In nursing school I remember learning that the medical profession is cautious in attaching psychiatric diagnoses to a patient, because once a diagnosis like, for example, schizophrenia is made, that diagnosis stays with the patient for the rest of his life.
In the body of Christ we must be careful not to label those caught in the midst of sin. We must, empowered by His Spirit, see sinners as God sees them. See sinners and the awesome destiny for which they were created by God and for God.
Holy Spirit empower us not to label others, for labels, like diagnoses, have the potential to stay with a person the rest of his life.
With Much Love...
Craig Kinsley: "The Bait"
Article reprinted from the Elijah List
Recently, I awoke from a dream which I knew had serious meaning both for myself and, in a larger sense, the Body of Christ. I have been in a heightened prophetic season as of late and I believe God is giving both me and our team fresh outlook on life and ministry. In the ministry of reformation, I'm finding that at times God challenges my life and thought processes without giving me a definitive answer to the question that He poses. This dream was just that sort of situation.
Without going into every detail of the dream, I will give you the highlights, and then the core, of the message. Myself and many other people I know, including my wife, died. We found ourselves in what seemed to be a large lodge on the edge of a large river. One by one each person was interviewed by a group of heavenly beings that took the form of three or four women. After the interview process, the people were placed onto a boat which took small groups to Heaven. For a long while I stood on a dock by the river and watched as one group after another disembarked down the channel. Soon, I realized that I was the only person left and began to wonder if there was a problem. As soon as I thought this, the heavenly beings were standing next to me. They said that it was my time to be interviewed, but that it wasn't my time to go.
As I walked into the room where I was to be interviewed, I had an intense feeling that what was about to happen had serious and eternal significance. I sat in a chair across from a desk which one of the beings sat behind. She posed one question to me, and only one: "Just what kind of bait were you all fishing with?" As soon as the question was posed, I awoke. It took me a few minutes to gather myself and to fully come out of the experience.
As I pondered the dream, it didn't take long to grasp the core of the message. The general feeling of the dream was that God was speaking a message to me with consequences that dealt with people's eternal salvation. This wasn't something to be taken lightly. The question was simple, the answer is not. We are called as fishers of men (see Matthew 4:19; Mark 1:17). The question posed is, What exactly are we using to attract people to our message?
I believe the idea of evangelism is one of the major areas of our lives, churches and ministries that God is calling us to reform. If we will have ears to hear, I believe God is guiding us to question both our thought processes toward reaching those outside of His Kingdom and the actual processes that we put into action.
"Hate the Sin, Not the Sinner"
I am not a fan of clichés, especially within the Church. My reason being that when a word of wisdom becomes too commonplace, it loses its power and is no longer actually considered.
The old adage, "Hate the sin, not the sinner," is a true word but has lost its power, and it is not widely understood nor practiced by a large majority of Christians. We have lost our compassion and love for those without Christ and have replaced these with a disdain and disgust for those in the world. We call this "standing for righteousness." I believe one of the keys to Jesus' effectiveness at changing the hearts of men from the world to the Kingdom, was His ability to not look at people where they are, but to look at them in the sense of where they could be. He called people out of their sin, but not simply by condemning their sin; rather, by giving them the gift of hope in something greater.
The main message that Jesus spoke of was, "Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand." This phrase has become synonymous with evangelism, as I believe it should, but how can we truly use the message of Christ in preaching the Gospel without a true understanding of Jesus' heart behind the message?
The word repent has become a word that brings connotations of weeping, guilt and, at times, pain. In actuality, true repentance has nothing to do with pain, guilt or sadness. In reality, the message of repentance has its foundation in the hope of the Kingdom of Heaven being available. You see, Jesus never condemned the people, but rather gave them something better. Changing from one way of life and one thought process, which is what true repentance is, doesn't come by simply realizing that your current way of life is bad, but rather by the reality of a better way. "The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand." That is the central theme of Jesus' message. That message is what actually causes repentance.
In our quest to condemn sin, we have actually begun to condemn the people that are caught in the traps of sin. We place the focus of our message on how bad sin is, rather than on how amazing Jesus is. Before I knew Jesus, I was living in the depths of the world's system and in a drug culture. I knew what I was doing was wrong. Between my past in religion and the ingrained human knowledge of morality, I knew that the life I was living wasn't the best that my life could be. The problem was that I had tried religion; I had tried to do all of the right things, but that didn't change me. What finally changed me was the reality that something better existed. That God had ordained a destiny for my life, a destiny that had eternal significance. And the knowledge that the Kingdom of Heaven was a living reality available to me...that is what changed me.
The world is looking for hope. Our current president was elected on this message. People understand that the current state of things is hopeless. They are looking for change. Between war, famine, disease, economic struggles, there isn't much to believe in. We have the answer. The grace and love of Jesus Christ is the greatest message of hope in all of eternity. Our message should be a message of hope, and leave the conviction to the Holy Spirit.
What are We Standing For?
A few weeks ago I was part of a summit involving Christian leaders from every facet of entertainment, government, education and many different denominations. We gathered to discuss the current crisis facing Christianity in America and to gather a strategy to continue to move forward the message of Christ throughout society. One of the truths that I realized as I sat through a few days of deliberation, was that we as Christians are much more known for what we are against, rather than what we are for. There is much talk within the Church about standing stronger than ever against immorality, but there isn't much talk about standing for anything.
The world knows that we believe homosexuality is wrong. And the majority of people know that the majority of Christians believe that marriage should be between a man and a woman. Now is not the time to stand stronger against homosexuality, now is the time to begin to let the world know why we do. Is it simply because the Bible says so? Or could there be a better way?
I believe if we begin to stand for what Jesus stood for, more and more people would be attracted to our cause. Jesus' message of love and grace is sufficient. This message is what causes those in sin to leave their current life and to embrace a new life in Christ. For the most part, those outside redemption do not know that the core of our message is love and grace. Why? Maybe because it hasn't been the core of our message.
Is There Such a Thing as Too Much Grace?
Some people would say, "Craig, aren't you afraid that a simple message of love and grace would cause people to be more open to sin?" This is a widespread concern for some. I understand the concern and I am not a proponent of sin; in fact, just the opposite. My belief is that the more love we acquire, the less sin we will desire. *No rhyming intended.
What changed the woman caught in adultery recorded in John, Chapter 8? I believe this is one of the greatest stories of love and grace found in the Gospels. The Pharisees brought a woman to Jesus. This woman was caught in the act of adultery. There was no question that she had committed the sin in dispute. The law of the day was that this woman should be stoned. This, in the eyes of everyone present, is what should happen. Jesus stooped down to the dirt and began writing on the ground. He then posed a question to all of her accusers and condemners that had gathered: "He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first" (John 8:7).
Soon all of her accusers were convicted of their own sin and left. Jesus was left alone with her. He then poses a question to the woman, "Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?" The woman replies, "No one, Lord." To this Jesus responds, "Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more." No committee needed. No discussion of what should be done. No process of healing needed. Only one thing was needed: pure and undiluted love and grace. Jesus didn't send the woman out to sin again, rather the love that He showed changed the woman.
Was this too much grace? Did Jesus allow her to "get away" with her sin? Should something more have been done? You see, the love of God is so beyond our human understanding that we feel the need to insert something "more" into the process. Divine love changes people. Condemnation does not. That day the woman found hope. In her search for fulfillment and pleasure she fell into sin. In the very moment the religious system wanted to condemn her, Jesus saw an opportunity to show her the love of the Father. That is evangelism.
After Jesus' instruction to the woman, He addresses the religious leaders that were gathered to Him and says, "I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life." For the most part, our mindset says, "If you don't walk in darkness, then you can follow Jesus." The truth is that encountering the love of Jesus causes you to not walk in darkness. Follow Him and you will not follow darkness. Show people love and the darkness ceases to have power.
Jesus: Was He a Minister to Sinners? Or a Friend of Sinners?
Part of the reformation that is coming to the Church has already begun. I believe the message that calls us to get outside of our buildings and reach people is a needed message. We weren't called to gather people to our buildings, but rather to go out and be light in the world. I applaud this growing message in the Church, but I want to challenge you to take it a step further.
Over the years I have been challenged more and more about Jesus' life in and around those outside of redemption. Lately, what has been especially challenging to me, is the name given to Jesus, "Friend of sinners." While I was pondering this picture of Jesus recently, the Lord said to me, "Craig, was I called a minister to sinners? Or a friend of sinners?" God always seems to ask me questions in order to cause me to think. I thought to myself that I have ministered to those trapped in sin on many occasions, but can I honestly say that sinners are my friends?
In our righteous quest for holiness, it seems that we have forsaken being a friend of sinners, in favor of simply seeing our time with them as a ministry opportunity. We are scared to associate with these people for fear of seeing it as condoning their lifestyle. Jesus' life of love was evident at all times. Whether He was speaking directly about the Kingdom or simply displaying the Kingdom through the Spirit that was upon His life, He was both a friend and a minister, at all times. I believe we are missing a large part of the evangelistic call, which is the call to friendship.
View Through the Eyes of Friendship
As I have sought to understand more and more how Jesus was able to so love us when we were so filthy, I believe I have grasped a key to His heart. I was taught this through the calling of Peter. Peter was a guy that I so relate to. He wasn't perfect by any means, but through the love and grace of God He was able to change the world. As Peter was fishing one day, Jesus came walking by. He simply said, "Follow Me." This wasn't Peter's first encounter with Jesus; his brother Andrew had taken Peter to Jesus prior to this in John 1:42— although this time Jesus called him not just to be near Him, but to be a part of His life in an intimate way.
What would cause Peter to drop his entire life and follow this Man? I believe the key is found in the way Jesus saw Peter. Peter was a fisherman. Not a pillar of society by any means. If you've ever been to a fishing wharf, it's not the most godly place on earth. Peter was probably not the most godly man on earth, but Jesus was able to see past that. Jesus didn't see Peter according to his present circumstances, but saw him according to who he was created to be.
It is hard to see the eternal potential created within someone when we become aware of their faults. We even seem to label people according to their sin instead of according to God's design for them. Once we see a person's or a people's sin, we immediately link them to that sin. For instance, we call people trapped in drug addiction, drug addicts. We call people trapped in homosexuality, homosexuals. At times we even call people trapped in religion, Pharisees. Once we have labeled someone by their sin, it is hard to see them any other way. What caused Peter to follow Jesus so quickly could be Jesus' willingness to look past Peter's faults and into his heart. Jesus continually called Peter to a high calling. He drew him to His heart and did not let Peter's faults, even when Peter denied their relationship, disqualify him from that high calling.
We should pray that God would give us the eyes of Christ, that we would be able to see the lost through their eternal destiny. Only then will we be able to effectively call them out of darkness by showing them the light.
Signs and Wonders Show the Love of the Father
As we begin to talk more and more about relationships with the lost and seeking to love, somehow it gets separated from the power of God. Miracles, signs and wonders are a vital part of demonstrating the Kingdom of God and showing people the reality of His love. We need to understand that Jesus had one life. His life as a friend was at the same time the life of a healer. His life as a teacher was also a life of a miracle worker. He didn't switch gears in order to do ministry, it all went hand in hand.
Jesus taught of the necessity of signs and wonders in this often misunderstood passage concerning a nobleman and his sick son: "When he heard that Jesus had come out of Judea into Galilee, he went to Him and implored Him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death. Then Jesus said to him, 'Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will by no means believe'" (John 4:47-48).
Out of context, it seems that Jesus is rebuking the man for coming to Him for healing on behalf of his son. If we look at this in context of the nature of Christ, we know that Jesus desires that we would come to Him. His gentle rebuke was not on the sign and wonder, but on not believing unless one can actually see it. You see, Jesus did perform the sign, but not in the pomp and circumstance that was expected. The man wanted Jesus to actually come to his house to perform the miracle. He didn't understand that all Jesus had to do was speak the word and it was done. Jesus simply said, "Go your way; your son lives."
Jesus actually said that the works He does, the signs and wonders, are what point to Him as the Son of God (see John 10). The supernatural works of God cannot be separated from our establishment of God's Kingdom on the earth. If we are to accurately point people to the Father, we have to not simply tell them about the Father, but show them the Father.
The signs and wonders themselves are not where a problem arises. The problem arises when the motivation for the supernatural becomes the building of ministry or the building of self rather than love. I cannot say it enough. Love is our foundation. Without it, none of this exists. The pursuit of love is the now word of the Lord. We have pursued the supernatural and rightly so, but why? Some have rebuked me for preaching a message that promotes the pursuit of the miraculous. I say that I am guilty as charged, but I also preach first and foremost the pursuit of love. Love mixed with power will change the world. Power absent of love will promote your own kingdom. Paul said, "Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy" (1 Corinthians 14:1). The gifts are needed, as long as the pursuit of love is the foundation.
So, back to the question at hand: What bait are we using? What is or is not drawing people to our message of salvation? What bait should we be using? The answer is both quite simple and yet eternally complicated. Love is the answer. Not a manmade love, but divine love. A love that should be pursued because it is not natural. A love that Jesus displayed in such a way that the hardest of hearts could be turned to Him. A love that was demonstrated through a variety of miracles, signs and wonders. A love that broke the chains of sin and gave food to the hungry. A love that looked past natural circumstances and excavated the divine purpose buried deep within the human heart. Simply showing someone their sin doesn't change them. Showing them the way of love and life will change the world.