WNW – 4-20-16 (The Great Commission)

It is kind of fun to write a wrap-up to a message that I didn’t teach.  Last night Josh Mauldin continued our series on the call to Go.  The week before I taught on bearing the fragrance of Christ to the world from 2 Corinthians 2 (and then forgot to write a wrap-up to it).  This time Josh took us to the consummate call to missions from Matthew 28.

As he put it, the foundation for the call to missions comes from Matthew 28:18, in which Jesus makes a massive claim, that he bears complete authority over every created thing in every created space.  It is foundational to the cause of global missions for a few reasons:

  • It overrides every other authority (governments, cultures, religions) that would otherwise say we cannot speak of Jesus Christ.  Because all authority ultimately belongs to Him, we are free to obey Him.
  • It gives us confidence even in the midst of cultural and spiritual darkness, when we find ourselves up against overwhelming odds in terms of influence, to know that ultimately no culture is supreme and no darkness is impenetrable.  Christ is in control.  And so we can proceed.
  • It reminds us that the call to Go, Make Disciples does not come to us as a suggestion for when we get some free time or as an aspiration for only a committed few, but as a command from the Most High God to every disciple who would bear the Name of Christ or call God his father.  Christians make Christians, disciples make disciples.  It’s what we do; it’s who we are.  Every Christian is a Great Commission Christian.

The call is big, but it is not one that we undertake alone.  As crucial as Jesus’ claim to have all authority is, it is just as crucial that He promises us, “I am with you always.” He gives us His presence, so we never walk alone.  He offers us His power, so we are never overwhelmed.

How great it is to connect the assertions of v.18 and v.20 that Jesus has all of the power and that He is always with us.  So as we go, we go in the company of the One who is in authority in every place that we go.  As the passage last week read,

But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place.
-2 Cor 2.14

We will never go alone, and we will never go without the supply of power that we need–so we must go.  We must go.

One final thought

The question came up last night, as it so often does when we talk about the Gospel, Heaven, Hell, and the nations, What about those who have never heard the Gospel?–with the implication, Will they really go to Hell?

There are two responses I want to provide to this question:

1) Yes, they really will.  If we actually believe Jesus in John 14 when He says that He is the only Way to the Father, Paul in Romans 1 and Romans 3 when He tells us that every person from every nation stands guilty before God and that God will by no means compromise His justice, and God Himself through Moses in Exodus 34:7 where He says He will “by no means leave the guilty unpunished,” then yes, of course, people who do not come to saving faith in Christ really will go to Hell.

2) We have got to stop asking this question, because inside of this question is an underlying assumption that we may not always recognize.  Think about the question one more time, and ask yourself what is assumed in it: Will those who never hear the Gospel really go to Hell?  ==> We are assuming the existence–and the continued, perpetual future existence–of this massive chunk of people who will live and die and never have the Gospel preached to them.  Does that group exist right now?  It does.  Does that group have to exist when our generation’s time here on earth is done?  It does not.  The aim of our generation by the time that we are done should be that the category of Unreached, Unengaged People Groups (UUPGs) ceases to exist.

This is how Charles Spurgeon responded to this very question: “Someone asked, ‘Will the heathen who have never heard the Gospel be saved?’ It is more a question with me whether we–who have the Gospel and fail to give it to those who have not–can be saved.”

We must go.  Let’s be about Going together.

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WNW – 4-6-16 (Heaven and Hell)

Last night we delved into a topic which I believe is not addressed often enough anymore.  At least, I find that to be the case in my own teaching.  Heaven and Hell–what happens to people when they die?  Who goes to Heaven, and who goes to Hell–and on the basis of what?  What is Heaven like, and what is Hell like?  My outline last night looked like this.

  1. Hell
    1. Place of everlasting conscious torment and agony (Rich Man & Lazarus – Luke 16)
    2. Away from the presence of God (1 Thess. 1:9) ==> Utterly alone; without hope
    3. Eternal state of the Wicked (the goats of Matt. 25:33)
      1. Outer darkness; weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matt. 22:13)
      2. Eternal, unquenchable fire (Matt. 25:41)
      3. Torment, fire, and agony (Luke 16:24)
      4. Furnace of fire (Matt. 13:41-42)
      5. Lake of Fire; second death (Rev. 20:10)
  2. Heaven
    1. Place of final, eternal rest; comfort; and joy (Heb. 4:8-11; Rev. 21:4)
    2. Perfect fellowship with God & direct knowledge of Him (1 Cor. 13:12; 1 John 3:2)
    3. Eternal state of the Righteous (the sheep of Matt. 25:33)
      1. Heaven earned by our works then?
        1. None righteous, not even one (Rom. 3:10)
        2. Christ is our righteousness (1 Cor. 1:30)
        3. The righteous are those who are washed and cleansed by the blood of the Lamb (Rev. 7:14)
  3. Heaven, Hell, and the Call to Go
    1. Matt. 28 – Go, make disciples
    2. 2 Cor. 5 – Ambassadors for Christ; God making His appeal through us

The point of last night was this: What you believe about the afterlife dictates the way you live this present life.  If Heaven is the place of infinite joy and peace which cannot be taken away, then no cost will be too great to attain it.  If Hell is the place of infinite misery which never ends, then no cost will be too great to avoid it.  Unfortunately, the cost for each is beyond what we can pay.

But then there is the central truth of Christianity: Jesus Christ has already paid the cost for our bypass of Hell and our entry into Heaven.  When we personally trust Him, the promise of His blood–that we can be forgiven, washed clean, and made right–is applied to us.  That is the Gospel.  Heaven is the eternal dwelling place of the Righteous, but there is none who is righteous–except for the Righteous One of God, Jesus Christ.  On the basis of who He is and what He did for us, we too become the Righteous Ones of God.

This is the single history-shaping, life-changing, eternal destiny-altering truth: Jesus is the Way to the Father in Heaven.  Now, who in your life needs to hear that?

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D’Angelo Russell, Nick Young, and the Decay of Western Civilization

I’m a lifelong sports fan.  I love to play sports, I enjoy watching them, and I enjoy talking about them.  I do watch ESPN, and I do listen to sports radio, but as sports “journalism” and sports talk in general continue to move closer to soap opera-level melodrama, it becomes increasingly difficult to tune in.

The latest tabloid hit is the incident between D’Angelo Russell and Nick Young, teammates on the (blah) Los Angeles Lakers, in which Russell recorded and then leaked a video of Nick Young talking about various women apart from his fiancee.  I have no interest in watching that video, so I can’t speak to any of the specifics of what he said, but that is beyond the scope of my interest here anyway.  In fact, I am not even really concerned about either Russell or Young.  What has been most intriguing and horrifying to me has nothing to do with either one of these guys, but with the media reaction to the incident.

Again and again–without exception–I have listened to talking head after talking head talk about the pariah that D’Angelo Russell has become.  How in the world could a guy betray the confidentiality of the locker room, that O so sacred sanctuary of the sports world?  How could he betray his teammate and leak secrets from a teammates private life?  Who in the world would ever want to play with a guy who would sink so low and do something so unspeakable wretched?

Notice what is being implied by the sports media (filled with former players) in all of this: Every player is doing this.  Committed relationship (girlfriend, fiancee, wife) or not–everyone is in on this.  I have heard something referred to as the “bro code” come up multiple times, which basically says that whatever the players do out there on the road, in the clubs, in the locker rooms, or anywhere else should stay in those places.  No one should have to bear the consequences for their actions.  Nobody should talk about it, and certainly no one should go and tattle to the significant women in these guys lives.

In other words, the guy who committed the unpardonable sin against all guys everywhere was not Young who was fooling around behind his fiancee’s back.  It was Russell, who more or less told on the guy who who was fooling around.  He broke the “bro code,” which is the ultimate unforgivable sin among “bros” everywhere.

A “major sports story” went down this past week, and the outrage has had nothing to do with a guy cheating on his fiancee.  It’s been about a guy who dare to break the bro code.

What have we become as a society?  And what are we becoming?

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WNW – 3-30-16 (The Consecrated Life)

Last night we looked at Romans 12:1-2, two of the most well-known verses in all of Scripture.

Therefore I urge you, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.  And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.
-Romans 12:1-2

This little passage is rife with really important Biblical concepts: sacrifice, conformation and transformation, renewal, God’s will, etc.  And yet underneath these themes, Paul is dealing with a question every Christian has to come to grips with: What is worship?

Music is not mentioned, nor is preaching.  This is not even about offering material things to God.  Rather, Paul says that true worship means consecrating your body to God, which we can restate like this:

Worship is giving God your self.

That is what God asks of us.  In the Old Testament all sorts of things were associated with sacrifice and offerings–bulls, goats, lambs, pigeons, grain, and oil to name a few.  Jesus came and offered His life as the once-for-all sacrifice that did away with the old sacrificial system.  And so there is nothing left for us to give, except for ourselves.

This is the lesson the Rich Young Ruler had to learn.  He wanted to know what good thing he could do to inherit eternal life.  Jesus’ answer, in short, was that there was no good thing to be done or precious thing to give, except for himself.  So he called him to go give away all of his stuff–there would no longer be any need for those things–and to follow Him.  Jesus asked for a total offering of the self.  Unfortunately, that proved to be more than the Rich Young Ruler was willing to give, and he went away sad.  How about you and me?  As Jesus asks you for your whole self, how do you respond?

As I shared last night, far too often I find myself struggling in corporate worship, dealing with distractions or hindrances from my own life.  I struggle with myself to produce joy where it is lacking or gratitude where there is none to be found.  I understand that worship is expressing adoration to God for who He is and thanksgiving and wonder for what He does.  But worship is also coming to God to meet with Him, to share His fellowship and joy.  Where there is sin to be found in a Christian’s life–whether subtle or overt, of omission or commission–it necessarily disturbs our fellowship with God.  David asks this question in Psalm 24,

Who may ascend the hill of the Lord?
And who may stand in His holy place?
He who has clean hands and a pure heart,
Who has not lifted up his soul to falsehood
And has not sworn deceitfully.

In John 4 Jesus tells the Samaritan woman that anyone who would be a true worshiper of the Father must be one “in spirit and truth.” And there is good news for us in all of us:

Jesus came to clean our hands, to purify our hearts, to remove our sins, and to bring us into fellowship with God the Father.

Through Jesus I can be made clean, and so can you.  As I hear His call to leave the things of the world behind and to follow Him, He purifies me and brings me to the Father.  As my life is consecrated to His, I experience the joy of my Father, and my heart begins to sing.

Worship truly becomes worship when it becomes the outflow of lives lived surrendered to Jesus Christ.

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WNW – 3/9/16

Last night we were talking about spiritual gifts, surveying the NT teaching from Ephesians 4, Romans 12, and focusing in on 1 Corinthians 12.  Here is quick summation of what we found:

-Spiritual gifts are special abilities, talents, and characteristics that the Holy Spirit supplies to Christians for the building up of the Body of Christ and enhancing the ministry of the Church.

-Spiritual gifts are given to each Christian (Eph. 4:7; Rom. 12:6; 1 Cor. 12:7) for the common good of all.

-Spiritual gifts are both the gifts that are given and the people who are given the gifts.  Eph. 4:11-12 says that Jesus “gave some as” apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers to the church for the equipping of the saints and the building up of the body.

-Spiritual gifts are wide-ranging and quite diverse.  Some involve speaking (prophecy, exhortation, teaching); some take place up front (leadership) and some take place behind the scenes (service, helping); some are overtly supernatural (prophecy, tongues, miracles) and some are almost common (helping, giving, service).  The gifts are wide-ranging (probably even broader than just the ones Paul mentions), but all of the gifts are necessary to the proper functioning of the Body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:14-26).

-Every Christian is spiritually gifted.  Every gift is to be used for God’s glory, the building up of the Body, and the ministry of the church.  Therefore, every Christian is responsible to God and to the church for properly using the gifts God has given.  To be a Christian is to be a steward of God’s gifts.

All of these truths point to the comprehensive truth that God has made the Church for the Christian and the Christian for the Church.  God has given the church leaders (apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers) for the sake of equipping and building up the believers.  And God has given Christians gifts for the sake of using them in the building up and ministry of the church.  To be a Christian is to be a churchman (or churchwoman)–both to serve and to be served in the life of the Body of Christ.

Have you experienced the blessing of brothers and sisters around you using their gifts for your growth?

Do you know how God has gifted you?

Have you found a place in the life of the church to use your gift?

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