There have been a few times in my career when I have stood alongside a building inspector and listened to him critique work that was done. There is a major difference between human building inspectors and the Judge of all the earth (Acts 17:31). Paul realized this and said, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil” (2 Corinthians 5:10). Inspection day is coming!
In his earlier letter to the Corinthian church, Paul challenged them about how they were building. As “a skilled master builder,” he wanted these believers to think very carefully about both the foundation they built on and the materials that go into the building. The foundation must be Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 3:11), because there is no other foundation in the eyes of God. The next question is whether the materials we build with into our lives, marriages, families and churches, is the type that will survive the test our Master Building Inspector will bring?
“Each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done” (3:13).
There is a serious problem that most of us avoid. “Let each one take care how he builds upon it [the foundation]” (3:10). In others words, between now and the time when our Master Building Inspector comes, the responsibility rests on us to diligently examine our building materials before they are used. Are they truly biblical without mixture? Have we tried to combine man’s material with Scripture, hoping no one notices the difference? Of course, there is freedom in “form,” but I am referring to clear principles that are “absolutes” in God’s Word.
Let us do our own inspection before “the Day” comes and the final test reveals the materials we have used. Be sure in your building there is nothing that will cause you to “suffer loss” (3:15)!!
A SKILLED MASTER BUILDER
“1 Corinthians 3:10 has had a profound effect on my life and motivates me to study the life of Paul and use him as the model for church planting, plus every other aspect of ministry. He was given “the grace of God” to be “like a skilled master builder.” Paul refers to this gift of grace in other contexts which makes us realize how he viewed everything he had for ministry was a gift of grace.
Notice the importance of these passages as we follow the life of Paul for church planting. He refers to the gift of grace three times in Eph 3:2,7,8; the "stewardship of God's grace that was given to me for you” [Gentiles]; “Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God's grace”; And then the most compelling in verses 8-9, “To me...this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages.” Paul was given a distinct gift of grace from God that no one else has been given or will be given. He was given the gift of an architect and spokesman.
Then Paul speaks to you and me, the ones who must “take care how [we] build” on that foundation of Christ that he laid. The gospel of pure grace is the revealed plan of God “through the church the manifold wisdom of God” (3:10), available to all peoples. It is spelled out as a pattern in all of Paul’s letters which we can follow for building churches on Christ. The mystery is now revealed and we can see the plan clearly. We have the Spirit to empower us to build with the right materials and we have the pattern in Paul to follow as he followed Christ.”
PAUL'S "EVEN IF"
A deeper look at Paul’s passion toward the spread of the gospel and the value of his own life causes me to question whether I have a “EVEN IF” attitude and heart? After he spoke openly to the Ephesian elders at Miletus about his life and ministry to them (Acts 20:17-35), Paul left and made his way toward Jerusalem. Even after the pleading and urging of many, He remained fixed in heart and mind that Jerusalem was where God wanted him to go. Notice the clarity of his commitment:
“Then Paul answered, “What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be imprisoned but even to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus”” (21:13). When we are truly governed by the will of God, emotional persuasion has no power. Though Paul had no idea what lay ahead in Jerusalem, Caesarea or Rome, it did not matter to him. The gospel propelled him to witness to the gospel of the Lord Jesus and his life was of no value nor was it precious to himself (20:24).
Paul tells the Philippians, “Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all” (2:17). This was written from prison with the expectation of martyrdom at any time, but he was glad and rejoiced because the sacrifice of his life was going to be like a drink offering poured out because these believers were secure in Christ. Not long after this letter, Paul told Timothy, “I am already being pour out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come” (2 Timothy 4:6).
We know a dear brother who is willing to be “a drink offering” just to reach one more people group with the gospel. He has the passion of Paul. These examples force us to face the question; are we willing to be “poured out as a drink offering” for the sake of one more unreached people group hearing the liberating gospel of Jesus? This is an eternal question!
We have often referred to 2 Timothy 2:2 and importance of having faithful men who will take the truth of Scripture and pass it on to other “faithful men who will be able to teach others also.”
There is another reason why faithful Timothys are so important. After Paul had found Timothy at Lystra (Acts 16:1-3) and took him along with Paul and Silas, Paul was called to Macedonia. Timothy must have gone with Paul and Silas and watched these two men preach the gospel and plant churches in Philippi, Thessalonica, Berea. He perhaps saw the pain in Paul’s heart as ‘his spirit was provoked within him as he saw” Athens given up to idolatry (Acts 17:16).
Somewhere in this time frame, Paul “could bear it no longer…willing to be left behind at Athens,” as he sent Timothy (“God’s coworker in the gospel of Christ”) back to Thessalonica “to establish and exhort [them] in [their] faith, that no one be moved by these afflictions” (1 Thessalonians 3:1-2). As the following verse shows, Paul warned them that suffering was coming and his concern for their stability in the faith compelled Paul to send Timothy to find out how they were doing. His visit was more than writing a report card. Timothy learned from Paul the value of encouraging, establishing, and strengthening new believers in the faith. After Timothy’s visit, Paul received a report that comforted him, knowing that they were “standing fast in the Lord” (3:8).
This same need is with us today. There is no one who can be everywhere, meeting the needs of encouraging, establishing, and strengthening new believers in the faith in every place. We must train faithful indigenous Timothys who are both learning in the ministry with their “Paul” and also being sent out for this purpose. As Paul was intentional in developing Timothy, so must we be intentional in training the next generation of leaders. The challenge we have is finding those with characteristics of faithfulness and integrity.
David Hesselgrave went home peacefully to be with his Lord at 11:45PM on May 21st. His family writes: “When we think of Dad we think of Paul's words in 2 Timothy 4:7, for indeed dad fought a good fight, finished the race and kept the faith.”
We mention this dear servant because of his support of this ministry and his full endorsement of our training manual, God’s Plan for His Church (GPHC). He felt God had provided GPHC and that it would “result in the multiplication of church at home and abroad, that under the lordship of Christ, will not only bear His Name, but also carry His banner onto the future.”
David Hesselgrave built the missions program at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (TEDS) and cofounded the Evangelical Missiological Society, teaching generations of scholars and missions workers around the world more effective ways to share the gospel across cultures (as referenced in the titles of his popular textbooks: Planting Churches Cross-Culturally; Communicating Christ Cross-Culturally; Counseling Cross-Culturally).
A visitation and a memorial service will be held on Saturday, June 2, 2018 at 10 AM and 11 AM respectively at the chapel of Fairhaven Christian Retirement Center, 3470 N Alpine Rd. Rockford, IL 61114. Luncheon to follow.
We are indebted to David for his encouragement and like-minded perspective that gave us words and counsel to keep building on the foundation God laid in the Scriptures. We use this blog to honor his memory and the impact God allowed him to have on missions across the globe.
We face a problem today that is almost as old as the church. Not long after the Spirit came on the Day of Pentecost and birthed a whole new relationship with God the Father through Jesus the Son, there were a few who wanted to keep traditions that were required in Judaism, e.g., circumcision. As Peter, Barnabas and Paul watched God work through the gospel of grace, and the Spirit fill new believers, both Jews and Gentiles, it was impossible to allow a certain faction to place restrictions on this grace or the Holy Spirit. Thus, the Jerusalem Council (Read Acts 14:27 to 15:35).
The disturbing effect of those who propagated a “works” doctrine at this time of the Early Church, was that the very churches Paul planted in Galatia were being spied on because of the freedom they had in Christ. Paul wanted to make sure “that the truth of the gospel…be preserved for [them]” (Galatians 2:4-5). With deep passion for the pure gospel in believers, Paul wrote to them, “Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” (3:2–3).
Those are questions we must answer today! How did you start in faith and how will you finish? Can you add anything to the gospel of grace or the gift of the Holy Spirit? Paul is so bold on this point as to say that to add anything to grace is foolish. The following verses of Galatians 3 continue to press the point; God supplies the Spirit and does works of miracles by “hearing with faith… believing God…that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith” (3:5, 14).
My dear reader, I fear we are in great danger today because we restrict the work of God through adding requirements that are not biblical. I feel that same concern that Paul expressed in this first letter. Our freedom in Christ is not a license for the flesh, but a liberty to allow the Spirit to empower and lead us so we will keep in step with the Spirit (5:25).
GO BACK AND START OVER
There are some games that children and people play which require the player to start over if they do not perform a specific requirement in the game. Is this ever true of us spiritually as believers or as a church?
When Paul went to Ephesus, he discovered that their initial introduction to the gospel had left out a very important piece; the Holy Spirit. Though they had been baptized, it was not the baptism Jesus left with the disciples (Matthew 28:19). As they received the gospel of grace through Paul, they were baptized again and immediately received the Holy Spirit (Acts 19:1-7). RESTART!
Later in the progress of this same church, they were told to RESTART. This church had worked hard, been patient, and did not put up with evil men or false teachers. Through all this and more, they had not grown weary. But Jesus had some stinging words for them. “But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent” (Revelation 2:4–5). Their condition was serious!
What would Jesus say today if He were to enter any one of our churches. From what I have seen from my limited perspective, I think there are many churches Jesus would tell, “START OVER!” Go back to the biblical principles that made your foundation. For some, this would be horrendous. Jesus is asking the same thing He asked Ephesus, “Remember therefore from where you have fallen.” If we fail to examine how we have been building on the foundation (1 Corinthians 3:11-15), we will suffer loss or the light we think we have will be removed. Since none of us are exempt from the watchful eye of the Lord, it is critical that we heed His warning, repent and RESTART! For the believer or church who accepts His rebuke, Jesus promises life.
There are many characteristics that go along with maturity in the Christian faith. One that is very important is discernment. When Paul wrote the first of his Middle Letters from prison, he wanted to establish and unify believers in the eternal plan of God in Christ. The foundation of this unity is the pure gospel of grace. Maturity is the result of building on this foundation.
“Until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes” (Ephesians 4:13–14).
The writer of Hebrews links maturity and discernment; “everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil” (Hebrews 5:13–14). If you link together all the ideas I have underlined, we see the proper path toward being able to discern. Why is this so important. From the beginning of the Church right up to our day, she has been plagued with false teachers and teaching contrary to Scripture. This will not happen if “we all attain to the unity of the faith…to mature manhood” and let solid food given by the Spirit empower us to discern, and then practice what we have learned from Him.
Can you imagine what the Church would accomplish if this was the united objective of every church? Divisions, gossip, and personal agendas would cease. In their place, the gospel would spread with lightning speed to every unreached people group. Programs would be replaced with the power of the Spirit, and the Church would make herself ready for the return her Bridegroom! What are you promoting in your church?
NOTES OF PRAISE FROM ECUADOR
Tim and Jonathan had a very productive trip to Ecuador where they visited Quito and Puyo. Since Spanish is the #2 language in the world, we are very thankful that God’s Plan for His Church 2018 (GPHC) is now translated. The Lord has provided a husband and wife team to complete this task. Please pray for them as they proof read the translation.
Secondly, by God's providential guidance, we discovered two unengaged people groups who live in the Ecuador jungles. We mentioned to someone that there were no unengaged people groups left in Ecuador and they gave us the names of 2 groups, the Taromenane, and the Tagaeri. We immediately got in touch with Dan at Joshua Project who researched and found out that this was a fact, so they added them to the Joshua Project list of unreached people groups. We then presented these groups to a local brother who we have been working with for 25 years. He is going to pursue how to reach these hostile people. Several told us that anyone who went to them would be killed instantly. Please pray for these two unengaged people groups for whom our Savior died (John 3:16 and Matthew 24:14). Thanks to you who are praying for us! We are pressing on until all the people groups of the world praise our heavenly Father!
The "Quito Factor" is expanding beyond Quito via the house church movement. As a result of leaders going through GPHC over the last couple of years, God has raised up many to go and plant churches. They are using house churches since it requires no money, and overall is an accelerator to the movement of the Holy Spirit. The "Quito Factor" continues to grow and expand.
Stay with us as more exciting reports come your way through this blog.
Paul’s ministry in detail is such an endless wonder to explore. When I think of the struggles we have today with getting the gospel to those who have never heard, I am constantly encouraged and motivated by carefully looking at Paul. Saved from a wretched life of opposing God’s plan, he became the greatest advocate and example of working God’s plan. Here is another verse from Romans 15 that shows Paul’s heart and passion, and what Christ accomplished through Him.
“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” (15:19).
Though Paul wrote Romans somewhere between his second and third missionary journey, he had fulfilled this part of his ministry. His second trip to this area was to strengthen and encourage the churches that had been planted. Illyricum was an area just northwest of Macedonia. It appears that when Paul answered the vision to go into Macedonia, the power of the Spirit in his preaching spread the gospel to areas beyond where he actually traveled (See Acts 16:9; 1 Thessalonians 1:8).
In an age when so many think that we must add something to the gospel in order for it to appeal and be accepted by the human heart, Paul added nothing, yet it spread rapidly and in power. Have we tried to supplement the power of the Spirit with human methods? Such efforts actually detract from what God wants to do. Let us rethink what we are doing and make sure it is in alignment with God’s plan and methods.
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