|Posted by Tim Bergen on August 6, 2011 at 10:25 AM||comments (0)|
August 6, 2011
by: John Piper
I assume you are like me. I know (in my head) that my joy enlarges with significant engagement in world missions. But I drift away from this engagement and this joy. It takes a biography or a message or a video or an article or a conference to wake me up to the drift.
We would like to do that for you in September at our National Conference, as so many have done it for us — wake you up to Global Gladness.
One of the reasons the universe is as large as it is, is not that humans need that much room, but that God wants a suitable demonstration of his majesty. Accordingly he gave humans hearts and minds with huge capacities of vision and amazement.
One of the terrible effects of the Fall is that our souls have shrunk. We are content with very small vision. And our ability to be amazed is often exhausted by artificial worlds in movies. This is tragic.
The real world is a stunning place. World population is an astounding size. Complexities of languages and cultures are mind-boggling. The universality of sin is manifest and terrible. The misery of suffering is appalling. The prospect of eternal suffering is the most sobering truth in the world. The coming of Jesus to save repentant people from every culture is the greatest news in the world. The hope of the end of sin the arrival of a new world of righteousness and joy in the presence of God is worth everything. And God’s granting us to be essential in this global redemption is astounding.
These are the greatest realities we were made to live for and think about and pray over and dream toward and throw ourselves into.
And my point here is that God has made our hearts capable of great joy in these things. Joy that can be had no other way. Not all are to be missionaries. But all are to tap into the joy of this great global cause of Christ.
So for the sake of your joy, I hope you will come. It is a glorious thing that God means for his glory, and human good, and our gladness to enlarge together in this world.
© 2011 Desiring God
Desiring God is a teaching ministry of John Piper supplying the body of Christ with over 30 years of books, sermons, articles and more to help you find joy in God.
Mailing: Desiring God, PO Box 2901, Minneapolis, MN 55402--tel. 1.888.346.4700 fax 1.612.338.4372
|Posted by Tim Bergen on August 2, 2011 at 12:00 PM||comments (0)|
Faithful missionaries are an example to all of us! Click HERE to see just one example!
|Posted by Tim Bergen on May 23, 2011 at 8:05 AM||comments (0)|
The Great Commission
"All authority has been given to me in heaven and earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you, even to the end of the age." (Matthew 28:18-20)
The Great Commission is God's command to take the gospel to all the world. It's stated many times in the Bible, both Old and New Testaments, but one of the clearest statements is this one. Throughout the Bible we see it's God's greatest priority for history.
Two Beginnings and Two Endings
Let's consider two beginnings and two endings in the Bible. When you read a book, the way it starts is going to tell you the theme of the entire book. The way it ends shows you when the author was satisfied it was done. When people start a new project, the things we say then are the most crucial and important things we can say. And a person's last words are often their most central thoughts and concerns. So let's look at some of the beginnings and endings in the Bible.
The First Beginning: Abraham
Adam and Eve were driven from the garden of Eden, and the effect of sin was known early when one of their own sons murdered his brother. Things kept getting worse. God saw that the imaginations of man's heart were only evil all the time. God was ready to redeem those who would follow him even then, but the result was not good. God finally said he was ready to start over again. He picked out Noah and his family to be the seed of that new beginning, and wiped out the rest of the world with a flood.
After the flood, we see the world picking up again where it left off. It culminated in the Tower of Babel, a monument to the pride of man. God saw their pride and said, if these people remain united in this way, then there pride will be impregnable. I'll never get through to them. So he confused their languages and scattered them. This happens in Genesis Chapter 11. Right next to that there is a list of about 70 families, and many people believe these families become the first nations in the world.
So from the start God is restoring his rule over the peoples of the world, while the world is united against him in pride. He divides the world into nations. Now comes the incredible next step, in Genesis 12:1-3. God has broken the proud unity of the world, and then immediately he points at one man:
1 "Now the LORD had said to Abram:
“Get out of your country,
From your family
And from your father’s house,
To a land that I will show you.
2 "I will make you a great nation;
I will bless you
And make your name great;
And you shall be a blessing.
3 "I will bless those who bless you,
And I will curse him who curses you;
And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
God is no longer dealing with the world as a whole. He's starting with one man who would found one nation, and he's going to bless this man and this nation. They're going to be his own people; they're going to have a special relationship with him. And then what does it say? It says that in Abraham all the nations of the world would be blessed.
The Second Beginning: Jesus' Ministry
Missions to all the nations was in the heart of God from the very first mention of the word nations. Let's fast forward now to another beginning, to the first sermon Jesus gave, at least the first one reported by Luke. It's in Luke 4:24-30. He's in his hometown, and he opens the scroll and reads one of the great Messianic prophecies of the OT, from Isaiah 49. His fellow Nazarenes love it--even when he makes the audacious claim that this glorious prophecy is fulfilled in him! He's a real favorite son of theirs! They love having him as one of their own, and they know he's going to make quite a splash in the world!
Then he switches gears and reminds them that God had blessed other nations in the Old Testament. The widow in Elijah's time was not a Jew. Naaman was a Syrian, not a Jew. No Jew received God's favor in those particular ways. At this, a riot broke out.
Jesus started his ministry by pointing to God's heart for all the nations. This was no casual statement--he almost got himself thrown over a cliff for it! So again in this second beginning, the beginning of Jesus' ministry, we see God's heart for the nations, just as in the beginning of the history of nations.
The First Ending: Jesus' Last Words
Let's look at two endings now. Let's look at Jesus' last words. I could point to the same thing in five locations, but I'm going to concentrate on just two. One of them is the Great Commission passage I quoted before, in Matthew 28:18-20. Do you think the nations were on Jesus' heart? These are the last words in the gospel of Matthew. He could have left any number of final instructions, but this was it! And then just before he ascended into heaven, here are his last words, Acts 1:8:
"But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
Let's clarify exactly what Jesus is saying in Matthew 28:19. It shows up again in the last passage we're going to cover in a few moments, and many other places in the New Testament. Jesus commands his disciples to make disciples of all nations. He was not speaking of political nations as you might think, countries like America or Turkey or Russia or Jordan. The Greek word here is ethné, and we get our word "ethnic" from it. You might say that "ethnic group" is in some ways a better translation. He was talking about people groups, defined not by their capital city but by their race, their religious heritage, their language, their tribe, and so on. A country may have many people groups, like the many castes of India or many tribes in an African country. A people group may span more than one country, like middle class whites in North America, or Kurds in Iraq, Turkey, and other neighboring lands. There are about 200 politically defined nations in the world; there are thousands of "people groups" in the sense Jesus was using. Jesus was commanding us to reach every one of them.
The Second Ending: The End of It All
This brings us to the final ending in our story of the heart of God (and then we're going to spend some moments looking at how we're making progress on reaching all these peoples of the world). This final ending is the close of the ages. If you want to have a sense of how important missions is to God, look at Matthew 24:14:
"And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come."
This is what God is waiting for! Don't fail to notice the promise in there, by the way: the gospel of the Kingdom will be preached in all the nations! Not just preached, but effectively! Look at the result in Revelation 7:9-10.
"After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, saying, 'Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!'"
Think of the celebration! Think of the glory! Think of the delight in heaven! Think of the way God will glorify himself by bringing together Blacks, Whites, Africans, Asians, rich, poor, men, women, from all ages and from all nations!
It's at the beginning, it's at the ending. It's all through the middle, too. It is truly at the center of God's heart. It's at the center of Seaford Baptist Church's heart, too!
|Posted by Tim Bergen on March 2, 2011 at 7:55 AM||comments (0)|
Why Might Latin Americans Be Best Suited to Lead the Way into the 10/40 Window?
By Dave Talley Feb. 7, 2011 10:00 p.m. Culture, Evangelism, Missions
Direct Link: http://bit.ly/gO8Q0k
With thousands upon thousands daily passing from our world, awakening to the reality of a Christ-less eternity without hope or salvation, new strategies toward the evangelization and discipling of the nations are desperately needed. Today, we are witnessing more than ever, a move of the Spirit across former mission fields, as the 2nd/3rd World takes aim toward the daunting challenge of completing The Great Commission mandate. Such a reality gives cause for great joy as mission ministry is no longer only a Western movement. Countries like South Korea, China and Brazil are changing the way we’ve always thought of mission work. History is being rewritten before our very eyes. There’s no doubt the Latin American mission movement is making, and will continue to make, a significant impact in reaching many of the still unreached “creative access” nations, particularly within the Islamic family. With tremendous linguistic advantage, worldview commonality and a simple physiological similarity, some of the best missionaries to the Islamic peoples are proving to be Latin American in heritage.
First, Latin Americans have a linguistic advantage. More than 2,000 words in the Spanish language are also found in Arabic. This large overlap provides Latinos with a potentially quicker entrance into learning the language necessary for ministry in the 10/40 window.
Second, Latin Americans share a worldview commonality with the Arabic-speaking world. Although movement into the 10/40 window is cross-cultural for them as well, having commonalities in worldview makes such a transition easier. There is less need to “think like” another culture because the commonalities are many.
Third, Latin Americans have a simple physiological similarity. This gives them the ability to blend into the people without standing out. Hearing the gospel from someone of similar appearance breaks down many barriers and eliminates some of the lack of trust. They blend in and have an easier access to entering the culture.
The fact that the gospel needs to go to the nations is unchanging: “go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations.” The central need of every one on the planet is Christ. That is why the gospel is good news. The method by which the gospel goes is unchanging: “how shall they hear without a preacher?” The Lord has entrusted to the church the responsibility of being ambassadors of his great name. We are to take the message. The strategic plan is always open for discussion.
Might it not be wise of us to think strategically to work in conjunction with what God apparently is doing through such movements today? Could there not be tremendous blessing and joy for us as we partner with such movements, showing appreciation for God’s new envoys? We believe the answer to be an exuberant “yes”! We must think in terms of partnership. We must see ourselves on the same team with each player having a different contribution to make while maintaining a common goal. May the Lord help us as we learn to live as a global church, and may he lead us in wisdom as to how to partner together in reaching the world.
|Posted by Tim Bergen on February 23, 2011 at 9:57 AM||comments (0)|
Our Mandate for Missions
This is a very moving experience for me to watch that video. I know many of those faces and many of those missionaries and many of those nationals and I’ve been to many of those places and preached in some of those churches that you saw. This is all very near and dear and precious to my own heart. These people are my heroes as I am eager to say, they forsake all the things that make life comfortable here and abandon themselves to the challenges and the difficulties of taking the gospel into a completely foreign place, completely different culture involving, in most cases, the learning of the language, the mastery of the language so as to be able to teach and preach in that language effectively. They have supported wives and supported children and it’s just a profound benediction to our church to have these kind of people who are a part of our missionary family. Our hearts should go out to them in abundant love and gratitude for the sacrifices they make, for the diligence that they apply to these very difficult tasks. They’ve gone through preparation. We thank the Lord for the Master’s Seminary and in many cases they’ve even been to the Master’s College for the preparation, for the diligence of the faculty and the folks who influence them through their years of training and now to see them reproduce this around the world is such a great blessing. Each of these ministries seems to be flourishing and growing to the degree that I said earlier, we need 45 new missionaries immediately to step in to carry the load because it’s more than we can bear. The new opportunities are everywhere. Just in Italy we have a training center in Sicily now, 57 men now already in training and it’s just barely getting started. They never heard of expository preaching really five years ago. New training center just opening in Zurich, a ministry there. I was able to be there for the launching of that new training center among Swiss, Germans and it was a great joy. There’s a ministry there that’s giving us a facility free of charge that’s a world-class beautiful, beautiful facility for the training center. And there’s just a tremendous emphasis everywhere in the world, a hunger among the true church of God to know the Word of God and looking for somebody who can teach them how to understand and proclaim the Scripture.
The translation of the Bible, the planting of churches, training of leaders, this is the heart and soul of what we do, what Grace Church missionaries are all about. And it’s our passion. I am, in a sense, second-class citizen in the group today. I might have wished and God’s purposes He had made me a missionary, that’s not what He did. But if He had done that in my life, I would have rejoiced at that great privilege. But it is a joy to be able to be associated with them, to try to undergird and help and support them any way that I possibly can.
That video closed with a passage of Scripture, I’d like you to open your Bibles to Romans chapter 10 verses 14 and 15. I just want to make a few comments about it. We’ve already had a lot, I’m not going to preach a full message. I want to really give you time to go circulate out on the patio and enjoy the fellowship with the missionaries in a time of getting to know them and their ministries, but I do want to make a few comments about this.
Romans chapter 10 verses 14 and 15, “How then shall they call upon Him whom they have not believed? How shall they believe in whom they have not heard? How shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent?” This lays out the gospel mandate. In order to be saved, people have to believe. In order to believe, they have to know what to believe. In order to know what to believe, there has to be somebody who tells them. And in order for them to be somebody who tells them, somebody has to be sent. That’s really the mission mandate.
That sums it all up. There is no salvation apart from the gospel. No gospel, no salvation. You must know the truth and believe the truth. And to know the truth and believe the truth, you have to hear the truth and therefore somebody has to bring it to you. That’s why we are so committed in sending people around the world to multiply themselves.
Go back to the beginning of this chapter and let’s understand the context in which the Apostle Paul says this. In this great epistle to the Romans, the Apostle Paul lays out the matters that concern salvation. He understands perfectly well, as well as any human being could understand it, the sinfulness of man because he was inspired the Spirit of God to write the first, second, and third chapter which lay out in unmistakable terms the issue of human lostness and depravity. He understands the total inability of the sinner on his own to be saved. By the deeds of the law, he wrote, shall no flesh be justified. He understands that the sinner has no ability within himself to save himself. He has no moral virtue by which he can please God and there are no religious works which he can do to gain forgiveness. He understands the sinner’s plight.
He also understands perfectly well, as well as anyone could ever understand because this too was revealed to him by God, that salvation is a sovereign work of God. He understands that it is the work of God to awaken the dead sinner and to open his heart to grant him faith to believe and embrace the gospel. It is a divine and sovereign work and that becomes crystal clear from chapter 3 and verse 20 all the way to the end of chapter 11. This great section from chapter 3 verse 21 to the end of chapter 11 is all about God’s sovereign work of salvation. It looks at the cross and the resurrection, the work of God in justification and sanctification, the coming glorification, and lays all the responsibility before God as the sovereign one in saving sinners. And closes with that great benediction, “For from Him,” chapter 11 verse 36, “and through Him and to Him are all things, to Him be the glory forever. Amen.” Paul understands that salvation is a mighty work of God. It is a sovereign work of God. It is God alone who can make the dead live and the blind see. It is God alone who can give to man a righteousness that satisfies Him, His own righteousness is alien to the sinner. It is God alone through the work of Christ who has satisfied His own justice by making Christ the penalty for sin. Heaping His own wrath on Christ His justice is satisfied and He can then count the righteousness of Christ as if it were the sinner’s righteousness. He understands all those great truths about a sovereign God having awakened a dead sinner, about a sovereign God choosing to save, about a sovereign God determining a way in which He can satisfy His justice through the sacrifice of His Son. And at the same time, save the sinner. How He can be both just and the justifier of sinners.
Paul understands all of that. And he understands that God gets all the glory and God gets all the credit. And that the plan is completely God’s...completely God’s. But as well as He understands all that, he also understands that no one will ever be saved apart from the gospel. Someone must take the sinner the message. He began this wonderful epistle in chapter 1 and verse 16 with this statement, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation.” Salvation cannot occur apart from the gospel. The gospel is the power of God for salvation. No one has ever been saved apart from the gospel since the coming of Christ and since His death and resurrection. No one can be saved unless they hear. No one can hear unless somebody preaches. And there’s no one to preach unless someone is sent.
And when you take the gospel, it is necessary that a clear explanation of the gospel be made. That’s why training is so important. There are so many inadequate representations of the gospel such as, I just told you, about the pastor in Greece who is horrified because there’s a fast growing movement among so-called evangelicals that denies that Jesus actually came in the flesh. It is necessary that we get the right message and that we get it accurately. And that’s why training is absolutely critical. You can’t have a caricature of the gospel, you can’t have bits and pieces of the gospel that have been floating around and amalgamated themselves into some syncratistic kind of understanding that is inadequate. It must be the gospel, it must be the true gospel and it can be nothing but the gospel. The world is full of religion. There are religious people all over the planet. They are passionately religious. You see it all the time. You see religious Hindus in the media all the time. You see religious Buddhists. You see religious Muslims all the time escalating in their exposure to the world. You see religious Roman Catholics. You see religious New Agers, religious spiritualists, religious Protestants, even religious so-called evangelicals who have some kind of longing to gain heaven and no God. But unless they know the truth, it’s all useless.
Nobody ever sought for the truth more zealously than the Jews did. And, in fact, they had the Old Testament, to begin with, it was to them that God gave the covenants and the adoption as sons and the promises, gave them the scriptures. They had rabbis, scribes, Pharisees, experts in the study of Scripture, self-appointed, self-styled, self-confessed experts. They had commentaries that had been written and accumulated through the centuries to assist them in interpreting the Scripture. Jerusalem was a citadel of Jewish learning. They had developed a very sophisticated system of explaining the Scripture. They were thought to have possessed, these scribes, esoteric, supernatural insights into the meaning of Scripture. They were believed to have powers of discernment so that their word became equal to the Scripture. In fact, they substituted the traditions of man for the Word of God. That was Jesus’ own indictment.
They made immense efforts to the interpretation of Scripture. Coming out of Italy in the last few days, I was amazed again to see the complexity of that massive system of Roman Catholicism and go through some of their ancient buildings and some of their ancient libraries and see the massive amount of writing that’s gone on through the centuries to try to explain the Scripture. Stood in the private library in Wittenberg where Luther was and I held in my hands some of Luther’s own books...some of his own books with his initials on the front cover. I held Luther’s commentary of Romans written by his friend Melanchthon and with his notes written in his own pen are still there to be read in the margins. And I realized that one man indicted the whole Roman system for their misunderstanding of the gospel and by the grace of God brought down the system. There are people all over the world who are zealous in their religious pursuit of God. And that was true of the Jews. In fact, Jesus said of them in John 8:19, “You know neither me nor My Father.” It’s all useless. It all leads you absolutely nowhere. You have not come to know My Father, He said later in the eighth chapter.
Very little different than what Isaiah had said about an apostate Israel in his day. Isaiah wrote in the beginning of his prophecy in verse 2 of the first chapter, “Listen, O heavens, and hear, O earth, for the Lord speaks. Sons I have reared and brought up but they have revolted against me. An ox knows its owner, a donkey its master’s manger, but Israel does not know, my people do not understand. They have abandoned the Lord, they have despised the holy one of Israel. They have turned away from Him.” Jeremiah understood exactly the same thing when he wrote in chapter 9 verse 23, “Thus says the Lord, let not a wise man boast of his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast of his might. Let not a rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me.”
The true knowledge of God is the issue. And there is error all over the globe, as you know. Satan is the father of lies and the deceiver. And so in the proclamation of the gospel, we are sent to the ends of the earth with the truth.
Now let me show you a little this by taking you back to chapter 10 verse 1. There are some necessary understandings if we’re going to be affected in doing this. And I just want to point these to you just briefly this morning. Number one, there is a necessary attitude. Effective evangelism, effective mission work flows out of basic attitude. And it is illustrated for us here by the Apostle Paul. “Brethren,” he writes, “my heart’s desire and my prayer to God for them,” that is for Israel, “is for their salvation.” What you see with the Apostle Paul is a passion. My heart’s desire....my heart passion....my heart’s longing is for the salvation of Israel. This is what motivated him. This is what drove him. This is what compelled him. This is what constrained him.
When he wrote to the Corinthians he wrote this, and it’s such a telling statement. In 2 Corinthians 5 he says, “We know no man after the flesh.” He said I don’t even see people as just human. I see them as eternal souls. We don’t know people on the fleshly side. We don’t evaluate people as to their earthly status, their success or failure, their material wealth or poverty. We don’t evaluate people as to their education or lack of it, as to their style of life or absence of that. We don’t even view people that way. We know no man after the flesh. We see all men for what they really are and that is eternal souls. And when you look at people and realize that they are eternal souls who will live forever, either in heaven or hell, this should have a very compelling draw toward evangelism on your heart.
To show you how strong it was with Paul, go back to chapter 9. And in chapter 9 and verse 1, what he’s about to say is so shocking, it is so extreme, it is so severe, it is so...I guess you could say...hard to believe that he begins with some preliminary statements. “I am telling the truth in Christ.” What I’m about to say is going to seem so strange and so unbelievable that I am going to say at the very beginning that I will call on Christ to affirm this is exactly the truth. This is true and Christ knows it. I am not lying. “My conscience bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit.” The Holy Spirit confirms in my conscience that what I’m about to say is true. My conscience says it’s true. You ought to know I’m not lying. And Christ knows I’m telling the truth. He is amassing every bit of support he can for the validity of his statement. And here is his statement. “I have...verse 2...great sorrow,” great sorrow, not just sorrow, “Great sorrow, an unceasing grief in my heart.” I have an endless ache, endless pain, it never goes away and it is profound. It is high and deep and broad and long. I have an endless sorrow and an endless grief.
Verse 3 he explains, “What is it? I could wish that I myself were accursed, or damned, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh who are Israelites.” I could wish that I would go to hell forever if in so doing salvation would come to Israel. He’s not just saying I would give my time for the cause of the gospel to Israel. He’s not saying I would just give my life. He says I’d give my eternity for it. I’d give my eternity. I’d go to hell if I could for them.
What kind of love is that? What kind of passion is that? What kind of deep drive is that? But that’s what he means by heart’s desire. Go over to chapter 10 again. When he says “my heart’s desire,” that’s what loaded in that statement. And this heart’s desire becomes a petition, “My heart’s desire and consequently my prayer to God, my deesis, my constant pleading. It’s a word that means persistent pleading, petition.
Now I say it again, he understood the depravity of man so that a man had nothing in himself to save himself. He understood the sovereignty of God so that only God could save and did so, according to His sovereign will. But that did not eliminate his prayer life. That did not make him indifferent. He still was driven by this passion for the salvation of the Jews, and I might add as a footnote to that, he had a passion equal to that for the salvation of the Gentiles and he expresses it again and again in the letters that he writes to his Gentile churches, as well as his own testimony from the Damascus road which he gives in Acts 22 and again in Acts 26. His passion is clear for all that are lost, both Jew and Gentile.
And this passion does not resign itself to the inability of human depravity, nor does it resign itself to divine sovereignty. It ends up in pleading persistent petition. And it is critical to understand that prayer is a vital part of the work of evangelism. When Paul writes to Timothy, he says to him in the second chapter of his epistle, “That I urge you that in treaties and prayers and petitions and thanksgivings made on behalf of all men, for kings and for all who are in authority in order that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior who desires all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth.”
So what he’s saying is, you pray for everyone to come to the knowledge of the truth because that’s the heart of God. God desires men to come to the knowledge of the truth and that’s how we have to pray. Jesus prayed evangelistically on the cross. “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do,” asking God to forgive those who crucified Him. Stephen prayed evangelistically when he was being crushed under the stones of the Jews who were stoning him and said, “Lord, lay not this sin to their charge, forgive them of this sin.” Evangelism starts with an attitude...an attitude of passionate concern and moves to prayer.
God uses our prayers. Yes God is sovereign, yes man is unable, but God has not only chosen whom He will save and how He will save but by the means of prayer He saves. And so like Paul, we plead with God. He was not making hopeless pleas. He was not banging against a vaulted closed door, he was pleading to God who by nature was a Savior. Jesus it was, you know, who wept over the city of Jerusalem, said, “How often I would have gathered you but you would not.”
This whole missionary enterprise starts with the attitude of the heart, attitude of compassion and sympathy, seeing no person for the superficial person that they appear to be, but understanding their eternal souls and caring about their eternity. The wider your world gets, I will just tell you this, the further you go and the more people you see, the more faces you look into, the deeper this passion becomes.
Secondly, not only is there to be a necessary attitude for effective evangelism, but there has to be an assessment of the issues. You have to go beyond attitude to knowledge. You’ve got to get to the point where you understand what we’re dealing with here. You can’t rush into this dilemma, into this massive world of people that are lost and do the once over lightly thing. You can’t just give them some over-simplified message and then ask them to do some over-simplified act and assume that that’s what is required. It is far deeper than that. You go from this heart attitude, which I think a lot of people have had and has compelled them into some kind of ministry, but the ministry has been so superficial that it never was able to accomplish what their heart hoped it would. There has to be a true understanding of what we’re dealing with. Paul could have certainly done a once-over-lightly with the Jews, typical little presentation of something...believe in Jesus, made it as simple as he could, made it as easy as he could and then told them that would settle it all before God. But he didn’t do that. He knew he had to deal with the deep realities of the gospel.
And so, notice again in verse 2, he said, “I bear them witness, they are very religious, they have a zeal for God but not in accordance with knowledge.” They’re running after God. They’re coming after God but the way they’re coming is wrong. People today want to say it’s fine. You know, if you’re seeking God, whatever way you’re seeking Him, if you look for Him in this religion, that religion, the other religion, as long as you’re looking for God...and some writers say as long as it’s monotheism, we’re all going to end up at the same place. That’s not what Paul said. “They have a zeal for God but not in accordance with knowledge.” There’s some things they have to know. There are ignorances that are damning ignorances...and he lays them out. Here they are.
Number one, not knowing about God’s righteousness. The first problem is people don’t know how righteous God really is. That is, they don’t understand that He’s absolutely holy and the only one who can come to God will be the one who is also absolutely holy. Leviticus says it, “Be ye holy for I am holy.” The New Testament repeats it again and again. Jesus put it this way, “Be ye perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect.” God requires perfection. He is absolutely holy...absolutely holy. People today cannot be ignorant of the righteousness of God. They have to have a sound and solid theology proper. They have to know God to be a God of absolute holiness, as it says in Exodus 15:11, “He is majestic in holiness.” Psalm 50 verse 21 indicts people. “You have thought that I was just like you, and I am not.” So when you do the work of evangelism, you start with the holiness of God. You start with the absolute holiness of God. God is perfectly holy, completely holy, totally holy, and no one can enter His presence who is not also holy. Therefore you must have a holiness which is equal to the holiness of God to have a relationship to God. That’s where it all begins. And the sinner then needs to recognize the fact that no such holiness is available to him, therefore needs an alien holiness that must be granted him by God Himself if he is to ever have the holiness that God requires.
Those Jews along with religious people all over the world throughout all of history and even today think God is less holy than He is. They think that while God is holy to some degree, He’s not as holy as all that. You can, if you work at it, be good enough to satisfy God, that’s why every religion in the world, every religion on the face of the earth no matter what its name apart from the truth is a system of diminishing the holiness of God and elevating the capability of man so that man can do what pleases God. That’s the second point.
Sinners are ignorant of the holiness of God, and they are, secondly, ignorant of the sinfulness of man. That’s why in verse 3 he says, “Not knowing about God’s righteousness they seek to establish their own.” They think God is less righteous than He is, as I’ve said many times. They think they are more righteous than they are. They bring God down, push themselves up. You hear people say it all the time, “I’m basically a good person. I’m a good person. I’m a religious person. I’m a spiritual person. I believe in God. I try to do the right thing, etc., etc., etc.” They have pulled God down. They have diminished His glory. They have lowered His standard. They have misidentified God. And then they have elevated themselves. James 2:10, “Whoever keeps the whole Law and stumbles in one point has become guilty of all.”
So, we have a problem here. People think God is less holy than He is. They think that they are more holy than they are. So in any work of evangelism you have to establish the holiness of God in its absolute nature and you have to establish the unholiness of man also in its absolute nature, that even man’s righteousness, Isaiah 64:6, is as filthy rags. So, the problem is, people do not understand the righteousness of God, they have a bad theology proper, theology being that which is true about God. They have a bad anthropology, they misunderstand man. And thirdly, they have a bad harmartiology, they misunderstand the sinfulness of man, verse 3 says, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God.
Man doesn’t understand God, he doesn’t understand himself and he doesn’t understand his own sin. They did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God. Now how could the sinner do that? Because God has given him a Law. There is a Law written in the Scripture, there’s also a law written in the heart of man, aided and abetted by the conscience. God has written His Law in the heart, Romans 2 says, God has given His Law in Scripture to the Jews. But what do men do? Instead of subjecting themselves to the righteousness of God that works in the Law, they wrongly apply the Law and think that by the Law they can work themselves into favor with God.
What is the purpose of the Law? We don’t want to go too far with this, but what is the purpose of the Law? The purpose of the Law is to demonstrate to man that He is a sinner. So man has a wrong understanding of God, has a wrong understanding of himself, he has a wrong understanding of his sin. He doesn’t understand the Law is to disclose his sin, to manifest his sin so you bring the sinner before a holy God, you bring the sinner to a recognition of his own inability to maintain a holy righteous standard. If he offends in one, he is damned by that one. You show the sinner that instead of seeing the Law of God as what crushes him, he sees the Law of God as a means by which in keeping it in some minuscule way he can earn favor with God.
The goal of the Law is to produce an awareness of sin. An awareness of sin is to produce guilt. Guilt is to produce helplessness. Helplessness is to produce fear of damnation. And that’s the work of the Law. The Jews had the Law but they didn’t let the Law do its work. They failed to be alarmed by the Law. They failed to be threatened by the Law. They failed to be scared out of their wits by the Law and the promised judgment of God on those who violated that Law. They failed to be brought under the conviction of a smiting conscience. The sinner must come to the place of condemnation, humiliation and penitence.
There’s a fourth thing they were ignorant of and many religious people are ignorant of as well. They were not only ignorant of God, a bad theology, ignorant of themselves, a bad anthropology, ignorant of sin, a bad harmartiology, they were ignorant of the provision of Christ. They had a bad soteriology. They didn’t understand, verse 4 says, that Christ is the end of the Law for righteousness. They didn’t understand how Christ brings an end to the tyranny of the Law. Here they are crushed under the weight of the righteousness of God, held captive to their own inability and here they are having violated the Law of God and they are in sin and guilt and hopelessness and fear of eternal damnation and where are they going to turn to get out from under the curse of the Law? And the answer is that Christ is the end of the Law for righteousness. End meaning fulfillment, He provides the fulfillment the Law demands. The Law demands death, He dies the death. The Law demands a perfect life, He lives the perfect life. His death is credited to your account, God’s wrath is satisfied, His justice is met and He credits His life to your account as well and you’re covered by His righteousness.
So, on the positive side, the Law provides perfect righteousness, Christ lives a perfect life credited to your account. On the negative side, the Law requires death, Christ dies the death, that death credited to your account, Christ then becomes the end or the fulfillment of the Law’s requirement with regard to righteousness.
When you go to preach the gospel, you have to have a sound theology, anthropology, a sound harmartiology, understanding of the sinfulness of sin, and a sound soteriology, the work of Christ. And in that soteriology there’s one other component that you must know that they didn’t know, they were also ignorant of their place of faith. End of verse 4, “Christ is the end of the Law for righteousness to everyone who believes.” It’s all faith, not of works. That’s what Paul’s been saying since chapter 3. “By the deeds of the Law no flesh will be justified.” It’s all by faith. He said it in chapter 1 verse 16, “The gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.” “It is the righteousness of God,” 3:22, “through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe.”
They failed, Israel did because they tried to work their way. Their failure is indicated in verse 32 of chapter 9. Why did they fail? Why did they never attain righteousness? Because they didn’t pursue it by faith but as though it were by works. So they stumbled over the stumbling stone, they stumbled over Christ. Why? Because if you can work your way to heaven, you don’t need a Savior, right? If you can earn your salvation, you don’t need a substitute. If you can satisfy God on your own, you don’t need somebody to pay the penalty for your sin. So they stumbled over the idea of a crucified Messiah. They didn’t need a mediator. They didn’t need a Redeemer, a Savior, a ransom price to be paid. They could do it on their own.
So that’s how the world is, even the religious world. That’s how the most religious people who were the closest to the truth, the Jews were, they didn’t have a right view of God, didn’t have a right view of man, didn’t have a right view of sin, didn’t have a right view of the work of Christ, didn’t have a right view of salvation by faith. They certainly didn’t understand the extent of the gospel, to everyone who believes...to everyone.
Paul then unfolds more about that in the remainder of the verses, but let’s go down then to verse 14 and ask our final question. If this is the condition of the world, this is the assessment, what is our responsibility? We have the attitude laid out for us in the first verse. We have the assessment of the condition of a world around us in the remaining verses, all the way down. We have the good news of verse 13, “Whoever will call upon the name of the Lord to be saved,” and that brings it right down to our responsibility. And here is where we get involved. “How then shall they call on Him in whom they haven’t believed?” How they going to believe in Him in whom they haven’t heard? And how are they going to hear without a preacher? And how are they going to preach unless they are sent?
That’s why we do what we do. We have people who have this passion. We have people who have this attitude, people who have this heart. I have a whole church full of them. And we all go. And some of us go to the ends of the earth and some of us go to our neighborhood and our family and our school and our job and our friends. We go wherever we go with a view to take to people from the heart this passionate desire to see people saved, to take to these people who we want to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth...people who are in ignorance, even though they have a zeal for God, we take to them the truth that we know is an antidote to their ignorance. We have to show them about an absolutely holy God, about an utterly sinful man. We have to show them about the purpose of the Law, to crush them under the weight of their own sin and make them fear their damnation. We have to show them then how Christ brings an end to all that, how this gospel is available by faith alone and it’s available to anyone and everyone who believes.
And then just as it is written, verse 15, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring glad tidings of good things.” You want to have beautiful feet in your world, your little world? You be the one who brings somebody the gospel. Beautiful feet is just a simple little way to refer to the joyous arrival of someone. You will be the most joyous person ever to arrive in someone’s life when you bring them the gospel. I’ve seen it all my life. It’s even strange to me and other parts of the world to be embraced by people I’ve never met in the strangest places, in the strangest languages who somehow, someway through the ministry of Grace Community Church have come to faith in Jesus Christ. And how thankful they are and how they consider the beauty of those who have brought them that eternally wonderful message.
Not everybody’s going to believe, verse 16 says, they didn’t all heed the glad tidings. Even Isaiah said, “Lord, who has believed our report?” first verse of chapter 53. Not everybody’s going to believe. That doesn’t change our responsibility. So you go back to your responsibility in the last verse that I want to look at, verse 17, “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of Christ.”
So you start with the word of Christ, you send people who know the Word to preach so the people can hear and believe and call upon the name of the Lord and be saved. This is our mission mandate. This is our responsibility. And this is our joy. Bow with me in prayer.
What a privilege, Lord, it is to see again clearly the responsibility that is ours for the proclamation of the glorious gospel of Christ. Thank You for letting us participate in Your divine work. We understand it is from You and through You and to You that all this happens and all the glory if Yours. But, Lord, You’ve also chosen to use us and You’ve asked us to be faithful and passionate and zealous, diligent so that we can enjoy eternal reward and fruit that will redound to Your glory and our eternal joy. Thank You for these missionaries, both those that are sent around the world and those who are part of our church family here who are faithful. And may You increase their joy as they proclaim the gospel and see sinners repent and believe. For the glory of Christ we pray. Amen.
Available online at: http://www.gty.org/Resources/Sermons/80-315
COPYRIGHT ©2010 Grace to You You may reproduce this Grace to You content for non-commerical purposes in accordance with Grace to You's Copyright Policy (http://www.gty.org/Meet/Copyright).
|Posted by Tim Bergen on February 9, 2011 at 9:22 AM||comments (0)|
Why You Should Go to the Mission Field
by Keith Green
I recently returned from visitingsome overseas missionary bases, and I must say that since returning, my lifehas not been quite the same. The vision and goals of our ministry have suddenlychanged. The Lord definitely did something to my heart on that trip. Besidesshowing me how small my vision had been, He began to give me a great burden tosee the ranks of His army in the field swell! One of the greatest things Godopened my eyes to was how tremendously evangelized my own country was, whilethe rest of the world was barely being reached. As I traveled from country tocountry, I thought of the millions of people I was passing through who neededto have the Gospel of Jesus shown to them in a real way - and yet there washardly anyone there to reach them.
As I visited each mission base, Ispoke with different missionaries, and picked up various pieces of literaturethat told the story of what was being done in different parts of the world toexpand the Kingdom of God. As I read thestatistics, I was shocked - I really had never known how little the need wasbeing met!
When I returned home, I got holdof some of the leaders of different missionary organizations and set up somemeetings to find out more about what was being done to fill the need. Afterthese meetings, I decided to do a study of God's Word (to see what He had tosay about reaching the lost in other countries), and I also read through somemore of the missions literature I had been given. This article is the result ofthat study, and also a burning desire in my heart to see 100,000 young peoplereleased to the mission field over the next five years!
So...why should you go to themission field?
1) Because Jesus has told you to go.
"Go into all the world andpreach the Gospel to all creation." (Mark 16:15) With these words, Jesusmade it clear exactly what His disciples were to do - they were to spread Histeachings in His name, preaching salvation unto the ends of the earth. (Rom.10:18) If you consider yourself a "believer", then you must consideryourself a "disciple" of Jesus - no less called and chosen than thevery first 12 apostles. There are no such things as "1st class"Christians and "2nd class" Christians - every believer is called tospread the Good News about Jesus to those who have not yet heard. Jesus'command is definite and clear - it is His great mandate, His "GreatCommission" to the soldiers in His holy army. We must go, because ourgreat General has commanded us to go.
2) You should go because the need is so great.
"The harvest is plentiful,but the workers are few. Therefore, beseech the Lord of the harvest to send outworkers into His harvest." (Matt. 9:37-38)
Ever since Jesus first spoke these compassionate words,the supply of workers in the fields of soul-harvest has always been horriblylow. But today the need is the greatest it has ever been in the history ofmankind. Remember, Hell is not just for the weekend! More people are alivetoday, and more souls are at stake, than the total number of people who haveever lived on the face of the earth in all of human history! This simply meansthat we can populate either Heaven or Hell by our obedience or our laziness.There are over 2,700,000,000 people who have never heard the Gospel at all, andthere are only 5,000 to 7,000 missionaries worldwide, working directly withthese totally unreached groups of people. That means there is approximately onemissionary for every 450,000 of these people! There are over 16,000 differentand distinct cultures and people-groups - even whole countries, where not onesingle church is in existence. There are 7,010 distinct living languages, and5,199 of them still have no Bible or Scripture translations available in theirown language! Do these figures move you at all? Does it matter to you that anestimated 80,000 unsaved people die every day (approximately 3,333 everyhour...55 people every single minute!) to face the judgment seat of Christ?
3) You should go because so few Christians are obeying thecall, making the need even greater!
"Faith comes from hearing,and hearing by the Word of Christ...how shall they hear without apreacher?" (Rom. 10:17,14) Rightnow worldwide there are only 85,000 workers on the mission field - workingmainly among those who have heard the gospel before. This figure includesmissionaries from all over the world of every nationality. When you comparethis number with the amount of Americans selling Avonor Amway products, it is staggering. Just in Americaalone there are 435,000 Avon sales-people(with 1,280,000 worldwide), and over 750,000 Amway products distributors, (withover a million worldwide)! Do you realize that these two companies combinedhave 14 times more representatives in the United States alone than the Church of Jesus Christ has in thewhole world outside of America?
And what about the Christianrepresentatives we do have in the world? Only 9% of the world's populationspeaks English, and yet 94% of all ordained preachers in the whole worldminister to the 9% who speak English. And 96% of all Christian finances arespent in the United Stateson 6% of the world's population. Only 4% of all Christian money is spent onmissionary efforts to reach the other 94% of the world's population! There areover 1,000,000 full-time Christian workers in the United States; while one half ofthe world's population (3 major groups - Muslim, Hindu, and Chinese),2,200,000,000 people, have only 2,417 full-time Christian workers. As you cansee by these figures, something is definitely wrong. While we in America haveapproximately one worker for every 230 people - those who have never heard theGospel even once have one worker for every 450,000 souls! Please forgive us,Jesus, for being too timid to obey You and reach out into all the world likeYou have commanded us to!
4) You should go because God gives special anointing andgrace to those who leave their own land, people, and culture to do God's willand spread the Gospel.
"And the Lord said to Abram,'Go forth from your country and from your relatives, and from your father'shouse...and I will bless you and make your name great; and so you shall also bea blessing; and I will bless those that bless you, and the one who curses you Iwill curse. And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.'"(Genesis 12:1-3)
Abram (later to be renamed Abrahamby God) is only one of the many people in the Bible who God used mightily onlyafter he left his own people, his own land, and his own culture. Look at thetravels and ministries of people like Jacob and Moses - both of whom had to gointo other lands to learn from God and be used by Him.
No matter where you look in theBible, God always gave a great anointing and blessing to those who served Himin a foreign land. Look at Joseph and Daniel. They were the only two men in theBible who God raised up as successful, secular officials in foreign and heathencultures - and they remained faithful witnesses and servants of God to the veryend, and often at the risk of their very lives! What about Jonah? He was a goodexample of someone who didn't want to go to the mission field and preach toheathens! Stubborn, rebellious, and selfish - and yet God "made him anoffer he couldn't refuse." (I pray that God would freely move like that inall our lives, "helping" us to make the right decisions about going.)
And then there's the apostle Paul- who had such a burden for his own people and country, Israel. Oh ,how he would have loved a ministry among the Jews! But what did God say?"Go! For I will send you far away to the Gentiles." (Acts 22:21)That's what God commanded, and "go" he did. Never was there amissionary like Paul. Take a look at II Corinthians 11 if you'd like to see alist of his qualifications: beatings, imprisonments, stonings, mobs,shipwrecks, the list goes on and on - and so did Paul, obeying his Master whobought him.
From Noah to Abraham, from Mosesto Jonah, from Daniel to Paul, God has always given special blessing to thosewho, leaving the comforts of home and relatives, cross the boundaries of theirlittle worlds to bring God's message and blessing to the nations. Remember Jesus' words about this subject,"A prophet is not without honor except in his home town, "(Matt.13:57)
5) You should go because America (and some other westernnations) is literally drenched with the Gospel, while most other countries andcultures of the world do not have any continual, relevant witness at all.
"And thus I aspired to preachthe Gospel, not where Christ was already named, that I might not build uponanother man's foundation; but as it is written, 'They that had no news of Himshall see, and they who have not heard shall understand.'" (Rom. 15:20-21)
It is so true that we here in America arecontinually bombarded with Christian witness and ministry. Almost at every turnthere's a billboard or a bumper sticker proclaiming something about Jesus. Turnthe dial on your radio at any time of the day or night, and you've got non-stoppreaching. There are several Christian satellite and cable networks. And thereare over 250 different Christian magazines and publications. In most citiesthere's a church on almost every corner. I am not trying to say that this isall bad - a lot of it is good, winning many souls to Jesus - but as I'vetraveled overseas, it is hard for me to believe that it is God's will for thereto be so much Gospel preaching and literature available here, while there iscomparatively little or even none in many places outside of this country.
The world is going to Hell onevery continent! Is it God's fault that so few are hearing the gospel - or isit the Church's? Aren't we who love Jesus accountable to reach our generationwith the gospel? A friend of mine has written, "this generation ofChristians is responsible for this generation of sinners." If this istrue, then each of us must take a good, long look at our lives and priorities -finding out where God would have us begin to get ready to go!
6) You should go because, as Oswald J. Smith said,"No one has the right to hear the Gospel twice, while there remainssomeone who has not heard it once."
"But if our Gospel be hidden,it is hidden to them that are lost: in whom the god of this world has blindedthe minds of them which believe not, that they might not see the light of theGospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God." (II Cor. 4:3-4)
Has it occurred to you that Jesuswants every creature to hear the Gospel? If you had 20 children to feed andplenty of food to feed them all with, do you think it would be right to give 3of the children 10 meals, 7 children only 1 meal, and the remaining nothing -causing them to die of starvation? That's exactly what we're doing with theGospel in the world today!
Because we believers are so deafto God's call to go into all nations, we keep most of God's resources toourselves! We keep feeding and reaching the same people over and over again. Iam not saying there should be no Gospel preached in America, I am saying that thereneeds to be a spreading out of the soldiers of God, to fight the enemy wherehis greatest strongholds are - "where Christ is not already named"!
7) You should go because the time is short. More and morecountries are closing their doors to missionaries and the Gospel, and we mustgo now.
"We must work the works ofHim who sent me, as long as it is day; night is coming, when no man canwork." (John 9:4)
I constantly hear of country aftercountry where missionaries used to be welcome, but now the doors are closed tothem entering. Though it is true that many Christians can still go to be subtlewitnesses as doctors, teachers, engineers, etc., the Gospel can no longer beopenly preached in many lands.
Although there are still vastareas of the world wide open for foreign evangelism, such as western Europe,parts of Asia, and most of the Pacific (Japan, South Korea, Singapore, etc.)there are many other countries where it is illegal to hold a street meeting orpass out Gospel literature. We need to sense the urgency of this hour, and obeyGod by reaching out to those lost in the darkness "while it is stillday."
You should go because the Holy Spirit is speaking toChristian leadership all over the world that it is God's desire for there to bea great final missionary thrust with the Gospel before the end of the age.
It is His desire that every peopleshould have the Gospel preached to them, and that the Gospel should bepublished in every nation and in every language. And unless YOU get involvedpersonally, there is no hope of that ever happening in our generation!
"...And you shall be mywitnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judeaand Samaria,and even to the remotest part of the earth." (Acts 1:8) "And thisgospel of the Kingdom shall be preached in the whole world for a witness to allthe nations, and then the end shall come. " ( Matt. 24:14) "The Lordis...patient toward you, not wishing for you to perish but for all to come torepentance." ( II Peter 3:9)
Is there any doubt in your mindthat God wants everyone to be saved? If you believe this, and you really loveJesus, then WHY are you so timid about getting involved in this great thrust tobring the Gospel to all the nations? Do you think that while you're readingthis, God isn't grieved that His Church is being so lazy and disobedient aboutfulfilling his commission? He knows that you agree with the Scriptures, andHe's listening to every excuse you're turning over in your mind like,"Yes, I know that more people need to go...but He just couldn't mean ME!I'm...just not the 'missionary-type'..."
|Posted by Tim Bergen on December 20, 2010 at 9:10 AM||comments (0)|
THE CHURCH AND MISSIONS
An address delivered at the opening exercises of Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia, 1957.
Bruce F. Hunt
My subject today is "The Church and Missions." I wish to develop this subject under three propositions:
1. The work of the church is missions.
2. Missions is the work of the church.
3. The work of missions is the church.
1. The work of the church is missions
The first proposition that I would have you consider is that the work of the church is missions. That is, the work of the church is not primarily self-preservation, the perfection of organization and equipment, the improvement of the membership, or several other firsts that people might propose.
What has been called "the Great Commission," the task of evangelizing the world, was given to the church and thus became its great work. [We do not believe that Mr. Hunt, in emphasizing the importance of missions in the work of the church, was intending somehow to set missions in opposition to worship. Indeed, as his own life's work on the mission field demonstrated, missions ever has in view, in the gathering and perfecting of the saints, the extension of the worship of the living and true God.—Ed.] When the risen Lord, having been given all authority in heaven and on earth, spoke the words of Matthew 28:19 and 20 to the eleven disciples, he did not address them as some separate little group, but as a part of the church he was establishing. And therefore the work given to them is a work committed to the whole Christian church, considered both as a unit and as the individual members which compose it.
No member of the true church, or congregation of Christians, can rightly say, "I don't want to make disciples," "I don't want to be a witness," "I have no ability along that line," or "I have a personal dislike for that kind of thing and so I won't do it." Missions is the great reason for the church's existence, its great work.
We are perhaps indulging in speculation about "the secret counsel of God" when we say the reason the early church in Jerusalem was persecuted was because, having received the Holy Spirit, it had not gone to make disciples of all nations, and God had to drive it to the task by persecution. But we leave the realm of speculation for the clear statement of God's Word when we say "there arose on that day a great persecution against the church and they were all scattered abroad"—and "they that were scattered abroad [i.e., the individuals who are also called the persecuted church] went about preaching the word" (Acts 8:2, 4). Collectively and individually, the church was finally obeying the Great Commission.
Our Lord said, "Every one therefore who shall confess me before men, him will I confess before my Father who is in heaven" (Matt. 10:32). Jesus ordained every one of us collectively and individually to bear fruit, to make confession, to be witnesses. Confession is an essential part of the experience of salvation—"For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation" (Rom. 10:10). Paul declared, "Woe is me if I preach not the gospel!" (1 Cor. 9:16). When our Lord was asked to rebuke the children who were shouting hosannas and proclaiming him to be the Son of David, the One coming in the name of the Lord, he said, "If these shall hold their peace, the stones will cry out" (Luke 19:40).
The work of missions which has been committed to the church means carrying out Matthew 28:19 and 20: "Go ye therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you," or Acts 1:8: "Ye shall be my witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and Samaria, and unto the uttermost parts of the earth." We have heard these words so often that it hardly seems worthwhile repeating them, especially before a group of men who have dedicated themselves to the task of preparing for preaching the gospel, the evangel. But it is because I am constantly running across people among regular church members and even ministers and elders who do not believe in missions in its broadest sense that I am saying today that the work of the church is missions.
There are churches which do not reach out to their own community. They are a closed corporation, a social club with a limited membership. They not only do not go out, but dislike and are afraid to go out. They have an actual distaste for missions, home or foreign, and not only begrudge time given to the consideration of missions, but actually ask that the subject not be brought up, and that missionary speakers be forbidden. This may be a rather extreme position, but it is by no means as rare as one might suppose.
Then there are those who, though they would not say they are against missions, conceive of the work of the church as merely shepherding the elect; looking up and calling on those who are already church members; studying, defending, preserving the gospel pure; and teaching it to the elect and their covenant children. If they have put their money into Christian schools and into building up their local church, they feel they have done all that is required of them.
As theological students and later as pastors and even as missionaries on the field, you may find yourselves studying—not because you need to, for the sake of making the truth clear and plain—but as an escape, an excuse from going out and witnessing.
I trust that at this seminary you will get a fuller grasp and a greater zeal for the Reformed faith. I am a Calvinist by conviction and experience. I believe that the Calvinistic theology gives one the truest motive for missions. I believe the Reformed faith is needed today as never before. But it quite disturbed me a few years ago when a minister who has since left our communion said to me in effect, "Calvinism is for the intelligentsia, so we should concentrate our efforts as a church on the intelligentsia." If our Calvinism cannot be made plain to the smallest child or the most ignorant [bushman]—if we cannot carry it to the masses on the street corner—there is something wrong with it. I would say it is not true Calvinism. I pray that the Reformed faith which you learn here may be for you and for those to whom you go in the future, a reforming faith.
We may have the light which we study, defend, and preserve, but our Lord said, "Neither do men light a lamp and put it under a bushel, but on a stand" (Matt. 5:15). And how sharp was his criticism of the steward who came saying, "Lord, I knew thee that thou art a hard man, reaping where thou didst not sow, and gathering where thou didst not scatter and I was afraid, and went away and hid the talent in the earth; lo thou has thine own" (Matt. 25:24-25).
When it was told our Lord, "All are seeking thee," he said to his disciples, "Let us go elsewhere into the next towns, that I may preach there also, for to this end came I forth" (Mark 1:37-38. In John 17:18, our Lord says to the Father, "As thou has sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world."
When the disciples met the risen Lord and were full of questions about the time of the kingdom, the Lord told them it was not for them to know the times or the seasons, but they were to be witnesses to the uttermost parts of the earth.
When the disciples stood seemingly dazed and bewildered at the sight of the ascending Christ, the angel asked them, "Why stand ye here?"
It might be said that the Orthodox Presbyterian Church owes its very existence to the belief that the work of the church is missions. For when Christians within the old church found they were hindered and frustrated in seeking to proclaim the gospel of salvation to the ends of the earth—when they discovered that they were being made to support missions which were indeed no true missions—they found that relationship incompatible with their Christian faith and were compelled to break away.
The great work of the church is missions. In other words, the work of the church collectively and of its members severally is to "Go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I commanded you." It is for Christians to be "witnesses unto the uttermost parts of the earth" (Acts 16:31). And it is through missions, through fruit bearing, that the church glorifies God. "Herein is my Father glorified: that ye bear much fruit." It is God's intent that his manifold wisdom should be made known through the church (Eph. 3:10).
2. Missions is the work of the church
The second proposition which I wish to present for your consideration is that missions is the work of the church—the church as a whole and of the several members as part of the whole. Missions is not an individual or private matter.
Several passages of Scripture will show this. When the number of the apostles had been reduced to eleven by Judas's betrayal and suicide, Peter called the attention of the brethren to the need and scriptural grounds for filling his office, and it was the brethren who put forth and cast lots for one who from among them should be a witness with the apostles of the Lord's resurrection.
When the individual Christians, comprising the persecuted church, were scattered following Stephen's martyrdom, one individual, Philip, was signally successful in his ministry among the people of Samaria. But his work was not considered or left as an individual matter, for the Word declares, "When the apostles that were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the Word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John, who, when they were come down, prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit" (Acts 8:14-15).
When certain men from Judea caused questioning and dissension among the younger churches, the brethren appointed Paul and Barnabas to bring the matter before the apostles in Jerusalem. The Word tells us that this delegation from the younger churches was "brought on their way by the church" (Acts 15:3), "and when they were come to Jerusalem, they were received of the church" (Acts 15:4).
Again in Acts 13:1-3 we read, "Now there were at Antioch in the church prophets and teachers.... And as they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, 'Separate for me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them.' Then, when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away."
In these several cases, we see that it was the church which (a) chose and put forth the witnesses, (b) heard reports on new work, kept in contact with it, and strengthened it, (c) separated, in accordance with the command of the Spirit, two of their number for a special work, and (d) sent them forth.
On the mission field, the proposition that missions is the work of the church is not one of mere academic interest, neither should it be for you who are considering missionary work at home or abroad. And it should be more than an academic question to every minister who has the responsibility of advising and directing individuals as to their missionary activities or who, before the congregation, in church courts, and on church committees, has the responsibility of forming and directing missionary policy.
The Orthodox Presbyterian Church, at its very first Assembly in 1936, accented the proposition that missions is the work of the church when it appointed a Committee on Foreign Missions. At that time, the churches and individuals which formed the Orthodox Presbyterian Church had already been doing missionary work through the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions, and some contended that, as the Board was doing a good work, there was no reason to multiply organizations with the formation of a foreign missions committee of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. Others held, however, that while an independent board may—under certain circumstances—have a legitimate right to exist, as far as the church is concerned, it has its own responsibility in regard to missions. The church itself has a responsibility in missions which it dare not shirk by saying that an independent board or some private group is doing it, so we need take no action.
There are many individuals and nondenominational or interdenominational organizations today which are enthusiastically pushing foreign missions. Young people among their ranks are taught to believe that they are doing a fine thing when they can say, "We are unaffiliated, we have no regular backing, we are going out in faith with no regular support, we are nondenominational or interdenominational." We have seen them come into Korea and Japan and Formosa (Taiwan) in recent years in great numbers. I have heard it stated that over one thousand evangelical missionaries have gone into Japan alone in the last ten years. Their ranks are full of some of the choicest and most enthusiastic of our young American Christians. Many of them are those who, during their years of overseas duty in the armed forces of the nation, saw the great need of the fields white unto harvest, and who, like Paul on the road to Damascus, personally heard and sought to answer the Lord's call. But they have not been sent by the church! Not only have they had to rustle up their own support, but because they had no church sending them—as Paul was subsequently sent by the Antioch church, and Philip's work was integrated into the work of the whole church by the apostles at Jerusalem—they have been compelled rather to fend for themselves, each missionary or missionary society of that nature doing that which is right in its own eyes.
Take, for example, one interdenominational society with the missionaries of which we have had especially happy relations. They have entered a new field within the last five years and already have close to thirty missionaries on that field. In their ranks are people who were or are still connected with churches of the "mainline" Presbyterian, Baptist, and Plymouth Brethren persuasions. They are, of course, drawn together in the common purpose of making Christ known to the people of the land to which they have gone. They are doing many types of work: radio evangelism, orphanage work, tent evangelism, and literary work. But because they were not sent by a church or denomination, they were reluctant to tie up with any existing church on the field lest their supporters in many denominations—including the Orthodox Presbyterian Church—might think they were becoming a certain specific kind of denomination. One can quite understand their dilemma, but it is just this kind of dilemma that I personally feel it is our duty to avoid if possible. Such a policy poses many difficulties—to me greater than the ones they seek to avoid—through nondenominationalism or interdenominationalism.
For instance, recently the question of how to baptize converts came up among them. The missionaries on the field decided that they would leave the mode of baptism up to the preference of the individual convert. If a convert preferred sprinkling, the Presbyterian missionaries in their ranks could do it. If they preferred immersion, the Baptists could do it. However confusing this might be to their work as a mission, it at least had the virtue of being consistent in its interdenominationalism or nondenominationalism. But the home board, in the interest of uniformity, ordered that the missionaries should practice only immersion.
Again, the problem arose as to what they were to do with those who were led to the Lord through such mutually independent projects as radio programs, literary work, and tent evangelism. Because, as I see it, they had not squarely faced the church question, and were trying to be nondenominational in their activity, they were led to leave this largely up to the new converts. Of the first three groups started through their tent evangelism, one group chose to go with the Methodists and be shepherded and fed by them in the future. Another group went to what we call the middle-of-the-road Presbyterians. This was a disappointment to those in that mission who had started the work, and they were happy that one group stayed with them. But what of this one group? Is it now a new denomination? Is it Presbyterian, Baptist, or Plymouth Brethren? Or can it really become that which is a contradiction in terms, a nondenominational denomination?
Years ago we saw a group start in Korea on such a nondenominational basis. They were organized in the States as a nondenominational organization for the sole purpose of conducting missions. They solicited support from all denominations, including in recent years even Orthodox Presbyterian church members. Its work has grown to be one of the larger works in Korea. Its converts have become a definite denomination in Korea of the Holiness Methodist type. And it is one of the most active in the Ecumenical Movement.
This policy particularly creates a problem in the matter of Christian fellowship. When an individual's or a group's stand is known, it is possible to know how far to enter into fellowship or relationship with them. But when their theological, doctrinal, or ecclesiastical stand is so vaguely defined and so purposefully nondenominational, one wonders how far he should recommend them or extend the hand of fellowship, lest it turn out in the end that he has recommended or entered into a fellowship that he is later caused to regret.
As I said before, this is not merely an academic question. It is a very real one. I mention these practices of other missions not in any spirit of censoriousness. It is with some of the members of these kinds of missions that we have our closest fellowship. Yet it is the fact that they are not sent by a church, but by individuals or individual churches, which creates the greatest problems of fellowship for us. And, as I have talked with them, I find it is this which creates some of the greatest problems among themselves in launching a new work. Theological students should be aware of these problems.
Yes, missions is the work of the church, not of unassociated individuals. The Lord spent forty days after his resurrection making sure that the church had one message, the fact of the resurrection and the kingdom. He commanded them to wait until they had been baptized and were endued with the Holy Spirit. In those days of waiting, the disciples were brought to be of one accord and to a steadfastness in prayer. During those days, the vacancy in the organization, left by the death of Judas, was filled. It was the church that launched out on the task of evangelizing the world. And, as I have already tried to demonstrate from God's Word, it was as the church that they carried on this task. It is God's intent that the manifold wisdom of God should be made known through the church (Eph. 3:10).
3. The work of missions is the church
In the third place, the work of missions is the church—or, to put it a little more clearly, the work of missions is primarily the establishment of the church.
A little over a year ago, a well-known American evangelist and educator, on a visit to Korea, invited me to a conference in his hotel room. In the course of the conversation, he expressed it as his opinion that there was very little real Christianity in Korea, that it was mostly "churchianity." The same expression was used by a fellow passenger on the plane last summer as we were returning to the States. This passenger is a missionary who has in recent years traveled more widely than most missionaries have the opportunity of doing in many countries of the Orient. Recognizing that his travels put him in a better position than the usual run of us to make comparisons and judge objectively, I asked him for his opinion of the Korean church. He said in effect that its large audiences, full prayer meetings, sacrificial giving, and zeal for the Word of God and witnessing were unparalleled in any of the mission fields he had been visiting, that the church in Korea was in a class by itself, but that it had too much "churchianity" (the same word used by the evangelist educator).
I think I know what these men mean by "churchianity," and I would be the last to deny and the first to deplore the existence of that kind of ecclesiasticism in Korea to which I think they are referring. I too have tasted the enmity of church leaders in Korea and have been reprimanded by their courts, even having church courts warn their people against me.
But when both of these men point to the "churchianity" of the Korean church, are they not perhaps unwittingly putting their fingers on one of the secrets of mission work in Korea which many have admired and whose fruits they have sought to emulate? Namely, that not only was that work begun by churches, but the object of the work was the establishment of the church. Korean Christians are church conscious and they are a church which believes in expanding the church.
It is a lack of church consciousness which I believe underlies much of the trouble connected with the well-meaning sacrifice and zeal of modern evangelical mission activity and causes it to have so little real impact on people. We cannot but covet the choice lives and the large sums of money that are being poured into the work of missions. And, at the same time, our hearts bleed when we see so little fruit for such feverish activity and when we see these young missionaries frustrated and in many cases broken because of what seems to be their misdirected efforts.
Where some say that there is too much "churchianity" in Korea, I would like to remind them that, in spite of all the evils that would be liable to fasten themselves to the outward form of the church, it was still our Lord's purpose to "build his church." That great missionary Paul, sent by the church at Antioch, made disciples. He taught them. He baptized them, sometimes in groups. He appointed elders to whom he committed the care of the flock—the blood-bought church—and he tells us that it was God's intent that through the church the manifold wisdom of God should be made known (Eph. 3:10).
There are plenty of flaws in the Korean church, but—praise God!— a church has been established there, a church that has its own congregations, and deacons and elders, evangelists, pastors, and even foreign missionaries—a church whose members have been so possessed of God's Holy Spirit that they are concerned over the lost, and not only witness to them, but send out people to witness to them in more remote places. They have started orphanages, leper colonies, an old folks' home, a home for cripples, and charity hospitals. They work among the blind and deaf and care for the poor. They carry the gospel to those who are in prison. They have started Christian schools—several grade schools, an academy with five hundred students, and a college where their young people may be nourished in the Lord and grow in wisdom and stature and in favor with God as well as man. They have Bible institutes and a seminary where the things received may be committed to faithful men. It is a church that decides matters of doctrine and practice in church council, seeking to be guided by the Word of God, a church that has opposed error, and one that tries the spirits to see whether they be of God.
Yes, in Korea the evils of ecclesiasticism have often attached themselves to the church, but, as one U.S. Army chaplain put it, "We found the church there."
I feel that what modern evangelical missions needs is a dose of good "churchianity," to counteract the debilitating disease of "projectitis."
In missionary talks, the prowess of individual missionaries and the phenomenal success of their work is too often stressed. There is too much of hero worship in missionary propaganda. And young people often go to the field with the ambition of making their mark in the missionary world. One will go to do radio work, another literature work, school work, children's work, student work, relief work, medical work, tract work, country evangelism, agricultural work, or orphanage work. Do not misunderstand me, people certainly have different talents, and people with only one or two talents must employ those talents where they can be utilized. The world needs more than the general practitioner. Specialists, too, are necessary. But to what end is this specialization being used?
The Bible tells us of specialists, saying, "God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondly prophets, thirdly teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helps, governments, divers kinds of tongues" (1 Cor. 12:2). In Ephesians 4:11, Paul starts out with a similar list, saying, "He gave some to be apostles, and some evangelists," etc., and then in the twelfth verse, he gives us the purpose of these diversified gifts. It is "for the perfecting of the saints, unto the work of ministering, unto the building up of the body of Christ." Yes, the work of missions is primarily that of building the church.
Last week I received a letter for which I was very thankful, though it rather shook me up. It came from one of the pastors of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. It seems that a friend of ours from one of the interdenominational missions doing work in Korea had recently been invited to speak in their church and had made a very fine impression. Let me quote part of his letter—"After the meeting, it was obvious that interest was created for the orphanage. In fact, that interest was shown before I even arrived here.... Now I am pleased by the fact that people show interest in missions, but I feel this interest should be channeled into our own work in Korea.... The reason I am writing to you is that there seems to be some lack here of information about our own work in Korea." Then he tells of someone speaking to him about our work in Korea and saying something like this: "Bruce Hunt spends his time teaching in a seminary and speaking here and there, but shouldn't he settle down and establish a church?"
Now I was thankful for that letter because the pastor wrote me for information about our work and was distressed at the lack of understanding about our work among his people. I was also thankful that the one mentioned does not want the missionary who represents him to be beating the air, that he wants him to organize or work to establish a church. Both of these men from their vantage point are concerned about the work of missions and I am thankful. That is as it should be.
I am not disturbed because the people of that church are interested in an orphanage which does not happen to be in our work in Korea. Nor am I specially zealous that money from our churches should be channeled only into our work. In fact, we ourselves have on occasion also tried to help that particular orphanage work in which his people are showing such a lively interest.
What shook me in the letter was the possibly excusable, yet evident lack of information and understanding about our work which it indicated. Because I have heard that particular kind of criticism before, perhaps I was a little more sensitive and read more between the lines than I should have. Perhaps the one quoted did not mean to compare the work we are doing with that of the missionary doing orphanage work. Perhaps he did not mean to say that we are spreading ourselves too thin in our work, and would it not be better to settle ourselves down and work to establish one or two local churches rather than "speaking here and there."
As I say, maybe I was reading more between the lines than I should have. But it did bring up in my mind the comparison between the two works. Comparisons are odious, and the particular orphanage in question is doing one of the finest works among orphans that I have seen in Korea. I have often thought it illustrates those words, "Who gives himself with his gift feeds three." So many are giving money to help orphans, and their gifts without the givers indeed seem bare of fruit. But at this orphanage there are seven Americans, who have left home and their country to work for around one hundred children. Of course, the work is just beginning and they hope to expand and help more. They use American money to pay a full, to our standards, staff of workers. The missionaries themselves, who are consecrated Bible institute and seminary graduates, are also carpenters and builders and have themselves done much of the building of the orphanage dormitories and missionary residences. Yes, the orphanage looks "Stateside," as we say out there, and is run very much like a Stateside institution, with Stateside money and seven Stateside people taking care of one hundred or more orphans. I do not begrudge the orphans. Would that more could be done for them. The missionaries are having a fine Christian influence on those children and giving them excellent practical training. No, I do not begrudge the orphans, nor do I criticize the missionaries for the way they are conducting the orphanage. I think they are doing an excellent job.
But what bothers me is the implication that perhaps we should stop what we are doing and go and do likewise. Is it the understanding of any in our church that what we are doing is not as important as that orphanage work? Is our conception of our church's missionary task that it is fulfilled when we complete and perfect one or two projects, such as an orphanage or a local church?
To begin with, it might be pointed out that it is only within the last six months that the number of our workers in Korea has reached six, not the seven working in that orphanage. Would it be the best economy of manpower and money to use our six in perfecting one project or church? Just what are we seeking to do with our six? We are seeking to establish a church.
The seminary in which I spend a few hours a week teaching grew out of the Korean church's crying need for workers. It is only one of the means we are using to prepare the leaders for the close to six hundred congregations of that church, besides the congregations still unborn. In addition to teaching in the seminary, some of our staff of six are teaching in two Bible institutes, a high school, and a Christian college, all started and largely supported by the Korean church itself to train its workers. This same staff of six is being asked to teach in nine other Bible institutes, part of the work of that same church in its program of expansion. These six are trying to render at least a little aid to twenty orphanages and twenty leper colonies operated by the members of the Korean church. It is not a case of seven missionaries giving full time to one project (an orphanage with one hundred children), but six missionaries helping to build a church with its many-sided program: twenty orphanages ministering to over two thousand children, twenty leper colonies with nearly four thousand inmates, a seminary, eleven Bible institutes, two hospitals, a Christian college and high school, and several Christian grade schools, a church with its Sunday schools and young people's work, with its evangelistic campaigns and mission programs.
The Rev. Theodore Hard, one of the graduates of Westminster Seminary, has been on the field a little over three years. But in addition to teaching in the church's college and seminary and Bible institute, he is helping the pastors and students of that church to get good books. He is helping the members of that church witness to and minister to the pitiful veterans in the Korean Army Hospital. He and Mr. Spooner took part in a young people's conference this summer. He has visited a number of the orphanages during the summer and brought help to them. He has participated in the relief program of that church during the terrible floods of the past summer. Just yesterday I received a letter from him reporting the actions of one of the presbytery meetings which he attended and whose problems have become his problems and ours. Because Mr. Hard and Mr. Spooner are identified with the church, already the leaders of that church come to them to talk over important matters. Mr. Hard spoke twenty-two times in Korean during June, July, and August, twelve of these times in a presbytery area other than the one where we are living—his "work assignment for particular emphasis outside Pusan," as he puts it. There are six presbyteries of that Korean church asking that missionaries work with them in their many-sided program.
Even while they are in training, the students of the Bible institutes and seminary of the Korean church are ministering to the many groups without pastors (for there are a little over one hundred ministers for the close to six hundred congregations) and starting new works. The speaking here and there in addition to teaching took the speaker away from home more than ninety days last year, visiting over fifty different churches, some more than once, in an effort to follow the apostle's example of "confirming the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith" (Acts 14:22), for along with Paul and Ted Hard and Boyce Spooner, "besides those things that are without [orphans, hospitals, relief, schools, etc.] there is that which presseth upon us daily, anxiety for all the churches" (2 Cor. 11:2).
No, we do not believe that the work of missions is some personal project upon which we can make a personal report. The work of missions is the establishment of the church.
Should we settle down, in the words of the questioner, to organize or work to establish one local church—one mere project, one orphanage? It is a fair question and one that as people interested in missions we should all ask. I believe the answer is no. However successful one congregation or one project may appear, the question should be asked by every minister and Christian teacher of his own work or any work to which he or his people give their support: Does this contribute to the building of the body of Christ, the church catholic?
It is the church against which the gates of hell cannot prevail. Orphanages, hospitals, leper colonies, and relief projects which are not conducted and staffed by true Christians, members of the body of Christ, cannot claim for themselves protection against the gates of hell nor be expected to show forth the "manifold wisdom of God" (Eph. 3:10).
The son of missionary parents, the Rev. Bruce F. Hunt spent his life chiefly in foreign missions (especially in Korea) beginning in 1928. He was a founding member of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church in 1936, and retired from active missionary service in 1976, after more than forty years on the mission field. At the onset of World War II he was for a time imprisoned in Manchuria for his open opposition to the government's attempt to force emperor worship on the Korean-speaking Christians among whom he labored. See his gripping autobiographical volume For a Testimony, available from the Committee for the Historian. This article appeared in New Horizons in three parts beginning March 2002.