The “Now What?” Ministry
1 John 1: 9-10, If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us.
We constantly learn from others. All discipleship, good or bad, that we have received passes through His hands and is a positive in our lives. From two men in particular I have learned greatly by their negative discipleship; both taught me through their example the folly of taking credit for the work of God in a believer’s life and the stupidity of marching to one’s own praise band, refusing any criticism. This awareness of negative discipleship’s being a positive in me leaves me with the hope that my negatives can be a positive for others! It has also caused me not to place so much weight on criticism (which has often been mindless). However, here is a criticism that I just do not understand. It is fairly consistent, so I have to take it to Jesus and ask if there is validity in it. There seems to be a bunch of believers that do not have in their paradigm the concept that a Christian who has failed can move forward in Christ and not have to suffer the consequences of his sins for the rest of his life. His failure does and should make him a second-class Christian the rest of his life. I am accused of not being hard enough on sin, taking Christians’ failure lightly, talking about mercy, and, in so doing, giving a passive consent to sin. I keep saying, “I do not,” and I keep hearing, “Yes, you do.” There is no evidence behind the accusations; I have never condoned sin, moral failures, self-righteousness, judgmental attitudes, spiritual exclusiveness, or those that cause division. But in the world in which I live, I do meet believers that have fallen into all of the above and more; that is a fact. So my question to their repentance is, “Now what?” I have a “Now What?” ministry. To a large extent the Epistles are written addressing the problems into which believers have fallen, having taken their focus off of Christ. It is not a stretch to say that every person that enjoys reading the Epistles is indebted to believers that failed on some level. In essence, we learn from their failures. Without these varied problems we would lack a good portion of the New Testament! We also must see the additional aspect of the writers’ wanting the believers redeemed, pressing on, renewed in their love for Christ, and expressing the life of Jesus within them. There is no hint that once their problem is addressed and they have repented, that they must live a life of consequences in self-condemnation. I remember when a prominent “evangelist” said, “Any man that has had an immoral thought is an outcaste and can never minister.” Three days later his photo was taken, showing his own immorality. No believer is a castaway. Christians fall, but we must let them see that they can fall forward into the lap of love. They need not live in regret. I have often taught that it is not wise for a believer to marry an unbeliever, but the fact remains that some do. Now what? Repeatedly tell the believers they are out of the will of God, until we drive them away from God, and in so doing compound their problems? No, we tell them to keep moving forward in Christ and not to allow their decision to define them, to let Jesus, and Jesus alone, define them. You get the picture, and the list of shortcomings of believers goes on. I have noticed that there is a jealousy among the religious (defined as those that believe success rests in their hands with the many things they must do) when they see the freedom enjoyed by faith persons (defined as those that believe in resting in Jesus and His Righteousness, for nothing is impossible for Jesus). It is easy for the religious to judge someone as hopeless when his flesh flows in a ravine theirs does not. Here is the warning: God can turn that same critical light on them, and they will not stand. Judgmental people are keeping their own list while failing at His list always. Having examined the options, I must line up on the side of faith and believe that there is a glorious “Now what” for every believer who has had a failure.