Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Serve as God Wills!

"William [Carey] worked hard at his cobbling, making sure he was giving his best service to his customers. When this was finished for the day he made time to study languages, science, history; to lecture when invited, and weekly to preach. It was a busy life but a contented one. In a letter to his father written at this time he said: 'I am not my own, nor would I choose for myself. Let God employ me where He thinks fit.'" (William Carey by Kellsye Finnie, OM Literature)

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Sanctifying Shepherd

By John MacArthur
[from The Master’s Mantle, Summer 2009, Vol. 16:2, page 1, 3]

There is a growing but false legend that churches are designed for non-believers--a "contextualization movement," according to David Wells, founded on sola cultura, not sola scriptura. As a result, true Christianity hides its face, resulting in the death of sanctification. Seeking only numbers and affirmation, he adds, this new evangelicalism uses the culture to attract, with no interest in the deadly poison that lies below the surface of it.

Contextualization is nothing but an overexpo¬sure to the world, the flesh, and the devil, leading to a rise in antinomianism. History shows that antinomianism follows hard on the heels of a recovery of the doctrines of grace. Because the doctrines of grace can be pressed hard in the direction that everything is settled and secured, it leads easily to blatant and out-rageous antinomianism.

Contextualization of the gospel today has infected the church with the spirit of the age. It has opened the church's doors wide for worldliness, shallowness, and in some cases a crass party atmosphere. The world now sets the agenda for the church-it has done it musically, and is now doing it in terms of the message. A survey by James Davidson Hunter, a sociology professor at the University of Virginia, found that young evangelicals have become significantly more tolerant of activi¬ties once viewed as worldly or immoral, including smoking, using marijuana, attend¬ing R-rated movies, and premarital sex.

In No Place for Truth, David Wells writes, "The stream of historic orthodoxy that once watered the evangelical soul is now dammed up by a worldliness that many fail to recognize as worldliness because of the cultural inno¬cence with which it presents itself It may be that Christian faith, which has made many alliances with modern culture in the past few decades, is also living in a fool's paradise, com¬forting itself about all the things God is doing, while it is losing its character, if not its soul."

Clearly the NT church is focused on godliness and the edification of the saints so that they might reflect the image of Christ. That was Paul's foundational principle of ministry. In 2 Corinthians 11:29, he asks, "Who is led into sin without my intense concern?" In Galatians 4: 19 he adds, "I am in labor pains until Christ is fully formed in you." The sanctification of God's people involves agonizing, excruciating pain, in a world without anesthesia. It's not about how clever you can be to reach the cul¬ture by looking like the culture, because then you've just opened the sewer and let it seep in.

Today, everything seems directed away from this. We want to get as close to the world as possible. But we don't need culture to define the life of the church. When Paul says he became all things to all people, he simply means he would make any personal sacrifice to reach a person. Holiness of the church is Paul's objective, and must be ours. To fulfill this mandate, the shepherd must recognize seven things:
The power of the flesh. Do you understand the power of the flesh, how easily temptation is excited? Your people need to be protected from their own flesh, from inciting the flesh by painting word pictures of sex organs. The battle has to be won on the inside (Rom 7; James 1). I never want to be a person who is used to solicit any kind of evil in the mind of anyone. Because "Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea" (Matt 18:6). That's the first instruction given to the church-protection from temptation. The church should be a haven, not a place peo¬ple are tempted.

The power of the world. Whatever you borrow from the world has the potential to corrupt. Friendship with the world is enmity with God (James 4:4; 1 John 2). The last thing you want to do is kick the church doors open and bring the world in-rubbing out the line between the world and the church. I want to build a wall so when you come to church your experience is disconnected from the world.

The power of Satan. "The devil prowls around like a roar¬ing lion, seeking whom he may devour" (1 Pet 5:8; 2 Cor 2:11; John 17:15). Shepherds not only feed and water sheep; they also protect them. You never want to be the instrument by which the devil gains access to your flock. The sanctifying shepherd recognizes that his people have a high level of susceptibility to corruption through the world, the flesh, and the devil, to which they're overexposed con¬stantly. The battle is fierce in their hearts-at work, at school, watching television, etc. The shepherd must be their protector.

The power of the Scripture. A sanctifying shepherd recog¬nizes the power of the Scriptures to sanctify. "Sanctify them by Thy truth: Thy Word is truth" (John 17:17; c[ Ps 119:11; Tit 3:5). We are pruned and purged by the Word, and that is why the shepherd is committed to the exposition of Scripture and thereby unleashing its sanctifying power.

The power of the Holy Spirit. "But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh" (Gal. 5: 16). Being filled with the Spirit basically means to let the Word dwell richly within you (cp. Eph 5:18 with Col 3:16). As shepherds, we want our people to come under the sanctifying power of the Scripture and the sanctifying power of the Spirit. They go together.

The power of confrontation. There is power in confronta¬tion (Matt 18:15-17). How can you do that in a church where the members aren't Christians? That's impossible by definition. How can you do that in a church where you just want everybody to feel good about being there?

The power of example. Your people know what's in your heart by what you say. "Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks" (Matt 12:34). You can tell what a man thinks by his speech. Furthermore, when you stand in your pulpit, your people are getting the most sanitized version of you. The real you is not that sanitized! There's a reality about our fallenness that we don't need to display. But when you see someone who is openly flagrant, coarse, and profane (and that's the most sanitized version of him?), the conclu¬sion is obvious.

Christ-likeness is the goal of ministry in the church (Eph 4:13). Martin Luther, noting that the power of your min¬istry is inseparable from your character, called antinomian teaching the "crassest error, designed to grind me underfoot and throw the gospel into confusion. Such teaching," he contended, "kicks the bottom out of the barrel of God's sav¬ing work." We need to be sure that we understand that we have been called to shepherd the flock of God (1 Pet 5:2), which means to travail in pain, until they come to Christ¬likeness.

My prayer for you is that you would be sanctifying shepherds.

[from The Master’s Mantle, Summer 2009, Vol. 16:2, page 1, 3]

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Deeds, Creeds, and Mission

by Daren Beck

And he called unto him the twelve, and began to send them forth by two and two; and gave them power over unclean spirits… And they went out, and preached that men should repent (Mark 6:7 & 12, KJV).

These last months, my colleague BJ Lopez and I have been teaching through the Gospel of Mark. I have always enjoyed this particular book because it is hard-hitting, concise and action-packed! In Mark 6, we find Jesus sending out the 12 disciples on a short-term mission trip. Their mandate was clear, their methods were detailed by Christ, and they were deployed for the task (Mark 6:7-13). Among other things, I was struck by the harmony with which Jesus combined the emphasis of proclaimed truth and accompanying works. Today there is much talk about “creeds and deeds” in mission. By creeds we mean a body of truth which can be Biblically defined and is historically accepted by the Church, and deeds as those things we do that point people to the Gospel of Christ.

The disciples followed Jesus’ example of proclamational preaching – a message that demanded repentance and faith in Christ. Their mission also included the authority and power to authenticate their message and to identify their authority with the One (Christ) who had sent them. Neither the creed nor the deed was lost in the mission.

Down through history the Church has many times emphasized either creeds or deeds in attempting to accomplish mission (taking the Gospel to the world) while neglecting one or the other. It seems to have divided some groups to be known as those who only emphasize doctrine (creeds), while others are driven by an insatiable desire to show Christ through good works (deeds) in hopes of demonstrating the Gospel to a spiritually dying world. Needless to say there is a balance to be found lest we become either modern-day Pharisees or neo-gnostic moralists! But I fear that many of us are dangerously close to losing the heart of the Gospel which is rooted in the foundational truths which comprise our stated beliefs (creeds): consider the following:
The Bible is God’s redemptive story (Romans 3:1-23).

Man’s depravity and spiritual deadness demand that the Holy Spirit do the work of regeneration in a completely supernatural way (Ephesians 2:1).

Apart from this work of the Holy Spirit the Gospel is foolishness to those who are already perishing in their sin (I Corinthians 1:17-18).

The only source of light for the world is Jesus (John 1:5), even as He shines through His redeemed people (Matthew 5:16); He is the true light who is the source of salvation (II Corinthians 2:5-6).

People come to salvation through the preaching and teaching of the Gospel (Romans 10:15-17).

None of the presuppositions mentioned above are dependent in any way on my deeds or works. I certainly affirm that the byproduct of spiritual fruits will be activities (work or deeds) that honor Christ (James 2:14-26). The truths declared in Scripture become my creed forming an unyielding foundation for everything I do, including mission.

Our ministry here in Cambodia is built on the timeless truths of Scripture and we are unapologetic in proclaiming our firm belief that the Good News is to be declared and proclaimed. Should we be about deeds? Absolutely! As Christ shines in our hearts and the Holy Spirit empowers us, we share the privilege of demonstrating Christ to a dying world – for His praise in their salvation and for His glory in the preservation of His holiness in their judgment (II Corinthians 2:16).

Pray that we of ACTION would be faithful in our Christ-commissioned mission. Pray that our message would reflect the truths contained in Scripture and that our actions would come out of the overflow of our hearts and be used by God for His glory.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

News from the Action Zambia PLD field

AZ Welcomes A New Consultant

Action Zambia Ministries (AZM) recently hired a new, part-time consultant, Wozifera Ngoma. Ngoma joins AZM's staff to assist in the areas of leadership and discipleship.

In the local language, Ngoma's first name means, "someone who has died on his own." But Ngoma likes to give it a Biblical meaning from Galatians 2:20, "It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me." (ESV)

Born in Zimbabwe on June 3, 1960, Ngoma lived with his parents and grandparents who had emigrated from Zambia to work in the mines. In 1967 his family returned to Zambia's eastern province and settled in Chipata.

Having been raised in a life of religiosity, the truth of Scripture

hadn't come alive for him until he was 22 years of age. His cousin, Charlton, shared with him that baptism was not what saved a person, but that a personal relationship with Jesus Christ did. When his cousin told him this, his eyes were opened, much like Nicodemus. He then realized there was more to Christianity than he had known and that he must be born again.

Following his conversion on March 17, 1982, Ngoma experienced a real freedom and began to grow in grace. Living in the remote bush, there was no one to disciple him. However, God by His Spirit helped him to grow in a number of ways. First, the Lord taught him that he needed to share his faith. Winning seven people to the Lord soon after coming to Christ increased his joy. He also had an intense hunger for the Word of God which led him to read the Scriptures daily. Thirdly, he cried out to God in prayer each day, oftentimes going to the mountains to seek the Lord.

Since his conversion he has lived up to his name by planting churches in rural areas, seeking theological training, and pasturing Faith Tabernacle Church for the past 12 years. He also shepherds a congregation of listeners each Sunday morning through a ZNBC broadcast on Radio One. Although he doesn't see his flock in the broadcasting room, he knows there are many in need of salvation and discipleship who can be reached with radio waves. Ngoma also ministers to HIV/AIDS
patients at the George Health Center each Friday where a group of 80 persons meets for Bible study.

Ngoma has not always had a heart for people with this deadly disease. Before his conversion, he thought only prostitutes contracted AIDS. Since that time he has seen that there are innocents who become sick with this illiness. AIDS began to concern him when some of his family and people in the church began to die. Ngoma began to see that when Christ walked the earth he embraced those who were suffering. As he thought about Jesus' example, God changed his heart and he longed to bring the Word of God to patients at the clinic in George township, people who often do not have a church.

As a volunteer Ngoma also coordinates leadership and AIDS awareness conferences. His greatest joy is to see people's lives being transformed. His passion and heart for the work drives him, not the earthly reward, as he uses his own finances for these events.

In his new role with AZM Ngoma is looking forward to working with pastors in the Action Bible Institute (ABI) and
discipleship 2:7. He says, ". . . most of our pastors have not had the privilege of going to college. They cannot afford the fees. How can you pastor people if you don't know the Word of God yourself?"

He likens the need for pastoral training to the taking in of physical food. People must be fed with the right kind of nourishment. If they aren't, then they will die. In the same way, pastors must be fed with the correct type of spiritual food. They will die without proper spiritual nutrition. In turn, without the right type of doctrine the people will be misled. "What AZM is doing is helping those who aren't privileged."

What AZM is also doing is planting seeds, according to Ngoma. ABI currently teaches 14 students and 2:7 disciples 10.
Those 24 can in turn teach hundreds, then thousands, then millions. In the years to come these very people will impact a lot of lives.

AZM welcomes Pastor Ngoma as he joins its staff and becomes a part of impacting the lives of Zambians. Please pray for him as he serves with AZM. Pray also for his wife of 20 years, Easter, and their three sons, Joshua, Joash, and Joel.