Posted on August 1st, 2014 by Jonathan
This past week has seen a flurry of blog posts, articles, videos, and teachings on persecution and Christian suffering that are all deserving of attention. So instead of our normal Friday “Well Said” feature, we’re going to point you to a number of these pieces, all centered on the global plight of suffering and/or persecuted Christians . . .
The Persecuted Church
Led by Mindy Belz, this TGC Women’s Conference workshop is very informative.
VIDEO: David Platt on global Christian persecution
This 7 minute ERLC conversation covers the effects of persecution and our response to it.
American Doctor with Ebola Displays Heroism
Dr. Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol are battling Ebola, a deadly disease they contracted while helping other stricken with it.
Meriam Ibrahim, Freed from Sudan, Plans to Settle in New Hampshire
The woman who was imprisoned for becoming a Christian and sentenced to death in Sudan has been freed.
5 Facts About Christian Persecution
Joe Carter of the ERLC offers a brief survey of global persecution.
Stay or Go When Ebola Breaks Out?
Robert Cutillo offers some helpful principles regarding risk and following Christ.
State Department Releases Report on International Religious Freedom
“In 2013, the world witnessed the largest displacement of religious communities in recent memory.”
Christian Persecution Bulletin Insert
From the ERLC, this could be a helpful tool this Sunday: Persecution Sunday.
For Sale: Mother Without Child: $800 (Part 1)
Here is a stirring account of one North Korean woman’s journey to faith . . . and out of North Korea.
Where Are The Iraqi Refugees Now?
Under threat of death, ISIS has expelled all Christians living in Mosul. Where are they now?
They Know Not What They Do
“Sin has darkened the mind of the church’s enemies.”
Posted on July 31st, 2014 by Jonathan
Dan Darling (of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission) talks with David Platt about the persecution of Christians worldwide.
Posted on July 31st, 2014 by David Burnette
Jonathan Parnell of Desiring God reminds us that the message we’ve been called to proclaim is fundamentally about a Person:
But when we speak the gospel message, it’s never merely a message. It’s not flat content. It is actually the declaration of a Person — a real Person who has done real work in real space-time history to reconcile real people to a real God.
Wrapped up in the good news of Jesus is the person of Jesus offering himself to those who hear. He stands over our gospel speaking as the gospel Lord. This is important to keep in mind because as we tell others what he’s done, we’re not passing along ideas to be evaluated; we’re introducing them to a Person to be embraced.
That’s why Jesus said to make disciples, not consumers. If we’re only relaying information or making religious noise, then unbelieving neighbors can click away or turn it off. But if we are introducing a Person when we speak the gospel, it’s not about what hearers do with mere data; it’s about what hearers do with him.
When we give the gospel, we are offering the Lord Jesus Christ himself, the one who is reigning from his heavenly throne, the one who will come again to judge the living and the dead, the one who has all authority in heaven and on earth.
Read the full post here.
Posted on July 30th, 2014 by Eric Parker
…so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord… (Ephesians 3:10-11)
Have you ever thought about the significance of your local church? Or still more that you are apart of the church universal? These are not notions that shock and awe us on most days. Some of us are doing well just to be able to sit down and read the Bible for a few minutes before the kids get up. Mark Dever helps us to be a little more amazed at the wonder and significance of the Church in God’s cosmic redemptive plan when he writes,
The church ultimately exists for the glory of God. Whether pursuing missions or evangelism; edifying one another through prayer and Bible study; encouraging growth in holiness; or assembling for public praise, prayer, and instruction, this one purpose prevails. The church is the unique instrument for bringing God such glory. No lesser matters are at stake in the church than the promulgation of God’s glory throughout his creation. As Charles Bridges expressed it, “The church is the mirror, that reflects the whole effulgence of the Divine character. It is the grand scene, in which the perfections of Jehovah are displayed to the universe.”
Mark Dever, The Church, 77
Posted on July 29th, 2014 by David Burnette
Certain words become so familiar in our Christian vocabulary that we rarely stop to think about what they actually mean. Words like praise and blessed come to mind. We’re so accustomed to hearing these words that we forget to attach any weight to them. The word rejoice can be like that.
We typically think of rejoicing as a moment of spiritual elation. We hear or experience something good, so we rejoice. This isn’t wrong, but it’s not the whole story on the word rejoice. For instance, consider Paul’s words in Philippians 3:1:
“Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you is no trouble to me and is safe for you.”
Did you catch that last part? Paul said it is “safe” for him to write about rejoicing in the Lord, which implies that not rejoicing in the Lord is dangerous. So for our own safety, we should want to know what it means to rejoice in the Lord and what danger looms out there if we don’t. Paul answers in the verses that follow.
In Philippians 3, Paul warns about some false teachers known as the Judaizers. The Judaizers were teaching the Philippians that believing in Jesus wasn’t enough to be considered a genuine member of God’s people. You also had to observe the Old Testament law, particularly the requirement of circumcision. Paul countered by pointing out the (eternal) danger in seeking righteousness in anything or anyone in addition to Jesus Christ.
After giving his pre-conversion spiritual resume, a resume that would make most Pharisees blush, Paul claims that in comparison with knowing Christ Jesus, all other spiritual accolades are, quite literally, refuse (8). To rejoice in the Lord, then, is far more than a short-lived surge of emotion. It involves gladly relying on the Lord Jesus Christ for one’s righteousness before God.
Paul describes the true people of God as those who “worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh” (3). A failure to rejoice in this way is to be separated from God and to live under His wrath. Therefore, the next time you’re tempted to fly right past the word rejoice in your Bible reading, consider what’s at stake. To rejoice in the Lord is to take Christ as your righteousness. Rejoicing in anyone or anything else is flat out dangerous.
Posted on July 28th, 2014 by Eric Parker
Have you ever struggled with how much you sin? John Bunyan has some encouraging words about the strange providence of God.
Now I saw that as God had his hand in all the providences and dispensations that overtook his elect, so he had his hand in all the temptations that they had to sin against him, not to spur them to wickedness, but to choose their temptations and troubles for them, and also to leave them for a time to such things only as might not destroy them, but rather humble them, and not put them beyond, but lay them in the way of the renewing of his mercy. Oh, what love, what care what kindness and mercy did I now see mixing itself with the most severe and dreadful of all God’s ways to his people. He would let David, Hezekiah, Solomon, Peter, and others fall, but he would not let them fall into the sin unpardonable, nor into hell for sin. Oh, thought I, these are the men that God had loved; these are the men that God, though he chastises them, keeps in safety by him, and whom he makes to abide under the shadow of the Almighty.
John Bunyan, Grace Abounding to Sinners, 78
Posted on July 24th, 2014 by Jonathan
Jon Akin of Baptist21 interviewed David Platt on a variety of topics last month at the SBC Annual Meeting.
For your convenience, here are some time markers for when each of the topics was covered:
0:16 – prosperity, radical giving, and the gospel
2:32 – the gospel and social action
5:58 – addressing both physical and spiritual need
7:33 – global missions vs. local ministry?
10:44 – being part of the SBC
13:10 – should we re-structure missions/funding models?
Posted on July 23rd, 2014 by J.D. Payne
In my previous post, I shared that when witnessing, there is nothing wrong with saying that you don’t have an answer to someone’s tough question. It is better to say, “I don’t know,” than to be hasty in your own words (Prov 29:20). Now, I want to share with you the value of such a reply. Whenever you respond to someone’s difficult question in a manner such as this, you communicate four matters that are important to sharing your faith.
Honesty. By saying, “I don’t know,” you communicate that you are not a know-it-all. You communicate to the person that they have a good and legitimate question and one that you take seriously. A made-up answer betrays your integrity.
I was once sharing the gospel with a man who asked me, “Why doesn’t the Bible talk about life on other planets?” Now, that is not the typical question you normally get from someone after talking about Jesus! However, I could tell that he was asking this question in all sincerity and legitimately wanted to know the answer.
I recall my response to him: “You know, that is a very good question, simply because you are asking it. I don’t know why the Bible does not talk about life on other planets. I don’t have an answer for you. I do know that the Bible says that God created everything, and if there is life on other planets, He created that life as well. Also, while I don’t know why the Bible is silent on this topic, I do know what the Bible has to say about life on this planet. . . .” and then I was able to return the conversation to Jesus.
Humility. By telling someone you don’t know the answer to their question, you reveal a humility that is a witness to the power of the gospel. Your humility communicates that you don’t have to know everything to follow Jesus. Your humility communicates to the person that you are secure in your faith, even if you don’t know all the mysteries of the universe and everything about the Bible. You communicate that followers of Jesus are still learning and have open minds in the search for truth. A humble response shows that you do not have to revile others when they back you into an intellectual corner. Your answer communicates that Jesus is bigger than the conundrums of life.
Sincerity. When you tell someone that you don’t know the answer to their question, it allows you to share with them that you are willing to find out an answer to their question. Rather than simply dismissing the question as nonsense or foolishness, you are able to share with the person that you will attempt to find an answer to their question.
Relationally. By offering to find out the answer to a person’s question, you are able to set up another time when you can meet again to speak on such matters and share the gospel. Your willingness to confess your lack of knowledge, but willingness to search it out and meet again, reveals that you are more interested in the person than simply making your point and moving on to the next person.
Always be prepared to give a reason for the hope that you have (1 Pet 3:15). Don’t let the fear of your ignorance hinder you from being intentional in making disciples of all nations. Study, learn, grow, and as you go, don’t be afraid to say, “I don’t know, but let’s get together again to talk about your question.”
J. D. Payne is the pastor of church multiplication with The Church at Brook Hills. He is the author of several books including Evangelism: A Biblical Response to Today’s Questions. He blog frequently at jdpayne.org and may be found on Twitter @jd_payne.
Posted on July 22nd, 2014 by Jonathan
In his a recent article titled, ”The Great Commission Means Sharing Christ’s Story, Not Yours,” Trevin Wax cautions us against the popular tendency to emphasize what Christ has done in our lives at the expense of sharing what Christ has done in history, namely, his death and resurrection. While this notion that evangelism cannot be equated with sharing your personal testimony is not popular with many, it seems to us that Wax’s article is appropriate and timely. Here’s why:
- The gospel we are to preach is not essentially the good news of how you have been changed. Rather, it is the good news of how God saves. If we are to proclaim the gospel throughout the world (which we are), then we ought to be clear on what the gospel is … and it is not ultimately about you. Jesus is the object of our faith, and thus, the focal point of the gospel. As the article pointed out, the apostles’ witness primarily dealt with who they saw Christ was and what they saw Christ do. That’s why when Paul wrote about delivering what was “of first importance,” he centered on Jesus’ death and resurrection (1 Corinthians 15: 3-5), not his Damascus Road experience.
- Only the gospel call confronts someone with their need to repent and trust in Jesus for salvation. Good stories may make people feel good. Accounts of personal change can inspire others to be more moral. Sharing how Jesus has saved you may even show someone a good example of repentance and faith. But we must also call people to it. J.I. Packer says that “evangelism is the issuing of a call to turn, as well as to trust; it is the delivering, not merely of a divine invitation to receive a Savior, but of a divine command to repent of sin. And there is no evangelism where this specific application is not made” (Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God, 43-44).
If we are clear on what evangelism is (and isn’t), it is easy to see that Wax was dead on when he said sharing your story must not be confused with sharing Christ’s. Don’t mistake this for an academic exercise in semantics, though. This article needed to be written. It shows many of us that we may not have had as good an understanding of evangelism as we may have thought, or else hits at the heart of our own sinful tendencies to shy away from proclaiming the whole gospel.
Isn’t it easy, when it comes down to it, to share your story as a mere alternative to someone else’s? “Thanks for sharing your experience and resulting worldview; now let me share mine” … the Great Commission is not a call swap ideas. It isn’t fun to confront people with a message that says: “You’re wrong and headed to eternal punishment because of it. You need so stop what you’re doing and start trusting in Jesus.” But at the end of the day, ignorant non-swimmers headed to the deep end of the pool won’t care care if you embarrass or offend them when you stop them from diving to their death … and for that matter neither will you. Yet in evangelism, it’s all too easy, whether through a story or some other approach, to fall short of warning people of the danger they’re in because it would be uncomfortable to do so.
You may use your story to give some handles to what repentance and faith looks like. You may use your story to segue into Christ’s. But your story in and of itself is definitively not evangelism. So to close, here are some good summary statements of what evangelism is:
“Evangelism is teaching the gospel with the aim to persuade.” J. Mack Stiles, Evangelism, 26
“According to the New Testament, evangelism is just preaching the gospel, the evangel. It is a work of communication in which Christians make themselves mouthpieces for God’s message of mercy to sinners.” J.I. Packer, Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God, 45
“Evangelism is telling people the wonderful truth about God, the great news about Jesus Christ.” Mark Dever, The Gospel and Personal Evangelism, 82
To sum it all up . . .
“The content of our message is Christ and God, not our journey to faith. Our personal testimony may be included, but witnessing is more than reciting our spiritual autobiography. Specific truths about a specific person are the subject of our proclamation. A message has been committed to us–a word of reconciliation to the world (2 Cor 5:19).” Will Metzger, Tell the Truth, 55
Posted on July 21st, 2014 by Jonathan
Every once in a while, it’s good to get a refresher on concepts we generally think we understand. When’s the last time you’ve heard a good explanation of persecution?
Below, you can listen to a good overview of what persecution is, how it may look, and why it occurs from Jonathan, the (well-traveled) Pastor of Global Disciple-Making at The Church at Brook Hills.
~ The goal of persecution is to silence witness. ~
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