Archive for December, 2011
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations . . . (Matthew 28:19, ESV)
In his book on missions, titled, Let the Nations Be Glad: The Supremacy of God in Missions, John Piper suggests that, “Missions is not the ultimate goal of the church. Worship is. Missions exists because worship doesn’t. Worship is ultimate, not missions, because God is ultimate, not man. When this age is over, and the countless millions of the redeemed fall on their faces before the throne of God, missions will be no more. It is a temporary necessity. But worship abides forever. Worship, therefore, is the fuel and goal of missions.”
At first this idea that missions (and evangelism) is not the ultimate goal of the church may shock some; yet, I suggest that we cannot understand the necessity of missions and evangelism until we understand the priority of worship. Once we understand that worship is the ultimate priority of every believer and every believing community, then we will see that worship is the goal and fuel of evangelism and missions, and we will gain a genuine passion for both. Let me explain.
Essentially, we were created to worship. The Bible teaches that we were created in the image and likeness of God to reflect God’s glory (Genesis 1:26-27)—this is worship. However, Adam’s sin marred God’s image in us, for every one of us participated in Adam’s sin with the consequence that we too bear Adam’s guilt (Romans 5:12). So, we are no longer able to truly and faithfully reflect God’s glory, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). The activities of our culture testify to human sinfulness because instead of worshiping the one, true and living God, we prefer to worship those things which He created (Romans 1:18-32).
The good news of the gospel is that the Father is seeking genuine worshipers, those who will worship Him in spirit and truth (John 4:23-24). To worship in spirit means to worship God out of the overflow of the Holy Spirit in your life. To worship in truth is to worship God on the basis of the truth concerning Jesus Christ. Thus, spirit and truth worship engages both hearts and minds that have been transformed by the Spirit of God.
Here’s the point! There are people in this world who presently do not worship God through Christ. Their hearts and minds are geared toward self-worship. Since the Father is seeking genuine worshipers to worship Him, then we must join the Father on this mission. And since the people who presently do not worship God can only become genuine worshipers by a transformation of heart and mind that comes by the Grace of God, through faith in Christ, then our mission is to declare the truth about Christ to a world that does not worship Christ. So, missions is really joining God in the gathering of worshipers who have been transformed by the truth of Jesus Christ for the glory of God.
You see, the ultimate goal of the church is worship, and the worship of the living God on the basis of the truth of Christ is what should fuel and drive our missions and evangelism efforts. This is truly our mission at High Pointe; we long to see all peoples become whole-hearted followers of Jesus Christ by reaching unbelievers, gathering worshipers, and making disciples to the glory of God. As we begin a new year together, we hope you will join us in this effort to see those who presently do not worship Christ become true worshipers. To what end? Worship!
“After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands; and they cry out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb” (Revelation 7:9-10).
“Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery” (Hebrews 2:14-15, ESV).
Christmas can be a dangerous time of the year because in the midst of our celebrations, we may forget there are others with great needs who face suffering and heartache during this season. We need to consider that Christmas is a great time for ministry. So, let us be compassionate and caring toward all, and seek opportunities to minister this Christmas.
There is an even greater reason why Christmas is dangerous; it’s dangerous because in the midst of all the lights and carols and candy and tinsel that help us celebrate the first coming of our Lord, we can forget just exactly WHY it was Jesus came. When we ask why Jesus came in the flesh, though, we are asking at the very least two questions. First, we are asking, “Why Jesus came in the FLESH?” In other words, why did Jesus have to take on human form? The second aspect of the question is, “WHY did Jesus come in the flesh?” Here we are asking about the purpose of the incarnation-God coming in the flesh? As we consider the WHY of Christmas, let me give two answers that begin to address both aspects of the question and lead us to bask in the glory of God’s beloved Son and our Savior, Jesus.
First, Jesus came in the flesh as our champion, to destroy the devil and deliver us from slavery (Hebrews 2:14-16). A champion identified with a particular people and represented them on the battlefield against an enemy. Perhaps the most famous champions in the Bible are David and Goliath (1 Samuel 17). Goliath represented the Philistines, while David represented Israel and God. As we know, David defeated Goliath and liberated Israel from present and future fear of the Philistines: i.e., bondage. Jesus is our champion sent by God to identify with us and represent us on the battlefield of this world against our enemy the devil. By his incarnation Jesus both identified with us and represented us. By His death and resurrection Jesus both defeated the devil and liberated us from slavery. Consequently, because of Christ’s victory over sin and Satan and death, we no longer need to fear death (1 Corinthians 15:50-57).
Secondly, Jesus came in the flesh as our high priest in order to offer Himself as the once for all sacrifice for our sins (Hebrews 2:17-18). As the high priest represented the people before God in the temple (Hebrews 5:1-3), so Jesus had to be made like us in every way (except sin: Hebrews 4:15; 7:26) in order to represent us before God. Jesus is our high priest who offers Himself as the sacrificial lamb in our place (Hebrews 10:1-18). Therefore, because of Christ’s high priestly work, we can draw near to God with confidence (Hebrews 10:19-25).
So, for a world full of fear and without hope, we remember this Christmas that Jesus came to defeat the devil by paying the penalty for our sin through His sacrificial death, so that all who put their trust in Jesus Christ as their champion and high priest have their sins forgiven and no longer need to fear death. For a world full of suffering, we remember that since Jesus came in flesh and blood and suffered as a human being, then He is able to help us in our own suffering as human beings. Therefore, consider Jesus who has already run the course of this life and faced suffering and is now seated at the right hand of God, and you run the race of life with endurance, keeping your eyes fixed upon Jesus, the originator and completer of our faith.
(This post was originally posted on December 8, 2010)
During an economic crisis when everyone is trying to pinch pennies to make ends meet, how much do you think that daily $4.00 Starbuck’s is costing you at the end of the year when you tally it all up?
If you were to brew your own instead of buying a cup of coffee on your way to work, your savings could be about $700 per year, and that doesn’t even factor in the savings associated with not picking up that blueberry muffin on the side.
What could you do with an extra $700.00?
Evidently, the younger generations are a little smarter? They are foregoing that $4.00 latte and instead spending only $2.00 per can for energy drinks. But as Coleman notes:
Energy drinks are far from cheap to purchase, with a typical price tag of $2 or more for a can. If you drink several cans throughout the day while at work, you’ll put a serious dent in your wallet – on the order of $1000-$1500/year.
Of course, if you add cigarettes to the “vice” list, the costs really add up, according to Coleman:
A pack of cigarettes can cost $4-$5 (or more!) depending on where you live. So someone who has a two pack a day habit could easily be spending $240 per month, or $2,880 per year. Even cutting back to one pack per day can significantly increase your cash flow. If you were to quit smoking completely and invest that $2,880 per year and it grew at 8% annually for 20 years, you could amass over $104,000.
Of course, we haven’t even talked about drinks – I’m not just talking about alcoholic beverages, either. With five daughters, whenever we go out to a restaurant, if each of us ordered a soft drink or tea, that would add about $14.00 to our total tab: $2.00/drink X seven people (we’ve all learned to drink water at restaurants).
I wonder if we were to take a careful look at our expenditures, what we would find – what savings we might find. What can we do with such savings? Imagine how many more gospel ministries and missionaries all of us coffee drinking, energy boost needing evangelicals might support if we stopped and counted the cost.
Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened (Matthew 7:7-8, ESV).
How do you approach God in prayer? Are you timid, hesitant in your prayers or do you approach God with great faith and boldness? Perhaps it’s just me, but I think that maybe, just maybe, many of us are timid when we approach God in prayer. Let me point out two of the many factors that may contribute to such a hesitant prayer life. One factor that leads to our hesitancy in praying bold prayers and making BIG requests of God may be our disdain for the health and wealth gospel, the gospel of prosperity. Prosperity preachers encourage you to have faith in your faith and promise that such faith will result in wealth and health. These false teachers say that if you have enough faith you will never have health troubles or financial worries; instead you will be rich and live long in the lap of luxury. These peddlers of prosperity urge you to make BIG requests of God for personal gain. Such instruction is contrary to Scripture, for as James reminds us, one of the reasons our prayer life may be frustrated is because we ask with wrong motives—“you ask wrongly, to spend it on passions” (James 4:3). So, it is not wrong to make BIG requests of God if we make them for the right reason—His glory!
Another more foundational reason for our timidity in prayer is lack of faith in the God who provides (not in faith itself). We are simply too afraid to make BIG requests of God. Of course, we know God is a BIG God, but we are not sure if we should ask BIG things of Him—that may be presumptuous. Nevertheless, the Bible clearly teaches us that we are to approach God boldly or confidently in prayer (Hebrews 4:4:16). Now, what makes a confident approach biblical, contrary to the prosperity gospel approach, is that an approach to the throne of grace is not rooted in who we are or what we’ve done but in who Christ is and what He has done for us. The apostle Paul reminds us that Jesus Christ is the one “in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him (Ephesians 3:12). In other words, we approach God with boldness in prayer when we believe that Christ has gained access for us into God’s throne through His sacrificial death.
When we approach God with boldness on the basis of Christ’s life and work and for the purpose of God’s glory, then we please God. It is in such a context that Jesus invites His disciples to ask, seek and knock. We are to ask persistently of God things that will glorify Him; we are to seek earnestly in prayer those things which honor God; we are to knock urgently on the doors of heaven for those things that will advance God’s kingdom. When we take such joy in God and His glory, the Bible reminds us that God will give us the desires of our hearts (Psalm 37:4).
As we prepare to begin another year, I invite you to pray with boldness and make BIG requests of God that bring Him glory. Ask God to do BIG things that will advance His kingdom purposes and thereby bring Him great glory.
(Note: This is a re-post from December 2, 2010.)
Now that the Christmas season has officially begun, we will be invited to join in the purchasing and accumulation of “stuff.” How will we fare in the face of such consumeristic materialism? Dave Harvey, in his chapter on “stuff” in Worldliness: Resisting the Seduction of a Fallen World, reminds us of four lies we believe about stuff that chain our hearts to this fleeting world: (1) My stuff will make me happy; (2) My stuff makes me important; (3) My stuff makes me secure; (4) My stuff makes me rich. As we have seen in this recent economic downturn, however, stuff is elusive; it is passing away right before our very eyes. So, how can we combat materialism and covetousness this Christmas? Harvey offers some wonderful counsel that we would all do well to heed.
Consider your true riches. When you consider that God has given us Christ while we were sinners, then you will see just what a treasure Christ is and how rich you are. Christ is the one who was rich and became poor for us, “so that you, by his poverty, might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9). Now, through Christ’s death, we are sons and daughters of God and rightful heirs with Christ of the Father’s inheritance. So, consider what you deserve (death and hell) and consider what you have received—you are rich in Christ! Nothing in this world compares!
Confess and Repent. Because our culture is consumed with materialism and covetousness we sometimes forget that they are both sin. Confess your sinful desire to be satisfied with stuff, and turn away from that desire by faith in order to find your satisfaction in Christ. The Lord is faithful and just to forgive us all our sin, including materialism and covetousness, if we simply come to him and ask forgiveness (1 John 1:9).
Express specific gratitude. Marketing strategies seek to breed discontent with what we have in order to get us to buy what we don’t need. We must be thankful for Christ and His saving grace, but we also need to be thankful for everything that God has granted us. Not only has He given us Christ, He has given us everything we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). But that’s not all. As our heavenly Father He is our great provider. So, every good and perfect gift comes from Him (James 1:17). Are you thankful for the house, car, clothing, food He has provided for you? Everything you have that is good has come from His hand!
Dematerialize your life. When you realize how rich you are already and come to terms with the reality that you don’t need all that stuff to make you happy, then you will understand how much stuff you have that you don’t need. Yet, someone else may need the stuff you have—clothes, food, car, etc. So, why not give your extra stuff away! Find out what needs people have and fill that need if you can.
Give generously. Harvey says, “few things kill the coveting heart quicker than depriving it of stuff. Few things reflect the heart of God more than giving graciously.” I know this to be true from personal experience. Giving generously through tithes and offerings is a great place to begin growing in giving. Yet, as Randy Alcorn suggests, tithing is only the training wheels of giving. Let us ask God to give us hearts like His: hearts that give generously and sacrificially. Only then will we be free from the bondage of stuff.