Monday, May 3, 2010

How Shall They?

“How shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach except they be sent?” (Romans 10:14-15)

The steps taken in order to reach the lost, in Romans 10, are absolutely necessary for true evangelism to take place. Although the methods may vary, the formula does not—it must not!

A believer must be sent and exhorted to preach the Word of God to those who have not heard.

An unbeliever must hear the Word before he is able to believe and call upon Jesus for salvation!

Twice in Scripture, once through the prophet Isaiah and once through the apostle Paul, God declares—in a very poetic way—His sentiments regarding this process! “How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace and bring glad tidings of good things” (Romans 10:15).

Beautiful—that is how He describes their feet…not their desire, not their willingness, not even their heart—but their feet. Odd! But there it is, in black and white! And what God calls precious we must too—for according to Romans 10:14-15, the lost will never be able to (fully) come to Christ without a witness to show them the way.

To the Savior, the act of going—the actual walking (a sign of movement and determination)—is highly treasured. Therefore, to the Christian, the act of going must be highly prioritized.

“How shall they preach unless they’ve been sent…?” Romans 10:15

In order to be “one that is sent” you must have someone sending you. The choosing and sending of missionaries was a very important part of the early church—and it was faithfully practiced. I found it fascinating to read in Scripture that the leaders of the church took seriously the command to “separate, [lay] their hands on them, and [send] them away” (Acts 13:3). They were not waiting for someone to feel “the call” and then choosing to “support them”—no, the leaders were actually, after much prayer and fasting, selecting and calling for that person or persons to go!

The Holy Spirit was very much involved in this process, and, it appears that both the elders and those being “set aside” were sensitive to the Spirit’s leading. The elders were actively involved in looking within their congregation for those who they could send into “all the world” or at least into their respective Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria.

How easy for a church to become so focused on the needs of the local body (although valid) that they quickly loose sight of the Great Commission. We don’t like to “lose our best,” in fact, we may become greedy as a church and never want to say “goodbye” to anyone. We become so comfortable with praying and supporting that we forget the most obvious: God intends more to go!

The last thing our Savior did before leaving this earth was to verbally commission all believers to "go into all the world"! As long as there are those who have not heard…it is of utmost importance to send those who have, out!

He calls the FEET OF THEM THAT PREACH a beautiful thing. A church should be focused on the feet—producing more and more workers with the ability and the tools to go—either into the local community or into another culture’s community.

(Mark 6:7; Acts 1:24-26; Acts 6:5; Acts 13; 1 Timothy 1:18)

“And how shall they hear without a preacher…?” Romans 10:14

God ordained that through the foolishness of preaching man would be saved—“for God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty…that no flesh should glory in his presence” (1 Corinthians 1:27, 29). And, as Paul further points out, “we preach Christ crucified!” Period. Nothing more, nothing less! We are not commanded to confound those to whom we speak…we are commanded to preach Christ—He alone does the confounding, the convicting, and the converting! “Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God” (Romans 10:17).

(Mark 6:12; Acts 2; Acts 7; Acts 13:4a)

“How shall they call on Him in whom they have not heard…?” (Romans 10:14)

It is here that we incorporate not only the responsibility of the Christian but also the response of the non-Christian. After teaching several parables, Jesus addressed the crowd with this powerful statement: “If any man has ears to hear, let him hear!” (Mark 4:23). In other words, having a pair of sounding devices (one on either side of your head) may guarantee the fact that you have ears…but not necessary that you “hear.”

There is a vast difference!

So many people walked away from Jesus while He taught here on earth, either scratching their heads—bewildered, without a clue as to what He meant, or in anger—offended by His inferences.

They were not willing to understand His deeper meaning—it was easier to not get it than to ponder the prophecies declared of old and acknowledge their fulfillment! It was easier to kill Him than to repent of personal sin and hail Him as the Messiah!

Jesus went on to say how important it is to “take heed that you hear!” Before you begin to listen…be determined to be attentive to what is being said! Paul “beseeched” his audience to give full attention to his words. Peter lifted up his voice and begged the people to “hearken” unto that which he had to say.

When what we say is true and vital to salvation, we must plead for the audience to listen up!

For although many may reject what we say, there are those who will “heaken to [the] words” of Christ—they will understand what they hear because they have taken the time to truly listen. Those who have “ears to hear” are given the grace to humbly accept what they now perceive to be true!

(Matthew 13:17; Mark 4:23-24; Acts 2:14; Acts 7:2; Acts 13:16; Acts 26:3; James 1:22; 1 John 1:1; Revelation 1:3)

“How shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed…?” (Romans 10:14)

Once someone has heard the message of the Gospel and perceived it to be true, he must then “reckon” it to be so! It must be appropriated—it must be “believed”—or it is of no effect. There were those in Scripture who heard and chose not to believe…what a very sad reality. But those who “gladly received the word,” verbally stated that acceptance by asking a very simple question: “What must I do to be saved?” Willing to do whatever is necessary to be saved, those who truly believe are ready to act out that belief! And that leads us into the very last point!

(Acts 2:37, 41; Acts 13:48; Acts 16:30)

“How shall they call…?” (Romans 10:14)

The importance of this last step is quite critical. To believe is a quiet dawning on the soul…to call is the public confession of what has already taken place. Scripture states that we must do both—we must believe (“believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved” Acts 16:31) and we must call (“why tarriest thou? …call on the name of the Lord” Acts 23:16). “To call” is to identify oneself with Christ—publicly pulling away from your former life and worldview. “To call” is to preach ones first sermon as you declare to the world (at least the world around you) that “Jesus saves!” “To call” is to identify oneself with “all the saints in every place.” And “to call upon the One” in whom you DO believe, is to secure the assurance of ones salvation! I know—I’ve been there!

(Acts 23:16; Romans 10:12, 13; 1 Corinthians 1:2)

“How shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach except they be sent?” (Romans 10:14-15)

Monday, March 29, 2010

Bear it with Belief

“Until the time that his word came: the word of the Lord tried him” Psalm 105:19

Through many years of experience I have come to realize it is not only fruitless, but also detrimental to my spiritual growth, to cry out in self-pity for the removal of God’s chastening when confronted with trials. Usually such prayers are random bursts of confusion over God’s character or they are overt reaction to pain (like unto the physical jerk and verbal frustration when stubbing a toe)! Prayer within this context only reveals that I am not being “filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding” and therefore not “walking worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing” (Colossians 1:9-10).

My response to trials should be carefully evaluated. “A fool uttereth all his mind; but a wise man keepeth it in till afterwards” (Proverbs 29:11) is a proverb we should apply to our prayer life. I am so grateful for the inspired Word that promises to give us doctrine, reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16). When we are faced with an overwhelming circumstance we must take the time to allow the Scriptures (not our own understanding) to instruct us on how to think and how to pray regarding our trouble. This will mean an immediate dying to self (and its need for pity, anxious fretting, depression, complaint) and it will mean taking the time to sit down with Christ and see what He would have us do!

What does God’s Word say about suffering in the life of a believer?

What does God’s Word say about this specific need?

Who in Scripture also faced this problem? What was their response? What was the result to their response?

Did David find reason to praise God in the midst of this same sorrow?

God has taught me more about His sovereignty (and the reason I can trust His sovereignty) by asking me to carry hard things! I don’t desire hard things, but I do desire to know my Savior…my godly response to hard things conforms me into His likeness! Being conscious of this reality gives me motivation to seek His will over my own and then shut my mouth before opening it up again to Him in prayer!

Joseph’s life is an excellent example of this principle. He was horribly mocked by his brethren, thrown into a pit, ignored, sold into slavery, and falsely accused…he experienced every human emotion and feeling that would accompany such affliction: “whose feet they HURT with fetters: he was laid in iron (an instrument, a bond—fig. harshness, strength, oppression).” Joseph underwent a lot of physical pain. But his life is characterized by submission to His God—a God he obviously believed to be in complete control of every abuse he received. His afflictions were ordained by the Lord—each rejection a part of His plan!

That is easy to believe for Joseph…but what about for yourself?

Do you ever think on that truth when you are faced with difficulty? Have you ever considered that your own pain may be the catalyst God will use to bring about His will in a situation still unknown to you? Or that the suffering you now know (that secret hidden hurt) is placed upon you so that God’s glory might be revealed in not only your life but also the lives of future generations?

Psalm 105 declares that it was “the word of the Lord” that tried Joseph (not his brothers and not Potiphar or Potiphar's wife) and that nothing would change regarding that trial until God’s appointed time for that change to occur. When we recognize this statement as truth, our response to trouble (either big or small) will begin to be less self-centered and more God-centered! We will not run to the Lord with anxious thoughts in a spirit of fear but rather run to Him in order to rest and seek refuge in His promises.

When trials arise, God is not only allowing the affliction…He is in full control of how long we will be under its mighty weight. He is working out His plan and purpose. His purpose is always our sanctification, but His plan may include unforeseen, future events (with Joseph it included the saving of a nation—a nation through which the Messiah would be born Psalm 105:8-45).

Dear reader, trust God to know what is good and right. “Direct [your] prayer” unto the Lord and “look up”—anticipate results (Psalm 5:3). But wait on God without a pushy, arrogant spirit—give Him time to what He will do.

We are told in Psalm 105 that God’s word alone brings relief to our trials—therefore, desire God’s will above your own. The prophet Jeremiah states “it is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth” (Lamentations 3:26). Good? Yes…very good! Nothing that God allows is in vain!

Joseph and Jeremiah both knew the pressure of burdens too heavy to hold on their own. Their lives show a determined obedience to do that which their God required!

Endurance—that is what God wills.

But how do we endure righteously?

When brought into a “dark place,” Jeremiah says we must quiet ourselves…sit alone and keep silent…put our mouth in the dust...and learn to give our cheek to those who smite us “for [our Creator] doth not afflict willingly nor grieve the children of men” (Lamentations 3:26-33). We can eagerly submit to the One who pities our flesh, to the One Who does not inflict pain for any reason but for our greater good—Who “has compassion according to the multitude of His mercies.” He controls the calendar and the clock and every desire of man! Pain will naturally bring panic! And panic my friend, naturally puts our mouth into motion! Without the command to BE QUIET, I'm afraid we would never hear what our Savior has to say! Humbling ourselves before Him—dwelling within His presence—that is how we righteously endure!

Joseph’s full and free forgiveness to those who wronged him—“ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good”—declares that he also chose to believe and act upon the exact truth Jeremiah cited.

“This I call to mind, therefore have I hope. It is the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is Thy faithfulness (Lamentations 3:21-23).

Joseph and Jeremiah both experienced the manifestation of such a Redeemer. They were subjected to cruelty, false accusations, and imprisonment, but they never lost their confidence in their God. They believed in His sovereignty and acted upon that belief! They called out to the Lord in their grief and He heard their cries. He drew near to them in the midst of their pain. They believed God was watching over their every move and that He was aware of their reproach! They believed that He would righteously judge their cause!

When God lays any trouble upon you, silent yourself before Him! Take time to search His word! Be determined to learn of Him—don't assume you know His will or His character without careful study of the Scriptures! He will teach you how to think—His thoughts are opposite your natural inclinations. And He will show you what to pray. Scripture is the perfect petition to take before His throne. He will give you all you need.

To panic, to despair, to seek for sorrow’s early release is to waste precious time in getting to know your Savior better and it will quench the Spirit’s ability to show you great and mighty things—things which you know not!

Rest, look up, trust in God’s perfect timing (and promised escape) instead—He knows what He is planning to do! Your trouble is a part of that plan! Rejoice in the Savior Who has entrusted to you this specific pain! Bear it well—bear it silently—bear it with belief!

“Until the time that his word came: the word of the Lord tried him” Psalm 105:19