The seventy-two returned with joy and said, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.”
He replied, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”
– Luke 10:17-20
“Worldliness is not the trap that most endangers us as Christian workers, nor is it sin. The trap we fall into is extravagantly desiring spiritual success; that is, success measured by, and patterned after, the form set by this religious age in which we now live. Never seek after anything other than the approval of God, and always be willing to go ‘outside the camp, bearing His reproach’ (Hebrews 13:13). In Luke 10:20, Jesus told the disciples not to rejoice in successful service, and yet this seems to be the one thing in which most of us do rejoice. We have a commercialized view – we count how many souls have been saved and sanctified, we thank God, and then we think everything is all right. Yet our work only begins where God’s grace has laid the foundation. Our work is not to save souls, but to disciple them. Salvation and sanctification are the work of God’s sovereign grace, and our work as His disciples is to disciple others’ lives until they are totally yielded to God. One life totally devoted to God is of more value to Him than one hundred lives which have been simply awakened by His Spirit. As workers for God, we must reproduce our own kind spiritually, and those lives will be God’s testimony to us as His workers. God brings us up to a standard of life through His grace, and we are responsible for reproducing that same standard in others.”
– Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest
Note that Jesus greets 72 disciples in Luke 10:17. Jesus had many followers, not just the twelve. The twelve were His inner circle, but many followed Jesus. Luke 10 talks of Jesus preparing the 72 and sending them out. They came back with Joy and excitement, but Jesus wanted to ensure that they didn’t lose sight of the source of the power within them.
After all, we do nothing on our own. We are sinners saved by Grace, and only through God’s power can we in turn do anything for His kingdom.
I have struggled with Chambers’ terminology. In the modern Christian language, the point of sanctification is that life-long construction project that ends when all the rough edges are removed. After reading a lot of Chambers, he refers to sanctification as possibly being the point where God washes our sins as white as snow. Upon accepting Jesus as our Savior, we are then, in Chambers-speak, both saved and sanctified. What he refers to as the discipling process is what we now refer to as sanctification. Once I came up with this interpretation of Chambers, it has made a lot of his devotions easier to understand.
Even then discipling or sanctification, are different in that God sanctifies while we lead disciples down the path toward greater sanctification.
Even getting over the changes in terminology, we must not lose sight of the focus of Chambers’ message. God is doing the heavy lifting here. We are simply the earthly guides toward God. Our being tempted to overstate our part in the process is where Admiral Ackbar’s quote comes in, “It’s a Trap!” It may be as big of a test of faith as suffering is. In the book of Job, Job suffered, but never cursed God. He passed the test. Yet, when we have spiritual success, do we praise God or do we think how wonderful we are? It becomes another test of faith.
We lost a great evangelist earlier this year, Billy Graham. He led millions to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. He was a man of character. He did controversial things in his lifetime. He removed segregation barriers from his crusades, and he entered the Soviet Block of nations when there was an outcry against it. He deserves all the honors that we have recently bestowed upon him, yet he actually saved no one. God did that. He may have sent letters to all who gave their contact information at the crusade, or over the phone or by mail for those watching on television broadcasts, but Graham relied on the new converts to find a church and for that church to help guide the new convert toward full sanctification.
I went to a Franklin Graham rally two years ago. Although not a new convert to Christianity, I provided my contact information, and I still get e-mails and the rare phone call. Those new converts are not forgotten, but the hard road of living the Christian life is up to us, our faith in God, and the people we surround ourselves with, those guiders of disciples.
Unlike in Oswald Chambers’ time, I do not feel that we live in a religious age. Many churches aren’t counting their converts as Chambers mentions; they are counting the empty pews. If someone came forward at a service (knowing that many churches do not have ‘altar calls,’ but in spiritual terms, if not physically), it would be a noteworthy event in most churches.
But wait. Jesus said, “… do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”
Dear Precious Lord, I bow my head as Your humble servant. Thank You for giving me the opportunity to share my faith. And thank You that my name is in the Book of Life. And also, thank You that others are being led to find salvation in You. Amen.”