With the rising tide of persecution against Christians and the Church, some may be wondering how we are going to survive. I fully understand there are deep concerns, doubts and even fear as we see the increase in evil that is coming against disciples and followers of Jesus.
We must anchor our thoughts and emotions in what does not change; God’s truth in Scripture. When Jesus was testing the disciples about who they confessed Him to be, Simon Peter got it right; “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16). Peter said this because it had been revealed to him by the “Father who is in heaven” (16:17). That revelation to Peter became the foundation of something equally grand.
Here is the grand plan of God based on the revelation of who Jesus is; “And I tell you, you are Peter (Petros - little stone), and on this rock (petra - large rock) I will build my church (God’s plan), and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it (God’s protection)” (Matthew 16:18).
It does not matter what happens in this world or how difficult times will become, God’s plan to build His Church is also covered by His protection – “the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” DO NOT doubt God’s power to finish what He has begun. It will be for His glory and the exaltation of Jesus on whom the Church is built.
Putting it in very simple terms, there is no human reason that would move God to choose any of us for salvation or to be His children. That is the force of Ephesians 2:8; “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”
Paul pressed this point from another angle with the Corinthians; “For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God” (1 Corinthians 1:26–29, emphasis mine).
If none of the things make us worthy, including money, education, or social status, why did God choose us? Ephesians 2:4-5 tells us that “God being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses (sins), made us alive together with Christ.” Titus 3:4 says that it was “the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior…according to His own mercy.”
These Scriptures remind us that we have nothing to boast in except the kindness and love of God. This truth alone should bend our hearts in worship and transform our living to be only for Him.
Scripture reveals God has a definite purpose and plan for His Church. The ultimate goal of His Church is not evangelizing, establishing, equipping or expanding, but it is to make known His wisdom to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places and for the earth to be filled with the knowledge of His glory (Ephesians 3:10, 21). Evangelizing, establishing, equipping or expanding are only God’s “means or way” to display His wisdom and glory. Therefore, we will see from Scripture that God’s ultimate purpose and goal is accomplished through His Church by preaching the gospel and revealing His plan to all nations or people groups, so that they will be glad and sing for joy (Psalm 67:3-4).
Numbers 14:21 – “All the earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord.”
Psalm 72:19 - “May the whole earth be filled with His glory.”
Isaiah 48:11 – “My glory I will not give to another.”
Habakkuk 2:14 – “The earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord.”
1 Corinthians 10:31 – “Whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”
2 Corinthians 3:18 – “We all beholding the glory of the Lord are being transformed…”
Ephesians 1:12, 14 – “We…might be to the praise of His glory.”
Colossians 1:27 – “God chose to make known the riches of the glory of this mystery…”
You and I are to live in such a way that God’s glory is seen through us by the world and universe.
Once in a while I will get an email or phone call from someone who is looking for help they can rely on in ministry to do the work following a biblical standard. Luke is careful to highlight persons in the early church who were of this quality.
He points out Barnabas as one of those leaders. “When he came [to Antioch] and saw the grace of God, he was glad, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose, for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the Lord” (Acts 13:23-24). It was not just his character, but how that also marked his work.
J. D. Payne comments on Barnabas; “The character of team members is critical for unity and effectiveness. It is what they will model before others. Team members should be full of the Holy Spirit (Acts 6:3; Ephesians 5:18), constantly yielding themselves to the Lord. Goodness and faith should also describe them. Great leadership is built on trust. Without character, trust can never be achieved. If you are not a person of integrity, the effort will implode quickly.” (Apostolic Church Planting, page 33).
This statement applies to every avenue of the Lord’s work, not just church planting. Let us strive to be persons of this character.
In the blog that was posted yesterday, I referred to Paul’s words in Romans 15:19; “I have fulfilled the ministry of the gospel of Christ.” This was his sixth letter of the thirteen he wrote. That was about ten years before he actually ended up in Rome where he wrote his final letter to Timothy and was then beheaded by Caesar. This shows the confidence he had in doing the Lord’s work; that it would be complete.
Let’s fast forward to the end of his last letter as Paul looks back on the ministry the Lord gave him and writes with confidence again. “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7). As we focus on that middle statement, it is obvious that Paul considered his ministry much more than a career or job. It was a ministry he “received from the Lord” (Acts 20:24). That implies both the revelation and authority of the Lord over Paul.
This is putting a much greater emphasis on how we carry on the ministry and how it is finished. To accomplish what God wants done through us and do it so He is glorified, we must apply the intensity of a runner; fighting against obstacles and opposition, both in ourselves and from others. Perhaps all of us should reevaluate how we are doing the Lord’s work.
In this ministry we often talk about following Paul’s model because he was so effective, and we want ourselves and those we train to be as effective in spreading the gospel. When we think of what the Church has done over hundreds of years compared to the ten or eleven years of Paul’s ministry, something is missing today.
We have all sorts of conveniences, phones and computers for communication, airplanes and cars for easy travel. Paul had none of these, yet in those ten plus years traveled by foot and boat over 8,000 miles during three missionary trips, plus his final trip to Rome. During that short time, he continually preached the gospel and made disciples. He made sure they were well established in the faith, planted churches and then revisited them to be certain they were standing firm in the Lord.
The churches he established were in four provinces: Galatia, Macedonia, Achaia and Asia Minor, with the final church plant in Rome, Italy. Read below of how he speaks of his own work:
“For I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me to bring the Gentiles to obedience—by word and deed, by the power of signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God—so that from Jerusalem and all the way around to Illyricum I have fulfilled the ministry of the gospel of Christ” (Romans 15:18–19).
Of all the work God gave Paul, it was “fulfilled.” It is my deep desire to say the same thing at the end of my life. Will you?
It is a deep grief to my heart to watch and hear many preachers and teachers using the present crisis to deviate from the gospel and give more attention to social issues. They are addressing these problems from a humanistic platform rather than let the gospel answer them.
By the grace of God, this we will not do!
You can be certain that Paul was in the same environment and under much pressure to give into cultural shifts and pressures. His commitment to the gospel and Word of God was unwavering! Though he addresses this issue in many of his letters, ponder these bold statements:
“For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ” (2 Corinthians 2:17). “We have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God” (4:1–2).
If we put Paul’s words in present day vernacular, we would say that he had no hidden agenda. Not only are the words of God’s pure (Psalm 19:8), but the way we handle them must also be pure. NEVER think that we must add something to Scripture to make it more powerful or acceptable.
Many words are being thrown around today which are used to support political agendas or social concerns. The problem with these words and ideas is that they are rooted in a humanistic concept of liberation they think leads to freedom.
There is really only one path to freedom. When Jesus was here walking among His own people, the Jews, He knew how much they wanted liberation from Roman oppression. He could have just spoken a word and provided emancipation from foreign rule. But that would only give temporary relief. What they really needed was deliverance in their own hearts which were blinded by their own rules and traditions.
That is why Jesus said, “If you abide in My word, you are truly My disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31–32).
Several very important principles are given in these two verses.
1) Freedom results from “abiding or remaining” in the Scriptures. They must become part of us.
2) This type of living close to God’s Word is a hallmark of being a true disciple of Jesus.
3) Having Jesus’ Word “abide in us” (15:7) is the only way to know the “truth.”
4) Because Jesus and His Word is the only “truth,” we find true freedom when it “abides” in us.
If we base our freedom on any other foundation, it will be artificial, temporary and misleading. Make sure your freedom is based on real “truth.”
Tomorrow we celebrate the birth of this nation, and many claim that we still have the freedoms that were given us in 1776. But true freedom is very little understood, even by most Christians. Paul understood real freedom and wants us also to grasp the real implication of true freedom that has been provided at extreme cost.
“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1).
Freedoms provided by any government are wonderful and useful, ONLY as they lead people to the moral freedom we have through God’s Son. Without that freedom, earthly freedoms will be misused for selfish gain and personal agendas that distort and even deny the pure gospel of grace in Jesus Christ.
The strong exhortation of Paul is to “stand firm” in this freedom ALONE!
I am compelled to interrupt a series that was started yesterday to give you a window into news of what God is doing in a strategic part of East Asia. Though we are not able to travel there and train as before, the mission and ministry continues on without us. This has always been our goal!
When Randy and Tim went to this COLD part of East Asia back in December 2019, little did they know how God’s Plan for His Disciples (GPHD) training would continue on to God’s Plan for His Church (GPHC). How can just a one time or a one-week visit start such a powerful work of God? Simple; find where God is at work and join Him.
Not only that, little did we realize how important the electronic interactive GPHD and GPHC in Mandarin, Spanish, Vietnamese, Hmong, is and will be used where the paper copy cannot be used. Soon the Arabic and Farsi will be added. We are so thankful the Lord led us to teach a self-sustaining and indigenous biblical model of discipleship and church planting that depends on the Holy Spirit and not us. We press on, sowing the seed and watering wherever we go, leaving the increase to God who promised that HE WOULD BUILD HIS CHURCH! (Matthew 16:18).
Be sure to pray for many parts of East and Southeast Asia where this work is growing. The outbreak of new COVID-19 cases has made gathering in church fellowships difficult. Some gather just as families. Some gather on-line and it is helpful for them to have the interactive versions of our training materials. With these limitations, some have already finished GPHD and want to continue with GPHC. This fills our hearts with joy and praise for what God is doing. REJOICE WITH US!!
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