February 26, 2015

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Missions in the Life of Paul

worldmissionThe Gospels are not the only place in the New Testament that present an expectation of missions involvement. Paul’s life and instruction reflected this expectation too. No one person championed the causes of missions in the epistles like the Apostle Paul. While the Book of Acts is a transitional book, missions is clearly a central theme. Tweet “In essence, “Acts is the story of God’s mission.””[1]

The sudden transformation in Paul’s life, when he encountered Christ, is evidence of the call on his life. Before Christ, he persecuted the church, seeking to destroy it. After his encounter with Christ, he did all he could to build the church by making disciples of all nations. In his dedication to this purpose he often traveled in order to do his part in taking the gospel to the nations. Paul’s many missionary journeys to various cities such as Corinth, Ephesus, and Colossae demonstrated an understanding of his responsibility to take the gospel to all people. In 1 Corinthians Paul stated that when he came to the city of Corinth, he had decided to know nothing among them except “Jesus Christ and him crucified.”[2] This practice of Paul is one of the clearest examples of missions in the book of Acts. 

In 2 Cor. 4:3, Paul said, “But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost.”[3] Paul’s life was completely focused on the gospel. In 1 Cor. 9:23 Paul wrote that he did all things for the sake of the gospel[4]. Paul understood why he had been saved, and as a result of this understanding he was committed to preaching the gospel to the world as well as visiting house to house to teach the truth of God’s Word. For example, in Acts 20:20, Paul stated, “I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house.”[5] He proclaimed to Timothy that God desires all people to be saved.[6] Students of Scripture can summarize Paul’s post-conversion life as being focused on making disciples in fulfillment of the Great Commission both in public preaching and in private discipleship.

As Christians study the book of Acts as well as the epistles they should see a clear focus on missions, especially demonstrated by the apostle Paul. This commitment Paul modeled provides an example for all believers to follow in their efforts to be committed to missions.


[1]Corwin, Moreau, and McGee, Introducing World Missions, 52.

[2]1 Cor. 2:1-2 (ESV).

[3]2 Cor. 4:3 (KJV).

[4]1 Cor. 9:23 (ESV).

[5]Acts 20:20 (ESV).

[6]1Tim. 2:4.

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February 23, 2015

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Why Pursue Spiritual Growth

16b311_a6522b590d027d1817fc6ed5dbd4802eFor many people spiritual growth seems unattainable. It is a mountain that they love to look at, but never climb. It is something they view as being for the spiritually elite. As a result, spiritual growth is not something they ever put much effort into pursuing. We recently looked at the topic of spiritual growth at LifeSpring. Here is some of what we covered.

1- The pursuit of spiritual growth offers protection against error.

We live in a culture that is permeated with error. This includes doctrinal error, philosophical error, and moral error. How do we guard ourselves and our families from all of this error? How can we remain firmly planted in Truth? Both Ephesians 4:13-16 and I Peter 3:17-18 teach that it is the pursuit of spiritual maturity that offers such protection.

2- Individual spiritual growth leads to the spiritual growth of the entire church.

Ephesians 4:15-16 teaches that as we as individuals grow spiritually the entire church grows as well. Our individual growth leads to the growth of the Body. When we fail to grow as individuals we not only hurt ourselves, we also hurt the entire Body.

3- The pursuit of spiritual growth protects us from being useless and unfruitful Christians.

There are many Christian lives that, from an eternal perspective, are somewhat useless and unfruitful. How do we guard against this being how our lives are characterized? According to Peter, it is through growth in godliness. When we are growing spiritually we are ensuring that our lives are in a position to be used by God in any way He chooses.

4- When we are not growing spiritually we lose sight of what Christ has done.

II Peter 1:9 teaches that those who refuse to pursue spiritual growth have lost sight of what Christ as done for them, or perhaps never have experienced what Christ has done through  relationship with him. Just as God’s grace brings salvation, so God’s grace brings growth.

In addition to the above reasons to pursue spiritual growth, there are a few other truths we need to understand.

First, spiritual growth is not just about knowledge. Spiritual growth, while it begins in the heart of an individual will always manifest itself outwardly. In II Thessalonians 1:3 the outward demonstration of of the church’s spiritual growth was the demonstration of their faith and their love.

Second, spiritual growth is both something that God gives as well as something we pursue. Yes, it is absolutely true to say that God gives growth and there is nothing we can do to manufacture it or create it on our own. However, God gives us growth through our disciplined life. We must put forth effort to be growable. 

Third, spiritual growth requires regular time in God’s Word. Colossians 1:10 says that we are to grow in the knowledge of God. How do we do that? It is in the Bible that we learn about who God is, what God does, why He does it, how he wants us to live, etc. This is all revealed to us in Scripture. Peter instructs to desire the milk of the Word so that we may grow. To put it simply, to ignore God’s Word is to refuse spiritual growth.

There is much more that could be said about the topic of spiritual growth. But for the time being, give some thought to how you can more aggressively pursue spiritual growth in your life.

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February 19, 2015

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Missions and the Instruction of Jesus

Missions_BGMore than simply giving Christians an example to follow, Christ also gave specific instruction concerning this missions endeavor. As has already been stated, each of the Gospels and Acts contains the instruction to be involved in missions. This mandate is most clearly seen in Matt. 28:19-20, Mark 16:15, Luke 24:46-48, John 20:21, and Acts 1:8. The commonality in each of these passages is that Jesus is giving instruction to individuals concerning missions.

The Great Commission is the command to be involved in the process of making disciples, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”[1] Several aspects of these verses help shape the church’s understanding of the Great Commission. First, while “go” (πορεύομαι) is often viewed and presented as the command in these verses, further examination shows that “go” is a participle, indicating that the going is assumed. The primary command is to make disciples. While a believer is going, he or she should be involved in the process of making disciples. Second, this command is not limited to a certain people group or a certain location. Disciples of Christ are to carry this command to the nations. Third, the command to make disciples is not directed only at church leadership; it is the responsibility of every believer. This is seen in the fact that Jesus gave this commission prior to the institution of the organized church in Acts 2. Fourth, the command is not to make converts. The process of discipleship involves leading people to Christ and then helping them mature in Christ. A neglect of either aspect leads to a failure to fulfill the Great Commission.

Mark 16:15 is another passage in the Gospels in which one can see the instruction of Jesus in relation to missions. Mark wrote, “And he said to them, ‘Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.’”[2] As in Matthew 28, the word “go” is a participle indicating that the action is assumed. Since the disciples were already going into the world, they were to be personally involved in proclaiming the Good News to all creation.

The same theme is in Luke 24:46-47. After the resurrection, Christ was speaking to his followers, reminding them and describing to them the events that would follow his death and resurrection. Jesus said that “repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.”[3] The disciples understood that this task was to be their personal responsibility.

In John 20:21, Christ spoke to his disciples and told them, “As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.”[4] Merrill C. Tenney stated that Jesus “had come into the world to fulfill the Father’s purpose and had completed his task. Now he expected them to continue his work in his absence. As the Father had sent him to speak his words, to do his works, and to lay down his life for the salvation of men, so he expected them to deliver his message.”[5] In John 17:18 Jesus said “as you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world”[6] How is this to be understood? William Hendriksen suggested that “just as the Father has sent Jesus into the world with a message, so also Jesus has sent the disciples into the world with a message. The message, moreover, is the same, that of redemption in Christ.”[7] This passage clearly teaches that believers are to enter and engage culture with the intent of demonstrating and communicating the message of redemption that is in Jesus Christ. This is the heart of missions.

Jesus took his mission and made it the disciples’ mission. In Matt. 20:28, Jesus said that “the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”[8] Luke said that Jesus came to save the lost.[9] 


[1]Matt. 28:19-20 (ESV).

[2]Mark 16:15 (ESV).

[3]Luke 24:47 (NASB).

[4]John 20:21 (ESV).

[5]Merrill C. Tenney, The Expositors Bible Commentary: John and Acts. Ed. Frank E. Gaebelein (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1981), 193.

[6]John 17:18 (NIV).

[7]William Hendriksen and Simon J. Kistemaker, New Testament Commentary : Exposition of the Gospel According to John (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1953-2001), John 17:18.

[8]Matt. 20:28 (NASB).

[9]Luke 19:10 (NASB).

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February 17, 2015

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Understanding Church Membership

membership class_t_ntChurch membership is something that is often taken for granted. It is something that is occasionally mentioned, but not completely understood. We recently spent some time talking about the importance of church membership with the goal of understanding it correctly.

Here are a few of the points we covered.

1- Membership is about submitting, not joining.

Jonathan Leeman put it like this. “Just as the Bible establishes the government of your nation as your highest authority on earth when it comes to your citizenship of that nation, so the Bible establishes the local church as your highest authority on earth when it comes to your discipleship to Christ.”

Sine the church is a God-established authority, 

2- Membership combats lone-rangerism.

Lone-rangerism says “why depend on someone else if you can do it all yourself? Why entangle ourselves with others, we may be a burden to them, and they will most certainly be a burden to us.” But membership in a church combats this self-centered idea.

3- Membership should lead to a focus on others.

The vast majority of the “one another” passages in the Bible are presented in the context of the church. It is assumed that it will be in the context of a community of believers that these one-another instructions will be carried out.

If we decide whether or not to attend a church event/service/activity based solely on whether or not it will benefit us, without giving any thought to how we might be able to benefit others, we are missing a key reason why we should attend.

4- Membership implies commitment.

I once knew someone who attended a different church for each service. One church on Sunday morning because they like the preaching, a different church on Sunday evening because they had a good teen program, and a different church on Wednesday because they offered AWANA. This lack of commitment to a church undermines the church’s place in the life of a believer, hurts the ministry of the church, and is characteristic of a consumeristic approach to church.

5- Membership provides accountability.

Our sin nature automatically resists accountability; but by submitting to a local church we are provided with the accountability that we all need. I would suggest that we should long for and search out that accountability.

6- Membership is about propelling our Gospel witness forward.

The church is the “gospel made visible.” (Dever) Membership in a local church is about seeing our gospel witness advanced. We should be partnering together for the sake of the gospel.

Membership is a bigger deal than we tend to make it. Perhaps we need to be sure that we understand it correctly.

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February 12, 2015

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Missions and the Example of Jesus

world_missions_backgroundRobert Hall Glover stated that “The New Testament is uniquely and preeminently missionary – The greatest missionary volume ever produced. Every section of it was written by a missionary, with the primary object of meeting a missionary need and promoting missionary work.”[1] This understanding is a great motivator to dive into God’s Word and gain a greater understanding of this teaching.

Jesus came to earth for a specific reason. Apart from the rich doctrinal implications of the virgin birth and incarnation of Christ, much can be learned from observing the activities of Christ and by realizing that Jesus was giving an example for Christians to follow.

Luke 19:10 contains information concerning the intention of Christ in coming to earth: “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”[2] Matthew reiterated this same truth stating that “the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”[3] The purpose of Christ coming to earth cannot be separated from our purpose of being on earth. Jesus said, “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.”[4] The purpose for which all believers are sent is directly connected to the command to communicate the sacrifice of Christ to all people.

The authors of Missiology claimed that “Jesus was the incarnation of God’s missionary purpose.”[5] Numerous times Jesus referred to himself as sent. In Luke 4:18-19, Jesus said that “The Spirit of the Lord is on Me, because He has anointed Me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim freedom to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”[6] Colin G. Kruse pointed out that “the fourth Gospel speaks often of Jesus being sent into the world by the Father: to do his will (6:38-39; 8:29), to speak his words (3:34; 8:28; 12:49; 14:24; 17:8), to perform his works (4:34; 5:36; 9:4), and win salvation for all who believe (3:19-17).”[7] The disciples could watch the life of Christ and see a clear purpose and calling on his life. If they followed the example of Christ they would commit to missions, which is clearly seen in John 20:21, “as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.”[8]

What was Jesus sent to do? What was he sending his disciples to do? Based on what has already been discussed, Jesus was sent to seek and to save the lost. He was sent to minister. He was sent to make disciples. As Kostenberger and O’Brien succinctly articulated:

Jesus, as in many other aspects of his ministry, is able to combine in his mission a concern for both Jews and Gentiles by limiting his direct ministry to the Jews while allowing the Gentiles to be drawn to him as well. Ingeniously, this enables him both to be true to the salvation-historical constraints of the divine economy of redemption and to provide an eschatological foretaste of God’s desire to make salvation available to all people.[9]

As a result of understanding the ministry of Christ, the disciples understood that likewise, Christ was sending them for the same purpose.

 Garrett demonstrated just how Jesus set the missionary example by highlighting several aspects of Jesus’ life and ministry. First, Jesus was God’s apostle: The sent one and the sender. Second, Jesus was a friend of sinners, Third, Jesus’ love would accept no limits. Fourth, Jesus’ friendship was focused toward the lost. Fifth, Jesus called others to follow him, which was a call to discipleship. Sixth, Jesus was the Great Commissioner.[10]

If Christians will simply imitate the commitment Jesus had, the compassion he demonstrated, and the work that he exemplified, the result will be lives that are focused on missions.


[1]Robert Hall Glover, The Bible Basis of Missions, 3rd ed. (Los Angeles, CA: Bible House of Los Angeles, 1946), 22.

[2]Luke 19:10 (NASB).

[3]Matt. 20:28 (NASB).

[4]John 20:21 (NIV).

[5]Robert Garrett,The Gospel and Acts: Jesus the Missionary and His Missionary Followers,” In Missiology: An Introduction to the Foundations, History, and Strategies of World Missions, John Mark Terry, Ebbie Smith, and Justice Anderson, eds., (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1998), 63.

[6]Luke 4:18-19 (HCSB).

[7]Colin G. Kruse, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries: John (Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 2003), 375.

[8]John 20:21 (NASB).

[9]Andreas J. Kostenberger and Peter T. O’Brien, Salvation to the Ends of the Earth: A Biblical Theology of Mission (Downers Grove, Il: InterVarsity Press, 2001), 85.

[10]Robert Garrett, “The Gospels and Acts: Jesus the Missionary and His Missionary Followers,” 63.

 

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