Posts Tagged With: missions

How to Share the Gospel with Muslims

J.T. Smith at The Gospel Coalition gives a great article on How to Share the Gospel with Muslims.  His points are as follows as “words of counsel to all who seek to make Christ supreme among Muslims”:

  1. Ground yourself in the fact that God is sovereign in salvation. “We believe that a Muslim coming to faith is not intrinsically connected to our form of contextualization, but rests solely on God’s divine intervention (Dan. 4:35; Ps. 115:3; John 6:64-65) and our humble obedience to proclaim the gospel (Acts 1:8; Matt. 9:38, 28:19-20). God is not concerned with glorifying a method; he is concerned with glorifying his Son.”
  2. Be diligent in working to understand the local culture and determine the best way to present the gospel.
    1. Know Islam. We need to ask ourselves, What are Muslims longing for? What keeps Muslims from attaining this? Don’t be afraid to read the Qur’an or other religious sources. These things will give you great insight into Muslims hearts and minds.
    2. Use their language. When I say “language” I’m referring to two things. First, speak their actual language. If you want to see a church planted among Arabic-speaking Muslims, learn Arabic. If you’re working among Pakistanis, learn Urdu. If among Bengalis, learn Bengali. Second, speak the language (figuratively) that communicates to them. My wife and I lived and worked among Arabic speakers. We learned early on that we could not get people to listen by presenting a beautiful apologetic syllogism proving Jesus is God. We had to use stories, parables, and passages from their religious books.
  3. Center your gospel presentation on Jesus and the Bible.  “I am not against the proper use of the Qur’an in evangelism. I am concerned with how much we use it. We should not give it center place in our gospel presentation. Jesus is the only way to the Father. Muslims must believe Jesus is their savior, and this belief can only come from the Scriptures. The story of redemption cannot be told from the Qur’an.”
  4. Don’t force your ideas on them. “The gospel will take on a form of the culture that it is speaking to; if it doesn’t, it will not be understood. But the gospel will also speak with a prophetic voice within the culture that calls for transformation. It goes in and calls out. Our goal is to preach the gospel of Christ from the Scriptures and let the Spirit transform lives and communities.”

You can read the rest of this in full here

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David Platt on How Divine Sovereignty Fuels Death-Defying Missions (T4G 2012)

Together for the Gospel 2012 took place in Louisville, Kentucky this past week.  I attended the inaugural one in 2006—I cannot adequately express what a blessing that one to have 3,000 men singing solid theology at the top of their lungs, followed by the challenge of the gospel being clear in everything we do, especially our sermons.  Who knows?  In some subconscious way, the name of this blog may trace back to those days. 

This past week, 7,500 attended!  Young, old, in-between.  While the usual cast brought it, some others were added to the mix.  You can go to the Together for the Gospel website for all the audio and video from the conference.

Below, David Platt (whom you may know as the author of the books Radical and Radical Together as well as being a pastor in Birmingham, Alabama), brought a powerful message on missions entitled “The Divine Sovereignty of God Fuels Death-Defying Missions.” 

Two premises:  local missions and ministry are totally necessary; and global missions are tragically neglected.

May the charge he gives to pastors be taken to heart.

May the charge he gives to local churches be taken to heart.

And action!

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Helpful Understanding of What Makes Southern Baptists, Southern Baptists

Southern Baptists.  Depending on your vantage point, this denominational designation can bring about some strong feelings. Our history began with a commitment to missions and a commitment to the clear teachings of Scripture (a good thing)—but it also began as a split from Northern Baptists in 1845 because Southern Baptists did not see a problem with slaveowners being missionaries (a very bad thing, in my opinion).

Sometimes Southern Baptists are known more for what we are against than what we are for.  In this post, I want to focus exclusively on what we are for.  By virtue of explaining what we are for, we will also by implication state what we are not for.  Even so, given the wide umbrella that is the Southern Baptist Convention, I aim to use the acronym ‘Baptist’ to help clarify who we are and what we by and large believe.

Below is an excerpt that we send to our new members at Arapahoe Road Baptist Church

Biblical Authority: We hold to the Holy Bible (also known as the Scriptures or the Word of God) for everything we do in faith and practice. In 2 Timothy 3:16-17, the Apostle Paul writes, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” God breathes out every word of Scripture so that we may grow to full maturity and be given all we need for all He desires of us.

Autonomy of the Church. What this means is that this church, though one Southern Baptist church of many, is a group of baptized believers who have made a commitment to each other around the Scriptures. We operate as God directs our specific church, directing each person who has joined this church. Only Christ through the Scriptures and none other directs what we do. To read up further on this, go to Matthew 16:15-19; Acts 2:42-47; Acts 6:3-6; Acts 13:1-3.)

Priesthood of the Believer. This means that each believer in Christ can go directly to God the Father through Jesus Christ on His own. While we are certainly accountable under the leadership of the church to whom we belong (Hebrews 13:7-19), we may go to God in adoration, confession of sin, thanksgiving, and making requests to Him without anyone else’s permission.

Two Ordinances: An ordinance is an act that was ordained and practiced by Jesus himself during His earthly ministry. Those two ordinances are baptism and the Lord’s Supper. The Lord’s Supper serves as a divine object lesson to help us remember the sacrifice Jesus made for our sins: the breaking of His body (the bread) and the shedding of His blood (the cup) for the forgiveness of our sins. Baptism comes from the word meaning ‘to immerse.’ Only those who have said they would surrender their all to Jesus were baptized. It is not the last step of salvation, but the first step of obedience—testifying to the believer’s faith in Jesus Christ.

International, North American, and Local Missions. ARBC is like all Southern Baptists in that we long to reach Centennial and Colorado and the corners of the earth. Southern Baptists have over 5,000 full-time missionaries worldwide and numerous other missionaries here in North America working to bring those who are far from God near to Christ. ARBC has been involved in missions to Alaska, Canada, Hungary—along with other missions fronts coming up. Missions work is a defining distinction among Southern Baptists.

Salvation by grace alone to faith alone to the glory of God alone. We are not saved by what we do to gain points with God—we are saved by surrendering and trusting in what Christ has already done through his work on the cross for our sins. Faith plus works does not save (Ephesians 2:8-9), but we see that as Christians our faith will work itself in our lives. We live out whom we love (Ephesians 2:10).

Two Offices. Scripture speaks of two ministry offices in the church: pastor (also called elder, bishop, or overseer in Scripture) and deacon. Their leadership only comes in service to the church in ministering to the physical and spiritual needs therein, but comes ultimately from God.

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Christ’s Last Command Is Our First Priority

Some of you (should you wish to admit) watched the royal wedding this past Friday. I confess, I did watch some of it in the morning, then my wife, my girls and I watched the follow-up (since the girls didn’t have a chance to see any of it live). In our democracy where our leaders are elected by the majority of the population, England’s system of government seems like a bit of fairy tale and a bit of antiquity. The separation of royalty and commoner is understood and accepted. And with all this, two billion people around the world tuned in. Why?

All of us, to one degree or another, are intrigued by the crowning of a king or a would-be king. Some say that Duke William (28) has been photographed more times in his life than anyone else because this man will one day, should he live any amount of time, be king. With Queen Elizabeth being 85 years old and her mother living until she was 101, she may well outlive Prince Charles (62). William could be the next king! And this enchants so very many.

Yet, for the Christian, there is a king who is reigning and will reign physically on earth at some point in the future—and this intrigues and enchants us. As we begin the book of Acts, we see that a new phase of the Kingdom of God. Jesus came to preach early in his earthly ministry that they should “repent, for the Kingdom of God has come” (Mark 1:15). Progressively, God’s rule is being established more and more, and with Christ’s coming, God’s fullness of his Kingdom has come with the King of kings and Lord of lords (Revelation 19:4).

P.G. Mathew once preached,

The greatest need of the modern world is to have the gospel proclaimed in the power and demonstration of the Holy Spirit. In fact, the final command the Lord Jesus Christ gave to his disciples before he ascended into heaven was that they should declare the kingdom of God to all nations. Yet today’s Christians are almost silent in terms of declaring God’s praises. Oh, they may vigorously praise God within the walls of a church, but most refrain from proclaiming the gospel to the world outside of the church.[1]

The book of Acts put into motion that “greatest need” in having “the gospel proclaimed in the power and demonstration of the Holy Spirit. Luke wrote two books found in the New Testament: one bears his name (the Gospel of Luke) and the other is the book of Acts. As a historian and physician, Luke gave some great detail as to the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus in Luke; and here he gets into the first generation of the early church.

Consider too how much of Luke’s writings take up: ¼ of the NT. At the end of Luke, Jesus gave the marching orders: “You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24:48-49).

Luke notes that this is “all that Jesus began to do and teach.” In other words, what Jesus did in Luke during his earthly ministry was just the beginning. Now he would leave them but continue to work in them through the Spirit! Jesus spent 40 days with his disciples. While they may have thought this was the end, it was really just the beginning. A Christ-centered church is one with confident, Spirit-filled, Spirit-led disciples serving as ambassadors of King Jesus.

1. A Christ-centered church is filled with confident followers of Christ.

Christians are of all people on the planet the most confident. By confidence, I do not mean arrogant. Arrogance is egotistical, proud, big-headed. Confidence is one who is sure, certain, and convinced about their position. How did this happen?

In Acts 1:1-5, we see that Jesus presented Himself to His disciples. They were to be confident in the fact that Christ chose them. He commissioned the apostles, giving them marching orders. They were his cabinet. He filled them in on two particular items.

First, he gave them proofs about his resurrection. At the end of Luke, we read how they saw him along with the wounds of his hands and feet. They touched his wounds. And they heard him. This was a completely sensory experience. Stott expands on this, “Such an objective experience of the risen Lord was an indispensable qualification of an apostle, which explains why Paul could be one and James and why there have been no comparable apostles since and can be none today.”[2]

Yet as far as the rest, what was the result. Some believed. Some “still disbelieved for joy and were marveling” (Luke 24:41). Some outright doubted (Matthew 28:16). But the fact is, Jesus gave them proofs. The evidence is there. And they needed to be there with him, so they could that confidence that their Lord really lives so they could take that elsewhere.

As an aside, I believe it also gives evidence to the brutality of the cross. They knew about crucifixions, but they also knew about death: no one defeats death, especially a crucifixion. The carnage that the crucifixion of Jesus was to such a degree that, as Isaiah prophesied, he was unrecognizable (Isaiah 52:14). They needed this time with Jesus so the Spirit could have their minds renewed to the fact that He is alive. He really did defeat death. And thus, he defeated sin.

Secondly, he spoke about the Kingdom of God. What does this mean? Go back to Luke 24:24-27, 44: He shared with the disciples on Emmaus Road and the other disciples later “everything written about” him in the Moses, Prophets, and Psalms. Not only was Jesus telling them about what they were to do, He spent a great deal telling them about who He was.

Over the last 100+ years, we have been bathed in this notion that we should focus on what we should do. Charles Sheldon wrote a book entitled “In His Steps” and that book was where we first saw the question, “What would Jesus do?” We hear church trumpet that they are not about doctrine (too divisive) but about service. Being clear and precise about doctrine is scoffed upon. So we find ourselves looking through the Scriptures to find a nugget about what we should do, that we do not want to dig into doctrinal issues about the nature and work that’s already been accomplished through Christ.

We know what Jesus spoke on the Emmaus Road and to the disciples—it’s fleshed out in the rest of the NT in beautiful ways, showing the continuity of the OT with the NT. The KOG is unlocked and girded by the gospel of Jesus Christ. They were to be ‘witnesses,’ ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20). They were not there to draft a new constitution, to run His people their own way. They were ambassadors, sent to one country as representatives of another.

2. A Christ-centered church is a Spirit-empowered people.

In Acts 1:4-5, Luke writes,

And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which he said, “you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now” (Acts 1:4-5).

In the OT, God the Father made a promise that he would keep in the NT: sending the Holy Spirit. Here, Luke goes back to what John the Baptist preached: “He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire” (Luke 3:16)—that is, for Christians there would be empowerment, and with that Spirit comes the fire of judgment when the Word that the Spirit inspired comes forth.

Yet, God promised in Joel 2:28-32

And it shall come to pass afterward,

That I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh,

Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,

Your old men shall dream dreams,

And your young men shall see visions.

Even on the male and female servants

In those days I will pour out my Spirit.

And I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and columns of smoke. The sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood, before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes. And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved. For in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be those who escape, as the LORD has said, and among the survivors shall be those whom the LORD calls.

This has been so often attributed to the very end times, but this place during Jesus’ crucifixion. And with “great and awesome day of the Lord” which is the resurrection, the Spirit is poured out once Jesus’ earthly ministry is finished.

In Ezekiel 36:25-27, we read:

25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. 26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.

God even sent the Spirit at times in the OT, very evident in the book of Judges. The judges were the leaders of God’s people who were empowered by the Spirit for the purpose of conquest, judgment, and deliverance/rescue.

This foreshadows the Spirit’s work now. It would not simply be selective to a few leaders or a few people, but would pour out on all disciples, Jew and Gentile (Isaiah 32:15).

3. Christ-centered Christ has Spirit-led people.

[6] So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” [7] He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. [8] But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:6-8).

Jesus not only broke through their perceptions about the effects of the crucifixion and death itself, but he also broke through their mindsets regarding the nature of His kingdom. This would not be a political kingdom based in this world, per se. This restoration of the Kingdom to Israel would not be accomplished by pushing out Roman rule. The Kingdom has a wider reach than that. In fact, the borders of Israel (the people of God in Abraham) would be extended to include both Jew and Gentile.

They will receive a new Kingdom, but do so through not through a political kingdom but a spiritual one. It would not come through nationalism (racial descendants of Israel) but through an expansion of the witness to where the True Israel would be the church, not simply racial descendants of Abraham. After all, Paul said in Galatians 6:16:

[14] But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. [15] For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. [16] And as for all who walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God (Galatians 6:14-16 ESV).

What is the ‘Israel of God’? Paul uses this term to describe the church, not simply a national entity. This is a spiritual entity brought about through Father Abraham who would make a great nation—not a nation based on race, but a nation based on grace through faith. The true Israel are all those who have received the coming Messiah, who have been grafted into that beautiful olive shoot to feast on the marrow of God’s grace (read Romans 11:11-24).

Plus, they thought this would be an immediate overthrow and instituting of a new order. Not so in that manner. Christ has claimed the victory over sin and death (1 Corinthians 15:56-57) and has already proclaimed that victory to this world and even in the nether regions of the world (1 Peter 3:18-21). But during this interim between the resurrection/ascension and His return, Zion is marching forth as we His body, His temple of the Holy of Holies (the Holy Spirit) presses on.

God has made it clear that those who follow the apostles teaching (Acts 2:42), that is, followers of Christ are sent as ambassadors to testify as witnesses in a foreign country that Christ has won the victory over sin, atoning for sin and providing freedom through repentance and forgiveness. These ambassadors (us) are not around to draw up a new way of doing things—they are delivering the message entrusted to them by one who commissioned them.

One pastor from California shared his experience about visiting an embassy in a war-torn country. As he walked about this embassy, he noticed that this American embassy looked very … American. And there is a reason for that: that embassy by international law is considered American territory. This is why when in 1980 when those 52 hostages were taken by the Iranians from that embassy, the travesty was that they in essence invaded American soil, though they were surrounded by a foreign country with different ideals.

In essence, this church of Jesus Christ is, as one author put it, an embassy of grace. Although the church is surrounded by a foreign people with different ideals, we do not belong here nor do we operate by the way the world works. This is an embassy of grace established by Christ Himself, and we are His ambassadors to this war-torn world that is moaning and groaning for reconciliation to the way it was created (Romans 8:18-25).

In closing, dear friends, do you understand that if you are a follower of Christ then you are an ambassador of the Lord Jesus? As Christians, Acts 2:42 shows what the church should be and do: “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and the prayers.” Are we devoted to the laws, commands, promises, and precepts outlined in Scripture and fulfilled by the One who purchased us with His precious blood? Are we making disciples who find their identity in the One sent to save them from their sin and, ultimately, will follow the Word of Christ?

If you have not trusted in Christ this morning, please know what the King of kings is up to—arming and equipping witnesses for conquest! As we go through Acts, you will notice that the majority of ‘sermons’ in here are making announcements about what Christ has already done. You cannot live by WWJD? You need to ponder, What has Jesus already done? And why did He need to do it? They preached the Word that is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword. The Word cuts and kills. The Word brings life. What is the Word doing this morning?

[1]P. G. Mathew, The Mandate from the Master. Accessed 26 April 2011; available at [on-line]; Internet.

[2]John Stott, Acts, The Bible Speaks Today (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1990), 35.

Categories: Acts 1:8, missions, sermons | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

What Fuels the Great Commission

What a beautiful, Great Commission month April was at Boone’s Creek Baptist Church! Our team arrived back from Trinidad as we spread God’s glory to the nations—and four came to know Jesus Christ and countless others had the seeds of the gospel planted in their hearts, both young and old.

The Hazard missions team helped with the Easter Egg Hunt that saw 300+ children come through—and were a key part of 103 coming to the first preview service at Summit Community Church on Sunday, April 17thand five came to know Jesus there. Mark called, excited that they just scheduled that church’s very first baptism.

Our Eggs-traordinary Easter Egg Hunt was a tremendous success. Even with the horrendous rain, over 40 children (and lots of adults) had a great time with the inside Easter Egg Hunt. We had tons of children visitors, three of whom did not have a church home! This is why we had this hunt—to reach children (and their families) for Jesus.

Are you seeing a pattern here? Our vision of reaching our neighbors and the nations is coming into clear view. This was not a vision that I or others at our church concocted—Christ gave it to us. We are simply ambassadors, not out to write out a new way of doing things, but simply conveying the marching orders of the one who sent us.

What Fuels the Great Commission

As David Sills said at our Neighbors to the Nations Sunday back in September, “Jesus’ last command is of first importance.” The word ‘gospel’ comes from the Greek word euangelion (you can see the word ‘evangel’ in there) which in a military term. It’s the sending of good news from the commander to the battlefield telling of how the war was over, declaring victory over the opponent. This gives us confidence in sharing the good news with family, friends, co-workers, neighbors, and the nations—it’s a message of victory, given by the authority of Christ Himself.

When thinking about the Great Commission, we often start at Matthew 28:19: “Go, and make disciples . . . .” Yet, the Great Commission begins in the previous verse, where Jesus says, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (28:18). Christ births, institutes, plants, and sends His church to minister as a missions hub, a launching point to tell the Good News of the victory He’s won! No wonder all authority was given by the Father to His Son. Only He conquered that which was unconquerable—sin and death—and only He provided atonement for that sin.

When Jesus tells to, as we go, to make disciples, this is not simply garnering decisions. We must resist feeling satisfied in folks ‘walking the aisle’ or filling (or as the case may be, staying) in our pews and recognize the joy and beauty as followers of Christ in coming alongside new believers and making disciples—those who sit at the feet of Jesus and His Word and learn about who God is, what He has done, and what He aims to do through us! There’s a joy in connecting with others, growing in Him, and serving Him! How do we make disciples?

We help others find their identity in Christ. “… baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit.” To be baptized means to be immersed. Christ did not die on the cross for Him to be just an add-on to our house. Jesus takes up our old foundation and lays a new one through the apostles and prophets (Ephesians 2:19-22)—that is, the Word of God! He is the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last (Isaiah 44:6-8; Revelation 1:17), and thus He must be our First and Last. And given all He accomplished for us, why wouldn’t we want Him to be?

We help others follow the Word of Christ. “… teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you.” Remember, Christ said this. We teach them to observe everything. Oftentimes, we are tempted to pick and choose that which we teach, either due to the fear of man, or due to the fact that that passage just seems so hard. After all, some say, how can we reach people with such hard teachings? We know the commands about adding to or taking away from God’s Word. We are commanded to teach everything Christ commanded us. The Word of God is that lamp to our feet, and we are to hide its words in our heart so we may not sin against God (Psalm 119:11, 105). All we are doing is conveying orders as ambassadors from our Commander. We don’t determine which ones to convey and which ones we don’t. The world needs to hear the “whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:24) and we are to preach it “in season and out of season” (2 Timothy 4:2).

We help others to know that our Commander is with us on the field. “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). How? Jesus promised to send the Spirit to help us, come alongside us, convict us, empower us to witness—so we would not be orphans in this world (read John 14-16 about the Spirit’s ministry). We are not left on our own to do business on our own, living for Jesus by our own power, drawing on the world’s ways to do to God’s work! He is with us!

Starting this month, we will continue on with Luke’s second volume, known to us as the book of Acts. Your Bibles may entitled this book “The Acts of the Apostles,” but they are really the Acts of the Holy Spirit. All through this book, you will see a people who lived beyond their means, who never knew what was coming, Through the Spirit, they lived beyond their means, and never knew what was coming next, but were doggedly clinging to God’s Word, regardless of what men had to say. All they had to rely on was Jesus and His body, the Church! They stayed obedient to what was clear—and God took care of that which wasn’t. I can’t wait for this journey!

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Ten Commandments for Short-Term Missions Trips

With our church heading on a short-term missions trip to Trinidad in April, plus two day missions trips to Hazard in February and April, I came across Trevin Wax’s post on the “Ten Commandments for Short-Term Missions Trips.”  So helpful!

  1. Thou shalt always remember that the primary function of a short-term team is to learn, and not to help.
  2. Thou shalt always defer to the long-term missionaries, even when thou dost not agree with them.
  3. Thou shalt surely leave all they agendas at home before thou arrivest on the mission field.
  4. Thou shalt be prepared to spend large amounts of time doing nothing, for thus verily is the way of the mission field.
  5. Thou shalt be careful to obey in all details, the security rules and advice of the project which thou visitest.
  6. Thou shalt be both attentive and accurate in the communication with the mission base before they visit.
  7. Thou shalt be careful to pay for all the expenses of thy visit.
  8. Thou shalt take great care in thy giving and spending, lest thou appearest to be filthy rich.
  9. Thou shalt be careful to respect the doctrinal and theological views of the project which thou visitest.
  10. Thou shalt surely keep thy word in regards to follow-up activities.

(from Paul Cull, leader of Projeto Casa Esperanza in Brazil)

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Reflections on our Neighbors to the Nations Sunday 2010

What an incredible day we had yesterday at our Neighbors to the Nations Sunday 2010!  I can’t wait for NTTN 2011!!  I would like to quickly reflect on each of the talks.

Rev. Jeremy Haskins, Associate Pastor, Ashland Avenue Baptist Church, Lexington, KY (mp3)

Jeremy spoke during our regular Sunday School hour and really helped our folks crystallize how adoption is the gospel—how God rescues us as orphans to a position where we have all the rights and privileges as sons.  He spoke of his own experience in adopting two children from Ethiopia.  You will find yourself inspired and rejoicing in God’s great act of adopting love.  He preached from Ephesians 3:1-14.  Unfortunately, only a portion of his sermon was recorded—but there is enough in these 16 minutes to give you a great flavor of the entire 30 minute sermon.


Dr. David Sills, Professor, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, KY (mp3)

Dr. Sills drew from his experiences as pastor, missionary in Ecuador, and seminary professor to sound the alarm for how we as Christians may be missing the point of the Great Commission.  He cautions us that we must avoid ‘fly-by evangelism’ that merely shares the gospel, gives out a Bible, puts a cross on a building and calls it a church.  Yet, few see the need to stick around and disciple.  As a result, much false doctrine is tolerated out of ignorance of the Scriptures and a lack of knowledge in how to study the Bible. 

You can read more about Dr. Sills’ thoughts on this in his book Reaching and Teaching


Rev. Kevin Whitt, Harvest Community Church, Eminence, KY (mp3 coming up soon)

Kevin shared how he planted a church in Henry County, Kentucky.  The church grew from 10 to 120 within three years.  Yet he confessed that he was simply gathering a crowd, not growing a healthy, biblical church. Even though he was asked to speak all over the state of Kentucky, he felt something was missing. So after reading his Bible, he switched to expository preaching and to ruling elders.  He then spoke of how he ‘grew’ the church from 120 to 40.  He cast his lot with building a church around the offense of the gospel and making much of Jesus and His Word.  Preaching from Acts 18, he showed how churches should evangelize, empower and equip for the glory of God.


We already have two of the three speakers scheduled for Neighbors to the Nations Sunday 2011:  Dr. J.D. Payne from Southern Seminary and soon-to-be Dr. Mark Combs from Salem Baptist Church, Salem, KY.  This will be held on Sunday, September 11, 2011 (Lord willing). 

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Kevin Ezell Nominated for President of the NAMB

image As a Southern Baptist and a short-time member of Highview Baptist Church in Louisville, KY, I am thrilled to hear about Dr. Kevin Ezell’s nomination for president of the North American Mission Board.  This nomination will be brought before the trustees on Tuesday, September 14. 

Ed Stetzer gives a significant accounting of his work in a wonderful article, complete with a short interview with Ezell

In his time there, Highview has grown to have six campuses in two states and three counties. It is also exciting to see their commitment to missions, from the city of Louisville to around the world. Of special interest, given his nomination to NAMB, is their commitment to church planting. They partner with church planters across the nation, and have recently been close partners with six church plants stretching from Atlanta to New York City to Boise, Idaho. The church takes several National Church Planting Trips every year so that their members can support and assist church planters around the country.

I played piano at Highview for five months in-between pastoral ministry positions in the first half of 2002.  I grew to respect Ezell greatly with his then-innovative model of “one church, two locations.”  His vision for church planting, all the while keeping a stability of leadership over those churches while keeping the balance of allowing them to minister in their respective contexts—it was a sight to behold.  He took over a troublesome situation in 1996 and fourteen years later the church is flourishing and transforming a city for the name of Christ. 

May we continue to pray for the NAMB as well as Dr. Ezell.  I believe that this is a great time for Southern Baptists and God’s great name will be exalted through this.

What think ye?

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Links to Help Your Grip (3.29.10)

  • John Piper’s upcoming leave is a humble lesson for us all.
  • Russell Moore’s article warns the church about losing its blood:  “The eclipse of blood in American Christianity has quite a bit to do, I suspect, with American prosperity.”
  • Check out our new Neighbors to the Nations blog, set up for our Neighbors to the Nations Sunday on Sunday, September 12, 2010 at Boone’s Creek Baptist Church, Lexington, KY.
  • Crossway has released a free chapter on Worship from Driscoll’s "Doctrine"
  • My afternoon at the IMB International Learning Center
  • Hershael York, professor at Southern Seminary and pastor of Buck Run Baptist Church in Frankfort, Kentucky tells us when eschatology matters most (hint: its not in a classroom or backroom debate). 
  • My friend, Mark Combs who is pastor of Salem Baptist Church in Salem, Kentucky, wrote an insightful article on the recent health care legislation passed in Washington, D.C., last week.   
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Exchanging the Robes of Glory for Robes of Flesh (Philippians 2:5-11)


Having the Mind of Christ at Christmas

Philippians 1:27-2:11

In a recent interview with R.C. Sproul, Mark Driscoll asked the brilliant theologian what he believed would be the biggest theological battle to face in the upcoming years. After some thought, Sproul believed, “I think the biggest theological issue of our day … is Christology—our understanding of the person and work of Christ. Now, I could have come at it another way and said ‘the gospel,’ but at the heart of the gospel is the person and work of Christ—who He is and what He’s done.”[1] He went on to say that for much of church history, the person and work of Christ has been under attack—but now it’s under attack within Evangelicalism. As the person and work of Christ goes, so goes Christianity.

What is interesting is that many in our culture love Jesus. Dan Kimball recently wrote a book called They Love Jesus But Hate the Church,[2] we see that many love Jesus, but it’s the Jesus of pop culture, not the Bible. Another once wrote, “God made us in his image, and today we are returning the favor.” The same could be said about Jesus.

Some try to lessen the work of Christ by separating him from the Scriptures (“I love Jesus, but not the Bible”) or from His church (as Dan Kimball wrote in a book titled, “They Love Jesus, But Hate the Church”). Others look to cast Jesus in whatever light of their own personal preference. Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin, reflecting their own views, saw Jesus as a great moral philosopher but nothing else. As early America moved West, he was seen as a great frontiersman. In the late 19th century with the advent of the Industrial Revolution when the men went off to the factories to work, Jesus was portrayed with children and sheep in an almost feminine light—reflected much by the fact that women became the primary teachers of religious instruction. In the 1960’s, he was portrayed as a revolutionary and a radical against the establishment.

Today, we had a WWJD campaign, but we see the environmentalists having their own WWJD campaign (“What would Jesus drive?)[3]. Other Bible publishers portrayed Jesus as a sympathizer of America in a recently release version called the American Patriot’s Bible.[4] The point is, there is no end to how we as Americans look at Jesus. Look at how Stephen Prothero begins his book American Jesus:

Every Christmas, in towns and cities across the United States, Jesus is reborn in Nativity scenes erected on public property. Almost as regularly, civil libertarians challenge the constitutionality of these public displays of religion, forcing the courts to consider yet again how to interpret the First Amendment. Underlying this question of constitutional jurisprudence is the equally vexing matter of the religious character of the nation: is the United States a religious country or a secular state? Is it Christian? Judeo-Christian? Or, as President George W. Bush has suggested an Abrahamic nation under on Judeo-Christian-Islamic God?”[5]

What we need to make more sure of is not whether America is a Christian nation or not, but whether we as her people are Christian or not!

So let us look at some of the Scripture’s high Christological passages, this one regarding the mind of Christ at Christmas to recapture what God’s Word says about His Son!

5Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

1. He created His people.

6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

In this, Christ put off the robes of glory. In John 12:37-42, we see that Jesus was the king of glory seen in Isaiah 6. Jesus was truly ‘high and lifted up’! We see from John that “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” Jesus was eternal (“in the beginning”—see Genesis 1:1), he had a distinct personality (he was with God), but he also was deity (“the Word was God”).

And yet he came! He was (huparcho) in the form (morphe) of God. From all eternity, this was the case and would always be the case.[6] He is so glorious that we see from Colossians 1:17 that all things were created by Him and for Him and in Him all things hold together (see also John 1:3).

You see, when we celebrate Jesus coming to earth and when we celebrate Good Friday and Easter (Resurrection Sunday, rather), we have to really understand where he came from! He’s our Creator! And we will see next week how he is the head of the church—His body!

2. He came to His people.

So seeing that He is Holy God, creator of all things—how mysterious and wonderful it is to see him who was equal with God make himself “nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men” (Phil 2:7). We sing about this in our hymnals during the Christmas season:

Veiled in flesh, the Godhead see

Hail th’incarnate Deity

Pleased as Man with men to dwell

Jesus, our Immanuel.

One of the great questions unbelievers ask is, “How could Jesus become fully a man, but still be God?” It’s a valid question! We know that God is eternal, holy, without limit, all-powerful, all-knowing, immutable, and sovereign over all things. A cursory look at Jesus’ life, we see that he was born of a virgin, and he died on a cross. Is God born? Does God die? We also see that Jesus was hungry, thirsty, grew weary, was afraid—even at one point said that he did not know when He would return! No wonder so many struggle with this.

The term “made himself nothing” comes from the Greek kenoo which means to “empty oneself,” usually of one’s reputation. This is exactly what Jesus did—and he did it for the purpose of rescuing us. He exchanged being in the presence of His Father and the angels to go, shall we say, on a 33-year missions trip where he became as one of his creation.

There is a story of a missionary who described a certain tribe in Africa who, like many other tribes, had a chief. You could tell this man was the chief by a number of ways other than the great headdress and robes.

In that tribe, they had a well that provided water for the entire tribe. The well had to be a certain depth. If it was too deep, no one could retrieve it, but if it was too shallow, there would be a risk of waste—and thus, a lack of enough water for the tribe. They determined a depth that would be the ‘happy medium,’ if you will. They would have holes on the side of the well that would serve as steps. That way, the men could use them as steps to climb down into the well and get the water needed for their family.

One time, a man tried to do this, but slipped and fell down to the bottom of the well, breaking his leg. He was trapped. They needed someone strong enough to rescue this man. So they called for the chief. He examined the situation, then did something that showed why he was the chief. He took off his headdress and his robes and climbed down the well. When he reached the bottom, he put the weight of that man on his back and climbed out, bringing him to his rescue. Only the chief was strong enough to bear that weight and bring him out, showing another reason why the chief was the chief![7]

See, the chief, even though he took off those robes and headdress to condescend to that mission to rescue us, never ceased to be the chief. So too when Christ took off the robes of glory and put on robes of flesh for those 33 years, he never ceased to be God the Son. He willing laid aside some of his abilities to go on this rescue mission!

3. He cared for His people.

In Philippians 2:8, it says, “And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” Jesus went from the highest and most exalted place to the lowest and most despicable place. He humbled himself by being born to a peasant family in the tiny town of Bethlehem—a family soon running from Herod’s order of genocide to all males two and under. He submitted to the ravages of humanity: hungering, thirsting, fatigue, sorrow. He even submitted to his earthly parents as God the Son! And, as Paul points out, he even became “obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

In Deuteronomy, the Law says, “A hanged man is cursed by God” (Deut 21:23). Now, in the New Testament, Paul says, “But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” The Roman cross, reserved for a criminal, has now become the symbol of the church—not a manger, not a carpenter’s bench, not a boat, but the cross. We have a cross in our baptistry, one alighting the steeple, and some may even have them hanging around your neck or on the walls in your house. Why? John Stott observes:

The fact that a cross became the Christian symbol, and that Christians stubbornly refused, in spite of the ridicule, to discard it in favor of something less offensive, can have only one explanation. It means that the centrality of the cross originated in the mind of Jesus himself. It was out of loyalty to him that his followers clung so doggedly to this sign.[8]

Jesus humbled himself to atone for our sins as our substitute. To say he died for our sins is correct. But that’s like saying, “My car runs on fuel.” It’s true, but there is so much more behind how that’s accomplished. There are so many different factors and variables at play that it’s stunning any of it took place. It’s fascinating—and well worth exploring!

We were guilty before our righteous Creator. Though we could not do anything to relieve our guilt, Jesus came and paid that ransom on the cross to satisfy God’s righteous anger against us. “He made him to be sin who knew no sin,” Paul wrote the Corinthian church, “so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

Jesus was “humbled.” And that is why God calls us as Christians to humility—if they are in Christ, then they will have the mind of Christ. Look with me at Philippians 2:1-4

1So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.

Jesus could have stayed in heaven, kept on those robes of glory and maintained his status. But he didn’t. We needed to be rescued. Michael Horton notes:

The goal of the cross was not simply to punish but to restore. If we dig beneath all the symptoms of our troubled lives and our distressed world, the root of it all is a broken covenant. That is the wound that the cosmos cannot heal, but that God has healed by establishing peace through the cross of his Son. We will never exhaust the richness of this gospel because it reverberates into every nook and cranny of our lives, our history, and our world.[9]

Do we have this mind of Christ? Do we see the cross as a route to encouragement, comfort from love, participation in the Spirit that indwells every believer in Jesus? Do we have the same mind, the same love, being in full accord of one mind? Or do we have rivalry, looking to ourselves more than others? Is that having the mind of Christ?

4. We confess Christ to the people.

Paul closes out this great passage by saying:

9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

God sent Him low (the cross) then exalted him high (the crown). Michael Emlet makes it clear that “the coming of the kingdom in Jesus Christ is the climax of the biblical story. . . . Grace comes to people at the cost of his life. The way of the cross remains the pattern for our lives until Jesus returns to bring an end to sin and suffering.”[10] He is the point of it all. He told the disciples in Luke 24:27 “all that the Law and Prophets spoke of Him.” His name is the highest, the greatest, and the one through whom every person on earth will bow in submission.

The question is, When?

The word ‘confess’ (exomologeo) means to acknowledge, to profess, to give one honor. It can mean to ‘acknowledge joyfully.’[11] But notice who is confessing: “in heaven” (yes, the angels worship and adore Him—see Isaiah 6:1-3), “on earth” (those on earth who have surrendered to Jesus), and those “under the earth” (even those in the grave and in hell?).

Now, does this mean that everyone will be saved, submitting to Jesus as Lord? Hardly! Hebrews 9:27 clearly says, “It is destined for man to die once, and after that the judgment.” When Paul begged the Philippians to “let your walk be in a manner worthy of the gospel,” he is saying, “Walk as if Jesus is your Master—walk showing who you are, a child transformed and justified by grace through faith! Live in light of the great payment He paid on the cross to take our guilt, thus having God declare us righteous!


[1]R.C. Sproul and Mark Driscoll, What is the Biggest Upcoming Theological Battle? Accessed 2 December 2009; available at [on-line]; Internet.

[2]Dan Kimball, They Love Jesus But Hate the Church

[3]Brendan Miniter, “What Would Jesus Drive?” (November 25, 2002). Accessed 2 December 2009; available at [on-line]; Internet.

[4]The American Patriot’s Bible (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2009). Accessed 2 December 2009; available at

[5]Stephen Prothero, American Jesus: How the Son of God Became a National Icon (New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2003), 3.

[6]See Matthew Henry, Commentary on Philippians. Here is his divine nature: Who being in the form of God (v. 6), partaking of the divine nature, as the eternal and only begotten Son of God. This agrees with Jn. 1:1, In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God: it is of the same import with being the image of the invisible God (Col. 1:15), and the brightness of his glory, and express image of his person, Heb. 1:3. He thought it no robbery to be equal with God; did not think himself guilty of any invasion of what did not belong to him, or assuming another’s right. He said, I and my Father are one, Jn. 10:30. It is the highest degree of robbery for any mere man or mere creature to pretend to be equal with God, or profess himself one with the Father. This is for a man to rob God, not in tithes and offerings, but of the rights of his Godhead, Mal. 3:8. Some understand being in the form of Goden morphe Theou hyparchon, of his appearance in a divine majestic glory to the patriarchs, and the Jews, under the Old Testament, which was often called the glory, and the Shechinah.

[7]Bryan Chapell, Using Illustrations with Power

[8]John Stott, The Cross of Christ (Downers Grove: IVP, 1986), 25.

[9]Michael S. Horton, The Gospel-Driven Life (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2009), 82.

[10]Michael Emlet, CrossTalk: Where Life and Scripture Meet (Greensboro, NC: New Growth Press, 2009), 44, 46.

[11]BYM Morphology + Gingrich. BibleWorks 7

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