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A Bit of Nostalgia for the Gospel

January 10th, 2015

… to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.

Acts 26:18

I miss the gospel of Jesus Christ.

It seems to have disappeared as of late. We have focused on a thousand things – on “being a Christian” or on “denominationalism” or “nondenominationalism” or “networking” or “church planting movements” or “evolution” or “justice” or “soul healing” or “Charismatic issues” or “pornography” or “children’s education” or “secularization” or “sexual orientation” or on a thousand other important things.

But the wonder of the gospel message, the privilege of sharing it, and the power of God active in conversion seems to have been put aside. And my soul is hungry for a fellowship among believers where passion for the gospel again reigns in hearts and unites us in God’s power and love for this lost and broken world.

I am old enough to remember this passion in earlier times, of missionary work where the message of Christ’s love and human response dominated the mind and soul of believers around me. We, many of us, gave our lives that the world might know of Christ’s death and resurrection, and of new life in Him.

In the enthusiasm of youth we went and spent our lives for the sake of poor people’s salvation, and we witnessed the out-pouring of the grace and mercy of God, as well as His Spirit. And you cannot do this in theory only, there must be means, so our passions ran along the paths of the ways we had at our disposal of doing this. Whether it was film evangelism, or crusade evangelism, or personal evangelism, or home Bible study evangelism, or cell group evangelism did not matter, for they were all precious. Methods were good if the results were lives changed by the grace of God in Christ.

And prayer was precious, for we realized that evangelism could never be thought of as merely talking to men about God. It must also be understood as talking to God about men.

To evangelize is the heart of the Christian Commission, and everything else we are commanded to do stems from this work. We must make disciples through the preaching of the gospel message before we can mark disciples through baptism or mature disciples through teaching them to obey all things Christ commanded.

Please do not misunderstand me. I have not stopped preaching the gospel – I have preached the gospel in every sermon that I have delivered over the years, asking people to respond to Christ in repentance and faith. And this is also the spirit of those in leadership in our church and my colleagues on the church staff. And we have seen people saved – many people. But beyond that the vision seems to have faded somewhat, until other passions dominate the conversations.

I do not doubt that these other things are important, and have spent a great deal of time and energy myself in dealing with them, and will spend more as God gives me breath. But some of the lesser princes have seemed to edge the king off the throne as of late. We – I mean the circle of my Christian friends – need a passionate return to the central work of evangelism, of preaching or sharing or witnessing to the simple gospel message of salvation in Jesus Christ, the forgiveness of sins in His name, and the entrance into the new life of the Spirit.

Perhaps you share this concern with me. Perhaps God has also put this central concern on your heart. The danger that confronts the church of each generation is to be consumed with our own concerns, and not consumed enough with the concerns of God. The call and commission of Christ has not changed. It is still the same. We must be His instruments to turn people from darkness to light, from the power of Satan to God, from death to life.

May God turn us again to honor this sacred calling and trust He has given to us, and may we find renewed passion and fellowship with others as we enter into the work afresh.

National Day of Prayer

National Day of Prayer

May 2nd, 2013

Let us acknowledge the Lord; let us press on to acknowledge him. As surely as the sun rises, he will appear; he will come to us like the winter rains, like the spring rains that water the earth.

Hosea 6:3

Today is the National Day of Prayer for America, and many Christians around the world also observe this as a special day of prayer.

There can be no question about this matter: we need prayer because we need God. In the wisdom of the Almighty and in the mystery of how He has decided to deal with us, He leaves some matters into our hands to act upon or not. Some things God will do when we pray that He will not do if we do not pray. It is as simple as that. He has given us real responsibility.

For those of us, such as myself, with Calvinist orientations, this is unsettling. It is more comforting to leave ourselves an out, that the cosmic war was not dependent on us to any real or meaningful degree. It was all settled eons ago by the will of the Almighty. And besides it seems to fit more neatly into the box of theology if we give Him total control and ourselves almost none.

The problem with this is that God has decided otherwise. However, we fit it into the mental equation of our theology, whatever theological gymnastics we have to perform to ease our minds, we cannot deny that He said, “You have not because you ask not” (James 4:1). God waits for us to pray before He will do some things.

This is the “pressing on to acknowledge Him” that must take place in our souls, a desire for Him, a choice for Him and for His will, and a beseeching cry from our hearts that He would come and move and stir us again, renewing our hearts and our society.

In the closing of World War I, William Butler Yeats penned the immortal poem, “The Second Coming,” in which he wrote:

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,

The fear of the incredible war machines that men had made, coupled with the propagandized enthusiasm of raw nationalism, drew him and other thinking people like him, to the stark reality that we just might be staring into the face of the end of the world as we know it. And if we are, if the end is near, then the beginning is also near, for we believe the end to be just that – the event that welcomes the return of the Christ and the beginning of His reign on this earth.

Our hearts should always hold this truth in mind, that this world is not our home. We are merely passing through on the way to our Celestial City, to the kingdom of God where our true citizenship is. But we should not consider this world as unimportant, for it is dearly loved by God. And the end, if we can understand the prophecies at all, will be horrible. Again Yeats’ words inspire our thoughts (fearful though they might be) as he describes the coming of the Antichrist:

And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

“Slouches towards Bethlehem” – the words speak for themselves. Some power is afoot in the world, gathering its influence and pushing for its agenda, seeking skillfully to dismantle everything that has kept it at bay through the centuries. In past centuries it has raised its ugly head just barely above the horizon – Inquisition, Holocaust, Gulag, Mao’s Slaughter of Millions – but these were mere dress rehearsals for the cruelty that will be unleashed at some point in future world events.

God holds us accountable before Him, to desire holy things, to act in faith and obedience, and to call upon Him in prayer. The battle is ours but we are not able to fight it without Him. Prayer is the avenue through which we show our dependence on Him and the first step we must take to engage in the fight. Pray for national leaders. Pray for pastors. Pray for those addicted to pornography. Pray for marriages. Pray for the truth to be proclaimed – honestly, graciously, and clearly.

We cannot each follow the arguments and discussions that frequent the news ways. Many sources on both sides of any issue are biased and unclear, and the average man on the street or Christian in the church, may be misled at any time by biased journalism. Yet we can all and each pray to the Lord and ask for Him to bring revival, to protect the innocent, to encourage us in our hearts, and to come.

The heart of all prayer is just this desire: “Even so, come Lord Jesus” (Rev. 22:20).

I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people – for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all people.

1 Timothy 2:1-6

National Day of Prayer