Fully Equipped!

image

If we were to break that down into outline form we could say that Scripture is:

1. Breathed out (inspired) by God and given to man

2. Profitable for:

  • Teaching
  • Reproof (proof or conviction)
  • Correction
  • Training in righteousness

3. So that:

  • The man of God may be complete
  • The man of God is fully equipped for every good work

Rather straightforward and easily understood, is it not? Scripture contains everything anyone might need to live a godly life and faithfully serve our God.

While I was serving in the Army, there were several stages to becoming ‘fully’ equipped. The first stage was at the reception station when I enlisted. Once assigned to a Special Forces unit after initial training (basic & advanced), stage 2 kicked in and there was another set of equipment given to all new members of the unit. Then, after being assigned to a specific operational detachment (‘A Team), another set of specialized equipment was issued, depending on the specific mission of the Team (mountain, scuba, HALO, Special Wpns, etc.), and the specific position to be manned on the Team (medical, demolitions, communications, weapons, etc.).

I’m sure you could discover the same ‘equipping for performance’ principal exists for most jobs, for every sort of occupation, in every labor sector. Do you see the glaring comparison between Scripture’s sufficiency for equipping the man of God for every good work in the Kingdom and what’s be needed for earthy vocations? What a blessing God has provided his children!

Another point to be made here is that our passages tells us that being fully equipped for Christian service is connected in some way to all of scripture. That statement brings to mind the Apostle Paul’s assurance the Ephesian Christians that he had preached to them the whole counsel of God.

“. . .for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God.” (Acts 20:2, ESV)

One Bible teacher suggests that what Paul meant was “ I told you all the important things that God has revealed that you must know for your salvation and service to Him.” We are not told everything there is about God or in the mind of God – we are finite and he is infinite. There is no way we could handle everything about God or all of his thoughts!

So what? How can we best apply what that passage teaches us? There are two things that present themselves to this old soldiers ‘brain housing group’, especially as we look around and thoughtfully consider today’s evangelical landscape.

Concerning Scripture itself, while other sources can help us tremendously in our Christian walk in this life, if all we had was the Bible, it would be enough. I don’t know about you, but my Facebook page is literally filled with links to and offers for every kind of Christian source imaginable. We’re talking about churches (local and otherwise), Christian discipleship material, along with concerts and events, not to mention Christian apparel and all sorts of trinkets.

Concerning all of Scripture and the whole counsel of God, It grieves me to see so many memes and images of Bible passages ripped completely out of context that, while they might give us ‘warm fuzzies’, complete miss the fuller meaning that the author intended. Then there is contemporary Christian music (CCM). It tends to mostly be about the positive aspects of Christian life, either focused on blessings, what God purposes to give us as his main reason for being, omitting topics which might not be very popular, like sin, wrath, and judgment. If you doubt that, compare a few classic hymns of the church to CCM. Feel free to challenge me.

Lastly, there’s the content of much of what is presented from pulpits and stages from ‘sea to shining sea’ these days. While there some church leaders who preach and teach in an expository manner from the pages of Scripture, they are in the minority these days. Additionally, much of what we hear these days, whether topical or focused on teaching the text at hand (expository) seems to be man-focused than God centered.

Please note that I am not being intentionally critical, but personal observations. I don’t intend to be argumentative, but like I already mentioned, certain things grieve me, or should I say grieve the spirit living me.

If there are any lessons to be learned from what is written here, they are two-fold.

First, spend more time reading and studying your own Bible than every other source that comes your way promising to teach you the ‘real deal’ concerning Scripture.

Secondly, be selective concerning your preferred sources of preaching and teaching. That also includes Christian music. After all, music both preaches and teaches.

Not only do we want to receive all of what God has to say to us, we want what God offers to us to fill our hearts and minds.

Be Blessed!

“He Will Save His People from their Sins”

It’s a familiar story. When Joseph, Jesus’ earthly father discovered that Mary, his betrothed, was pregnant and he was not the father, he considered divorcing her quietly. An angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and spoke these words:

“Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” ( Matthew 1:20-21)

But I digress. The question that has most frequently occupied my mind of late is “Who exactly are his people? Glaringly obvious, from the very words of the angel who spoke to Joseph, is the term “his”, a possessive pronoun meaning that those whom Jesus will save are his possessions – they belong to him. What else do we know from Scripture about those whom Jesus saves – his people? The rest of this post will highlight , drawing primarily from John’s gospel.

  • All whom Jesus saves were chosen by the Father for salvation.
  • Jesus saves those given to him by the Father.
  • Jesus calls those the Father gives him my sheep.’
  • Jesus will save all those whom the Father has given him – each and every one of his sheep.
  • Jesus continually intercedes before the Father on behalf of his people, those whom the Father has given him, but not for the whole world.

First of all, we are all quite familiar with God’s choosing a special people as his own, for his own glory, beginning with the Old Testament account and the Jewish nation of Israel. The Apostle Paul, called by God to bring the gospel message to the Gentile nations, mentions God’s choosing in at least two of his letters to churches in his time:

3Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.” (Ephesians 1:3-6)

13But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth, . 14To this he called you through our gospel, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Thessalonians 2:13-14)

Second, we know that those Jesus saves were given to him by the Father because of Jesus’ own words:

37All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. 38For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. 39And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.”( John 6:37-39)

Third, note that it is also in Jesus own words that we find out that those he saves are his ‘sheep’. Speaking to unbelieving Jews in the Temple at Jerusalem during the Feast of Dedication, Jesus refers to those the Father has given him as his ‘sheep’

27My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.  28I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.  29My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. (John 10:27-29)

Fourth, if we look at portions of the above passages one more time, we can see that all of those given to the Son – his sheep – come savingly to the Son and are granted everlasting life.

37All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. 38For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. 39And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.”( John 6:37-39)

27My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.  28I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.  29My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. (John 10:27-29)

Lastly, in High Priestly Prayer recorded in John 17, Jesus interceded specifically for his people, those the Father has given him, but not for the whole world:

1When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, 2since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. . . .

6 I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word.

9 I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours.

11And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one.

12While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled.

24Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.

In summary, we have stated that the purpose for Jesus birth, death and resurrection was “to save his people from their sins.” We then discussed just a few of the attributes, or characteristics of “his people”. The people whom Jesus saves are:

  • chosen by the Father for salvation,
  • given to Jesus by the Father,
  • those that Jesus calls his sheep, and
  • are those for whom Jesus continually intercedes before the Father.

We also stated, from Scripture, that ALL who are chosen for salvation, given by the Father to the Son as his sheep, and who are the object of Jesus’ intercession before the Father WILL be saved from their sins. and live eternally in His presence.

So What? Here’s some food for thought/questions for consideration:

  1. Is salvation limited to “His people”, as defined in this article, or are there some who are not “His people” who can be saved? Answer ‘yes’ or ‘no’, and explain your answer.
  2. If Jesus will only save “His people”, what would that mean concerning the extent of Christ’s atonement?
  3. What does this article tell you about the sovereignty of God in salvation?

For a biblical summary of HOW God saves someone, read Romans 8:28-31.

May God bless your study of His Word!

Are WE Tilting at Windmills?

image

If you don’t know, the phrase ‘tilting at windmills’ comes from a 17th century novel by Miguel de Cervantes titled “The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha”, or just “Don Quixote”. Don Quixote was a middle-aged Spanish nobleman, who imagined himself a Knight of the Spanish realm who embarked on a number of adventurous crusades against windmills that dotted the landscape of southern Spain that he sincerely believed were enemy giants with huge arms! The “tilting” refers to what we would more commonly call “jousting”. Armed with his lance, clad in an old suit of armor, and accompanied by a neighboring farmer (turned squire) named Sancho, the Man of La Mancha set off in defense of the realm.

During one of their exploits, they came in sight of thirty or forty windmills in their path. No sooner did Don Quixote see them that he said to his squire, “Fortune is guiding our affairs better than we ourselves could have wished. Do you see over yonder, friend Sancho, thirty or forty hulking giants? I intend to do battle with them and slay them. With their spoils we shall begin to be rich for this is a righteous war and the removal of so foul a brood from off the face of the earth is a service God will bless.”

Even though Sancho tried to explain that they were just windmills and the huge “arms” were only sails in the wind, the Don lowered his lance and attacked, with disastrous results when the tip of his lance was caught up by a windmill blade!

To this day, the phrase “tilting at windmills” has been used to describe “confrontations where adversaries are incorrectly perceived, or courses of action that are based on misinterpreted or misapplied heroic, romantic, or idealistic justifications.” (American Heritage Dictionary) Another phrase, “chasing windmills” has the same roots and mean pursuing something with an “open heart”, which was certainly true about Don Quixote. He really believed he was engaged in a noble crusade!

So what does all of that have to do with the question “Are WE tilting at windmills?”

Thanks for asking!

Well, a few days ago a simple question popped up on Facebook:

image

Hence, thoughts of Don Quixote for us old folks, as well as no small amount of serious consideration. Can a seriously fractured America be restored apart from the Gospel of Jesus Christ? I think not, and let me tell you why. If we who profess Christ honestly ask ourselves WHY our nation is so fractured right now, and if we know our Bibles, the answer is simple. SIN is the root cause of all that ails America, as well as every other nation on Earth. What began in Eden with a single act of disobedience has endured until now and will continue until Jesus returns to pass judgment. Consequently, if SIN is the root cause, a solution to the sin problem will bring healing. Throughout the history of mankind, men have tried to deal with all sorts of evil perpetrated by the human beings that inhabit our planet. Good and moral governments have passed legislation to punish evil and wrongdoing for the betterment of civil society. Programs of all kinds have been instituted to reform all sorts of harmful behavior patterns. I’m sure you get the picture. I’m also sure you recognize that nearly all of the human solutions to human problems are external at best. We can only hope that they will take root in our hearts and result in lasting change for our good and the good of our society. And therein lies the problem.

The root cause of society’s ills is SIN, and sin is a problem internal to every human born after the Fall of Adam. Therefore, any lasting solution must also be an internal one. It means we need new hearts, new motives, new natures. As scripture tells us, we need to be reborn (See John, Chapter 3 and Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus).

Do you see where this is going? Internal problems need internal solutions? The Gospel of Jesus Christ offers that internal solution? The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the ONLY solution? Exactly.

So about those windmills. . .

Every single day we are told what we need to “do” to fight this or that (name the topic) societal ill by getting involved. We need to write our representatives in Congress, sign petitions, donate money, support podcasts, or to just ‘stand up and fight’ those who are wreaking havoc across the land. Let me be clear – I am not saying we should not be engaged with, or support external efforts to right wrongs. God ordained governmental systems to fight and control evil. By all means get involved in supporting external efforts to right the wrongs in our society and in our nation. Pray for leaders at all levels of civil government. Pray that God would change the hearts of kings (Proverbs 21:1)! However, if we want to see lasting change in our society and culture, the only real solution is the Gospel of Jesus Christ invading the hearts of men.

It’s also quite possible that many of the conservatives who are unafraid to do battle against evil in our culture and society know that the core issue is an internal one, but for whatever reason, many of them just stick to much needed external solutions. I am not criticizing them for doing so. It’s just the way it is. To be fair I admit that there are a few who mention the need for God, while stopping short of talking about Christ’s death for our sins. One popular young conservative has even told his college age audiences that the first thing they need to do is “give their hearts to Jesus”! While that sounds great and noble, when we search scripture for that admonition will we find it? (Just a question, not an indictment.)

clip_image004

In the novel, Don Quixote’s neighbor turned squire, Sancho Panza, tried to explain to our hero that the giants with huge arms were really just windmills and sails and not real enemies, but to no avail. In like manner, trying to correct the ‘windmill chasers’ in our midst might meet with failure.

That’s where we who confess Christ, who know the gospel message, and are willing to be used of God to share the good news with a lost world, enter “stage right”. We can be the standard bearers and ambassadors who can offer the internal remedy to the internal problem that plagues every one of us; our sinful nature. We can be the Paul Harveys who share “the rest of the story”, (Some of you will get that.) And who knows, maybe that’s what God intended for us all along!

“How can they call on him unless they believe in him? How can they believe in him unless they hear about him? How can they hear about him unless someone preaches to them? 15 And how can anyone preach without being sent? It is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”” (Romans 10:14-15)

image

__________________________________________________________________

This article first appeared in the Christian Military Fellowship June 2021 Christian Report. which can be located and downloaded hereThe Christian Report is one of the many resources available from Christian Military Fellowship, a ministry dedicated to  helping Christians serving in the Armed Forces  grow in their faith and become “Gospel Ambassadors” in uniform.

John Piper & the Five Points

The Battle Cry

Perhaps one of the best explanations of the Doctrines of Grace available for the average reader. My personal journey into Reformed theology began and still rests in Holy Scripture. During the journey I have of course consulted many other resources, including listening to an entire lengthy series of teaching concerning the History and Theology of Calvinism by Curt Daniel, available online free of charge. I had known just enough about Calvinism to hate him. I attribute that hatred to the worship of autonomous human free will. I will gladly entertain thoughtful questions.

document.desiringgod.org/five-points-en.pdf

View original post

The Gospel and Politics–John MacArthur

This is an excellent treatment of this critical subject! – Dan C. It’s length, but worth a good read!

The Gospel and Politics

by John MacArthur

For us, as Christians in the United States, it’s easy to get caught up in all the political fervor. It can even be tempting to think that legislation is the key to solving the moral problems that plague American society. But is that a right perspective? John MacArthur addresses this important issue and underscores a biblical response.

There was a time (in the days of our Puritan forefathers), when almost every soul in America acknowledged the Ten Commandments as the cornerstone of ethics and morality. Today most Americans can’t even name three of the Ten.

There was also a time (not so long ago) when Americans universally disapproved of homosexuality, adultery, and divorce; they believed sexual promiscuity is absolutely wrong; they regarded obscene language as inappropriate; they saw abortion as unthinkable; and they held public officials to high moral and ethical standards. Nowadays, most of the behavior society once deemed immoral is defended as an inalienable civil right.

How times and the culture have changed! The strong Christian influence and scriptural standards that shaped Western culture and American society through the end of the nineteenth century have given way to practical atheism and moral relativism. The few vestiges of Christianity in our culture are at best weak and compromising, and to an increasingly pagan society they are cultic and bizarre.

In less than fifty years’ time, our nation’s political leaders, legislative bodies, and courts have adopted a distinctly anti-Christian attitude and agenda. The country has swept away the Christian worldview and its principles in the name of equal rights, political correctness, tolerance, and strict separation of church and state. Gross immorality—including homosexuality, abortion, pornography, and other evils—has been sanctioned not only by society in general but in effect by the government as well. A portion of our tax dollars are now used to fund programs and government agencies that actively engage in blatant advocacy of various immoral practices.

What are Christians to do about it?

Many think this is a political problem that will not be solved without a political strategy. During the past twenty-five years, well-meaning Christians have founded a number of evangelical activist organizations and sunk millions of dollars into them in an effort to use the apparatus of politics—lobbying, legislation, demonstration, and boycott—to counteract the moral decline of American culture. They pour their energy and other resources into efforts to drum up a “Christian” political movement that will fight back against the prevailing anti-Christian culture.

But is that a proper perspective? I believe not. America’s moral decline is a spiritual problem, not a political one, and its solution is the gospel, not partisan politics.

LESSONS FROM HISTORY

This is a lesson evangelicals ought to know from church history. Whenever the church has focused on evangelism and preaching the gospel, her influence has increased. When she has sought power by political, cultural, or military activism, she has damaged or spoiled her testimony.

The Crusades during the Middle Ages were waged for the purpose of regaining Christian control of the Holy Lands. Few believers today would argue that those efforts were fruitful. Even when the crusaders enjoyed military success, the church grew spiritually weaker and more worldly. Other religious wars and campaigns tinged with political motivation (such as the Thirty Years’ War in Europe, Cromwell’s revolution in England, and other skirmishes during the Reformation era) are all viewed with disapproval, or at best curiosity, by Christians today. And rightly so. The military and political ambitions of some of the Reformers turned out to be a weakness, and ultimately an impediment to the Reformation. On the other hand, the strength of the Reformation, and its enduring legacy, was derived from the fact that Reformation theology shone a bright spotlight on the way of salvation and brought clarity to the gospel.

Throughout Protestant history, those segments of the visible church that have turned their attention to social and political issues have also compromised sound doctrine and quickly declined in influence. Early modernists, for example, explicitly argued that social work and moral reform were more important than doctrinal precision, and their movement soon abandoned any semblance of Christianity whatsoever.

Today’s evangelical political activists seem to be unaware of how much their methodology parallels that of liberal Christians at the start of the twentieth century. Like those misguided idealists, contemporary evangelicals have become enamored with temporal issues at the expense of eternal values. Evangelical activists in essence are simply preaching a politically conservative version of the old social gospel, emphasizing social and cultural concerns above spiritual ones.

That kind of thinking fosters the view that government is either our ally (if it supports our special agenda) or our enemy (if it remains opposed or unresponsive to our voice). The political strategy becomes the focus of everything, as if the spiritual fortunes of God’s people rise or fall depending on who is in office. But the truth is that no human government can ultimately do anything either to advance or to thwart God’s kingdom. And the worst, most despotic worldly government in the end cannot halt the power of the Holy Spirit or the spread of God’s Word.

To gain a thoroughly biblical and Christian perspective on political involvement, we should take to heart the words of the British theologian Robert L. Ottley, delivered at Oxford University more than one hundred years ago:

The Old Testament may be studied. . .as an instructor in social righteousness. It exhibits the moral government of God as attested in his dealings with nations rather than with individuals; and it was their consciousness of the action and presence of God in history that made the prophets preachers, not merely to their countrymen, but to the world at large. . . .There is indeed significance in the fact that in spite of their ardent zeal for social reform they did not as a rule take part in political life or demand political reforms. They desired. . .not better institutions but better men. (Aspects of the Old Testament. The Bampton Lectures, 1897 [London: Longmans, 1898], 430-31)

LESSONS FROM SCRIPTURE

My point is not that Christians should remain totally uninvolved in politics or civic activities and causes. They ought to express their political beliefs in the voting booth, and it is appropriate to support legitimate measures designed to correct a glaring social or political wrong. Complete noninvolvement would be contrary to what God’s Word says about doing good in society: “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Gal. 6:10; cf. Titus 3:1-2). It would also display a lack of gratitude for whatever amount of religious freedom the government allows us to enjoy. Furthermore, such pious apathy toward government and politics would reveal a lack of appreciation for the many appropriate legal remedies believers in democracies have for maintaining or improving the civil order. A certain amount of healthy and balanced concern with current trends in government and the community is acceptable, as long as we realize that that interest is not vital to our spiritual growth, our righteous testimony, or the advancement of the kingdom of Christ. Above all, the believer’s political involvement should never displace the priority of preaching and teaching the gospel.

There is certainly no prohibition on believers being directly involved in government as civil servants, as some notable examples in the Old and New Testaments illustrate. Joseph in Egypt and Daniel in Babylon are two excellent models of servants God used in top governmental positions to further His kingdom. The centurion’s servant (Matt. 8:5-13), Zaccheus the tax collector (Luke 19:1-10), and Cornelius the centurion (Acts 10) all continued in public service even after they experienced the healing or saving power of Christ. (As far as we know, the Roman proconsul Sergius Paulus also remained in office after he was converted [Acts 13:4-12].)

The issue again is one of priority. The greatest temporal good we can accomplish through political involvement cannot compare to what the Lord can accomplish through us in the eternal work of His kingdom. Just as God called ancient Israel (Ex. 19:6), He has called the church to be a kingdom of priests, not a kingdom of political activists. The apostle Peter instructs us, “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Pet. 2:9).

Jesus, as we would expect, perfectly maintained His Father’s perspective on these matters even though He lived in a society that was every bit as pagan and corrupt as today’s culture. In many ways it was much worse than any of us in Western nations has ever faced. Cruel tyrants and dictators ruled throughout the region, the institution of slavery was firmly entrenched—everything was the antithesis of democracy. King Herod, the Idumean vassal of Rome who ruled Samaria and Judea, epitomized the godless kind of autocratic rule: “Then Herod, when he saw that he was deceived by the wise men [concerning the whereabouts of the baby Jesus], was exceedingly angry; and he sent forth and put to death all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all its districts, from two years old and under” (Matt. 2:16).

Few of us have experienced the sort of economic and legal oppression that the Romans applied to the Jews of Jesus’ day. Tax rates were exorbitant and additional government-sanctioned abuses by the tax collectors exacerbated the financial burden on the people. The Jews in Palestine were afforded almost no civil rights and were treated as an underprivileged minority that could not make an appeal against legal injustices. As a result, some Jews were in constant outward rebellion against Rome.

Fanatical nationalists, known as Zealots, ignored their tax obligations and violently opposed the government. They believed that even recognizing a Gentile ruler was wrong (see Deuteronomy 17:15, “You may not set a foreigner over you, who is not your brother”). Many Zealots became assassins, performing acts of terrorism and violence against both the Romans and other Jews whom they viewed as traitors.

It is also true that the Roman social system was built on slavery. The reality of serious abuses of slaves is part of the historical record. Yet neither Jesus nor any of the apostles attempted to abolish slavery. Instead, they commanded slaves to be obedient and used slavery as a metaphor for believers who were to submit to their Lord and Master.

Jesus’ earthly ministry took place right in the midst of that difficult social and political atmosphere. Many of His followers, including the Twelve, to varying degrees expected Him to free them from Rome’s oppressive rule. But our Lord did not come as a political deliverer or social reformer. He never issued a call for such changes, even by peaceful means. Unlike many late twentieth-century evangelicals, Jesus did not rally supporters to some grandiose attempt to “capture the culture” for biblical morality or greater political and religious freedoms.

Christ, however, was not devoid of care and concern for the daily pain and hardships people endured in their personal lives. The Gospels record His great empathy and compassion for sinners. He applied those attitudes in a tangible, practical way by healing thousands of people of every kind of disease and affliction, often at great personal sacrifice to Himself.

Still, as beneficial and appreciated as His ministry to others’ physical needs was, it was not Jesus’ first priority. His divine calling was to speak to the hearts and souls of individual men and women. He proclaimed the good news of redemption that could reconcile them to the Father and grant them eternal life. That message far surpasses any agenda for political, social, or economic reform that can preoccupy us. Christ did not come to promote some new social agenda or establish a new moral order. He did come to establish a new spiritual order, the body of believers from throughout the ages that constitutes His church. He did not come to earth to make the old creation moral through social and governmental reform, but to make new creatures holy through the saving power of the gospel and the transforming work of the Holy Spirit. And our Lord and Savior has commanded us to continue His ministry, with His supreme priorities in view, with the goal that we might advance His kingdom: “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:18-20).

In the truest sense, the moral, social, and political state of a people is irrelevant to the advance of the gospel. Jesus said that His kingdom was not of this world (John 18:36).

THE REAL BATTLE

We can’t protect or expand the cause of Christ by human political and social activism, no matter how great or sincere the efforts. Ours is a spiritual battle waged against worldly ideologies and dogmas arrayed against God, and we achieve victory over them only with the weapon of Scripture. The apostle Paul writes: “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:3-5).

We must reject all that is ungodly and false and never compromise God’s standards of righteousness. We can do that in part by desiring the improvement of society’s moral standards and by approving of measures that would conform government more toward righteousness. We do grieve over the rampant indecency, vulgarity, lack of courtesy and respect for others, deceitfulness, self-indulgent materialism, and violence that is corroding society. But in our efforts to support what is good and wholesome, reject what is evil and corrupt, and make a profoundly positive impact on our culture, we must use God’s methods and maintain scriptural priorities.

God is not calling us to wage a culture war that would seek to transform our countries into “Christian nations.” To devote all, or even most, of our time, energy, money, and strategy to putting a façade of morality on the world or over our governmental and political institutions is to badly misunderstand our roles as Christians in a spiritually lost world.

God has above all else called the church to bring sinful people to salvation through Jesus Christ. Even as the apostle Paul described his mission to unbelievers, so it is the primary task of all Christians to reach out to the lost “to open their eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me [Christ]” (Acts 26:18; cf. Ex. 19:6; 1 Pet. 2:5, 9). If we do not evangelize the lost and make disciples of new converts, nothing else we do for people—no matter how beneficial it seems—is of any eternal consequence. Whether a person is an atheist or a theist, a criminal or a model citizen, sexually promiscuous and perverse or strictly moral and virtuous, a greedy materialist or a gracious philanthropist—if he does not have a saving relationship to Christ, he is going to hell. It makes no difference if an unsaved person is for or against abortion, a political liberal or a conservative, a prostitute or a police officer, he will spend eternity apart from God unless he repents and believes the gospel.

When the church takes a stance that emphasizes political activism and social moralizing, it always diverts energy and resources away from evangelization. Such an antagonistic position toward the established secular culture invariably leads believers to feel hostile not only to unsaved government leaders with whom they disagree, but also antagonistic toward the unsaved residents of that culture—neighbors and fellow citizens they ought to love, pray for, and share the gospel with. To me it is unthinkable that we become enemies of the very people we seek to win to Christ, our potential brothers and sisters in the Lord.

Author John Seel pens words that apply in principle to Christians everywhere and summarize well the believer’s perspective on political involvement:

A politicized faith not only blurs our priorities, but weakens our loyalties. Our primary citizenship is not on earth but in heaven. … Though few evangelicals would deny this truth in theory, the language of our spiritual citizenship frequently gets wrapped in the red, white and blue. Rather than acting as resident aliens of a heavenly kingdom, too often we sound [and act] like resident apologists for a Christian America. … Unless we reject the false reliance on the illusion of Christian America, evangelicalism will continue to distort the gospel and thwart a genuine biblical identity…..

American evangelicalism is now covered by layers and layers of historically shaped attitudes that obscure our original biblical core. (The Evangelical Pulpit [Grand Rapids: Baker, 1993], 106-7)

By means of faithful preaching and godly living, believers are to be the conscience of whatever nation they reside in. You can confront the culture not with the political and social activism of man’s wisdom, but with the spiritual power of God’s Word. Using temporal methods to promote legislative and judicial change, and resorting to external efforts of lobbying and intimidation to achieve some sort of “Christian morality” in society is not our calling—and has no eternal value. Only the gospel rescues sinners from sin, death, and hell.

HT: Pulpit Magazine

Sharing Christ in a Hostile Culture, Pt. 4 – How’s Your Weep?

In Part 1 of this series of articles, Be Available, we shared real examples of how doors seem to just ‘open up’ for sharing the message of the gospel, and what can happen when there’s a willing and available gospel messenger ‘on location’.

In Part 2, Situational Awareness, we compared our ‘Situation’ as believers in Christ – our status, and true citizenship, with our condition (situation) before repenting of sin and believing Christ.

In Part 3, Our Duty, Our Great Privilege, Our Highest Calling, the focus was on understanding the nature of the believer’s role in sharing Christ with the world around us.

This fourth article of the series has to do with maintaining a heartfelt burden for the lost around us, thus the title “How’s Your Weep?” That title came to mind thinking about something that happened quite some time ago (30 years?) in Ft. Ord, California.

I was attending the Defense Language Institute in Monterrey, CA studying Polish and living on Ft. Ord. I had connected with the Ft. Ord chapel community and was involved in a small group weekly Bible study. During one of those evening studies (I don’t remember the exact topic), one of the young soldiers in attendance, with a look of sadness in her eyes, uttered a very simple yet profound statement:

“I’ve lost my weep!”

She was talking about her burden for lost souls. Something in our discussion that evening had triggered her sentiment. She seemed to have realized in that moment that while she once had a deep burden for the lost, for some reason it had gone by the wayside. Determined to find it again she took time off from work to get alone with God and learn to ‘weep’ again.

Hers was not an uncommon experience with Christians. We remember a time when we shared our faith, not only with excitement over what God has done in saving us, but also with a heartfelt burden for the lost with whom we live and work every day. That burden comes from knowing and understanding the dire straits of all who are living apart from Christ – “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” is how the great theologian, Jonathan Edwards described it.

Then ‘life’ happens and our burden for lost souls diminishes. Perhaps it’s the hectic pace of our jobs or scholastic endeavors. Family situations might demand more and more of us. Our social lives and desire for acceptance often distract us. And of course, there’s the possibility that some of those with whom you would share Christ are complete jerks! (in temporal terms). And the list of distractions (excuses?) can go on and on forever

Then one day you realize, like the young lady at our Bible study, that something is wrong. Sure, you share Jesus with others, but without the intense burden you once had for their souls. Maybe you’ve never experienced such a burden. So how can you find what you lost? How can you discover what you might never have had?

You can get away and get alone with God, like the young lady at our Bible study. You can pray and get into the word. Those are rather broad suggestions. Can we narrow it down a bit? We’ll try.

First, revisit and remember your own condition before you encountered Jesus as your savior and lord. Apart from Christ we were:

  • Dead in trespasses and sin, disobedient, under Satan’s control, concerned only with our own passions, and by nature children of wrath (Ephesians 2:1-3)
  • Enemies of God and unable to please God (Romans 8:7-8)
  • Unable to even understand the things of God (1 Corinthians 2:14)
  • Slaves of sin (John 8:34)
  • Already condemned (John 3:18)

That’s the short list, trust me. REALLY reflect on your condition apart from Christ. Read those passages in context. Let it sink deep into your mind and heart. That was YOU, that was ME! We were completely and utterly hopeless! (Ephesians 2:12).

Did it sink in? REALLY sink in? When it does. . .

Now take ALL of that and apply it to the lost all around you – to co-workers, family and friends, acquaintances, passersby. Even if they’re jerks.

As a final note, we’re not saying you must have a deep concern for or physically weep over lost souls to be an effective witness for Christ. Far from it. But just as Jesus wept over Jerusalem (Matthew 23:37-39), and Paul had a great love and burden for his fellow Jews (Romans 9:1-9), a genuine heartfelt burden for those to we share Christ will add a sincerity that will be unmistakable to the ears and hearts of our hearers!

Be blessed!

Sharing Christ in a Hostile Culture, Pt 3– Our Duty, Our Great Privilege, and Our Highest Calling

In Part 1 of this series of articles, Be Available, we shared real examples of how doors seem to just ‘open up’ for sharing the message of the gospel, and what can happen when there’s a willing and available gospel messenger ‘on location’.

In Part 2, Situational Awareness, we compared our ‘Situation’ as believers in Christ – our status, and true citizenship, with our condition (situation) before repenting of sin and believing Christ.

This article focuses on understanding the nature of the believer’s role in sharing Christ with the world around us. Bear in mind that God, being GOD, is able to save lost sinners in any way He chooses to do so, with, or without our involvement. At the same time, it’s important to remember that God has not only provided for the salvation of His people (through Christ); he has chosen the means by which he saves lost sinners. – the preaching of the gospel (sharing Christ). This means that fur you and me (and all believers) sharing Christ with a lost world is at least three things; Our Duty, Our Great Privilege, and Our Hignest Calling!

Our Duty

18And Jesus came and said to them (the disciples), “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Mathew 28:18-20)

You might be thinking that there is no command for personal evangelism in the above passage of scripture, I beg to differ. Jesus’ command, to ‘make disciples’, by its very nature requires sharing the message of the gospel. Disciples are only produced from saved; blood bought sinners. Jesus disciples (followers) were commanded to make disciples of those were already believers and preach the message of the gospel to those still lost so that they could then be made into disciples.

Our Great Privilege

God not only provided the way of salvation of His people in the death and resurrection of His Son, He also decreed the means whereby men are saved.

13“For ‘everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’ 14How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” (Romans 10:13-15)

The above passage is crystal clear. Those who call on the Lord will be saved. Calling on the Lord means believing in Him. To believe they must first hear the good news (evangel). For them to hear, someone must preach Christ to them. Those who share the good news are ‘sent’ by God to do so.

Dear friends, WE ae among those who are sent to share the good news! The Great Commission was given specifically to Jesus’ immediate disciple, but it was meant for all believers for all time.

God has chosen to use flawed you and me to share His perfect message of salvation! How is that NOT the greatest privilege bestowed on God’s children?

Our Highest Calling

I recently read an article in a local newspaper about an F/A-18 Super Hornet weapons system officer who was actually the first female pilot to bomb ISIS from an F/A 18. Here is how she described ISIS and her role in the bombing:

“They are a horrible crop of humans, with an utter disregard for human life,” she said. “To witness that, day in and out, to witness mass murder, you have such an understanding. I’d trained for so long to protect innocent people on the ground, and when I saw that violated, and to finally use my skills to do that and use weapons, there is no higher calling.” (Emphasis mine)

With no disrespect to either a fine Naval officer or anyone who fights global terrorism, I have to confess that the immediate reaction of this old soldier was “But there IS a higher calling!” – to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with the world around us, and often hostile culture in which we live.

In many churches these days much is made of living our best lives now, discovering our special purpose for our time on planet Earth, and even achieving our ‘dream destinies’. Friends, I suggest to you that all of those things are merely temporary at best. I also suggest to you that our duty and great privilege to share the good news of Jesus Christ with a lost world, and the eternal consequences at stake (heaven and hell), define the great commission as the highest calling a blood bought child of God has received from heaven!

Be blessed!