SAME MISSION . . . DIFFERENT MARCH  

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“Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.” (Mark 16:15)


Every single believer has been called to the exact same mission: to preach the Gospel to everyone. But every single believer has not been issued the exact same marching orders. The mission God has given is a universal command to all Christians, but each one of us has been given individual marching orders for carrying it out.

What marching orders have you received to carry out your Gospel-sharing mission?

You see, God does not tell us whether we are to be a butcher, baker, or candlestick maker. We have been given the freedom (and the responsibility) to choose our own calling and decide what profession, occupation, or activity will be our mission field. To coin a phrase, we are all marching to the beat of a different drummer. But regardless of the calling we choose, we are all given the same mission: making the invisible God visible to the watching world by all that we think, do, and say.

So . . . how are doing at carrying out the mission God has given you? Remember, the mission is general and applies to us all, but the march is specific and personal to you. We don’t get a vote about what the mission will be; we are all missionaries—whether we travel to a foreign land or never leave our home town. We are all on mission until God brings us into His heavenly glory.

When it comes to the march, however, we not only get a vote, we get to vote over and over and over again. In my own life I have transitioned from ocean-rescue lifeguard to firefighter to business owner to physical education teacher to pastor and now to church planter. Clearly I have marched to a variety of drumbeats in my life, but since my conversion in 1995, I have been sent out by God on mission—the same mission, regardless of the march.

God has missionaries in every possible sphere of life. Regardless of what we are doing, if we do it for God’s glory and are sharing God’s story, we are fulfilling our mission. From the boardroom to the classroom . . . from academia to athletics . . . from medicine to mechanics . . . God is on the move through the missionaries He has sent out into His world to share His message of the glorious Good News of salvation by grace alone through faith in Jesus Christ alone. If we are going to live out what we claim to be—Christians—we will be obedient to our mission by sharing Christ with those whom we come in contact with on our march.

I’d like to close by telling you about something I’m working on to help you march with confidence and joy. I’ve been doing a lot of research on the subject of evangelism lately, and I’ve learned that just about half of all Bible-believing Christians have never shared their faith in Jesus Christ with anyone, and a great many more have only shared their faith with one person. Sad to say, the Great Commission has become the Great Omission!

I believe the primary reason for this abject failure to march as we have been commanded to is fear. We’re afraid that we won’t know what to say to an unbeliever, and we’re afraid that our retelling of the Greatest Story Ever Told will be unwelcome and unwanted. So I am putting the finishing touches on a program that will equip you to share your faith in a very comfortable and completely nonconfrontational way. Best of all, it’s so simple that you can teach it to a first-grader, yet present it with powerful impact to an unbelieving adult. You won’t have to spend hours memorizing anything, and there’s nothing in my new program that directs you to go out and knock on strangers’ doors or accost people in parking lots. It’s a program you can use where you live and work and interact with others . . . and do it in a way that almost guarantees that you will not get an angry or hostile response.

I’ll be speaking a lot more about this program in the weeks ahead, here in Grace for the Race and in my sermons at Cross Community Church. If you’re feeling like you haven’t been fulfilling the mission God gave us all, be encouraged! You’ll soon be learning a powerful and effective new way to march.

This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

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FOLLOW THE LEADER  

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My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. (John 10:27)


Did you know that before Jesus led others, He first led Himself? We must all remember that we must first lead ourselves in order to lead others, because we will never lead others beyond the point to which we have led ourselves.

Here are three important areas of self-leadership that I hope will encourage you to follow the Leader.

Prayer

Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. (Mark 1:35)

Jesus was in constant communion with His Father in heaven, and Scripture makes it clear that He made no important decisions without first consulting with God the Father. You might remember that an unnamed disciple asked Jesus this crucial question: “Lord, teach us to pray” (Luke 11:1). Why did he ask Jesus to teach him? Because he saw Jesus often in prayer.

Bible Study

Jesus answered, “It is written …” Jesus answered him, “It is also written …” Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written …” (Matthew 4:4, 7, 10)

When Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to do battle with the devil, He conquered Him with the Word of God. Every temptation was hurled back by a response from sacred Scripture. It’s important to note here that both Jesus and the devil quoted Scripture, but there was a difference: They were both in the Word of God, but the Word of God was only in Jesus.

Church Attendance

He went to Nazareth, and on the Sabbath day he

went into the synagogue, as was his custom. (Luke 4:16)

Jesus knew the importance of showing up for weekly worship. Here are just two reasons why you should too: First, God has commanded that we gather together each week to worship as a family of faith (Hebrews 10:25). Additionally, it bears a wonderful witness to the watching world whose side we are on. Christians are to be “doing life together,” and that life should center on the corporate worship of our Creator God.

It has been well said that “What you do speaks so loudly, I can’t hear what you say!” Regardless of where this message finds you, someone is watching and looking to you for leadership. The key to leading them in the right direction is to follow the Leader!

This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

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APPEASING THE ADVERSARY

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Do not give the devil a foothold. (Ephesians 4:27)


The definition of the word appease means to pacify or placate someone by agreeing or giving in to his or her demands. When it comes to our adversary the devil, we appease him every time we give in to his temptations. The Bible is filled with examples of those who appeased the adversary, whether by a word, a look, or a deed. Abraham appeased the adversary with a word when he tried to pawn his wife Sarah off as his sister to save his own skin. David appeased the adversary with a look when he lusted after Bathsheba and sent for her to be brought to his bedroom chambers. Peter appeased the adversary when he withdrew from eating and associating with the Gentiles for fear of the Jews.

So how do we keep from appeasing the adversary, refusing to give him even a foothold? We do what Jesus did. When Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to do battle with Satan, He used the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. The devil cannot gain a foothold when we focus on God’s Word. Jesus met every temptation by saying, “It is written . . .” and you and I must be ready, willing, and able to do the same, lest we appease the adversary. And the only way we can be ready, willing, and able to effectively use the Word as a weapon against the wiles of the evil one is to become students of Scripture. We must make it our pillar of cloud by day and our pillar of fire by night and be willing to follow wherever it leads us.

It is the Word of God that will strengthen the people of God through the ministry of the Spirit of God. When we neglect the Word, we find ourselves living according to our old nature more than by our new supernatural nature. We all know from personal experience that our old carnal nature loves to appease the adversary. We shrink from struggle; we cower from challenges; we pull back from pain . . . all the while giving the devil a foothold that weakens our faith.

Appeasement is the confession of a life that surrenders to sin and self-deception and says, “Just this one time and no more.” Know this: giving in to the temptations of the adversary only weakens us for the next assault. To keep from appeasing the adversary we must go on the counterattack with the Word of God. The more we are in the Word, the more the Word will be in us! As students of Scripture, we will be able to withstand the attacks of the adversary rather than appease them, and we will find ourselves saying with the apostle Paul, “We did not give in to them for a moment” (Galatians 2:5).

Remember, life always presents us with two choices; we can appease the adversary or please the Almighty. The first choice shrinks our lives down to the size of our lives, where we are living for the self. The second expands our lives to the edges of God’s kingdom, where we are living for the Savior. What is your choice today?

This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

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THE CALL TO MIND THAT MINISTERS

here comes the sun


This I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. (Lamentations 3:21-23 ESV)


Memory has a way of messing with our lives. By nature, we have a tendency to remember more clearly all the burdens of life rather than the blessings. We remember in far greater detail all the stuff that didn’t work out rather than all that did. And, of course, the devil delights in assisting us in this downward spiral. Satan wants us to remember all the “bad” times and all our failures, and to forget all the blessings and the glorious victory won for us by Jesus Christ.

Jeremiah was quick to remember all his afflictions and wanderings and the bitterness and gall; when he did, his soul was downcast. Oh, how the devil delighted in that! But Satan’s ungodly glee didn’t last long, because Jeremiah refused to stay down. He lifted his thoughts to the throne room of heaven and called to mind the great love of his great God.

Can the same be said about you today? Is this the confession of your life? Or perhaps you’re like so many of us, who by nature not only call to remembrance the dark days of our past, but sharpen our focus on the darkness of the present. Can I get a witness?

There is a better way forward for you and me today, thanks to the call to mind that ministers. When the sky turns dark and the waves of challenge wash over you, remember the Lord’s great love for you. You are so loved that your God purchased you with the precious blood of His beloved Son. No price was too great for God to pay in order to redeem you from your bondage to sin and death and bring you into relationship with Him. And as if that isn’t enough, there is unending compassion rooted in His love for you that brings a comfort that defies description.

To be sure, each one of us has a past littered with the ashes of defeat. But our gracious, loving heavenly Father has promised His adopted children that He will—

Bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes,

The oil of gladness instead of mourning,

And a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. (Isaiah 61:3)

One great promise after another has been given to you, Christian, but it is your responsibility to call them to mind. No matter how dark the days became for the prophet Jeremiah, he would shift his focus away from gloom and fix it on his God, and that opened the doorway leading to hope. We must be intentional about what we choose to call to mind. We cannot allow the evil one to ruin our recollection.

So . . . what have you been calling to mind lately? The way forward is to remember the Lord’s great love for you. And never forget that His love and mercy was poured out upon you while you were still a sinner and at enmity with the God who refused to wait for you to get “cleaned up” and come to Him . . . He ran to you with outstretched arms and embraced you for all eternity!

As you rest in your redemption, let your mind be filled with memorials of the mercies that God has poured out upon you—mercies that are new every morning.

This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

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HE’S GOT THE WHOLE WORLD IN HIS HANDS

 

whole world


The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. (Hebrews 1:3)


How encouraging to know that the song many of us sang as children is absolutely true: our God has the whole world in His hands. Not even a bird falls to the ground apart from His will (Matthew 10:29). There is no such thing as “luck” or “fate” or “chance” . . . only a sovereign Lord who sustains all things by the power of His Word. So what do you have to fear today? Why would you be harboring any doubts?

Is there some part of your life where are you dealing with a sense of uncertainty and feeling a bit out of sorts? Just know that Omnipotence is not only holding the whole world in His hands, but the entire universe as well and everything in it . . . and that means you too! Omniscience is guiding, governing, and directing your every step. Omnipresence goes before you, behind you, beside you—and, most importantly, inside of you.

Behold this truth today, Christian, and be blessed: the Lord Jesus Christ has the whole of the divine Godhead yoked, not only to the chariot of your salvation, but to your sanctification as well. God is changing you and conforming you into the image of His beloved Son, and He will not stop until He has finished His work and ushers you into His glorious and eternal kingdom on the other side of the Jordan. Until then, know this . . .

  • His Word is your instruction.
  • His wisdom is your direction.
  • His power is your protection.
  • His presence is your perfection!

You have been given everything you need to do everything God has called you to do. The One who owns the cattle on a thousand hills has made every resource you need available just for the asking. Divinity is in complete control of your destiny. But God is calling you to do your part by putting all of your gifts, talents, and abilities into service to expand the cause of His kingdom for His glory and the good of all others.

Let me close today’s message with a question: What could you do today to convince the watching world that you actually believe your God does indeed hold the whole world in His hands? Why not do it . . . Why not do it right now?

Remember, you cannot fail. You could fall over and over again, but falling isn’t failing unless you fail to get up.

This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

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THE OTHER SIDE OF RIPE IS ROT

banana


Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 1:6)


No matter how strategically I select bananas before buying them, one or two inevitably seem to go from ripe to rot overnight. And that got me thinking: As a believer, the other side of ripe is rot, so we ought never see ourselves as ripe. Rather, we should remain in a perpetual state of growth all the way into glory. The only time we are to be ripe is when we are in heavenly glory, where there will be no more rot!

Here is the best way I know how to explain the lifelong process of sanctification, and I hope it will underscore my assertion that we are always to see ourselves in the process of growing and never as fully ripe. None of us has ever loved the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength for a single moment—let alone a day, week, month, or a year. To learn to love God at this level does not happen because we memorize a few Scripture verses, complete our daily devotions, and enter our prayer closet on a regular basis. It is only by living in intimate relationship with our Triune God every moment of our lives that we even begin to plumb the depths of what it means to truly love our God.

This too must be kept in view: Our ability to love God is always according to the grace He has given to us, and God’s grace is not delivered according to any schedule of ours. We are in His process and on His timetable, and we must always remember that we will never “arrive” on this side of the grave. We must never think, even for a moment, “I’ve made it!” There will always be another twist or turn in the road that we do not expect and are not ready to navigate, so we must never allow ourselves to think that our lives are on some kind of cosmic cruise control.

Let me encourage you with this final thought: The most important thing for the disciple of Jesus to consider is not the distance that has been traveled since the day salvation. Rather, it is about the direction in which we are heading. To measure a life well-lived coram Deo (before the face of God), we never measure its duration; we only look at its donation. Every day we are above ground, we are to be donating our lives to something. The question we need to ask ourselves and answer is, “To what or to whom am I giving?”

I heard a man say, “Either you’re green and growing or ripe and rotting.” Those who believe themselves to be ripe stop growing, and from that point on, rot rapidly begins. But the committed disciple of Jesus Christ will always remember the truth that God is not finished with us yet . . . and for that we are to be eternally grateful!

This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

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THE BELIEVER’S BIT AND BRIDAL

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Do not be like the horse or the mule, which have no understanding but must be controlled by bit and bridle or they will not come to you. (Psalm 32:9)


The warning given to us by the Spirit of God in today’s verse also offers a wonderful word of encouragement. We are admonished not to be like the beasts of the field, which must be controlled, coerced, and corrected by the bit and the bridle. The horse and the mule respond obediently to their master only because of the restraints that have been placed on them. But as Christian believers, we are to render obedience to our Master—not because we have been restrained, but rather because our new and growing understanding freely responds with thanksgiving to all our Master has done for us—and will do for us in the future.

Before we were saved, we were like the brute beasts of the field. We were wild like the horse and obstinate like the mule. We were ruled by the appetites of the flesh and driven to satisfy self in every possible way. But when God in Christ gives us the gift of salvation and the indwelling of His Holy Spirit, our new nature leads to a new understanding, which leads to new desires. We desire to live for our Savior rather than self; we desire to satisfy the will of God rather than our own will; we desire to expand the kingdom of God rather than our own little kingdom of one. Understanding now guides us into God’s perfect purpose for our lives. We are the bride of Christ, and we will one day stand before Him in glorious, spotless wedding clothes.

The horse and the mule are forced to accomplish the will of their master and guided by the bit and the bridle to go in the direction the master desires. But the disciple of Jesus does His will out of devotion, not duty, and the guiding principle is love. As new creatures in Christ, our hearts begin beating for nothing smaller than Jesus. We no longer resist His instruction, as we once did, but instead we respond with a sense of newfound freedom and joy that leads ultimately to living a life of faithfulness. This certainly doesn’t mean we will live a life of perfect obedience! That won’t happen until we are received into glory. What it does mean is that we will live with the desire of pleasing our Lord perfectly, even as we live it out imperfectly.

The duty of every believer is obedience. But the more our understanding of who God is and what He has done and is doing for us grows, the more this duty becomes a delight.

So . . . are you growing in your understanding of your redemption and all your Redeemer accomplished on your behalf? Have you been adding knowledge to your faith since your conversion? Have you been living in the shadow of the cross—not only daily, but moment by moment? Make no mistake, the believers “bit and bridal” is a growing understanding of what it means at the deepest level to be unconditionally loved and completely forgiven, and because of that love, we strive to live in such a way that we will one day hear our Bridegroom say warmly, “Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your lord.”

This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

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