Friday, April 17, 2009

I Just Asked A Big Question

I just asked a big question, and am grappling to understand it. I first asked "Why did God give us the Great Commission?" And here was my thought process.

My mind first jumped to answer it negatively. Answering the question by figuring out what the answer couldn't be.

I figured the answer couldn't be because he doesn't know who is going to be saved and he wants us to go out and find out who they are. Eph. 1:3-4 clearly says God knows this--he knows everything.

I figured the answer couldn't be because he needs us to accomplish his global purpose. God doesn't need anyone or anything. Acts 17:25 says he is "not served by human hands as if he needed anything..."

This assumption was even further backed up by the fact that not only are we not needed in God's plan of saving souls from every part of the world, we can actually hinder its progress by trying to do it ourselves. Paul tells the Corinthians how he doesn't want to preach with eloquence "lest the Cross be emptied of its power." And later on, in 2 Corinthians, how his power is make perfect in weakness.

So it's not cause God doesn't know. It's not because he needs us. It's not because we are able to do it ourselves--we actually can't do it at all by our own strength.

So why does he command us to go?

"Why" is a powerful question. It's simple and childlike, but it reaches straight to the core of the object in question and draws out purpose, motivation, deep-seated affections and desires. Why is the first question children ask their parents. We tell them not to touch a hot stove and they ask "why?" with all innocence. As we grow in the faith we must never stop asking the question "why?"

Why? Why all these commands? Why should we go? Why should be honor our parents? Why should we obey?

Let's focus in on the Great Commission. I said that we can actually hinder the progress of the gospel by trying to do it our way instead of God's way. Ultimately, though, we know God is working everything for his plan to succeed and by no means can our shortcomings thwart God's plan. Acts 1:8 says "You will be my witnesses." It's going to happen. Christians will be Christ's witnesses. Therefore we must realize that God doesn't lose when we are not obedient. God's schedule will go as planned, everyone who he has chosen will be saved, and it will work out exactly as he foreordained before he created the universe. God doesn't miss out when we don't fulfill the Great Commission. We do. God isn't thwarted when we fail, but we miss out. When we miss an opportunity to tell someone about the gospel we are deprived of the joy that would have come from faithful obedience!

And from this I think we can infer an answer to the "why" question. Why does God give us all these commands?

Because God has designed faithful obedience motivated by love to be the most fulfilling and satisfying and joyful activity any human can ever do.

Why "go make disciples?" Because, as Lottie Moon once said, "Surely there can be no greater joy than that of saving souls." Or listen to J. Campbell White, an early 20th century Secretary of the Laymen's Missionary Movement:

"Most men are satisfied with the permanent output of their lives. Nothing can wholly satisfy the life of Christ within his followers except the adoption of Christ's purpose toward the world he came to redeem. Fame, pleasure and riches are but husks and ashes in contrast with the boundless and abiding joy of working with God for the fulfillment of his eternal plans. The men who are putting everything into Christ's undertaking are getting out of life its sweetest and most priceless rewards."

Participating with Christ in his global plan of redemption is the greatest privilege we can have here on earth. Praise God for giving us this opportunity.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Good Friday Not So Good For Some People

It is Good Friday, and I am reminded of a time some years ago when I was in the Philippines on a short term mission trip during the Holy Week. In the area we were ministering in, the religion was a distortion of Catholicism--which involved a mystical worship of El nino de Cristo--the Christ-child. During our time in Naga City there were massive crowds and parades of blank-faced observers marching through the streets carrying man-made statues dressed up in royal clothes, portraying saints, Mary, and Jesus himself. The sight was an eerie one to behold--it seemed to be a tired tradition embedded into their society by demons. They had the story right--Jesus, born as a child, living a perfect life, dying on the cross, raising from the dead, ascending into heaven--but they had the application all wrong.

The most gut-wrenching spectable came when I saw two filipino men with sackcloth bags over their heads. They would take a single step, whip themselves with a cat-of-nine-tails over their their right should so the whip would connect on the middle of their back. Then, they'd take another step, with their other foot, and whip themselves again over the other shoulder. They were shirtless, and their backs had been torn up--blood poured down and soaked into their jean shorts. With every step came a new flogging. And they did this for an entire mile.

I was dumbstruck when I saw what they were doing. In my curiousity, I got close. A little too close--blood spattered onto my white shirt.

This was the most gruesome thing I saw on the trip. But that's just because we weren't allowed to go see the crucifixions.

That's right. Every year on Good Friday about 25 men voluntarily crucify themselves. It is no show. The nails really go through the hands. And the feet. And they hang there for 15 minutes before coming down. Here's an article on one of them.

I kept asking why when I was there, witnessing the self-mutilation. I wondered why they would do such a thing.

The answer comes in their crucial unfortunate understanding of Christ's atonement. They have no hymn called "Jesus Paid it All" because he didn't. There is still leftover sin that needs to be atoned for. They're caught in the same curse as the Galatians when Paul rebuked them:

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us--for it is written, "Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree"...

Jesus' death was enough. That's how we can call the Friday that Jesus was brutally tortured a good Friday--because he paid it all then and there.

Have a Good Friday!

Friday, April 3, 2009

Dr. Horner's Bible-Reading Program

Dr. Grant Horner wrote this in one of his blogs, I laughed out loud. How awesome.

"When I was flown out by Masters for a 3-day interview/theological-grilling process, the culmination was of course being ushered in to Dr. John MacArthur's private study, which is where he asked me this one question: "Can I see your Bible?" I thought he would be horrified, because it looked like it had been through a typhoon -- it looked unloved and neglected. Something from a dumpster. It was unbound, with stringy mess and paper debris hanging out. I was so embarrassed. I thought he would chastise me and recommend I get a new study Bible if I was serious about the Word. (No doubt which study Bible he would recommend!!!) He flipped through it and handed it to his wife and said "If your Bible is falling apart, you probably aren't." I was basically hired on the spot."

This is in context the context of talking about his Bible-reading program you can find here. Pretty intense!