Spurgeon on Contextualization, from The Soul-Winner, chapter 13, “Soul Saving Our One Business”:
Paul went to his work always with an intense sympathy for those he dealt with, a sympathy which made him adapt himself to each ease. If he talked to a Jew, he did not begin at once blurting out that he was the apostle of the Gentiles, but he said he was a Jew, as Jew he was. He raised no questions about nationalities or ceremonies. He wanted to tell the Jew of Him of whom Isaiah said, “He is despised and rejected of men, a Man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief,” in order that he might believe in Jesus and so be saved. If he met a Gentile, the apostle of the Gentiles never showed any of the squeamishness which might have been expected to cling to him on account of his Jewish education. He ate as the Gentiles ate, and drank as he did, sat with him, and talked with him; was, as it were, a Gentile with him; never raising any question about circumcision or uncircumcision, but solely wishing to tell him of Christ, who came into the world to save both Jew and Gentile, and to make them one. If Paul met with a Scythian, he spoke to him in the Barbarian tongue, and not in classic Greek. If he met a Greek, he spoke to him as he did at the Areopagus, with language that was fitted for a polished Athenian. He was all things to all men, that he might by all means save some.
So let it be with you, Christian people; your one business in life is to lead men to believe in Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit, and every other thing should be made subservient to this one object; if you can but get them saved, everything else will come right in due time. Mr. Hudson Taylor, a dear man of God, who has laboured much in Inland China, finds it helpful to dress as a Chinaman, and wear a pigtail. He always mingles with the people, and as far as possible lives as they do. This seems to me to be a truly wise policy. I can understand that we shall win upon a congregation of Chinese by becoming as Chinese as possible; and if this be the case, we are bound to be Chinese to the Chinese to save the Chinese. It would not be amiss to become a Zulu to save the Zulus, thought we must mind that we do it in another sense than Colenso did. If we can put ourselves on a level with those whose good we seek, we shall be more likely to effect our purpose than if we remain aliens and foreigners, and then talk of love and unity. To sink myself to save others is the idea of the apostle. To throw overboard all peculiarities, and yield a thousand indifferent points, in order to bring men to Jesus, is our wisdom if we would extend our Master’s kingdom. Never may any whim or conventionality of ours keep a soul from considering the gospel, -that were horrible indeed. Better far to be personally inconvenienced by compliance with things indifferent, than to retard a sinner’s coming by quarreling about trifles.
Spurgeon on Over-Contextualization, from The Soul Winner, chapter 14, “Instruction in Soul Winning”:
[The fishermen whom Jesus called to follow him] were to leave their pursuits, they were to leave their companions; they were, in fact, to quit the world, that their one business might be, in their Master’s name, to be fishers of men. We are not called to leave our daily business, or to quit our families. . . . We are called most distinctly to come out from among the ungodly, and to be separate, and not to touch the unclean thing. We cannot be fishers of men if we remain among men in the same element with them. Fish will not be fishers. The sinner will not convert the sinner. The ungodly man will not convert the ungodly man; and, what is more to the point, the worldly Christian will not convert the world. If you are of the world, no doubt the world will love its own; but you cannot save the world. If you are dark, and belong to the kingdom of darkness, you cannot remove the darkness. If you march with the armies of the wicked one, you cannot defeat them. I believe that one reason why the Church of God at this present moment has so little influence over the world is because the world has so much influence over the Church. Nowadays, we hear Noncomformists pleading that they may do this, and they may do that, -things which their Puritan forefathers would rather have died at the stake than have tolerated. They plead that they may live like worldlings, and my sad answer to them, when they crave for this liberty, is, “Do it if you dare. It may not do you much hurt, for you are so bad already. Your cravings show how rotten your hearts are. If you have a hungering after such dog’s meat, go, dogs, and eat the garbage! Worldly amusements are fit food for mere pretenders and hypocrites. If you were God’s children, you would loathe the very thought of the world’s evil joys, and your question would not be, “How far may we be like the world?’ but your one cry would be, “How far can we get away from the world? How much can we come out of it?” Your temptation would be rather to become sternly severe, and ultra-Puritanical in your separation from sin, in such a time as this, than to ask, “How can I make myself like other men, and act as they do?”
“I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God
that you may know that you have eternal life.”
(1 John 5:13, ESV)
Having spent most of my life around oceans, seas and lakes, I have a healthy respect for the water and have always felt that my daughters should as well. For this reason we began teaching them to swim at an early age. All five of our girls can swim like fishes; however, I remember a time when Gabrielle, now fifteen, was struggling. She was not struggling physically; she was struggling mentally. Oddly enough, when she was about two and a half years old, she could jump off a diving board into the deep end of an Olympic size pool and swim to the side. But, we moved away from that pool, and she “forgot” that she could swim. She developed a sort of mental block that destroyed her confidence in her ability to swim. Consequently, my greatest task at that time was not to teach her to swim but to remind her that she already knew how to swim.
I wonder how many Christians are like my Gabrielle was at that time? You see, I believe there are people in the church who have genuinely come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, but instead of living confidently in this knowledge of God, they live frustrated lives because they simply don’t know all that God has accomplished for them. The church must own up to its share of the blame for these frustrated Christians because of the way we have approached evangelism. If our evangelism is motivated only by a desire to keep people out of hell, then once this has been accomplished people need to know nothing more. In fact, they don’t even have to be a part of a local church body. The Bible does not speak about Christianity as a “get out of hell free card;” it speaks of Christianity as life: eternal, abundant life (John 10:10). Life implies growth, and for the Christian this growth comes by growing in the grace and knowledge of Christ, and in some cases, growth comes by being reminded about what we have already learned (Ephesians 2:11-13; 2 Peter 1:12-13).
This is precisely what John does as he closes his first letter to his congregation. The members of his congregation had been confused by the false teachers, and their assurance of faith has been compromised. The purpose of 1 John was to assure the congregation that those who believe in Christ have eternal life (1 John 5:13). John assured the congregation with teaching they already knew (1 John 2:21). He reminded them that they should know they already possessed eternal life (1 John 5:13), answered prayer (1 John 5:14-17), freedom from sin’s power and protection from the evil one (1 John 5:18). They had an identity as God’s children (1 John 5:19) and already knew Him who is true-Jesus Christ (1 John 5:20).
If this is the abundant life that we are to have as God’s children, why do so many Christians live in frustration? Perhaps because they do not realize what God has given us in this eternal life. Beloved, if you struggle in the Christian life, then gather with a gospel church that exalts Christ as supreme and be encouraged and reminded of the things that God has done for you, so you may live confidently as a child of God.
Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (Matthew 6:19-21, ESV).
We live in a culture of instant gratification, and much of what we do is driven by our desire to enjoy things NOW! This drive for immediate satisfaction is one reason most Americans are in debt. According to statistics collected by the U. S. Census Bureau (2012 Estimate), “Americans owed a hefty $850.9 billion in credit card debt, or $6,920 per household. They owed $1.944 trillion in school, auto and furniture loans, or $15,800 per household. Combined, households owed a record $2.795 trillion in consumer debt, surpassing the total debt burden held before the recession. On average, Americans now owe $22,720 per household. This does not include mortgages.”
What these statistics actually may reveal is not so much a debt problem but a heart problem, a skewed perspective. In others words, these statistics may, in fact, betray the reality that a majority of Americans believe they can find satisfaction by stockpiling treasures here on earth. As followers of Christ, we must be willing to ask, “Are we living for the here and now or are we living with eternity in mind?” In order to answer that question, we have to consider how we handle money and material possessions.
The way we view and handle money and material possessions says much about both our personal character and our spiritual condition; the Bible makes that connection clear (see Luke 18:18-27; 19:1-9)! For wherever your treasure is that is where your heart will also be (Matthew 6:21). If you treasure the things of this world, then you will seek satisfaction in the here and now. If you treasure the things of God, then you will seek satisfaction in God and His eternal kingdom.
You don’t have to continue as a slave to debt and possessions. Jesus calls us to reorient our hearts away from this world and toward heaven – “STOP stockpiling your treasures on earth” (Matthew 6:19)! On Sunday I argued that in order to fight the fight of faith against covetousness and materialism, we must first stop believing the lie that there is real and lasting value (satisfaction) in worldly wealth and possessions. Secondly, we must embrace the truth that heavenly riches are of surpassing, eternal value. Only as we grow in our understanding of the reward of heaven, namely that we get God, will we be able to hold on loosely to the things of this world.
If you want a helpful and quick read on obtaining an eternal perspective on money, possessions and eternity, I highly recommend Randy Alcorn’s The Treasure Principle. It’s a little book, and it will be the best $10.00 investment you ever make. If you want to pursue this matter more deeply, then read Alcorn’s Money, Possessions and Eternity. It is a more comprehensive study on the dangers of materialism and what the Bible says about money and possessions. May we continue to grow as faithful stewards of all God has given us, and may God richly bless us in order that we would bless the nations (Psalm 67).
“And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”
Last week I argued that Fasting is NOT merely abstaining from something, good or bad. Fasting is abstaining from one thing, even a good thing, in order to feast on something greater, namely, God Himself. For HE is our REWARD! The treasure of the kingdom is God Himself-we get God! And when God is our reward, we hold on loosely to this world. But questions remain about fasting, so I wanted to address some of those questions.
What is a fast?
Fasting is merely abstaining from food/drink or some other designated thing, so that you can turn your complete focus to seeking the heart of God.
Fasting is a way of breaking away from those things of the flesh (appetites) that control us so that we can hunger more for the things of God. Fasting is not so much doing without food as much as it is feasting on the things of God.
How often should I fast?
The Bible is silent on how often one should fast; however, Jesus was clear to say “when” you fast and not “if” you fast, so it is something Jesus expected of his followers.
What do I do during a fast?
Take time that you would normally use for eating or watching tv or whatever you’re fasting from and spend that time seeking the heart of God in prayer, confession and the Word of God. Fasting should be accompanied with other disciplines, primarily prayer and Bible intake (reading, studying, meditating, memorizing) so that your hunger for this world is lessened and your hunger for God is increased.
Do I refrain from every kind of intake?
You will want to keep your fluids up with water. (If you have medical concerns, please check with your doctor before fasting.)
How long do I fast?
Again, the Bible does not explicitly suggest how long we should fast. There are various kinds of fasts for differing reasons. Perhaps, you may want to begin fasting one meal a week. If possible, you may want to attempt a 24-hour fast. You can go from sundown to sundown or from awaking one day to awaking the next.
Should I tell others that I am fasting?
Fasting is an act between you and God. If others ask you, you may share with them, but there is humility in this act of obedience.
What might occur spiritually during a fast?
As you fight to deny the fleshly appetites, ask for God to strengthen you and drive you by His grace and His Spirit to be satisfied in God alone. Ask God to break the bondage the appetites of this world have on you.
Ask that as you grow in being satisfied by God and His Word that you may grow in your desire for the kingdom and the righteousness of the kingdom now. But also ask that you may grow in longing for the kingdom to come because the coming of the kingdom represents the arrival of the king once and for all and the time when fasting will give way to feasting in the presence of God.
“But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.”
(James 3:17-18, ESV)
The gospel is a gospel of peace. It declares that since the time of Adam’s sin we have been born into this world as God’s enemy: hostile in mind and engaged in evil deeds (Colossians 1:21) against God (Romans 8:7). The most holy God had every right to declare the differences between Him and us irreconcilable. Yet, in His wisdom and love God chose to reconcile us to Himself through Jesus Christ (1 Timothy 2:5). By judging our sin at the cross of Christ, Holy God is able to reconcile to Himself us who receive Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf by faith.
Through Christ, we who have been reconciled to God have also been given a ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18-21). As ministers of reconciliation, we proclaim this gospel of reconciliation to the world in order that all peoples may be reconciled to God through the death of Christ. But our ministry of reconciliation does not end there, for we must continue living in the light of the reconciling work of Christ. Consequently, we must live our lives reconciled to one another.
Even though we Christians have been reconciled to God through Christ, far too many professing Christians still live in conflict with others. Such conflict is manifested in marriages, homes, workplaces, even church relationships. Unfortunately, many of us address such conflicts according to worldly wisdom rather than heavenly wisdom. This is why Christians have as many divorces as non-Christians, why they stop talking to fellow Christians, why they leave churches over conflict, and why churches even split over conflict.
What kind of Christian testimony do we offer this world if we are reconciled to God through Christ but fail to be reconciled to one another? One of the most powerful witnesses we can provide our community is the witness of reconciled relationships that flow from being reconciled to God. If we are to live in such an atmosphere, then we must cultivate a culture of peace. According to Ken Sande, author of The Peacemaker, a culture of peace is a culture where “people are eager and able to resolve conflict and reconcile relationships in a way that clearly reflects the love and power of Jesus Christ” (291). If we are to cultivate such a culture of peace, then we must have a biblical strategy for resolving conflict. Sande offers the following counsel (the four “G’s”):
Glorify God (1 Corinthians 10:31). Our entire lives must be motivated by a desire to glorify God. Get the log out of your eye (Matthew 7:5). We must first look at our own hearts in order to discern our contributions to conflicts. Gently restore (Galatians 6:1). The Bible gives us clear instruction in approaching those with whom we have conflict. Go and be reconciled (Matthew 5:24). Once we have addressed conflict, we must be willing to restore relationships.
Let us cultivate a culture of peace in our home and in our church. May we be about God’s glory, and address conflict biblically by first looking at our own hearts, then approaching one another with the goal of reconciled relationships that give evidence to the fact that we are a people reconciled to God through Jesus Christ.
“On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together. . .”
(Acts 20:7, ESV)
If the Lord’s Day (Sunday) is the day chosen by the early church for distinctly Christian corporate worship, how should we approach the Lord’s Day as 21st Century believers? I want to offer four simple exhortations that will help us as we consider gathering together each Lord’s Day.
SET ASIDE the Lord’s day for distinctly Christian worship gatherings! If you are free and able, you should gather with the Lord’s people on Sundays. If you are free and able, then set aside the entire day for Christian worship. I say this not as a command (It wasn’t REQUIRED until Constantine), but for concern for your welfare. Use this day to gather with God’s people both formally as we assemble together and informally to eat meals together, pray together, read together, sing together. When you set aside the Lord’s Day and don’t let other things crowd out your schedule, you will find that this day will become much more meaningful as you share it with your family or other brothers and sisters in Christ. If you are not a faithful part of a local assembly, then commit yourself to a gospel-centered, Word-saturared, Christ-exalting church.
PREPARE yourself for gathering with God’s people on the Lord’s Day – on Saturday evening and on Sunday morning. Too many times we come to the Christian assembly consumed by the cares of this world. Also, we often arrive distracted by tiredness due to the activities we choose to participate in the previous evening. Consider using Saturday evenings to prepare your hearts and minds for the Sunday gathering. Consider the texts that will be preached on Sunday. At High Pointe, we offer meditation passages related to the preaching texts via our weekly email. Read through these passages on Saturday night; share them with your family. And be sure to get a good night’s rest.
When you arrive to assemble greet the brethren, then consider the passages that will be read publicly. At High Pointe, they are written in the bulletin for your convenience. Finally, when you hear the music begin, join in as we sing praises to our Lord and prepare your minds and hearts for what is about to happen.
DECLARE the Lordship of Christ with God’s people as you gather on the Lord’s Day!
1. SING – In singing, we are jointly declaring the Lordship of Christ over all things. Declare with your lips that Jesus is Lord and worthy to receive all glory and honor and praise!
2. PRAY – In praying, we jointly declare our dependence upon Jesus, the Lord who provides for the needs of His people. Therefore, cast all your anxieties upon the Lord.
3. GIVE – In giving, we are declaring the Lordship of Jesus Christ over all our wealth and possessions. Since Jesus is the sovereign Lord who provides everything we need, He is the Lord of everything we have.
4. READ/LISTEN TO THE WORD – In preaching the Word, we are declaring the Lordship of Christ and urging those who do not presently submit to Jesus’ Lordship to repent, bow down or be consumed in His wrath. Be careful how we listen; pray for the preacher; obey the Word!
In all things REST in Christ! Do not rest in what you do: i.e., Lord’s Day attendance/participation, membership, giving, etc. Rest in Christ, the Lord of the Sabbath, for His yoke is easy and His burden is light.
We want to remind our High Pointe family that this Sunday, January 13, we will begin gathering at new times. As noted above, we will gather at 10:00 on Sunday mornings and 5:00 on Sunday evenings. We pray this schedule will bless our church family.
How are we who consider the glory of God as the chief end of man to serve God’s people?
In A Call to Spiritual Reformation: Priorities from Paul and His Prayers (page 65), Don Carson suggests that if we long to further the interests of our Lord, we must realize that his “interests are tied to the well-being of his people.” It is entirely appropriate, then, to ask, “What is best for the people of God?” Yet, we need to understand how to ask that question in the context of the priority of the glory of God. Here’s Carson’s answer:
In the teaching of Jesus, the first command is to love God with heart and soul and mind and strength; the second is to love one’s neighbor as oneself (Matt. 22:37-40). Jesus does not suggest that the two commands are identical. Far from it: he enumerates two commands and sets them out in terms of their relative priorities: first and second. . . .
. . . So while love for God and love for brothers must not be equated, there is an important sense in which the former can be tested by the latter. When we live up to our calling, we remember that in God’s church people do not set the agenda, they are the agenda. Our allegiance to God and his gospel will be demonstrated in our service to his people, to those who will become his people, to those made in his image.
It is in this sense that Christians must be constantly asking what is best for the people of God. Our allegiance to Jesus Christ, our confession of him as Lord, entails a profound commitment to further his interests–and it does not take much reading of Scripture to perceive that his interests are tied to the well-being of his people. Moreover, if we joyfully confess the lordship of Christ, then when we ask what is best for people our answers will be cast in terms of what he thinks is best for people, not necessarily what people think is best for themselves.
High Pointe Preaching Schedule
Pastor Juan Sanchez
Mini-Series: True Righteousness
True Righteousness: Urgently Pursuing Peace in an Evil World
True Righteousness: Radically Fighting Against Sin & Temptation in a Lust-Filled World
True Righteousness: Faithfully Reflecting the Divine Marriage in a No-Fault Divorce World
True Righteousness: Continually Walking in Truth & Integrity in a Dishonest World
True Righteousness: Patiently Awaiting Divine Justice in a Vigilante World
True Righteousness: Vulnerably Reflecting the Love of the Father in a Hate-Filled World
Mini-Series: True Religion
True Religion: Giving so as to Receive Our Father’s Reward
True Religion: Praying so as to Receive Our Father’s Hearing
True Religion: Forgiving so as to Receive Our Father’s Forgiveness
True Religion: Fasting so as to Receive Our Father’s Food
True Religion: Investing so as to Receive Our Father’s Inheritance
Mini-Series: Kingdom Living in a Foreign World
Kingdom Living in a Foreign World: Be Discerning without Being Judgmental
Kingdom Living in a Foreign World: Ask Our Father for the Things You Need
March 31 (Easter)
Kingdom Living in a Foreign World: Two Paths that Lead to Two Different Destinies
As you prepare your hearts for Christmas, here are some sermons from Matthew’s gospel that may help you consider and meditate on Christ’s first coming. May these sermons serve to focus attention on the promised king from David’s line.