Local Church – Global Impact 5: Mission Tightly Defined

This is a continuation of the last post about Biblical Convictions about mission.  What I’m trying to do in that post and this is to lay a foundation from which to build our mission engagement as a church.  And this is where the foundation must come from – the Word of God.

So, what I’m going to do is a little dangerous.

I’m going to give 5 Biblical reasons why the “mission of the Church” should be tightly defined as proclamation based.*  There are certainly folks out there that would disagree.  They may disagree with my reading of the Scriptures.  They may point to other passages that I won’t be engaging.  I am aware of their arguments and positions, but I still believe that as we look at the major thrust of Scripture, we’ll land where Scrivener and DeYoung and others landed in the previous post.  Namely, we’ll see that the mission of the Church is evangelism that leads to discipleship that leads to church planting.

Point 1: The Blessing from Abraham for the Nations (ETHNE) is the Gospel

And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.” -Galatians 3.8

The choosing of Abraham and therefore Israel is a choosing that places them in a unique role between God and the nations/gentiles.  The Lord has promised to BLESS Abraham and his seed in such a way that all the nations will be blessed.  And that blessing for the nations, according to Paul, is the Gospel.  It’s good news!  It’s news of rescue that must be preached!

Now some will say that the blessing Abraham received was land, offspring, finances, and a great name.  But those things were given SO THAT Yahweh might provide a Savior for the world.  Those circumstantial blessings (name, land, money, offspring) were simply to create a scenario in which the Messiah could come.  With no offspring, the promise breaks down.  With no land, it would be difficult to create a people through whom God might redeem all the other peoples.

Point 2: The Great Commission Fulfills Restoration Promises

Often folks will say, God’s mission is the redemption of the cosmos, not just humanity.  That’s true, but what they fail to see is that the redemption of the cosmos depends on redemption of humanity.  I want to show this in 2 ways.  First, I want to show that Matthew sees the fulfillment of the Great Commission as the fulfillment of land and restoration promises.

16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17 And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 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, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” – Matt 28.16-20

The entirety of Matthew’s Gospel is to show how Jesus is the fulfillment of all the promises of Yahweh.  That is true all the way until the end.  Here’s the difference, part of Christ’s fulfillment of OT promises comes through the ministry of the Church, particularly as she goes and proclaims the Gospel to all nations, making disciples of all people groups.

It is interested to read Matthew 28.16-20 next to two key OT passages – Joshua 1.6-9 and 2 Chronicles 36.22-23, here:

Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them. Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go. This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” 22 Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom and also put it in writing: 23 “Thus says Cyrus king of Persia, ‘The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and he has charged me to build him a house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whoever is among you of all his people, may the Lord his God be with him. Let him go up.’

In both passages, you’ll see significant overlaps.  Look at the Septuagint, for me, makes this even more clear.  You’ll see doubt/fear on the part of those being commissioned with Matthew and Joshua.  You’ll see clear communication on what the goal is (all nations, all the land, a house at Jerusalem).  You’ll see authority being assigned.  You’ll see the expectation of obedience and completion.  You’ll see the expectation that those commissioned will GO and fulfill what they’ve been given.

Why does Matthew pattern the Great Commission after these passages?  It’s not just a commission formula.  It’s FULFILLMENT!  Matthew is saying, “all the promises regarding land, restoration, etc. in the Old Testament will be fulfilled in this way!”  The road to restoration of the cosmos runs through the fulfillment of the Great Commission.  This is particularly meaningful for the 2 Chronicles passage.  They were heading back to the land, back to build the Temple, back to Yahweh.  This was meant to be the restoration, but it wasn’t.  Matthew says, “the Great Commission is!”

Another reason I believe this is Paul’s argument in Chapter 8, namely that the redemption of the creation WAITS FOR THE REVEALING OF THE SONS OF GOD!  Or to sum up, creation will not be redeemed until God has finished redeeming His children.  Creation will grown, waiting in futility, until salvation is finalized.  The road to the redemption of the cosmos is paved with evangelism, discipleship, and church planting.

Part 3: The Early Church’s activity

How did the early church respond to the Great Commissions (Matt 28.16-20, Luke 24.44-49, Acts 1.8, John 20.21, and Mark 16.15)?  What did they do?  The preached the Gospel as they went out, discipled new believers, and planted churches.  That’s how they responded.  We see no example of them engaging politically (not that some of them weren’t active in politics because of their professions).  There is some care for the poor, the widow, etc. but those examples are all Christians taking care of Christians.  That’s not to say that there wasn’t wider care.  What I’m saying is that Luke is trying to tell us what the church on mission did.  Because they were simply Christians, they loved the poor, the widow, but this is Christian ethics, NOT missiology.  If you took the entirety of the book of Acts, you’d see a Church busy about proclaiming Christ to the lost.  So, how did they respond to Christ’s commission?  Evangelism, discipleship, and church planting.

Part 4: Paul Planted Churches

There were many missionaries, ordained and sent, in the New Testament time.  But, we only get to follow 1 of them around – Paul.  Which means that we should look closely at his activity to discern the work of mission.  Yes, he did collect funds for the suffering churches, but if we take the few references in the NT to that and then argue that it was central to Paul’s ministry, we’d be arguing that 3 or 4 verses are as important as hundreds of others that show Paul preaching, discipling, and raising up churches.  Look at Romans 15.19b-24

19b from Jerusalem and all the way around to Illyricum I have fulfilled the ministry of the gospel of Christ; 20 and thus I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I build on someone else’s foundation, 21 but as it is written,

“Those who have never been told of him will see,
    and those who have never heard will understand.”

22 This is the reason why I have so often been hindered from coming to you. 23 But now, since I no longer have any room for work in these regions, and since I have longed for many years to come to you, 24 I hope to see you in passing as I go to Spain, and to be helped on my journey there by you, once I have enjoyed your company for a while.

He’s COMPLETED work from Jerusalem all the way to modern day Croatia and Albania.  What had he done in those regions?  Established churches.

Point 5: God Keeps His Promises

Genesis 12.1-13 says that the blessing through Abram’s seed, that is through Jesus (Gal 3.17), will go to all peoples.  It just makes sense that the end would wait for this promise to be kept.  Regardless of eschatology, passages like Matthew 24.14, Romans 11.25, and 2 Peter 3.8-13, should lead all of us to say, “Yes, God will keep His promise.  He is God of ALL nations.”  So, He is waiting and redeeming men and women from all nations.  He’s not waiting for poverty to be demolished (though we should want it to be) or political peace throughout the world (though we should pursue that).  This is the only mission that He’s promised to complete before the end.  And, we know He keeps His promise because we see them in Revelation 7:9 gathered before the throne of God, worshiping the Lamb of God.

OK, I tried to keep that short.  Each point, perhaps, should have had it’s own post.

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Life Changing Stat of the Month – April 2017

Hello friends, before jumping back into my series on Local Church mission strategy, I wanted to start a new Monthly-ish series called “Life Changing Stat of the Month” where we simply share a stat and discuss it’s importance for the Church and her mission.

This month’s stat comes from the Center for the Study of Global Christianity.  I want you to read it at least 3 times before moving on.  Ready, here it is:

86% of all Muslims, Hindus, and Buddhists do not personally know a Christian

What do you think about that?  That means that the largest blocks of people without the Gospel don’t even know someone that could tell it to them.  What should that mean for the Church?  This SHOULD have seismic shifts in our churches’ mission strategy (we’ll visit this soon), in our short-term mission practices, in our prayers, and in our day to day lives.

Do you see it…the lost are, in many ways, because Christians choose to not live anywhere near them.  Even some residual evangelism might take place if we just lived among them.  Some people ask me why God is allowing the refugee crisis today…I think a major reason is this stat.  I think Paul would agree.  Read Acts 17.26-27

And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him.

God has, as my friend Cody Lorance says, taken the 10/40 Window and started shaking it upside down over places where Christians do live and churches do exist.  WHY?  So that these poor, lost, miserable masses might seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him!!!!

Well then, besides welcoming the unreached that come to us, what are we to do?  What if we started allowing the Biblical priority that the Gospel should move from where it is to where it is not (see Genesis 12.1-3, Luke 4.43, and Romans 15:18-24 for instance) affect where we send workers.  It may not be enough simply to say, “we’ll send you anywhere God has laid on your heart.”  Maybe we need to help them see God’s heart on this matter.

What if, too, we encouraged our marketplace professionals to find out if their company (or a company like it) might consider transferring them to Unreached places.  I have friends that have been transferred (along with very healthy pay raises) to some of the most unreached Muslim countries in the world.  We must be in contact with the lost.  Even those of us stuck in the West or the “bible belt” need to be asking whether many lost people know us.

I know some of you out their have even better ideas.  Let’s hear them!

Steven’s Study

Resources collected from my personal study, suggested for your personal study.

Every week I bring you a list of articles, podcasts, and sermons that I found helpful for my own edification. My hope is that you also will find these useful in your personal growth in the Christ.

A conversation, not a recitation

This is a good article about gospel fluency in our daily conversations. For many reason we all need to learn the outline of the gospel, but then that information must make it’s way into everyday conversation. “Evangelism is communication, not recitation.”

Building Blocks of Salvation pt 2: The Path

Building Blocks of Salvation Pt 3: The Purpose & The Promise

Here are parts 2 and 3 of Clint Archer’s series on salvation. If your looking for part 1 because you missed it. I posted it a few weeks ago, or just click here.

J. I. Packer on One of the Most Urgent Needs in the Church Today

This is an article posted on Crossway as a recommendation for their new book “The New City Catechism”. It has many quotes by J.I. Packer about the need for Catechesis in the church. I have looked in on this practice a few times for my children, but now I find myself think of how we might incorporate this into our church. I think it may hold many benefits.

‘One Anothers’ I Can’t Find in the New Testament

Here is flavor on this short article by Ray Ortland Jr.

“Therefore, when we mistreat one another, our problem is not a lack of surface niceness but a lack of gospel depth. What we need is not only better manners but, far more, true faith.”

 

My post is a bit shorter this week, but hope you find some help here.

As ever, may the Lord bless you and keep you! – Steven

A Model for Biblical Masculinity

At our church, we are about to begin a new quarterly time for men to get together and pursue God’s vision for Biblical masculinity, so I’ve been thinking a lot about this topic.  I wanted to share a little “model” with you that is my attempt to capture, in visual form what Biblical masculinity looks like, as well as some description (as short as I could bring myself to it) of how it all functions together.  I’d love to hear your thoughts.

A MODEL OF MASCULINITY

I’m a visual learner. I love charts, graphs, maps, and funny cartoon clippings. I also am a big-picture person. I struggle with details, but if you can give me a compelling overview, then I can begin to dig into the details in a way that keeps me from getting overwhelmed. So, when I began to ask, “what makes a good man” I quickly found myself trying to create some type of visual aid that would help me understand the big picture. Out of that, came the above Model.

While we could say much about the different pieces of this Model, I want to show how they all fit together here.

CORE IDENTITY OF WORSHIP

The Model consists of a core identity; namely, living in a loving relationship with the one, true God as a worshipper – one who delights in, who enjoys fellowship with the Triune God.

At the heart of every real man must be a heart of worship towards God. Not just any god will do, however, because we will become like what we worship. So, if the god I worship created mankind because he needed them (ancient Greek gods for instance), then I will become a needy, self-serving man who demands that others exist to fulfill me. If I worship a god who created mankind, but now keeps his distance (the god of Islam, deism), I will be a detached man who produces something (perhaps work, a child, a family) but then stands apart from it as if it must now continue without me. If I believe creation comes from an accident (new-age spiritualism, most forms of evolutionary theory, Gnosticism), then it doesn’t matter how I live. In this view, the fact that I’m a man is an accident any way. Finally, if I believe that creation isn’t a reality (Buddhism, Hinduism), but is a mirage, a façade, then my life isn’t real either, so the best thing I can do is ignore reality and spend my days seeking nirvana – whatever self-actualization plan I prefer. I will check out on my responsibilities because I don’t really believe in reality.

However, if I believe in the God of Christianity, the Triune God, who is real, who created with intentionality, who created not out of need but out of love, who created and then didn’t run away but remains active in the world, who takes all responsibility for what has been, what is, and what will be, and if I’ve been made in His image – to do his works, think his thoughts, and represent Him in the world – that makes all the difference. At the heart of every real man is a delight in the God who made him and all things. If that is missing, nothing else in the Model will work.

3 SECONDARY ROLES FLOW OUT OF WORSHIP

There are 3 other roles that every man must fulfill, represented by the outer circles of the Model. Every man must be a Shepherd, Soldier, and Sage. The core characteristics for these roles are Love, Courage, and Wisdom respectively. Certainly, each man will gravitate towards one of these roles more than another, but he is called to develop in and live out of all three.

And all three need to be tethered to Worship. Because God’s Wisdom, God’s Courage, and God’s Love are completely different from the world’s wisdom, courage, and love. As Paul says in 1 Corinthians 1:25, “For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” If we start from any point other than the God of Scripture, we are hopeless. Our best love, courage, and wisdom, conjured up somewhere other than from the power of God, are faulty, weak, and foolish. And so to move out from that place spells doom. Soldiers will become dictators, Shepherds will love sporadically or with sappy sentimentality, and Sages will use their wisdom for their own good or for no one’s.

FIDELITY TO GOD’S COMMUNAL LOVE, KINGDOM MISSION, AND DIVINE TRUTH

In fact, these three roles are really responses to God. They exist because God exists and is who he says he is. God is love. That is the core of who he is, and so as those made in his image, we too are called to love (Shepherd). He is community, the Trinity, and so we were created to love in community. The Shepherd role reflects the appropriate response (relational fidelity) to God’s communal love.

So too, God is King of a Kingdom, and he is on a mission to establish that Kingdom. As citizens of that Kingdom and co-heirs with Christ, we are drafted into the Kingdom mission. We are His vice-regents. The Soldier role reflects the appropriate response (missional fidelity) to God’s Kingdom mandate.

Finally, God is true. Though every man be found a liar, he will be found true. And he not only knows the truth, but knows what to do with it, so he is also all-wise. His wisdom makes even the wisest man look like a fool. And so, He has given the Spirit of God to each of us, in short, he has given us the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:12-16). The Sage role reflects the appropriate response (theological fidelity) to the truth of God.

THE BALANCE OF THE 3 SECONDARY ROLES

Not only must they flow out of the heart of a worship, but these three roles also help balance each other. For instance, a Soldier who doesn’t use wisdom (Sage) will lose the battle, and one who doesn’t love (Shepherd) might win the wrong battle or win the right battle wrongly, believing that the ends justify the means. Similarly, a Shepherd who allows love to trump truth (Sage) has actually departed from real love. And a Shepherd, busy loving, who forgets his mission (Soldier) leads the sheep into danger or away from true blessing. Finally, a Sage who loves knowledge and wisdom, but forgets to employ that wisdom for the good of God’s people (Shepherd) and for his Kingdom (Soldier), fails. All three need each other.

THE INTERWOVEN BEAUTY OF THE 3 SECONDARY ROLES

And when they are working together, we see beautiful and critical activities flowing out, illustrated by the 3 outer rectangles. When courage (Soldier) and love (Shepherd) combine, the result is service – sacrificial, humble service to God, His Church, and humanity. When love (Shepherd) and wisdom (Sage) combine, the result is cultivation – that is, space for the things that make life beautiful and bountiful, from poetry to farming to government that is just. Finally, when courage (Solider) and wisdom (Sage) combine, the result is Christ-like leadership, resulting in the people of God wisely and boldly fulfilling their purpose.

This is just an overview. We could dive much deeper into each role and activity.  Thoughts?

Steven’s Study

Resources collected from my personal study, suggested for your personal study.

Every week I bring you a list of articles, podcasts, and sermons that I found helpful for my own edification. My hope is that you also will find these useful in your personal growth in the Christ.

Why Christians Should Read History

Last week I put an article about reading biographies in the mix. This week it is much the same with reading history. However, I think a better title might be, “Why Everyone Should Read History, Especially Christians”! Scott Slayton does a great job explaining why reading history is so beneficial.

4 Ways the Gospel Transforms Work

I’m not sure I have ever read or listen to anything by Tim Keller and walked away thinking, “That was unhelpful!”. The same goes for this talk given at Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama. Here are the 4 ways, as he explains, how the gospel transforms work:

  1. Christian faith gives you a new identity, without which work can sink you.
  2. Christian faith gives you a new concept of the dignity of all work, without which work can bore you.
  3. Christian faith gives you a moral compass, without which work can corrupt you.
  4. Christian faith gives you a new worldview, without which work will be your master instead of your servant.

David Platt’s Guide to Navigating Unprecedented Social Change

Looking for someone to fire you up about the gospel in the midst of tough cultural change? David Platt is your guy! This is a great interview with him about the re-release of his book “Counter Culture”. It’s about 30 minutes long. I found it encouraging.

How Obedience Sets Us Free . . . Or Not

One of my favorite formats to learn from is listening to a discussion between several people educated on the subject. It brings some much nuance to the issue being discussed. This is a panel discussion between Tim Keller, John Piper, Jonathan Leeman, Mike McKinley, Tom Schreiner, and Hunter Powell on the subject of Christian freedom.

Why a risk-ready mindset is essential for growing churches

This is the kind of article that gets my heart pumping! Let me give you a paragraph for flavor:

So God’s sovereignty allows us to be opportunistic and entrepreneurial. In his parable of the talents, or bags of gold (Matthew 25:14-30), Jesus likens himself to a master who entrusts resources to his servants while he’s away. When he returns, he commends two servants with the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant!”, because they made the most of what they’d been given. The third servant is condemned because he just protected what he had. He didn’t take any risk in trying to do something creative with the master’s resources.

Jesus was warning that many will be horrified to discover that attempting nothing for Jesus reveals that they were never his true disciples—because genuine disciples care so much for their Master’s gospel business that they will accept unavoidable risks to advance it. Real disciples don’t live too safely, because they love their Master enough to have a go.

We Can’t Microwave People into Maturity

Patience is a virtue! A virtue that few posses. Especially in our western culture where we are taught “If it works, it’s right!”. Christians aren’t called to such pragmatism, but rather we are called to persevere. Faithfully doing what is right regardless of what seems to work. Don’t get me wrong, what God designs always works. It’s just not on our time table.

I Had Been My Whole Life a Bell

The blog “Sayable” is quickly becoming a favorite of mine. Not because of its practicality or deep intellectual theology, though it has some of that, but because it feels so much like reading real life! Like a clean mirror reflecting a dirty wall. It makes “sayable” much of the things we all experience. This article is actually a book recommendation on a book called “Struck” by Russ Ramsey (which I have not read). The excerpt she gives from the book is well worth a few minutes. Here is a flavor:

Lamentation is a part of worship. It is that part of us that cries out over the sorrow of the suffering, pain, and relational brokenness by which we have all been hurt. I lament to the Lord that over these past two years I have been the bruised reed he has promised not to break. I am the smoldering wick he has promised not to extinguish. I am the brokenhearted whose wounds need binding. God gave me this body with all of its physical limits, and then he broke me. He is at the same time my Healer and the one who has permitted my affliction.

The deeper I venture into this affliction, the more questions I have. But I remember C. S. Lewis who said, “When I lay these questions before God I get no answer. But a rather special sort of ‘no answer.’ It is not the locked door. It is more like a silent, certainly not uncompassionate, gaze. As though he shook his head not in refusal but waiving the question. Like, ‘Peace, child; you don’t understand.’”

   It makes me want to pick up a copy soon!

Why Do You Want to Be a Christian

A great question to ask yourself on a regular basis. Our hearts are so wicked and sick we cannot understand our own motivations often. And because of this we smuggle our idols into the church with us.

As ever, may the Lord bless you and keep you! – Steven

 

 

 

Local Church – Global Impact 4: Biblical Convictions

OK, remember, Mission is not my idea.  It’s not John Piper’s idea or Billy Graham’s or the Apostle Paul’s idea.  IT’S GOD’S IDEA!  Which means that He alone has the right to determine what the mission is, how it should be done, who should do it, etc.  And this is SOOO crucial.  Much of mission today is accomplishing a lot of the wrong things.  It’s not only doing damage in many parts of the world, but it’s sapping resources that could have gone towards the Biblical mission we’ve been given.

The next few posts are going to try and help us look at the Word and understand what it is that God is calling us to.  We need clarity.  I’m going to call in a lot of help in these particular posts because we are treading on very hotly debated issues.  So, why don’t we start with this question: what is mission?  I’m going to share a few resources with you that I believe BEST answer this question.  The following posts will show, further, why I think this is the case.  So without further ado, I want to point you to:

What we will see is that the mission of God is a Gospel mission.  And since the Gospel is news (really, really good news!), it must be heralded.  So, proclamation is central.  We will also see that the Church is central.  She, under the leading of the Spirit, commissions the “sent ones” (literally: missionaries), and those who are sent are to plant Kingdom outposts, that is local expressions of the body of Christ, i.e. local churches.  The activities of mission therefore are those that share the Good News, that disciple believers deeper into the Gospel, and that plant Gospel churches among every Ethnicity/People Group (Greek: ETHNE).  I’ll unpack each of these core concepts in posts to come.

Steven’s Study

Resources collected from my personal study, suggested for your personal study.

Every week I bring you a list of articles, podcasts, and sermons that I found helpful for my own edification. My hope is that you also will find these useful in your personal growth in the Christ.

Read Missionary Biographies

Biography is one of my favorite genres in literature. So when I saw this title I had to take a look. Beyond the Bible there are few things that speak so powerfully about the need for missions as the biographies of those who rolled up their sleeves and put their hands to the plow.

Building Blocks of Salvation Pt 1: The Plan

I believe that gospel fluency is a skill that every Christian should pursue. Both for the health of their own soul, and for the communication of that good news to others. To that end, I am following a series I came across this week on the building blocks of salvation. This week’s article is about election, and though you may not agree with this article, I think this series will be worth following.

Why the church doesn’t need anymore coffee bars

A powerful article that you may have come across on social media last week.  I don’t think the main point here is bashing the bells and whistles that accompany some church gatherings, but rather a hard reminder that those things are not the point. If we are attracting people to our churches (and keeping them) with trendy gimmicks, we could be failing to give them the only thing that matters. JESUS!

Suburban Sprawl and the Dying Dream of Community Churches

Articles like this are especially interesting to church planters like myself. I think that the research and conclusions reached in this article are mostly true when it comes to American churches and church attenders. However, one must always consider the context. For instance, in the area of Tulsa I serve in 60% of residents don’t own a car, so commuting is much more difficult. That being said, we should consider that the reach of our church is broader in our city that it may have been in decades past.

Should We Give Money to the Poor Even When There’s a Risk of Waste or Misuse?

I think the title of this article is pretty self-explanatory. We should be wise, and extremely generous people!

Good Churchmanship

An older article on a subject that isn’t spoken about much these days. What does it look like to be a good church member? I think this subject deserves more attention from members and leaders in the local church.

Complaining Never Wins the Culture

This article probably wins “best article of the week” in my book. Here is an excerpt to give you the flavor: “Furthermore, grumblers are neither persuasive nor appealing when they share their faith. In fact, they rarely share their faith at all. It’s hard to joyfully and consistently proclaim the gospel when all you do is complain about your mission field. Murmuring does not further God’s mission.”

As ever, may the Lord bless you and keep you! – Steven

 

 

What is God’s Glory and Why does it Matter?

Last year, I read Michael Reeves’ wonderful little book Delighting in the Trinity. In it, he spends just a few pages showing how the Trinity, particularly the love between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, shapes our doctrine of God, including the attributes of God like Holiness, Wrath, and Glory.  I want to focus some thoughts, reflections on the last one: GLORY.  Very briefly, he declares that God’s glory is His outgoing love. THAT is what God’s glory IS.

This was new to me. To my shame, I must admit that I’ve never taken on God’s glory as an object of study.  Nor was it covered in any particularly way during my time in seminary.  Like many younger reformed evangelicals, I’ve always looked to John Piper for an explanation of God’s glory and why it matters, but what Reeves was saying was a departure, at least in part, from Piper’s approach.  I wanted to know more.  But, where to turn?

I’ve listened to many of Reeves’ sermons since then.  I have found several where he introduces this idea again, but in most of them, he doesn’t cover much more ground on this issue.  There is one workshop called Matters of the Heart: How to Enjoy God where Reeves unpacks it further, with the assistance of Jonathan Edwards.  It may be a good place to get a first look at what I’m talking about.

That brings me to the real point of this post.  Glen Scrivener has taken up the idea (I don’t know if he got it from Reeves or vice versa or some other way) and helpfully interacted with it quite a bit.  So, the rest of this post will be a bit of an annotated Bibliography of Scrivener’s Doctrine of God’s Glory.

GOD’S GLORY ALONE

The first place to start is his post entitled “God’s Glory Alone Sermon.” This is a sermon from a series on the 5 Solas of the Reformation. The first half of the sermon reviews the first 4 Solas and introduces the 5th through the story of David and Goliath. About 2/3 through the sermon, Scrivener says:

“The living God is Giver.  And it’s this very grace that is His glory. But what does that word mean really?  Glory.  It’s a big bible word. What is God’s glory?”

The rest of the sermon answers that question, primarily through John’s Gospel (click here for more John’s Gospel and God’s glory). In short, Scrivener answers the question thusly:

Wind the clock back all the way through time, before creation, back and back and back into the depths of eternity and you will find Jesus with His Father loving and serving each other in the power of the Spirit.  That’s what the trinity has ALWAYS been up to.  That IS the eternal life of God.  So on the cross, when we see Jesus giving Himself up to the Father we see the eternal glory of God.  At the cross when we see the Father GIVING His Son to the world, we see the eternal glory of God.

The cross IS God’s glory.  And it’s the glory of infinite SELF-GIVING love.  God’s glory is His grace.  It is His very “Godness” to give Himself away to us and for us.

You really should read/listen to the whole thing though. OK, so that brings us to a definition, but I wanted to interact more with this understanding of God’s glory, and there’s (thankfully) no shortage of this on Scrivener’s blog, including his posts and quite a bit of good interaction in the comments. So, the rest of this post is an attempt to give you an idea of how to explore this treasure.

SERIES: WE DID IT ALL FOR THE GLORY OF LOVE

Well, Scrivener put together a little series of posts to wrestle through “what is God’s glory?”  Not only is this little series named after a great song from the greatest decade of music, it’s also a great next step in the journey of discovering what God’s glory is all about.

In Part 1, you are invited to look at a selection of verses/passages that will help frame the conversation.  Part 1

In Part 2, he begins to interact with John Piper’s classic understanding of God’s Glory and why it may not be the best way to think about/talk about it.  Part 2

Part 3 takes digs deeper into the differences between what Scrivener is proposing and Piper’s approach.  Part 3

Part 4 digs into more scripture so that we aren’t just looking at it from the Gospel of John, and then Part 5 digs into Ephesians 1 as a final study.  Part 4  //  Part 5

MORE INTERACTION WITH JOHN PIPER

Now, I want to be sure to highlight how much Scrivener spends genuinely praising John Piper for his life, his ministry, his influence, and theology. He even shares an embarrassing moment when he tells Piper that he’s his biggest fan and then realizes he’s just behaved like a fanboy (in first link below)! Even in the comments sections, it seems that any time Scrivener interacts with a commenter (and the topic involved Piper’s theology of God’s glory) who is new to the site, he makes sure to reiterate his appreciation for Piper. Not only that, but his comments on Piper are always respectful, so don’t get the sense from me that he’s just a Piper-hater. Those folks exist. Scrivener isn’t one of them. So, here are some links to explore:

Why I am a Trinitarian Hedonist

Theo-centric? (or “What does God-Centered mean?”)

Piper’s Theology of Glory (this is a shorter version of the next one)

God is not a Narcissist (He gets the Trinity involved here in a very helpful way, as you’ve probably seen already…and more to come below)

One of the questions that arises in this discussion is the nature of God’s love for us. Piper would say that God’s love for us is primarily seen in making it possible for us to love Him (therefore glorying Him). So there is a boomerang effect where the intention is that we would make much of God. Many have posited squirmy reactions to this, but it’s PIPER, so they don’t speak out for too long. But, I think this Reeves/Scrivener approach (“God’s glory is His grace” in the word of Jonathan Edwards) actually does greater service both to God’s fame and to his affection for his people. Scrivener interacts with this question in his God Loves God more than God Love Us? post. And just for fun, here’s a short, wonderful quote on Why God Love Us.

TRINITY SHAPES EVERYTHING

In his post called Beginning with the Creator? Scrivener is super-helpful to show why the TRINITY must be the starting point for understanding God’s glory.  And why starting anywhere else is detrimental/dangerous. Read it! You’ll thank me! For more on this topic, see his Oneness and Threeness post and his You and Me, We’re Not so Different Really post.

So, how do I wrap up this tour through Scrivener’s writings on the glory of the Triune God? Well, I guess by saying that you should spend more time over at Christ the Truth. I may eventually do a similar post looking at his writings on Mission. But, I’ll also say that this understanding of Glory; namely that it is the outgoing love of God, that it is His grace, His cross…that it is the Gospel, which Paul calls the “knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus,” changes things.  Look at the overflowing love of God!  Oh what a God we have! Oh, what a beautiful Father! Oh, what a glorious Son! Oh, what a majestic Spirit of overflowing love! Glory isn’t an abstract, glowing blob of awesomeness…it’s the love of God on the move! That changes everything!

Steven’s Study

Resources collected from my personal study, suggested for your personal study.

Every week I bring you a list of articles, podcasts, and sermons that I found helpful for my own edification. My hope is that you also will find these useful in your personal growth in the Christ.

Gospel Motivations for Gospel Ministry

It is good to regularly check your motivations for the ministry(s) you lead or support. We are prone to wander if we don’t check in regularly.

The Eternal Glory of the Daily Grind

This quote is a great example of what you will find in this article: “Rather than being hell, such Christ-enabled labor makes visible a bit of the divine glory that is normally seen only in heaven. Instead of being futile and fleeting, in Christ’s hands, everyone’s daily job actually produces everlasting results.”

Hobbies to the Glory of God

This older article from Tim Challies takes a look at the role of hobbies in our lives, and why they can be done for the glory of God. I think it is a subject that should be discussed more often, and practiced with regularity.

What Christianity in China is Really Like

Often the perception and reality of missions or church in another part of the world are two different things. I have often been confused by different accounts of Christianity in China. I found this article helpful.

Unbelievable

This week I wanted to highlight another podcast that is a regular part of my week. Unbelievable is a debate podcast where Christians and Non-Christians engage in health debate. I love hearing both sides of each debate. It is a great way to learn about other cultures and worldviews. I highly recommend it!

As ever, may the Lord bless you and keep you! – Steven

Local Church – Global Impact 3: Church Mission Strategy Overview

Well, in part 1, we saw that your church’s culture will determine whether your church’s mission strategy will be accomplished.  We’ll talk more about shaping culture along the way.  We also have seen (part 2) that the key culture-shapers, those who get pulpit time essentially, are indispensable to seeing any church catch God’s heart for the nations and to engage it strategically in a sustained way.  That brings us to the question of Strategy.  Let’s pretend for a minute that our church is already passionate about seeing Jesus made know and cherished among every people group on the planet.  Let’s pretend that we have not only a missional culture, but missional behavior that is just waiting to be pointed in the best direction.  What then?

The process is quite simple.  That doesn’t mean it’s easy, just that it’s simple.  It looks like this: Biblical Convictions shape Biblical Priorities which dictate Biblically informed Policies.  I’ll unpack these in greater detail anon, but for now, let be gift a brief introduction.

BIBLICAL CONVICTIONS – Mission is God’s.  It belongs to the Father, Son, and Spirit.  It’s the Lord’s idea.  He is the only one with the right to define it and to dictate it’s practices and aims.  So, if we miss that, everything else we do is failure.  I don’t remember who said it (maybe Covey), but if you lean your ladder against the wrong building, every step you climb leads you further from your goal.  When’s the last time you wrestled over what a Biblical Missiology looks like?  There is a lot of confusion among Christians about what Mission actually is.  You need clarity, because this must shape all that you do.

BIBLICAL PRIORITIES – Once you understand God’s plan for the world, that is, His Mission, then you’ll be able to have Biblical Priorities as you start to plan for engaging strategically in global mission.  We don’t form priorities by asking what other churches are doing, or what sounds fun or interesting, or even what a missionary we currently support is already doing.  NO!  Our priorities must flow out of our Biblical Convictions.

BIBLICALLY INFORMED POLICIES – most churches start here with their mission program.  They ask “who will we support,” “how much will we give,” “what short-term mission trip will we take,” all before actually understanding God’s Word on Mission.  And of course this leads to catastrophe.  That’s not an overstatement.  It leads to millions of kingdom dollars, hours, and prayers spent on things that are not what God is asking of His Church.  It means the Gospel isn’t getting to the people who most need it.  The Center for the Study of Global Christianity has shown that “Current strategy makes Christians 100 times more effective in splitting existing denominations where Christians already exist than in planting new churches where there are no Christians.”  That’s a catastrophe!

These must all happen.  And they must happen in this order.  Good news: It can be done.  We’ll see how in upcoming posts!