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Loving Ministry More Than Life

Note: The following is article #23 in a series reflecting on chapters in John Piper’s book Future Grace. More information on the book from Amazon.com is available here. A list of all the articles in this series so far is available here

William CareyWilliam Carey: tried to convince people for years that people in India needed to hear the gospel, founded the first missionary organization, sailed to India himself with his family against British law in 1793, lost his five year old son, lost two wives (one to insanity), worked for years translating the Bible only to see all his work lost in a fire, stayed in India forty years without furlough.

Adoniram JudsonAdoniram Judson: went to Burma 1814, lost infant son, lost wife, spent over a year in a “death prison”, after seventeen years had only ten converts in a country where converting from Buddhism carried a legal death penalty, yet when he died from infection at age 61 there were 100 churches with 8000 believers.

Evelyn BrandEvelyn Brand: went to India age 34, lost husband, suffered from recurrent malaria, sickness, multiple fractures, at age 67 after a broken hip her son asked her to retire for her health’s sake.  She replied, “Why preserve this old body if it’s not going to be used where God needs me?”  When her missions agency retired her anyway, she refused to go home, moving up into the remote hill country loving and serving people until she died at age 95.

What did these three people have in common?  They loved ministry more than life. They were convinced that fulfilling their ministry was more important than anything else in the world, even staying alive.

Oh, we say, that’s all well and good if you’re off in a foreign country somewhere, but I’m not really in “ministry” like they were.

But what is “ministry” anyway? Dr. Piper defines ministry as “a lifestyle devoted to advancing other people’s faith and holiness.”  Guess what? That’s everyone’s lifestyle if they are a true follower of Jesus Christ.  Doesn’t matter where we live, how we earn a living, what people we have contact with, we can still have a lifestyle devoted to advancing other people’s faith and holiness. And not only can we have such a life, we are commanded to live such a life.

How can we live such a radical life? Only by relying on God.  In 2 Corinthians 9:8 Paul says,

And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.

Dr. Piper observes that this grace that “abounds” for “every good work” does not mean every possible thing that could be done, but that God will supply everything that we need for what God has individually appointed for us to do, day by day, moment by moment. 

Through faith we trust that God’s grace will be there when we need it, for what we need it. Dr. Piper cites Ephesians 4:29 (NASB), “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.”  He notes that as we trust God and allow His grace to flow through us that we will be able to build each other up in grace.

He states in Chapter 22:

Before this day is done, there will be an occasion in your life which Paul calls “the need of the moment.” Someone will be positioned to benefit from your words. If you put your faith in future grace and serve in the strength that God supplies, you will become a channel of that grace. When it comes–to you and through you–the satisfaction is so deep, you will know why you were created and why you were called.

After I re-read that passage, I prayed for God to use me somehow, somewhere, to someone this very day as a channel of grace.  And he did, completely out of the blue, in a way I never imagined.  What if I prayed that prayer every day?  What if I humbly sought to be a channel of God’s grace, to structure my life so that my #1 priority was advancing others’ faith and holiness?  What would change in my life, and other lives? What would I have to look back on at the end of my life?  What is stopping me?

 

Web Watch: Operation World Online

Operation World Online is an online resource for prayer for the nations and people groups of the world.  It is a colloboration between WEC International, a frontier missions planter, and Global Mapping International, which maintains highly detailed demographic data throughout the world for the benefit of missions.  It’s genesis began with Patrick Johnstone’s landmark book Operation World, and has now expanded to this online presence, CD-ROM, and other support media.

So, what is it?  Operation World divides all the nations and people groups of the world into 365 daily segments, helping you to make missions a daily focus of prayer.  Just go to the Pray Today webpage, and there will be detailed information about a nation to pray for, including the area’s religions, missionaries, demographics, and specific requests and answers to prayer.  So, what are waiting for?  Can you not spare a moment to go to this page and pray for the people of the world?  If you are a follower of Christ, you surely can do nothing less.

Web Watch: Just Stop & Think

Centurion turned me on to this website, which features a very impressive 15 minute film which has a guy walking down a beach and you’re walking with him, and he talks about life, about God, and gives the gospel.  I’ve never seen a film this well done that intelligently but winsomely explains the basic facts of the gospel.  The site has a good collection of commonly asked questions about Christianity as well.  A great site to refer nonbelieving friends to see.

I Believe in Jesus

There are plenty of evangelistic tracts for kids, but what about books? I Believe in Jesus is a beautifully illustrated children’s book that simply but accurately explains the gospel. Starting with God’s eternal existence, to the creation, fall, personal sin, Jesus coming to live and die, and what we must do to personally respond to the Gospel, in a few pages John Macarthur explains the gospel clearly enough for any youngster to be able to respond. It can be read through one on one or for family devotions. All my kids have read this book through multiple times; a great addition for any family with young children. The book is out of print but still available here directly from Grace to You.

—>cross posted at soapadoo!

Something Better Than X-Ray Vision

For everyone who doesn’t follow Smallville, young Clark Kent has his super-powers, but isn’t yet Superman.  Why?  He doesn’t yet have a purpose, a vision that grips his life.  In the episode Arrow, Oliver Queen (The Green Arrow) challenges Clark:

There’s a whole world of people out there, Clark.  They need us.  With your potential…you can’t wait for them to come to you.

Clark is comfortable with helping out his family and friends in his spare time, but dedicating all his energy and time, his very life, to the world?  To everyone?  To people he doesn’t know, who might not even care or even know what he is doing or why he is doing it?  Clark isn’t sure he is ready for that.

Wait a minute.  That sounds uncomfortably familiar.

The gospel of Jesus Christ and the transforming power of the Holy Spirit is something better than x-ray vision.  It’s something every single person in the world needs.  And it’s something that I have, and that you have.

Are we ready to leave Smallville and go out into the world?

Web Watch: 2 Ways to Live

 

 

2 Ways to Live is a straightforward, Biblically accurate yet easy to grasp online presentation of the gospel which takes a person step by step through God’s creation and rule, man’s rebellion, and Christ’s work.  It has links for further in-depth information.  This presentation has been recognized by several leaders in the theological world including D. A. Carson and Mark Dever.  The presentation is also available in tract form and in a children’s form from the publisher, Matthias Media.

Conversion

 Conversion:  n 1: an event that results in a transformation 2: Something that is changed from one use, function, or purpose to another.

Conversion—this was the word often used by Christians of previous centuries to describe the change from death to life when someone truly becomes a child of God.  While we often use words as “believer” “saved” “born again” or “accepted Christ”, often “converted” was their term of choice.  The emphasis is not on words said or aisles walked or prayers prayed or church membership affiliation or any sort of belief, but on a transformed life. A changed heart was the measure of whether a soul was bound for heaven or hell— conversion.

How different this way of thinking about salvation was from the today’s typical American view was brought into sharp relief as I have been reading through The Reformed Pastor by Richard Baxter.  In it he describes in detail the line of questions he would ask of every member of his parish as he would visit them in their homes.  Instead of four spiritual laws or even “If you knew you would die today, why should God let you into heaven?”, Baxter used the following explanation and questions (slightly modernized by me with words emphasized by me): 

The Holy Spirit, using the Bible, enlightens a man’s mind, and softens and opens his heart, and turns him from the power of Satan to God, through faith in Christ. He that is truly converted, has had a light shining into his soul from God, which has showed him the greatness of his sin and misery, and made it a heavy load upon his soul; and showed him who Christ is, and what he has done for sinners, and made him admire the riches of God’s grace in Christ. He has now such a sight of heaven, that he despises all this world as garbage. This is the case of all who are truly converted and who shall be saved.

Have you ever found this great change upon your own heart? Did you ever find the Spirit of God, by the Word, come in upon your understanding, with a new and heavenly life, which has made you a new creation? Have you experienced such a change as this upon your soul?

I find Baxter’s model for evangelism both fascinating and disturbing.  Fascinating, in how acknowledgment of belief or correct theology or even an experience per se is not the point at all for him.  The point is solely on whether a person’s heart has been changed in a specific way, in that the person sees that he has been changed and has become a new creation and that his heart is different (admiring the riches of Christ, despising the world). 

I find Baxter’s model disturbing when I think how many people in our churches who have “prayed the sinner’s prayer” “walked the aisle” and can tell you the day and date they were “saved” would be unable to look within their heart and see the change that Baxter speaks of.  Can you?

Living Waters Ministries

This week’s “Wednesday Web Watch” is devoted to Living Waters Ministries. Living Waters is the website of Ray Comfort, an evangelist and Bible teacher. He has been widely endorsed by Christian leaders as diverse as Franklin Graham, Ravi Zacharias, John MacArthur, David Jeremiah, Josh McDowell, Dr. Norman Geisler, Bill Gothard, David Wilkerson, and Joni Eareckson Tada.

Ray Comfort’s passion is for evangelism fully according to Biblical principles. He sees as a common weakness in many evangelism approaches is to fully utilize both the Old Testament, especially the Ten Commandments, as well as the New Testament. Although it seems unusual to our ears, using the Old Testament to show our true nature of rebellion and separation from God and our need for salvation was considered foundational by many of the great evangelists of past centuries.

This site has tons of resources, from streaming audio and video to articles to downloadable evangelism helps to powerpoint resources to webmaster resources to online evangelism courses. Great stuff!  More great stuff is on Ray Comfort’s bud Kirk Cameron’s Site The Way of the Master.

Meekness & Truth Ministries

This week’s “Web Watch Wednesday” profiles Meekness & Truth Ministries.  M&T is a ministry and website devoted to “conversational evangelism.”  Conversational evangelism is a method of “pre-evangelism.”  In many instances, if you say to someone, “Jesus Christ died for your sins” you will get a blank response if they don’t know that “sin” is a state of rebellion against God, or for that matter don’t even conceive of God as the creator and sovereign of the universe who deserves their obedience and worship.  To be able to evangelize, to tell of the good news, first you must first tell of the basic nature of man, God, and the universe, which in this culture and many cultures has been corrupted past the point of someone understanding the gospel if we use Biblical words like “sin”, “hell”, “heaven”, and “God.”

Enter conversational evangelism—which just means being able through careful listening and thoughtful questions to see where a person’s worldview is, and then to be able to give them the truth in a way that they can clearly understand it.

The website has articles, outlines, audio and powerpoint presentations, website links, and more resources available to help both learn and teach this type of sharing the gospel.

Meekness and Truth is operated by Dave Geisler, a graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary.  M&T has been endorsed by Josh McDowell and other Christian leaders and has been used extensively everywhere from college campuses to overseas fields.