Wednesday, 26 April 2017

The Call of Evangelism

       Is it legitimate to speak of being “called” into a particular ministry as though one has received something special that other Christians haven’t? Is there anything supernatural, spectacular, or mysterious about the way in which God calls us to service? Have you been called to evangelize?
     The process of becoming a Christian is succinctly described in the New Testament as God’s “call” (cf. 1 Corinthians 7:17-24). When good news was proclaimed on the Day of Pentecost, convicting the hearts of those who heard it and prompting an obedient response, the receptive hearers were divinely instructed: “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remissions of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:37-38 NKJV). Peter then gives assurance that this promise is available to “as many as the Lord our God will call” (v. 39). Notice that the Lord takes the initiative and issues this call by way of the gospel message (cf. vv. 40-41). 
     This is further illustrated in 2 Thessalonians 2:14, where Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy remind their readers that God “called you by our gospel” (i.e., the inspired message these missionaries preached). The gospel is heaven’s invitation to the world to be reconciled to God through Jesus Christ and is the means by which we are called. All who have responded to the Lord in obedient faith are regarded as “the called” (Romans 1:6; 8:28; 1 Corinthians 1:24). Among other things, we have been called in one body (Colossians 3:15) and in one hope (Ephesians 4:4), out of darkness into his marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9), and into God’s kingdom and glory (1 Thessalonians 2:12).
     While every Christian may not be suited to fill the role of a front-line, soul-winning evangelist, each has been called to participate in some way in the evangelistic enterprise. “Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:18). Neither the blessings nor the responsibilities are limited to only ministerial professionals. Granted, Christ's body is comprised of individual members, each having particular talents, functions, and consequent duties, contributing to the integrated work of the entire church (1 Corinthians 12:12-27). But every member must solemnly evaluate whether or not everything is being done within his/her God-given capabilities to fulfill his/her God-given ministry of reconciliation.
     To be evangelistic, one must have a willing predisposition to evangelism’s call. Like Paul, every follower of Jesus ought to be driven by a convicted heart (1 Corinthians 9:16), a grave sense of responsibility (Romans 1:13-15), a genuine concern for souls (Romans 9:1-3), the love of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:14), and a deep appreciation for heaven’s grace (1 Corinthians 15:9-10). Evangelistically-minded people need no “direct supernatural guidance” to obey God’s revealed will and to respond to the spiritual needs of this world. To be among the ones called into evangelism, all that a faithful child of God needs is willingness, availability, training, and commitment. The question isn’t whether or not God is calling. The question is, are you and I listening? May more of us be ready to respond with confident faith and obedient hearts to the call of sharing Christ with those all around us still lost in sin.
--Kevin L. Moore

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Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Speaking Where the Bible Speaks

“Lord, we know that people do not control their own destiny. It is not in their power to determine what will happen to them” (Jeremiah 10:23, NET). From the very beginning God has set forth guidelines to govern man’s life, worship, and relationships. Adam and Eve were given regulations to obey (Genesis 2:15-17; 3:17-19). Cain and Abel were instructed how to worship God acceptably (Genesis 4:3-7; Hebrews 11:4). Noah was provided a specific pattern for building the ark and saving his family (Genesis 6:13-21). “And Noah did all that God commanded him—he did indeed” (verse 22). In constructing a place of worship, Moses was told to do all things according to the pattern revealed to him (Exodus 25:9, 40; 26:30). “This is what Moses did, according to all the Lord had commanded him—so he did” (Exodus 40:16). These past obedient responses to the divine will still serve as examples for us today (Acts 7:44; Romans 15:4; 1 Corinthians 10:1-11; Hebrews 8:5; 11:23-29).
The Bible is by no means a collection of irrelevant stories and outdated directives. “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any double-edged sword, piercing even to the point of dividing soul from spirit, and joints from marrow; it is able to judge the desires and thoughts of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). The Bible has been transforming lives and shaping societies for centuries. Its message is just as relevant and powerful today as when it was first written. Despite all the previous and current attempts to discredit the integrity of this sacred text, an open and sympathetic reading of its pages will almost certainly lead one to concede its divine origin and practical value (2 Timothy 3:14-17).
Since we are to “live by faith” (2 Corinthian 5:7), and we cannot please God without faith (Hebrews 11:6), and faith comes through our reception of the inspired word (Romans 10:17), obviously the revelation of divine truth constitutes our guide for Christian living. God communicates to us today through the Lord Jesus Christ (Hebrews 1:1-2) and he is to be listened to (Mark 9:7). Whatever we do in word or deed must be done “in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Colossians 3:17), that is, according to his authority (see Acts 4:7-10). The authority of Jesus is behind all that he has commanded (Matthew 28:18-20), and this includes the entire body of Christian teaching (see 1 Corinthians 14:37; Galatians 1:11-12). The word of Christ also serves as our standard of judgment (John 12:48).
While our supreme example is the Lord Jesus Christ himself (1 Peter 2:21; 1 John 2:6), the New Testament record of the faithfulness of first-century followers of Jesus also serves as our pattern (Philippians 3:17; 1 Thessalonians 1:7; 2 Thessalonians 3:9; Titus 2:7). In order to be set free from sin, all must obey “from the heart that pattern of teaching you were entrusted to” (Romans 6:17-18). Christians are to walk according to the prescribed rule or standard (Galatians 6:16) – likened to competing in athletics “according to the rules” (2 Timothy 2:5). This divine system of faith was once for all time delivered to the people of God (Jude 3). Timothy and the disciples at Ephesus are admonished by Paul to “Hold to the standard of sound words that you heard from me and do so with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus …. And entrust what you heard me say in the presence of many others as witnesses to faithful people who will be competent to teach others as well” (2 Timothy 1:13; 2:2).
The new covenant of Jesus Christ (Hebrews 8:6; 9:15), in contrast to the old covenant of the Jews (Jeremiah 31:31-34), serves as our authoritative standard today. No one has the right to annul or alter any part of it (see Galatians 3:15-17; 6:16). To be accursed from God is the consequence of perverting this divine message or proclaiming a substitute (Galatians 1:6-10). “Everyone who goes on ahead and does not remain in the teaching of Christ does not have God. The one who remains in this teaching has both the Father and the Son” (2 John 9). Failing to abide in Christ’s doctrine is considered an evil deed not to be supported by the faithful (2 John 10-11). Adding to or subtracting from the words revealed by God will result in forfeiting the eternal inheritance (Revelation 22:18-19). It is possible to handle the word of God deceitfully (2 Corinthians 4:2), and those who distort the scriptural pattern do so to their own destruction (2 Peter 3:16).
Jesus said, “the scripture cannot be broken” (John 10:35b). In other words, the authority of God’s written revelation cannot be negated, withstood, or replaced. In the absence of a divine pattern to govern our lives, everyone does what is right in his own eyes (Deuteronomy 12:8; Judges 17:6; 21:25), resulting in confusion, chaos, lawlessness, and division.
The mid-first-century Christian community at Corinth was plagued with discord, spiritual immaturity, worldliness, and false teaching. In 1 Corinthians 3–4, to address these problems and to help unify this divided church, the apostle Paul applies the figures of planting, watering, building, and serving to himself and Apollos as an example. He then writes: “I have applied these things to myself and Apollos because of you, brothers and sisters, so that through us you may learn ‘not to go beyond what is written,’ so that none of you will be puffed up in favor of the one against the other” (1 Corinthians 4:6). To help them get back on track and progress in the right direction, Paul’s readers are instructed not to “go beyond” or exceed “what is written.” Contextually this refers to the holy scriptures, which the apostle has been quoting (1:19, 31; 2:9, 16; 3:19-20) as well as writing (14:37; see also 2 Peter 3:15-16).
What is our purpose for giving the Lord our attention and serving him? If our primary aim is to please him, the only way to be certain about what pleases him is according to what he has chosen to reveal to us. We know what the will of God is by what is disclosed in the Bible (Ephesians 3:3-5; 5:17), not by what is left unsaid. Whatever is not communicated in the sacred writings is necessarily excluded from God’s revealed will. If a doctrine or practice is not authorized in scripture, it must be rejected. “Whoever speaks, let it be with God’s words. Whoever serves, do so with the strength that God supplies, so that in everything God will be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen” (1 Peter 4:11).
True Christianity is evidenced by our love for God and one another. But this is not possible without a divine pattern to follow. “By this we know that we love the children of God: whenever we love God and obey his commandments. For this is the love of God: that we keep his commandments. And his commandments do not weigh us down” (1 John 5:2-3). Those who reject the pattern of God’s word cannot exhibit true biblical love. Now by this we know that we have come to know God: if we keep his commandments. The one who says ‘I have come to know God’ and yet does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in such a person. But whoever obeys his word, truly in this person the love of God has been perfected. By this we know that we are in him” (1 John 2:3-5).
We speak where the Bible speaks when we do and teach only what is sanctioned in scripture, nothing more, nothing less, and nothing else. May we humbly regard the biblical admonition: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5). Thank God for giving us a pattern to guide us through life and on into eternity.
--Kevin L. Moore

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Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Chronology of Christ’s Return

1. When the Lord returns, it will be sudden and unexpected (Matt. 24:36-44; 1 Thess. 5:2-4; 2 Pet. 3:10), “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye” (1 Cor. 15:52).

2. He will descend from heaven in the clouds (Acts 1:9-11; Thess. 4:16),
accompanied by a loud command, an archangel’s voice, God’s trumpet, and mighty angels in flaming fire (1 Cor. 15:52; 1 Thess. 4:16; 2 Thess. 1:7-8).

3. All the dead will be raised (John 5:28-29; Rev. 20:13), first the righteous, who will meet the Lord in the air with the living righteous (1 Thess. 4:16-17; Matt. 24:40-41).
4. All will be transformed from corruptible mortals to incorruptible (1 Cor. 15:51-54).

5. Then comes the end (1 Cor. 15:24a); enemies will be conquered (1 Cor. 15:24-26, 54-56) and the physical universe destroyed (2 Pet. 3:10-11; cf. Rev. 20:11).

6. All will be gathered before the heavenly judgment seat (Acts 17:31; 2 Cor. 5:10; 1 Pet. 4:5), the righteous and unrighteous will be separated (Matt. 25:31-46), judged by the same divine standard (Matt. 7:21-23; John 12:48; 2 Cor. 5:10; Rev. 20:12-13).
7. Every knee will bow and every tongue will confess Jesus is Lord (Phil. 2:10-11; cf. Rom. 14:10-12).

8. All who are covered by Christ’s blood, citizens of God’s kingdom, will escape divine wrath (Rom. 8:1; 1 Cor. 5:7; 1 Pet. 1:17-19) and be delivered to the Father (1 Cor. 15:24) to live eternally in heaven (2 Tim. 4:8; 1 Pet. 1:4).

9. All others will receive everlasting punishment separated from God (Matt. 25:46; 2 Thess. 1:8-9; Rev. 20:15).
10. “Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect” (Matt. 24:44 ESV).
--Kevin L. Moore

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