I need to take a break from writing here to focus on our IFCA Annual Convention and Board meetings for the next couple of weeks and to take some time off with my family. I will return to writing on July 12, Lord willing.
If you’d be interested in viewing the Convention General Session speakers via Livestream, you can find out more information and register for the convention at the link below. Your prayers are appreciated!
“This is not a moment for timid souls. Boldness comes easily when you are in the presence of those who agree with you; it is difficult when you are standing alone in the midst of people who seek your demise. Boldness behind a pulpit is one thing; boldness in a city council meeting is another. Boldness is seen most clearly when you have burned the bridge that would have enabled you to retreat to safety.”
Erwin Lutzer, We Will Not Be Silenced: Responding Courageously to Our Cultures Assault on Christianity, 120.
We are at a critical point in the history of the world and the Church. Should the Lord tarry, our children will look back on these dark and trying days and judge whether we were courageous in the face of great opposition or see evidence of compromise and capitulation. What will make the difference? Can I suggest a few things from Acts 4:8-12, where the disciples ran into their first major confrontation with aggression?
“Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders, if we are being examined today concerning a good deed done to a crippled man, by what means this man has been healed, let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by him this man is standing before you well. This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:8-12)
1. The disciples were filled with the Spirit.
This is the only way a group of Christ-followers who were cowering behind locked doors only a few days before could be so radically different. Courage and boldness is not for those of this type of personality. Boldness and courage filled the hearts of those filled with the Spirit.
2. The disciples testified to Jesus Christ.
The evangelical church is scattered and divided about a lot of things today—spiritual gifts, baptism modes, music, methodology, women in ministry, and more. Don’t get me wrong, hese are all incredibly important things. But the primary need for standing firm against the onslaught of the enemy is the gospel message. The heart and focus must highlight the cross of Jesus Christ and the atoning work accomplished. Everything else must be seen in its subordinate place.
3. The disciples upheld the importance of the resurrection of Christ.
The resurrection points to the acceptance of the sacrifice of Christ on our behalf. It is not tangential, but central. The resurrection of Christ points to our own future resurrection and glorification. If you grasp this, then courage is sure to come because nothing—NOTHING—can stop you. Not even death.
4. The disciples never forgot that Jesus was rejected too.
If you forget that they hated Jesus, you might be tempted into the sin of seeking to please man. But if you remember that they hated our Lord and crucified the Lord of glory, then we will not be surprised when they hate us as well—no matter how winsome or loving or kind we might be.
5. The disciples knew that there is no other hope for the world than Jesus.
If a person could be saved through Islam, or Mormonism, or liberation theology, then it would be much easier to just quietly practice our faith privately without any care about others because they’ll eventually get to heaven too. But the message of Jesus was clear—He is the only way to the Father. And that should embolden us because although some people might want to silence us or shout us down, we can’t be silent if we truly love them.
Brothers and sisters, don;t lose heart. Jesus is coming soon, but we have work to do and we can’t allow the shouts of the world to drown us out.
“So when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, but Mary remained seated in the house. Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.”John 11:20–27
The glory of God and the love of God are not in conflict with one another. Some theologians try to pit one against the other saying that the sovereignty of God (intimately tied to His glory) cannot override His love for humanity., and therefore the love of God willingly overrides His sovereignty so that God actually submits to the will of His creatures.
John 11 is an interesting test of this idea. In verses 4-6 it says, “But when Jesus heard it he said, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.”]
In these verses we have the glory of God shown in His sovereign decision to allow the life of Lazarus to be overcome by death, with the divine purpose of God being glorified through His resurrection of Lazarus. To some Christians and many unbelievers, this is unthinkable—even monstrous. But this is because the unregenerate mind and the immature Christian mind attribute all discomfort, pain, trial, and even death, as only evil and that the only good that comes is from the avoidance of these things.
But the pain and suffering that occurs in this world is only a small part of the much bigger picture. And not only this, but the pain and suffering as well as the joy unspeakable that are available to humanity either through grace or denial of the offer of salvation are infinite. The present world and its pains and joys are only a small sampling of a greater reality that all of humanity shall experience personally one day.
Jesus, looking beyond the suffering and eventual death of His friend Lazarus knows that a greater lesson needs to be grasped and through the truth He will bring glory to His Father.
So, instead of rushing to the scene to be at His friend’s side, Jesus stayed two days longer to assure His disciples that Lazarus was dead and buried by the time they reached Bethany.
This means that when we are tempted to cry out “Why?” In our trials, we must not push aside the glory of God and begin to question the love of God. The Lord’s mind is vast and His plans are more infinitely complex that we can know or imagine; therefore we must never doubt His love.
Mary and Martha were correct in placing all of their hope in Jesus’ power to heal their brother. The issue was simply timing. Jesus could have healed Lazarus while he was sick (Jn 11:21-27, 32); or immediately after he had died; or long after he died in the future Day of resurrection (v. 24).
The sisters had hoped that the healing would be before his death, but after he had died, they found some comfort in the future resurrection when he would be raised from the dead.
But Jesus gave them immediate resurrection while also pointing them to the reality of the greater day of resurrection that they would still need to look forward to and hope in. We too must cling to this very same hope even without our own personal experience with an immediate healing or resurrection. Jesus proved to Mary and Martha, and by extension to us as well, that He is able to raise the dead—because He raised Lazarus from the dead, and He rose from the grave by His own power.
So the next time you find yourself doubting God’s love or not understanding how such pain could bring God glory, remember Lazarus. You might never understand God’s reasoning, but you must know this—God desires to be glorified and His love for us is infinite. Both are true and both are never super versed by His perfect plans.
“Our Lord attracted sinners because He was different. They drew near to Him because they felt that there was something different about Him. And the world should see us to be different. This idea that you are going to win people to the Christian faith by showing them that after-all you are remarkably like them, is theologically and psychologically a profound blunder.”
—D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones
There is a very troubling scenario that played out in Sodom just before it was destroyed by God. Having been warned by a pair of angels that the Lord was going to drop a heavenly nuke on his city, Lot scrambled to get his family together to get them to safety. Among those he warned were the men betrothed to his daughters:
“Then the two men said to Lot, “Whom else have you here? A son-in-law, and your sons, and your daughters, and whomever you have in the city, bring them out of the place;for we are about to destroy this place, because their outcry has become so great before the Lord that the Lord has sent us to destroy it.”Lot went out and spoke to his sons-in-law, who were to marry his daughters, and said, “Up, get out of this place, for the Lord will destroy the city.” But he appeared to his sons-in-law to be jesting.”
Genesis 19:12–14, NASB95)
Having seen the power of God demonstrated by the two angels’ blinding their attackers only a short time before, Lot knew that the warning was deadly serious. One can only imagine that a sense of panic has set in, and his urgency must have shown on his face and in his voice. When Lot went to the men who would marry his daughters, you would think that they could read the outward signs of his terror. But the text says “he appeared to [them]…to be jesting.” How could this be?
Earlier in Genesis, Lot’s uncle Abraham asked his nephew to choose the plot of land he wanted to live in, and Lot chose to set his tent near Sodom. At that point, Lot was outside the city and still living the life of a nomad and herdsman. But in Genesis 19, this has all changed. Lot lives in town, which may have meant that not only was he no longer living as a nomad in a tent, but that he has given up the life of a herdsman.
When he comes upon the two men who are angels preparing to stay the night in the town square, he asks them to come stay with him knowing that this wicked city is not safe. So, why had Lot settled there? And when the homosexual mob demanded that these men be turned over to be raped by them, he offered the mob his daughters in their place. What could have changed in Lot that would make him think that this was even an option?
All of these tie together when we come to the actions of the young men engaged to his daughters, the disobedience of his wife, and the later actions of his daughters. Something had gone terribly wrong in Lot’s family life. What could it be? We can’t be certain, but it appears that Lot had made several compromises along the way which are illustrated in his physical movement toward Sodom. His heart had made a journey as well, and it drew him further from God and closer to the ideals and ethics of Sodom. And worse, it had saturated the hearts of his family members.
The Apostle Paul observed a similar troubling element in some of the Christians in Corinth. To them he wrote:
“Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever? Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said, “I will dwell in them and walk among them; And I will be their God, and they shall be My people.“Therefore, come out from their midst and be separate,” says the Lord. “And do not touch what is unclean; And I will welcome you. “And I will be a father to you, And you shall be sons and daughters to Me, ”Says the Lord Almighty.”
(2 Corinthians 6:14–18, NASB95)
Reflecting on the continuous influence of the pagan nations on Israel, Paul alerted the Corinthians that the people of God are to continue to be set apart from those that are standing against our God. As with Israel, God walks among us and in the Church Age, even dwells within us. Should we then partner with darkness? Paul answers with the same thing that the Lord spoke to Israel–come out from among them!
Some misguided Christians have said that God intends for His people to be among the sinners of this world, and in saying this they have meant that we are to be non-judgmental and even participate with them so that we might befriend them and show them the love of God. But that is not what God called Israel to do, and it is not the practice of anyone in the New Testament–even Jesus! It is a lie to claim as one Christian brother told me, that Jesus “partied with the pagans.” To say this is to slander our Lord.
Instead, Jesus was kind, and was not willing to avoid or cast away those who were in their sin as they came to him seeking forgiveness and redemption. Jesus welcomed them. He was a friend of sinners, drunkards, and prostitutes because he demonstrated not only the love and patience of God, but also because he pointed them directly to their need to repent so they could be made right with God.
Those that believe that licentiousness and worldly living is a missional strategy and evangelistic method will sooner or later find themselves inching closer to Sodom, and will face a similar fate if they do not withdraw from that which is unclean. Love sends us into the sewage to seek the lost, but holiness draws us back to the Father’s side. As Lloyd-Jones says in the opening quote, may we shine as light in the darkness and by this show the world that we are profoundly different and may that difference from the world be attractive to those seeking a sweet respite from this dark world we live in.
One afternoon while we were camping in the sequoias fo California, we started to notice that the clouds were beginning to look a little heavy and ominous. As evening began to fall, we started feeling a drop of rain here and there. As experienced campers, my wife and I knew that we needed to take a few precautions before we went to bed for the night. We folded up our camp chairs and put them into our car, and then we took down all of our towels and clothes off of our clothesline and put them into the tent. We made sure that anything that could be damaged by the rain was in a safe and dry place. There’s something romantic about being in a tent while its raining, but there is nothing fun about having to run out in the middle of the night in a rain storm to cover and move things out of the rain.
In Matthew 16:1-12, Jesus spoke about observing the signs of the weather, and the activities that are affected when we are good judges of what will occur. Even today, we still read signs. We read the stock market to see whether or not stock prices will go up or down. We forecast the trends of politics and the real estate market. Some people are involved in watching the trends of fashion and technology.
But, what about the big picture? What about the signs of the times that point to the end of the world? The only person the world sees warning about the end of the world is the homeless guy in the movies who holds up a sign warning of the end of the world. The unbelieving world demonstrates its willful unbelief when it can read the signs of the culture while rejecting the signs of the end of the ages.
Of course, Jesus’ comments were to unbelieving Jews who were absolutely rejecting the Messiah and the clear signs that he had been sent from the Father. But as I meditated on how I could apply this text to myself, I realized that we, even as Christians, sometimes can demonstrate willful unbelief much like the Jews did. How do Christians demonstrate our willful unbelief by rejecting those same signs? I think there are at least three ways:
1. By Failing to Live Holy Lives-2Pet 3:10-13
Like practical atheists we can say we believe that Christ is returning, but act like his coming is a long way off–probably beyond our lifetimes. Peter recognized that since the day of the Lord is assured, his coming should affect our striving after holiness and godliness.
2. By Failing to Live For Heaven instead of Earth-1Cor 3:10-15
Paul instructed the Corinthian church to stop living for worldly pleasures and to think ahead to that day when they would stand before the Lord and give an account for the sort of life they lived. Would their efforts burn down and blow over like the straw house of the three little pigs or would it stand the refining fire and come forth as refined jewels? Everything that we do in this time frame we have been given will count for eternity–and for some Christians, they won’t have much to count.
3. By Failing to Evangelize the Lost (Acts 20:24-27)
Paul was pretty sure that he was heading for rough times when he headed for Jerusalem. He stopped in to say goodbye to the Ephesian church elders on his way back, and he felt that this might be the last time he would see them. He wasn’t thinking about Jesus’ return as much as the fact that he might go to see Jesus first. So, when he assessed the effectiveness of his time with these brothers in Christ, he was confident that he had done everything that a faithful servant of Christ can do, including preaching the truth of the gospel without any reservations. Paul’s conscience was clear, and his hands were clean.
Jesus’ return may come before we die, or after we die, but what’s the difference? We’ll still be called to give an account as stewards of the gospel treasure. How will you fair?
The signs that Jesus spoke of regarding the end times are true. As Jonah illustrated, Jesus died and rose again. But that isn’t where the gospel ends. He is coming back. Do you believe that? Can you read the signs around us that show us that it will be soon?
Do you have enough sense to get out of a storm?
We need to respond to Christ, not out of fear, but out of faith. Jesus IS coming soon. We need to be prepared.