Immanuel“God with us” … the name given to the Savior of Mankind

When Jesus was conceived and destined to be born through Mary, He was given this name

 

(Matthew 1:23)

“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).

 

This is the hope the whole nation of Israel was looking forward to, but …

 

God have a bigger plan.

 

This hope of salvation is extended to people all over the world.

 

Jesus is God’s salvation plan to the nations, races and tribes

 

The Gospel would never have been written without Jesus.

The Gospel of Jesus is about God’s salvation plan for Man.

 

In our times and generation, there are many who think “what does God have to do with people?” And there are many who don’t bother if there is a God.

 

Man was a deliberate creation of God.

We were created to worship God and to fellowship with God.

We should never forget our roots and our history because it reminds us of two important life issues –

 

1) How we had fallen away from our Creator, and our human need for salvation.

2) How God provided for our redemption through Jesus.

 

The first important issue is factual about our past and the second important issue reveals how God can change our future

 

God created us but He will not leave us alone to perish in our sins without hope.

 

We have sinned against God, we deserved to die, we deserved judgement and hell, but God have provided a way of escape.

However, there is a clear different between

 

“God will save us”

 and

“God’s salvation plan”

 

“God will save us” – God is sovereign and almighty, He have the power to save.

“God’s salvation plan” – means we need to response according to His plan as we are able to, because God cannot save those who refused to obey and act in faith.

 

I know there has been a lot of argument about infants and people who died without the abilities to response, and all these I will refer to the sovereignty of God.

Means to say, I believe and acknowledge God is almighty and sovereign and He alone knows who is able to response and who is not able to response. I believe and am fully convinced God will act for those who are not able to.

But for the rest of us who have the ability to response, and we know ourselves we have the abilities to response, we definitely need to response, because God will hold us accountable.

So how will God save us through Jesus? And how should we response through God’s salvation plan?

 

(Psalm 23)

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

He makes me lie down in green pastures.

He leads me beside still waters.

He restores my soul.

He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

 

The message in Psalm 23 is well-known across the world.

It is comforting, encouraging, and it has a good ending.

Even non-believers across the world who don’t attend Christian fellowship know about it.

 

Well, Psalm 23 is not just talking about sheep. Although it refers to “sheep”, it is talking about relationship between God and man.

The “Lord” here refers to God.

The “shepherd” here refers to Jesus.

 

Oh yes!

Jesus is God and Lord and Shepherd of our souls.

And so how will God save us through Jesus?

 

Step ONE ….

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

 

Have we acknowledged Jesus as our Lord and Savior?

This is the most fundamental foundational truth of Christianity; no one can start his Christian life without this!

Every person need to take responsibility and take that step of faith and acknowledge Jesus as Lord and Savior!

Many have heard the Gospel of Jesus but have yet to make a personal response to confess and acknowledge Jesus as Lord and Savior.

 

Non-believers can argue “why do we need a savior”.

Therefore earlier I mentioned we must not forget our own human history and roots.

Human was a deliberate creation of God.

We were created to worship God and to fellowship with God.

But we have sinned against God through disobedience and went astray.

We can be here alive in body and moving, but we are spiritually dead without fellowship and communion with God, and we are all awaiting our physical death.

To receive Jesus as Lord and Savior is to let God renew and restore our soul.

To receive Jesus as Lord and Savior is to repent and turn away from our sins and disobedience –

 

(Ephesians 2:1-7)

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

 

So this is it.

We were dead, destined to die physically death, and we were spiritually dead as we had no fellowship with God due to sins and disobedience.

We need to response by turning away from sins and disobedience against God.

And when we receive Jesus as Lord and Savior, God make us alive through Jesus.

Only through Jesus we are able to engage in lively meaningful fellowship with God.

 

What do we do next after we received our new life in Jesus?

Step TWO.

He makes me lie down in green pastures.

He leads me beside still waters.

He restores my soul.

He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

 

Walk with God and continue in this fellowship with God and worship God through Jesus.

 

Our Christian life is a journey of faith and obedience.

 

We need to do our due diligence to protect and guard this relationship we have with Jesus, till we meet Him in person.

It does not make sense to turn away from our sins and disobedience to receive new life from Jesus and still continue in our old ways which does not work for good!

 

(2 Corinthians 5:7) – for we walk by faith, not by sight.

 

The Apostle Paul’s instruction for the church does not means we walk blindly not knowing where we are going! No!

To live by faith is to live in obedience as according to Jesus teachings and commandments.

To live by faith is to trust in the promises of God.

Jesus was crucified on the crossed and died, but on the third day raised from the dead as according to the promises and word of God!

 

(Acts 2:23-28)

this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it. For David says concerning him,

“‘I saw the Lord always before me, for he is at my right hand that I may not be shaken; therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced; my flesh also will dwell in hope.

For you will not abandon my soul to Hades, or let your Holy One see corruption.

You have made known to me the paths of life; you will make me full of gladness with your presence.’

 

This same Jesus who was crucified and died and being resurrected from the dead, is God’s chosen Messiah.

This same Jesus will return again to Earth in person to judge the world.

Yes we will all be judged as according to the teachings and commandments of Jesus Christ. Therefore we are called to live in obedience to Jesus Christ.

Remember the two important life issues I shared earlier –

 

1) How we had fallen away from our Creator, and our human need for salvation.

2) How God provided for our redemption through Jesus.

 

The first important issue deals with our past and the second important issue deals with our future.

It is very easy for us to read history and blame it on Adam and Eve.

But if we ourselves don’t continue to live in obedience, we risk falling away from God and going astray.

Now I want to bring your attention to the last ending verse of Psalm 23

 

Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

 

That is the ultimate destination of Psalm 23, and this is where Jesus our Lord and Savior wants to bring us to.

 

Eternal fellowship with Jesus, to be in the kingdom of God forever

 

Our whole life here on Earth is our journey of faith with Jesus.

When we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, we need to stand firm with Jesus.

When we are faced with all sorts of distractions and diversion that promised fake salvation and fake promises of hope, we must stand firm with Jesus.

 

(John 14: 6)Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

 

Jesus of Nazareth who was crucified on the cross by order of Pontius Pilate is God’s appointed Messiah. I repeat and emphasis that!

This same Jesus who was born through the virgin-birth of Mary, of the seed of Abraham and of the house of David, who went through water-baptism under John the Baptist and preached repentance for the kingdom of God, is our Lord and Savior.

This same Jesus who was betrayed and crucified on the cross but on the third day rose from the dead by the power and authority of God to resurrect the dead and never to die again, is God’s salvation plan for man.

This same Jesus is the source of eternal life, none other.

 

I would like to end this message with

 

(Mark 10:51)

And Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” And the blind man said to him, “Rabbi, let me recover my sight.”

 

Jesus asked What do you want me to do for you?because God needed a response from us as we are able to.

In the days of the Gospel, people who knew Jesus in person they know Jesus have the power to work wonders and to save. In fact the Pharisees were so convinced Jesus can save people’s life that they threaten Jesus not to heal on the Sabbath and those who agree with Jesus were excommunicated from the synagogue.

So why would God bother to ask when He have the sovereign power to do so?

 

so that we know for sure what we want in life, both now and the future.

 

Imagine today Jesus asking you What do you want me to do for you?

What would you ask for?

 

Immanuel“God with us”

 

The best thing in life, both now and the future is eternal fellowship with God through Jesus.

 

In-His-Service

David Z

 

 

 

Why so few born-again Christians in Japan …part three

We are saved by grace through faith … yes?

Therefore we should continue to serve in ministry by faith through grace … yes?

 

There are a lot of problems and obstructions against ministry works when there are too much excessive expectations and demands for academic credits and paper credentials.

Educations is important but the foundations and principles of what are being taught and passed on need to be based on grace and faith in Jesus Christ and being born-again –

 

(Titus 3:4-7)

But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

 

Japan was the first nation in Asia to achieved “industrialized status”.

Japan as a nation still has the highest literacy rate in Asia, ahead of Seoul and Singapore.

Japan is a knowledge-based society. Observe the kind of demands and expectations for information and details for every products and services.

What do all these show us about the expected Japanese approach to the Gospel?

 

“More information please”

“Please show credentials and credits about what you said and preached”

“Is this person properly ordained and approved to preach and teach?”

“Is this person qualified to pray for me?”

 

Missionaries and Christian ministers in Japan, do the above statements and messages sounds too familiar?

Many are shock and stunned and a lot had left the field, down with severe head-aches and depression how to deal with all these pervasive demands.

Japan is one country where missionary can die of depression, no joke!

 

This is not a problem of no education but excessive demands for credentials.

 

Foreign missions outside Japan still do not have a full grasp of what kind of “cultural shock” until they themselves settled in and dismissal attitude from those who are not fully-informed make life miserable for foreign missionaries stationed inside Japan.

 

This is it …

More information please …

More credentials and credits please …

 

This never ending demand for credentials and credibility can drive people crazy.

 

For example, did Jesus rise from the dead? Yes?

What more credentials and credibility do people want?

 

Do not be surprised the majority of church leaders serving in local Japanese churches actually have higher academics then their counter-parts in the rest of Asia. Means to say the average Japanese pastor have higher paper qualifications then pastors from other parts of Asia. Not comparing to U.S and Europe.

But higher academics and credentials do not translate to better and more effective ministries!

 

Demands for higher paper qualifications have the tendency to discourage broad-base lay ministry.

Grassroots involvements are hampered by excessive demands for credentials and paper qualifications.

 

China on the other hand had shot fall of pastors and leaders with recognized academics in theology but their explosion in % of Christianity is noted. Of course there are lots of issues with doctrines but in terms of lay ministry involvement they are very active. Furthermore China being a communist regime, going for theological education inside mainland China is “asking for unwanted attention”.

Christianity in South Korea has had exponential growth not from ministers of higher academics but otherwise. The largest congregation in Seoul has the largest pool of lay ministers from house-wives without degrees in theology, compared to mega churches of the same vision and mission. Yes they are educated in certain fields but they may not necessary have a degree in theology.

Singapore is another nation with high growth rate in Christianity, and does the world know a lot of senior pastors do not have a basic degree in theology from a recognized Bible college? Most of them not ordained but appointed and a lot of them do not even have a “Diploma in Theology”. Active broad-base lay ministries have been key engines for church growth.

 

We are saved by grace through faith …

Therefore we should continue to serve in ministry by faith through grace …

 

Having a degree in theology does not make you a church-planter.

NO!

What makes you a preacher, church-planter and an effective minister of Jesus Christ?

 

(Ephesians 4:7-12)

But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore it says,

“When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men.”

(In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth? He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.) And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,

 

(1 Corinthians 12:4-7)

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.

 

(Galatians 3:2-6)

Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? Did you suffer so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain? Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith— just as Abraham “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”?

 

By the grace of God, by faith in Christ, by the gift of the Holy Spirit every Christian is a minister

 

I repeat – Having a degree in theology does not make you a church-planter!

The good things about theological training is to enhance and sharpens what you have within you. But whatever is not there cannot be enhanced and multiplied!

Means to say if you are not already spiritually gifted to be a preacher and church-planter, having achieved a degree in theology is still not going to make you a preacher.

 

We received our spiritual gifts by faith through grace in Jesus Christ

 

Now let’s talk about “accountable” which had been a main call for credentials.

With regards to field works on the ground there is a clear difference between accountability and credentials

 

Accountability is better than credentials

 

When we are accountable, we are accountable to people we minister to.

Paper qualification and credentials can made you accountable and answer to your school and denominations but not the people your reach out to in the field.

Therefore do not be surprised there are a lot of church leaders with very high credentials but do not know how to preach and teach faith to their congregation!

Do not be surprised more than half the congregation are falling asleep and don’t understand a thing the pastor was preaching straight from their notes from his theological seminary.

 

The preaching of the word of God is to impart faith

Therefore we need to preach by faith though grace

 

When we are saved by grace thorough faith and we serve by faith through grace, we impart grace and faith to the people we are accountable to.

Most important in Christian ministry we are accountable first and foremost to Jesus the founder of our faith.

 

(2 Corinthians 4:5)

For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.

 

We want to reach Japan with the Gospel, we need to release lay ministers and encourage lay ministries.

 

Revival in Japan need to starts from the grassroots up.

 

Japan is a society accustomed to top-down organization, and this way of management is not effective for Gospel ministry.

It is an obvious thing Japan’s Christianity had been stagnant for way too long due to limited and restricted lay ministries, and lack of encouragement and allowances for more involvement from the grassroots.

 

We are saved by grace through faith …

Therefore we serve in ministry by faith through grace …

By the grace of God, by faith in Christ, by the gift of the Holy Spirit every Christian is a minister

 

(Luke 10:2) – And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.

(ルカの福音書 10:2 )

その時、イエスは彼らに、次のような注意をお与えになりました。「収穫はたくさんあるのに、働く人があまりにも少ないのです。ですから、収穫の責任者である主に、もっと大ぜいの働き手を送ってくださるように願いなさい。

 

Japan is ripe for harvest …

God is ready to send His revival …

But where are the ministers?

 

In-His-Service

David Z