“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will BEAR MUCH FRUIT; apart from me you can do nothing… This is to my Father’s glory, that you BEAR MUCH FRUIT, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” John 15:5, 8
On behalf of my lovely wife Courtney, my dear son Brinton, and the Seattle Mission Team, I would like to thank the entire City of Angels International Christian Church (CAICC) for hosting us for the past month! We have had a wonderful time going to staff meetings and getting with numerous disciples and friends around the church. The CAICC is a beehive of activity right now as the Speckmans are preparing to go to New York City in June, the Blackwells are getting ready to go to Chicago that same month, the Bakers are arranging everything for Dubai to be sent off at the Global Leadership Conference in late July, the Carrs were launched by the Spirit to lead the Eugene Church last Tuesday, and my father in the faith, Andrew Smellie and his family are in the final days of gathering the mission team to plant the Lagos (Nigeria) International Christian Church in May! Truly, God has really used the City of Angels Church to prepare the Seattle Mission Team and we are ready to conquer this great metropolis of over four million lost souls! Also, Courtney and I are very excited to soon be partners with the Limons in Portland and the Carrs in Eugene to build a strong family of churches that will win the Pacific Northwest for Christ!
One of the most inspiring aspects of the CAICC is the goal for every one of the 138 Bible Talks to be fruitful before the Global Leadership Conference! This incredible goal was set by Tim Kernan, the visionary leader of the City of Angels Church! Yet, hasn’t this been Jesus’ dream all along? Hasn’t Jesus been asking every disciple to be involved in “fruitful labor” for the last 2,000 years? I believe the light will shine the furthest that shines the brightest! As the light of the world, we must fan the flames of the Spirit in us! Today, the Seattle Mission Team is being sent out so that this light will shine all the way to Seattle! Lord willing, in the next four months the light will reach Lagos and Dubai – our Tenth and Eleventh (of 12) Crown of Thorns Cities! Prayerfully soon the light of the gospel will shine on the “ends of the earth!” (Acts 1:8) Wherever we go, Matthew 9:37 will always read the same, “The harvest is plentiful…” Though I am not nearly as fruitful as Paul, one of the most fruitful disciples ever, I have a deep conviction that I must personally lead the way in fruitfulness for my entire ministry to be fruitful. I believe every Bible Talk can and should be fruitful! Do you believe that you can be fruitful?
The other day I was driving south on the 405 freeway in Los Angeles, and I found myself at a complete stop. At some segments, the 405 stretches into seven lanes wide (in each direction), and that day every lane (on my side) was full of idle cars, all waiting to inch forward! Traffic jams in Los Angeles are very common, as there are 15 million cars and 20 million people who live in the Greater Los Angeles Area. Every traffic jam starts with just one, or a few drivers, taking their foot off the gas pedal. Then, those behind them start slowing down, and before you know it everyone’s feet are on the brakes, and the traffic jam begins. Some people start to slow down because they are scared of getting into a wreck; others slow down because they are cautious; while still others slow down to see how bad an accident was! Regardless, many traffic jams start when someone decides to slow down, and the people behind them do the same. I believe fruitful labor (or the lack thereof) and driving on the freeway are very similar! All it takes is one disciple “slowing down” their evangelism – especially if it is the Bible Talk Leader – before the entire Bible Talk soon becomes idle.
Jesus understood that world evangelism would not be possible if everyone worked half-heartedly, so He preached that the greatest commandment is, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” (Mark 12:30) Jesus believed that every disciple can be fruitful. He accentuated this conviction in John 15:8, “This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” Jesus even warned the disciples of the consequences of unfruitfulness, “Therefore I tell you that the Kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit.” (Matthew 21:43)
Paul fully embraced this vision of personal fruitfulness, “If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me.” (Philippians 1:20) This is remarkable! For many years Paul was a violent persecutor of the church, where he passionately tried to stop the movement. So if Paul can change, anyone can change! Many years ago a popular Christian author wrote, “A barren Christian is a contradiction.” I wholeheartedly agree with him. Let’s focus on four radical convictions that come from Paul’s heart in order to imitate his fruitfulness!
The first thing that motivated Paul in his fruitful labor was Christ’s love for him. Paul writes to those in Corinth, “For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died.” (2 Corinthians 5:14) Paul says that he was compelled by Christ’s love. He saw no other option! Very convictingly, the NIB translates this passage as, “Christ’s love leaves me no choice!”
Paul was a zealous Jew, a Pharisee who loved God very much. In his zeal for God, he strove to rid the earth of Christianity because he deeply believed it to be a false religion. Think about this: Perhaps Paul – zealous for the Law – was in that crowd that was gazing hatefully at Jesus screaming “He saved others; let Him save himself if he is the Christ of God, the Chosen One!” (Luke 23:35) Possibly, Jesus on the cross looked back into Paul’s eyes and said, “Father forgive [him] for [he does] not know what [he is] doing.” Whether Paul was at Calvary or not, Paul never lost sight of Christ’s love expressed through this immense sacrifice! In Paul’s mind, he had no choice but to spread the gospel. As well, Paul understood that fateful day in Damascus as he stepped into the waters of baptism and made the decision to die to himself: DEAD MEN DON’T HAVE CHOICES!
The second thing that motivated Paul was his love for the lost. When Paul realized Christ’s love for him and his love for Christ, he fell in love with everything Christ loved. I can relate because when I fell in love with my wife, Courtney, I fell in love with everything she loves – even coffee! (This is quite fortuitous because Starbucks started in Seattle!) So Paul saw the love Christ had for a lost world expressed on the cross, and that became his love and passion. When Jesus came into the world, there became only one way to Heaven – the cross. When we entered into God’s Kingdom, there is still only one way to Heaven; and that too is by the cross. Paul pens, “I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my people…” (Romans 9:2-3) Paul had joy and contentment, but simultaneously, he carried a saddening burden for the lost people of the world. For lost souls, Paul was willing to take up his cross to reach the lost.
It truly hurt Paul to see the lostness of the world, “Now I tell you again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ.” (Philippians 3:18) This heart is so similar to the prophet Jeremiah’s heart, who fought hard to save a nation that had been lost in their rebellion for many decades. Jeremiah, also known as the “Weeping Prophet”, writes in Lamentations 1:12 amongst the ruins of a destroyed Jerusalem, “Is it nothing to you, all you who pass by?” These were the sentiments of Paul as he was moved to tears because of the condition of the spiritual nation of Israel, which was also destroyed by sin and rebellion!
The third motivation Paul had to win souls was his drive to finish the work. Paul states in Acts 20:24, “I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me – the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.” (Acts 20:24) There is an odd feeling that comes when we see things incomplete, but an overwhelmingly good feeling when we see something finished. It is like the difference between a pile of dirty dishes and an empty sink! It is a godly feeling to be finished! What did Jesus utter immediately before His death on the cross? He cried, “It is finished.” I think Jesus proclaimed this statement with a sense of accomplishment! Once Jesus had finished His race, He asked God to take His spirit, and I believe Paul wanted the same sense of accomplishment before his life ended. Paul understood that Christ gives to each his task, and he wanted to accomplish his task for Jesus. (Mark 13:34) The sooner Paul finished his mission, the sooner he could be with his God!
The last thing that I believe kept Paul motivated in fruitful labor was his sense of indebtedness. In Romans 1:14-15, Paul says, “I am obligated both to Greeks and non-Greeks, both to the wise and the foolish. That is why I am so eager to preach the gospel…” Because of Paul’s sense of obligation to the lost, he felt duty-bound to convict the world of sin! We are not to preach “‘Peace, peace…when there is no peace.” (Jeremiah 6:14) Paul was not going to preach half-truths, or make people feel good without “speaking the truth in love.” (Ephesians 4:15) Paul says, “I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God.” (Acts 20:27) Many Christians believe their only debt is to God, but that is not what Paul’s conviction was. He believed that he owed it to the lost to preach to them the gospel. He also said, “Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!” (1 Corinthians 9:16) Paul’s sensitivity to his debt of love, drove him to share his faith with all those in his vicinity and beyond, because he owed to them the same chance at salvation that he had been given.
I have been so proud to be a part of the City of Angels Church and the SoldOut Movement of God, where we are motivated by Christ’s love for us, our love for the lost, a righteous sense of indebtedness to the lost, and an unyielding fervor to see the evangelization of every nation in this generation! I plead with you to make these convictions your own! How are we going to do it? 1) I would like to challenge you to have one out of every three of your discipleship times to be a Bible study with a non-Christian. 2) We need to encourage everyone to have the “habit” of daily evangelism to be the light Jesus calls us to be! (Acts 5:42) 3) Finally we need to get our Bible Talks fully behind the upcoming May 15th Special 20X Missions Contribution! It is going to take everything we have to see the world evangelized! Then prayerfully as our dear brother LuJack Martinez sings, “Around the throne we’re gonna sing and say, the world was evangelized in our day!”