Archive for the ‘Missions’ Category
I ask you to join me in praying for brother Caleb Fielding who is going to England to be a missionary. Pray for the Lord to use Caleb to preach the gospel and to disciple those who repent and believe the gospel (Matthew 28:19-20). Pray for souls to hear the gospel and be saved (Romans 10:14-17). Pray for Caleb to be a man of God, a man of holiness toward the sinners in England (2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1). Pray for the Church of Jesus Christ in England to experience revival and see souls saved for the glory of God.
For more information on brother Caleb, please see http://www.calebfielding.com
I was blessed to read a local Free Presbyterian Church site that wrote of the free offer of the gospel. The site maintained that it is the duty of the Church to preach the gospel and that they were fervent in their evangelism because of the call of God to take the gospel to all. I was encouraged by this. They are absolutely correct in avoiding the hyper-Calvinism tendency to avoid preaching the gospel to all because the hyper believes that the gospel is only for the elect and the elect will be saved by the sovereignty of God no matter what and all this protects the glory of God and His grace.
Charles Spurgeon battled this in his day. Many Calvinists accused Mr. Spurgeon of being an Arminian because of his constant call for all to come and be saved yet Spurgeon maintained his belief in unconditional election. Spurgeon believed that both were truths in Scripture: that God calls all sinners to repentance but the elect alone will come and be saved. John 6:37 was Spurgeon’s favorite passage.
My issue as an Arminian with all this is not the call to salvation. I agree that God calls all to salvation. John 3:16 is clear that God loves the world and desires the world to be saved. 1 Timothy 2:4 says that God desires all to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. Ezekiel 18:32 says that God does not delight in the death of the wicked. Acts 2:38-39 says that the promise of salvation is for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call. This call, as the Free Presbyterian site agrees, is to all. Revelation 22:17 says that all may come and drink of this water of life. Matthew 22:9 says that we can invite all to the wedding feast. Because of the nature of Jesus’ authority (Matthew 28:18) we can go into all nations and make disciples (Matthew 28:19).
In my estimation, the nature of the call goes hand-in-hand with the provision that God has made for our sins. The Calvinist replies while the call goes out to all, only the elect respond and repent and God has only provided for the elect’s sins. The rest of humanity is passed over and reprobated to hell by their own sins (though their nature has been predestined by God as well as their sins but the mystery is how God can hold sinners punishable for their sins that they committed by His sovereign will). The Arminian viewpoint is that both are true: the universal call and the provision therein for the atonement. I see both as true.
The atonement only makes provision for the one who repents (Romans 3:23-25). The elect are those who repent. When a sinner repents, they become part of the elect of God (1 Timothy 4:10). The elect are those who are in Christ Jesus (“His elect”). Jesus shed His blood for His sheep (John 10:11), for His Church (Acts 20:28), for our sins (Galatians 1:4), for Paul the Apostle (Galatians 2:20). Yet He also shed His blood for the world (John 3:16; 1 John 4:14). Through the blood of Jesus, sinners can come before God and be saved (Hebrews 9:14). This salvation has come for all people (Titus 2:11) but only those who repent and believe the gospel are saved (2 Thessalonians 2:12).
A key verse here is 2 Thessalonians 2:13-15 which I think holds all these truths together. The verse reads:
13 But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the first fruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth. 14 To this he called you through our gospel, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. 15 So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter.
Three truths are presented here. First, the sovereignty of God is seen in verse 13 with “God chose you.” God chooses us in Christ Jesus who is the provision for our sins (John 3:14-15). Jesus is the suffering servant of Isaiah 53. He is the one who bore our sins before a holy God (Romans 5:8-9). This is by the sovereign will of God (Acts 2:23). The Father sent the Son to die for the sins of the world that whosoever may come and be saved.
Secondly, the provision must come by the proclamation of the gospel as we see in verse 14. Even my Calvinist brethren agree with me here. The elect are saved by hearing the gospel and repenting of their sins. This is the truth of Romans 10:14-17. The command of Jesus is to go and preach the gospel to all (Matthew 28:19; Luke 24:47-49). The Lord has given us the power of the Holy Spirit to accomplish this truth (Acts 1:8). As we preach the gospel, the Lord is faithful to save those who believe (1 Corinthians 1:18-25). As we preach the gospel, the gospel opens the sinners hearts to the truth of salvation in the Lord Jesus. The Spirit of God works through the gospel to draw sinners to salvation (John 6:44; 16:8-11). The conviction of the Spirit prepares the sinner for the gospel and for true repentance.
Lastly, not only do we see provision and proclamation but we see perseverance in verse 15. After we are saved by the sovereign hand of God working through the gospel, we must stand firm in the gospel. This is a biblical truth found through the Bible. God’s warnings to the Israelites was to remain faithful, stand firm in true worship, teach the children the truth of God, don’t abandon Yahweh for false gods, etc. This is equally true for the New Testament disciple. Jesus said that if we keep His word (present active sense), we will never see death (John 8:51). Paul beat himself to make sure he was a slave of Christ (1 Corinthians 9:24-27). Paul also warned the Corinthians to remain in the gospel (1 Corinthians 15:1-2). Paul also warned the disciples in Colossae to remain steadfast (Colossians 1:21-23). If Israel could be cut off, so can we (Romans 11:20-22).
All these truths: provision, proclamation, and perseverance are the keys of salvation in the Arminian understanding. The focus is always on Jesus and what He has done for us. We preach Him (2 Corinthians 4:5). We call all to repent and believe the gospel. We preach that Jesus demonstrated His love for lost sinners by dying for them on the cross. We proclaim this truth to lost sinners. We preach that God does love sinners because He has demonstrated His love on the cross through His Son. We don’t mind preaching this truth to sinners and to saints.
The ALS ice bucket challenge is making the rounds. Celebrities, politicians, sports stars, even pastors are making videos of them having ice water poured on them to support funding for ALS. While Christians certainly should support those who are suffering from ALS (or Lou Gehrig’s disease) and pray for the a cure from this disease, the ALS donations are also helping to fund stem-cell research from aborted babies. A disciple of Christ should never support any cause that advocates, promotes, or even is involved with abortion.
So what is the disciple to do?
Ironically, the ALS ice bucket challenge has become the baptism of “good doers.” Atheists have begun using the challenge to say that this is their baptism without Christ. They are pledging to do good for others despite their lack of understanding where the idea of good can come from nor how they determine what is good or bad.
Liberals are using the ALS challenge to promote their social gospel. When a church denies the Bible as the inerrant and infallible Word, all that is left is to do good for other people rather than preaching the gospel to them.
I personally don’t support any causes that don’t also preach the gospel. Feeding the poor is good. Helping people battle cancer is good. Supporting those who are suffering in this life is good. But unless you preach the gospel to the hurting, the suffering, the poor, the rich, etc., you are not giving them the cure for their greatest disease: sin. Romans 6:23 tells us that the wages of sin is death. People with ALS can still be wicked sinners and still go to hell. People with cancer die every single day and they don’t know Christ nor His gospel. People living with HIV die each day but if they don’t know Christ, they will perish (John 3:18). The gospel is the only solution to our fallen world. The gospel prepares men and women for eternity unlike the temporary relief of suffering in this world.
I do think that it is good to do good (Matthew 5:13-18). Galatians 6:10 tells us to do good toward all men and especially the household of faith. Doing good is good. But let us not make the mistake of thinking that doing good equals giving people the gospel. Let us not make the mistake that doing good means that we earn God’s righteousness (Isaiah 64:6). Disciples do good because of the Spirit at work in us (Ephesians 6:10) unlike the world who do good hoping that their good outweighs their bad.
My advice then is to take the money that would be used by the ALS and give it to true Christian charities who work with ALS victims or to missions. The gospel going out is better by far. Again, many with ALS (and other diseases) need to hear the gospel more than anything else. The poor, the hurting, the suffering, the abused – all these need the gospel. Do good but preach the gospel.
For more information on charities that support pro-life positions, see this page.
I borrowed my title from a sentence in George Bryson’s book The Dark Side of Calvinism. This statement reflects the Arminian doctrine of salvation. Arminianism affirms that salvation is the work (energeo) of only one (mono) and thus we can affirm monergism.
Arminians affirm that Jesus alone saves. We are not saved by what we do. We are not saved by our good works (Ephesians 2:8-9), by our being Jewish (Romans 11:5-6), by our being part of a certain denomination or church. Our only hope for salvation is the Lord Jesus Christ and what He has done for us. This is clear from passages such as 1 Timothy 2:5-6 where Jesus is our only mediator before God. Hebrews 9:22 tells us that without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness. Romans 10:4 tells us that Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. Jesus shed His own blood for our salvation (Matthew 26:28; Hebrews 9:14). Ephesians 1:7 reminds us that in Jesus alone do we have forgiveness of our sins. Acts 13:38-39 tells us that faith in Christ frees us from the bondage of sin. Romans 5:1 tells us that we are justified before God through faith in Christ.
It is not then our works that save us. It is faith in Christ and His works that save us. The cross stands as the point of our salvation. Jesus laid down His life for sinners (John 3:16; Romans 5:8-9). 1 John 4:14 tells us that Jesus is the Savior of the world but only those in 1 John 4:15 are truly the saved. The same is true of 1 Timothy 4:10. It is not enough that Jesus shed His blood but one must place their faith in Jesus alone to save them. We don’t place our faith in our faith, in our election, or in our goodness. We place our faith in the Lord Jesus alone to save us by His grace (Romans 4:5).
The notion then that Arminians believe in “works righteousness” to save us is not biblically based. We affirm over and over again that salvation is the work of God. We affirm total inability in which no one can earn salvation by their good works (Isaiah 64:6). We affirm that we are dead in our sins (Ephesians 2:3) and apart from the gospel and the work of the Spirit in the preaching of the gospel, none could be saved. The Spirit opens the sinners heart to the gospel (Acts 16:14-15). Jesus Himself told us in John 6:44 that none can come to Him unless the Father who sent Him draws them. Jesus promised in John 16:8-11 that the Spirit would do His work in the whole world. The Spirit works through the preaching of the gospel to bring people to salvation (Matthew 28:19; Mark 16:15-16; Luke 24:47-49; Romans 10:14-17). This is why missions and evangelism are vital. People must hear the gospel to be saved.
What then brings condemnation? Romans 1:18-19 teaches us that people rebel against God because they love their sins. It doesn’t matter if the person is in a Christian nation, a Muslim nation, a Hindu nation, etc. People, by nature, rebel against God (Romans 3:10-18). People love their sins and do not want Christ as Lord over them. They are thus condemned because of their sins. Secondly, people are condemned because of their refusal to repent. We learn this in 2 Thessalonians 2:10 where Paul tells us that people “refused to love the truth and so be saved.” The just condemnation of God is not based on His part but our part. We are condemned because of our sins and our refusal to repent (John 3:18). This is not an issue of divine decrees but our own stubbornness and ignorance.
Our passion then must be to preach the gospel to the lost. People must hear the gospel to be saved. This is no salvation apart from Christ (John 14:6). Salvation is the divine work of God based on His work, His energy (energeo) and is based on one (mono) person only, the Lord Jesus Christ.
I have previously written on missions trips and my thoughts on them. My mixed feelings on them are that they can be both a blessing and a curse. The gospel that is preached by missions groups is often the American gospel of “God wants to bless you, make you happy, He loves you endlessly. So pray this prayer and you are in forever!” The poor gospel that is often preached in the evangelical churches is carried over in missions trips and so missionaries spend their time when mission groups depart having to clean up the mess (and not just the physical mess). The spiritual mess is worse. It leaves behind people thinking that the way to God is through praying a “sinner’s prayer” that has no biblical basis and they think that God wants to bless their socks off. Like those in Matthew 13:20-21, they turn away from Christ as soon as disappointments come.
The problem with the American gospel goes deeper than just missions groups. In many ways, to challenge the traditions such as the “sinner’s prayer” is often viewed with skepticism or heresy. Evangelists who do not give “altar calls” or pray “the prayer” with people are not true evangelists in the minds of those who hold to these traditions. When you challenge people over the biblical nature of “altar calls” or the “sinner’s prayer,” people will often ignore the Scriptures and leave the church. I had one lady respond to me once by saying, “I’ll go find a preacher who agrees with me and have him correct you.” She never returned of course.
The reality is that salvation is the work of God. When I use to believe in the “sinner’s prayer” I was shocked to read the works of John Wesley and see that he never used the “sinner’s prayer” nor altar calls. Wesley preached hard on justification by faith alone and he preached hard on repentance but Wesley understood correctly that salvation was the work of God. He knew that being born again was the work of the Spirit (John 3:3). He pointed to the depravity of man as proof that we needed the divine aid of the Spirit of God to be saved (Acts 16:14-15). Jesus taught in John 16:8-11 that the Spirit would do such a work. Wesley taught that we cannot earn God’s salvation by our works (Isaiah 64:6; Romans 3:10-18). We are too sinful. Too wicked in our hearts. We have too many idols. Salvation must be the work of the Holy Spirit. Jesus died to secure our salvation but the Spirit of God must aid us to be saved. Wesley avoided Calvinism by teaching prevenient grace. By the way, Calvinists also taught the same for many years but today they shun such words. Wesley taught (as did Arminius) that the Spirit frees the sinful will so that humans may believe the gospel. The Spirit does not force (or drag as R.C. Sproul contends from John 6:44) but He makes us willing. He does not make us believe nor does He make it so that we have no choice but to believe but He frees the sinful will to believe. The key difference between say the preaching of John Wesley and his friend George Whitefield on this point would be whether God places conditions upon election. Wesley argued yes while Whitefield argued no.
However, I digress. Often missions groups come back home fired up. Like teenagers from a youth camp, they come back “hungry for God” and have a zeal to “read the Word and make disciples.” Yet in just a few days, they often can be found right back to their nominal lives. This happens because of two reasons. First, while on a missions trip, people are often focused on God and His kingdom. While “serving” on missions trips, people often recognize their need to pray, to read their Bible, and their conversations center around the Lord Jesus. When they come back home, they often get comfortable again and go back to their prayerlessness, their struggle to read their Bible, and their lack of evangelism and gospel conversations. Secondly, missions trips often produce “positive peer pressure” where people around each other encourage each other on toward good deeds (Hebrews 10:24). Missions trips often draw closer together as they pray, spend time talking about the needs and what they see. This positive peer pressure leads them to pray, to witness, to be bold, to talk much about Christ and His kingdom, to believe in the power of God. Yet when they come home, those conversations end as they go back to work, back to school, back to their worlds where few talk about Christ and His glory. This leads toward apathy.
How can we prevent this? What makes consistent disciples? I would argue that first and foremost is the gospel itself. When people reduce the gospel to “steps to peace with God” or the “sinner’s prayer,” they reduce the power of the gospel. The gospel is not a plan or a pattern. The gospel is a person. The gospel focuses us upon the Lord Jesus (Romans 1:16-17). The gospel is all about Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-3). The gospel focuses on what Jesus has done for us in His death, burial, and resurrection. The reality of the cross should be our focus (Galatians 6:14). The cross empties us of self (Colossians 3:1-3). Christ must be the focus in our gospel (1 Corinthians 2:1-5; 2 Corinthians 4:5). When we love Jesus for what He has done in saving us, this takes us beyond altar calls, “sinner’s prayers,” and takes us toward true discipleship (John 14:15; cf. Matthew 28:20).
Secondly, being a disciple of Jesus does involve disciplines. Jesus said that those who abide in His teachings are His true disciples (John 8:31-32). Jesus taught us that only those who do the will of His Father are saved (Mathew 7:21-27). As a disciple, I pray because Jesus told me to pray (Matthew 6:5). I spend time in the Word because Jesus told me to abide in His teachings. I worship and adore Jesus because I realize that I only have life in Him (John 15:1-11). Legalism believe that what I do earns God’s favor. Discipline is not legalism. I am not trying to earn God’s favor as I have that in Christ (Romans 5:1) but I am disciplined because I want to glorify my King (1 Corinthians 9:24-27).
Thirdly, it is the recognition that salvation is based on Jesus Christ and not my feelings. Feelings come and go but this does not change my salvation. My salvation is not based on how I feel. It is based on the finished work of Christ (John 19:30). In no way is salvation based on what I feel. The Bible, in fact, says that we are to walk by faith and not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7). This does not mean that we don’t have experiences or any feelings but rather that our hope is not based on these things. What we feel often doesn’t match up to what is true. This is why salvation must be in Christ alone and not what we do. The Bible continually points to the reality of 1 John 5:13. Our salvation is based on Jesus and not how I feel. This leads to the ability to always being ready to share the gospel for the hope that is in us (1 Peter 3:15-16). Paul the Apostle said our focus must be on that which is eternal (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).
Lastly, I would challenge people coming back from missions trips to do something with their fire by going out into our own neighborhoods with the gospel. You don’t have to go 1000 miles to find lost people. They are all around us. Just as the people in Mexico need the gospel. So the person living next door needs the gospel. I am amazed that we will board a plane and go across the sea to preach the gospel to the lost but we will not even lift our voices in our own towns here to spread the gospel. Not everyone is an open air preacher but we all can have gospel conversations that point people toward Christ. Why do we get bold in other nations but are cowards here? If Proverbs 28:1 is true in Africa on our missions trips, why is it not true here? If Acts 1:8 is true when missions teams head to the coal mines of West Virginia then it is true in the streets of our towns. Don’t stop making disciples. Develop a culture of evangelism where it is just natural to share the gospel with the lost. I believe that disciples should try to use every conversation we have to point toward the gospel. This doesn’t happen though programs on evangelism but through the culture of evangelism. As a disciple, I am always looking for ways to tell others about Christ and His kingdom. Some conversations are better than others and I have failed at times but God is faithful to His promises and my heart is to just sow His Word wherever I can and as often as I can (Matthew 13:3). This is not based on a program or even one method but upon the realization that God has sent us all (who are true disciples) on a mission (Mark 16:15).
I hope these series of posts on missions trips and evangelism was helpful. My heart is burdened to see the Church spreading the gospel but not out of legalistic means but simply based on a culture of evangelism where the love of Christ compels us to go (2 Corinthians 5:14 NKJV). Our evangelism should be the overflow of devotion to Christ. We long to simply obey God because He is good toward us (Romans 2:4) and we want to make Him known among the nations (Acts 5:28-32).
I pray that many will hear His call and go (Isaiah 6:8).
Missions trips, evangelism tips, etc. have been a focus of mine for the last few posts. Let me return again to missions trips just for a moment before I dive into my point here.
Let’s take the average evangelical church. They come up when the idea that they want to go to Bolivia with on a missions trip. The trip dates are set, fliers are posted and announcements are made that they are going to Bolivia to spread the gospel. It is still many mouths away but people begin to register for the trip. Some take talking into while others join right up. In the next few months, money must be raised for each person to go on the missions trip. The cost is set at $1800 per person. This will include their flight to Bolivia, their place to stay (at a local Christian camp near the city of Santa Cruz de la Sierra. The city has over 1 million people so it’s a great place to evangelize), and their meals. Typically a group like this will have about 20 people so let’s just make it that many. They are going to do a Bible club for kids and some other forms of evangelism. They also will work with the local missionaries there to do some repairs to the church buildings. They will be there for 10 days. Usually you also have to have a day of “fun” (sometimes two days) where the Americans can be tourists.
I am not here to be critical of the hearts of the people who want to go on the missions trip. Some of them truly want to make an eternal impact for the gospel. Many others just want to visit Bolivia. To them, this is a glorified vacation where they get to ask others to fund their trip to Bolivia. For the missionaries in Bolivia, many of them need the workers (even for minimal jobs) and they need the cash support from the American churches to continue their mission. If a Bolivian church where to reject Americans from coming to their churches their financial support would also be hurt by this. They are in a no-win situation when it comes to welcoming American missions trip teams.
For me, the danger is not in people raising money to go to Bolivia or even the fact that American churches want to go on missions trips because I see the good that come from missions trips in the hearts of the people who truly are broken by the Spirit of God for the lost. My problem is what gospel are we preaching to the lost people of Bolivia?
Here you take 20 people from an evangelical church and my question would be: do they understand the gospel and are they able to tell others the gospel? I have watched time after time as evangelicals in the United States prepare missions teams to go to the nations but they themselves don’t know the gospel. I have seen people sign up for mission trips who never share their own faith here in their own Jerusalem. They act like they are burdened to go to the lost in these far off places but never share the gospel right where they are and yet we trust them to go to Bolivia and preach the true gospel? Perhaps we should make sure they know the true gospel and have been preaching the true gospel before we send them to preach the gospel.
What is the gospel? This is a fundamental question. We must be able to answer this or we will never be effective witnesses for Christ. The gospel is not the “sinner’s prayer.” The gospel is not merely knowledge about Jesus or the Bible. The gospel is not about being a certain type or denomination (I have seen people think that just because a nation is primarily Catholic like Bolivia then the gospel is already there). The gospel is not about just going through some steps (the “ABC”s of the gospel). The gospel is the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-3). The gospel is faith and repentance toward God after the law of God has broken our hearts over our sins (Romans 7:7; Galatians 3:23-24). The gospel is the obedience of faith (Romans 1:5) that comes after we repent and believe. The gospel response is to be baptized (Acts 2:38; 10:48; 22:16; Colossians 2:12).
Yet we take a group of people who can’t articulate the gospel to nations and places all the time. I am not saying that good can’t come from this. Again, I think many who go on missions trips need the gospel themselves. Some think that because they are going on a missions trip, this pleases God (Isaiah 64:6). Yet they come to see their own depravity before a holy God and they soon either truly repent of their sins or they hide on the missions trip doing odd jobs and avoiding any talk about Christ with the lost (because they don’t know Christ either and have no clue how to tell others about Him).
What do we do? First, we preach the gospel to our people. We all need the gospel each and every day. The fact that Jesus is alive and at the right hand of God is necessary for me each day. I can’t be a disciple in my own power. I need His grace (1 Corinthians 15:10). Grace is what saves us (Ephesians 2:8-9) and grace is what keeps us. I need to hear His voice daily to know Him and follow Him (John 10:27-29). The gospel is not something that I did back then and now I am right with God but the gospel is an ongoing relationship with God through Christ Jesus alone (Romans 5:1). My justification before a holy God, my sanctification, my discipleship – all this is based on Christ alone (1 Corinthians 1:30-31). I depend on Christ to save me initially and forever (Titus 2:11-14; Hebrews 7:25). The gospel is not then something what we preach just at the end of our sermons but all the time. The gospel is the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 1:16-17).
Secondly, we make sure those who want to go on a missions trip understand the gospel and have truly been born again. God knows those who are His own (2 Timothy 2:19) but there are signs that we can see if the person has truly been saved by God’s grace (2 Corinthians 5:17). Repentance involves the entire person and not merely a change in mind about Jesus or acknowledgement of our sins. Biblical repentance will transform the person as they surrender to the absolute Lordship of Christ. Our heart, mind, emotions, intellect, will, etc. are broken by the gospel and Jesus rules over them and He transforms them.
This will make an impact on the nations. Can you imagine taking a team of 20 people who truly understand the gospel, know how to share their faith, and have been saved by the grace of Christ to Bolivia? What would this mean not just for the gospel but for the people going? I believe that it would strengthen them as disciples of Christ and would spread the fire of the gospel to the lost in Bolivia. It would bless the missionaries there because they wouldn’t have to clean up the evangelical mess that typical groups from the States bring. Instead, the gospel could go forth and God saves sinners by His grace (1 Corinthians 3:5-9).
I want to post one more post on this subject and I will do that next.