Mack Stiles has a new book called simply Evangelism. I haven’t read it all yet, but I sure did enjoy this quote about the power of a church that evangelizes. Don’t you long for this kind of a church?

I long for a church that understands that it—the local church—is the chosen and best method of evangelism. I long for a church where the Christians are so in love with Jesus that when they go about the regular time of worship, they become an image of the gospel. I long for a church that disarms with love, not entertainment, and lives out countercultural confidence in the power of the gospel. I long for a church where the greatest celebrations happen over those who share their faith, and the heroes are those who risk their reputations to evangelize.

I yearn for a culture of evangelism with brothers and sisters whose backs are up to mine in the battle, where I’m taught and I teach about what it means to share our faith; and where I see leaders in the church leading people to Jesus. I want a church where you can point to changed lives, where you can see people stand up and say, ‘When I came to this church two years ago, I didn’t know God, but now I do!’ I long to be part of a culture of evangelism like that. I bet you do, too.

 

Themelios35.2

I have personally benefited from the ministry and scholarship of D.A. Carson for many years. Carson’s commentary on the Gospel of John in the Pillar series was vital for my personal exposition of the gospel of John which took me several years to work through. So I have great gratitude and respect for Carson’s work. I am always happy to endorse and encourage folks to read Carson’s works. However in the latest edition of Themelios, Vol. 39, D.A. Carson interacts with 2 Timothy 4.5, and takes on the imperatival phrase, “do the work of an evangelist” (ἔργον ποίησον εὐαγγελιστοῦ). Carson is convinced this does not have to do with spreading the gospel to unbelievers necessarily and even seems to suggest that it not likely that Paul was trying to restrict this meaning of the phrase here. I would like to challenge that premise a bit and retain the more traditional historical interpretation of that passage for the sake of evangelism everywhere and because I think this is such a unique text in the Pastoral corpus; this is Paul directly exhorting pastor Timothy not to neglect evangelism— that’s huge. I simply want to point out four exegetical premises while interacting with Carson’s article in the Themelios journal. 

1. We know that evangelism is not like other pastoral work, even teaching Eph. 4.11. In fact, if Paul’s call to do evangelistic work was simply a call to counsel or even preach within the church, the text would suffer redundancy.  The reality is, that Carson’s view seems to empty the word, “evangelist” (εὐαγγελιστής) and the phrase “do the work of an evangelist” (ἔργον ποίησον εὐαγγελιστοῦ) of any distinct meaning by saying that (εὐαγγελιστής) only includes preaching to the lost.

2. We know what Philip’s evangelistic ministry consists of and it does not seem to line up with Carson’s broad definition of the term. Philip was an itinerant preaching of the gospel. That is to say, Philip was someone who preached the gospel from place to place and to those who did not know the gospel e.g. the Samaritans (Acts 8.5, 26). It seems from Philip’s description as an evangelist, that his ministry had a very specific role to play in the early church. Philip’s life seems to fit the description of the normative lexical understanding of the term “evangelist” as someone who goes from place to place preaching the gospel. For example Louw-Nida says:

“Though the term εὐαγγελιστής indicates only an individual who ‘announces the gospel,’ early usage would suggest that this was often a person who went from place to place announcing the good news.” (Johannes P. Louw and Eugene Albert Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains (New York: United Bible Societies, 1996), 541.)

Carson does not seem to think that Paul’s use of (εὐαγγελιστής) is mainly to be understood as preaching the gospel to unbelievers as is traditionally thought but wonders if it includes that point but mainly encompasses other types of gospel ministry:

“I suspect that most of us read 2 Tim 4:5, “Do the work of an evangelist,” along some such lines as the following. Paul tells Timothy, in effect, that even when he is rightly involved in preaching, teaching, instructing, correcting, even when he is known for keeping his head in all situations and learning to endure hardship, he must not forget to do the work of an evangelist. Certainly it is easy for pastors in busy ministries to be so caught up in church-related service that they have few or no non-Christian friends. They may never share their faith and unpack the gospel to unbelievers from one month to the next. Seeing the danger, Paul commands Timothy to do the work of an evangelist—that is, preach the gospel to outsiders, share the gospel to outsiders, aiming to win converts. Make a priority of evangelism. Herald the gospel to outsiders, whether one-on-one, in small groups, or in larger contexts—this is what evangelism is, and this is what an evangelist does. In the midst of diverse and demanding ministry, do not forget to engage in evangelism. Doubtless that is excellent counsel—but is this exactly what Paul is saying?”(D. A. Carson, “Editorial: Do the Work of an Evangelist,” Themelios 39, no. 1, Themelios (2014): 2.)

“Do the work of an evangelist” may well be an exhortation to engage in evangel ministry, in gospel ministry, which includes what we today mean by evangelism but should not be restricted to it.”(D. A. Carson, “Editorial: Do the Work of an Evangelist,” Themelios 39, no. 1, Themelios (2014): 4.)

Yet, this is not what we have from the lexical usage of the word and more so with Scripture’s living example of the term in Philip’s life. Preaching to unbelievers is, I would argue, the heart of evangelism— this is at the heart of (εὐαγγελιστής). Given Carson’s insistence that 2 Tim. 4.5 refers to more than strict evangelism, we have to wonder if everyone in the church qualifies as an evangelist since at some basic level all biblical ministry seems to fit into the definition assigned to this passage by Carson. With Philip, we see that not only is he called an evangelist, but his life exemplifies what that means.  We see Philip caught up in the proclamation of the good news to unbelievers, “Philip went down to the city of Samaria and began proclaiming Christ to them” (Acts 8.5). It was this “good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ” (Acts 8.b) that Philip was “preaching” (εὐαγγελιζομένῳ) and consequently, brought them to faith so that they “believed Philip” (Acts 8.12a). The use of the present middle participle “preaching” refers to Philip’s ongoing personal proclamation of the gospel to the unbelieving Samarians.  Furthermore it was from Scripture that Philip preaching Jesus (Acts 8.35). Men and women alike were being saved and baptized under Philip’s evangelistic activity and it is this same activity that Paul is calling Timothy to.  Acts 8 ends with Philip ending up at Caesarea but not until preaching the gospel to “all the cities” along the way (8.40).

3. We know that Paul points out that Timothy did the work of an evangelist with Paul in previous years. Although the term does not indicate missionary work, it should not exclude it. Evangelistic work can be done in the context of missions. One noted Greek Dictionary says:

“…the εὐαγγελισταί are placed after the apostles and are not primarily missionaries, but instead serve the Church through the proclamation of the gospel.”(Horst Robert Balz and Gerhard Schneider, Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1990–), 70.)

The most important part of any evangelist’s work is indeed the preaching of Christ. The exhortation of 2 Tim. 4.5 is really nothing new for Timothy. He was after all accustomed to assisting Paul, following him on his missionary journeys and laboring with him in the gospel (Phil. 2.19-22). He saw, the work of an evangelist modeled before him.

4. Finally, we should recognize the wisdom of Paul’s injunction to Timothy in this pastoral letter. Whereas, Carson sees that this may be our thinking today, but not really Paul’s intent; I see this rather as just that, Paul’s exhortation to a young pastor that he not forget the lost while ministering in the context of the local church i.e. among other gospel-centered ministries.

5. The normative interpretation of top exegetes of the Pastoral Epistles (PE) also take a rather customary approach to both the lexical range of the term “evangelist” and the meaning of the text of 2 Tim. 4.5.  George Knight comments correctly:

“This description of Philip’s work together with the inherent significance of the term εὐαγγελιστής shows what the evangelist’s task was. Paul wants Timothy to continue to evangelize even though he is working in a more settled situation and is not in a new and unevangelized territory as Philip was. This use of εὐαγγελιστής may indicate that Timothy is the “evangelist” or “missionary” for Ephesus and that Paul is encouraging him to continue that work. Or it may indicate that in whatever capacity Timothy serves he must continue doing the work of an evangelist. Cf. Paul’s comments about Timothy’s work in the gospel in Phil. 2:22 and 1 Thes. 3:2.”

Finally, since Paul is addressing Timothy, now the Ephesian pastor, to concern himself with evangelism we should also note what Paul is not calling him to do i.e. make evangelism the priority over his pastoral duties within the church. Although many pastors use this latter point and concern as an excuse not to evangelize outside the walls of their local church; a note of caution should be struck nonetheless. Paul is not calling Timothy to unbridled evangelistic zeal, he is not suggesting Timothy neglect families, neglect prayer, neglect studying etc. he is simply calling Timothy (contra Carson) not to forget the lost as he immerses himself in his work as a (ποιμήν)- a shepherd. Suggesting further, that an “evangelist” referred to something distinct from other forms of general gospel work. Even Philip, perhaps the most well known evangelist in the early church resided in his own house suggesting that not even he was thinking of going beyond a certain locale for the sake of evangelism; at least not beyond a solid connection to his local church (cf. Acts 21.8). The need for evangelistic pastors is great, and I would hate to generalize this text (2 Tim. 4.5) away and produce less evangelism in our churches. The fact remains that, v.1, “preach the word” is not the same as v.5, “do the work of an evangelist”; they are different and so is everything else in these verses. Expository preaching is not that “work”, counseling is not that “work”, discipleship is not that “work”— that work consists chiefly of proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ to a lost and damned world that so desperately needs for more pastor/evangelists to go into the highway and byways of the world and herald Christ to the glory of God.

Sola Deo Gloria 

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Bible is user friendlyA User Friendly Book

Once there was a man who noticed that the sun came up in the East at night and went down in the West the next morning. This struck him as very odd. So he went home and he wrote a book about it. Many years later we found his book. Imagine we were reading it trying to figure out what actually happened that day. We would probably say this guy was clearly in error and it’s not likely that the information in his book could be fully trusted.

However, what if 500 other people actually saw that same event happen and 250 of them went home and also wrote a book about it. Now we would actually have 251 written eyewitness accounts which we could compare to each other to find out if they’re all saying the same thing.

Further, we would have the other 250 eyewitness of the day who would have been able to testify that what is written in those books did actually happen.

The True Eyewitness Account

Seriously folks: The Bible is trustworthy and it is the only weapon within the armor of God that the evangelist has that permits him to withstand in the evil day. It really is the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God.

“I choose to believe the Bible because it’s a reliable collection of historical documents created by eyewitnesses during the lifetime of other eyewitnesses, it records the supernatural events that took place in fulfillment of specific prophecies and claimed that their writings are divine rather than human in origin.” – Pastor Vodie Baucham

“For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received from God the Father honor and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount. We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” -2 Peter 1:16-21

 

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Dr. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones was perhaps the greatest preacher in the 20th century. His ministry was used by God to help call attention to the desperate need for reformation and revival in evangelicalism. Iain Murray’s 2 volume biography is one of the most important works that I have ever read. In fact, God used the 1st volume to keep me in the ministry at a critical point in my life. I cannot recommend it highly enough.

Recently the Martyn Lloyd-Jones Trust released an interview that Joan Bakewell conducted with the Doctor that took place in 1970. The topic was the nature of mankind. He was prophetic, kind and unwaveringly biblical in his answers to the questions. We need the message that he then communicated then as much now as ever.

Take 20 minutes and watch this brilliant defense of the biblical doctrine of man.

Indifference to Evangelism

It is a general principal that in the church people who are active in evangelism represent the minority not the majority. Now could it be because Christians who share their faith are over-active annoying Christians who just don’t understand that it’s not polite to speak of Christ in public? I don’t think so. But the fact remains that many professing Christians never share their faith verbally. According to Dr. Bill Bright, the founder of Campus Crusade for Christ said that less than two percent of professing believers ever share their faith with others. Why is this and how can it change?

Leaving Our First Love

Those of you who are married should remember what it was like when you first started dating your spouse. Remember how much of your thoughts revolved around your new found love. Now, how much of your thoughts today revolve around Jesus Christ? Isn’t He supposed to be our first love? For many professing Christians their thoughts are more about sports, food, recreation, or work. This is evident by where they put their time and money. When we come to Christ in repentance and faith we realize the depth of the price that was paid on our behalf and how undeserving we are of His grace. This realization drives our thoughts to become consumed by Jesus. As a result we want others to know of this grace and we act in obedience sharing the good news; not out of mechanical orthodoxy but rather in love for what He has done for us. But in time this passion for Christ begins to cool down in some people and with it the desire to spread the gospel. I call this the Ephesus-Effect.

The Ephesus-Effect

In Revelations 2 we see a letter from Christ given to the church in Ephesus. This church was a power house in the early first century. It was begun by Priscilla and Aquila (Acts 18:26), established by Paul (Acts 19) and pastored by John.  Nevertheless they receive a stinging condemnation.

“…I have this against you, that you left your first love.” -Revelations 2:4

Jesus warns them that their lamp stand will be removed if they do not repent and do the first work; which is to love your God with all your heart. This is the first commandment. Without a love of Christ there can be no obedience. It is an appreciation for the grace of God that drives us to serve Christ. This we have been commanded to do; to spread the gospel and open our mouths declaring the truth (Acts 1:8, Acts 2:14).

Curing the Ephesus-Effect

So what is the solution? Let’s read what Christ said.

“…I will come and remove your lamp stand from its place-unless you repent.” -Revelations 2:5

We see that the solution is repentance. Scripture tells us as Christian the He is faithful to forgive if we confess our sins. (1 John 1:9) Apparently, the church in Ephesus did not heed this warning as we can see today it is no more. If our love for Christ has grown cold and our lack of obedience in evangelism is evident then repent while there is still time and fix your eyes upon Jesus and speak for His sake.

Go and Serve

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Building Foundations

Over the summer, I had the opportunity to organize an outreach through my Church at a local county fair. This week-long endeavor required many volunteers to cover the 200 plus man hours needed. God provided!

It was during one of these days at the fair that I decided to experiment by asking youth, high school and younger, the following questions:  Who was Jesus? Who was Moses? Who was David? Who was Jonah? And finally who was Adam and Eve? I received a bizarre range of answers and blank stares. One child believed that Jonah helped carried the cross for Jesus. Another said Moses killed a giant. Others thought these people had to do with current events. The saddest was a middle school boy who had never heard of Adam and Eve. When I explained they were the first two people his eyes got big and he said, “We know that!

This brings up a question; how do we communicate the gospel to a generation that lacks any biblical foundation? Are we seeing such a shift in ignorance that witnessing in America will be akin to doing so with a new people group in a faraway land? While it is certainly true that society is becoming increasingly ignorant of biblical concepts this does not mean it is becoming a useless endeavor to proclaim the gospel.

However, what it does mean is we need to explain the terms. Repentance, faith, resurrection, grace, salvation, saved, and sin. We understand these terms and concepts but to a generation who at best has sat in church for a wedding or two have no basis for understanding our Christian terminology. We must define the words as we use them. For example, when sharing my faith I never use the word repentance without then defining it; agreeing with God we deserve punishment for sin, confessing sin, turning from sin to God, having sorrow over sin and hatred of it. Of course this brings me to another word; sin. What is it? Violating God’s law. But what is God’s law? The commandments. How does this apply to the person? You see, we must begin at the beginning. When speaking of the beginning, many times I have had to go back to Genesis in order to fill in the information that is missing from a person’s void of biblical knowledge.

While defining words are important I have not yet answered the real question. How do I communicate the gospel of Christ to a person who may not have even heard of Jesus Christ except as a swear word. Well to answer this we need to understand some biblical principles.

First, while a person may not appear to profess any knowledge of God the reality is they know there is one. How is this possible you may ask? Well, the scripture tell us this is in fact the truth.

“The fool says in his heart there is no God” -Psalm 14:1

And

“…by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.” -Romans 1:18

So how does this truth become known?

There are two ways this truth is known to all men. The first is called General Revelation. This is the evidence of the creator that testifies to His glory: The Creation. By looking into creation itself man sees God’s handiwork. This give mankind no excuse to say there is no God, and makes him a fool for doing so.

“The heavens declare the glory of God” -Psalm 19:1

The second is the conscience. This is where God wrote His moral law on the hearts of men. And it is here that you should appeal to with a biblically ignorant society. Because God has placed a conscience in each person it is universally programmed and in tune with God’s commandments. Lying, stealing, murder, dishonoring parents, adultery, coveting are condemned largely in all societies. So this conscience is a God given foundation within each person to build from in your presentation of the gospel.

So here is a framework:

Engage in the natural realm

Engage the conscience

Present the problem

Provide the solution

Present the seriousness

So let me unpack that into a real word conversation.

Engage in the Natural Realm:

This is what you do every day. “How’s the weather?” “Did you see that game last night?” The content is not important but it engages the person into a conversation.

Engage the Conscience:

This can be lead into in various ways. One way I use is a more direct. I may transition by simply asking, “Do you ever thing about what happens to a person when they die? What do you think it would take to go to a better place after death?” At this point you have moved in to the spiritual realm with a person. The typical response to the proposition of the duty to enter a better place after death is most often living a good life. But if we work through the commandments, lying, stealing, lust, hatred the person will see, by their own conscience, they have not been good.

Present the Problem:

The problem or dilemma is that if we have broken the moral law we must deserve punishment. Assuming a person has no real understanding of heaven, hell, or God’s attributes you will have to define them as you proceed. But you are now beginning to educate the person to their destiny without Christ, of which the truth is being testified by in their conscience. This is a work of the Holy Spirit.

Present the Solution:

Once a person understands they have sinned against a righteous God and understand they can do nothing to save themselves then you can give them grace. The scriptures teach that Christ crucified is folly to the Greek. (1 Corinthians 1:23) why? Because they have no concept of its implications. But through the law, the Ten Commandments, their conscience will testify to the problem and reality of sin. Furthermore the Spirit uses this to bring understand of the solution. It is the Holy Spirit that enables a person to repent and place their faith in Christ. This brings relief to us. Knowing we are only responsible to engage and person and present the good news is good news indeed. As is often said, we plow the earth and plant the seed, others water it, but God makes it grow.

Presenting the Seriousness:

Often times I hear a presentation of the gospel that is left with the hearer as if they can make the decision as to its importance. But the scripture teaches this adherence is critical. In Act 17:30 we see He commands everyone to repent. We are also called to plead with a person that they might turn from their sins to God. (2 Corinthians 5:20) Leaving the message without this seriousness is inconstant with the presentation in the scripture.

Conclusion

In summary, as culture continues to slide into ignorance, approaching a person with the gospel without first using the law to explain sin, our efforts will sink into the sands of confusion and foolishness because of a lack of foundation. Beginning with sin just as the scripture begins with the fall will establish the foundation needed with the aid of a God given helper called the conscience. Coupled with explaining the terms, this approach is not only effective but biblical. However, it will be useless unless we step out of our comfort zone and engage the world where they are in our own neighborhoods.

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This morning I had the privilege of preaching for the chapel service of Reformation Bible College in Sanford, Florida. RBC was founded in 2011 by R.C. Sproul and is committed to teaching Scripture in accordance with “the historic Christian faith and moral vision.” I was impressed with both the faculty and students that I met.

My text was Isaiah 49:6, which comes from the second Servant Song in the book. The Servant quotes Yaweh as saying,

It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to bring back the preserved of Israel; I will make you as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.

God states that it is not significant enough that Messiah should be given to restore Jacob and Israel. “It is too light a thing.” This is certainly true in light of the tremendous need that exists in this world of brokenness and sin. According to research from the International Mission Board there are currently 6895 unreached people groups in the world, of which 2987 are unengaged. These are people groups that are envisioned as singing to our Savior in heaven in Revelation 5:9, saying,

Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.

It is too small a thing for Christ to be given as Savior only for Israel when the need of the nations is so vast and far-reaching. As significant as that is, it is even more so when compared to the greatness of Christ Himself. When His greatness, His glory, His worthiness and beauty are considered, it is not enough that He should be love and trusted and worshiped by only one nation. He deserves to have worshipers from every nation and from the very ends of the earth.

In this declaration God reveals His burden for the world-wide ministry of His Son. He reveals a universal dimension to His Son’s saving work. Christ will be given to save “the nations” and to extend God’s salvation “to the end of the earth.” By making this statement God reveals to us His burden for His Son’s world-wide ministry.

This insight into the heart of God should land on believers as more than mere information. It should strike us as motivation to embrace the mission of making disciples of all nations. That is precisely the way that the first Christian missionaries, Paul and Barnabas, took it. After being rebuffed and having their message rejected by the Jews in Antioch of Pisidia, they declared that they would begin preaching the gospel to the Gentiles.

Pay careful attention to the rationale that they give for this decision. “For so the Lord has commanded us, saying” …. And then they quote Isaiah 49:6, “I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.” They quote the indicative statement in Isaiah 49:6 but cite it as landing on them as an imperative—a command from the Lord.

When does an indicative statement become an imperative? When a believer recognizes the revelation of God’s heart as stated clearly in Scripture. What God indicates to be His will becomes the believer’s obligation. His desire is our duty.

To see the heart of God revealed in His expressed will for His Son’s ministry is to be called to tune our hearts with His. Because He delights in His Son, He intends for Christ to become light and salvation to the ends of the earth. The more that we, His followers, learn to delight in our Lord, the more we will embrace God’s declaration as our joyful responsibility.

In this way God’s indicative will be gladly owned as our imperative.

I came across this video today from The Atheist Antidote and I found his tone to be calm and his presentation to be well-reasoned about what true love is. Please take the time to watch here:

I have a number of friends that have chosen worldviews and lifestyles that are contrary to the worldview that God has revealed to me through the reading of Scripture. I don't know all the circumstances that led them to their lifestyle choices but I do know that the Word of God is clear on these issues that are at the forefront of the culture today. What ever their worldview and lifestyle choice, I want to be abundantly clear that the reason I oppose their choices and worldview is certainly not because I hate them. Quite the contrary. I know what lies ahead of them if they do not repent and through God's gift of faith, trust in our Lord Jesus Christ and His imputed righteousness on their behalf and renew them to a right standing with God, their end will be an eternity living under the full fury of the wrath of God. But it doesn't need to be this way. God has graciously provided the way of escape, even though He is under no obligation to save ANY of us! To my friends caught up in these lifestyles and worldviews, ask God to reveal Himself to you through the reading of His word. My first suggestion is to read the book of John once a day for two weeks and answer this one question, Who is Jesus Christ? If you are willing to do this, I would love to hear your answer at that time. You may contact me here. To those of us who don't happen to struggle with these particular sins, let us always remember that the sins we DO struggle with are just as heinous to God as any we oppose in others.

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”Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.” – James 4:14

“Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not. Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.” – 1 John 3:1-2

Statistics that I have come across estimate that anywhere between 150,000 and 200,000 people die each and every day. The problem with quoting statistics such as this is that numbers of this size tend to be rather impersonal and most of us have a difficult time actually comprehending the magnitude of how many people that these numbers represent.

This fact has been brought to light recently with the passing of a number of famous people, including Farrah Fawcett, Michael Jackson, Ed McMahon, and even TV pitchman Billy Mays, but also in my own life. As I mentioned in my last post, our good friend Kathy Wilkinson went home to be with the Lord and caused me to ponder about our own mortality and how it relates to our understanding of the glory of God.

Well, a few weeks ago, one of my dearest friends in the world was hospitalized with what appeared to be a gall bladder problem. Ken Hankins, Pastor of Seven Lakes Baptist Church in West End, NC was my youth pastor at Grace Baptist Church in Madison Heights, VA where my Dad was pastor during my junior and senior year in high school. (Needless to say, we have been friends for a LONG time!) After a number of tests, the diagnosis has come back that they have found both pancreatic and liver cancer, both of which are very aggressive cancers, and the tumors are causing a stomach blockage which in turn has caused him to aspirate food leading to pneumonia. He is currently hospitalized in Charlotte, NC and when the doctors are able to get him stable and his lungs healed, they will send him home to spend time with his family, because there are no more treatment options. Please keep Ken, his wife and three daughters and their families in your prayers.

Ken has been a great friend for most of my life and I cannot think of a better way to honor our friendship than to honor our Lord by sharing the hope that we have in Christ. But in order to do that, we must first understand that to have a cause for hope, there must first be a cause for despair. Because of Adam’s sin (the theological doctrine of “Original Sin”) each and every one of us is born in sin (Psalm 51:5) and is an offense to God, who did not “set” the standard of righteousness, He IS the standard of righteousness. Everything He is and performs is, by definition, righteous. As the Almighty, Eternal, Holy God, He is totally sovereign over all or He is not God at all.

By the fact that He is Holy and Lord over all (whether we acknowledge that or not) He cannot tolerate sin in any fashion. Our nature is so foul to nostrils of God, He even compares our “righteousness” to “filthy rags” in Isaiah 64:6 (some have said that the term “filthy rags” in this particular verse could be translated as “menstrual cloths.”) If this is what our “righteousness” is to God, imagine what our sin is to Him!

God progressively gave us the law in His Word in order to exhibit the standard of His holiness and character (Gal. 3:24-25) and to illustrate that no matter how much we attempt to follow the law, we cannot meet the standard of holiness that He alone has set by His every existence and which is by definition, infinite. For example, if we lie to our child we suffer no immediate consequence. If we lie to our spouse, we sleep on the couch! If we lie to our employer, we get fired. If we lie to the government, we commit perjury and could go to prison. It is the same sin in each case, but the consequence is different due to the level of authority the one to which we lied has over us. It only stands to reason that if the one against whom we have sinned is the infinite standard, there must be an infinite consequence. This is why hell is not only reasonable it is assured for all those who do not measure up to God’s infinite standard. (Rev. 21:8)

It is at this point that many object and say “Well, my god would never send someone to hell. He is a god of love.” And they are absolutely correct, because their “god” does not exist and they have in fact violated the second commandment (Exodus 20:4). They have fashioned a “god” in their own image instead of acknowledging that they were created in the true God’s image.

What they do not realize is that through the progressive revelation of God’s character through the Scriptures, God has revealed that He is a God of justice and holiness (Gen. 17:1; Ps. 62:11; Jer. 32:17; Mat. 19:26; Rev. 1:8, Heb. 1:13; I Pet. 1:15-16; I John 3:3, 5; Rev. 15:4) and because He is just and holy, His character demands that sin must be punished. Since He is perfect by nature, He will not by fiat just forgive us. In fact, if He were to just forgive by fiat, He would be denying his own nature and that is not possible. There must be retribution.

God has laid out the case against us. In our natural state, we are dead in our sins (Eph. 2:1b). This means we have no ability to come to God in and of ourselves. A dead man cannot act on anything by his own will. While we have the free will to choose our own particular means of sin, when it comes to salvation, our spirit is dead and is totally unable to make the right choice.

So there is only one verdict for us as lawbreakers. Guilty as charged and an infinite trespass, demands an infinite restitution. Only infinite punishment could be the sentence for our infinite transgression. The Bible is clear that the wrath of God abides on the children of disobedience. (Jn. 3:36, Rom. 1:18, Eph. 5:6, Col. 3:6, Rev. 14:10, Rev. 14:19, Rev.15:1, Rev.15:7, Rev.16:1)

So where is the hope?

It is here that the infinite, sovereign God of the universe implemented His perfect plan of redemption that He set in motion before the foundation of the world itself. Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, born of a virgin (the sin nature is passed through the father), lived a sinless life, took on Himself the infinite punishment of all of our sin. Through the cross of Calvary, Jesus, the one who knew no sin, became the sin offering for us (I Cor. 5:21).

What does it take to satisfy the wrath of God? Only a perfect, infinite sacrifice, meaning that only God Himself could pay that price, which is exactly what took place at Calvary. What does it take to become a part of Christ’s reward? Repentance, which is a total forsaking of our sin, and total faith and trust in the work that Christ completed through the cross and His resurrection. (Eph. 2:8-9) Charles Wesley put it best when he wrote, “Amazing love, how can it be, that you my God shouldst die for me?” What amazing grace that the Creator would die for the created!

But the greatest news is
not only that He died in our place, but that three day later, He conquered death by rising from the dead! And now that He lives, we also can live through Him. (Eph. 2:1a) He has made us alive by His grace, through His gift of faith and not by our own works, so that we cannot be arrogant. As the redeemed we are the church, Christ’s bride and His just reward for His suffering! When I came to understand that as His bride, we are the reward for His suffering, it gave me a heart of gratitude for my Lord and Savior that I never had previously.

The Westminster Shorter Catechism states that “Man's chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him for ever.” John Piper has said that “God is most glorified is us when we are most satisfied in Him.” Our lives here are not about us. We have spent so much time trying to find our “purpose” in this life that we have missed the clear purpose in these simple statements. We are here for the glory of the Lord and for that purpose alone. Phillipians 2 tells us that at the name of Jesus, every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. The question is when will you do that? Will you do it here and then eventually reap the benefit of the presence of God for all eternity, or will you do it later and spend eternity cursing His name in hell?

Pondering our mortality is a sobering exercise. It can lead us to despair if we have no hope in this life or it can lead to the peace of knowing that all that happens in both heaven and earth is for the glory of God.

Ken has been a faithful servant to our Lord and a wonderful friend to me. I pray for his comfort through this trial as well as for his “ultimate healing.” Mostly, I pray for Mary, his sweet wife as well as his three daughters. This will be hardest on them. Please keep them in your prayers, as they will be in mine.

Ken, you are going home soon and you will be free from the ravages of this pain and suffering. When you get there, be sure to go see Dad. I know he’ll be glad to see you! But most of all, you will finally bow on your knees and cry “Holy! Holy! Holy is the Lord God Almighty!” All I can say is what a wonderful place to be! My dear friend, “I’ll see you when I get home!”

 

“These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.” – Acts 17:11

Robert Tewart has an excellent post today on his Street Fishing blog about Justin Peters excellent seminar “A Call For Discernment” which deals with the “Word Of Faith” movement and it’s dangerous implications affecting the Church and individual Christians alike.

I first met Justin about 3 years ago when he came and conducted his seminar at our church, First Baptist Church of Keller, TX. He is a long time personal friend of my pastor, Keith Sanders and I found him to be an especially effective communicator who relies exclusively on the Bible as his source of truth and presents it without the hype and theatrics that is many itinerate evangelist’s “bread and butter.”

Justin gives a clear presentation of the questionable tactics and spurious doctrines of many of the “Word of Faith” movements most prominent leaders and how they are not only far outside of the teachings of orthodox Christianity, their methods may even be condemning people to lives of hopelessness and despair. What else can a person with a loved one with a major affliction or maybe even their own illness think when these preachers, such as Benny Hinn has said on numerous occasions, that healing is as easy to receive from God as forgiveness is. Not only does that equate healing with justification (a clear heresy), but it places the responsibility of the affliction squarely in the lap of the afflicted! The Bible clearly teaches that it is God who directs the paths of those who belong to Him for His ultimate glory and if He chooses to afflict one of His own, there is a definite plan that will lead to His glorification. We can rest in the fact that even through major affliction we are in the perfect Hands of God Himself.

This becomes so compelling when you realize that Justin suffers from a mild form of cerebral palsy. He even considers it to be a vital part of his ministry. His testimony of his own encounter with a WOF evangelist as a teenager is illuminating to say the least.

As a personal note, when Justin was at our church the first time, my 10-year-old son (at the time) listened very intently at every session. He even would pull out Justin’s DVD and watch the seminar again and again. I am convinced that this was a turning point in his young life and has since been a real encouragement to me in his love for lost people and evangelism. Words are simply not adequate enough to express how much I am eternally grateful for the ministry of Justin Peters. I wholeheartedly recommend his ministry and pray that he will be as much of a blessing to you as he has been to my church and my family.