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Daniel of Doulogos Name:Daniel
Home: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
About Me: I used to believe that evolution was reasonable, that homosexuality was genetic, and that people became Christians because they couldn't deal with the 'reality' that this life was all there was. I used to believe, that if there was a heaven - I could get there by being good - and I used to think I was more or less a good person. I was wrong on all counts. One day I finally had my eyes opened and I saw that I was not going to go to heaven, but that I was certainly going to suffer the wrath of God for all my sin. I saw myself as a treasonous rebel at heart - I hated God for creating me just to send me to Hell - and I was wretched beyond my own comprehension. Into this spiritual vacuum Jesus Christ came and he opened my understanding - delivering me from God's wrath into God's grace. I was "saved" as an adult, and now my life is hid in Christ. I am by no means sinless, but by God's grace I am a repenting believer - a born again Christian.
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Daniel's posts are almost always pastoral and God centered. I appreciate and am challenged by them frequently. He has a great sense of humor as well.
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His posts are either funny or challenging. He is very friendly and nice.
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[He has] good posts, both the serious like this one, and the humorous like yesterday. [He is] the reason that I have restrained myself from making Canadian jokes in my posts.
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Daniel, nicely done and much more original than Frank the Turk.
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There are some people who are smart, deep, or funny. There are not very many people that are all 3. Daniel is one of those people. His opinion, insight and humor have kept me coming back to his blog since I first visited earlier this year.
- Carla Rolfe
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Monday, July 27, 2009
Soul Winning versus Gun Notchin'
This post isn't really about soul winning, but I will sprinkle that notion here and there to make the point I intend to make.

Paul the apostle was an evangelist - and by evangelist, I mean he was someone whom the Lord called to be a missionary; someone whom the Lord appointed to be His envoy to the Gentiles. Paul didn't do that in his own strength because if he had, he would have failed to do what the Lord called him to do. He might have, if he were inclined this way, made up for his lack by using marketing techniques - that is, he might have displaced God's provision with his own marketing scheme - and depending upon how attractive Paul could make the gospel, he would have been successful - not in sharing the gospel, but in marketing his religion.

Most of us who read the bible for our selves know this. We know that Paul was gifted, called, appointed, and working in the power that came from the gift, calling, and appointment - that is, working not in the strength of his personality to peddle the gospel, but working in the strength provided by the risen Lord in order to do the very work that Paul was called to do in our Lord's name. We don't have to be convinced of this by a blog post.

When I say that the Lord provide the strength that Paul ministered in, I mean two things: first I mean that Paul was given a driving desire to do the Lord's work in the Lord's way, and that when he did so, the effect was not because of his personal effort but because of the Lord whose Spirit was in it.

I am persuaded that this same thing is true of every believer. Not that every believer is appointed as the Lord's apostle, or that all of us are gifted and called to be missionaries. Hardly! No, I am persuaded that each of us is gifted to do what the Lord expects us to do so that we work in the strength He provides - that is we are driven/motivated to do what our Lord has called us to do. We have "new" desires. They aren't mystical and magical, they feel like any other desire we have - except for the fact that they run contrary to everything our flesh wants. What did Paul's carnal self care about Gentiles living hundreds of miles away? His carnal self couldn't care less. If the Lord hadn't put a new desire in Paul - a desire to go to these people and proclaim the words of life to them - then Paul would have had to make himself do the work begrudgingly - and that isn't a light yoke, and is by no means an easy burden. The burden was light, and the yoke easy because our Lord gifted Paul with the desire to do the very thing He had called Paul to do. That is what a gifting and calling look like. It isn't some other worldly phenomenon - some ethereal "spiritual energy" that overwhelms you or that you intuitively (and suddenly) tap into whenever you want. Yet that is how some people imagine their calling and gift operates (or rather, is supposed to operate). They believe that you sort of point your finger and pronounce something spiritual, and it happens if you have "the gift". Maybe they aren't that theatrical, but whatever they believe boils down to something like that - and when it doesn't happen, they figure they haven't got any gift, or they never learn what their gift is because nothing miraculous happens to show them how they are gifted.

Whole forests have been leveled to produce the pulp and paper required to fill book after book on how to know your gift, and what the various gifts are, etc. etc. People don't know their gift because they don't know how the gifts operate. You tack the word "spiritual" in front of things, and people immediately expect the mystical and miraculous, rather than simply ask what is new about me since I became a believer - what desire do I have that cannot be coming from my flesh? They have been expecting their spiritual gift to come with a tangible tingle, a "liver shiver" whenever it is exercised - they can't imagine a spiritual gift operating without some experiential phenomenon - and preferably something otherworldly to boot.

When I became a believer, I didn't understand my gifting, and most of the believers I knew, and much of the literature I devoured on the subject was filled or simply mixed heavily, with the sort of quackery that we come to expect from the experience driven church. Book dedicated to finding your gift by taking tests, finding your gifts by polling others, finding your gifts by trial and error. Like most people I wanted to know what my gift was, and so, being young in the faith, I looked all over the place to try and find some authoritative voice that would identify my gift.

In the mean time, I noticed that not all Christians were like me. I loved God's word, no, that isn't quite accurate. I loved the truth that God's word was articulating. I loved to understand it and to open other people's understanding of it. I remember how shocked I was when I learned that other people in the church I began to attend were not reading twenty chapters of scripture or more each and every day. Why didn't everyone study Biblical Hebrew and Greek? Why weren't other believers driven to understand the deep things of God? My conclusion, in my infancy, was that there was something wrong with most believers, and my secret suspicion was that most of them weren't saved, because if they were saved, they would have exactly the same Christian appetites that I had.

One of the godliest men I know had a deep and passionate desire to see souls won to Christ. In fact, unless you shared his desire to win souls he believed there was likewise something wrong with your faith - because it seemed to him that the Christian experience ought to be universal - even as it had seemed to me.

I learned a lot from this because I didn't share this man's desire to see souls saved. I remember the turmoil in my soul - Lord! where is my desire for Your lost children? I had a profound desire to see the body edified, and built up - knit together and coming to know their Lord more fully, more perfectly - how I burned for that - but frankly, I didn't lose a wink of sleep at night mourning over those who were lost - not even amongst my relatives. Why was I so cold? What was wrong with my faith?

Don't get me wrong, I want as many as will be saved to be saved, and I consider it an honor and a joy to walk through an open door and share the gospel to a heart that is prepared by our Lord to receive it - and I have done so whenever the opportunity has presented itself. I want to see people saved - but that desire could never make me someone like Paul. I could never go door to door peddling the gospel, and I actually began to resent the way this godly fellow implied that unless you were burning to see souls saved, you weren't saved yourself. The one thing I used to simply detest, was the numbers game. How many souls have you led to the Lord? How long have you been a believer? I mean, for most of us, the truth is we lead very few people to Christ: our children, perhaps a sibling or two - and maybe, over the course of our lifetime, a few others. So if in twenty years we have only led three or four people to Christ, and someone comes along and implies that this is because you are spiritually lazy or worse, a deceived unbeliever - resentment comes rather naturally.

I am not going to pretend to be more spiritual than I am. I haven't personally led too many souls to the Lord, but then again, I think of leading someone to Christ as entering into work that has been going on long before I got there. The one who leads a soul to Christ is just the last rung on a long ladder - many other workers paved the way for that moment, and ultimately, if a person believes it isn't because the salesman is better than all the rest - it is because that is the day that the Lord opened the ears of the deaf, and opened the eyes of the blind so that the person could see and hear, as it were, for the first time, the truths that had been previously spoken, but never understood.

So I say, I resented this pressure to win souls to Christ, and worse, I resented the notion unspoken notion that you were a better Christian the more souls you led to Christ. The whole thing was being painted to me like gun slingers notching their guns every time they won a soul so that they could compare their notches and see who was spiritual and who was not. On the one hand I felt like I was a great sinner because I wasn't willing to make soul winning a priority in my walk, and on the other hand I felt like I was a sub standard Christian because I didn't have this consuming desire to see the lost saved.

It occurred to me at some point that either I wasn't truly saved, or there was something wrong with the whole picture. I spent a lot of time examining myself to be certain that I was in the faith. My first thought is always that the problem lies within me - why blame others first? But after months that stretched into years, I learned that the problem wasn't with me. I was as saved as I could be. That meant that the problem wasn't with me or my faith, but with the expectation.

I began to see that our gifts show themselves through our motivations - through what consumes us spiritually. I began to believe that this new found desire to understand the truth and articulate it to others for God's glory - it wasn't coming from me, and it wasn't a universal experience. I was different than other believers in this. There were some who shared it with me, but not all. In the same way, I began to see that some believers have a profound desire for the lost, a passion that springs up within their affections just as a desire for the truth had sprung up in mine. A gift, not of their own making, but a partaking of the nature of God's Spirit - for these desires are not our own, but the desires of God's Spirit made manifest in our own affections. A sharing of the divine Nature.

I have a friend who is gifted in this way: he desires to see other people love the Lord the way he loves the Lord - to see them rest in Him, and look to Him for all their needs. This fellow's hunger is for souls to bask in the love and provision the Lord provides. Guess what? He wants us all to love one another and love the Lord. I have a friend who is discerning - he wants us all to be discerning. I have a friend who is generous, and he wants us all to be generous. My merciful friends want us all to be merciful. Do you see where this is going?

We are given gifts to build one another up in the faith. The merciful Christian aches for those who are suffering, and is merciful because that is how you deal with such an ache. The generous Christian is certain of the Lord's provision for themselves, and longs for others to know Jehovah Jireh - they ache to make God's provision real in the lives of others, and give of themselves because of it. The leader desires to follow the Lord in all he does, and his heart burns to guide others into the same. The teacher hungers to understand God's word, and to make God's word understood in the church. It isn't rocket science. God gives us a desire to build up the church in some way, and when we respond to that desire, it isn't contrary to what we want to do - it is in harmony with it.

What can happen though is that we, in the infancy of our understanding, assume that the desires that we have are universal - that all Christians have the exact same spiritual desires that we do. When we do that we then think there is something wrong with everyone who isn't gifted in the same way we are.

I was a member in a church where we were (pretty much) expected to go out knocking on doors and winning souls to Christ - we even had days of the week when we were supposed to be doing it. I was horrified by this. It seemed about as carnal a thing as I could imagine; but the man pressing us to do this painted the whole thing as the great commission - as though failing to go knock on doors was an act of sinful rebellion - tantamount to admitting you aren't a genuine, or at the very least, committed Christian. Because the fellow was well respected, people went out and begrudgingly did as they were expected. Most of them hated it, and were only doing it because they had been pressured into the obligation. A few enjoyed it - and guess which few? Those who were inclined this way already.

I learned through this not to insist that every Christian be a carbon copy of me, and that forcing them to act upon desires that I have and that they do not, forces them to minister in their flesh, rather than in the gifts of their Spirit. It is like saying that my gift is more important than their gifts. The blind arrogance of that horrifies me. To think that I not only imagine myself to know better than our Lord how to build His church, since I discard those gifts that the Lord has given others, and exalt my own gifts as the lens through which all must know the Lord, but beyond this - to think that I have the ability to do so. I shudder at the thought.

The Lord will build His church, and as He does, all the powers of hell will not be able to hinder Him. I believe that. I believe that when the Lord opens a door to share the gospel, that the believer for whom that door was opened ought to share the gospel - but I do not believe that every believer is gifted to be a missionary, so that when we pressure believers who are not so gifted, to go out and minister in the strength of their flesh - I think we are not building the church up, but weakening it.

Histamine is what causes a mosquito bite to swell and itch. The swelling makes it easier for white blood cells to attack any foreign pathogens introduced by the mosquito. Histamine is "good" when it is doing what it is supposed to do. But if a person has an allergic reaction - that same histamine can kill the person, because the body begins to produce more histamine that it can handle - causes enough swelling to kill the person.

So it is when any one gift is exalted at the expense of the others. The church that has everyone acting like a missionary when they are not missionaries is certainly going to swell up, but that doesn't mean that this body is healthy. That isn't meant to poo-poo large churches. Some churches grow large because they are healthy. I think it was John MacArthur who said that his job was to grow the church in the knowledge of the Lord, and that it was the Lord's job to grow them in number. I say amen to that. John MacArthur's church is not small - but it didn't get big through a histamine injection - it got big because it was healthy.

My point in all this is to draw attention to the fact that not everyone has the same gifts. It is good for us to want others in the body to see the Lord in the light that He has given each of us - that is what building one another up in the faith looks like. It is not good however to take any one gift and impose the light of that gift as the rule for the church. Are you burdened for the poor? Don't imagine that other believers are false simply because they haven't the same gift as you. Do you hunger for the lost? Don't imagine that others are not believers just because they don't share your gift. Learn what your gift is, and share it in the body. Don't put notches in your gun every time you do something in the strength that the Lord had given, and then compare yourself to those whom the Lord has given strengths elsewhere - it will only make you resent others, and cause them to resent you.


posted by Daniel @ 6:31 AM  
  • At 7:41 AM, July 28, 2009, Blogger donsands said…

    That was a builder upper this morning. Thanks.

    Good close mature friends in Christ who care about you can also help us see our giftedness; or confirm what we think about our gifts.

    I was an elder for a few years, and I learned that God wanted me there to encourage the pastors mainly. And to protect the sheep from false winds that were blowing about the congregation.

    I wasn't much for public speaking and praying, though I would at times do it. But when a person tries to be gifted where he is not, it's like forcing a square peg in a round hole isn't it.

    Have a peaceful day. Shalom.

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