Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Recovering the Prophetic Voice of the Church

Recovering the Prophetic Voice of the Church
Kevin Shrum

A recent new Fox 5 – The Washington Times – Rasmussen Reports poll (11.19.07) reports that less than 25% of those surveyed agreed that it was inappropriate for politicians to campaign at their religious services. In fact, 62% said it’s not right. What are religious leaders, particularly Christian leaders, to make of this new poll? Is this the end of the political influence of the church? Or, is this simply the recovery of the clear lines of the separation between church and state?

Religious leaders and politicians have always had an uneasy and tenuous relationship. Politicians have courted the religious vote in places of worship because the vast constituent network of members affords them access to a large number of people at a very low cost. In other words, politicians have ‘used’ places of worship as a means to corner the market on a particular segment of voters. And let’s give the benefit of the doubt at this point – let’s say that most politicians are well-meaning in their motives toward the religious community.

Religious leaders have courted political leaders, as well. The thinking is – if I, as a religious leader, can gain access to the halls of power I can influence the great moral issues of the day reflected in the legislation politicians vote on. Again, let’s give religious leaders their due by saying that their motives are as well-meaning as, say, the motives of the politicians.

So far, good enough, right? Wrong! In recent years the lines of church and state have become so blurred that the church has become just another political constituency for the politician to tap for votes and religious leaders have become supportive lackeys for politicians who are hypocritical and not as well-meaning as previously thought.

The consequences have been devastating to the religious landscape and the political process. Religious leaders are consistently duped by their ‘political friends’ and political leaders have become hypocritical in what they say in order to gain votes from the religious community.

Does this new poll portend the end of the religious/political dialogue, co-influential relationship? Should politicians continue to speak in worship services? And should the religious leaders of the day give up on influencing the nation through the political process?

The answer to these questions is that politicians will be what they are and religious leaders will always have an awkward relationship with political leaders. However, this recent poll may actually be good news for the religious community. Let me explain.

I believe in the separation of the church and state doctrine as Jefferson intended it, but not as some interpret it. It was a wise, but non-Constitutional statement made to the members of the Danbury Baptist Association (Jan. 1, 1802) assuring them that the government was not interested in interfering in their religious processes or in establishing a state church. The phrase “separation of church and state” was never intended to squelch the church from influencing government; it was a protective legal device for the churches from government intrusion.

Recent polling data and the coolness of the religious community in this election cycle, especially evangelicals, toward politicians may be as telling about the role of the church as it is the state. I believe that for far too long the church has lost its prophetic voice by aligning itself with a particular party rather than by addressing the issues of the day, i.e. evangelical conservatives with the Republican party and mainline liberals with the Democratic party.

Maybe the new polling numbers are suggesting that the church needs to regain its independence and prophetic influence. Maybe mainline liberals need to acknowledge that there is something more to the pro-life movement than it being a plank in the Republican party platform. And maybe evangelicals need to acknowledge that there is something to the issues of poverty, fair income/wages and access to healthcare. You pick the issues. But don’t miss my point. The church must be able to address these issues from a point of view that is independent of a particular political party.

What would happen if the churches railed against political corruption no matter the party? What would happen if from the pulpits of America religious leaders preached the Word of God, calling a decadent, materialistic nation back to its senses so that government would not be viewed as the answer to every problem, yet for politicians to recover the concept of citizen-leaders as they work together to solve problems that cannot be solved alone?

Personally, I am a pro-life, pro-family, pro-citizen, pro-Constitutional (constructionist), pro-landowner type of citizen. But I am at the point of saying that I refuse to hitch my wagon to any one political person or party. As a religious leader I cannot afford the liberty to speak against sin and evil wherever I see it; nor can I be silent in commending righteousness and goodness no matter what party produces it!

In the new polling numbers I hear the faint echo of Jeremiah, Isaiah and Jesus who scoffed at the hypocrisy of the political,/religious leaders of their day as they ignored the poor and needy, while at the same time calling them to a life of holy leadership that honors God! I can hear them call for God’s people to pray for their leaders, talk with their leaders, but also confront their leaders when unrighteousness is the order of the day. I can only hope!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Of Living Lions and Golden Compasses

Of Living Lions and Golden Compasses
Kevin Shrum

The cinematic release of Philip Pullman’s, The Golden Compass, is due in American theaters December 5th. I will see the movie. The movie is based upon Pullman’s first book in his trilogy known as His Dark Materials. It tells the story of a young girl’s (Lyra) heroic search for her lost friend, assisted by mysterious characters and powerful creatures. In the end, the ‘god-like’ figure of the story is killed.

Pullman’s story is similar to C.S. Lewis’ allegorical tale of Christianity, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, except from a differing perspective, exposing the dark and sinister nature of humanity and the corruption of authoritative systems. Pullman’s tale appears to be anti-structural, anti-authority and has been, by some, viewed to be anti-god.

William A. Donohue, President of the Catholic League, has called for a boycott of the movie arguing that it denigrates Christianity and promotes atheism for kids. Pullman has not helped his cause by making some statements that would tend to fortify the belief that he is anti-church at best and anti-god at worst.

What are we to make of the hullabaloo surrounding this movie? Is The Golden Compass simply a good fairy tale that should be placed in the same category as other classic tales of adventure? Or, is it a sinister attempt to undermine the idea of God?

Let’s bring some sobriety to the issue. It’s a movie. I understand that we live in a day when some have difficulty separating reality from fantasy, but let’s remember that it’s entertainment. Yes, entertainment with a message, but entertainment nonetheless.

As entertainment, a movie ought to rank low on our list of world-shaping, idea-forming influences. This may sound naïve in a culture that is entertainment driven. Entertainment is non-reality, it is meant to be a form of escapism at best. For roughly two hours the viewer suspends his disbelief and lives in another world, fantasy or otherwise. But the movie ends, the lights come up and we return to the real.

I enjoyed Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, but it’s not scripture. And I will probably enjoy Pullman’s The Golden Compass. And after having seen the movie the lights will come up, I’ll return to my car and drive back into reality. Why? Because it’s entertainment!

We Christians tend to get faddishly upset by the entertainment world. Remember the movie The Last Temptation of Christ? God survived it and the church is strong world-wide. Is the entertainment industry often crude and God-forsaken? Of course! But the greatest way to belittle the entertainment industry is to recognize it for what it is: monied promoters financing actors and actresses playing make-believe parts and reading lines in artificial settings with unrealistic expectations.

And that’s the reason I enjoy some movies. It’s a moment of artificiality and escape from what is real. But it soon ends and life goes on.

And what about the killing of God and the atheistic tendencies of the story and the movie? Well, that’s the real entertainment. People, governments, philosophers, artisans and even some theologians have been attempting to kill God and His church for centuries but to no avail. Why? Because after the viewer suspends her belief system for a moment of cinematic entertainment the lights come up and she must walk right back into the reality that God is not dead.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Homosexuality in Biblical Perspective

Homosexuality in Biblical Perspective
Kevin Shrum

In 1989 Marshall Kirk and Hunter Madsen published a book entitled, After the Ball: How America Will Conquer Its Fear and Hatred of Gays in the 90's. Kirk and Madsen laid out a framework for normalizing behavior that had previously been viewed as deviant. First, desensitize the citizen to deviancy by making deviancy appear positive. Second, make people feel guilty about their perceived bigotries, often equating homosexual and race bigotry. Third, through the media, display as normal that which had previously been viewed as abnormal.

Last week’s Tennessean article (11.18.07) entitled ‘Does the Bible always tell us so?’ presents an alternative view of human sexuality that is incongruent with a biblical worldview and with common sense. It’s a play right out of the Kirk/Madsen playbook. It was the Tennessean’s endorsement of a pro-homosexual agenda. The article suggests that Christians have not only misinterpreted numerous scripture passages concerning sexual behavior, but have used these passages as “clobber passages” against persons with lifestyles that are out of the norm.

Let’s begin with some humility. The author of the article partially quotes 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, failing to quote one of the most redemptive and loving passages in all of scripture, verse 11. After listing numerous sins the Apostle Paul writes, “And that is what some of you were.” In other words, the church of Corinth was not filled with ‘goody-two-shoes,’ but sinners who had been transformed by God’s grace.

While there may be a few idiots like Fred Phelps among us, most Christians oppose homosexuality with a degree of humility. The sins of others and their own sin grieves them to no end. Yet, just because a person is a sinner should not prohibit her from making a value judgment based upon her worldview.

We make value judgments every day. If we didn’t make decisions about right and wrong we would have total anarchy. Those with a pro-homosexual agenda have the right to express their worldview; just don’t be shocked when those who disagree do the same. So let’s dispel Myth #1 – that all Christians are arrogant, et al, Fred Phelps. Let’s address eight other myths used to bash Christians.

Myth #2 is that Jesus did not address the subject of homosexuality and therefore never condemned it. Are we sure? John 21:25 notes that we do not have all the words of Jesus recorded so He could have addressed this subject. Further, every time Jesus had the opportunity to address or redefine sexual orientation he failed to do so. When asked about marriage and divorce he went back to creation, affirming the maleness and femaleness of humanity (Gen. 1:27; Mt. 19:1-12).

When confronted with an adulteress in John 4 Jesus did not affirm her sexual sin, but changed her forever. Jesus did not confront sin with a ‘wink and a nod.’ Instead, he confronted sin and the sinner with truth and grace.

This leads to Myth #3 – the only prohibitions against homosexuality are in the Old Testament and therefore are not applicable. This is untrue. Leviticus 18:22 is rather plain – ‘Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; this is detestable.’ This is not a difficult to understand. In fact, it is common sense.

The New Testament is filled with references to all kinds of sexual sins, i.e. Roman 1:18-32; Ephesians 4:17-19. Some do not equate the words of the non-gospel New Testament letters with the words of Jesus, ruling out of order the aforementioned passages. But this is out of the norm of historic Christianity that has largely viewed all of scripture as the Word of God. There is no misunderstanding – from beginning to end the scriptures condemn sexual sins of all kinds.

And what about Myth # 4 that science has proven people are born gay or at least have the tendency? Some cite Dr. Simon Levay’s ’91 study that argued for homosexuality as natural based upon variations in the hypothalamus. This study has been discredited. Others anticipated the discovery of a ‘gay gene’ based upon the mapping of the genetic/DNA code sponsored by the National Institutes of Health and the Human Genome Project. No ‘smoking sexual orientation gun’ was found. There is no gay gene. Even so, a tendency does not make an orientation.

Further, Myth #5 states that as much as 10% of the population is gay, citing the now discredited 1948 Kinsey report. More accurate numbers suggest that 1-3% of the population is homosexual in orientation. To normalize abnormal behavior for this small portion of the population is unnecessary.

And what about Myth #6 – homosexual orientation cannot be altered or redeemed? Though difficult and time-sensitive, persons of homosexual orientation are changing. Someone might say, ‘this is the way God made me’ and ‘I enjoy being this way,’ Two responses are in order: 1) we have no record in scripture where God made a person outside of the normal heterosexual orientation nor 2) does scripture deny that sin is pleasant for a season (Heb. 11:25). It does affirm that the pleasure will end in depression and destruction.

Myth # 7 and Myth #8 are companions – anti-homosexual speech is hate speech and for the Christian to say that God loves the sinner but hates the sin is hypocritical. I agree! Christian hatred is an oxymoron. But to disagree does not equal hate. Further, Christians can be hypocritical, but this does not eliminate the fact that God hates and judges sin. Save for the grace of God, none of us are safe from God’s judgment.

Finally, Myth #9 argues that God loves all people and has made them ‘the way they are,’ so who are we to disagree with the ‘way a person is?’ God does love us. It is not loving for God to allow us to remain in our sin. What is loving is for God to die for sinners so that he may forgive and renew them, giving them the power to overcome their sinful proclivities, be they homosexuality, alcoholism, divorce, gluttony, lying, etc. This is what God did for sinners in Christ.

Someone asked me one time, ‘Pastor, what would you do if you had a homosexual family member?’ My answer is that I do. And when I see her I hug her, love her, pray for her, talk to her, laugh with her, listen to her and long to see her ‘come out’ of a lifestyle that appears to be miserable, abnormal and destructive.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The New Anti-theist Atheism

Addressing the New Anti-theist Atheism
Dr. Kevin Shrum
Romans 1:18ff.

A new breed of atheist is on the scene. Smart intellectually, angry emotionally and vitriolic in their speech, these media savvy non-god gurus have invaded the airwaves, internet and print mediums with their message of anti-theism. Their starting line-up reads like an NFL All-Pro Team: Daniel C. Bennett, Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon; Sam Harris, The End of Faith and Letter to a Christian Nation; Christopher Hitchens, God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything; Lewis Wolpert, Six Impossible Things Before Breakfast; Victor Stenger, The Comprehensible Cosmos; and, Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion.

It is more accurate to refer to this new wave of atheists as anti-theists. Why? Because unlike previous generations of atheists and atheistic dialogue with theists where the issues of atheism and theism were debated mostly in the academic arena with a degree of tolerance and respect, Hitchens and company are not only self-avowed atheists, they are vehement anti-god crusaders. They are not satisfied with being theological and philosophical contrarians; they are like fundamentalist evangelists for their cause, using any criticism, medium and means to bury religion in general, Christianity in particular.

And if you don’t think they are being effective, think again. Due to the main-stream media’s love for all things that make religion look bad, these crusaders have been given countless hours of free time and space on radio, TV and in the print media, often lauded as courageous heroes for those who would think differently about human existence, science and God. Their books are best-sellers and are being widely read by people from all walks of life, of all different ages. This has caused the most basic questions concerning God’s existence to be raised both at the coffee shops and in the pew without benefit of counter-argument or balance. The minister unaware of this recent phenomenon will find himself speaking past his people and not to his people about the most basic of all truths: the existence of God.

The deficiency of this most recent wave of anti-god crusaders is that they raise no new issues, but loudly shout out the old, often discredited philosophical, theological atheistic concepts, as if they are unaware that many of their objections have not been addressed by the likes of J.P. Moreland, Paul Davies, Alister McGrath, etc. If, however, the minister and the average church member is unaware and unprepared for the aggressive nature of the new anti-god crusaders it could give the appearance that the ‘god-is-dead’ era of Ayers and Altizer is alive and well.

Three Friends
How does the communicator of biblical truth address this new wave of anti-theism? Let me introduce you to what I have come to call three old friends. I use the term friends because when I first read Dawkins’, The God Delusion, a cold, icy chill filled my soul as if I had been abandoned by that which was familiar and true. And though a philosophy major in college, I had to dig deep to think through these old issues in new and fresh ways.

Alister McGrath’s Laser-like Logic
The first friend is Alister McGrath’s and his little book, The Dawkins Delusion?: Atheist Fundamentalism and the Denial of the Divine (IVP, 2007). McGrath has advanced degrees in both science (molecular biology) and theology and is a highly respected Oxford professor and scholar. Most importantly, McGrath was a one-time atheist who has embraced Christianity. This little book was so refreshing and clear in its argument that it helped me cut through the vitriol of Dawkins, Hitchens and company to the arguments themselves, arguments that I at once recognized as having been greatly discredited by sound philosophical inquiry, lucid reason and biblical exegesis. McGrath has reminded me that the volume of what is being communicated is not equal to the truth being communicated. That is, the louder one speaks does not make what is being said more true. In fact, McGrath expresses disappointment in Dawkins’ book because it doesn’t raise any new anti-god arguments, but simply recounts the old anti-god arguments in a new package of language and mediums, with the volume turned all the way up.

Antony Flew’s Mae Culpa
The second friend is Antony Flew’s (with Roy Abraham Varghese) new book, ‘There is NO A God: How the world’s most notorious atheist changed his mind,’ (Harper Collins, 2007). Though Flew has yet to embrace Christianity as a whole, he has become a convinced theist. Flew is the same man who presented his landmark paper, ‘Theology and Falsification,’ in 1950 at the Oxford University Socratic Club, chaired by C.S. Lewis himself. How Flew experienced this conversion was helpful to me.

Flew acknowledges the three questions that relentlessly penetrated his anti-god stance that he couldn’t ignore. In Flew’s own words, “I believe that life and reproduction originate in a divine Source. Why do I believe this, given I expounded and defended atheism for more than a half century? The short answer is this: this is the world picture, as I see it, that has emerged from modern science. Science spotlights three dimensions of nature that point to God. The first is the fact that nature obeys laws. The second is the dimension of life, of intelligently organized and purpose-driven beings, which arose from matter. The third is the very existence of nature.”[1]

The first question is the question of order verses chaos, the laws of nature. What Flew couldn’t deny was that nature operates by laws that both the theist and atheist depend on in order to conduct scientific experiments and, then, to speak intelligently about these processes. These laws were not assigned to nature, but came out of nature itself, as if they were intentionally built-in to the processes of nature. The questions like, ‘Who wrote these laws?’ and ‘Who encoded them into the natural processes?’ have always been a mystery to the atheistic scientist? Flew could no longer deny that the laws of nature were not by-products of natural selection but the result of the intentional act of a ‘Law-giver.’

The second question that confronted Flew was the teleological question. That is, why is there purpose to creation, in particular the emergence of ordered, well-structured, intentional, purposeful life? What Flew acknowledges is that his weak, anti-god arguments for explaining the derivation and direction of life simply couldn’t hold up under the weight of the evidence that pointed to a ‘Life-giver.’ Recent developments in DNA research became the ‘tipping point’ for Flew. So, add to Flews’ conclusion of ‘Law-giver’ the truth of ‘Life-giver’ or ‘Life-producer.’

The third, most devastating question to Flews’ atheistic posture was the very existence of nature itself, or the ontological question, the question of being. In brief, why is there something instead of nothing? Why is there anything at all? Again, the atheistic arguments for the existence of either an eternal universe or the Big Bang theory didn’t remove the many questions as to why things exist at all. Flew argued that even if the universe was eternal, how did this come to be? And, even if a person accepts the Big Bang theory, who or what created the conditions for this event? Flews’ conclusion is that God creates life. So, add to ‘Law-giver,’ Life-giver,’ the truth of ‘World/Universe-Creator.’

Biblical Exegesis (Romans 1:18ff.)
The third friend is scripture itself. This is where the communicator of biblical truth must trust the efficiency and sufficiency of the text. While McGrath and Flew are helpful, it is God’s Word that will win the day. Biblical fidelity reminds us that time and truth and text and truth are good companions. We must be patient in standing by the arguments for God’s existence that scripture itself offers. This was Paul’s source of confidence in Athens enabling him to say (Acts 17:23), “For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription, ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you.” Either Paul is delusional or he knows something that is true.

If we take Flews’ three questions as a starting point, we find a response to these questions in the first chapter of Paul’s letter to the Romans. To the question of the laws of nature we can respond from Romans 1:19-20, “For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For His invisible attributes, namely, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.” The order we see in nature is reflective of the order we come to see in God. The laws of nature, then, are not the by-product of a natural order frantic to survive, but the intentional and deliberate laws that govern all natural processes.

Ravi Zacharis’ image of God as the ‘Grand Weaver,’ taken from his most recent book by the same title, is most helpful at this point. As the master tapestry-maker, God uses, so to speak, weaving techniques to weave together a creation with purpose and definition. The laws of the weaver are not a by-product of a pile of disassembled threads, but the deliberate weaving laws of a purposeful weaver. These laws allow the weaver to tie together disparate threads into a cohesive whole.

To Flews’ second question (teleological) – the question of organized, purpose-driven life – we can answer from Romans 1:20, as well, where the Apostle Paul notes that God’s existence has been known since creation. That is, the order we see in nature’s laws push us to acknowledge that not only does God exist but that life is not the accidental by-product of random selection, but the willful act of an all-powerful, purpose-giving, intelligent, organized God. Creation was created for a purpose. Psalm 19:1 states, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims His handiwork.” The handiwork of God is indicative not only of order, but of purpose. If God is the Grand Weaver, we would say that He uses different weaving techniques (the laws of weaving) in order to make a tapestry that reflects a purposeful image (order and organization).

Finally, to Flews’ third question (ontological) – the question of why anything exists at all – we can answer with the similar words of Romans 1:20 ‘creation’ and 1:25 ‘Creator.’ Things exist because God wills or causes them to exist. Theologians use terms like ‘creatio ex nihilo,’ or ‘creation by divine fiat.’ The tapestry exists because the Grand Weaver, out of the overflow of His own power and glory (see Jonathan Edwards at this point in ‘The End for Which God Created the World’), creates for His own purposes and glory. Creation exists because God willed it to exist. He alone sustains it, governs it and rules it for His purposes. To suggest that creation produces an ill-logical concept of a god as a default position that explains creation is, as Paul would write in Romans 1:21, foolishness.

A Word to the Wise
The communicator of biblical truth cannot ignore the recent anti-theist phenomenon. These philosophical debates are no longer quarantined to academic environs, but have been popularized by media savvy anti-theists. Yet, the minister of God’s Word can trust the truth of scripture, aided by redeemed reason. The communicator of biblical truth must remember that time and truth and time and text go well together. The steady, relentless, well-reasoned, scripturally-based presentation of the truth of God’s Word will never return void, even in the face of such emboldened anti-theist atheism.

[1] Flew, Antony, There is A God: How the world’s most notorious atheist changed his mind, (Harper Collins: New York, 2007), pp. 88-89.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Baptist Faith & Message and Good Fences

In a Christianity Today article entitled “Do Good Fences Make Good Baptists?” (8.7.’00) the editors at that time cautiously gave their tacit support of the SBC’s unqualified support of the Baptist Faith and Message and the changes that were made to it at that time. While noting a concern that such a clear statement of faith may inhibit honest dialogue among individuals who gather under the same umbrella of belief, the larger affirmations made in the BF&M were understood to close down the “flea market” or “smorgasbord” type of theological affirmations where beliefs are selected at random.

Seven years later, I do not know if CT would make this same kind of statement as it has drifted theologically in recent years. However, I continue to believe that the BF&M is a helpful tool in reminding Baptists of those cherished beliefs that are essential to sound Christian doctrine.

The genius of the BF&M is that it maintains a confessional nature, while giving clarity to its affirmations. In this day of theological drift and uncertainty, such a statement of faith is essential if the SBC and the TBC are to avoid the slow demise experienced by once stalwarts denominations of faith.

Theological drift is inevitable if not guarded against. Just as we are prone to stray from God (Isa. 53:6), we are also prone to drift in our thinking about God. Unless a concerted effort is made to remain faithful to the “faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints” (Jude 3), then theological drift is inevitable.

Three objections arise to question such a focused statement of faith. First, does the clarification of the BF&M inadvertently cut off the academic and theological freedom to pursue truth? The problem with the unbridled pursuit of truth is that it is often done without boundaries and, as a result, ends up leading its pursuer to affirm all kinds of beliefs that are dissimilar to historic Christian faith. Borderless theological pursuit is a dangerous enterprise because it can end in senseless speculation and a loss of theological conviction.

Someone may object by asking, “If the BF&M says all there is to say then what is left to say and what is left to seek?” Plenty! The BF&M affirms the basic parameters of our beliefs as Southern Baptists, but leaves room to plumb the depths of those affirmations. It baffles me as to why the pursuit of truth must always be after “new truth.” Such an attitude strikes one as arrogant because it assumes that we know all there is to know about the truth that has already been revealed.

The second objection is that such a clear confession of faith may offend the non-Christian. While the declaration of Christian belief should not deliberately cut off the unbeliever, we must acknowledge that the Gospel and its antecedents are offensive to the unregenerate mind (1 Cor. 2:14).

In other words, the Christian community cannot allow the unbelieving world to dictate its confession of faith. We do not stick our spiritual finger in the air to catch the way the theological wind is blowing and then determine what we believe. Rather, we seek the Word as to what we believe, presenting such belief to an unbelieving world with grace, love and patience. This is why BF&M builds good fences that mark a clear distinction in what the confessing community believes.

A third objection to affirming the BF&M as a guide for theological identity and accountability can be heard in the cry “creedalism!” Though it should go without saying, let me state unequivocally that Scripture is our ultimate authority; Scripture trumps all human documents. Yet, Southern Baptists and Tennessee Baptists are well within historical parameters by producing a doctrinal summary of those most cherished beliefs that have identified who we are and what we believe. While we may disagree as to what the BF&M might include, the cry of “creedalism” is a false cry that flies in the face of historical precedent.

So, back to the main question, “Do Good Fences Make Good Baptists?” The fence we build by what we believe is not tall enough to keep us from seeing the lost; nor they us. Rather, it is tall enough so that we can lean against its guardrails while talking to our lost neighbor.

Friday, August 31, 2007

The Atoning Work of Christ

The Blood of Christ and the Drama of Redemption ● Hebrews 9:11-28
Dr. Kevin Shrum

Introduction: Just a few weeks ago I began a series entitled ‘The Doctrine Everyone Must Know: The Doctrine of Salvation.’ That is, every person must know and understand how a person is made right with God, is reconciled to God, is ‘saved’ by God. It is too simple to just say ‘Jesus died for our sins.’ He did, but there is so much more. Why did He die? What did His death mean? And how are we saved through His death and subsequent resurrection? With heresy on the rise, we cannot afford to be ‘soteriologically [salvation] ignorant.’
I first preached on the total depravity of the sinner, the lost condition of the humanity (8.19.07). This initial message was followed by a message that further explained the nature and scope of our sinful rebellion from God and the death of our consciences before a Holy God (8.26.07/a.m. service). The next message hit the second point of salvation by addressing the issue of God’s eternal decree to save a people for Himself out of the masses of sinful humanity (8.26.07/p.m. service). We now come to third dimension of salvation – the atoning work of Christ. In essence, if we are sinners and God chooses to save a people for Himself, then how does He atone for their sins? How does God remedy our sin problem? How does the drama of divine redemption unfold?

Scene 1
The quick answer is that God atones for our sin through the shed blood of Jesus Christ, His Son. What does this mean? Let’s begin at the beginning. You will recall that soon after God had created the world and His beautiful creation, mankind ‘fell’ into sin through disobedience and rebellion (Gen. 3:1-7). Because of sin, man was separated from God and attempted to cover up his sinful deeds (Gen. 3:7). God brought judgment on His creation by pronouncing a 1) curse on the woman, 2) a curse on the man, 3) a curse on Satan and 4) even a curse on the natural order of things (Gen. 3:8-21). Because of the sin of Adam and Eve a separation between a Holy God and sinful man emerged (Gen. 3:22-24). First man/woman would no longer know the sweet, intimate fellowship they had had with God – and this is true even today for those who are outside of Christ.
We are given the first clue as to how God would cover our sin in Genesis 3:21 where God takes one of the animals He had created, kills it and makes garments to cover the nakedness of Adam and Eve: “The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.” Notice that God covered them. They had attempted to cover themselves. Genesis 3:7 notes, “Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.” Because of their sin the ‘cover up’ had begun and continues to this day. The fig leaves represent man-made religion, human wisdom and arrogance. The covering God provided for Adam and Eve with the skins of a sacrificed animal was a picture of both God’s 1) judgment and 2) grace. It is a judgment because by covering them with the skins of a sacrificed animal God was saying that their coverings were not good enough, they were inadequate (Gen. 3:7). Any attempt to cover sin with anything other than the covering provided by God will be judged as inadequate and as an extension of the consequences of sin.
But the covering provided by God for the sin of Adam and Eve is not only a picture of God’s judgment, it is also a picture of God’s grace. God covered their nakedness. This gracious act would be a sign and a symbol of things to come! God would not only judge sin, He would atone for sin through the blood of His Son, Jesus Christ.

Scene 2
We now fast-forward to Old Testament books of Exodus and Leviticus where the simple act of sacrifice and covering is institutionalized in the Levitical priesthood and Temple sacrificial system. Exodus 11-12 tells us of the first Passover where the only way to escape death was through the blood of a sacrificed animal splattered on the doorposts of all who believed. All those covered by the blood would be ‘passed over’ by death; all those without the covering of blood experienced death.
Then, in Exodus 24:1-8 the covenant of God with His people established in the Law was sealed with the sprinkling of blood on the people of God, the priests of God and on the Book of the Law. While there were many sacrifices offered throughout the year, once a year the High Priest would enter the Holy Holies, the Most Holy Place, on the Day of Atonement and offer a blood sacrifice for his own sins and the sins of the people (Lev. 16:1ff.). This system was instituted by God and was to be followed meticulously and yearly.

Scene 3
But the coverings provided by God in Genesis 3 and through the priestly, Temple system were temporary until the real and eternal sacrifice would come in the person of Jesus Christ. Hebrews 9:11-28 lays it out in clear and concise terms:
“When Christ came as high priest of the good things that are already here, He went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not man-made, that is to say, not a part of this creation. 12 He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by His own blood, having obtained eternal redemption. 13 The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. 14 How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God! 15 For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant. 16 In the case of a will, it is necessary to prove the death of the one who made it, 17 because a will is in force only when somebody has died; it never takes effect while the one who made it is living. 18 This is why even the first covenant was not put into effect without blood. 19 When Moses had proclaimed every commandment of the law to all the people, he took the blood of calves, together with water, scarlet wool and branches of hyssop, and sprinkled the scroll and all the people. 20 He said, ‘This is the blood of the covenant, which God has commanded you to keep.’ 21 In the same way, he sprinkled with the blood both the tabernacle and everything used in its ceremonies. 22 In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness. 23 It was necessary, then, for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these sacrifices, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. 24 For Christ did not enter a man-made sanctuary that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence. 25 Nor did he enter heaven to offer himself again and again, the way the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood that is not his own. 26 Then Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. But now he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself. 27 Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, 28 so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.”

This amazing passage lays out the nature and scope of our redemption that has come in the person if Jesus Christ. What began Scene 1 in the Garden of Eden as God covered the sin of His creatures and what was institutionalized Scene 2 as God established a yearly atonement through the sacrifice of a slaughtered lamb culminates in Scene 3 and the ultimate and final word from God on sacrifice and atonement. Let’s look at this passage through four words – priest, mediator, will and the real!

The Priest, vs. 11-14
When God decided to reveal the final episode of His redemptive plan He did so through His Son who would come as our High Priest. Christ came as our Priest “…of the good things that are already here…” meaning that the redemption offered in God’s previous provisions of grace would now be complete in Jesus Christ.
As the High Priest He did not enter into a man-made building or Temple, but He entered into the very presence of God with His own blood and not that of a goat, a bull or a lamb. The atonement offered in the Levitical system made God’s people ceremonially clean, but not eternally and internally clean. This is why the High Priest had to offer a yearly sacrifice to God in the Holy of Holies.
But now that Jesus Christ has come as our High Priest His blood cleanses us internally and eternally so that we are clean before God, so clean that we do not need a yearly sacrifice to atone for our sins – Jesus Christ has now offered Himself as the once-for-all atonement for sin.

The Mediator, vs. 15
As a result, Jesus Christ is our mediator: “For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant.” In Jesus Christ we are set free from sin and receive the “…promised eternal inheritance…” God has ransomed His own and set His people free from the bondage of sin.

His Will, vs. 16-22
Through the death of Christ the will of God is set in motion. Just as an earthly will is not in effect so long as the person who made the will is alive (vs. 16-18), so, too, God’s will is put into effect by the blood of Jesus Christ. Just as Moses sanctified God’s people by splattering blood on the people and the scroll of the Law as they dedicated themselves to keep the Law (Ex. 24:6-8), Christ sanctifies us by His blood. This is why “…without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” (vs. 22) God’s will to forgive us and give us all things is enacted by the death of Jesus Christ.

The Real, vs. 23-28
Christ’s death demonstrates what is real. The entire Levitical system was a copy of the real Holy of Holies and the sacrifice needed to redeem sinners. When Jesus came to end the sacrificial system of the Old Testament, He came as a man, died on a cross, shedding His blood as the sinless Lamb of God. Christ then “…entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence.” Jesus Christ is not only our High Priest, He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of sinners. This amazing two-fold function of Jesus Christ is the core of God’s plan of redemption. The Levitical system of sacrifice required that the High Priest offer a sacrifice for the people as well as Himself Leviticus 16). But now Christ serves as both our High Priest and the sacrificial Lamb whose blood was shed to cover the sins of His people.
Because His sacrifice was perfect, He did not “…enter heaven to offer Himself again and again, the way the High Priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood that is not his own.” If Jesus had to be crucified afresh each year or each time we worship He would have had to “…suffer many times since the creation of the world.” Instead, “…He appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of Himself.” This means that what many thought was real - the Temple system of worship and sacrifice - was simply a copy of the real thing that came in the person of Jesus Christ.
What is real is that “Just as man is destined to die once, and after this to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people…” All flesh will die. And all flesh will face the judgment of God. Because of sin we will not be able to stand in judgment without something miraculous taking place. This is why the parallel states that Jesus Christ appeared once to take away that which would cause us not to be able to stand in the judgment - sin.
What is real is that Jesus “…will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for Him.” Jesus came the first time to take away our sin, which is the down-payment of our salvation. When Jesus comes again He will bring the salvation we have in Him to a glorious culmination. All things will be complete and what is most real will be made clear. Jesus Christ will come not as a sacrificed Lamb, but as King of King and Lord of Lords (Rev. 19:11-21; 20:11-15; 21:22).

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Predestination, Election and God's Sovereign Choice

God’s Electing Purposes
Dr. Kevin Shrum

A few weeks ago I began a series on ‘The Doctrine Everyone Must Know: Salvation.’ It was my purpose to remind us that the gospel is God-centered and not man centered. We began with one point that is two-sided – 1) we are helpless, hopeless, hell-bent, hell-bound, deserving-of-God’s-wrath sinners and 2) Jesus is a great Savior. It was humbling to hear the depth of our depravity made explicit in two graphic verses in Ephesians 2:1-2, “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.”

Scripture teaches that humans are not free moral agents in the way many people think we are free. In other words, we are not neutral with the freedom to choose either good or bad. Rather, we are enslaved to sin, dead in sin and under the wrath and judgment of God because of our sin. We are free to choose our own poison, like the prisoner is free to walk the prison yard. Is the prisoner free? Yes, he is free within the bondage of his will to choose his sin of choice, but he is not truly free in a neutral kind of way. This is why God saves us!

We Baptists are a ‘whosoever will’ kind of people. We believe that we are to preach the gospel to all people using as many different kinds of methods as possible, so long as they do not compromise the gospel message itself. But we are also a people who strongly believe in the sovereign, electing purposes of God. The very reason we believe in the doctrine of the security of the believer is that we believe that we didn’t save ourselves so we can’t lose what we didn’t have to earn (John 17:6; Jude 24-25). So, we preach the gospel and God saves.

Our history as Southern Baptists is rooted in a belief that God will not be surprised by who is saved because, as Ephesians 1:4 notes, “For He chose us in Him (Jesus Christ) before the creation (foundation) of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight.” Most of our founders, such as Dr. B.H. Carroll, who founded Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Ft. Worth, TX and Dr. E.Y. Mullins, founder of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Dr. James Pettigrew Boyce, were out of the tradition that placed a heavy emphasis on the sovereign, saving, electing purposes of God. In other words, our heritage as Baptists is rooted in the 'doctrines of grace.' While we call every sinner to repent and believe, Baptists have always affirmed that there is another prior factor involved in the mystery of the gospel – God is purposing, planning and willing, as well.

One of the oldest segments of the ‘Baptist Faith and Message’ concerns the mystery and power of the gospel. Entitled ‘God’s Purpose of Grace,’ the BF&M states:

[“Election is the gracious purpose of God, according to which He regenerates, justifies, sanctifies, and glorifies sinners. It is consistent with the free agency of man, and comprehends all the means in connection with the end. It is the glorious display of God's sovereign goodness, and is infinitely wise, holy, and unchangeable. It excludes boasting and promotes humility. All true believers endure to the end. Those whom God has accepted in Christ, and sanctified by His Spirit, will never fall away from the state of grace, but shall persevere to the end. Believers may fall into sin through neglect and temptation, whereby they grieve the Spirit, impair their graces and comforts, and bring reproach on the cause of Christ and temporal judgments on themselves; yet they shall be kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation.
Genesis 12:1-3; Exodus 19:5-8; 1 Samuel 8:4-7,19-22; Isaiah 5:1-7; Jeremiah 31:31ff.; Matthew 16:18-19; 21:28-45; 24:22,31; 25:34; Luke 1:68-79; 2:29-32; 19:41-44; 24:44-48; John 1:12-14; 3:16; 5:24; 6:44-45,65; 10:27-29; 15:16; 17:6,12,17-18; Acts 20:32; Romans 5:9-10; 8:28-39; 10:12-15; 11:5-7,26-36; 1 Corinthians 1:1-2; 15:24-28; Ephesians 1:4-23; 2:1-10; 3:1-11; Colossians 1:12-14; 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14; 2 Timothy 1:12; 2:10,19; Hebrews 11:39–12:2; James 1:12; 1 Peter 1:2-5,13; 2:4-10; 1 John 1:7-9; 2:19; 3:2..]

God Saves a People for Himself
What all of this means is that while we are preaching the gospel to all people, we can do so with confidence, knowing that God will save many because He has chosen for Himself a people to save out of the masses of sinful humanity. Remember, Scripture teaches that we are dead in our sins (Eph. 2:1; Col. 2:13) and cannot save ourselves. He has to save us because we cannot save ourselves. He saves a people for Himself not based upon our choosing of Him, but His choosing of sinners to be saved. In John 15:16 Jesus told His disciples, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit – fruit that will last.” Another example of God’s electing purposes was His choosing of Israel. Why did God choose Israel?

Why did God choose Israel? He chose them because He wanted to. He chose them out of all the nations. He did not choose all nations to serve Him. Deuteronomy 7:6-9 states, “For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession. 7 The LORD did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. 8 But it was because the LORD loved you and kept the oath he swore to your forefathers that he brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt. 9 Know therefore that the LORD your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commands.”

How and why does God elect a people for Himself?
· When the disciples acted surprised that Jesus had washed their feet, He reminded them that He knew exactly what He was doing and He also knew those who were His and those who were not His: John 13:18 states that Jesus looked at His disciples and said, “I know those I have chosen.”
· In Matthew 24:22 Jesus stated that the days of persecution surrounding the end of time would be cut short “for the sake of the elect.”
· In Luke 18:7 Jesus reminded His disciples of God’s purpose in election: “And will not God bring about justice for His chosen ones, who cry out to Him day and night?"
· Jesus said in John 6:44 and 6:65 that we do not come to God on our own whim, we can only come as the Father draws the sinner – “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day.”
· In John 10:24-27 Jesus talked about the gift of a people God the Father gave to Him, “Then came the Feast of Dedication at Jerusalem. It was winter, 23 and Jesus was in the temple area walking in Solomon’s Colonnade. 24 The Jews gathered around him, saying, ‘How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.’ 25 Jesus answered, 'I did tell you, but you do not believe. The miracles I do in my Father’s name speak for me, 26 but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. 27 My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.” Notice that the text says that they did not believe because they were not His sheep; it does not say they were not His sheep because they did not believe.
· Romans 8:28-33 – “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. 31 What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies.”
· Titus 1:1-3 – “Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ for the faith of God’s elect and the knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness 2 a faith and knowledge resting on the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time, 3 and at his appointed season he brought his word to light through the preaching entrusted to me by the command of God our Savior…”
· 1 Peter 1:1-2 – “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To God’s elect, strangers in the world, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia, 2 who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood: Grace and peace be yours in abundance..”

Question: If we preach a ‘whosever will’ gospel to all, why do some will to come and others not will to come? Answer: because they do not believe. Question: But why do some believe and others not believe? Answer: Some do not will to come because of their unbelief because there is another factor involved – God’s eternal purposes. Example – Acts 13:44-48:
“On the next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord. 45 When the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and talked abusively against what Paul was saying. 46 Then Paul and Barnabas answered them boldly: ‘We had to speak the word of God to you first. Since you reject it and do not consider yourselves worthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles. 47 For this is what the Lord has commanded us: ‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’48 When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and honored the word of the Lord; and all who were appointed for eternal life believed.”

Notice very closely verse 48, “When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and honored the word of the Lord; and all who were appointed for eternal life believed.” Shouldn’t it read, “…and all who believed were appointed for eternal life?” In other words, according to our senses we think it should say that God appoints us based upon our belief in Him; instead, it states that we believe because God has appointed us to believe! It reads that 1) all who were appointed for eternal life heard the gospel and 2) believed. The appointment preceded the belief. Amazing! God was at work.

Then what must we do in response to God’s eternal, electing purposes?
· Humility! We should first and foremost be humbled in knowing that God’s electing purposes will be served according to the counsel of His own will in ways that bring Him glory! Too often we look at salvation in a whimsical fashion. It should humble us that God is in charge!
· Evangelism/Missions! We are to preach the gospel to every creature, in every tongue, to every tribe so that the elect can hear the gospel, be awakened from the deadness of their sin and believe. God’s electing purposes does not obliterate evangelism and missions; instead, it fuels missions and evangelism because God has not only chosen a people for Himself, but He has ordained the means, the methods by which sinners are saved. Therefore, we must preach, pray, teach, witness, share, care, etc. (Mt. 28:16-20; Acts 1:7-8) In fact, most of the great missionary movements in the history of the church were started by men with a supreme confidence in God’s sovereign work in salvation and who affirmed the doctrines of grace.
· Repent/Believe! If we hear the gospel and God moves in our hearts, then we must respond to the gospel and not harden our hearts. Hebrews 3:7-11 urges us that if we hear the gospel and do not respond we will not be saved, “So, as the Holy Spirit says: ‘Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion, during the time of testing in the desert, where your fathers tested and tried Me and for forty years saw what I did. That is why I was angry with that generation, and I said, ‘Their hearts are always going astray, and they have not known my ways.’ So I declared an oath in my anger, ‘They shall never enter my rest.’”
· Evaluation! We must also evaluate ourselves in making our calling and election, as 2 Peter 2:3-11 notes. We cannot presume upon the grace of God, but must respond to His call.
· Submission! Finally, we are to humble ourselves before the mystery of God’s purposes. There is no place for pride or arrogance when it comes to salvation. Romans 9:1ff. is one of the most heart-wrenching passages in all of the Bible. It speaks of God’s freedom to choose a people for Himself. And yet Paul says in Romans 9:3-4, “For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, those of my own race, the people of Israel.” Yet, not all will be saved. Nevertheless, Paul begins Romans 10:1 by saying, “Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved.” So, Paul preached and we preach so that God can save those chosen in Him before the foundation of the world.
· And how does this work? Acts 16:11-15 describes the salvation of a woman named Lydia of Philippi, “One of those listening (to Paul preach the gospel) was a woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth from the city of Thyatira, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened heart to respond to Paul’s message.” Paul preached, the Lord opened Lydia's heart and as a result Lydia was enabled to believe the gospel!
· We preach the gospel to all people and God does the convicting, the drawing, the saving, and the redeeming of sinners to the praise of His glory! When all is said and done Revelation 13:8 will be true, “All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast – all whose names have not been written in the book of life belonging to the Lamb that was slain from (or before) the creation of the world.” God will not be disappointed, surprised or depressed by who is in heaven. We are great sinners and He is a great Savior! [see John 6:35-40; John 17:1-6, 9, 12]

Monday, August 20, 2007

Where's Your Bible?

Where’s Your Bible?
Kevin Shrum

Christians often claim that they are a ‘people of the book.’ Yet, it appears there is widespread biblical illiteracy among God’s people. How often have I heard someone say, ‘I know it says so-and-so somewhere in the Bible,’ yet could not locate the Scripture reference if their life depended on it. They think they know it says it but aren’t quite sure that it actually says it and, even if what they say is in the Book is actually in the Book, they have no clue where to find it in the Book. So, are we really a people of the Book?

Are we like those noble Bereans, “examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so?” (Acts 17:11)

Let me ask three questions that may help us return to the Book.

Where’s the Book? A question of physical location!
Like it or not, being ‘a people of the Book’ requires that we actually own one, that we read it and that we meditate on it daily. I believe that every person should have a Bible whose cover is stained with the oil from its owners hands. I believe that it is important to be physically familiar with a Bible’s pages, the location of its content and even its study helps. There is something about having a Bible that is familiar to its owner.

There are many factors that have led to a physical distance between the believer and his/her Bible. For example, the trend these days is to display Scripture verses in worship service on video screens. The result is that the attendee is not required to bring his/her Bible to worship service. The excuses I have heard for this trend are: 1) there is no longer a singularity of a dominate Bible translation and 2) looking at one’s Bible actually hinders listening to the sermon. To the first rationale, I would agree to a degree. In any given service you will find numerous translations of Scripture. The day of the 'homogeneous translation' is gone. This can make it a challenge to preach through a text with everyone on the same page grammatically and textually. However, I would rather struggle with this challenge than to not have the attendee bring his/her Bible at all.

To the second rationale, I would say that even if looking at the Bible is a distraction to listening to the preacher it’s a very good distraction.

Don’t misunderstand me. The church I pastor uses screens, media shout, power point and other forms of visual aid. We often visually display Scripture. My point is that anything that causes distance between me and the text should be minimized. When I’m not required to handle the Bible I will not handle the Bible.

In summary, too many Christians find too many excuses to be physically separated from the Book. As a result, many Christians play guessing games about the location of particular texts, spiritual ideas and theological concepts. This is why ‘a people of the Book’ read Scripture, pray over Scripture, meditate on Scripture, etc.

Where’s the Book? A question of spiritual authority!
‘A people of the Book’ also know the spiritual location of the Bible. That is, God’s people understand that the Bible is the authority for their faith and practice. The Bible is not a suggestion Book; it is command central for God’s people. To answer the question of the spiritual authority of the Bible is to ask the question of obedience (John 8:31-32). If I am a Christian, do I operate under the authority of the Bible? So, where is the Bible in my life when it comes to operating under its authority?

Where’s the Book? A question of estimation!
Finally, where’s the Bible in my intellectual framework? Do I see it for what it is – God’s Word? Or, is it just another book?

The Christian believes that the Bible is the inspired Word of God. It is not a word about God; it is the Word of God. Jesus affirmed it (Mt. 5:17-20), the Spirit inspired it (2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:16-21) and God has established it (Ps. 19 & 119). The first two questions of physical location and spiritual authority are more easily answered when this third question of estimation is answered. To believe that the Bible is God’s Word settles a great number of questions in the mind of the believer and secures the Bible’s estimation in the life of the believer.

May we be a people of the Book!

Friday, July 27, 2007

Things that Go Together

Things That Go Together
Dr. Kevin Shrum

There are many things that should never be put together – they never should be mixed, i.e. water and oil, gas and a flame, fire and ice, etc. However, there are many things that must never be separated without impeding one of the ingredients. This is true in the spiritual dimensions of life. What things belong together and should never be separated?

· Faith and works go together and must never be separated. While we are not saved by works (Eph. 2:8), our works demonstrate our faith and trust in God. Pastor James (2:14-26) addressed this issue when he wrote that the believer should demonstrate his/her faith in God by his/her work for God. On the other hand, anything that happens without the motivation of faith is sin (Rom. 14:23) Faith without works is dead; works without faith is pagan religiosity. Faith and works together produces a life that expresses God’s grace and mercy in holy activity.
· Truth and time are essential partners. Time has a way of exposing the truth; truth, if given enough time, will bubble to the surface. Paul used this argument in 2 Corinthians 13:5-14 in defending his ministry. Some were accusing Paul of either not being an apostle at all or of abusing his apostolic power. In verse 8 Paul states, “For we cannot do anything against the truth, but only for the truth.” He wrote this after having stated that every person should examine themselves to see if they pass the test of faith. Be careful. Making rash judgments about a person or a situation may get one in trouble. Wisdom gives truth enough time to emerge.
· Missions and evangelism must not be separated. Matthew 28:16-20 and Acts 1:7-8 address the issues of Jesus command to preach the gospel to every person in every tongue on every continent. In general, we use the term missions to describe the larger scope of God’s redemptive plan, while we use the term evangelism to describe individual responsibility to share the good news of Jesus Christ. While this distinction may be artificial, it may be helpful in practical terms in holding together the corporate and individual responsibilities of reaching a lost world with the gospel.
· Here and there are two things that must go together. Some in the church would argue that we need to take care of things ‘at home,’ diminishing the need of missions away from home. Others emphasize the ‘there’ to the neglect of the ‘here at home.’ This distinction is petty and is killing the church. Too many churches have no global vision at all. And, too many in the local church only show up for the mission trip but can’t be found the rest of the year. Jesus never made this distinction. For example, Acts 1:8 notes that we are to be “…witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” So, it’s not here or there; rather, it’s here and there when it comes to missions and evangelism.
· Change and the unchanging must be held together. For example, God never changes. Malachi 3:6 declares, “For I the Lord do not change.” Hebrews 13:8 adds, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” Some things never change – God, His gospel and His Word. And yet the gospel message itself is about change. 2 Corinthians 5:17 emphatically states, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” Some will say they do not like change. I think I know what they mean by this, but we had better hope change is possible because change is the very essence of the gospel itself. To deny the fact and necessity of change is to deny the very gospel we preach. Ironic isn’t it! The unchanging gospel we preach calls for change.
· Citizenship here and citizenship there are two things that must be held together. The Christian must remember that he/she has dual-citizenship. Romans 13:1 reminds us that we are to be “subject to the governing authorities” and 1 Timothy 2:1 notes, “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.” On the other hand, Philippians 3:20 reminds us, “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” In brief, as Christian citizens we are to respect the laws of the land insofar as is possible, acting as salt and light in a tasteless and dark world. However, we must not become too attached to this world as we look forward to the “city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God.” (Heb. 11:10) We live in one country by the rules of another.
· Already and not yet must be held together, as well. We are already children of God, made holy and righteous in God’s sight, forgiven, graced, redeemed, reconciled and secure. Yet, each day we are becoming more like Christ because we are not yet complete, mature and finished. Paul held these two concepts together in Philippians 3:12-16 notes, “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me His own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead. I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained.” We are becoming what God has already made us to be in Christ!

So, while some things do not need to be mixed, some things should never be separated. This is my short list. What about yours?

Friday, July 13, 2007

The Doctrine of Salvation

The Doctrine of Salvation
Kevin Shrum

There is a God who is God all by Himself and is unique as the One true God in Three persons. Out of the perogatives of His own will and eternal counsel, He created all things for His glory, is in control of all things and is not suprised by anything because all things occur within the mystery of the counsel of His own will.

Every human is wonderfully made (Jer. 1:5) , yet fatally flawed by sin (Rom. 3:23). We are dead in our sin (Eph. 2:1), unable and unwilling to help or redeem ourselves in God-honoring, God-glorifying ways.

God, in His infinite wisdom, justice, love and mercy, has decided to save a people for Himself out of the masses of sinful, hell-bound humanity, a people upon which He can pour out His great grace and mercy and through whom He can bear witness to all people from every nation, tribe and tongue (Deut. 7:6; Isa. 45:4; John 6:44; Acts 14:48; Romans 8:29; 9:11) .

God, then, is able to save and redeem His people through the vicarious and substitutionary atoning death of Jesus Christ and His subsequent resurrection (1 Cor. 15:1-11). Through Jesus Christ, God the Father imputs and grants His righteousness to sinners by faith through grace (Romans 3:21-31; 2 Cor. 5:16-21).

Through the means of preaching, teaching, praying, ministering and witnessing, God draws sinners to Himself through the power of the Holy Spirit, awakening them, convicting them, overcoming their resistance, convincing them of the truth of the gospel, re-birthing them into the kingdom of God (John 14: 15-21; John 6:44).

God is able, then, to preserve and keep His people through His enabling grace and sealing Spirit (Jude 24-25). God works in and through His people so that they might bear witness to the gospel of Jesus Christ as on mission people as God continues to call out His people from every nation, tribe and tongue (Rev. 7:9-10).

Second-Hand Religion Not Allowed

Second-Hand Religion not Allowed - Answering ‘Who are You?’:
Moving from Second-hand Religion to First-Hand Christianity
Dr. Kevin Shrum

Second-hand stuff is in vogue these days. Many students and adults alike love to shop at the Goodwill Store or a thrift store of some type, where the racks are filled with second-hand clothing and second-hand stuff. Most of us have no problem buying a used, second-hand car. Most of us live in second-hand houses that we did not build. And we’re highly interested in second-hand living. We love survivor shows where we watch someone else vicariously do what we would love to do in reality. In essence, our lives are filled with second-hand experiences.
But this cannot be true when it comes to Christianity. Second-hand experience doesn’t count when it comes to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. God doesn’t have any grandchildren, He only has children; He doesn’t want leftovers, He wants first course; God doesn’t honor spectators only participants. God desires first-hand love and devotion.
Sadly, many in the church hear of what God is doing across the world and in the lives of other believers, yet so rarely experience such power and life in their own lives. Consequently, many Christians become satisfied with left-over Christianity, second-hand spirituality and used experiences.
Acts 19:11-20 records a very interesting episode in the life of the early church that exposes how dangerous second-hand religion can be. The text reads: “God did extraordinary miracles through Paul, 12 so that even handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were taken to the sick, and their illnesses were cured and the evil spirits left them. 13 Some Jews who went around driving out evil spirits tried to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who were demon-possessed. They would say, "In the name of Jesus, whom Paul preaches, I command you to come out.' 14 Seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this. 15 [One day] the evil spirit answered them, ‘Jesus I know, and I know about Paul, but who are you?’ 16 Then the man who had the evil spirit jumped on them and overpowered them all. He gave them such a beating that they ran out of the house naked and bleeding. 17 When this became known to the Jews and Greeks living in Ephesus, they were all seized with fear, and the name of the Lord Jesus was held in high honor. 18 Many of those who believed now came and openly confessed their evil deeds. 19 A number who had practiced sorcery brought their scrolls together and burned them publicly. When they calculated the value of the scrolls, the total came to fifty thousand drachmas. 20 In this way the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power.”
The context of this text is very interesting. Paul had moved into the region of Ephesus (19:1) and had been renting the great hall of Tyrannus for two years, preaching and teaching the gospel of Jesus Christ (19:9-10). As a result, God began to move in mighty and miraculous ways (19:11-12).
· Mighty miracles“God did extraordinary miracles through Paul, so that even handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were taken to the sick, and their illnesses were cured and the evil spirits left them.” God began to move among the people who were hearing and believing the gospel. God desires to move among His people as they respond to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Often, God uses miracles to accompany preaching in order to establish the good news.

Second-hand Religion on Display
· Copy-cats“Some Jews who went around driving out evil spirits tried to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who were demon-possessed. They would say, ‘In the name of Jesus, whom Paul preaches, I command you to come out.’” Some who had been listening to Paul and observing God’s power in and through him attempted to do the same types of miracles, yet without the power of God. Notice that verse 13 states that these false prophets were saying, “In the name of Jesus, whom Paul preaches…” That is, these copy-cat preachers were attempting to do second-hand what Paul was doing first-hand. This means that there have always been wave-riders or people who want to get on the band wagon of the latest spiritual movement, yet without knowing the real power of God.
· Second-hand religion“Seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief (high) priest, were doing this. One day, the evil spirit answered them, ‘Jesus I know, and I know about Paul, but who are you?’” When these copy-cat believers attempted to do what Paul was doing, they exposed their true motivation. In fact, there is no historical record of a high priest by the name of Sceva. Some scholars suggest that Sceva had taken on the title to impress the people of the city. The demon could not say to these false leaders – Jesus I know, Paul I know and you I know. Even the demon knew the real deal. This demon knew of the power of God in the life of Jesus and Paul, but he did not recognize the power of God in these copy-cat, second-hand peddlers of the gospel. In 2 Timothy 3:7 Paul warned Timothy of false believers and preachers who were “…always learning but never able to acknowledge the truth.” In other words, there would be church-goers and preachers who are not a part of the family of God, not true believers and not part of God’s kingdom.
· Dangerous results“Then the man who had the evil spirit jumped on them and overpowered them all. He gave them such a beating that they ran out of the house naked and bleeding.” Those who attempt to live out Christianity without the power of God will be overpowered and pummeled. Living a life of second-hand religion is dangerous and will lead straight to hell.
When this happened people in the city began to compare and contrast Paul’s ministry with that of the copy-cat, second-hander preachers. As a result, something wonderful and interesting happened. When false religion is rampant danger is everywhere. But when first-hand Christianity is prevalent, then mighty and moving things take place. Acts 19:17-20 reminds us of what happened in the city: “When this became known to the Jews and Greeks living in Ephesus, they were all seized with fear, and the name of the Lord Jesus was held in high honor. 18 Many of those who believed now came and openly confessed their evil deeds. 19 A number who had practiced sorcery brought their scrolls together and burned them publicly. When they calculated the value of the scrolls, the total came to fifty thousand drachmas. 20 In this way the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power.”

What happens when first-hand, authentic Christianity is on display?
· Word spreads about what God is doing! When word got out that the false preachers had been exposed the word spread about what God was doing. The text notes that both Jews and Greeks were made aware of what had happened. This simple truth ought to remind us that the best way to grow a church and expand the ministry of the kingdom is by word of mouth. Let there be an outbreak of authentic, real Christianity and people will flock.
· Fear falls! Not only did the word spread, but fear fell on the city: “…they were all seized by fear…” The word for fear in this passage is ‘phobos’ from which we derive a multitude of phobia terms. Amazing! God’s power evoked fear. If there is not an element of fear involved in what we may term a ‘movement of God’ then it may not be of God. Second-hand religion may be dangerous, but it doesn’t strike fear in the heart of a person. However, let God show up in all of His glory among His people and a certain awe and fear will fill the hearts of the people (Isa. 6:1-8).
· Jesus is exalted! Verse 17 notes that not only did fear fall on the city, but “…the name of the Lord Jesus was held in high honor.” Maybe the single, most important sign that God is at work is when Jesus is exalted. If someone says that there is a movement of God, yet a man is exalted, or a certain kind of music is lifted up, or we set unbiblical standards as to how God can and will move – maybe in a way that we do not like or are accustomed to – then it may not be God at work. Jesus must be exalted above all else!
· Sinners come clean! When authentic Christianity is on display sinners come clean about their sin. Verse 18 states, “Many of those who believed now came and openly confessed their evil deeds.” This is amazing! The interesting thing about this phrase is that it was believers who were coming clean about the sin that had dominated their lives. This means that salvation is part of God’s plan, while the process of sanctification (being set apart unto God’s holiness) is important, as well. While being found in Christ makes us positionally righteous (Rom. 5:1-2), we are also called to be progressively righteous by living a life worthy of the gospel of Jesus Christ (Phil. 1:27).
· Costly discipleship takes place! Not only were saved sinners coming clean about the sin in their life, but costly commitments were being made. Verse 19 records this amazing scene, “A number who had practiced sorcery brought their scrolls together and burned them publicly. When they calculated the value of the scrolls, the total came to fifty thousand drachmas (pieces of silver).” I find this almost unbelievable! A drachma was worth one day’s wages. Go figure! If an individual made this kind of costly commitment it would mean – if the average worker works 247 days a year (minus the two day weekend and a two week vacation), a person would have to work 202 years to equal the amount this group of people expended as they burned the old signs and possessions of their previous life before coming to Christ!
· The Word of God flourishes! The ultimate sign that real, first-hand Christianity is at work is that God’s Word grows in its power and effect. Verse 20 notes, “In this way the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power.” When the Word of God spreads then the power of God prevails. When real Christianity is on display word spreads, fear falls sinners come clean, costly commitments are made and the Word of God grows in effect and power.
Every person must ask themselves the question, "Who am I?" If we don't ask it, someone will, some situation will expose it and some life circumstance will raise the issue. Being authentic is not enough. Being authentic in Christ is! Jesus is the most real person in existence. And the closer we move toward Him the more real we become.

I'm Back!

I'm Back!
Kevin Shrum

After a month off for vacation, travel and camps I am back with new posts, fresh ideas and a renewed sense that there is a 'stirring' taking place among God's people. See you on the blog!

Thursday, June 14, 2007

The New Southern Baptist Convention Tug of War

The New Southern Baptist Convention Tug of War
Dr. Kevin Shrum

Since 1979 the Southern Baptist Convention has been in a process of reclamation and reformation – reclaiming a conservative orthodoxy that marked its origins and reforming its agencies and seminaries in view of that reclamation. Phase one of this process focused on such issues as biblical inerrancy and sound, conservative theology.

During this process, most of the moderate agency heads and presidents who were leaders during from the late 50’s until the late 70’s were replaced by more conservative, biblically orthodox leaders. It is fair to say that as of this writing all mission and denominational agency heads and all six seminary presidents are self-avowed conservatives. Phase one, led by Page Patterson and Judge Paul Pressler, was a resounding success.

Now, a new phase of reformation is taking place within the Southern Baptist Convention. Led by younger leaders, bloggers and cutting edge innovators, phase two brings with it a focus on methodology, style, openness and innovation. This new generation of leaders, while claiming to be conservative, is highly interested in breaking up what they perceive to be the ‘good ole boy’ system that elected SBC leaders and controlled convention activities over the past twenty-five years.

Whereas the conflict of the early 80’s was theological in nature, the emerging conflict now developing is generational and institutional. The older leaders who fought to reclaim a convention that was theologically adrift do not understand the newer leaders who, while they claim to be as conservative, either do not want the institutions the older leaders ‘saved’ in lieu of new systems of denominational structure and/or want to operate those reclaimed entities under a new paradigm. The current conflict is as intense as the earlier conflicts of the 80’s.

The concern of the older generation is that the newer leaders may not comprehend what is at stake structurally and missionally. With one of the largest religious publishing houses in LifeWay, the (WMU) Women’s Missionary Union, the (ERLC) Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, six of the largest seminaries in the world, 7,500+ full-time international and national missionaries, along with 15,000+ volunteer, short-term missionaries each year sent through two mission sending agencies the Southern Baptist Convention forms one of the most effective and efficient denominational structures in the history of the world.

Does this new generation of leaders understand what’s at stake as they take on new leadership roles? If they dismantle the current structure what will take its place? And what will happen to the missionaries that depend on SBC support for their mission work?
In addition, Southern Baptists have one of the most effective and envied methods of financial support known as the Cooperative Program where local church monies are pooled and distributed, avoiding the old societal method of raising money where each organization had to raise its own funds. Will this system be jeopardized by the newer leaders?

The younger generation is convinced that the system that was useful in reclaiming the SBC is inadequate to move the convention forward into a post-modern future. They want to open up the system, allowing more flexibility and theological nuance than did previous leaders, while maintaining the best of the past. Some suggest that the new leaders are no different than previous leaders – one fundamentalist era for another.

Most, however, see this for what it is – the passing of the baton from one generation of leaders to the next, along with the struggles and conflicts that process produces. It’s too early to tell if the new leaders are as orthodox as those of the previous generations. Needless to say, the SBC will look different in the coming generations. Only God knows if we will reclaim our heritage in evangelism and missions, having already reclaimed our theological heritage.

Monday, June 11, 2007

An Emerging Hunger for the Word

An Emerging Hunger for the Word
Kevin Shrum

(I have been out of town - I'm glad to return to posting!)

Talk these days of an ‘emergent’ or ‘emerging’ church dominates the ecclesiastical landscape. Much of this ‘talk’ has to do with style, post-modern processes and cultural engagement. The desire to be conversationally engaging and culturally relevant with post-moderns has led to a quasi-reformation in the church. The new and the innovative are the mantras of the day.

Yet I believe that the ‘emergent’ or ‘emerging’ talk is misguided. True, many of the criticisms of the church are on the mark. The church has become stuck, unwieldy and culturally disengaged. However, I believe what is emerging is something very old – a desire for the eternal that is rooted in a biblical orthodoxy that confronts sin, redeems the bound and reconciles the divided.

This means that biblical theology doesn’t need to be re-created; Scripture simply needs to be taught, unleashing it on the world in the power of the Spirit. In other words, I am seeing a desire to cut through the ecclesiastical red-tape in order to get to God and the truth of His Word. Ministries that meet this need, whether they be traditional, contemporary or innovative in structure will meet the need of a generation that is tired of the fluff and wants to get to God straight away! This is what is emerging!

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Missionally Minded

Missionally Minded - Seeing What God Sees
Kevin Shrum

Question! Are you a mission-minded person? Or, are you a missional person? What’s the difference? New terminology is making its way through church life these days. Churches are being challenged to ask themselves – are we mission-minded? Or, are we missional? Again, what’s the difference?
· Being mission-minded is defined as praying about missions and for missionaries; it is defined as supporting missions with our financial resources; and, it is defined as occasionally participating in a short-term mission trip.
· Being missionally-minded is defined as viewing all of life as being on mission. Southern Baptists used to call it ‘lifestyle evangelism,’ but the term missional has replaced that previous term. Being missional means that my entire life, all my relationships, my work, my play and my entire focus is being on mission for the Lord. It means that I see in every day living opportunities to love God, love people and serve others.
· We must be both – mission-minded and missional. The mission causes of the kingdom need our prayers, our financial support and our occasional participation. But even further, God needs our entire life to be one of mission.
· No matter what you call it, every member is a minister!
(1 Peter 3:15-16) “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.”
I know what you’re thinking. Missions? How boring! How old-fashioned! How wasteful of a worthy life! Let me respond by saying that as a believer you will have no greater joy than to be an active part of God’s kingdom mission. All other occupations pale in comparison to the thrill that is gained by seeing God use your life to reach another life with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Matthew 9:35-38 records a poignant description of the ministry of Jesus Himself. In it is a description not only of Jesus’ ministry, but the qualities of a god-honoring, Christ-exalting, Word-saturated life lived for the glory of God. If you want to live your life as a missional person here are a few of the things that must characterize your life just as they did the life of Jesus!

(Matthew 9:35-38) “Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, 'The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.'”

Go! “Jesus went through all the towns and villages…”
There’s no other way to be on mission than to go get them. They will not automatically come. In fact, the chances of the lost coming to us because we have a building on a prominent street corner is remote. Those days are gone. We must go get them. Recall Jesus’ parable of Luke 14:12-24 sometimes referred to as the parable of the ‘great Invitation’ or the ‘great banquet?’ Those first invited found excuses, Jesus said in Luke 14:21, 23, “Go quickly to the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame…” and “Go out to the roads and country lanes and make them come in, so that my house will be full.”

Teach “…teaching in their synagogues…”
A missional person is always teaching. To teach means to communicate the truth of God’s Word in a way that can be understood so that the sinner can hear and respond. We do not teach ourselves as the authority, but God’s Word as the life-giving truth of God (1 Cor. 2:1-5).

Preach “…preaching the good news of the kingdom…”
In addition, a missional person proclaims the good news of the kingdom. And what is the good news of the kingdom? It’s 2 Corinthians 5:19, “…that God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them.” The good news is 2 Corinthians 5:21, “God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God!”

Care “…healing every disease and sickness.”
Jesus cared not only for their souls, but for their well-being. This is why He was always touching, healing, ministering to people. We may not have the gift of healing, but we can care about those God has put into our sphere of influence.

Look “He saw the crowds...harassed, helpless…”
Jesus had vision. When He looked at people He saw their sin and their soul; He saw not only what was, He saw what could be! When He saw the people of His day He envisioned them as “harassed, helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” Rather than disgust at their sin, Jesus saw them as they were – without hope, direction, as sinners in need of a Savior.

Love “…He had compassion on them.”
As a result, Jesus had compassion on the people He saw. The term for ‘compassion’ here is not the usual term for love or sympathy such as ‘agape.’ Rather, Luke uses a visceral term – ‘splagchizomai’ – and it literally refers to a gut-level feeling. Jesus’ was emotionally moved to the point that it moved Him to the very core of His physical being. There is a visceral response to people that is repulsive and that drives us away from people. Instead, Jesus had a visceral, gut-level response to people that moved Him toward people. Do you love this way? Does the sin of the sinner repulse you so that you are driven away from them; or does the sin of sinners draw you to them in redemptive love? The mission-minded, missional person loves like Jesus loved.

Believe “The harvest is plentiful…”
As Jesus walked through the cities of His day He turned to His disciples and said the most interesting thing, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.” I believe this is a statement of belief articulated by Jesus. There are three implications in Jesus’ statement for what we must believe as God’s missionaries:
1. We must believe that ‘they’re ready!’ That is, sinners are ready to be saved. Too often, we doubt their readiness. Jesus said they’re ready now! All they need is someone to share the good news with them and let God take care of the results.
2. We must believe that God will save them. The implication of the phrase “The harvest is ready…” is that if we go, and they’re ready, God will save some.
3. We must believe that it’s up to us! The missionary can’t save a sinner. But God has ordained that He would use His people to declare the good news so that sinners will hear the gospel, the Spirit will awaken the dead heart of sin and draw them to Himself, enabling them to believe. God uses us as a means in His redemptive plan. This is why He laments the scarcity of workers – “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.”

Pray “the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest…to send”
Pray is the mechanism God uses to draw people out of their comfort zones and into the mission fields. Pray is attuning ourselves to the will of God; it is aligning ourselves with God’s purposes. We are to pray for others to attune their heart to the great missionary God we serve.

Go! “…to send out workers into His harvest field.”
Again, we must go. Going is not optional, it is optimum. Matthew 28:19 begins the Great Commission passage, “Therefore go…” And Acts 1:8 puts our commission this way, “…you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” He sends, we go and that’s the way it works. The word for “send out” is rather interesting – it is ‘ekballo’ and comes from two words, ‘ek’ which means ‘out’ and ‘ballo’ which means ‘to throw.’ It is a rather violent term.

Jesus is serious about missions. He is literally asking us to pray that God will throw out, thrust out, pitch out, kick out workers into the mission field. So, if you sense a kicking, convicting sensation in your head and your heart right now it is God responding to the prayers of a faithful servant of God as He kicks you out of your comfort zone and into the lives of those who need a Savior. This is the way God sees missions!