• Our hope-filled future is bound up in sharing the story of Jesus, in discipling others, in bringing those disciples together into communities of believers, and in developing and releasing those believers to create other communities... till Jesus the King comes again!

Community and the Gospel

In his groundbreaking book on the history of revivals, Richard Lovelace makes this insightful comment: “Few know enough to start each day with a thoroughgoing stand upon Luther’s platform: you are accepted, looking outward in faith and claiming the wholly alien righteousness of Christ as the only ground for acceptance, relaxing in that quality of trust which will produce increasing sanctification as faith is active in love and gratitude. In order for a pure and lasting work of spiritual renewal to take place within the church, multitudes within it must be led to build their lives on this foundation.”

gospelcommunityIn our World Team Global circles, we are used to hearing the phrase: “preaching the Gospel to yourself every day”.  By that we mean to say our hold on the Gospel is tenuous and our hearts need to be reminded of the deep love of Christ each and every day in order for us to live out of the Gospel.

However, when we say that we must ‘preach the Gospel to ourselves every day’, I think we often read that reminder as an individual effort.  Whereas, the Scriptures appear to place this act of remembering in a community context.

And you shall remember the whole way that the Lord your God has led you these forty year in the wilderness that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart.”  (Deuteronomy 8:2)

And when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.””  (1 Corinthians 11:24)

We can easily miss this truth as our English translations of the Bible do not distinguish between an individual ‘you’ and a collective ‘you’; something that many other languages have embedded in their structure and grammar.

The Bible underscores the critical importance of the community in preaching the Gospel to our hearts. Others are part and parcel of the process by which the Gospel is driven deeper and deeper into our hearts.

So if community is that important in the remembering process, then we need to go looking for that kind of community where we live and minister.

Yet we hesitate from seeking that kind of community.  I know I don’t, and I know you don’t like it when others try to ‘speak into our lives’; when the community seeks to be part of our growth process.  Oftentimes people just do not do a very good job of ‘speaking the truth in love’.  Yet, there is always some element in the words of others that can cause growth in our understanding and application of the Gospel.  Living out the Gospel in community and living in community through the Gospel is not an event, but a process whereby we learn to discern God’s voice to us through others.

I need to preach the Gospel to myself regularly.  I also need to call on others to speak the Gospel to me out of our community bond in Christ.

Do you see Jesus for who he really is?

throw-yourself-cliff-jumpI listen to a lot of messages and sermons.  Sometimes in the midst of all the teaching that you and I receive (or give), we can miss the essential, the very heart of the Christian faith.  And that is Jesus.

One of my colleagues here had sent me awhile back an email with a link to a message given by one of my former lecturers (or professors in American English).  You know how it goes?  You get so many articles and links to read or listen to that you ‘backburner’ or file them for a later time.

Well, yesterday I pulled out that email again and started listening to this message by Sinclair Ferguson: 38 Years Waiting – God’s Word Fulfilled – There is a Hope.

The message of the Gospel for both non-believers and believers rang out clearly.  It reminded me again of how much I need Jesus every day.  In the story in John, chapter 5, everyone was missing the centre?  They were missing Jesus.  They were not really seeing Jesus for who He really is.

I would encourage you to take a few minutes to listen to this message, and as Sinclair challenges us, to ‘throw ourselves in’, into the arms of Christ once again.

Praying in a gospel centred way

Prayer is essential.  As I shared in the last post: “No man or woman can progress in grace if he forsakes prayer.”  We could enlarge that statement to read: “No team or group of workers can progress in grace in ministry to others if they forsake prayer.”

A perennial question that arises is: how should we pray for one another?  We could pray the ‘one another’ commands as a team.  We could pray the promises that God has given in His Word to sustain and encourage us.  We could pray for the perseverance to stay faithful in ministry together.  All of these prayer points are ones you and I have prayed many times for one another.

Gospel-Centered-Discipleship-Jonathan-Dodson-SomaThen another thought came to mind.  How should we pray for one another in a ‘gospel centred way’?  Prayer is one of our guiding principles, and the Gospel is the ultimate guiding principle from which the others flow.  So, what would it ‘look like’ to pray in a way that drives us back to the Gospel and our dependence upon Him?

Take a practical example.  During our World Team Day of Prayer, we might find this prayer point among others: Pray for our team to remain united together around the common vision of multiplying disciples and communities of believers.  During our concert of prayer together, one of our team members might add: Yes Lord, search our hearts and show us how often we create disunity among us because of our willingness to put our own self above others.  Remind us that the Son of God came not to be served, but to serve and that His sacrifice frees us from self-love to be other-centred.  May our hearts be warmed by that grace again today so that we might grow in unity and have the gospel power to be able to see the vision of our team worked out. 

I can so often fall into the trap of thinking I can ‘do’ all that is expected of me as a worker.  That is why the challenge to pray in a ‘gospel centred way’ would help myself, and I expect many others, to keep my eyes upon the One who is the author and perfecter of our faith.

Feel free to share examples of how you might pray a prayer point in a gospel centred way.

Drilling down

ArchibaldAlexanderArchibald Alexander was a professor for many years in the mid nineteenth century at Princeton Theological Seminary (USA).  In his work, Thoughts on Religious Experience, he asked ‘why’ we grow so slowly as Christians.  Ray Ortlund records Alexander’s response to his own question in this way:

First, he rounded up the usual suspects: “The influences of worldly relatives and companions, embarking too deeply in business, devoting too much time to amusements, immoderate attachment to a worldly object,” and so forth.  But then he drilled down further and asked why such things even get a hold on us, “why Christians commonly are of so diminutive a stature and of such feeble strength in their religion.”  He proposed the following reasons: 

  1. “There is a defect in our belief in the freeness of divine grace.” Even when the gospel is acknowledged in theory, he wrote, Christians define their okayness according to their moods and performances rather than looking away from themselves to Christ alone.  Then, in our inevitable failure, we become discouraged, and worldliness regains strength in us, with nothing to counteract it.  “The covenant of grace must be more clearly and repeatedly expounded in all its rich plentitude of mercy, and in all its absolute freeness.”

Two things stand out for me in Alexander’s response.  One is the relevancy of his words almost two hundred years later.  How often do you and I determine our ‘okayness’ by our feelings or our actions, as if God’s favor towards us depends on our ‘work’ rather than His work?  So many of the things Alexander describes can still ‘catch us in their web’ and keep us from turning our eyes regularly to Christ.

The other is the importance of ‘speaking the gospel’ to ourselves daily by ‘expounding the (the covenant) of grace in all its rich plenitude of mercy’.  To put it in other words, when we ‘preach the gospel’ to ourselves daily, it is not by a simple repetition of the facts of the Gospel.  Rather, when we ‘speak that gospel’ to one another, we are to search together to know more and more the height, width, depth and breadth of His love for us (Ephesians 3:18)

How might you describe the depth of the richness of His mercy today?  Why not share that in a note or a whatsapp message with a fellow worker in the Gospel?

Lost people matter

Have you ever come to the point where you have said to yourself: “I think I’ll just go and get a ‘regular’ job”?  As if to say that letting go of ministry would give you a ‘much easier’ life?

With a couple of colleagues, my wife and I are reading through the book: The Attentive Life.  I stumbled across this quote today in my reading: “The gracious indwelling of God with his people is not an invitation to settle down and forget the rest of the world: it is a summons to mission, for the Lord who indwells with his people is the one who goes before them in the pillar of fire and the cloud.  So the promise of his presence is clinched in the words, “Up, let us go hence.”  There is a mission to be fulfilled. There is a conflict to be waged with the powers of this world.”

Our calling is not one to a ‘cozy time by the fire’, but rather one where a God who abides in us, and we in Him, will cause us to see others as He sees them.  We will see lost people who © Martin Investigative Services, private investigators, www.marmatter to God.  We will see men and women created in His image, yet living broken lives separated from Him.

There are days when our calling wanes.  Those are the days when we need to drive our ‘root system of life’ deeper into Jesus, deeper into His steadfast love and grace.  Yet, it’s easy to tell ourselves we need to do that, but it’s just plain hard sometimes to make it happen.

That is why we need to cry out to God for His help in learning to ‘abide’ in Him; in learning to be attentive to Him in all that happens in our day.  We can remind ourselves of the importance of abiding. Others can remind us as well.  However, God needs to work in our hearts to cause us to draw near to Him and draw from His fountain of grace and wisdom.

Lost people do matter to God.  Abiding in God will thrust us out as cross cultural workers into the world with a renewed heart to share His Gospel.

Lost people matter to God.  Lost people will matter to us as well.

A practical example

Last week, I wrote a post titled: “Why I am not the centre“.

In that post, I made the following statement: “I’m not the centre because we (you and I in each of our ministries) want to ‘release people into ministry’.  So, at a given moment, the ‘spotlight’ has to go off of us and on to someone else.  Someone else has to be ‘equipped’ and ‘released’.

Pat & Jeannie sent me the video clip below.  When I viewed it, I realized it was a tangible example of why I, why we are not the centre.

Let’s take joy in the fact that we are part of an ever growing multicultural community of believers who long to share Christ with others.  Let’s take joy in how the Gospel can truly change the hearts of people.

Lost people can be invisible

I shared this short biblical meditation with the World Team Global Alliance (WTGA) last week:

We read in Ruth 2:10-11: “Then she fell on her face bowing to the ground, and said to him, “Why have I found favor in your eyes, that you should take notice of me, since I am a foreigner?”  But Boaz answered here, “All that you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband has been fully told to me, and how  you left your father and mother and your native land and came to a people that you did not know before.””

invisibleRuth was invisible to a large part of the world around her.  She was a refuge, an immigrant, a foreigner.  Yet, out of all the workers in his field, Boaz noticed her.  She was not invisible to him.  He moved towards this foreigner and served her in ways that way beyond the cultural norms of the day.

Our world is shifting constantly.  In a recent UN report, it was stated that a record 65.6 million people are either refugees, asylum seekers or internally displaced across the globe. Will these people remain invisible to us?

In a blog post last month titled: What’s In a Name, I wrote: “No one calls her, ‘Ruth’… Ever feel that way in cross cultural ministry?  That somehow your defining quality is not ‘Steve’, ‘Heather’ or ‘Joy’?  That the words more likely to come out of a neighbor’s mouth are: “Oh, you’re looking for the ‘Czech guy’.  He lives two doors down.”  You can begin to feel like a name-less person without roots; a person just ‘passing through’.

Knowing that my identity is solidly anchored in what He says about me, I can move into my world with confidence and courage. I can give all my effort daily to serve the people to whom He has called me because His voice rings in my ears throughout the day: “You are mine!  I have bought you with a price.  No one can snatch you out of my hand.”

It is with that solid assurance that we are not invisible to our God that we can move into this incredible context of displaced people and ‘see’ who He wants us to see and to whom He wants us to minister.

This is our prayer as a WTGA and as WT workers as we move forward in this year.