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I say this for your own benefit, not to lay any restraint upon you,
but to promote good order and to secure your undivided devotion to the Lord.
(1 Corinthians 7:35, ESV)

Let’s face it; singleness is hard! Singleness in our present cultural climate is really hard! While the 1960s led to free sex, where sex outside of marriage became the norm, today there is great cultural pressure to redefine sexuality, gender, and marriage. Christian singles today must navigate this sea of cultural confusion, and they will be tested as to what they believe. In fact, the church itself will be tested as to what it believes about sexuality, gender, and marriage.

However, it does not get any easier for those singles who remain committed to what the Bible teaches regarding sexuality, gender, and marriage. No! For them, they still have to consider all the difficulties and temptations of being single in a sex-crazed, culturally-confused world. So, just what does the Bible teach about being Christian and single? Here are six truths the Bible affirms about singleness.

1. To be single is to be celibate (1 Corinthians 7:1-5). Celibacy is practicing self-control in order to abstain from satisfying sexual desire. Evidently, in Corinth there were some who were married who were practicing such self-control for religious reasons. The apostle Paul argues that celibacy within marriage is contrary to God’s design for sexuality (7:1-5). In fact, marriage is the only place where sexual desire is to be satisfied. Sexual desire is good; it is a part of our humanity. But sex may only be enjoyed within a life-long covenant marriage between one man and one woman (Genesis 2:18-25).

Therefore, when the Bible speaks of Christians who are single, it does not merely refer to someone who is not married. To the world, singles are simply those who are not yet married. One of the reasons singles are putting off marriage today is because sex and marriage have been separated. Therefore, singles may enjoy the benefits of marriage, namely satisfying sexual desire (men) and companionship (women), without any of its responsibilities (commitment). But according to Scripture, since marriage is the only place where sexual desire is to be satisfied (cf. 7:5, 9), then to be single is to be celibate. Having been married now almost 25 years, I can only imagine how hard it is in today’s world for singles to remain celibate. Yet, God does not abandon us to pursue holiness in our own strength.

2. Singleness is a gift of grace from God (1 Corinthians 7:6-9). If singles are to persevere in purity and holiness, then they will need to recognize that celibacy/singleness is a gift of God’s grace. In fact, Paul uses the same word for gift (charisma) that he uses of such spiritual gifts as prophecy, miracles, and tongues. Additionally, Paul reminds us that, like all other spiritual gifts, celibacy is a gift of grace given by God.

Because celibacy/singleness is a gift of grace given by God to certain individuals, then it’s a good gift (cf. 7:38). That means that those of us who are married cannot look down on singles and feel sorry for them, as if somehow they are incomplete. It also means that singles must recognize their season of singleness as a good thing, a good gift, and give thanks to God.
If celibacy/singleness is a good gift from God, then that also means that biblical manhood and womanhood do not depend on being married. In other words, marriage does not make one a true biblical man or woman. Singles, you are to pursue biblical manhood and womanhood as men and women. The clearest picture of biblical manhood we have is that of our Lord Jesus Christ who was never married. So singles are not second class Christians; however, nor are they more spiritual for being single. After all, not everyone has this gift (7:7).

3. Singleness is also a calling that requires a fight of faith (1 Corinthians 7:17-27). Sometimes there is a misunderstanding that because singleness is a gift of God’s grace, then that means that sexual desire is removed, and it is easy to remain celibate. However, nothing could be further from the truth. Admittedly, there may be (rare) individuals who may offer such a testimony, but I suspect that the common experience of every human being is the natural longing for sexual desires to be satisfied.

Celibacy/singleness is not only a gift; it is a calling. Paul says as much in 1 Corinthians 7:17. The “theme” of 1 Corinthians 7 is “remain as you are.” Paul urges the Corinthians to “lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him” (7:17). That includes celibacy. Yet, as we’ve already admitted, celibate singleness is NOT easy; it is hard. It is hard precisely because sexual desire is natural, and celibacy is a call to practice self-control and not satisfy those desires.

Celibacy/singleness, then, is a call to remain unmarried and pursue godliness and sexual purity while unmarried. It is a call that requires a fight of faith to believe that celibacy is a good gift, and that Christ is sufficiently satisfying for every need. It is a fight of faith to believe that sexual desire is only to be satisfied within a life-long marital covenant, and therefore, sexual desire is not to be satisfied alone (self-satisfaction) or with anyone else. And that fight does not have to be entered into alone. So singles, don’t fight alone, gather with the church-older/younger; married/single; those like you/those not like you.

But also know that it is not wrong to pursue marriage. That is much better than to burn with passion and fall into temptation and sin (7:9). Yet, don’t make marriage an idol. If a relationship or marriage becomes an idol, then you will willingly sacrifice all (your purity, convictions, etc.) at its altar. If you are dissatisfied, cynical, and bitter while you are single, you will likely be dissatisfied, cynical, and bitter while you are married.

4. Singleness has certain advantages (1 Corinthians 7:32-34). Being single has certain advantages over being married. Singles have certain freedoms with their finances. They can invest more freely; they can reduce debt more aggressively; they can give more sacrificially. Singles also have certain freedoms with their time. They don’t have to go directly home to a spouse or children; they can freely choose where to invest their time. Singles also have certain freedoms with their plans. They can be flexible about future plans, where marrieds cannot.

There is much freedom and flexibility during singleness that is not available to those who are married. So singles, consider how you are spending your time, your money. Consider the flexibility of your plans. What are you doing with those freedoms? Utilize those freedoms and flexibility to the glory of God.

5. Singleness is purposeful (1 Corinthians 7:35). The freedoms and flexibility of singleness do not exist for personal convenience and benefit, though they may be real blessings. Paul reminds us that the real reason for the advantages of singleness is to secure undivided devotion to the Lord. And if spiritual gifts are for the edification of the church (cf. 12:7), then clearly, the gift of singleness is granted by God to certain individuals for the sake of the Lord and the good of the church.

So singles, ask yourselves how you can serve Christ. Ask yourselves how you can serve the church. I am sure there are multiple opportunities to serve where you are right now. But also remember that with your flexibility, be willing to change your plans and spend some time on the mission field for a few weeks, months, or even years. Who knows but that you may meet your spouse as you pursue Christ in undivided devotion.

6. Like earthly marriage, singleness is temporary. Though Paul does not address this directly in 1 Corinthians 7, he does point us to this truth in Ephesians 5:32. There he says that the profound mystery of the first marriage (cf. Genesis 2:18-25) refers to Christ and his church. In other words, the first marriage was always meant to point to the last marriage (Revelation 19). It is no surprise, then, that the Bible both begins and ends with a marriage. The first marriage ends in death (1 Corinthians 7:39); the last marriage is eternal.

But what’s important for singles to remember is that, while earthly marriage pictures the gospel by showing Christ’s love for his church and the church’s love for Christ, singles picture the gospel by showing the church patiently awaiting her bridegroom to come for her. Jesus is the bridegroom who came to earth, and died to pay the price for the adultery of his bride. He was raised on the third day and is now exalted to the Father’s right hand where he intercedes for his awaiting bride. He is now cleaning us up and preparing us for that great wedding day when we will wear that spotless white wedding dress. And that means that all can come to him and find forgiveness and cleansing, no matter how unscrupulous their past. Jesus receives all who disregard all other lovers and give themselves to him alone.

I thank God for singles, for they remind us of our always faithful bridegroom, and they show us how to wait patiently precisely because Jesus is all-satisfying. You see, singleness is a gift from God with a purpose. Singles, what will you do with that gift?

Resource: @high_pointe sermon media
Singleness: Freedom from Anxiety for Undivided Devotion to the Lord
1 Corinthians 7:1-35

Categories : Commentary, Missions, Sermons
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As we share our lives together as a church founded on the gospel, High Pointe will increasingly grow as an attractive witness to the glory of God (Acts 2:42-47).  However, our witness is not merely to be attractional; God has chosen that the church both originate and continue to expand through the intentional witness to Christ through gospel proclamation.  It is to this end that we have been commissioned (Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:14-16; Luke 24:44-49; John 20:21; Acts 1:8).  Be encouraged, though, for we have also been promised the power we need for such a mission (Acts 1:8).  Therefore, we go in faith under the authority of Jesus Christ, boldly proclaiming his gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit (1 Thessalonians 2:1-2).  In this light, let me encourage you to pursue ten practices of intentional witness.

1.  Know the gospel (1 Corinthians 15:1-4)!  The gospel is the revelation of God concerning Jesus as the Christ (Matthew 16:16-17); it is a divine message.  One of the ways we encourage you to remember this gospel is with four words: God, Man, Christ, Response.  When we understand the gospel, we know that GOD is holy and created a world without sin.  God provided the man with all he would need to dwell in God’s presence.  However, MAN rebelled against God, declaring his independence because he wanted to be his own king.  Such rebellion requires judgment, the penalty of which is death.  But God in His grace and mercy, provided CHRIST as a substitute to live a life of perfect obedience acceptable to God and to receive upon Himself the penalty of sin.  Jesus was raised from the dead on the third day indicating that the Father accepted His substitute life/death for sinners and had gained victory over sin and death.  Now, all who RESPOND with repentance from sin and faith in Jesus have eternal life.  This is the gospel, the good news that we must know and understand if we are to share it with others.

2.  Live your life in light of this gospel.  As this gospel takes root in our own lives and we begin to apply it to our marriages, parenting, relationships, lives together as a church, etc., then our lives will be markedly different than the world and thereby attractive.  How can we announce that this gospel is the power of God to save and change lives if we who profess Christ continue living just like the world?

3.  Pray and fast for unbelievers (John 14:12-14; 15:7-8).  One reason unbelieving people are not on our minds is because we don’t pray for them.  First, pray that God would break your heart for the lost in general and for specific people in particular.  Then, make a list of unbelieving people and begin praying for them and their salvation because it is God who saves.  But also pray for opportunities throughout the day.  Ask God to open doors for evangelism, then by faith be obedient when the opportunities arise.

4.  Be willing to share your life with unbelievers (1 Thessalonians. 2:1-8).  We can’t just share the gospel word, we must also share our lives, investing in those we desire to reach.  In other words, we must make evangelism part of our normal lifestyle, not a special program!  We need to take time to talk to people everywhere and invite them into our homes for a meal, or small group, or even church.  But, in order to do that, we need to know the culture (1 Corinthians 9:19-23).  The apostle Paul said he became all things to all peoples that he may save some.  We must seek to understand people and their cultures in order to reach them.  That means we need to get to know unbelieving people.  We need to know where they live, shop, eat, recreate and move out of our comfort zones to look for opportunities to relate to them where they are, instead of thinking they will come to us.

5.  Share the gospel with urgency!  We are on an urgent mission (2 Peter 3:8-10)!  We must share the gospel naturally & clearly.  Since the gospel is a word/message about Christ, then we must be word-centered and use the Bible.  Also, the gospel is a word that must be proclaimed!  We cannot keep it to ourselves.  But I think one of the reasons we struggle with evangelism is because we think it is “special” – we have to do it in a “special” way, using a “special” outline, and there are Christians who are “especially” gifted at this.  The truth of the matter is that evangelism is NOT special; it is normal.  Think of evangelism simply as a conversation about who Jesus is.  If using the four words, God, Man, Christ, Response, is helpful, then think through the gospel story in that way.  But in the same way we have normal, every day conversations about the weather, the Longhorns and Aggies, we should think of evangelism as normal – this is a normal activity of every Christian: speaking of Jesus when our conversations permit during the opportunities God gives us.

6.  Study the doctrine of hell!  If you lack urgency in evangelism, then perhaps you should do a personal study of the doctrine of hell.  As you study what the Bible says concerning the fate of those who reject Christ, ask God to break your heart for those who reject Christ and to move you with urgency to share the good news.

7.  Invite unbelievers to repent and believe!  As I mentioned above, the gospel requires a response.  We must call on all people everywhere to repent (turn away from their sinful ways) and believe (in Jesus Christ).

8.  Invite unbelievers to church.  This goes along with sharing our lives with unbelievers and investing in them.  Invite unbelievers and unchurched to come with you on the Lord’s day so that they may hear the gospel proclaimed.  Surprisingly, in a 2010 study of unbeliving, unchurched people in Austin, a large number of people indicated that they would be open to invitations to go to church.  Imagine that!  They don’t come because we don’t ask.

9.  Trust Christ for the results.  Faithfulness, not results is what God requires of us.  Salvation is of the Lord, so we must trust the sovereign Lord to do His work in the hearts of unbelieving people.  Our responsibility is to faithfully share the gospel indiscriminately.

10.  Share with others and ask them to join you in prayer.  I have found it greatly encouraging to hear other Christians’ stories of evangelism and to know that I am accountable to someone for evangelism.  Share your encounters and pray together for those souls.  May the Lord grant us a great harvest of souls!

Categories : Austin, High Pointe, Missions
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Unlike many Roman Catholics, I grew up very devout.  I remember a kind, retired priest taking me under his wing and showing me the ways of the Catholic church.  Much of what drew me in as a young teen was the mystery of God and the reverence with which this particular priest approached God.  With time, however, the more questions I had, the more the mysteries began to dissipate in the light of God’s Word.  I don’t want to rehearse my personal journey out of the Catholic church here; what’s important to note is that theological mystery is good for the Catholic church and many Catholics are content to live “in the dark” about what the Catholic church explicitly teaches in many areas.

I, for one, am glad the Pope said what he said concerning atheists and eternal life.  To many in the secular media, the Pope’s admission that atheists who follow their conscience are heaven-bound will sound like a new and welcome break from the dogma of conservative Catholicism, represented most recently in Benedict.  The media elites will celebrate Pope Francis as a liberal breath of fresh air in the stuffy halls of the Vatican.  Others within evangelicalism will be aghast at such an “admission” and rebuke the Pope for diverging from Catholic dogma.  However, this Pope has duped both the secular media and conservative evangelicals if they think the Pope has said anything new or controversial.  In fact, what Pope Francis stated has been the normative teaching of the Roman Catholic Church since Vatican II.

In Lumen Gentium, Chapter 2-On the People of God, Canon 16, the Catholic Church teaches:

Finally, those who have not yet received the Gospel are related in various ways to the people of God.(18*) In the first place we must recall the people to whom the testament and the promises were given and from whom Christ was born according to the flesh.(125) On account of their fathers this people remains most dear to God, for God does not repent of the gifts He makes nor of the calls He issues.(126); But the plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator. In the first place amongst these there are the Mohamedans, who, professing to hold the faith of Abraham, along with us adore the one and merciful God, who on the last day will judge mankind. Nor is God far distant from those who in shadows and images seek the unknown God, for it is He who gives to all men life and breath and all things,(127) and as Saviour wills that all men be saved.(128) Those also can attain to salvation who through no fault of their own do not know the Gospel of Christ or His Church, yet sincerely seek God and moved by grace strive by their deeds to do His will as it is known to them through the dictates of conscience.(19*) Nor does Divine Providence deny the helps necessary for salvation to those who, without blame on their part, have not yet arrived at an explicit knowledge of God and with His grace strive to live a good life. Whatever good or truth is found amongst them is looked upon by the Church as a preparation for the Gospel.(20*) She knows that it is given by Him who enlightens all men so that they may finally have life. But often men, deceived by the Evil One, have become vain in their reasonings and have exchanged the truth of God for a lie, serving the creature rather than the Creator.(129) Or some there are who, living and dying in this world without God, are exposed to final despair. Wherefore to promote the glory of God and procure the salvation of all of these, and mindful of the command of the Lord, “Preach the Gospel to every creature”,(130) the Church fosters the missions with care and attention.

So yes, since Vatican II the Catholic Church has taught that anyone who has “not yet arrived at an explicit knowledge of God” may be saved.  So long as those who know not, deny or are ignorant of God “strive to live a good life,” they will merit eternal life because the church sees this “goodness” as “given by Him who enlightens all men so that they may finally have life.”  When Pope Francis admitted that atheists who follow the dictates of their conscience go to heaven, he was merely quoting Catholic dogma.  Here is the pertinent statement:

Those also can attain to salvation who through no fault of their own do not know the Gospel of Christ or His Church, yet sincerely seek God and moved by grace strive by their deeds to do His will as it is known to them through the dictates of conscience.

However, it’s not just atheists who go to heaven according to the Catholic Church; it is also Jews, Muslims (Mohamedans), those acknowledging their creator and those seeking an “unknown god.”  Anyone, anywhere who sincerely seeks truth, light will find life according to the Catholic Church.

To be sure, the Roman Catholic Church teaches that salvation is only through Christ’s sacrificial and atoning work on the cross.  So the Catholic Church teaches that salvation is through Christ and no other.  However, the Church would say that one does not need to express explicit faith in Christ to be saved.  This is the official position of the Catholic Church: inclusivism.  Evangelicals have argued that the Bible teaches that salvation is only through Christ’s sacrificial and atoning work on the cross AND that one must believe in Christ, receiving his cross work on their behalf and turning away from a life of sin: exclusivism or particularism.

Recently, some “evangelicals”, like the Catholic Church, have also embraced inclusivism: i.e., John Sanders (1991), Clark Pinnock (1995)Terrance Tiessen (2004).  Unfortunately, their influence has grown.  However, it’s not hard to understand why.  You only have ask a number of people in your church the age-old question about the man on the deserted island who’s never heard of Christ and never will.  What happens to him?  What happens to those who never hear the gospel?  It is an emotional question, and we are inclined to give an emotional answer.

Nevertheless, we must work through the difficult topics and teach what the Bible says rather than shrouding difficult doctrines in mystery.  Mystery only works when people ask no questions.  Even hard questions deserve answers. When we think carefully about the difficult question concerning the fate of those who have never heard the gospel, we should be moved to feel the urgency of the church’s mission.  The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.  However, if it doesn’t matter whether or not people hear the gospel and place explicit faith in Christ for salvation, then we will do more harm than good when we go on mission, for if we go and they reject Christ, then their fate will be sealed.

A Couple of Resources for Thinking Through Pluralism, Universalism, Inclusivism & Particularism

Faith Comes by Hearing: A Response to Inclusivism, edited by Christopher W. Morgan and Robert A. Peterson.

Is Jesus the Only Savior? by Ronald H. Nash

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Knowing that we are sent on mission in a hostile environment (Matthew 10:16), and having prepared ourselves for hostilities should they arise (Matthew 10:16-22), how are we to respond to persecution when the time comes?

Don’t be anxious over words, but trust the Holy Spirit to recall what you’ve been taught (10:19-20).
Though these instructions deal directly with the twelve whom Jesus is sending out in the Galilean mission (10:5), it is appropriate to hear this promise for a time beyond their immediate mission.  After all, the reality of being brought before Gentile rulers for the purpose of witness (10:18) does not occur until after Pentecost.  Specifically, the promise is that the Spirit of our Father will guide our words.  We too have received the promised Spirit and should find hope in the promise that in the cases when we may be dragged before officials, be they religious or civil, we can trust God’s Spirit to guide our words as well.

This promise does not mean that we are excused from studying God’s word.  This promise helps us realize that in some of the most difficult circumstances when we may be at a loss for words, God’s Spirit will guide us and help us recall the word that has taken root in our hearts: the word that we have read and studied and meditated on, in fact, all that we have been taught.  Therefore, Jesus reminds us, don’t be anxious when you face that situation; trust God’s Spirit to guide you and present the gospel without fear of man.

When someone does not receive you, trust God’s sovereign grace and providential guidance (10:23).
There are two issues that make this particular verse difficult.  First, to what does “all the towns of Israel” refer?  Secondly, to what does “before the Son of Man comes” refer?  The difficulty lies in that the most natural reading of the Son of Man coming has been the return of Christ in judgment.  As to “all the towns of Israel,” the most natural reading would be the immediate Galilean mission.  Yet, we know that Jesus has not returned in judgment.  Additionally, we know that Jesus’ mission continued beyond Galilee and that by the end of Matthew’s gospel, there is expectation of a Gentile mission (Matthew 20:19-20).

The various possible interpretations are handled well by D. A. Carson in his commentary on Matthew.  I’ll just provide one clue.  “Son of Man” does not have to refer to the second coming of Christ.  See Matthew 16:28 for a similar promise which is commonly said to refer to the transfiguration.  For us, however, the principle is clear.  When you, as a missionary or witness to Christ, are not received, trust in God, for he is sovereign and wisely guides us by his providence.  God will accomplish all his holy will, and he may even choose persecution to advance his gospel.  This is what we see in Acts:

Acts 8:1, 4, ESV: “And Saul approved of [Stephen’s] execution. And there arose on that
day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered
throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. . . . Now those who were
scattered went about preaching the word.”

Acts 11:19, ESV: “Now those who were scattered because of the persecution that arose
over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word to no
one except Jews.”

Don’t be surprised by persecution (10:24-25).
Jesus himself was maligned and ultimately crucified.  If we are his disciples, we should expect no different treatment (10:25; cf. John 15:18-25).  As the apostle Peter reminds us:

1 Peter 4:12-15, ESV: “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.  But rejoice insofar as you share in Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.  If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.  But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler.”

So, don’t be surprised when persecution comes; it is to be expected (2 Timothy 3:12).  Instead, be surprised we don’t face more persecution!   We should ask ourselves why it is that we don’t personally face persecution if we call ourselves followers of Christ.  Could it be that we are too comfortable in this world?  Could it be that we are too afraid of people, so we remain silent witnesses?

Don’t fear people; fear God (10:26-31)!
If we are afraid of people, we will not witness.  Knowing that fear is a natural temptation of his followers, Jesus commands us not to be afraid.  Jesus gives us three reasons why we shouldn’t fear people – that is, those who are hostile to the gospel and us and might persecute us:

1.  The truth will not be hidden (10:26).  So, freely proclaim the good news now (10:27)!  In other words, the gospel will be made known, so announce it!

2.  The worse thing anyone can do is kill you, but the worse thing God can do is cast you in hell.  Therefore, fear God & not man because the only thing they can do is kill you (10:28)!

3.  Your heavenly father knows you intimately and cares for you – providence (10:29-31).  This promise sustains us in the midst of the most dangerous situations – God loves us, cares for us and our lives are in his hands.

When we fear God, we will be set free from the fear of man which keeps us silent in the face of opposition.  Christian, what do you do with 2 Timothy 3:12, “Indeed, those who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted”?  May the Lord grant us the grace to believe his promises.

Listen to the Sermon: Fearless Sheep in the Midst of Wolves (Matthew 10:16-31)

Categories : Church, Missions, Sermons
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As I preached through Matthew 10:16-33 this week, I was reminded of this passage from John Piper’s Future Grace (pg. 346):

In Ermelo, Holland, Brother Andrew told the story of sitting in Budapest, Hungary, with a dozen pastors of that city, teaching them from the Bible.  In walked an old friend, a pastor from Romania who had recently been released from prison.  Brother Andrew said that he stopped teaching and knew that it was time to listen.

After a long pause the Romanian pastor said, “Andrew, are there any pastors in prison in Holland?”  “No,” he replied.  “Why not?” the pastor asked.  Brother Andrew thought for a moment and said, “I think it must be  because we don’t take advantage of all the opportunities God gives us.”  Then came the most difficult question.  “Andrew, what do you do with 2 Timothy 3:12?”  Brother Andrew opened his Bible and turned to the text and read aloud, “All who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”  He closed his Bible slowly and said, “Brother, please forgive me.  We do nothing with that verse.”

I’m afraid that living in a prosperous, Christ-haunted American culture allows us to do nothing with 2 Timothy 3:12.  I was reminded of this very fact in my own life this week.  Our ice maker has been broken for a while, so we’ve had to buy ice trays and continually fill them up.  I got frustrated when I went to fill my cup with ice, only to find out that all the ice trays had been emptied, but no one had filled them up – no ice!  Then I read the story of Asia Bibi in the New York Post: the Christian woman in Pakistan who was essentially arrested because she was thirsty and drank water from a Muslim-owned well.  I got upset over lack of ice; she was arrested because she lacked water and quenched her thirst from a Muslim well.  As American Christians we need to consider 2 Timothy 3:12 and many other passages that remind us that it is not only granted to us to believe but also to suffer for the sake of Christ (Philippians 1:29).  One such passage is Matthew 10:16-33.

Expecting Persecution

Jesus reminds us in Matthew 10:16 of the environment of mission – we are sent out as sheep in the midst of wolves.  You have to pause and consider the imagery: defenseless sheep in the midst of a hungry pack of wolves ready to devour.  To be sure, Jesus is speaking directly to the twelve about to embark on their Galilean mission, but he is also speaking of a time beyond this particular mission, a time after his resurrection as we see in the book of Acts.  Jesus’ followers are sent on mission in the midst of a hostile environment.

Why the hostility?  Because mission is a warfare declaration in which we announce the arrival of King Jesus and call people to change allegiances.  We are calling on people everywhere to renounce their loyalties to whatever kings and kingdoms they serve and to bow down to King Jesus instead (Psalm 2).  Then, we are to train these new recruits to be faithful subjects in the heavenly kingdom (Matthew 5-7) and faithful soldiers in King Jesus’ army (2 Timothy 2:3).

It’s important to note that our battle is not against people, for “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12).  In other words, we are making war on this cosmic evil kingdom and its king.  But, “we are not waging war according to the flesh.  For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.  We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raided against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.”

Our weapon is the gospel which reminds all people everywhere that King Jesus has come and humbled himself as a servant to receive the death penalty on behalf of sinners in order deliver them from the bondage that the evil king has over them (Hebrews 2:14-18).  We announce our king and call on people to renounce theirs!

So, mission is warfare.  We are “dropped” into a war zone where the cosmic evil powers want to destroy us and will do so by blinding the minds of unbelievers and using religious and governing authorities to do so (Matthew 10:17-18).  Therefore, we should expect persecution.

Brothers, what do we do with 2 Timothy 3:12?  Let us prepare ourselves and our people to face persecution whenever it may come.

Categories : Missions, Resources, Sermons
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Aug
28

What is the Mission of the Church?

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“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son
and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”
(Matthew 28:19-20, ESV).

            On Sunday morning, we began an important three sermon series on the mission of the church from Matthew 10.  If you missed the first message, you can listen to it here: What is the Mission of the Church? (Matthew 9:35-10:15)  In this message I argued, among other things, that while all Christians are called to witness, some are called to go to other cultures where Jesus Christ has not been named and where there is little gospel presence – those called to go and sent by the church are called missionaries.

The harvest is plentiful . . .  According to the Joshua Project, there are presently 6,909 unreached people groups in the world.  A people group is a particular group of people who share ethnicity and language (ethno-linguistic).  Unreached means that less than 2% of a people group are gospel Christians.  In our world of 7.13 billion people, 3.96 billion are part of unreached people groups.  That means that approximately 56% of the world population is within the unreached category.  Additionally, 3,010 people groups are not only unreached, they are also unengaged, meaning that there is no Christian witness among them.  The unreached, unengaged total a population of just over 195 million people; that’s roughly two thirds of the population of the United States.  Yes! The harvest is plentiful!

But the laborers are few . . .  While in 2010 the United States sent out over 127,000 missionaries, the fact is that according to the Center for the Study of Global Christianity (CSGC) at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, “the ten countries with the most non-Christians in 2010 were home to 73% of all non-Christians globally.  Because many of them deny or restrict missionary access, however, they received only 9% of all international missionaries.”  On the flip side, would you like to know what country received the most missionaries in 2012?  According to a Christianity Today article, it was “the United States, with 32,400 sent from other nations.”  There may seem to be a lot of laborers generally speaking, but where it counts, the laborers truly are few!

Let us ask God for more laborers in strategic places . . .  Jesus asked his disciples to pray for more laborers.  We should do the same.  Let us ask our Father to send more laborers to take the message of king Jesus to places where He has not been named and where there is very little gospel presence.  And let us send and support these missionaries with prayer and finances so that they may be free to focus on the mission to make disciples of all nations, teaching them to obey everything Jesus has commanded.

What do missionaries do?  To help our thinking as to what missionaries are called to do on the mission field, I want to recommend you read Kevin DeYoung’s great blog post on that subject.  You can read it here: The Goal of Missions and the Work of Missionaries.  May the Lord grant us much grace and favor as we seek to proclaim Jesus and call all peoples to repent and believe in Him and live a life worthy of this gospel in the midst of local, healthy congregations.

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2013-Evangelism-Workshop

at High Pointe Baptist Church, Austin

What is a culture of evangelism?  It is a culture in which each church member seeks out unchurched, unbelieving people in their lives and shares in natural gospel conversations.  We want to equip and encourage you to have such gospel conversations with your unchurched, unbelieving family, friends, neighbors and co-workers.  Join us for a Friday night and Saturday morning as we spend time together learning from Mack just how natural evangelism can be.

Mack Stiles is CEO of Gulf Digital Solutions and general secretary for the Fellowship of Christian UAE Students (FOCUS) in the United Arab Emirates. He has worked for many years with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship in the United States. He is the author of Marks of the Messenger and Speaking of Jesus. Mack enjoys photography and snow skiing, but most of all loves thinking through how to apply the gospel of grace to issues confronting students in the university world. He is married to Leeann, and they are parents of three sons.

 

Register Here

Recommended Books by Mack Stiles

Marks of the Messenger: Knowing, Living and Speaking the Gospel

Speaking of Jesus: How to Tell Your Friends the Best News They will Ever Hear

Mack and Leeann’s Guide to Short-Term Missions

 

 

Categories : Austin, Missions, Resources
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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?”

Categories : Church, Commentary, Missions
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Nov
28

Who was Lottie Moon?

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“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:12-13, ESV).

Lottie Moon
December 12, 1840—December 24, 1912
(Following biography taken from, International Mission Board website)

Today’s China is a world of rapid change. It’s home to 1.3 billion individuals-one-fifth of the world’s population. Village dwellers flock to trendy megacities with exploding populations. And China holds its own in the world’s economy. It’s very different from the vast farmland Lottie Moon entered in the 1800s. But one thing hasn’t changed: China’s need for a Savior.
Lottie Moon-the namesake of the international missions offering-has become something of a legend to us. But in her time Lottie was anything but an untouchable hero. In fact, she was like today’s missionaries. She was a hard-working, deep-loving Southern Baptist who labored tirelessly so her people group could know Jesus.

Her mission

When she set sail for China, Lottie was 32 years old. She had turned down a marriage proposal and left her job, home and family to follow God’s lead. Her path wasn’t typical for an educated woman from a wealthy Southern family. But Lottie did not serve a typical God. He had gripped her with the Chinese peoples’ need for a Savior.
For 39 years Lottie labored, chiefly in Tengchow and P’ingtu. People feared and rejected her, but she refused to leave. The aroma of fresh-baked cookies drew people to her house. She adopted traditional Chinese dress, and she learned China’s language and customs. Lottie didn’t just serve the people of China; she identified with them. Many eventually accepted her. And some accepted her Savior.

Her vision

Lottie’s vision wasn’t just for the people of China. It reached to her fellow Southern Baptists in the United States. Like today’s missionaries, she wrote letters home, detailing China’s hunger for truth and the struggle of so few missionaries sharing the gospel with so many people-472 million Chinese in her day. She shared another timely message, too: the urgent need for more workers and for Southern Baptists passionately supporting them through prayer and giving.
In 1912, during a time of war and famine, Lottie silently starved, knowing that her beloved Chinese didn’t have enough food. Her fellow Christians saw the ultimate sign of love: giving her life for others. On Christmas Eve, Lottie died on a ship bound for the United States. But her legacy lives on. And today, when gifts aren’t growing as quickly as the number of workers God is calling to the field, her call for sacrificial giving rings with more urgency than ever.

Categories : Missions
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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).

Categories : Church, High Pointe, Missions
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