Solus Christus: William Carey’s Missional Foundation

If you perform a YouTube search of Joel Osteen on Larry King Live, you can see how uncomfortable a person feels claiming to be a “Christian” and being asked if this means that Jesus is the only way of salvation. While we might not find ourselves on a TV news program, there is still a sense of hesitancy and awkwardness at times in proclaiming the exclusivity of Christ. We might feel like we are not trained in a sophisticated manner to handle the detractors of Christianity. Can ordinary pastors speak with boldness concerning the exclusivity of Christ?

The man labeled “The Father of the Modern Missions Movement” voyaged to India possessing a steadfast belief concerning Christ’s exclusivity. William Carey, the cobbler-pastor- missionary, might not be the model of a polished speaker but his heart burned with a passion to see the gospel of Christ carried to the ends of the world. Instead of seeing a belief in Solus Christus, Christ alone, as a barrier to ministry, we can learn from Mr. Carey on how such a belief is a fuel for ministry in the face of many challenges. Consider three lessons we can learn from William Carey’s commitment to Solus Christus in India:

Anchor Your Preaching in Christ

The Serampore Form of Agreement of 1805 provides us with the theological and missiological beliefs that structured the ministry of the Particular Baptists in India. In this document, Carey lays out what will be the heartbeat of their cause: preaching Christ alone. The agreement states that the missionaries would seek to emulate Paul, “and make the great subject of our preaching Christ the crucified.” The preaching of Christ is described as “the grand means of conversion.” Preaching Christ and Him crucified serves as the instrument by which sinners were converted and the church grows in sanctification. Can we be tempted to see doctrine as dry and dusty? Carey sees “these glorious truths” as “the joy and strength” of his soul. The Baptist missionaries see themselves as part of the heritage of Luther and the Reformation as well as the ministries of men like Edwards and Whitefield in the Great Awakening.[1]

These men saw themselves as ministers and ambassadors of the cross of Christ. They were foreigners coming into a spiritual desert containing an abundance of spiritual mirages promising much in the way of satisfaction but leaving men spiritually famished. Challenges were abundant for Carey, but his confidence rested in the power of the gospel transforming India. Modern historians and scholars label Carey’s missionary work as more humanitarian than gospel-centered. Dr. Michael Haykin counters that such individuals confuse the root of Carey’s ministry with its fruit. He writes:

Sending forth the gospel with its message of the crucified Christ whose death alone delivers from sin and its consequences was the main thing these men and women were about. The social and educational impact of that proclamation was a happy byproduct of their gospel preaching. To view these men primarily as social reformers is to do them a grave injustice.[2]

From his own hand, Carey provides us with how he declares “that all men were sinners against God” followed up with declarations concerning the justice and purity of God. He explains “that except our Sins were pardoned we must go to Hell…” Carey preaches the Law to point out the nature of sin in the lives of the pagans. He then comes to Christ and His sufficient sacrifice. Carey proclaims “that God was under no obligation to save any Man, and that it was of no use to make Offerings to God to obtain pardon of Sin…” in the form of animals or humans. Carey brings the message home by declaring God’s gracious salvation for the sake of Christ.[3]

Do you know individuals with hardened hearts in your community or family? Does it seem like you are spinning your wheels by preaching Christ alone? Brother pastor, your message must be Christ and Him alone! Let us stand with Paul and William Carey confessing the only ground of hope is found in Christ! How did Carey endure and how can we endure in difficult seasons?

Rely Upon the Grace of God

The preaching of Christ alone marks a dependence upon the grace of God. Carey and his associates held strongly to the doctrines of grace. Notice that their understanding of the doctrines of grace and the connection to missions is found in the opening paragraph of The Serampore Agreement:

We are sure, that only those who are ordained to eternal life will believe, and that God alone can add to the church such as shall be saved. Nevertheless we cannot but observe with admiration, that Paul, the great champion for the glorious doctrines of free and sovereign grace, was the most conspicuous for his personal zeal in the work of persuading men to be reconciled to God.[4]

These first missionaries to India confess that God chose a people unto Himself, those were the people who would be saved, and that God added to His church. These doctrines, as they rightly noted, were championed by the Apostle Paul, and instead of being a detriment to evangelism, they rather served as the motivation for it.

Carey’s understanding of human depravity is connected then to an utter acknowledgement that God is the One who alone can save men and women from their sins. While sailing to India in 1793, Carey observes:

Have most awful proof of the Awful effects of human depravity when heightened by bad principles – the Old Deist is one of the most daring presumptuous wretches that ever I heard…never found a man so hardened and determined to turn Scripture into Ridicule as him – Oh how dreadfully depraved is human Nature.[5]

Where is Carey’s hope in the face of such darkness? Would the description of this Deist sound like someone in your context? I know men and women who seem to only harden their hearts more against the gospel. Where is our hope in the midst of such spiritual darkness and obstinacy? Carey’s confidence in the power of God’s grace must be our confidence. He explains:

All my hope is in, and all my comfort arises from God; without his power no European could possibly be converted, and his power can convert any Indian, and when I reflect that he has stirred me up to the Work, and wrought wonders to prepare the Way I can hope in his promises, and am encouraged & strengthened.[6]

William Carey beckons us in the 21st century to not despair as we survey the sinful depravity all around us. Preach Christ! Rely on sovereign grace! This is our foundation and our hope! This is why, as unpopular as it might be, he preached Christ alone and so must we.

Defend the Sufficiency of Christ

It is easy to think our situation unique in the history of the church as to the barriers, obstacles, and hindrances to gospel ministry. In a pluralistic society, Carey faced the scorn of an “enlightened” society. Carey recorded an interaction with an English Deist who hosted him:

Spent the Evening in a long Dispute with my friendly Host, was enabled, through Mercy to be faithful and speak of the necessity of Faith in Christ in order to salvation – This was called illiberal (narrow-minded) and uncharitable; as it excluded Unbelievers, and eventually adjudged the Heaths to Eternal Misery. I argued that I was no more uncharitable than the Bible, and that if that was the Case, God would appear Gloriously Just…I feel a pleasure in being Valiant for the truth, and much wish that God would convert his Soul.[7]

Do you feel a kinship with Mr. Carey? Did you preach that our assurance of salvation is found in Christ alone rather than in a human decision only to receive a comment on how divisive you were? Did you turn red with embarrassment someone mocked your faith on the job? Remember that men and women like the English deist are to be pitied by us. Let us not despise them but love them enough to declare to them the truth.  We preach Christ and Him alone with no exceptions made. The Bible, not emotions or experiences, fashion how we preach the gospel of Christ. The results are in the hands of God. His calling to us is to go forth and proclaim that Christ is the only way, the only truth, and the only life.

Conclusion

In one of his final letters, Carey pens these words to his sisters, “The atoning sacrifice made by our Lord on the cross is the ground of my hope of acceptance, pardon, justification, sanctification, and endless glory.”[8] A commitment to Solus Christus shapes not only our view of gospel ministry and salvation but how we live and die. Whether you are facing the moralism of “Cultural” Christianity that emphasizes citizenship over Christ, the paganism of a primitive people group in the Amazon, the darkness of Islam or Hinduism in Asia, or the secularistic idolatry of America, remember that the work of Christ is your only hope and assurance. We do not apologize for preaching Christ alone. We glory in our Savior and rest in His victory!

[1] Michael A.G. Haykin, The Missionary Fellowship of William Carey. (Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust Publishing, 2018), 141-142.

[2] Ibid., 106-107.

[3] Terry G. Carter, The Journal and Selected Letters of William Carey. (Macon, GA: Smyth and Helwys Publishing, 2000), 55.

[4] Haykin, 137.

[5] Carter, 4-5.

[6] Ibid., 23.

[7] Ibid., 22-23.

 

[8] Michael A.G. Haykin, Ardent Love for Jesus: Learning from the Eighteenth-Century Baptist Revival. (Darlington, England: Evangelical Press, 2013), 133.

The God Who Runs Us Down

“Run, run, as fast as you can, you can’t catch me I’m the Gingerbread Man!”

When my children were younger and encountered this famous nursery rhyme, they requested I read it to them every night. They didn’t realize at the time, but their story choice was an indicator of much more than they knew. There is something in each of us, even from an early age, that longs to run; and we often can’t explain why that desire is there. It is more than what psychologists refer to as our “fight or flight response,” because of what we often run from. We run not only from danger, but also from grace. We run from a God who intends not our harm, but our ultimate good. As Augustine has put it, “Our hearts are restless until they find their rest in You.” This is one reason the story of Jonah is so appealing to us. Yet in the book of Jonah we meet a God who outruns sinners and graciously overpowers their stubbornness and sin. There are two important lessons we learn from Jonah.

We Run because We’re Deeply Depraved

The minor prophets, or “The book of the twelve” as their referred to, are among the least familiar portions of Scripture. Even the best Bible students among us would be hard-pressed if asked on the fly to summarize Obadiah or Zephaniah. Yet this portion of Scripture gives us a vivid panorama of God’s glory. In the minor prophets, we aren’t merely told that God is gracious or loving or holy or just. We see God in high definition. We encounter the God who roars like a lion, loves like a Husband, consumes like a fire, and sings over His people. But when we come to Jonah, God flips the script a bit. Instead of meeting another prophet ready and willing to relay God’s message, we find one running in the complete opposite direction. Also, instead of God sending His message to Israel/Judah, He sends it to their enemies. And that’s why Jonah started strapping up His sandals and getting ready to run. “Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, ‘Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it, for their evil has come up before me.’ But Jonah rose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD. He went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish. So he paid the fare and went on board, to go with them to Tarshish, away from the presence of the LORD” (1:1-3).

With a population of over 130,000, Nineveh was the capital of the Assyrian Empire. And Nineveh was a perverse and cruel city. A city that combined rampant sexual immorality with some of the most gruesome war crimes. Not only that, but Nineveh had earned a reputation for being the bitter enemies of God’s people. When called upon to preach coming judgment on this city, you would think Jonah would have leaped at the chance. Yet the reason Jonah didn’t is revealed later in the book. In the prophet’s own words, he says: “That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster” (4:1) Even though God’s message was one of judgment, Jonah knew God’s character better than that. He didn’t want the slightest chance that God might show grace to such an evil city.

Like Jonah, we run from God because we are rebels in our hearts. Ever since our first ancestors ate that fruit in the garden and listened to the snake, we’ve been pursuing our own authority. We have chosen to be our own gods. And when God calls us to share His message with those undeserving, we run because we are unloving. The reason Jonah ran is the same reason we run from sharing God’s message: we are selfish to the core. We may give several reasons for why we don’t share the gospel with others, but the ultimate reason is that we’re selfish. In Jonah, we see just how selfish we are. By the end of the book, Jonah is angry at God and even begs God to kill him rather than redeem the Ninevites. It’s a good thing God didn’t leave Jonah to himself, and it’s a good thing He doesn’t leave us to ourselves. That never turns out too well anyway (read Romans 1:18-32).

God Runs us Down because He is Truly Gracious

It says a lot about us that we run from God. But it also says a lot about God that He runs us down. If Jonah were the only biblical book preserved for us, it would be sufficient to give us a robust theology of man’s depravity, God’s sovereignty, and mission. God sovereignly appoints one thing after another to stop Jonah and get him set on the mission God intended. He hurls a great wind in the direction of Jonah’s ship, then appoints a great fish to swallow him up once he is thrown overboard, then calls the fish to spit Jonah up. While in the fish, Jonah asserts, “salvation belongs to the LORD” (2:9) and it is this truth that leads to God speaking to the fish to spit him up. Since salvation is solely the prerogative of God, then none but God can determine who can and cannot enjoy this salvation. So God has officially run down Jonah, but that wasn’t all God was after. “Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah the second time, saying, ‘Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it the message that I tell you.’” (3:1-2). God got to Jonah so he could get to the Ninevites.

In his book Rediscovering Discipleship, Robby Gallaty famously stated, “The Gospel came to you because it was on its way to someone else.” It is truly gracious of God to use weak and often stubborn sinners like us in the grand plan of saving others. When Moses made several excuses why God should use someone else, God ran Him down and used Him. When Gideon doubted and questioned God’s choice of Him, God was determined to use Him. Why is God so determined to use such sinners in His plans of global missions? To better display the glory of His saving grace to those who don’t deserve it. The reluctant prophet finally caves to the omnipresent God of the universe. He goes to Nineveh and preaches his eight word sermon of God’s coming judgment and the people miraculously repent. I was given an audio Bible for Christmas one year and the story of Jonah ended at chapter 3. Listening to the narrator go from reading the end of Jonah 3 to the beginning of Micah seemed like a perfect ending to a great story. But Jonah contains another chapter for a reason. God has more for us to learn about ourselves and God’s mission in this world. Jonah sits a safe distance from the city to watch God perform Sodom and Gomorrah 2.0. It’s as if he’s got his popcorn ready for a fireworks display. He’s perhaps the only prophet who didn’t want his recipients to repent of their sins. Then God appoints a nice and shady plant to grow to protect Jonah from the baking sun. Then a worm to eat the plant and an east wind to leave Jonah hot and miserable.

What is God’s point? Jonah’s love for the plant and the shade and lack of love for the Ninevites reveals just how inwardly bent he is. “And the Lord said, ‘You pity the plant, for which you did not labor, nor did you make it grow, which came into being in a night and perished in a night. 11 And should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?’” (4:10-11). And with that the book of Jonah ends. No story of Jonah repenting of his poor attitude and rebellion. Just a question from God to Jonah and all the perpetual readers of his book: should not I pity Nineveh? God wants everyone to know that He has a heart for the heartless. He shows mercy to the merciless. For all who repent and believe in Him, God promises full and final salvation. Later Paul would come from the place to which Jonah was running: Tarsus (same area as Tarshish). And Paul would go on God’s mission around the known world to spread the Gospel of His Son. He would write, “No one seeks for God” and yet He would also write, “God demonstrates his love for us in this, that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 3:11; 5:8). So God’s redeeming grace is more stubborn than our rebellion. The opposite of running from God is to abide in Him. This is why Jesus would later say, “Abide in me and I in you” (John 15:4a).

In his book Running from Mercy, pastor Anthony Carter writes, “You cannot hide from God. A better course of action is to hide in God.”

May we all humbly confess our selfish tendency to run from God and seek to live abiding in the light of His relentless grace.

Just a Cog

It seemed like day after day the Lord continued to remind me that I am but a cog in the machine of His incomprehensible plan. This was my most recent experience in the jungle of Peru; let me explain:

I have been afforded, by God’s grace, the greatest “job” in the entire world. Often times, my heart is torn between missions and pastoral ministry but recently our little country church has partnered with one American missionary and an evangelical seminary in Peru to plant a church in an under-reached region in the Amazonian high-jungle of Peru. This has given me the joy of proclaiming Christ both at home and abroad.

After an exploratory trip in July of 2018 where the Lord united us with a Peruvian church planter, pastor, and Bible translator, we began the work in September. It was February/March of 2019 when the Lord allowed me to see just a glimpse of what He is doing.

God Brought More to the Work, Even When We Thought We Were Alone

After inviting some churches in the States to join us in this endeavor, we received no response. Needless to say, we were disappointed but our Elders and congregation believed we had discerned the Lord’s will rightly and we pressed on. But it wasn’t until we arrived for our first night of services that the Lord allowed me to see just a glimpse of what He had been doing.

For a fledgling church of 16 believers (mostly new converts), 70-80 people at our first night of worship services was a little surprising. “Had the community come out in force to see what was going on? Had the Lord saw fit to grow their number since my last report? Where did all these people come from?”

In spite of my perceived failures in raising up an army of local churches from the U.S. to join us in this work, the Lord had already raised up an army of Peruvian churches. What a joy to worship Christ with brothers and sisters from five different Peruvian churches, some local and some from hundreds and hundreds of miles away,  who were all invested in making Christ known! We were not alone in the work; God was raising up churches in both North and South America to declare the glories of Christ!

God Provided, Even Where We Didn’t Know We Had Needs

It was incredible to see; really. The Lord provided medical staff, Spanish speakers, and evangelists for our team that we didn’t know we needed; both from the States and from Peru.

Through no effort on our part, the Lord provided additional medical support for our team that we thought would be a “bonus.” Turns out, we desperately needed the extra American and our medical mission would have treated, at least, 50% less people than we were able to were it not for her.

The Lord also provided an additional Peruvian pastor and his wife to help share the Gospel with the community and our patients that we didn’t know we would need. The community’s response to the medical campaign left us without adequate support in sharing the Gospel; the whole purpose of coming. But God knew what we did not and provided for our needs before we knew they were ever there.

And on top of that, a last minute addition to the team came by way of an OB who is a Peruvian national that had been praying for years that God would allow her to serve alongside of her husband, one of our translators, on the mission field. She added medical expertise without the need of a translator, inside help with pharmacies, and also a joy in the Lord that was irreplaceable helping to make our time serving the Lord that much sweeter. Turns out, we were an answer to her prayers and she was answer to ours. Isn’t God good?

God Has Healed, Even Where We Didn’t Know Healing Was Needed

It was here where I saw God’s supernatural work more than anywhere. Our national pastor and his wife (both of whom are in their 70’s) left their farm, their home, and their family to take the Gospel where it was not being proclaimed. With no home, no income, and no church they left everything to take the Good News to those who desperately need it.

This uncommon faith caused a fracture in their family. Some of their children supported and encouraged them and others thought it too risky and foolish at their age. Satan saw a foot-hold and seized the opportunity to sow division and strife in a family committed to the glory of God. They wept holding their faces in their hands and they poured their hearts out to us.

But through local, national, and international support God provided for the pastor and his wife. Today, the Lord has provided a home, a modest income, support in ministry and most importantly new life in Christ in the community. It is through God’s obvious provision and faithfulness that the family has been reconciled and the Lord has brought restoration and healing in a once fractured family.

In short, God is doing more than we thought. He’s doing more than we knew. But, in His grace, He has allowed us/me just a glimpse into what He’s doing and I cannot but stand back, admire His glory, and worship.

I’m just a cog in the machine of God’s glory but every once in a while the Maker opens up the machine, takes a peak inside, and shows this cog just how beautiful He is and it makes me want to “cog a little better.”

Pray for Peru. Pray for Lamas. Pray for Pastor Alfonso and Norma. Pray for Eldred Baptist Church. And finally, pray for me.

Soli Deo Gloria

Holiness Empowered Mission

In the recent weeks our church has begun a series, both in morning worship and in our weekly groups, talking about the reality of God’s holiness and our response to it. Each week building on the Idea that as we see God in his full splendor and majesty we being to see ourselves for who we truly are as sinners in need of a savior, while simultaneously seeing His majestic holiness as a gifted that transforms us as sinners into saints. God’s holiness is both extremely terrifying and yet extremely comforting.

This past week we kicked everything off by looking at the first half of Isaiah 6. Where Isaiah comes face to face with the living God and is overcome by his own sinfulness in the presences of God. Yet as the opening 7 verses concludes we see God sending forth an angel to heal and redeem Isaiah, cleansing his lips of all unrighteousness and atoning for him. This is an amazing picture of the work of God for Isaiah; one he did not deserve, but was freely given through the grace of God, and it is in light of this amazing encounter that the rest of the chapter concludes.

Isa. 6:8 And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am! Send me.”

In the midst of being cleansed from his sins God calls out who will go to His people and declare His great name. Who will declare the great name of the Lord, and Isaiah is immediately overcome with a sense that it must be him. He is the one who will go because he has been cleansed of His iniquity; he has been freed by the holiness of God to be remade. This new and remade Isaiah has experienced something that he knows must be spoken about, it must be taken to the people that they too may know the great and glorious nature of God who saves.

When we look at verse 8 we hopefully should be able in that moment to see ourselves standing before God who saved us, standing in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ who set us free from sin and death, not simply atoning for our sins with a coal but with his own shed blood. He paid the price for our sins and in doing so He not only revealed his holiness to us but bestowed it on us. We have experienced far more than even Isaiah, while he saw the holiness of God; we have been given that Holiness. It is why He can so confidently and boldly call us in the book of Matthew to go to the ends of the earth teaching and making disciples, because it is His power and authority that sustains us and goes before us.

Now before we get too far ahead of ourselves I want to highlight one other aspect of what God had called Isaiah to do. We love verse 8 for it is a call to missions and the call of God. Of course I’ll go, give me the chance I want to see soul’s transformed just like He has transformed mine. However, what we see in the commissioning of Isaiah is not one of joyous victory and big tent revivals where the masses will come to faith. He is not commissioned to be the light that brings forth a might movement of the spirit to save souls. Rather as the text concludes he is sent out to tell of the holiness and grandeur of God to deaf ears and blinded eyes, who rather than rejoicing in the gift of God will spurn it and reject Isaiah and God.

And he said, “Go, and say to this people:

“ ‘Keep on hearing, but do not understand;

keep on seeing, but do not perceive.’

Make the heart of this people dull,

and their ears heavy,

and blind their eyes;

lest they see with their eyes,

and hear with their ears,

and understand with their hearts,

and turn and be healed.”

Then I said, “How long, O Lord?”

And he said:

“Until cities lie waste

without inhabitant,

and houses without people,

and the land is a desolate waste,

and the Lord removes people far away,

and the forsaken places are many in the midst of the land.

 And though a tenth remain in it,

it will be burned again,

like a terebinth or an oak,

whose stump remains

when it is felled.”

The holy seed is its stump. (Isaiah 6:9-13)

This is not the most enjoyable of calls. Did Isaiah know what he was getting into when God asked? Do you think Isaiah had a second thoughts after hearing the Word of God? Do you think Isaiah wished the message would be more hopeful and less wrathful?

I don’t

I think based on how the remainder of the book plays out Isaiah wouldn’t have changed a thing. He experienced the holiness and salvation of God. God whose majesty and glory overwhelmed him, who stripped him of his very being, and yet called him and saved him. He transformed him. Isaiah knew his life was not his own nor was his mission. It was not his job to change lives, for he could not even change his own. It was the work of God to bring sight out of blindness. It was the job of His servant who had been changed to do His will.

We again have experienced the reality of God’s grace and holiness, and the call and message remains the same. We don’t know the hearts of those we go to tell the good news, but we know the God we serve. We know that God’s word does not return void, and should we suffer for the message we preach we share in the suffering of the prophets and Christ himself. We preach an unashamed Gospel and should be sustained in doing so by the reality of God who has changes us and sent us out.

His Holiness Informs us, His Holiness Transforms us, for it is His Holiness that will sustain us. So let us Go!

All I Have is Christ

All I have is Christ is one of my favorite worship songs of the last few decades, and this morning I wanted to encourage you with a visual reflection of the theological significance of this song by the Youtuber: Full of Eyes.

I pray that this quick reflection will encourage you, convict you, and spur you on in your walk with Christ this week.

More info, resources and videos can be found at Fullofeyes.com

I Am Him, And He Is Me

This year I have endeavored to read through the Bible chronologically, and so far so good! This week I’ve been in 1 Kings, and today I came to the story of the great prophet Elijah. Chapter 17 opens with Elijah predicting three years of no rain, and the Lord telling Elijah to go out and hide himself from King Ahab. From there we read incredible accounts of God’s provision and faithfulness not only to Elijah (being fed by ravens) but also to others such as the widow who had enough oil and flour to make one last cake before she and her son were going to die (God continued to provide oil and flour for them until the drought ended).

The climax comes in chapter 18, when Elijah challenges King Ahab to see whose God the people will follow, YHWH or Baal. Preparations are made to build stone altars, with firewood laid on top, and then a bull on top of that. The Baal prophets go first, and work themselves in a frenzy to see if Baal will bring down fire to burn their offering. Nothing. Silence. Elijah mocks them, telling them they should cry louder as maybe Baal is going to the bathroom or is asleep and can’t hear them.  So they cry even louder and “cut themselves after their custom with swords and lances, until the blood gushed out upon them.” (18:28) And still nothing.

Then it’s Elijah’s turn. Not only does he prepare his altar with the same stones, wood, and bull, he also digs a trench around it and douses the whole thing with water.  And not just one with time with water, but three times! 1 Kings 18:36-38 records what happens next.

‘And at the time of the offering of the oblation, Elijah the prophet came near and said, “O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that you are God in Israel, and that I am your servant, and that I have done all these things at your word.  Answer me, O Lord, answer me, that this people may know that you, O Lord, are God, and that you have turned their hearts back.” Then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench.’

Not only was everything consumed, Elijah then takes the prophets of Baal down to a brook and slaughters them all that day. Immediately after that, God sends rain, after having withheld it for the past three years.

Victory! Elation! Fear! What? After seeing the incredible display of God’s power, King Ahab’s wife Jezebel threatens to do to him what he just did to their false prophets. Elijah flees to the wilderness, and basically tells God he’s done. He wants to die. But even there in the wilderness God continues to provide food and water for him.

God then asks him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” Elijah goes into this spiel about how he has been very jealous for God. The people of Israel have forsaken God’s covenant, killed God’s prophets, and thrown down His altars, and he Elijah, is the only one left, and now his life is being sought to be killed.

God then sends a strong wind storm, and then an earthquake, and then a fire. But the Lord was not in any of those things. Next came a whisper, in which God tells him that there are still 7000 men who have not bowed the knee to Baal, and that he is to go back to Damascus, and take care of some business, which Elijah does.

I can relate to Elijah. Yes, this incredible prophet of the Holy God of Israel, the one who was with JESUS on the Mount of Transfiguration, is just like me. Or, I’m like him. Either way, we’re the same.

I’ve not been happy to wait to go to the mission field. In my heart, I’ve even said to God, “Don’t you see what we’ve given up? We’ve given up owning a home, having nice cars, and a steady income!” I have basically said to God much like Elijah did, “you owe me!”

But now, just like then, God doesn’t answer my pride with force (ie. fire, wind, earthquake). No, he answers us in the stillness. He says to Elijah, to me, and to you, “Obey Me.” Whatever dreams and aspirations we may have for our future, He continually reminds us to obey Him in that moment. Not to worry about what the future may bring.

Jesus gives the same message to the Apostle Peter in John 22:21. After having had an intimate conversation with Jesus in verses 15-19, Peter notices the Apostle John following them. Peter immediately asks, ‘”Lord, what about this man?”  Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!”‘

OUCH! If friends are buying houses to put down roots here, I’m to follow Him still. If fellow missionaries raise 100% of their support within six months, I’m to wait and follow Him. If friends and family can afford nice vacations but we can’t, I need to be content with His provisions for us, and follow Him.

So, I will set my heart to obey Him, and leave the timing of things to Him. I know, so much easier said than done. But I can guarantee we will never regret obeying Him. No matter what comes next.

Second-Class Missionary?

My family and I are preparing for service in Paraguay, South America with New Tribes Mission. The biblical goal is to “make disciples of all the nations” – literally to every people group.(Matthew 28:19). As found in the book of Acts, we see that Paul and many others in the early church put this into practice by establishing mature churches among previously unreached people. Paul did this because of his desire to take the gospel to where it has not gone, (Romans 15:20)

The world has changed a lot since then BUT God’s Word has not. In brief, the ministry’s goal is to reach the unreached with the gospel of Jesus Christ, to see God’s Word translated in the heart language of a people group and see God build His church in another group.

Preparation for us to serve required specialized training to equip us to be part of a team to accomplish the above-stated goal. The task before us is complex, difficult and requires a long-term commitment to trust in the work of our sovereign God. Presently, we are in the stage of ministry which requires time seeking those whom God has prepared to join with us in ministry. Contacting, sharing, and following up is the “formula” of team building. Let’s not forget while praying for wisdom every step of the way. Once in Paraguay, it appears that my role will be in the realm of field administration. It has been a long road for my family and I, but we continue to press forward on the road God has for us to walk.

Let me share with you a real challenge which I face. Not in every case but many times in sharing with people, I have observed a worldly way of thinking. A way in which I think has subtly slid into churches and into the way missionaries are viewed. A thinking which claims that our identity comes from what we do instead of what God has done. Amy Medina, missionary to Tanzania spells out this distorted view within our churches today. She has written perfectly what I have been seeing and experiencing as we prepare for service in Paraguay. My prayer as you read the following is that you are challenged.

In Defense of Second-Class Missionaries

Imagine what it would look like if western churches hired their staff with the same priorities that they choose overseas missionaries to financially support.

First of all, a Children’s Pastor would definitely be out. Not strategic enough; he’s only supporting the children of believers. Youth Pastor? Also out, unless he targets neighborhood kids. How about a Music Pastor? Or Pastoral Counselor? Nope. Those are just supporting roles. Not enough front-line ministry. Administrative PastorReceptionist? Good heavens. We could never dream of paying someone for those kind of inconsequential jobs.

How about a Preaching Pastor? Well…..that’s if-y, but he probably doesn’t make the cut either. After all, he’s only feeding the Body. Most of the time, he’s not actually reaching the lost. So that pretty much leaves only the positions of Community Outreach Pastor or Evangelist. Yet how many churches even have those paid positions?

I’m not suggesting that churches go about firing two-thirds of their staff. I just want to talk about a double-standard I often see.

Let me introduce you to the class system among missionaries. 

Who is on the A-List? Well, that would be the Church Planters. Among unreached people groups gives you A+ status. Pastoral Trainers and Bible Translators might be able to squeak by with an A. The B-List? Doctors and other health workers, community development and poverty alleviation workers, ESL teachers. The C-List?  Administrators, missionary member care, MK teachers, or anyone else considered “support.”

Whatever tends to be the current trend in “justice ministry” also often ends up on the A-List. These days, that’s fighting human trafficking. It used to be orphan ministry, but that’s pretty much been relegated to B-status now. It’s cool, but not that cool.

Granted, this class system doesn’t usually originate with the missionaries themselves, but it’s come out of the culture of missions in their home countries. How many missionaries have sat before missions committees back home who examined if they fit into their “grid” of priorities? And often that grid looks exactly like the hierarchy I just outlined.

My husband and I worked for eight years in TCK ministry at a missionary school. When trying to raise support, we called and sent information packets to over 200 churches in California. We heard back from two. Churches told us, over and over again, ‘Sorry, but that ministry doesn’t fit into our strategy.’

That all changed when we transitioned to theological training of East African pastors. Finally, we had churches calling us. It was nice. But frankly, kind of frustrating. We didn’t change ministries so that we would become more popular with churches. We switched because that’s where God was leading us. But the truth is, we don’t consider theological training to be any more strategic, or any more exciting, than what we were doing at that MK school. 

Unfortunately, the missionaries themselves are often acutely aware of this hierarchy, and it makes many feel like they are second-class. Over and over again, I hear things like this from missionaries:

Yes, I love my job as an MK teacher and I know it’s really important, but I fill my newsletters with pictures of the slum I visit once a week. After all, that’s what my supporters are interested in.

Yeah, I’m a missionary, but not a ‘real’ missionary. I live in a city and spend a lot of my time at a computer.

My visiting short-term team was supposed to help me out with my ministry to TCK’s, but they only want to spend their time with orphans.  

Why do these missionaries feel this way? Maybe because when Christians stand up and say, I’m called to missionary care! I’m called to teach MK’s! I’m called to missions administration, the churches say, Well, sorry, you don’t fit in our strategy. We’d rather get behind the exciting church planters and the pastoral trainers and the child-trafficking rescuers. Except, we expect them to do it without all the other people they need to be successful.

And so what happens? The talented church planter gets bogged down by administrative tasks. The mom who is gifted and called to women’s ministry has no choice but to homeschool. The child-trafficking rescuer has a nervous breakdown because he has no one to help him work through the trauma of what he is facing. Missionaries are particularly prone to burn-out. Could this be partially because they are trying to do too many jobs themselves? 

I’m all about strategy in missions, and it’s important for churches to be careful in their vetting process of potential missionaries. But can we expand our idea of what strategy means? Missionaries, as an extension of the Church, must function as the Body of Christ. Could the Western Church function by only hiring evangelists? I realize that mission work can have different goals than churches back at home: Missionaries are working ourselves out of a job; they are doing everything they can to replace themselves with national believers. But to get there, they need the Body of Christ. 

We, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them. (Romans 12)

The legs can’t do anything without the arms and fingers and neck. So go out today and find your nearest missionary accountant or counselor or MK teacher. Join their support team. Encourage them in their pursuit of their calling. Affirm their value to your church or your team. And remind them they are never second-class.

Beyond the Gates of Splendor

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the LORD, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” (Psalm 91:1–2)

Five families in the early 1950’s moved to Ecuador to reach the isolated Waodani tribe with the Gospel of Jesus Christ for the first time in history.  Although at first they found acceptance they would soon meet hostility and eventually death.

60 years ago today – January 8, 1956 – Jim Elliot, Nate Saint, Ed McCully, Peter Flemming, and Roger Youderian were speared to death on a sandbar called “Palm Beach” in the Curaray River of Ecuador.  The courage of these men was deep, but too few recall the courage of the wives and children they left behind.  After their death, members of the slain missionaries’ families returned to the same tribe to live among them with the same aim of reaching them with the Gospel.

They did…

…and nothing has been the same since.

The world called the death of these 5 missionaries a ‘tragic nightmare’ but Elisabeth Elliot, wife of deceased Jim Elliot, was not convinced and wrote a book about the events that took place called Shadow of the Almighty (title coming from Psalm 91 seen above).  She was convinced that the death of her husband was a glorious reminder that God is a refuge for His people, not from suffering and death but a refuge from eternal death.  The world learned a lesson that day.  That the Gospel, the precious Gospel of Christ, is worth dying for, and those who love Jesus always walk (even in dark times) in the shadow of the Almighty.

A documentary of these events was made called Beyond the Gates of Splendor (which prompted the making of the motion picture The End of the Spear), Nate Saint’s young son Steve grew up and founded his own missionary organization (ITEC) taking his father’s place as a missionary himself, and last but not least Jim Elliot’s journals were gathered and published for all read.

We now know the story, and are grateful for it.

John Piper has written a wonderful piece describing the significance of these events, I encourage you to read it today (click here).

Also the entire documentary (that is worth your time) is on YouTube (click here).

Here are a few quotes from Jim Elliot to take to heart today:

“Father, make of me a ‘crisis man’. Bring those I contact to decision. Let me not be a milepost on a single road. Make of me a fork, so that men must turn one way or another on facing Christ in me.”

“What is written in these pages I suppose will someday be read by others than myself. For this reason I cannot hope to be absolutely honest in what is herein recorded, for the hypocrisy of this shammering heart will ever be putting on a front and dares not to have written what is actually found in its abysmal depths. Yet, I pray Lord, that You will make these notations to be as nearly true to fact as is possible so that I will know my own heart and be able to definitely pray regarding my gross, though often unviewed, inconsistencies. I do this at the suggestion of Stephen Olford whose chapel message of yesterday morning convicted me that my quiet time with God is not what it should be. These remarks are to be written from fresh, daily thoughts given from God in meditation on His Word.”

“The world cannot hate you”, so Jesus said to those who were of the world spirit. O’ that it could! The Lord is not enough ‘with me’ that the world can recognize and hate me for what I am – “not of the world.” The world loves its own, and for me it shelters not hatred. Lord, have I wandered so far?”

“There is now no longer any inheritance for me down here. I’ve been bought by the labors of that great Shepherd who came from afar to gain me as His bride. Lead on, Lord, whatever God’s command is or wherever He may lead, I am now ready to go.”

“God, I pray, light these idle sticks of my life and may I burn up for Thee. Consume my life, my God, for it is Thine. I seek not a long life, but a full one like Yours, Lord Jesus.”

“Lord, I know Thou art with me, but I fear that because my life is barren for Thee so much of the time, that You gain little glory from being with me. I pray Thee, make my way prosperous, not that I achieve high station, but that my life might be an exhibit to the value of knowing God.”

“Lord, here at Wheaton we need some affliction to unite us in our purpose, to make us prosper, to scatter us abroad. I pray, then, Lord, for should I ask for a Pharaoh who knows not our Joseph and is antagonistic? (Gen. 37- Ex. 1) Yes, send persecution to me, Lord, that my life might bring forth much fruit.”

“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”

The Great Commission as Dominion Mandate and ‘Plan A’

Lastly, we come back to missions.

The first Adam failed to use his helpmate Eve to accomplish the tasks assigned to him in the mandate. But Jesus didn’t fail as Adam did. Jesus, the last Adam has a helpmate as well. I hope by now you can see that Adam was a type of Christ, what is rarely mentioned along side of this is that Eve as Adam’s helpmate is a type (or foreshadow) of the Church. As Eve was Adam’s helpmate, the Church is Jesus’ helpmate. Jesus is now using His helpmate, the Church, to accomplish this work on earth. It is through the Church that Jesus saves people and forms them more and more into His image. So when missions happens, people are saved, when people are saved, they begin to grow into the image of Christ more and more. Jesus is the image of the invisible God, so those growing Christians, are growing in the image of God, and when those Christians go on missions they are spreading the image of God by sharing the gospel in word and deed!

Thus we have missions, fully developed in the Dominion Mandate of Gen. 1:28. Jesus, as the last Adam, is using His helpmate, the Church, to spread His image around the world, by bringing men and women from every tribe, nation, tongue, and language to treasure Himself above all things among all the peoples of the world. Adam points to Jesus, Eve points to the Church, and God is the main actor in all of it!

Notice that this mandate was given before the fall of man? What does that tell us? Jesus fulfilling the Dominion Mandate, by sending His helpmate, the Church, around the world with the gospel, was plan A, not plan B. Too many people think that Jesus was merely God’s answer to the problem of sin (as if God didn’t know what to do and asked Jesus to solve this problem for Him). Wrong. Jesus is not only an answer to a problem, Jesus was always in view, He was present and planned Gen. 1:28 to be written so we would get a preview of missions. Don’t get me wrong here. Matthew 28 is a great place to preach and think on missions. “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” I’m just saying that Matthew 28 exists, because of Genesis 1:28! So, if you’re doing missions to any degree, you are Jesus’ helpmate, spreading the image of God throughout the world, through the gospel. You are part of a plan that is not NT only, but a plan that goes back from the foundation of world! When you do missions, you’re part of plan A.

In conclusion: as a type of Christ and the image of God Adam was the first prophet, priest, and king, but by rebelling against God we look to another Adam, the Second and Last Adam Jesus Christ to make us right with God. The difference between Adam and Christ is the reason Genesis 1-3 exists, and to see this closer, we must take a look at the setting Adam was placed – the garden.

To that we’ll look next week.

Christ, the Image of God and Goal of Redemption

Let’s back up from yesterday’s theological discussion and ask a broader question: Why did God give a command to Adam and Noah, and give a promise to Abraham? Why the change? I think God still had Gen. 1:28 in mind. I think that God was planning to display the fulfillment of Gen. 1:28 through the obedience of His Son. Follow me, I just said that Jesus is now fulfilling Gen. 1:28, we need to ask how did He is doing this? Remember, Adam was commanded to do 4 things:

1) Fill the earth with the image of God through procreation

2) Subdue the earth

3) Exercise authority over the creation

4) Accomplish these tasks with the assistance of his helpmate, Eve.

Adam failed to do these things, and so did Noah. But where these two failed, the Last Adam, Jesus Christ, succeeded. Here’s how:

1) The first Adam failed to fill the earth with the image of God by procreation with his wife Eve. But the last Adam, Jesus, is now filling the earth with the image of God, not by procreation, but by making new creations out of us. When someone is made a new creation in Christ, they begin to be conformed more and more to His image, the image of Christ, and Christ is Himself the image of God. Therefore Jesus is filling the earth with the image of God by making new creations out of people through the gospel. Because the first Adam was created in the image of God and the second Adam, Jesus Christ, is the image of God, then the overall message of Scripture is that though man was made in the image of God and lost it through the fall, the image of God will be restored to fallen man through the work of the second Adam. Thus, when we talk of man being created in the image of God we cannot stop in Genesis we must move forward into the rest of Scripture to see the One who is the very image of God Himself.

Anyone have Hebrews 1:1-3 in mind? “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son, whom He appointed the Heir of all things, through whom also He created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of His nature, and He upholds the universe by the word of His power. After making purification for sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high…” Lesson? The triune God created man, male and female, in His image. That God did this and placed mankind in His world to rule over creation was a declaration that the triune God ruled over creation. That man is made in the image of God shows that both male and female possess many of the qualities of God, reflecting God’s own character. Because the fall took place, this image of God in man was marred, and in made complete when we become new creations in Christ, who is Himself the very image of God.

Christ as the image of God means that the image of Christ defines what man is truly supposed to be, He is indeed the Perfect Man. Yes, both Adam was and Jesus is the image of God but one was created while the other always has been the uncreated image of God. To look at Christ, the image of God, is to see what man is truly supposed to be like.

Christ as the image of God also means the image of Christ is the goal of mans redemption. Think Romans 8:29 here, “Those whom God foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son.” The goal of a Christians sanctification therefore is Christ-likeness. Anthony Hoekema once said, “Since Christ is God’s perfect image, likeness to Christ will also mean likeness to God. This perfect likeness to Christ and to God is the ultimate goal of our sanctification. John Calvin said in two ways: one quote says, “All that we lost in Adam we regain in Christ.” Another quote says this, “The beginning of our recovery of salvation is in that restoration which we obtain through Christ who also is called the Second Adam for the reason that He restores us to the true and complete integrity.”

2) The first Adam failed to subdue and exercise authority over the earth, but who is it that the NT says has all authority in heaven and on earth to do whatever He pleases? The Last Adam, Jesus. Jesus is obedient where Adam was disobedient. The first Adam failed when he tried to grasp equality with God by grasping the fruit. But the Last Adam, the true Son of Man, Jesus, was equal with the Father and yet He didn’t use His equality with God to save Him from the cross, but He willingly went to it, as Phil 2:6-8 gloriously states, “although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped (like Adam did), but emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

In the disobedience and failure of the 1st Adam, we see how glorious the obedience and humble submission of Jesus is.

more tomorrow…

The Image of God and the Dominion Mandate

It is my opinion that missionary work received it’s call into existence not in Matthew 28:19-20 but in Genesis 1:26-28. Missions is more than a New Testament idea. I believe that we’re given the full picture of missions in Genesis 1.

Some people call Genesis 1:28 the ‘Cultural Mandate’ while others call it the ‘Dominion Mandate.’ The name doesn’t matter here, what does matter is what Adam was told to do in this mandate.

1:26-28 says, “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’ So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created them; male and female He created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.’”

In this mandate Adam was commanded to do 4 things:

1) Fill the earth with the image of God through procreation

2) Subdue the earth

3) Exercise authority and dominion over the creation

4) Accomplish these tasks with the assistance of his helpmate, Eve.

Now we know how Adam did don’t we? In all these things the he failed. Remember what the serpent said? “You will be like God if you eat this fruit.” He wanted it, and grabbed it, and proved to be disobedient. Through this sin Adam tried to grasp equality with God by grasping for the fruit of the tree of knowledge.

Now, you may think that the Mandate may have disappeared after Adam, but it didn’t. Listen to what Noah was told by God in Genesis 9:1-2, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth. The fear of you and the terror of you will be on every beast of the earth and on every bird of the sky; with everything that creeps on the ground, and all the fish of the sea, into your hand they are given.” Did you hear that? All the same elements from Adam’s mandate are back in Noah’s mandate. Now the question turns to: Did Noah fulfill all these things? Not fully, because of the actions of his son Ham (who was the father of Canaan). Because of what Ham did, Noah cursed Ham’s son Canaan for his actions; and blessed his other sons Shem and Japheth.

After Noah, we read of Noah’s descendants, the incident at Babel, and then Abraham. And with Abraham we see a dynamic turn of events. Remember Adam and Noah were given commands in Genesis 1:28 and 9:1-2 while Abraham receives something else. God didn’t tell Abraham to do certain things like He told Adam and Noah. Rather, Abraham (who was known as Abram at the time) was given a promise, not a command. God told him that his descendants would be as numerous as the stars in the sky and the sand of the seashore, and that in him all the families of the earth would be blessed.

To confirm this covenant promise, in Genesis 15 God has Abraham cut an animal in two pieces, so that the two could walk through to confirm the covenant. In that day, this is how you formed a treaty/covenant. You would cut an animal in two and walk through the pieces together. This would symbolize the binding oath between two parties by stating, “If either one of us breaks this covenant, what has been done to this animal will be done to me.” After Abraham prepared the animals, God did something unexpected. He caused a deep sleep to come over Abraham, and then God alone walked through the animal parts. Why did God do this? He wanted to show Abraham that this covenant did not depend on his own actions, but on His own. And more so, if either party, God or Abraham breaks the covenant, the curse of the covenant would fall upon God alone. This is called a self-malecdictory oath.

Can you see how rich the OT is with the gospel? We know that Israel broke this covenant with God, and God kept His Word by causing the curses of the covenant to land on His Son in full measure. God killed His Son because His people did not keep the covenant.

more tomorrow…

“What Do I Say of Muhammad?”

On this day, April 7, 1321 brother Thomas of Tolentino and three other Franciscans monks witnessed for Christ. On either the 8th or 9th of April, after torture, they were beheaded. Traveling toward China the party had been detained near Bombay. A local Cadi summoned them to discuss religion. Thomas and his associates upheld the divinity of Christ. The Cadi then demanded to know what they thought of Mohammed. Thomas replied that since Mohammed’s claims did not square with Christ’s, the Cadi, if he were wise, should be able to determine what to think of him. The Cadi and his attendants would not accept this evasive reply but demanded a direct response. The answer below, when it came, caused the Muslims to shout that Thomas had blasphemed the prophet and to call for his death.

Quote: “Since ye can only repeat What do I say of him, I should blush to refuse the reply ye seek. I reply then, and tell you that Muhammad is the son of perdition and has his place in hell with the devil his father, and not he only but all such as follow and keep his law, false as it is, and pestilent and accursed, hostile to God and the salvation of souls.” (Source: The quote is from Cathay and the Way Thither: Being a Collection of Medieval Notices of China. The date is from Internet encyclopedias and saints’ sites.)

Lesson?

In a time where political correctness rules the day, may we be found to be as faithful as these men for the glory of Christ.

The Deepest Desire in Adoniram Judson’s Wife

Anne Hasseltine and Adoniram Judson were married on February 5, 1812.  The next day, when Judson was ordained to do foreign mission work, Anne (whom he called “Nancy”) was beside him.  Within a few days they boarded the sailing ship Caravan to sail to India.  Judson’s eventual success in Burma (now known as Myanmar), where they ended up, would have been impossible without her language skills and devotion to his life.

On March 14, 1812, while they were still at sea, Anne expressed her deepest desires in a letter that she wrote home.  Quote:

“I desire no higher enjoyment in this life, than to be instrumental of leading some poor, ignorant heathen females, to the knowledge of the Saviour. To have a female praying society, consisting of those who were once in heathen darkness, is what my heart earnestly pants after, and makes a constant subject of prayer. Resolved to keep this in view, as one principal object of my life.”

(From the Christian History Institute)

CROSS: A 1 Night Missions Conference – FREE (2/27)

Here is a wonderful opportunity for individuals, families, small groups, co-workers, youth groups, college groups and dorms to gather together for four hours to hear from gifted teachers on the need and means of taking the gospel to the nations.

You can watch the Cross conference live, for free, here.

Just REGISTER TO WATCH. And if you’re hosting a viewing of the simulcast and want to invite others to, sign up here. (That link will also let you see other viewing locations in your area.)

Here are the speakers, their message titles, and the times (all times Eastern).

Friday, February 27, 2015

7 pm — Main Session 1

  • John Piper, “Undaunted by the Darkness: Invincible Joy for the Sake of the Nations”
  • Panel, “Who On Earth Are We Talking About? Naming the Unreached and Unengaged and Why”

9:30 pm  — Main Session 2

Note: The following three talks will only be 15 minutes each.

  • Kevin DeYoung, “Putting the Spread of the Gospel at Risk One Click at a Time”
  • Mack Stiles, “Clever Missionaries Need Not Apply”
  • Thabiti Anyabwile, “Don’t Mortgage the Mission”

10:15 pm — Main Session 3

  • David Platt, “Undaunted by Resistance: Sustaining Missionary Zeal for the Sake of the Nations”

Missions & Masturbation – How John Piper Almost Got Fired

In September of 1984 John Piper almost got fired from his church for writing an article in the churches magazine entitled, “Missions & Masturbation.”  He did not get fired, but he did almost get fired.  You can see why when you read the article below.  So read carefully what follows – it can be graphic.   But nonetheless it is necessary to teach on these things because issues of sexuality affect every single person who has ever existed.

John Piper:

Masturbation is the experience of sexual orgasm produced by self-stimulation. Virtually every man and almost as many women have tried it. It is a regular practice of most single men.

One of the major forces preventing young people from obeying the call of God into vocational Christian service is defeat in the area of lust. A teenager hears a challenging call to throw himself into the cause of world evangelization. He feels the promptings of the Holy Spirit. He tastes the thrill of following the King of kings into battle. But he does not obey because he is masturbating regularly. He feels guilty. He can hardly imagine witnessing to a pretty girl about the eternal plight of her soul, because he has so habitually looked at girls naked in his imagination. So he feels unworthy and unable to obey the call of God. Masturbation becomes the enemy of missions.

Is masturbation wrong? Let me address the issue mainly for men. I cannot imagine sexual orgasm in the loins without sexual image in the mind. I know there are nocturnal emissions, which I regard as innocent and helpful, but I doubt that they are ever orgasmic apart from a sexual dream that supplies the necessary image in the mind. Evidently God has constituted the connection between sexual orgasm and sexual thought in such a way that the force and pleasure of orgasm is dependent on the thought or images in our minds.

Therefore in order to masturbate, it is necessary to get vivid and exciting thoughts or images into the mind. This can be done by pure imagination or by pictures or movies or stories or real persons. These images always involve women as sexual objects. I use the word “object” because in order for a woman to be a true sexual “subject” in our imagination she must in reality be one with whom we are experiencing what we are imagining. This is not the case with masturbation.

So I vote no on masturbation. There may be other reasons why it is wrong. For now I rest my vote on the inevitable sexual images which accompany masturbation and which turn women into sexual objects. The sexual thoughts that enable masturbation do not help any man to treat women with greater respect. Therefore masturbation produces real and legitimate guilt and stands in the way of obedience.

Three encouragements to single men:

  1. You are not alone in the battle.
  2. Periodic failure in this area no more disqualifies you from ministry than periodic failures of impatience (which is also a sin).
  3. Pursue the expulsive power of a new affection. I walked by a whole section of “photography” books at the Walker Art Center last Thursday empowered by the better pleasure of feeling Christ conquer the temptation to look.

For the sake of your power,

Pastor John