Archive for the ‘Featured’ Category

  1. 7 Reasons Why We Boast in the Cross

    Posted on August 25th, 2014 by Jonathan

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    The following is from Secret Church 6: The Cross of Christ.

    We should boast in the cross . . .

      1. Because the cross confronts us with who we once were. (Eph 2:1-5)

    • The cross reminds us of how horrible sin is.
    • The cross reminds us how humbling grace is.

      2. Because the cross comforts us with who we are now.

    • We are alive to God. (Rm 6:8-14)
      • Sacrifice: He died our death.
      • We were dead; now we live!
    • We have an advocate before God. (Rm 8:33-39; Heb 7:23-25)
      • Propitiation: He endured our condemnation
      • We were afraid; now we are friends!
    • We have access to God. (Heb 4:14-16)
      • Reconciliation: He suffered our separation
      • We were cast out; now we are invited in!
    • We are adopted by God. (Rm 8:15-17)
      • Redemption: He suffered our separation.
      • We were slaves; now we are now sons!

      3. Because the cross teaches us what it means to be saved.

    • The cross makes clear our justification. (Gal 2:15-20)
      • Christ died for us.
      • We are not working for righteousness, but from righteousness.
    • The cross makes possible our sanctification. (1 Cor 1:18)
      • Christ now lives in us.
      • We are not in debt to Christ; we are indwelt by Christ.
    • The cross makes certain our glorification. (Rm 8:28-30)
      • Christ is coming back for us.
      • We are not living for this world; we are living for the world to come.

      4. Because the cross shows us what it means to love. (1 Jn 3:16-18; Jn 13:35)

    • In the church . . . we unite around the cross.
    • Among the lost . . . we proclaim the cross.
    • Toward the poor . . . we embody the cross.

      5. Because the cross reminds us that our safety is not in this world.

    • We do not fear suffering. (Matt 10:26-31)
    • We are free to suffer. (Phil 1:29-30; Col 1:24)

      6. Because the cross keeps us from wasting our lives in this world. (Phil 3:7-11)

    • This world has nothing for us.
    • Christ is everything to us.

      7. Because the cross grips us with a vision of the world to come.

    • Jesus has identified the ultimate problem. (Rev 5:1)
      • We stand before a holy God hopeless.
      • We stand before a holy God helpless.
    • Jesus has paid the ultimate price. (Rev 5:5-6)
      • He is a conquering Lion.
      • He is a suffering Lamb.
    • Jesus has fulfilled the ultimate purpose. (Rev 5:7)
    • Jesus now deserves the ultimate praise. (Rev 5:8-14)
      • Our song will be new.
      • Our worship will be never-ending.
  2. Who Are the Unreached and Why Must We Go to Them?

    Posted on August 21st, 2014 by David Burnette

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    What does it mean to be part of an Unreached People Group (UPG)? How do unreached peoples stand before God? What is our obligation, as followers of Christ, to those who have no access to the gospel?

    The following outline provides a good summary for these kinds of questions. The outline was taken from Pastor David Platt’s sermon titled “Our Obligation to the Unreached,” and is based on Paul’s teaching in Romans 1-3 about man’s inherent sinful condition. To access the sermon in its entirety, including the outline below, go here.

     

    Who are the Unreached?

    • A people group among whom there is no indigenous community of believing Christians able to engage the people group with church planting.
    • Technically speaking, the percentage of evangelical Christians in this people group is less than two percent.

    How Many People Are Unreached?

    • Over 6,500 people groups are unreached . . .

    Including at least two billion individual people

    • Over 3,000 are also unengaged (meaning there is currently no evangelical church planting strategy under way to reach that people group) . . .

    Including around 200 million individual people

    What Does It Mean To Be Unreached?

    • Practically . . .

    You do not currently have access to the gospel.

    Unless something changes, you will likely be born, live, and die without ever hearing the gospel.

    • Biblically . . .

    You have knowledge of God.

    You have rejected God.

    You stand condemned before God.

    You have never heard the good news about how you can be saved by God.

    Why Must We Go To The Unreached?

    • Because their knowledge of God is only enough to damn them to hell.
    • Because the gospel of God is powerful enough to save them forever.
    • Because the plan of God warrants the sacrifices of His people.
    • Because the Son of God deserves the praise of all peoples.

    To learn more about unreached peoples, visit Joshua Project.

  3. Why Seeing Isn’t Always Believing

    Posted on August 20th, 2014 by David Burnette

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    Have you ever read about Jesus’ miracles in Scripture and walked away thinking, “If only I had seen that, I would never again be ashamed of Christ?” Or maybe it’s one of God’s mighty works in the Old Testament–like Israel’s rescue from Egypt–and you think to yourself, “How could they experience that and still disobey?”

    At one level, it’s natural to want to experience unique demonstrations of God’s power and grace. I mean, really, who wouldn’t want to be there when God split the Red Sea in two? And who wouldn’t pay to see Lazarus come stumbling out of the tomb covered with four-day-old grave cloths? Surely our struggle to trust God would get much easier if we could only see these things with our own eyes . . . right?

    Diagnosing the Sin Problem

    The idea that simply eye-witnessing a miracle would catapult us into a new level of trust and obedience misses the teaching of Scripture, not only on the role of miracles, but even more fundamentally on the nature of faith and the blinding effects of sin. To say, “If God would only show me____, then I would trust him,” implies that our unbelief is due to a lack of evidence. But that’s not how the Bible diagnoses man’s sin problem.

    Paul tells us in Romans 1:18-32 that all men rebel against God because they prefer idols, not because they lack proof. In fact, it’s because we already have proof of God’s power and divine nature in creation that we are “without excuse” (20). God has made these things “plain,” yet we suppress the truth (18-19). Our “ignorance” flows from a hard heart. (Eph 4:18).

    More Than Floating Furniture

    Maybe you’ve heard an atheist claim that he would gladly believe in God if only God would perform some great miracle right before his eyes–like causing a table to levitate. God could do that, of course, but as Christians we should know better: it takes more than floating furniture to change the heart. People reject the light because they love the darkness (Jn 1:19). We need our eyes enlightened, even after we’re saved (Eph 1:18). It’s no wonder, then, that Scripture is overflowing with examples, both of godly saints and of rebellious sinners, who sinned blatantly after firsthand experience with God’s miraculous power.

    Noah got drunk after being rescued from a worldwide flood (Gen 8:20-21). Abraham lied about his wife after God spoke to him directly (Gen 20:2). The children of Israel saw Mt. Sinai enveloped in smoke and darkness, and they responded by demanding that Aaron make them an idol in the form of a golden calf (Ex 32). The trend continues in the New Testament. Some Jews who watched Lazarus walk out of the tomb refused to submit to Jesus and instead headed straight for the chief priests and Pharisees (Jn 11:46). Nine out of ten lepers who were cleansed by Jesus didn’t even go back to thank him (Lk 17:11-19). And as for the disciples, they didn’t always fare much better. After distributing bread and fish to over five thousand people, they seemed clueless as to how Christ would feed a smaller crowd only a short time later (Matt 15:33). Talk about missing the point!

    Perhaps Peter serves as the most striking example. This leading apostle was on hand for Jesus’ entire earthly ministry, including Christ’s transfiguration (Matt 17:1-8). He saw all the miracles and he even walked on water (briefly). Yet, on three different occasions during Jesus’ trial, this same Peter adamantly denied that he even knew the Lord of glory. Being an eyewitness did not ensure Peter’s faithfulness.

    Believing and Seeing

    None of these examples should be taken as a slight against miracles. One reason God performed miracles was to bear witness to the message of his salvation (Heb 2:4). Jesus pointed to his signs and wonders to convince John the Baptist that he was truly the Messiah (Matt 11:2-5). Likewise, God frequently reminds Israel of his mighty works of salvation in order to bolster their hope in him (Ps 105). Still, we’re mistaken to think that simply seeing supernatural events would cure our struggle to trust God.

    Unbelief can only be overcome by the power of the Holy Spirit. Whether it’s witnessing a miracle, understanding the gospel, or simply grasping a truth from God’s Word, we are dependent on the Spirit to see truth rightly and to love the truth that we see. This is the same Spirit who empowered the fearful and doubting disciples—those who had watched Jesus’ perform miracles—to give their lives for him after Pentecost. He will continue his transforming work in us too as we are “beholding the glory of the Lord” (2 Cor 3:18).

    So the next time you long for some supernatural proof of God’s presence, Christian, remind yourself that God has given you something greater than signs and wonders. You have his Spirit and his Word, yes “all things that pertain to life and godliness” (2 Pet 1:3). There is no need to look elsewhere in your struggle to trust and obey. Finally, hear the encouragement Christ gives to those who have never seen him with their physical eyes: “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (Jn 20:29).

  4. A Prayer for the Afflicted Saints of Iraq

    Posted on August 13th, 2014 by Jonathan

    The following prayer was originally posted by Rick Phillips on Reformation 21.

    Our Father in heaven, the sovereign and almighty God, the faithful covenant-keeper and Savior, we plead to you on behalf of our suffering fellow believers in Iraq.  Cast your eye upon them and have mercy to uphold and defend your flock.  Overthrow the evil of their persecutors and strengthen the faith of those suffering tribulation for the name of Jesus.

    Father, as of old you caused the enemies of your people to destroy one another in answer to the plea of Jehoshaphat (2 Chron. 20:23), so now bring discord, division, and self-destruction to the jihadist slayers afflicting your people.  Lord, as once you parted the Red Sea to make safe the way of Israel fleeing from Pharaoh’s host (Ex. 14:21-22), open a path to safety for your people fleeing in distress.  Our God, your Word foretells that Satan will make war on the church, all the more because he knows that his end is near (Rev. 12:12).  But as you promised, intervene supernaturally to provide a refuge in the wilderness for the church our enemy is seeking to destroy (Rev. 12:14-16).   Cause your suffering people to conquer by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; strengthen their testimony to Jesus, even under threat of death (Rev. 12:11).

    Our loving Father, Jesus foretold that his people would be hated by all nations and delivered up to tribulation (Mt. 24:9), as we see happening to the saints of Iraq.  Do not permit them to fall away or betray one another,  and keep their love from growing cold (Mt. 24:1012).  Hear the cries of Rachel in Iraq and Kurdistan, weeping for her children (Jer. 31:15).

    God of grace, have mercy on our fellow sinners who persecute your people in the name of a false god.  As once you turned the heart of Saul of Tarsus when he was the chief tormenter of your church (Acts 9:4-5), and as Jesus pled for you to forgive those who tortured him upon the cross (Lk. 23:34), now have mercy on those who crucify and behead the saints in Iraq.  Reveal your grace and glory to them so that they might repent, believe, and be saved.

    Finally, Lord, send your Spirit to inspire Christians who live in comfort and ease, that we might honor the martyrdom of our brothers and sisters by living boldly for Jesus, that we might abominate in ourselves the sins of hatred, lust, and idolatry that we see working so terribly against our brethren, and that we might live more soberly and prayerfully for the cause of Christ in this evil world.

    In the name of him who loves us and has freed us from our sins (Rev. 1:5), whom you have made head over all things for the church (Eph. 1:22), your Son Jesus Christ, we pray.  Come, Lord Jesus.  Amen.

  5. 6 Comments

    Take Action: “Looming Humanitarian Catastrophe”

    Posted on August 9th, 2014 by Jonathan

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    Yezidis trapped in the Sinjar mountains, (CNN)

    Today, the Baptist Press (BP) released a statement urging people to take action on behalf of suffering Iraqis. Thousands of Christians have been forced to flee Mosul. The Islamic State (IS) is persecuting religious minorities of every variety, including the Yazidi people near Sinjar. Said the BP:

    Most pressing is a situation the White House calls a “looming humanitarian catastrophe” unfolding on a mountaintop near the Iraqi city of Sinjar, home to the country’s Yazidi religious minority, where some 50,000 Yazidi refugees are trapped with limited food and water. On Aug. 3, Sunni extremists known as Islamic State or ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) seized the city as Sinjar’s Yazidi population fled fearing massacre. Many Iraqis without transportation escaped to the nearby Sinjar Mountains, a barren heap of rock where daytime temperatures can top 120 degrees.

    While the U.S. is dropping some supplies, there is no shortage of need. We would also like to urge you to act in two primary ways.

    1.  Most importantly, pray. God has ordained prayer, and He hears our pleas. Here are the prayer points released by the BP today:

      • Ask the Lord to awaken the world to the humanitarian crisis unfolding in Iraq and to provide pathways for Christians and others to respond.
      • Ask God to miraculously protect the Yazidis and other Kurds who fled into the mountains; ask Him to provide a means of rescue and temporary homes for the refugees.
      • Pray that ISIS leaders and soldiers would experience the love of Jesus Christ and that their lives would be transformed.
      • Ask God to preserve and embolden the small remnant of believers in Mosul and Kurdistan, so that one day through their witness, every Iraqi might have the opportunity to hear the Gospel.

    2. Give. When it comes to crises like this, sufficient resources are critical.

    BP: “Help respond to Iraq’s refugee crisis by donating to the International Mission Board’s general relief fund or by texting imbrelief to 80888, which will donate $10 to that fund. To give through Baptist Global Response, visit gobgr.org/donate or text bgr to 80888.” (More info here)

    UPDATE: For questions about giving to the IMB’s general relief fund, you can call them toll-free at (800) 999-3113 or contact them via their online form. To find out more about giving to Baptist Global Response, go HERE.

    Photo credit

  6. Is This The Jesus You’re Talking About?

    Posted on August 6th, 2014 by David Burnette

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    It’s no small matter to be fuzzy or, even worse, flat out wrong about who Jesus is. At stake is nothing less than whether or not we can call ourselves Christians. That’s why John can say that those who deny Christ’s incarnation don’t belong to God (1 John 4:2-3). It’s also why Christology, or the person of Christ, was such an important topic in the early church councils of the first few centuries. Precision about Jesus is imperative.

    Now, before you start getting nervous, remember that Scripture does not say that we will have to correctly explain all the details of who Christ is, including the relationship between his human and divine natures, in order to enter the kingdom. For that we can be grateful. But we must affirm the straightforward teaching of Scripture on the fundamental aspects of who Jesus is. There’s a big difference between a young believer who is still trying to get his or her head around what it means for Jesus to be both God and man, on the one hand, and the person who openly denies the clear biblical teaching of Jesus’ deity. The Mormon church, for example, falls into this latter category, which is one of the reasons it must be labeled a false church. Wrong Jesus, wrong faith. Sure, becoming a Christian involves more than getting the right definition of Christ; but we should not aim for less.

    One way to sharpen our understanding of the person of Christ is to read through various Christian confessions and statements on this very topic. While Scripture is our ultimate authority and the place we should spend most of our time, it is edifying to see how Christians down through the centuries have summarized the Bible’s teaching on the Lord Jesus. In the end, these confessions should point us back to God’s Word and help us think rightly about it. With that in mind, consider the excerpt below on the person of Christ from the Second London Confession of 1689, along with a number of related Scripture links on this topic.

    When you speak of being a follower of Jesus, is this the Jesus you’re talking about?

    “The Son of God, the second person in the Holy Trinity, being very and eternal God, the brightness of the Father’s glory, of one substance and equal with him who made the world, who upholdeth and governeth all things he hath made, did, when the fullness of time was come, take upon him man’s nature, with all the essential properties and common infirmities thereof, yet without sin; being conceived by the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin Mary, the Holy Spirit coming down upon her: and the power of the Most High overshadowing her; and so was made of a woman of the tribe of Judah, of the seed of Abraham and David according to the Scriptures; so that two whole, perfect, and distinct natures were inseparably joined together in one person, without conversion, composition, or confusion; which person is very God and very man, yet one Christ, the only mediator between God and man.”

    (John 1:14; Galatians 4:4; Romans 8:3; Hebrews 2:14, 16, 17; 4:15; Matthew 1:22, 23; Luke 1:27, 31, 35; Romans 9:5; 1 Timothy 2:5)
    – Taken from the “Second London Confession” in William L. Lumpkin, Baptist Confessions of Faith, 260-261. The Second London Confession (1689) is an adaptation of the Westminster Confession (1646) and the Savoy Declaration (1658).

  7. Persecution in the News

    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.”

  8. StumppedOne of the reasons some Christians offer for not being more intentional in sharing their faith is that they fear being asked a question they cannot answer.  While this is not a legitimate excuse for refraining from witnessing, this reality exists among many churches.  Today’s post is the first of two in which I wish to address this matter.

    I recall early in my walk with the Lord that I believed that I had to have an answer to every question an unbeliever asked.  While I was not afraid of being asked a question I could not answer, I believed that I had to give an answer immediately, even when asked a question that I did not know the answer to.  I felt that showing my ignorance would embarrass the Lord.  I believed that a lack of knowledge would reveal weakness.

    While there is no excuse for remaining ignorant and not growing in our knowledge of the Scriptures and how to better respond to people’s tough questions, we must understand that no one knows everything. This is a different matter than “always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for the reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Pet 3:15, ESV).  All believers should be able to give witness to the gospel and call others to repentance and faith.  All believers should be in the process of “being prepared” to better defend the truth.  However, difficult questions will come.  And we should study the Scriptures to know the truth of God’s word, and to know how to respond appropriately to the tough questions.

    But, if you are asked a question that you can’t answer at the moment, be honest.  Simply say, I don’t know.  Consider the following truths regarding the importance of speaking out of knowledge and not ignorance:

    • “In everything the prudent acts with knowledge, but a fool flaunts his folly” (Prov 13:16, ESV).
    • “Do you see a man who is hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him” (Prov 29:20, ESV).
    • “Desire without knowledge is not good, and whoever makes haste with his feet misses his way” (Prov 19:2, ESV).

    Here is a liberating fact when it comes to personal evangelism:  God does not need you or me to be his bodyguard.  He does not need us to be His defense.  He is big enough to take care of Himself.  When someone challenges you with a question, don’t freak out.  Simply say something such as, “You know, that is a very good question.  I have not thought about that.  And I don’t have an answer for you right now.  But, I want to find out the answer to your question.  Let’s get back together and talk about it.”

    In my next post, I will share the value of such a response to the Christian’s witness and gospel proclamation among the nations.

    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 QuestionsHe blog frequently at jdpayne.org and may be found on Twitter @jd_payne. 

  9. ANNOUNCEMENT: Secret Church 15 Date and Topic

    Posted on July 9th, 2014 by Jonathan

    It may seem like Spring is a long way off, but we want to give you plenty of time to make plans for the next Secret Church gathering/simulcast.

    Secret Church 15 will take place on April 24, 2015, two weeks after Easter. Tickets to the live gathering will go on sale this January, and simulcast registration opens on October 1, 2014. The topic will be Christ, Culture, and a Call to Action.” Here’s the synopsis:

    The culture around us is constantly changing, and successive changes are often accompanied by significant challenges. So how does the call of Christ compel us to respond to these challenges? How does a Christian respond to the rapid rise of so-called same-sex marriage and the increasing acceptance of homosexuality? How does a Christian live in a world of sex slavery and rampant pornography, a world where babies are aborted and widows are abandoned? How does a Christian think in a culture of pervasive racial prejudice and limited religious liberty? What does a Christian do in a church that exalts prosperity amidst a world of extreme poverty? During this Secret Church, we will explore biblical foundations for answers to these questions and come to significant conclusions regarding how Christ calls every Christian to engage culture with a firm grip on the gospel in the church and a fervent passion for God’s glory in the world.

    We must not be ignorant of what the Bible says about some of the biggest issues Christians face today. So mark it out in your calendar; mention it to your friends and family; talk with your church leaders about potentially hosting a simulcast; begin making plans, whatever they are. Just make sure you don’t miss out on Secret Church 15.

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  10. “I love you, but can’t stand your wife.”

    Posted on July 3rd, 2014 by Jonathan

    The room was packed full of people, and the preacher held the audience in the palm of his hand. “I would like everyone to bow your heads and close your eyes,” he said, and we all followed suit.

    He then declared, “Tonight, I want to call you to put your faith in God. Tonight, I am urging you to begin a personal relationship with Jesus for the first time in your life. Let me be clear,” he said, “I’m not inviting you to join the church. I’m just inviting you to come to Christ.” As the preacher passionately pleaded for personal decisions, scores of people stood from their seats and walked down the aisles of the auditorium to make a commitment to Christ.

    Yet there was a problem in all of this. These people had been deceived. They had been told that it is possible to make a commitment to Christ apart from a commitment to the church. The reality, however, is that it’s biblically impossible to follow Christ apart from joining his church. In fact, anyone who claims to be a Christian yet is not an active member of a church may not actually be a follower of Christ at all.

    To some, maybe many, this may sound heretical. “Are you saying that joining the church makes someone a Christian?” you might ask. Absolutely not. Joining a church most certainly does not make someone a Christian.

    At the same time, to identify your life with the person of Christ is to join your life with the people of Christ. To surrender your life to his commands is to commit your life to his church. It is biblically, spiritually, and practically impossible to be a disciple of Christ (and much less make disciples of Christ) apart from total devotion to a family of Christians.

    But so many people think it is possible–and they try to live like it’s possible. It has even become a mark of spiritual maturity today for some professing Christians to not be active in a church. “I’m in love with Jesus,” people will say, “but I just can’t stand the church.”

    Really?

    Isn’t the church the bride of Christ? What if I said to you, “Man, I love you, but have I ever told you how much I can’t stand your wife?” Would you take that as a compliment?

    Similarly, isn’t the church the body of Christ? What if my wife said to me, “David, I love you, but I can’t stand your body”? I can assure you that I wouldn’t take that as a compliment.

    It’s impossible to follow Jesus fully without loving his bride selflessly, and it’s impossible to think we can enjoy Christ apart from his body. Jesus goes so far as to identify the church with himself when he asks Saul on the road to Damascus, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” Saul hadn’t persecuted Christ himself, but he had persecuted Christians, so in essence Jesus was saying, “When you mess with them, you mess with me.”

    To come to Christ is to become part of his church. Followers of Jesus have the privilege of being identified with his family. As we die to ourselves, we live for others, and everything Christ does in us begins to affect everyone Christ puts around us. Recognizing this reality and experiencing the relationship that God has designed for his people specifically in the church are essential to being a disciple and making disciples of all nations.

    The above excerpt can be found on pages 149-151 of Follow Me: A Call to Die. A Call to Live by David Platt.