forgotten the great lessons that were made so clear beginning on October 31, 1517. What difference can this mean to you nearly 500 years later?

This passage from the Bible is a good place to start. It describes God’s way to understand salvation:

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. (Ephesians 2: 8-9)

Through these 500 years since the Protestant Reformation, and throughout time, men and women, youth and children have come to Christ in this simple way—through faith alone in Christ alone. Placing our full confidence in Christ’s perfect life and sacrificial death for sinful people is the only way to God. It is not that good works are not important—they are a result of true faith in every believer’s life. But those works cannot save. Salvation is a gift of grace, not a reward for trying to be good.

Like Martin Luther, you may come by faith alone to Christ alone even now, all these years later. In fact, this is the very way the first New Testament believers came to Him!

An Intimate Hour with God

The Lord invites us to know Him better. What a privilege! If the joy of heaven is in knowing the Lord’s presence without any sin to hinder us, surely seeking His presence now must be the greatest possible pursuit.

Do you feel your need to pray? A person who has no need to pray cannot be living by faith. Prayerless-ness says, “I am sufficient in myself for everything required of me.” But is that so? And do you not grieve God by your persistent self-sufficiency? The Bible says, “Without faith it is impossible to please Him.” (Heb. 11:6).

The following suggestions are designed to help you spend an extended time in prayer and meditation with God. You may spend this hour alone or with others. The order is not essential, but does provide a helpful way to progress. This tool may be used daily or for special times of retreat with God. Some may wish to follow this hour with more intense Bible reading.

It is sometimes good to kneel or to lie down before the Lord. “Come let us bow down. Let us kneel before the Lord our God, our Maker.” (Ps. 95: 6) Walking while praying can also be helpful, or sitting in a comfortable chair so that all the focus can be on God. Be sure and find a quiet place.

1. Come in Christ’s Name

The audience we have with the Father is entirely based upon the merits of Christ. In other words, it is solely because Christ lived perfectly, died satisfactorily, and rose again victoriously for us that we have the privilege of addressing the Father. Because God accepts Christ, He can accept us in Him. “…He made us accepted in the Beloved.” (Eph. 1: 6b)

Don’t just say the words, but actually trust in Christ as your mediator. Express in some detail your dependence on Christ’s worthiness and on His substitutionary work on your behalf.

“But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ….For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father.” (Eph. 2:13, 18)

2. Delight in Him

Express your wonder and delight in God. Praise Him for His character and His power. Do not thank him at this time for His activity in your life, but focus on the person of God and His attributes: His Love, Patience, Immensity, Strength, Holiness, Grace, Glory, Knowledge, Wisdom, Goodness, etc.

“Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart.” (Ps. 37: 4)

3. Express Your Longings to Him

Tell God what you desire above all other things. Express your deepest longings for fellowship with Him and for holiness of life, or whatever is in your heart. This is not a time to pray about everything you need, but to make known your deepest, long-term desires. You may wish to personalize Ephesians 1: 15-23 as a guide.

“As the deer pants for the water brooks, so pants my soul for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.” (Ps. 42: 1-2a)

4. Read a Psalm

You may wish to use one of the “Psalms for the day,” according to the day of the month. Add 30 to the day of the month to arrive at 5 Psalms for the day (i.e. on the 15th, the Psalms would be 15, 45, 75, 105, and 135). It may be helpful to read the Psalm you choose out loud.

5. Sing to Him

Use a hymnbook, recall a chorus or hymn from memory, or make up your own song from the Scriptures.

“Make a joyful shout to the Lord, all you lands! Serve the Lord with gladness; come before His presence with singing.” (Ps. 100: 1-2)

6. Intercede for Others

Remember…
Those who have asked you to pray for them
The leaders of your church
The missionaries you know
The leaders of our country
Those who are unsaved
Your family members
Your friends
Those in trouble or grieving, etc.
“Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you…” (1 Sam. 12: 23)

7. Place Your Day Before Him

If you are praying in the morning, you may wish to place every aspect of the day before the Lord, one item at a time. “Lord, please give me patience with my daughter when she comes to breakfast, help me show her love and kindness.” “Lord, when I try to make that sale at 2:00 this afternoon, help me to speak as a Christian would speak, and give me wisdom.” By going chronologically through every possible event of the day, you are learning trust Him in the details of life.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.” (Pr. 3: 5-6)

8. Petition Him for Other Special Needs

There are matters needing attention in your own life and in the lives of others, the church or your group. Tell these to God and ask for His guidance, deliverance, endurance, wisdom, or whatever it is that you need. It is at this time that you will want to deal with any repentance God is requiring. Expect Him to give you grace to overcome. “Be zealous therefore, and repent” (Rev. 3: 19b) Ask with faith and genuine humility.

“Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Heb. 4: 16)

“…Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.” (Jn. 16: 24b)

9. Meditate on His Word

To meditate means to ponder, reflect, contemplate, or think over slowly, the Words of God. If this is your only Bible reading time, continue reading the passage that is next for you in your plan. Read at least a chapter of Scripture. Look for the key verses and meditate on them, asking God to show you what they mean. Mark them in your Bible and ask God to help you remember what He is showing. Pray that He will give you a way to humbly share these truths with others. Read to obey.

If you are in a group, allow a period of quiet so that each person may read the Word. The leader may wish to suggest the passage for use with the group. If there is time, insights may be shared with each other.

“Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night. He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also does not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper.” (Ps. 1: 1-3)

10. Offer Thanks to Him

Even if there have been difficulties in your life, the Lord has been good to you. Express to God your appreciation for specific acts of kindness He has done in the light of what you truly deserve.

“Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to His name.” (Heb. 13: 15)

You may help others learn how to pray by copying this guide and leading others through it, adding your own personal insights. See if God will use you to make intercessors for the Kingdom. Copyright © 2000 Jim Elliff. Permission granted to photocopy in exact form, including copyright. All other uses require written permission. Write Christian Communicators Worldwide, 201 Main, Parkville, MO 64152 This publication may be downloaded from our web site at WWW.CCWonline.org .

The Value of Hanging Out

I have just spoken to a lady from Germany about her kids in college while my Lebanese friend was standing by. Both work at the local coffee shop where I am writing this piece. Just prior to that I spoke with other acquaintances from South Korea who own a T-shirt business at the city market downtown. Business is not so good for them right now, but they smile and talk with me most mornings I’m there.

I met yet another Korean worker at this shop this morning. It was our first actual discussion, although we had said hello from time to time. She has only been in the country for five months, and, much to my surprise, is a Sunday School teacher at the Korean church in town.

This is not all. Even earlier this morning I met my dentist for a time of mentoring right here in the same place. Prior to that I had a great talk with the building inspector for Parkville, the little town within Kansas City where I have my office. I met another friend and had some discussion about spiritual matters for a few moments prior that meeting. He manages the Christian bookstore. I had a brief “hello” with his wife as she came in later. And I at least got to wave to yet another friend who is one of the regulars at the shop. He’s the local chiropractor.

Building relationships—this is the value of hanging out. I’m making a determined effort to do that, and I wish to recommend it to you. Not just any kind of hanging out will do, of course, but there is a purposeful hanging out that I believe God smiles on.

Not long ago I wrote this in my Commonplace Book, the notebook I use to record my observations from my reading and thinking: “It is an interesting question: What did Jesus do in a given week?”

That simple question was answered by going through the book of Matthew. I wrote fourteen pages of observations on the peripatetic life of Christ as to how Christ employed his time. As a conclusion to it all I had to say that Jesus basically just hung out. Of course, it was “divine” hanging out.

Christ constantly moved about a small area, especially around Capernaum, which could be considered his home town, and Bethany, the home of Lazarus, Mary, and Martha, a favorite hub close to Jerusalem down south. He never kept hours or had an office. He always “ate out.” He never seemed to have organizational meetings. He spent lots of time with his followers, dined with “sinners,” answered lots of questions, taught when he could get a crowd or small group of listeners, took special times to pray and get away to stay focused, made use of the synagogues to raise issues, healed and did miracles. It seems that much of his time was spent just being among people, and in that context he did what he was sent to do. Paul, of course, did similarly.

Now, we have to go to work. And that in itself is a mission field. And I do not pretend to say that a person should not do that. But somehow along the way we have forgotten how important it is to be among people in a way that lends itself to relaxed, friendly, or even sometimes intense, philosophical talk. Like fire comes from sparks falling on dry tinder, so God can and will do things through us most powerfully when we are “in the context” of those we most want to see impacted with our message. We must find some informal place for meeting people. The rewards are too good to forfeit.

If God has planted his love and the fruit of his spirit into you, that amazing work of God is largely wasted if we stay away from people. When a man or woman is full of godly character, that simply must be seen somehow or it is like “hiding our light under a bushel.” If you are somebody in Christ (and you are), then let it be observed by getting in the right context. “Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”

Here is the idea:
Find a hanging out place, or several, in your area. This will be easier for some than others. I’ve even spent some time in the local hamburger place. For most this will have to be early in the morning before work, but others may be able to invest a bit more. The morning usually attracts the “regulars” that you will be best able to connect with.
Learn the names of the people you meet. It is good to jot their names down somewhere for reference.
Take your Bible and spend time reading it, writing notes in your notebook, or reading a good Christian book while out.
Keep a friendly, approachable look about you. Speak to people. Introduce yourself and find out about them. Focus much of your talk on them. They’ll also be curious about you.
Seek to get to the layer of philosophical talk. What do these new friends believe about important issues of life and death? This makes for deeper and more significant relationships.
You will find that they will be curious about you and your beliefs also. Talk freely about what you believe and how you approach life.
Make friends, real friends, who will be important to you no matter what their spiritual preferences are. Love them for who they are.
If you have read something interesting that you can pass on, by all means do so, especially if it has something to do with the true love of your life, Jesus Christ.
Expect God to do something. Christians make a difference! You might help a fellow believer or a person who does not have a spiritual bone in his body. You never know what God may be doing. The world reacts and responds to “lighted” Christians.
If you had just three years to make a major impact on the world, what would you do? Jesus spent His three years in constant motion, being with people as much as possible, and pulling away as necessary to pray and meditate. He gave special attention to the disciples, but, regardless, it was people that Jesus was about.

Now I realize my proposal can be misunderstood in a world that majors on production. Many rate their importance by how busy they appear to be. Well, there is a lot that I do and my wife sometimes calls me a workaholic, but I’m seeing things a bit better these days. I would like to be more like Christ who felt it was of utmost importance to be around people as much as possible.

And, hey, I’ve written this article while I’ve been hanging out!

Appointment and Removal of Elders

This plan for appointing and removing elders, though written with our church structure in mind, could be easily adapted for use in any local church.

Appointment of Elders

Members’ Review of a Potential Elder

Elder Qualifications and Duties

Removal of an Elder

Download all the articles in .pdf format to print on your computer.
USA (8.5×11)Europe (A4 size)

 

Restoring Those Who Fall – A new statement on church discipline.

A Church Membership Recovery Model – Guidelines for recovering inactive members in the church.

Eternal Life – An outline about eternal life based on the book of John.

Pictorial Survey of the Bible – A graphic overview in a simple format to help children and adults understand the chronology of the Bible.

Seven Principles of Finance for the Believer – An outline of key principles to prepare diligent believers for radical, other-worldly financial behavior.

Returning To Your First Love – A valuable tool for special retreats, fast days, and Solemn Assemblies as well as for your own private reflection.

The Integrity of the Local Church – “You who are leaders have been entrusted with a body of professing saints. You are not permitted to gather them and then fail to watch over them. You have a command from God as to the church’s covenantal nature.”

A New Lord’s Day Meeting Pattern Encouraged – Why do you meet when you do? Is it, “Because we have always done it this way”?

Membership Agreement (A Church Covenant) – A congregational agreement concerning the responsibility of church membership.

A New Statement of Faith – the Statement of Faith of Christ Fellowship, Kansas City.

180-Day Bible Reading Plan Page 1 – Schedule for reading the Old Testament in 180 days.

180-Day Bible Reading Plan Page 2 – Schedule for reading the Old Testament in 180 days.

90-Day Bible Reading Plan – Schedule for reading the New Testament in 90 days.

60-Day Bible Reading Plan – Schedule for reading the New Testament in 60 days.

Bible Reading Record – Not a Bible reading plan, but a way for you to keep track of your Bible reading

An Intimate Hour with God – Suggestions designed to help you spend an extended time in prayer and meditation with God.

Our Statement on Openness in the Fellowship of the Lord’s Supper – From Jim and Daryl’s church, Christ Fellowship

Frequently Asked Questions about the Lord’s Supper – From Jim and Daryl’s church, Christ Fellowship

The Function of Deacons – Four Questions Concerning the Role of Deacons.

How To Use a Confession of Faith – Article listing some excellent uses for a confession of faith in church life.

Questions for a Prospective Pastor – A useful tool to assist congregations in their examination of those under consideration for leadership.

Spiritual Inventory – A questionaire for regular pastoral visitation of church members.

A Way to Engage the Church in Practical Ministry Through Deacons – Deacons may be used to serve the elders and the church by leading ministry groups.

 

The New Gospel: Appealing But Not Revealing

It cannot be overstated that the most pressing issue in the American church at present is the prevalence of unregenerate church members within our ranks. When the current surveys of American life place those who call themselves believers in Christ about the seventieth percentile and climbing, conservative Christians ought to finally awaken to the immensity of the problem. Deception is pandemic. It is as if a modern Constantine christianized the masses while we were asleep.

Spurgeon said, “Everyone has a religious spasm or two.” More “spasms” have been taken to be true conversion in our day than perhaps in any other day of our existence as a nation, notably within evangelicalism. We have never looked fatter. But our corpulent appearance is like cotton candy: when you melt it down, there is not much to it. Now we find ourselves struggling over the meaning of conversion. But we have not done our homework early enough and the problem is already out of hand. In message and method we have, in fact, often erred. The sowing of bad seed has produced massive crop failure yet unprecedented statistics. It is getting harder to find wheat among the tares.

It is the complicity of the evangelical church in this deception, either through misinformed enthusiasm or love for repute, that is the most disturbing. We have poured over materials on methodology for bringing people in and used our theology books for doorstops. We have entertained more cleverly than ever before and made the outside world feel good again about the idea of church. We have been quiet enough about sin to make it worth their while to show up repeatedly and perhaps even to join. We have taught them how to act Christian without conviction, to praise God without loving holiness, and, as one has said, to say “Amen” without saying “Oh me!” Is it any wonder that when our converts leave the services, they take the pastor’s hand and say, “It surely is fun to be in this place” rather than “Surely God is in this place”?

I am not saying that God disallows laughter and fun in our lives or that Christians cannot come together to enjoy each other. But I am saying that seeking the face of God turns us in a definite direction which cannot be confused with entertainment or superficiality. Our approach to worship in the States has not only entertained us but unfortunately has presented to unbelievers around us a view of God that is not true. It is a fatal flaw.

There is a product, I am told, called “Near-Beer.” I am not a beer drinker and have never personally seen a can of this variety. I assume it is a type of drink that tastes like the real but lacks the effects. Perhaps a similar way we have created a “Near-God.” Can we not say that the God we have created is somewhat like God in appearance but without the effect? He is a “chummy” God without the “bite” of holiness. He indulges and never inconveniences. He forgives and never disciplines. His name is Savior but not Lord, except as a title of respect.

Our appeals to the unconverted naturally flow out of our views. We invite them to a happy life without passing on the direct message from the true God that he “commands all people everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30) and that he categorically declares “…without holiness no one will see the Lord” (Heb. 12:14). We are preaching a one-sided gospel. Should we not press home the fact that “Lord” is not just a title but has been carefully defined by Jesus in Luke 6:46 when he said, “Why do you call me Lord, Lord, and do not do what I say?”

Just how far do we accommodate the sinner before we compromise the gospel? Whatever this relationship is between “being all things to all men” (which seems to draw more people up to conversion) and holding up the standard of holiness (which seems to drive them away), we know that all true evangelists experience the push and pull of it. Such a pattern can be found in Christ’s ministry. He brought them close by food and miracles and then scared them off by the demands of discipleship and the stark nature of the truth itself (Lk. 14:25-33). That is, he scared off all but the called.

The disturbing thing about the American church in general is that our mentality about evangelism does not reflect Christ’s. We often correctly lead the unbelievers up to the door of salvation but then reconstruct the door wide enough for them and their rebellion. We cannot stand for the truth to create resistance. We have a hard enough time with our image anyway. (Nobody wants to be a leader in the Church Loss Movement!)

For our American churches, the absence of two defining negatives should make us think something is awry:

1. Few, if any, hate us for the right reasons.

Jesus said, “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.“ (Jn. 15:18-19).

Now I am not saying that we are not hated at all. But for the most part, we are hated for our clownish behavior on some T.V. programs, our constant fleecing of the people, our nineteenth century traditions, and our notorious sins and hypocrisy. We assume that outsiders know much of what appears to be Christian is not really so…but do they?

We have become despised for a few political and social reasons. This is as it should be. It illustrates the point. Conservatives have taken a stand on abortion, for instance. It is of extreme importance. But how many people have hated the church for godliness in our everyday lives? Yet Paul said, “…everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted…” (2 Tim. 3:13). For such separated living, “they heap abuse on you,” Peter states (1 Peter 4:4b). We must live at peace with all men “if it is possible” (Rom. 12:18), but godliness increases the friction often faster than we can oil the friendship. We can thankfully escape the provocations of legalism, but godliness, like it or not, remains a rebuke.

2. Few, if any, are offended by the message we preach.

Polite and clever homilies may comfort sinners, but they do little to convert sinners. We are in danger of making everybody feel so good by our messages that they no longer perceive a need for regeneration. Do outsiders need salvation (that is, deliverance from the penalty and practice of sin and its judgment) or merely sanctified “how to’s” on becoming more successful? Such messages are appealing but not revealing.

Let me restate this: Our message has paled and become effeminate because it fails to expose the dilemma of the human condition in any convincing way and virtually forgets the judgment to follow. We have preached in such a way as to cause people to say, “Saved from what?” All that is left is to appeal exclusively on the basis of the proper (indeed, pleasing) psychological adjustment Christianity gives to life. To the degree we move the fulcrum in our presentation so as to give the weight to the psychological benefits, to that degree we remove the offense. No wonder the people want it. It ruffles no feathers. “For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear” (2 Tim. 4:3). The biblical answer to this predicament is to “preach the Word…correct, rebuke, and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction” (2 Tim. 4:2).

Let’s face it: our gospel is offensive. The cross and faith are offensive because they take meritorious works and send them packing. Repentance and the call to holiness are offensive because man prefers to run from the light. The narrowness of the door is offensive because it sours people on God’s open-mindedness. God’s sovereignty is offensive because humans like to call the shots. No wonder Paul was straight with Timothy from the outset and said, “…join me in suffering for the gospel” (2 Tim. 1:8b). It makes sense now why he said, concerning faithful gospel expression, that “it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him…” (Phil. 1:29). If you are looking for a challenge, join up. Giving the true gospel in its pure form is like feeding liver to a preschooler—no way!

When is the last time you heard or spoke the gospel in such a way that the people said, “This is a hard teaching—who can accept it?” and then watched them turn on their heels and walk out? Yet that is what they did to Christ (see Jn. 6:60-69). This was not an isolated experience for the greatest evangelist. This persistent clashing of words and world-views continued unabated all the way up to the cross! He brought a sword, not peace. Self-manipulating such violent rejection of the gospel for the sake of proving one’s spiritual verve is unthinkable. Yet we must ask the question: Could it be possible that we have improved the gospel beyond what Jesus ever knew? Can we now outsell the Master?

But this must be seen: On that day, when Jesus “lost his crowd,” twelve men did stay behind (though Judas for his reasons). They said what every true believer says: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God” (Jn. 6:68-69). And that is the amazing thing. The gospel which is always offensive, mitigating against the fallen nature of man, this holy gospel which is always repelled by the world, found willing admission. Here we find the exception. Here we see some who find this resisted Gospel irresistible…indeed, in it alone they say they find life!

I think we have missed the idea of the gospel. It is not a big flypaper to catch busy executives and unsuspecting children. The objective is not just catching men but glorifying God. We have not said all of what the gospel means when we convince people that our way makes more people genuinely happy than theirs. These gospel words go down hard, and, correctly stated, often seem to be utterly foolish. They appeal to no one except those who are prepared by God. Christ plainly stated: “No one can come to me unless the Father has enabled him” (Jn. 6:65).

Is it not time to speak as viscerally as Paul did, holding back nothing, but lovingly and accurately setting forward the offensive cross? He didn’t give them what they wanted: he gave them what they needed. We can risk such boldness as well. “Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Cor. 1:22-24). Do not worry: the called will find the cross appealing even if the world cries foul.

Must we expect small numbers and churches that are martyrs’ hospitals? Yes and no. Yes, if God so chooses, if God allows the spirit of the age to prevail. No, whenever God grants any measure of awakening, however widely, so as to open hearts “en masse.” God has His seasons for each and His reasons for all.

Have we no longer a category for spiritual giants who have been true to God without all that registers as signs of success in corporate America? Think through our history. There have been sturdy men in shaken times (have there not?), tender men in calloused times, revived men in reviling times. Compelling men in repelling times. We have honored them and the God who made them. We stand upon their shoulders.

Now even though most giants of Christian history would appear short of the goal on church growth charts due to the absolute strictness of their gospel, in all our emulation and reverence for them, there can be no excuses on our part for a lack of zeal or freshness in evangelism. We must not try to reach less people in order to prove our doctrinal correctness. We are not called to be “soft men in fine raiment,” refusing to soil our hands in the business of knowing and loving sinners just because the gate is narrow.

On the other hand God will not permit the preaching of a half-gospel in this wholly pagan age out of deference to the sinner. The gospel remains a serrated and sharp knife, killing, not just wounding, sinners before the balm is applied. It is not our prerogative to let divine opportunity go unused; nor do we have liberty to dribble out gospel half-truths.

A primitive and unaltered gospel must be preached; the pure and potent God must be known. There must be no more sitcom sermons. We must not reduce the foolishness of preaching to the foolishness of man. Our services can no longer be staged plays to entertain or even moralize in comfortable categories only. We cannot continue to forget sin and hell and repentance and justice and conviction and holiness as if we are more sophisticated than Christ. We must ask again, “What are sinners supposed to feel in the presence of a holy God?”

The Abiding Life

The abiding life is the true Christian life. Jesus said, “If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch, and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.” (John 15:6)

John 15 gives us the pattern for spiritual growth and effectiveness as believers. In the passage, we are called branches, Christ is the vine, and the Father is the vinedresser. What are the characteristics of authentic branches?

  1. They bear the fruit of Christ’s character and power.Fruit is the life of Christ through the believer. It is excess life. The life of the Christian is to be one of daily dependence on Christ, rather than himself. Do people see Christ in you?
  2. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away.. .Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me, and I in him, he bears much fruit; for apart from Me you can do nothing. (vv.2a,4-5)They are pruned by God. God cuts off the diseased and the nonessential aspects of the believer’s life. It is up to the vinedresser to determine what is and is not useful. Pruning is painful but necessary. Is this your experience?

    Every branch that bears fruit, He primes it, that it may bear more fruit. (v. 2b)

    They know the joy of living by God’s Word and prayer. God will entrust much in prayer to those whose minds are being renewed through His Word, for they pray according to His will. Have you learned to live by God’s Word and prayer?

    If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it shall be done for you. (v. 7)

    They keep God’s commandments. Do you obey Him?

    If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments, and abide in His love. (v. 10)

    They love those who are in Christ. Christ taught us love by sacrifice. While loving all men, abiding Christians have a special affection for believers and eagerly express this love in the local church. Is love the prominent feature of your life?

    This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends. (vv. 12-13)

    They are often misunderstood. Does the world love you or hate you?

    If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also. (vv. 18-20)

    They speak openly of Christ and what He has done. That which is in the heart comes out of the mouth. Do you speak of Christ?

    When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, that is the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, He will bear witness of Me, and you will bear witness also, because you have been with me from the beginning. (vv. 26-27)