Posted on September 17th, 2014 by Jonathan
As many of us are leaving summer behind to return to school or get back into a regular routine at work, Matt is doing no such thing. Life is different for him. Matt lives in Central Asia and was sent out to serve mid-term by The Church at Brook Hill. Mid-term is described as a period of anywhere between two months and two years. For him, school looks more like learning a foreign language, and monotonous routine . . . well, there’s not much of that.
We asked Matt some questions about his life in Central Asia. Our hope is that his words might challenge those of us tempted to simply survive the next test or deadline. Our lives are intended for more than intention-less routines driven by purposeless attitudes. When we realize that God desires to use us to bring the nations to Himself, and when we hear of brothers and sisters whose devotion to Christ means harsh persecution, we see everything differently. The reality is, we have so much more to live for than the weekend.
Here’s what Matt had to say . . .
What has been the most surprising aspect about serving in this new context?
Time and time again, my team and I have been surprised at how quickly God answers the prayers of us and our supporters back home, and His answers to these prayers are often even better than we knew to ask for! We shouldn’t be afraid to ask Him to act in big ways to help us reach lost people. He desires and is worthy of the worship of all peoples and is actively working in hearts and lives all across the world.
What has been the most difficult part of your time there?
It has been difficult being part of a new team re-engaging a minority people group that has not been worked with for several years. Due to the difficulty of gaining access to our people’s homeland, we are in the process of establishing a business in a nearby country where there is a significant population of our people. This poses many challenges such as learning a minority language with few immersion experiences, balancing business and ministry responsibilities, and justifying to the community why we as Western businessmen spend so much time with this minority people and are learning their language.
Can you give us your highlight of the trip?
One of the biggest highlights so far has been growing closer as a team and becoming more like a family. Being part of such a small team, we spend a lot of time together, and the Lord has used that in teaching us more of what it means to be the body of Christ. Praying, worshiping, and having fun together, holding one another accountable, and being united in a common vision has helped us to encourage one another during the difficult times and overall thrive in our first year on the field.
What advice would you give to people considering going mid-term?
Utilize the time before you leave the U.S. to establish routines of engaging lost people where you are currently. Often times, we get caught up in enjoying the benefits of Christian community so much that we rarely put ourselves in places where we are surrounded by the lost. Going mid-term is a weird balance between a sprint and a marathon; the routines you are able to establish before arriving on the field will help you to make the most of the time you have in your new context.
What advice would you give to friends, family, and church members in terms of how they can support workers like you?
The way that is most obvious and yet often over-looked is to actively pray for that person, their ministry, and their people. Be proactive in asking for ways to pray for that person and in regularly praying for their boldness and evangelism opportunities. Also, we love hearing from friends, family, and supporters about what is happening back home and how we can be praying for them.
What is one big takeaway that the the Father has taught you in your experience as a mid-term worker?
I often feel like I am sitting on the front row watching Him prepare the harvest of these people in a way in which only the Creator of the universe is able! In our first month on the field, He answered our prayers by providing a language teacher, national believer, and friend all with a single person whom He had burdened to return to his family and country (at the risk of his life) to help reach his people with the gospel of Christ. The things we’ve seen happen over the past year are more than coincidences; no doubt the Lord is doing the same type of things in unreached people groups all across the world!
What is one thing you have learned from the national brothers and sisters that you are partnering with?
Extreme persecution is normal, expected, and worth the risk for the believers in this part of the world. Coming from a place, like the U.S, where it is “safe” to be a Christian, it is still difficult to fully understand what these national brothers and sisters experience everyday in living and dying for Christ. That being said, the Lord is using these terrible acts to bring others to faith, grow the church, and advance the gospel of Christ to the most difficult to reach people and places in the world.
Posted on September 16th, 2014 by David Burnette
It may sound like a contradiction, but it’s true: serious theological errors usually contain a good dose of the truth. That’s why we fall for them.
Most Christians know to reject a teaching that openly rejects God’s Word, but when the truth is slightly twisted or simply downplayed—maybe even with Bible verses attached—it’s easier to get caught off guard. This is particularly dangerous when it comes to Scripture’s foundational teachings, like Christ’s atonement. Your answer to the question, “What did Christ accomplish by his death on the cross?” has massive implications.
In Secret Church 6: The Cross of Christ, you can see a list of some of the most influential theories of the atonement in church history (SC 6 Study Guide, 14-15). One of those theories is called the Moral Influence Theory, which is the idea that Christ’s death on the cross was primarily a demonstration of God’s love intended to move sinners to repentance. So what could be wrong with that? Isn’t the cross supposed to demonstrate God’s love to us? Well, yes, but that’s not the whole story when it comes to Christ’s atoning work. Consider just a couple of the problems with the Moral Influence Theory.
God’s Word clearly teaches that we have sinned against a holy God, and the penalty for that sin is death (Rom 3:23; 6:23). However, if we subscribe to the Moral Influence Theory, it’s not clear how our sin gets dealt with. The cross may deeply affect us, even moving us to change our behavior, but that won’t remove our guilt before God. We have sins that need to be forgiven (Eph 1:7) and a debt that needs to be cancelled (Col 2:14). A Righteous Judge cannot simply overlook this. It’s no surprise, then, that the Moral Influence Theory rejects the idea that our sin requires a payment, thus calling into question God’s perfect justice. Also, as Michael Horton observes, “A moral example or influence need hardly be God incarnate” (1). Clearly another atonement theory is needed.
If we want to be made right with the holy and just God who is revealed in Scripture, our sin debt must be paid. Gratefully, Christ’s atoning work has done just that. Peter tells us that Christ died in our place, “the righteous for the unrighteous” (1 Pet 3:18). The name of the theory that best accounts for this view of the atonement is sometimes called the Penal Substitution Theory. As the name suggests, Christ’s atonement paid sin’s penalty (Penal) in our place (Substitution). God is both “just and the justifier” of those who trust in his Son (Rom 3:26).
To be clear, seeing Jesus as our substitute doesn’t mean his atonement is not also a deeply moving demonstration of God’s love, nor does it mean that there weren’t other purposes for Christ’s death (like disarming the “rulers and authorities” (Col 2:15). But unless a sinless, sufficient sacrifice is made for our sins—something only the divine Son of God could do—our guilt remains and none of the other benefits of Christ’s death will work for our eternal good. No mere demonstration of love, however great, will wipe our record clean.
Not even if it moves us to tears.
– For more on Secret Church 6: The Cross of Christ, go here.
(1) Michael Horton, The Christian Faith: A Systematic Theology for Pilgrims on the Way, 504.
The urgent physical and spiritual needs in the world should lead us to be urgent in proclaiming the gospel and mobilizing others to do the same. However, the pressing need to get the gospel out doesn’t mean the whole of our mission is dispersing a few simple gospel facts. As Will Metzger reminds us, being obedient to the Great Commission involves continual teaching in light of the whole counsel of God:
So often we are told to think of the gospel content in terms of a simple plan of salvation with three or four basic facts. Yet the evangelistic mandate our Lord gave us was “teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Mt 28:20). In another version of this command we find what we are witnesses to: Christ, the necessity of his suffering, the historical resurrection, repentance, forgiveness of sins (Lk 24:46-48). Precisely so, comments the modern evangelist; we are only to repeat a few central facts, for Paul himself summarizes the gospel ever so briefly (1 Cor 15:3-4) and explicitly tells us in the second chapter of the same book that he “resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (v. 2). Likewise, many of today’s evangelists continue trying to prove their case for stripping down the extensive theology of the gospel to a minimal amount of truth content. While they no doubt are sincerely seeking to help others toward salvation, they can end up dangerously misleading people by making the gospel simplistic.
Is this simplistic gospel approach adequate? Are we to reduce and package the gospel for easy distribution? Are we to imagine that Paul merely parroted the words “Jesus Christ crucified” up and down the streets of Corinth? No. Each of these words is like the tip of an iceberg rising above the water. Underneath is a large mass of assumptions and deep meanings. Only when we grapple with these can we begin to understand the nature and breadth of our evangelistic task. This is why in the book of Acts we see the apostles as teachers–reasoning, persuading, explaining–involved in all sorts of teaching activity in order to communicate as much truth as possible to nonbelievers.
J.I. Packer in Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God has pointed out that the gospel was a message of some complexity, needing to be learned before it could be lived by and understood before it could be applied. It needed, therefore, to be taught. The first and fundamental job of Paul as a preacher of the gospel was to communicate knowledge, to get truth fixed in people’s minds. Teaching the truth was the basic evangelistic activity. Although the apostles as evangelists did keep certain themes in the forefront, these central doctrines could never be communicated in a vacuum. They must be related to the whole counsel of God. There must be a context given to the points of the gospel or else communication cannot take place. We must allow, however, for a great difference between what a Christian’s understanding of the gospel should be and that of a non-Christian who is just beginning to learn it. For Paul, the only right method of evangelism was the teaching method. Therefore, scriptural evangelism has extensive–not minimal–instruction as its goal.
Will Metzger, Tell the Truth: The Whole Gospel to the Whole Person by Whole People, 33-34.
Posted on September 12th, 2014 by David Burnette
Kevin DeYoung posted the following prayer by Samuel M. Zwemer (1867-1952), an RCA minister and Princeton professor known as “The Apostle to Islam”:
“Almighty God, our Heavenly Father, who hast made of one blood all nations and hast promised that many shall come from the East and sit down with Abraham in thy kingdom: We pray for thy prodigal children in Muslim lands who are still afar off, that they may be brought nigh by the blood of Christ. Look upon them in pity, because they are ignorant of thy truth.
Take away pride of intellect and blindness of heart, and reveal to them the surpassing beauty and power of thy Son Jesus Christ. Convince them of their sin in rejecting the atonement of the only Savior. Give moral courage to those who love thee, that they may boldly confess thy name.
Hasten the day of religious freedom in Turkey, Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, and North Africa. Send forth reapers where the harvest is ripe, and faithful plowmen to break furrows in lands still neglected. May the tribes of Africa and Malaysia not fall prey to Islam but be won for Christ. Bless the ministry of healing in every hospital, and the ministry of love at every church and mission. May all Muslim children in mission schools be led to Christ and accept him as their personal Savior.
Strengthen converts, restore backsliders, and give all those who labor among Muslims the tenderness of Christ, so that bruised reeds may become pillars of his church, and smoking flaxwicks burning and shining lights. Make bare thine arm, O God, and show thy power. All our expectation is from thee.
Father, the hour has come; glorify thy Son in the Muslim world, and fulfill through him the prayer of Abraham thy friend, “O, that Ishmael might live before thee.” For Jesus’ sake. Amen.”
– Taken from Islam and the Cross: Selections from “The Apostle to Islam” (edited by Roger Greenway).
Posted on September 10th, 2014 by David Burnette
We’re excited to announce the upcoming release of Counter Culture, a book by David Platt scheduled to come out in early February 2015 from Tyndale.
Counter Culture is a call for Christians to respond to many of the critical social issues of our day with gospel compassion, conviction, and courage. Issues covered include poverty, abortion, orphan and widow care, sex slavery, marriage, sexual morality, racism and ethnicity, religious liberty, and unreached people groups.
As the culture continues to shift, followers of Christ are being forced to address new facets of a very old challenge–how to be faithful to Scripture in an increasingly hostile environment. We must think, speak, and act in a way that’s informed by the gospel and the Word of God. This means being okay, or rather expecting, that our actions will not be met with applause. Here’s a blurb from the book:
Ask a group of Christians what they think about poverty, sex trafficking, or the orphan crisis,and you’ll probably get a pretty quick response. But ask that same group about gay marriage or abortion, and you’ll most likely be faced with a lot of nervous hesitancy or fuzzy answers. In this day when social issues are creating clear dividing lines in society, moral or political neutrality is no longer an option for those who believe the gospel. It’s simply not enough to focus on only those issues that are most comfortable—and least costly—to us.
But what if the main issue is not poverty or homosexuality or abortion? What if the main issue is God? What if the same God who moves us to war against sex trafficking also moves us to war against sexual immorality? What if the same gospel that compels us to combat poverty also compels us to defend traditional marriage? What if all of these cultural hot-button issues are all connected to our understanding of who God is and how he relates to everything around us? Join David Platt as he invites us to fix our gaze on the holiness, love, goodness, truth, justice, authority, and mercy of God revealed in the gospel and to walk boldly right into the middle of today’s culture wars.
Posted on September 8th, 2014 by David Burnette
If leading others through Secret Church material seems intimidating, or if you’re looking for a Bible study to do with your small group, we’ve designed a simple resource to help. Check out the new Small Group Discussion Guide for Secret Church 14: The Cross and Everyday Life (SC 14).
The Small Group Discussion Guide breaks down 4.5 hours of teaching from SC 14 into a 6-week study that is designed to be used along with the video and Study Guide for SC 14. The Discussion Guide is free for anyone who purchases 5 or more SC 14 Study Guides or a SC 14 DVD. (The cost is $5.00 to order the Discussion Guide by itself.) To get those resources, you can go here.
To download a free sample of Week 1 from the Discussion Guide, go here.
You can use this resource to lead another individual, a small group, or a large class through the material in Secret Church 14. Each week contains the following sections:
This Discussion Guide breaks the Secret Church 14 study into six sessions. The Watch/Fill In portion will tell you how much of the video to watch during each session and what portion of the study guide will be used during that session.
Week at a Glance
The Week at a Glance section will give you a general overview of the material you will be studying each week.
Key Takeaways and Verses
Every week, the Discussion Guide will provide a few key takeaways from the study as well as key verses to help you guide the discussion following the video portion of the study.
Explaining Terms and Concepts
This section of the Discussion Guide is a resource to unpack terms and concepts used during the Secret Church study.
Questions for Discussion and Reflection
Questions for discussion and reflection are provided to help your small group think through and apply the concepts studied each week.
For Further Study
Each week a list of resources is provided for the leader and participants for further study on the content covered in that session.
— To learn more about Secret Church 14: The Cross and Everyday Life, go here.
Posted on September 8th, 2014 by Jonathan
ISIS overrunning Iraq and Syria. Church buildings razed in China. Boko Haram bombings and kidnappings in Nigeria. Labor camps in North Korea. Imprisoned Christians in Iran. The persecution of Christians is on a tragic rise, but it is not a new phenomenon. In fact, each Fall, the International Day of Prayer has highlighted persecuted Christians, encouraging churches to pray for them as well as for their persecutors. Such prayer has always been important, but as this year’s headlines makes clear, the need for such prayer has never been more urgent.
In light of this, Open Doors is hosting a live webcast on November 1 and 2 to inform and encourage people toward this end. Special guests include David Platt and Nik Ripken, and worship will be led by Selah. The first night (Saturday, Nov 1) will give you the opportunity to interact with believers from all over the world. The second night (Sunday, Nov 2), there will be a time of worship geared toward churches. Such a webcast allows for the persecuted to hear directly from the people praying for them (and vice versa) as they worship their God together . . . and Open Doors is making the event completely free.
You won’t want to miss this. RSVP here so that you can have all the info you need participate and even get your church involved. But go ahead and begin praying for the persecuted. Open Doors has suggested five ways for you to get involved in the International Day of Prayer, and this is just one of them!
Posted on September 4th, 2014 by Jonathan
On October 27-29, the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) will host a conference in Nashville titled, “The Gospel, Homosexuality, and the Future of Marriage.” Maybe this synopsis from the ERLC website will give you a better idea of what you can expect and why you should be sure to register . . .
Are you and your church prepared for the moral revolution surrounding homosexuality and same-sex marriage happening across America? While human sexuality and social institutions are being redefined before our very eyes, the Bible presents marriage as an unchanging picture of the gospel through the union of one man and one woman. The gospel announces that the story of Jesus is greater than the sum total of our sexual desires.
We’ll equip you to defend marriage in the culture and strengthen marriage in the church by preparing you to address issues like:
- How do we effectively minister to those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender?
- How has the divorce culture impacted marriage in our communities and our churches?
- What does sexual faithfulness look like for a same-sex attracted Christian?
- Why did God create marriage and why did he design it for the common good?
- How should a pastor counsel a same-sex couple that wants to join his church?
- How can churches minister to those who are single, dating, divorced or celibate?
- How can Christians show the love of Christ to gay family members or neighbors?
Speakers include Russell Moore, Trillia Newbell, Danny Akin, Trevin Wax, Alber Mohler, Rosaria Butterfield, J.D. Greear, Denny Burk, Jim Daly, Ryan Anderson, Kevin Ezell, and many more. Our own David Platt will be delivering a message titled, “Marriage and Missions: How Singleness and Marriage Connect to the Great Commission.”
It has never been more important for Christians and churches to have a good grasp on these things in order to biblically respond. Register HERE to attend, but do so before the end of the day Friday, when the price will increase.
Posted on September 3rd, 2014 by Jonathan
Last week, it was announced that Pastor David was appointed president of the International Mission Board (IMB). We posted a video in which David explains how the Lord led him to this role and what that means, but we want to be even more clear about what this means for Radical.
While there will be some obvious changes in the nature of Pastor David’s work, Radical’s role as his resource ministry will largely stay the same. Whether you’re new to Radical or you’ve been following us for some time, here are some things you can expect in the future:
- Radical will continue to serve as a source for all of his material, spoken and written, and will likely even expand with new features such as a regular podcast from David.
- Past sermons and Secret Church studies will continue to be available in our online resource library.
- We will still provide translation resources in 6+ languages.
- The Radical store will still make books, Secret Church study guides, and more available for sale.
- We’ll continue to regularly post on the Radical and Secret Church blogs.
- Pastor David will continue to teach new Secret Church simulcasts.
- Multiply will go on at MultiplyMovement.com.
- David Platt is unwavering in his commitment to the local church as the primary means for missions.
If you benefit from Radical’s ministry (any of our various facets), don’t go anywhere. We aren’t.
Posted on September 2nd, 2014 by Eric Parker
“But Jonah arose to flee to Tarshish from the face of the Lord. He went down to Joppa and, finding a ship bound for Tarshish, he paid the fare and went down into it, to go with them to Tarshis, away from the face of the Lord.”
Many of us think of idolatry as something ancient and mystical, something that involves a carved image and maybe a ritual of some sort. Very few of us, however, attempt to see beyond those outward expressions to the heart behind them. When we do, we see that many of us carry the same sort of idolatrous heart as those we read about in the ancient times of the Bible. Some idolatrous tendencies are easier to recognize, like sex, money and power. But others come through the very culture that we have been reared in, making them difficult to identify because they are woven into the very way we perceive the world.
In his book, Counterfeit Gods, Tim Keller has done well in showing us the universality of idolatry, not just in biblical times, but today. He helps us see the possible idolatry in Jonah’s heart that stemmed from Jonah’s culture. He comments on Jonah 1:3 saying,
In deliberate contradiction of the charge to go east to Ninevah, Jonah arose and instead went to Tarshish, a town on the western rim of the known world. He did the very opposite of what God wanted him to do. Why? Jonah’s internal motives are not fully revealed until chapter 4, but at this point, the text gives us several clues as to why he would so flagrantly disobey a direct divine command.
Jonah would have been afraid of failure. God was summoning a lone Hebrew prophet to walk into the most powerful city in the world and call it to get down on its knees before his God. The only possible outcome seemed to be mockery or death, with the second as likely as the first. Preachers want to go where they will be persuasive.
He would have been just as afraid, however, of the possibility of the mission’s success, small as that might have been. Assyria was a cruel and violent empire. The empire was already demanding tribute from Israel, a kind of international protecting money. Jonah was being called to warn Nineveh of God’s wrath, to give them a chance to survive and continue to be a threat to Israel. As a patriotic Israelite, Jonah wanted no part of such a mission.
So why did he run? The answer is, again, idolatry, but of a very complex kind. Jonah had a personal idol. He wanted ministry success more than he wanted to obey God. Also, Jonah was shaped by a cultural idol. He put the national interests of Israel over obedience to God and the spiritual good of the Ninevites. Finally, Jonah had a religious idol, simple moral self-righteousness. He felt superior to the wicked, pagan Ninevites. He didn’t want to see them saved. Jonah’s cultural and personal idols had melded into a toxic compound that was completely hidden from him. It led him to rebel against the very God he was so proud of serving.
Tim Keller, Counterfeit Gods, 135-136
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