Offended by Christian beliefs

It’s in vogue these days for many of the less-than-biblically-minded to claim offense at this or that particular Christian belief. “You don’t think gay marriage is legitimate?” they say,  “I’m very offended by your beliefs.”

Oh, Christian beliefs get WAY more offensive than that.

Dan Phillips explains.

stackobooks

According to His purpose

When I try to see the world through Kingdom eyes, I am constantly amazed. Things, that on their surface, looked bad, God has consistently used — nay, orchestrated — for his own purposes and ultimate glory. His ultimate purpose is, and always has been, to redeem a people as his own and call them to himself that they might praise him for his infinite mercy and grace.

Thid-WornSoccerBallWhen his Gospel became completely known through the person of Jesus Christ, God’s own Son, the truth of it was extremely limited. This Gospel was confined to a small number of disciples and followers in and around Jerusalem — and yet Scripture declares this message is for all peoples, everywhere.

To make matters (seemingly) worse, Jesus sort of turned the keys over to us — us. He told his disciples (and by extension every Christian since then) to go and make disciples of all nations.

Note: The word Jesus used for nations is ethnos — it is where we get our English word “ethnic.” The idea is much more than merely reaching nation states. It is reaching every ethnos, ethnic group, in the world.

Consider the magnitude of this command. There are geographical barriers, political barriers, cultural barriers, racial barriers and language barriers. In fact, what Jesus commanded us to do is an impossible task if — and this is a big “if” — he had left us to do it alone.

But he didn’t.

In his command to the disciples, Christ also made a promise…

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” — Matthew 28:19-20

There is so much in Christ’s promise. He had already told his disciples that when he left, the Holy Spirit would come to take his place.

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.” — John 14:15-17

“These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” — John 14:25-26

We are not going in our own power, but in the power of the Holy Spirit. Furthermore, the message we carry is not our own. We are to teach in the things Christ commanded. We are taking his Word to the world — a fact which brings its own promise…

“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” — Isaiah 55:10-11

Beyond that we have the promise — and the evidence to back it up — that God is working all things according to his purpose for the accomplishment of his goals.

“In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will…” — Ephesians 1:11

“My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose.” — Isaiah 46:10

“Whatever the LORD pleases, he does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps.” — Psalm 135:6

“Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases.” — Psalm 115:3

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” — Romans 8:28

Just look at how God has worked in history. He used earthly tyrants to make the world more conducive to the transfer of His Gospel. His people were located primarily in Jerusalem and the immediate area. Yet, God used persecution to drive them out into the world. They took his Gospel with them. If you look at the events of history with Kingdom eyes you can begin to see a pattern. You can see how God has been at work through even the deeds of evil men.

Unfortunately we have a tendency to view God’s work in redemptive history as… well… history. We fail to see how he is at work in our world even today, as if the narrative is over and we are mere witnesses to history instead of participants in it. But, we are participants in it. Christ has not returned, therefore there is work to be done. God is still at work — and I recently was made aware of still more evidence of this.

Thid-EnglishFootballDuring the age of colonialism England established quite an empire. In fact, there was a time when England’s empire was so vast that the English had a saying, “The sun never sets on the Union Jack.” Pretty clever.

However, keep in mind that many of the people in the countries conquered and colonized by England resented English rule. Colonization was considered an evil, cruel practice. They did not want to be ruled by England. But there is an interesting twist to this story. Everywhere the English went it was necessary to send garrisons of troops to “keep the peace.” These troops brought English customs with them, sort of a little slice of home. One of the more prominent things they brought with them was football (soccer to those of us in the United States).

An interesting thing about football is that it is available to anyone who has access to rags or bags (from which a ball can be fashioned) and an open space to play. This makes it attractive to people who can’t afford sports equipment. The indigenous peoples under English rule took to this game with a passion. When the English left their colonies, football remained. It is played by the same rules everywhere and is the single most popular team sport in the world.

Thid-StreetSoccerIt is estimated that three billion people watched the 2006 World Cup Final — that’s approximately half the globe doing the same thing.

Look at what God has done.

Think back to all the barriers that faced the disciples when Christ issued to them the great commission. Now there is a breech in every one of those walls — geographical, political, cultural, racial, and language. There is at least one thing that is a shared cultural experience for just about every ethnos that exists. And whether you call it football, fussball, futbol, futebol or soccer, we all have an initial means of contact and communication. What a wonderful tool to use to engage someone so that the Gospel may be shared.

This game may very well be the second most multi-cultural phenomenon ever. Second only to this one…

“And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. And he went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who was seated on the throne. And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song, saying, ‘Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.’” — Revelation 5:6-10

This global game is most certainly a gift from God — a golden opportunity — but it’s not the only one. Look around you, brethren. Try to see with Kingdom eyes. Where is God paving the way that his Gospel might spread and his name be glorified? He’s still at work.

Let’s join him.

A Missions Strategy

Dave Black, professor of New Testament and Greek at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, has a few practical suggestions for developing a missions strategy on his blog at daveblackonline.com this morning…

  1. Rely solely on the Holy Spirit. Not your missions textbook or the latest fad in missiology. The early church had a secret for its success: It was Spirit-filled and Spirit-led. They were guided by God.
  2. Be flexible. The Holy Spirit will affirm some of our ideas and reject others. Sometimes He works despite our plans. But be careful not to devise your strategy and then ask God to bless it. Instead, let’s ask God for the strategy.
  3. Beware of busyness. Religious activity is not the same as spirituality. The church at Ephesus is proof of that (Eph. 2:1-7). Spend time with God. Seek His face. Rest in His sovereignty. Simply signing up more Ephesians to do more works without their first love will only lead to disaster.
  4. Finally, ignore numbers. Our Lord never trusted the multitudes. He spent most of His time not with the crowds but with a few disciples. Don’t try to attempt with a host what can be done with a handful of committed Christians. Gideon’s 32,000 need to be whittled down to 300 patterned after Christ.

Friend, the Lord alone can guide our missionary efforts. If we work independently of Him we will fail every time. Frustration will kill us if we try to do it on our own.

His blog is a regular stop on my daily jaunt through the internet. He is a noted scholar in his field (his books have been required reading in some of my own seminary classes), but it is his zeal for missions and his love for the nations that inspires and challenges me the most. It is a passion clearly shared by his bride, who is currently writing a series on missions to India. You can read her first two installments here…

Thid-RucksackMay we all develop a deeper love for the nations and may God continually crush our confidence in ourselves so that we learn to rely on Him for reaching them.

Seeing with Kingdom Eyes

When Alexander the Great conquered portions of Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia, he was trying to make a name for himself. He was extremely selfishly motivated. He was convinced Greek culture was the superior culture in the world and everyone should adopt it — whether they wanted to or not. As you can well imagine, many of the people conquered by Alexander resented his rule, — including a small, insignificant population in a tiny place called Judea.

Empire11Alexander died quite young, however, and his empire was left to four of his top generals. Their reigns resulted in an ongoing power struggle against one another, which, in turn, opened an opportunity for another group of conquerors known as the Romans.

When the Romans conquered portions of the British Isles, Europe, the Middle East and North Africa, they were out to make a name for themselves. They were extremely selfishly motivated. They wanted to built a vast and mighty empire and they thought it entirely proper to confiscate the wealth and resources of any country they could conquer in order to accomplish their goals. Of course, the people they conquered resented Roman rule — including a small, insignificant population in a tiny place called Judea.

This small, insignificant population in Judea was particularly ill at ease over the continued occupation of their land. You see, they were God’s people, chosen from among all the nations of the earth. They were the ones to whom God had sent His prophets. They were the ones to whom God had given His law. Through them God had promised to send a King — a Messiah — who would be their deliverance.

And now, under the heavy yoke of Roman oppression, they waited for Messiah to come. There was just one problem…

The viewed the world with political eyes.

Roman rule over them was unjust. It was oppressive. They just knew when Messiah came He would throw off the Roman oppressors and restore Judea and Jerusalem to it’s former glory — like in the days of King Solomon. When Messiah came, God would be at work again. They just failed to realize God had always been at work.

“But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.” — Galatians 4:4-5

When Jesus Christ, the Messiah, was born it was at the perfect point in history — so orchestrated by God.

It’s true Alexander the Great had no notion of paving the way for Jesus to come. Yet in his conquests he had spread a common language to three continents and the crossroads between them. Whatever else people spoke, they also spoke Koine Greek, the “common” language of the people.

Empire9It’s also true the Romans did not care one whit about the God of the Jews. But in their conquests they had built an incredible road system in between cities so that their army could move with strategic speed in the defense of their empire. They ruled with an iron fist so as to quell any dissent among the conquered people. Therefore criminals were dealt with quickly and harshly. It brought about a relative peace throughout the empire known as the Pax Romana, the “Roman Peace.”

Interesting turn of events — Those safe Roman roads made it quite easy for the average Joe to travel the empire, including traders, merchants…

… and apostles.

When the Gospel of Jesus Christ was planted in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, new converts, with a zeal for sharing this wonderful news, had ease of travel to take this message to people who’d never heard. And guess what? When they got to where they were going they encountered people who spoke the same language.

Amazing.

Things that for centuries had been viewed as political and military defeats — even regarded as national disasters of indescribable proportions — were nothing more than the minuscule manipulations of a sovereign God in His construction of His Kingdom. Alexander the Great and all the Caesars of Rome were nothing more than tools in the hand of Almighty God, accomplishing His perfect will.

And, while the Jews in Judea saw the world through political eyes, God opened the eyes of His apostles so that they might see the world with Kingdom eyes. This message of Jesus Christ is for all nations. Borders and cultures are all to be breeched with the Gospel. It is by this means God intends to save His people.

Which brings us to our point in history.

The world is still in conflict. There are still people out there who are extremely selfishly motivated and work diligently for the accomplishment of their own goals. And, when we see them making headway, it is easy to become discouraged. Just a few examples should make the point…

  • Muslims are immigrating to Europe in unprecedented numbers. Islamic families are producing four to five times the number of children than European families. Statisticians speculate that Muslims could outnumber non-Muslims in many European countries by 2025. At which point Muslims, who have tried and failed numerous times in history to invade and conquer Europe, would become the majority demographic. Many Europeans are not happy about this.
  • Many people view Hispanic immigration in the United States as a serious problem — for a variety of reasons.
  • Many citizens of the United States realize the U.S. federal government is becoming more and more oppressive by the day, seeking to micromanage more and more aspects of Americans’ lives. Many people who occupy high offices in the federal government are becoming openly and increasingly hostile to a Christian worldview — and many Americans are unhappy about this.

These kinds of things lead some to ask the question, “When is God going to get to work again?” Please don’t fail to realize God has always been at work. Let’s play a little game of “What if…”

  • What if — God is orchestrating the immigration of Muslims into Europe so that they may be introduced to the Gospel. Many of them come from countries where the Gospel is forbidden. What if He is moving them into an environment where they will become more likely to hear about the Messiah.
  • What if — God is orchestrating the immigration of Hispanics into the United States so that they may be introduced to the Gospel. Many of them come from countries where they are so bound by cultural religious practices that it becomes very different for them to hear the truth of Scripture. What if God brought them to the United States so that they might be saved and then return to their home counties as missionaries.
  • What if — God is orchestrating more and more hostility toward Christianity in the United States in order to purge His church of pretenders and to bring about revival. What if He plans to use persecution to mobilize us in ways we can’t yet see?

Thid-IslamicHatYou might be thinking that the people in a couple of these examples are openly hostile toward God and His Word. The Muslims migrating to Europe have an agenda to spread Islam. Many of the political leaders in the United States are seeking to make as many people dependant upon them, thereby insuring for themselves a sustained grasp on power. To accomplish this they need to destroy any notion that people may have of depending upon anyone else — including God.

Granted. Some of these people are openly hostile toward God.

So was Paul.

Paul (or, at the time, Saul) was on his way to Damascus to arrest Christians and see them in jail or worse. He had an encounter with Christ. He was changed into one of the fiercest allies of the Gospel ever. God still does this sort of thing. The people who now are at odds with God may find themselves transformed after they’ve had an encounter with the very Gospel they seek to destroy. And all of these situations we view as terrible we can know are ultimately nothing more than the miniscule manipulations of a sovereign God who is busy building His kingdom.

“In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will…” — Ephesians 1:11

We can be either greatly discouraged or greatly encouraged by what we see. The question we need to answer is this:

Do we see the world with political eyes or Kingdom eyes?

%d bloggers like this: