Sunday, September 01, 2019

Are You Living on 110 or 220?

Last Friday I met with a good friend so that we could encourage one another in the Lord, and spend some time in prayer. Somewhere along the way, he asked me a question someone had asked him sometime back: "Are you living on 110, or 220?" 

"Huh?" I responded. 

"Well," he said, "Galatians 1:10 says, 'For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.' So, to live on 110 is to live in the fear of others." 

"Hmm, I get it - living on 110 is not a good thing!" 

"On the other hand," he continued, "Galatians 2:20 says, 'I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself up for me.' So, to live on 220 is to live by faith in Jesus Christ." 

"I see - living on 220 is a great thing!" 

So, are you living on 110 or 220? 

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Our Only Obligation - Really?

Yesterday I shared about how Ephesians 2:10 encouraged me last Tuesday as I returned to work from two weeks vacation by reminding me that my only obligation in life is to walk in the good works that God my Father has already created for me. This thought was, and has continued to be, so freeing and joy-producing for me, and I pray that it will bless you as well. 

That said, it occurred to me yesterday that someone might object to this thought and suggest instead that our only obligation is to love the Lord our God and our neighbor as ourselves (Mark 12:28-34). In other words, someone might say that I've overstated the practical implications of Ephesians 2:10. 

This is a fair objection, but I would suggest that the primary work that God has prepared for us from before the foundation of the world is that we should love him with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and then love our neighbors as ourselves. We are saved by grace, we are granted the works of God by grace, we walk in these works by grace, and as we do, we learn above all things to love as God wants us to love. 

So, after giving this some thought, I'm still willing to say that our only obligation in life is to walk in the good works that God our Father has already prepared for us. Nothing more, nothing less, nothing else. May the Lord richly bless us as we embrace the life he's prepared for us! 

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Our Only Obligation

Yesterday I returned to work after two weeks of vacation, and to be honest, I wasn't ready to do so. It's been a challenging year, and while our time away was refreshing, I felt that I needed just a bit more time. But alas, I had to go to work! 

So, I got up, ate breakfast, put myself together, and spent some time in the Word. Among other things, I read Ephesians 1-6 and while I've given much thought to Ephesians 2:10 over the years, this verse gripped my heart and prepared me to take on the day and begin a new year of ministry. 

Paul writes, "For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them" (Ephesians 2:8-10, emphasis mine).

Part of my reluctance to return to work was the anticipation of what might be awaiting me there. What had I forgotten to do before I left? Have any fires erupted in my absence and how serious are they? Who's upset with me about what, and how upset are they? While these are understandable concerns for a pastor or any leader returning to work, the Lord used Paul's well known words to minimize my anxiety and maximize my joy in him and the role he's called me to play.

Specifically, as I meditated on verse 10, it dawned on me that if God the Father has created me in Christ Jesus to do good works and has even prepared the works he wants me to do "beforehand" (which I take to mean "from before the foundation of the world"), then my only obligation in life is to walk in them. All I have to do is look to him, listen to him, and walk with him--period. He's already prepared the way. He already knows what's coming. He's committed to providing me with everything I need to do his will. He's fully prepared to use all things to exalt his glory by shaping me into the image of his Son and my Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.

As I look to my Father, listen to him, and walk with him, the things I do may or may not be pleasing to others. The things I do may lead others to bless or curse me. Whatever the case, my only obligation is to walk in the works that God my Father has already prepared for me. Hopefully, I will always be open to the counsel, critique, and even criticism of others. I have much to learn, and much growing to do. But again, my only obligation in life is not to please people or avoid suffering, rather, it is to walk in the works that God my Father has already prepared for me.

In this case, what's true for me is true for everyone who lives by faith in Jesus Christ--our only obligation is to walk in the works that God our Father has already prepared for us. Nothing more, nothing less, nothing else. May this truth set us free! 

Saturday, June 30, 2018

The Great Commission and the Complacency of the Church

On May 12, 1792 William Carey published a little pamphlet entitled, An Enquiry into the Obligations of Christians to Use Means for the Conversion of the Heathens. By God’s grace, his words inspired the modern missionary movement, and by God’s grace, I’m praying that they will inspire a fresh passion for global missions at Glory of Christ.

Carey begins with the words of Jesus: “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation” (Mark 16:15). While Jesus’ words are clear, the church in Carey’s day had by-and-large come to believe that they had done enough to create a gospel-momentum in the world that would cause the gospel to spread throughout the rest of the world. Therefore, many key leaders believed that their focus ought to be on reaching their own people, and that they ought to leave global evangelism to the Lord alone.

But this logic did not satisfy Carey and thus he argued, “As our blessed Lord has required us to pray that His kingdom may come, and His will be done on earth as it is in heaven, it becomes us not only to express our desires of that event by the word, but to use every lawful method to spread the knowledge of his name.” Accordingly, Carey argued that the church should strive to be acquainted with the state of the nations of the world so that we’ll be moved to action by the words of Jesus, and by the very heart of Jesus for the nations. The presence of this compassion in our hearts, he urged, is a proof that the character and heart of God are at work in the lives of his people.

With this, Carey rehearsed the gospel, beginning with Adam and Eve, then moving to the flood, Abraham, and the formation of Israel. He argued that from the beginning, God’s intention has been to undo the power and persuasiveness of the devil by sending Jesus Christ into the world to live a righteous life, die a heinous death, raise from the dead, and send his church into the world with the gospel on their lips.

But while the Lord had been sending his people into the world for many centuries by all possible and legal means, “a considerable part of mankind [were] still involved in all the darkness of heathenism” and the church of Carey’s day was not entering heartily into the command of the Lord so that this situation might change. “Some think little about it, others are unacquainted with the state of the world, and others love their wealth better than they should of their fellow creatures.” In light of the Lord’s command and the church’s complacency, Carey went on to argue that the Great Commission still applied to the modern church and that they should indeed go into all the world. 
 
But before we consider his plea, we would do well to pause and ponder the state of our own hearts before the Lord regarding his Great Commission. Do we understand his commission? Do we have more passion for our lives in the world or for the nations of the world?

Saturday, June 23, 2018

William Carey: A Heart on Fire


Despite all odds, William Carey (1761-1834) developed a great burden for global missions when he was still a young man. Although he was a Baptist, he had come under the influence of the Moravians and had become convinced that his own denomination lacked passion for and commitment to both local and global evangelism.

Shortly after he was ordained as a minister of the gospel, Carey shared his burden with some Baptist leaders. His plea was not well received. In fact, one of the older ministers interrupted his plea and rebuked him, saying, “Young man, sit down! You are an enthusiast. When God pleases to convert the heathen, he’ll do it without consulting you or me.”

This experience profoundly troubled Carey, and thus he began to pray about how he might articulate his thoughts so as to turn skepticism into passion, and complacency into sacrificial action. His passion was God’s passion, and nothing would be able to suppress it. To the contrary, the fire that had engulfed his heart would soon engulf much of the evangelical church in the West.

As Carey prayerfully organized his thoughts, he came to write a little pamphlet entitled, An Enquiry into the Obligations of Christians to Use Means for the Conversion of the Heathens. It was published on May 12, 1792 and many missiologists argue that it was the primary means God used to inspire the modern missionary movement. Not content with words alone, Carey also organized a missionary society and spoke these famous words at its inaugural meeting: “Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God!” Carey uttered these words as a Calvinist, and as one who believed that God ordains the means as well as the ends of missions.

The editors of the periodical Christian History conclude, “His greatest legacy was in the worldwide missionary movement of the nineteenth century that he inspired. Missionaries like Adoniram Judson, Hudson Taylor, and David Livingstone, among thousands of others, were impressed not only by Carey’s example, but by his words, ‘Expect great things; attempt great things.’ The history of nineteenth-century Protestant missions is in many ways an extended commentary on the phrase” (www.christianitytoday.com/history/people/missionaries/william-carey.html). 
 
Over the next eleven weeks I’ll be writing a series of devotionals on his little pamphlet for Glory of Christ Fellowship and then posting them here. I urge you to search for this pamphlet and read it. May the Lord use Carey to set our hearts on fire for his global mission in the world!

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Why We Must Preach the Word


In his book, The Calling of the Ministry (Banner of Truth, Carlisle, PA: 2002), William Perkins (1558-1602) gives a compelling argument for why pastors must preach the Word of God. Here he employs the word “angel” to mean “messenger,” which in the Greek language is its basic meaning. He writes: “You must understand your duty: prophets and ministers are angels; that is the very nature of their calling. Therefore, you must preach God’s Word, as God’s Word, and deliver it just as you received it. Angels, ambassadors, and messengers do not carry their own message, but the message of the lords and masters who sent them. Similarly, ministers carry the message of the Lord of hosts, and are therefore bound to deliver is as the Lord’s, not as their own" (85, emphasis mine).

If Perkins is right, and I think he is, then the “Doctor Phil with Bible verses” method of preaching which is so popular among evangelical churches today seems a great danger for at least two reasons. First, it is disobedient to the God who commands his leaders to preach his Word for the glory of his name and the good of his people. Second, it is harmful to God’s people, for our souls are meant to be nourished by the words of our Father as they are preached by our shepherds in the power of the Holy Spirit.

So instead of following the powerful tide in evangelicalism that is moving away from the straightforward preaching and teaching of the Bible, we ought to heed the simple and emphatic words of Paul to Timothy:

"I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry" (2 Timothy 4:1-5).

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Wolves and the Word


Lately I’ve been re-reading a book by William Perkins entitled, The Art of Prophesying (Banner of Truth, Carlisle, PA: 2002). Perkins was a late sixteenth-century Puritan (1558-1602) who had an “enormous impact on generations of preachers” (foreword, vii). In the preface of the book he writes, “In keeping with its dignity, preaching has a two-fold value: (1) It is instrumental in gathering the church and bringing together all of the elect; (2) It drives away wolves from the folds of the Lord. Preaching is the flexanima, the allurer of the soul, by which our self-willed minds are subdued and changed from an ungodly and pagan life-style to a life of Christian faith and repentance. It is also the weapon which has shaken the foundations of ancient heresies, and also, more recently cut to pieces the sinews of the Antichrist.”

I was particularly struck by the idea that one of the chief functions of preaching the Word of God is to drive away the wolves and shake the foundations of ancient heresies. If this is true, then the opposite is also true: when the church exchanges the Word of God for politics, right or left, or psychology or sociology or anything else, it invites the wolves into its fold and sooner or later they will kill their prey.

So, how did the evangelical church come to distance itself from the straightforward preaching of the Bible in our day? The answer probably does not boil down to one factor, but I think that the main factor this: in the 1980s, much of the evangelical church exchanged the preaching of the Word of God for psychologically-based, felt-needs, topical messages. Instead of the Word of God being the meat of the church, it became the “book of quotes” that was used to prop up the points of the message and set up cute stories, alluring illustrations, and movie clips. And because the Word of God was not there to drive the wolves away, they have settled in and are sinking their teeth into their prey even as we speak.

In this way, many evangelicals have become so biblically illiterate and theologically ignorant that they cannot even spot heresy, and what is worse, when they do, their souls do not grieve over it and their mouths do not war against it. In fact, they sometimes argue for it and prop it up with conferences, coalitions, and a variety of resources. O Beloved, how desperate a time is this? Let us not pit church growth against the Word of God but rather let us appeal to the lost by the Word of God. Let us feed the sheep, allure souls to worship, and drive the wolves away with that great Sword of the Spirit.