Isaiah 61:1 (NKJV) “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, Because the Lord has anointed Me. To preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to [a]heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, And the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
In the last blog (the Tourist Church), I proposed that the only way for the church to re-gain relevance is to re-align itself with Christ’s purpose. Christ’s purpose in Luke 4:18 is four-fold Preach/proclaim, Heal, Recover and set free. For the purpose of these series, I call them the pillars of Christ’s Church
Today, we look at the first Pillar – to preach or Proclaim
Preach the Gospel to the poor
When Christ says He came to preach the Gospel to the poor, the question that jumps to my mind is “How can mere words save anyone from poverty?”. Indeed, Christ is not referring [only] to financial poverty. While one of the meanings of being poor is to lack financially (not to have money) – this is usually a consequence of other underlying issues – education, inequality, war, laziness etc. Being poor also means “to be of low or inferior standard/quality” - this definition refers to poverty as a characteristic not a consequence.
For example, if a man does not have money because he is not educated enough to get a high paying job, he is not poor because he doesn’t have a job, rather he does not have money because he is poor – education-wise. Poverty has placed him in a state of ‘money-lessness’. Money-lessness is however not the only thing poverty causes. In fact, there are many poor ‘money-full’ people – they have money, but they are of poor quality. The first job of the church is to improve the quality of people.
The church has focused far too long on improving the external circumstance of our members, we focus on results and not the process. This is like a food manufacturing company focused on making good looking food packages without quality control for the food inside. What happens is that the good-looking food will make people sick and damage the reputation of the manufacturer…. this is familiar. In Luke 12:13 – 21, Jesus tells the parable of the rich fool who gathered physical wealth more than he could store but knew little about the state of his soul. This parable was/is to be a powerful lesson to anyone obsessed with earthly reward.
In context of improving the quality of people, Christ’s words, about preaching the gospel to the poor, are no longer strange. Proper teaching elevates the quality of people’s minds just like good education transforms the minds of school children. The church must pay attention to what it teaches, it must ensure that its teaching is designed in content and form to transform people, to improve the quality of the people under its auspices.
Romans 12:2 “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” – The church has a role to play in this advice by Paul.
Church must be a place for teaching and learning. One of the best teachers I had once told me and my classmates “my Job is to teach you and make sure you know it – it is my fault if you fail”. The job of the church not just to teach but to also ensure that those we teach are prepared for tests i.e. apply what we teach when real life's tests come calling. Applying bible study to real life is the true test of good teaching. So, our job is not just to speak but to take the role of good teachers who ensure that the lessons become a part of the students’ everyday life.
Preach deliverance to the captives
Preaching deliverance seems at odds with the customary view today, deliverance surely cannot be a sermon – it’s in prayer and shouting so loud that God can hear you (You cannot shout enough for God to hear because God is Spirit), prayer works – but a true prayer is not necessarily a loud one, it’s one made in Faith (so shout, if it helps your faith).
The Question remains: why preach to one who needs deliverance?
The Bible says, “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free”, Knowing the truth (and living according to it) is the solution to captivity. Finding truth is the real deliverance. That truth is the Son of God. Christ says, “I am the way, the truth and the Life…John 14:6”.
Christ reveals that He is the source of real deliverance and those who accept Him (The word, the truth who was made flesh) are transformed from slaves to Children of God. Hebrews 4:12 says “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart”. Christ, who is the word, can deliver once we accept Him.
I wrote here that the problem isn’t deliverance from our captivity, or that God is not able to completely destroy our enemies. Indeed, as with the children of Israel away from Egypt, Christ has set us free from the bonds of slavery and He has drowned our enemies. Yet within our minds, we remain addicted to slavery. And one of the reasons the church exists is to preach the words to deliver our minds from captivity.
To summarize the first pillar that the church should rest on, we must preach the truth of Christ to the world to save people from the captivity of sin and the devil, we must then continue to mentor through the word until slaves have been transformed to kings.