The Joy of Service, Salvation, and Sovereignty

December 19, 2018 at 3:10 pm | Posted in Luke | 2 Comments
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Christians are ambassadors for Christ. We represent Him. This is a great privilege, but it also is a dangerous calling.

Go your ways: behold, I send you forth as lambs among wolves.

Luke 10:3

Some of the reasons for going forth with a partner, or as part of a team, as ambassadors for Christ are accountability, encouragement, guarding reputation, practicality, the possibility of meeting someone with a special ministry need, and safety or protection. That last one applies not just to physical danger, but to spiritual danger as well. We are lambs among wolves. Wolves do not charge into the middle of the flock and try to take down the ram right next to the Shepherd. They are looking for lone lambs out on the fringe, people out of church, out of Christian fellowship, maybe only tangentially related to the Body of Christ anymore.

One form of ambassadorship in the local churches of which I’ve been a part is called “visitation.” “Visitation” is not really about “just visiting.” We have a mission to accomplish and a message to deliver. We are laborers , not spectators. We are not like the internet-surfers, TV-watchers, or window-shoppers – activities which primarily involve “just looking.”

When thou comest nigh unto a city to fight against it, then proclaim peace unto it. And it shall be, if it make thee answer of peace, and open unto thee, then it shall be, that all the people that is found therein shall be tributaries unto thee, and they shall serve thee. And if it will make no peace with thee, but will make war against thee, then thou shalt besiege it: And when the LORD thy God hath delivered it into thine hands, thou shalt smite every male thereof with the edge of the sword: But the women, and the little ones, and the cattle, and all that is in the city, even all the spoil thereof, shalt thou take unto thyself; and thou shalt eat the spoil of thine enemies, which the LORD thy God hath given thee.

Deuteronomy 20:10-14

As ambassadors we declare “peace,” but if peace is rejected we announce judgment. Now, this sounds like heavy lifting, and being an ambassador is hard work. Does it sound like drudgery? Well, it’s not. It’s joyous work.

And the seventy returned again with joy, saying, Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through thy name.

Luke 10:17

1. There is joy in service.

Notwithstanding in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven.

Luke 10:20

2. There is joy in salvation.

Every time I tell someone else how they can go to Heaven I am reminded that I am going there myself. Every time I talk to someone about Jesus I am reminded how marvelous He is. Jesus is not our “product;” He is the Rescuer of our souls and the Changer of our lives. Most people speak with respect about their company or their product or their boss, but they speak with JOY about their loved ones. How much more do we express joy over the One Who loved us enough to save us!

In that hour Jesus rejoiced in spirit, and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes: even so, Father; for so it seemed good in thy sight. All things are delivered to me of my Father: and no man knoweth who the Son is, but the Father; and who the Father is, but the Son, and he to whom the Son will reveal him. And he turned him unto his disciples, and said privately, Blessed are the eyes which see the things that ye see: For I tell you, that many prophets and kings have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them.

Luke 10:21-24

3. There is joy in the sovereignty of God.

The idea that God is in charge of salvation – of revealing Truth and of Holy Spirit-conviction – is ENcouraging rather than DIScouraging.

The Rules of War

June 17, 2015 at 3:26 pm | Posted in Matthew | 3 Comments
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In Matthew Chapter 10 we can see the King giving power to His workers.

Now the names of the twelve apostles are these; The first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; Philip, and Bartholomew; Thomas, and Matthew the publican; James the son of Alphaeus, and Lebbaeus, whose surname was Thaddaeus; Simon the Canaanite, and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed him.

Matthew 10:2-4

They are listed in pairs because Jesus sent them out two by two. They would go forth and confront people, some of whom would become upset.

Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.

Matthew 10:32-33

Open proclamation of Christ is a key element of being a Christian.

And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.

Matthew 10:28

The Bible does not teach that God throws believers in hell if they don’t witness often enough, but it does remind us that He is able to throw people into hell, and He will throw unbelievers who have rejected Christ into hell, and, therefore, we should not fear anyone or anything more than we fear Him.

Before salvation we were at war with God. There was enmity between us. We hated Him and He was mad at us. When we surrendered, we switched sides. Now we are still in a war, but we are on the winning side. God can’t lose.

Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household. He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me.

Matthew 10:34-39

In a war, even the winning combatants suffer, but it is a privilege to suffer for the winning side – for Christ. All the troops will be honored, but the wounded or the prisoners will be even more honored. There is no middle ground with God. We’re either on His side or rebelling against Him – fighting for or fighting against.

Don’t Be a Simple Evangelist

November 24, 2014 at 5:35 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments
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The simple believeth every word: but the prudent man looketh well to his going.

Proverbs 14:15

Two types of people are being contrasted here: “the simple” and “the prudent.” The simple are shown as a bad example. They are not simple in the sense of being uncomplicated. They are simple in the sense of being unwise, perhaps even foolish. The prudent are wise. The characteristic that distinguishes the simpleton in this verse is that he is gullible. He believes everything he hears.

The one exception where it’s okay to “believe every word” is the Bible itself – which is obvious from multiple other passages. But here, what is being described is a person with no discernment: someone who foolishly “takes at face value” whatever he encounters. The prudent man, on the other hand, is careful about what is presented to him.

This principle – a healthy willingness to evaluate – has various and sundry applications, and one is in evangelism – specifically when it comes to dialoguing with someone about whether or not he is saved. A quick nod of assent to the question, “So, are you a Christian?” should probably not be enough evidence to end the inquiry when you are trying to present the Gospel to someone you do not know well. Follow-up questions about the when, where, why, and how, and by Whom, would constitute “looking well unto your going” when you are hoping to lead someone to Christ.

A wise man feareth, and departeth from evil: but the fool rageth, and is confident.

Proverbs 14:16

Again, the wise man and the fool are contrasted. Wise men see evil and are afraid of damaging their testimony and the effectiveness of their Gospel witness. They also fear the Lord Whom they love for saving them. Fools “rage.” They go on a tirade against the idea that they can’t do whatever they want, and they are confident – but it is a false confidence. It is a misplaced self-confidence and a dangerous confidence that their relationship with the Lord makes them immune to discipline and correction.

He that is soon angry dealeth foolishly: and a man of wicked devices is hated.

Proverbs 14:17

This verse is a little different from the previous two in Proverbs 14. It is not a contrast between a “right” person and a “wrong” person. It is a contrast between a “wrong” person and a “more wrong” person. A short-tempered person loses his cool and does something dumb. It’s not excusable, but it is chalked up to the heat of passion, and can be repented of and repaired more easily. However, the person who coldly calculates a wicked plan, then carries it out, is not seen as bumbling or irrational. He is hated, even by those who are worldly, because he has first shown hatred to others.

Let’s remember to share the Gospel with others in a way that is honestly probing, non-hypocritical, and patiently kind.

Faithful Wounds Part 2

October 6, 2014 at 11:47 am | Posted in Biblical friendship, Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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In response to my post called “Faithful Wounds,” which you can read by clicking here, I received the following comments on another forum, and gave the following responses:

Commenter: If the ignorant boy knows the man, and has an ongoing trusting relationship, it’s more likely that he will heed the warning without much incident. What I think you have argued is the fallacy of incongruent analogy.

And, would not God be the one doing the chasing, or “tackling”, anyway? If the Spirit is not working in the heart of that person, it matters not what variety of message we use. It will be to no avail. So, why not build a bridge?

Me: The boy in the analogy wasn’t just ignorant – he was dangerously ignorant. And, being completely oblivious to the danger and running out of space before he met an ugly end, there wasn’t time to build a bridge of relationship. We could argue, I suppose, that the man should have built a relationship with the boy a long time ago, but the (made-up-for analogy) “fact” that he didn’t build one before, doesn’t make the analogy incongruent.

I agree that God’s Spirit does the chasing and the tackling in one sense, but I also believe He uses loving Christians as His instruments many times. God is powerful enough to supernaturally implant the Gospel message into a person’s brain, and He is powerful enough drop a blockade from the sky that would keep everyone from racing into traffic, but the fact is, for some reason, it pleases Him to use redeemed sinners to declare His Gospel, and to form relationships, and even to, once in while, roughly shake someone we love into his senses before he hurts himself.

Commenter: You are saying that God’s Kingdom is built by hateful and rash behavior.

Me: That’s not what I said. I said the man who tackled the boy “appeared” hateful and rash, but that he actually acted out of true active love. I do not believe the Bible condones rash hatred, and did not mean to imply it.

Commenter: You are crazy. Someone needs to tackle you, mate.

Me: I’m sorry you think I’m “crazy.” Hopefully you are just joking and not being mean-spirited. Name calling is purportedly not helpful to building a bridge of relationship.

If you truly do think I’m crazy though, I guess I’ll have to live with the label. They said the same thing about Jesus (Mark 3:21) and the Apostle Paul (Acts 26:24). Anyway, “crazy” can be pretty subjective. Older Christian men will tell you that, several decades ago, it was pretty common for people to tell people right to their face that they God loved them, and that they could be saved from the consequences of their sin by trusting Jesus. They say that these people weren’t considered “crazy” at all. However, I admit that the standard has changed. These days, forcefully confronting someone with the Gospel when they don’t want to hear it is often described as “crazy,” while it is considered not only sane, but worthy of adoration, to wear a “meat dress” or to dance around in underwear on a stage while people scream out that they would die for you. “Crazy” can be sort of a relative term.

As far as someone tackling me, you’re a little too late – it’s already happened both in the literal (when I tried to stop a bigger person from beating up a smaller person, and his friends didn’t like it!) and in the figurative sense – many years ago – when a stranger who loved me enough to tell me the truth told me that, according to the Bible, I had sinned against God and needed His loving Son to save me. The Holy Spirit also “tackled” me at that point, opened my willfully blind and oblivious eyes, and showed me it was true. That Truth is something wonderful that I want everyone to know – even the ones who think they don’t want to hear it. That might appear hateful and rash, but it is not being hateful or rash.

Commenter: The primary flaw with your analogy is that anyone can by force save the boy from his path of destruction – in fact against his own will. Your analogy seems very similar to the comedian-magician Penn Gillette’s words, that “If you see someone about to get hit by a truck, there comes a point when you tackle them.” But what we are dealing with here is a soul’s choice to accept or reject the Gospel. It would be more accurate to say that one man prayed and pleaded and begged the boy to turn aside, and that the second, more forceful man, shouted and harangued and yelled at the boy to turn aside. But neither of them could do anything other than speak to the boy. The path of his own life or destruction – of any soul’s – is ultimately their own decision.

Me: You might believe that the analogy makes a point that you do not happen to like, believe, or agree with, but I respectfully submit that, in the scenario of the analogy itself, the point was not that anyone could stop the boy by force – the point was that only one person was willing to stop the boy by force. Someone had already tried more polite methods and they didn’t appear to be working.

I don’t know much about Penn Gillette, and I can’t really tell if you are agreeing with his statement or not, but on the surface (without knowing the context and without agreeing with him on other things) it appears to make sense. If I’m about to get hit by a truck, I would like someone (even someone who doesn’t particularly like me) to tackle me. As stated above, someone did that to me, spiritually speaking, several years ago, and I love him for it. Even more, I love the God Who I believe authorized and empowered him to do it. I have done it to others, and they have testified that they are grateful for it, too. I would argue that there is evidence in the Bible of evangelistic “tackling in love” and that it is portrayed in Scripture as the God-ordained thing to do in certain circumstances.

You state, “It would be more accurate to say that one man prayed and pleaded and begged the boy to turn aside, and that the second, more forceful man, shouted and harangued and yelled at the boy to turn aside. But neither of them could do anything other than speak to the boy.” Well, you are free to make up your own analogy I suppose, but to say that mine is less “accurate” kind of misses the point. The boy and his tackler landed just shy of the path of a speeding truck! Are you suggesting that the haranguing and yelling would have been worth the risk considering the magnitude of the harm averted? Everyone is free to dislike the analogy, but I would hope it wouldn’t be judged internally inconsistent, just like I would hope the tackler’s motives wouldn’t be mischaracterized as hateful and rash, when they are clearly stated to be otherwise.

You state: “The path of his own life or destruction – of any soul’s – is ultimately their own decision.” I want to give you credit (and I’m not being sarcastic) for the boldness of your convictions on this point. I would agree that each soul’s decision plays a part, but I would also argue (I think I can support it from Scripture) that other people who encounter a person also play a part in determining that person’s path, and that certainly God Himself plays a part in determining our path. To say that the person himself is the “ultimate” determiner, instead of God, is where we disagree.

Charles L. Quarles Pleads that We S.W.I.M. with Urgency

August 27, 2014 at 12:55 pm | Posted in Quotes | 1 Comment
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The gospel of Jesus Christ is the one and only way of salvation. There is no hope for redemption apart from it. That conviction should drive us across the street, across the nation, and across the ocean, whether we run or swim or walk or crawl on bleeding hands and knees to deliver our message.

Charles L. Quarles

Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.

John 14:6

For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus;

I Timothy 2:5

But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.

Acts 1:8

The Prophet “Paddles” His Audience

September 30, 2011 at 12:40 pm | Posted in Ezekiel | 2 Comments
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In Chapter 16 Ezekiel’s sermons began to grow in intensity. The religious leaders of his day had come to call on him, hoping to be entertained by the “crazy preacher man,” but they got more than they bargained for when the prophet started comparing them to a cheating wife.

And in all thine abominations and thy whoredoms thou hast not remembered the days of thy youth, when thou wast naked and bare, and wast polluted in thy blood. And it came to pass after all thy wickedness, (woe, woe unto thee! saith the Lord GOD;) That thou hast also built unto thee an eminent place, and hast made thee an high place in every street.

Ezekiel 16:22-24

Hosea had a similar message.

Ezekiel had preached about the unfit vine and the adulterous wife. In his third sermon, in Chapter 17, he got very specific in his prophecy and used the image of three cedar trees. These represented kings. The first two were wicked – King Jehoiakin, who had already been deposed by Nebuchadnezzar, and King Hezekiah, who was King at the time of this prophecy. These two wicked kings were compared to the coming King Messiah:

Thus saith the Lord GOD; I will also take of the highest branch of the high cedar, and will set it; I will crop off from the top of his young twigs a tender one, and will plant it upon an high mountain and eminent:

Ezekiel 17:22

Here is the pattern of Ezekiel’s witnessing. He used his O.A.R.S.

1. He O.pened the Word of God: “The word of the Lord came unto me, saying…

2. He A.lleged. He held up their exposed idolatry next to the Word of God. Sorcery and idol-worship had previously been condemned by God in the Book of Deuteronomy.

3. He R.easoned. These religious leaders knew their history. They knew their kings and their genealogies, and they could comprehend the comparisons between the great cedars – and the leaders of the enemies of God, who were being used by God – to eagles.

4. He S.hared by preaching and proclamation. Ezekiel, the “man of God” – called the “Son of Man” – sat in the house of God and used the Word of God to proclaim the Son of God.

Acts and the Apostles: Activated, Authorized, Audible, and Accountable

May 21, 2009 at 12:47 pm | Posted in A Little Alliteration, Acts | 24 Comments
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Acts 2:38 reads: “Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.”

Does this mean you have to be baptized to in order to be saved? The answer is “no.” “For,” in this verse, means “on account of” or “on the basis of.” Christians are to be baptized on account of their sins having been remitted, or, on the basis of the remission of their sins.

We have a similar thing in modern English. I might say, “I wore this jacket for the cold weather.” Did my wearing the jacket make it cold? Did wearing the jacket stop it from being cold? If I forget the jacket, does that mean I am really warm? No, my wearing of the jacket for the cold just acknowledges that I realized it was already cold.

For the first Christian believers, baptism was a testimonial proof of what already happened in their hearts. It was more of a “get to” than a “have to.”

In Acts Chapter 2 the early Church was faced with the remarkable predicament of 3000 new believers who needed to be discipled. As we looked for patterns in the text of Acts, we previously saw the role of women in the early days of the Church. Here is another pattern that can be identified: the tendency to do things on a daily basis.

And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart,

Acts 2:46 (emphasis added)

They met more than once a week.

Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.

Acts 2:47 (emphasis added)

They went soul-winning daily.

And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration.

Acts 6:1 (emphasis added)

They cared for needs of people daily.

And so were the churches stablished in the faith, and increased in number daily.

Acts 16:5 (emphasis added)

They grew daily.

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 (emphasis added)

They studied their Bibles daily.

Another central theme in the early chapters of Acts (especially Chapters 3 and 4) is the emphasis on Jesus Christ’s NAME.

Then Peter said, Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk.

Acts 3:6 (emphasis added)

And his name through faith in his name hath made this man strong, whom ye see and know: yea, the faith which is by him hath given him this perfect soundness in the presence of you all.

Acts 3:16 (emphasis added)

And when they had set them in the midst, they asked, By what power, or by what name, have ye done this?

Acts 4:7 (emphasis added)

Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you whole.

Acts 4:10 (emphasis added)

Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.

Acts 4:12 (emphasis added)

But that it spread no further among the people, let us straitly threaten them, that they speak henceforth to no man in this name.

Acts 4:17 (emphasis added)

And they called them, and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus.

Acts 4:18 (emphasis added)

By stretching forth thine hand to heal; and that signs and wonders may be done by the name of thy holy child Jesus.

Acts 4:30 (emphasis added)

There can be no denying that the early Church was zealous that the Name of Jesus Christ be magnified and glorified!

It seems that the more they used His Name, the more the Gospel spread, and the more opposition they faced.

Chapter 2 describes the inauguration of the Church – and this caused somewhat of a public stir. Some people at least must have been impressed. Contrast Chapter 3, which shows the day to day ministering that only God and His workers see.

In Chapter 2, Peter preaches to thousands. In Chapter 3, Peter preaches to one lame man.

In Chapter 2, the ministry brings celebration and blessings. In Chapter 3, the ministry brings persecution and arrest.

No one can accuse these early Church leaders of greed or pandering for popularity. When Peter talked to the lame man, he said “silver and gold have I none.” Today, most so-called faith healers can not say the same: silver and gold have they plenty.

Instead of silver and gold, the Apostles had the name of Jesus Christ, and the authority and the power of that name.


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