Training Verses Trying - Part 2

If you have come to a point in your faith where you are having to face the ugly reality that there often exists a serious gulf between what you intend on your best day and the poor decisions that you make on your worst, let me assure you, you are not alone. Let's look at a great example of this in Scripture. Peter was one of the disciples that followed Jesus the closest. He loved the Lord and served Him faithfully. He was a leader of men, bold, sincere and passionate, but like each of us, Peter was a work in progress. He was prone to emotional, even angry outbursts. He was proud and self-assured, arrogant and completely ill-prepared for the challenges he was about to face.

The night before Jesus was crucified, He gathered with His disciples to celebrate a very important passover meal. Towards the end of the evening, Jesus made a statement that alarmed everyone. He said, "Tonight I will be betrayed into the hands of my enemy and all of you will desert and abandon me". He then addressed Peter specifically, saying, "Peter I have prayed for you; when you have repented strengthen the others". At this Peter blurts out, "Even if all the others deny you surely I will not". Now let me ask you a question, do you believe that Peter was sincere in his statement? Did he really mean this? Did he fully intend on remaining faithful no matter what? I believe he was but as we have already established, there is often a difference between what we intend and how we act. Notice, Jesus did not just fix him. He did not do anything to prevent him from facing this trial. No, Peter would have to face this and through it grow into the person that God had called him to be. I assure you, this is a lesson Peter would never forget. I am sure that in his dying days, shortly before his own martyrdom, he reflected on this life lesson often. Jesus prayed for Peter and then left him in the hands of His Father. These events played out exactly as Jesus had predicted.

Luke 22:54 NIV
[54] Then seizing him, they led him away and took him into the house of the high priest. Peter followed at a distance.
The one that had followed him so closely now follows from afar or as the Message versions puts it "a safe distance".

Matt. 26:69-75 NLT
69 Meanwhile, Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard. A servant girl came over and said to him, "You were one of those with Jesus the Galilean."
70 But Peter denied it in front of everyone. "I don't know what you're talking about," he said.
71 Later, out by the gate, another servant girl noticed him and said to those standing around, "This man was with Jesus of Nazareth."
72 Again Peter denied it, this time with an oath. "I don't even know the man," he said.
73 A little later some of the other bystanders came over to Peter and said, "You must be one of them; we can tell by your Galilean accent."
74 Peter swore, "A curse on me if I'm lying--I don't know the man!" And immediately the rooster crowed.
75 Suddenly, Jesus' words flashed through Peter's mind: "Before the rooster crows, you will deny three times that you even know me. "And he went away, weeping bitterly."

We must underĀ­stand that good intentions are not enough.

He wept bitterly. He is sincerely repentant, brokenhearted over his actions, truly sorrowful. So what happened, how do we explain Peter's failure--our own failure? Like Peter, we find ourselves in this position of acting contrary to our heart intentions. Try as we might our efforts often fall short of our intentions. Jesus had warned him; Jesus even prayed for him. Please understand I believe that the answer surely is in the reality that Christ has set us free from the overpowering control of sin. In no way do I want to diminish the sacrificial work of Christ, the victory He has already won over sin. So why do we still sin? There has to be more. Dallas Willard says this about Peter, "All of his sincere and good intentions, even though specifically alerted by Jesus' prediction and warning a few hours earlier, were not able to withstand the automatic tendencies ingrained in his flesh and activated by the circumstances". We must understand that good intentions are not enough. We have relied on "trying" for too long. We must realize that there are latent tendencies, call them habits, that exist even after Christ has broken the power of sin in our lives.

Christ came to set us free from bondage to these ingrained tendencies or a hypocritical existence pretending to be something we are not. Christ did not bid us to come and follow Him and He would give us the appearance of transformation. No, He came to give this life to us in reality not just in theory. The Scripture promises that you will never face a temptation that is not common to man or beyond your ability to withstand. Indeed God is faithful and compassionate toward us and He promises to give us "strength of resistance and the power of endurance". He has promised that He will provide a way of escaping sins grasp. (1 Corinthians 10:13 AMP) Now whether we choose this path of escape or not is another matter. We have in fact, been given a certain victory over the power of sin. Peter was specifically warned and then given what I believe was a way out or at least a way through the temptation he was about to face. When Christ invited him to join Him in the garden for prayer, He was modeling for him a solution to combating these ingrained tendencies of his flesh. Christ was demonstrating that our battle with the flesh is not one that can be attempted with a frontal assault. He tells Peter that it is imperative that in the face of an imminent attack to be vigilant. He helps us to see how prayer positions us and prepares us for the battles we will most certainly face. Jesus tells Peter, "PRAY, pray that you do not yield to this temptation". Christ tells him what each and every one of us have learned, "The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak". The Message puts it this way, "There is a part of you that is eager, ready for anything in God. But there's another part that's as lazy as an old dog sleeping by the fire."

Disciplines are, in essence, activities in our power that enable us, by grace, to do what we cannot do by direct effort.

Jesus is trying to teach Peter how to weaponize prayer, how to use prayer as a discipline against the ingrained tendencies of his flesh that are warring against his spirit. Dallas Willard defines discipline this way, "Disciplines are, in essence, activities in our power that enable us, by grace, to do what we cannot do by direct effort--by 'just trying'." They are, "Necessary components of life with Christ--they are simply activities that we undertake, activities in our power. They are something we do that enables us to disrupt evil habits and patterns in our lives and receive grace to enable us to grow increasingly toward easy, routine obedience to Christ." Christ is showing Peter that the only way you can overcome the temptations you face in life is not through direct effort but rather by developing the spiritual character of Christ within you and by replacing the ingrained habits, failed responses and lusts with new ingrained spiritual character. There are simply no short-cuts. Without the cross, we would have no power to exercise over sin. But without spiritual growth and formation, we will never experience that power.

Reason for the Season

A few months ago we began this blog because we really desired to have an opportunity to engage with you in a conversation about very important topics as they relate to missions and that conversation will continue, we hope you will join us.  

 

However, I think that it is important during this time of year that we remind ourselves of the real reason: for the "Season", for our ministry, for our very existence on this earth.  In his book, "Let the Nations be Glad" John Piper wrote, "Missions is not the ultimate goal of the church. Worship is. Missions exists because worship doesn't. Worship is ultimate, not missions, because God is ultimate, not man. When this age is over, and the countless millions of the redeemed fall on their faces before the throne of God, missions will be no more. It is a temporary necessity. But worship abides forever.  Worship, therefore, is the fuel and goal of missions. It's the goal of missions because in missions we simply aim to bring the nations into the white hot enjoyment of God's glory. The goal of missions is the gladness of the peoples in the greatness of God".  Piper stresses that Missions is not ultimate because man is not ultimate--God is.  Therefore, the purpose of our work, and the very purpose of our existence is that we might worship Him and through our lives all men might come to know His love.  In all of our strategy, with all of our models we cannot lose the central message of God's love and sacrifice.  This keeps of our mission efforts and mission giving from losing their purpose.  Everything we do and everything we are should be to bring glory and honor to a loving Father who announced through his angels, "There is now peace on earth, peace between God and man (Luke 2:14)." This is our message throughout the year, not just this "Season".  This is our message throughout the earth.  God has demonstrated His eternal love for mankind in sending us a Savior and for this reason we proclaim let the whole world worship Him.

What is our Motivation in Giving?

I do not want to be critical of other ministries and for that reason I am not citing any particular examples and I am naming no names, but I would like to address the various methods being used to raise funds these days. We have seen everything from heart-felt pleas to down-right begging. We have seen clever programs as well as almost every gimmick conceivable. We understand as much as any ministry the role that finances play in fulfilling our ministries goals, however I truly believe that we need to be careful that we maintain proper motivation as well as communicate a proper message about our mission. First of all a need-based approach to missions sends the wrong message both to contributors and recipients of our efforts. It has long been believed that personal connection was necessary to motivate people's giving. Organizations created adopt a child, church, orphan, student, etc programs. We witnessed ministries shifting the focus of communication to raise funds or even worse opening orphanages not because they were needed but as revenue streams. All of this created a tremendously powerful motivation for people to give based upon deeply emotional pleas. However, both Christian and secular organizations are starting to question the use of these emotional pleas for a number of reasons. First of all it is now largely believed that this leads to a feeling-based giving. If I feel like giving--I give. If I do not feel like giving--I do not give. The needs we face in our mission work cannot be subject to the emotional whims of our contributors. Secondly, we have witnessed over and over that there is a limit to the ability of peoples to respond emotionally to any given scenario. People will become overwhelmed and exhausted. When this happens, giving will simply dry up. Tim Dearborn describes it this way: "The good hearted people always want to respond with compassion and kindness but we have worked ourselves into exhaustion with exhortations to give more, do more, care more, serve more, love more, if we are not careful we reduce missions to no more than a human response to human need. The Church's involvement in mission is its privileged participation in the actions of almighty God. Without this news of great hope and full confidence in God's infinite love, we will have the sense of missions as an exhausting human enterprise. We'll feel as if we have been handed the Great Commission as a great duty, and that the job is completely up to us. This inevitably leads to burnout. Missions was never intended to be an exhausting human enterprise. Misssion is our privileged participation in the life-giving action of our God." I suggest that our message needs to change but this cannot occur if our attitude does not change.

Lastly, we must be careful that we are not sending the wrong message about our understanding of the Kingdom and our role in extending it. To quote Rolland Allen, "The Ministry cannot become primarily a financial operation, and we constantly hear our missionaries lament that they cannot open new works where they are sorely needed, because they have not the necessary funds. But it ought not properly to be a financial operation, and the moment it is allowed to appear as such, that moment very false and dangerous elements are introduced into our work." I would suggest that the Kingdom is being built because God is King. I believe that he is fully capable of funding His work without our begging, our manipulating, without gimmicks and without emotional pleas. I believe that we should present God's people opportunity to participate in His endeavors as both a means of honoring Him as King and using our lives and resources to participate in His eternal purpose. I believe this should be our motivation.

Redemption is our Mission

The Bible contains central truths that are absolutes and must be understood by all.  The central theme of the Bible is the story of man's creation, his fall and his redemption.  Bill Stearns said in his book 20/20 Vision "The story of the Bible has a simple unified theme: The Redeemer offers every ethnic group on Earth the blessing of joining God's family. He is putting together a people from every people group on Earth. This theme appears throughout the Bible. The presence of a mission mandate throughout scripture is settled."  There is one plan to redeem all of mankind and it is clearly and consistently revealed from Genesis to Revelation.  This plan must be central to our mission. 

 

The scripture states, "Everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God's glorious standard" (Rom 3:23 and Ps 53:3, Ps 130:3, Prov 20:9, Eccl 7:20, Isa 53:6, Gal 3:22, 1 John 1:8).  Stanley A. Ellison wrote, "In that moment of decision Man thrust himself outside the stabilizing axis of God's will and began the swirling catapult into the oblivion of a godless existence."  This makes sin universal to everyone and therefore sin eternally separates all men from God (Rom 6:23).     

 

But, "God so loved the world" that rather than leave man in this fallen condition "he gave his one and only Son, that whoever would believe on him would not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16).  Romans 5:8 says, "God demonstrated his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us".  Jesus Christ freed us from sin when he paid the penalty for our sins.   For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood. (Rom 3:24, 25)  Jesus was handed over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification (Rom 4:23).  Paul writing to Timothy tells us, "There is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all" (1 Tim. 2:5-6) in order that we may not have to "pay the penalty of eternal destruction" (2 Thes. 1:9) and those who "Believe in the Lord Jesus, shall be saved," (Acts 16:31).  And this is God's desire, "God our Savior wants all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth of their salvation (1 Tim. 2:4)".  The sacrifice of Christ was the only way to provide salvation for man and salvation has been universally made available to all those who will receive.  This is not to imply that all man will universally accept Christ.  Sadly we know this will not be the case. 

 

We have to make sure our doctrine is clear; there is no other way, there is no back door, all religions do not lead to the same end, everyone is not right.  There is only One Truth, One Path that leads to eternal life and that is acknowledging your sin and believing upon Christ Jesus as your eternal savior. When we understand sin and its power to separate eternally we must conclude that everyone who exits this life without having received the redemption of sins by receiving Christ Jesus is eternally separated from God.  People have asked, "What about those around the world that have never heard--what about the Muslims, Hindus, or even the Jews"?  Let me state emphatically all we have to shape our understanding of this matter is Scripture and we cannot speculate beyond that.  I understand this is a terrible, terrible reality and for those who love deeply these peoples it can be very painful to even contemplate this, but the truth is that there is only one way and we do not have the right to invent alternate theologies in order to simply soothe our souls.  We need to embrace the truth and the responsibility to communicate this truth to a lost world.  This is our mission--Redemption.

 

Welcome

Our goal in adding a blog to our web site was to create a platform where we could share our thoughts concerning what we are learning about missions models and strategy. Education is a very important part of our calling to the body of Christ and it is our desire to have a forum to discuss our thoughts and our beliefs. Over the years we have studied missions and we have developed very specific ideas based upon our twenty years working in missions and the many missionaries and missiologists we have formed relationships with. However, we have come to believe that it is important that our missional thought be based upon more than people's experiences, man's thoughts, simple observations, traditions, etc. Our missional thought must have at its foundation a solid biblical base. We call this Biblical Missiology. We have decided that our best source for understanding the Missio Dei, or God's mission, is to turn to the scripture. We believe that the scripture provides us with more than a historical account of the development of the early church. We believe through scripture we are given the foundation principles forevermore for the establishment and expansion of the Kingdom of God. We certainly believe that our understanding of these issues is limited and our opinions are fallible. We invite you, our readers, to join us in this discussion. We eagerly expect to learn from you. We only ask that you approach the subject from the basis of scripture not opinion, tradition, or personal experience alone. There will invariably be great diversity of practices and on certain principles we may have to agree to disagree but we believe that through it we will all grow.

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