Apr 252013

Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who are elect exiles of the dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood: May grace and peace be multiplied to you.

1 Peter 1:1-2 (ESV)

In our study of unconditional election, we should not neglect Peter’s plain teaching regarding those that belong to God. Peter is writing specifically, not to all exiles, but to elect exiles. The word “elect” is in the plural, so it is true of all God’s people that God has specially chosen them, has given preference to them, and has shown divine favor to them, and makes them resident aliens in this world. God has predestinated His elect (Eph 1); that is, before the world began, God destined His elect (unconditional chosen ones) to be in glory with Him. Believers are temporal residents here, who have been born again to a living hope, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for them. (1 Peter 1:3-4)

Last week we saw that God does not choose persons for salvation based on faith they might exercise in the future, but rather He elects them unconditionally, “before they were born or had done anything good or bad” (Romans 9:11).

God elects sinners according to His foreknowledge, Peter says. Peter is not speaking of God’s intellect, which of course is perfect and infinite, but rather of His decretal foreknowledge, of God’s determination of whom he would graciously rescue from just condemnation. In His foreknowledge, He intimately knows His own and saves them according to his sovereign purposes.

So, you can see from ‘foreknowledge’ that election is very personal and intimate. Foreknowledge is more affectionate than cerebral. For God, to truly know is to truly love. Amos 3:2, speaking of God’s people Israel says, “You only have I known of all the families of the earth.” Does this mean that God does not intellectually know what is happening around His world, but only knows what is happening to Israel? No. God knows everything at every time. But God has a special love and affection for His people that He does not have for others. Matthew 7:23 proves this: “Depart from me you that work iniquity. I never knew you.” Does this mean that God did not intellectually know the wicked? No. It means His saving affection was never upon them.

God’s election of a people is the seal of His love for them. Because He elects them, and saves them with His blood, and regenerates them by the Spirit, He will cherish them. He calls them His Bride. God has always loved them (‘In love he predestined us!’ Eph. 1:5). This is what makes unconditional election so amazing – there was nothing in me to be desired. All I had to offer was rebellion, iniquity, self-reliance and sufficiency, and a long list of more of the same, but God in love conquered every barrier. That’s what foreknowledge does. In love He gave me life. He gave me hope in a world that is full of sin and is rapidly passing away.

Thankful for electing grace,

Pastor Bill

Apr 172013

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 (ESV)

“And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad – in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls – she was told, ‘The older will serve the younger.’ As it is written, ‘Jacob have I loved, but Esau I hated.’” (Romans 9:10-13)

It has been such a joy to preach through Matthew’s Gospel for the last three-plus years. The congregation of RBC has endured well. This Lord’s Day, Lord willing, I will preach my final message from Matthew. It is a text we commonly call “The Great Commission”, though the text does not call itself that. The text calls us to our obligation as the Church to make disciples of all nations. But I am reminded in the Bible, over and again, that the Great Commission is successful only because God elects sinners to salvation, and that He does so unconditionally.

At RBC, we love the Doctrines of Grace, commonly called the “Five Points of Calvinism”. Of course, Calvin did not develop the “five points”, but they were codified 54 years after he died. Calvin so desired to be faithful to Biblical revelation. The “five points” come from the Synod of Dort (1618-19), and were a response to the “five points” of Arminianism. (The Arminians were called “The Remonstrants” at the time.) We understand that Scripture clearly develops these points in regards to salvation. It all comes as a package deal and each point flows from one to another. Total depravity, Unconditional election, Limited or Particular atonement, Irresistible grace, and the Perseverance of the saints formed this body of teaching.

I talked to a young man on the phone a while ago and he asked if we could meet and if I could explain to him the point of unconditional election. This point is a huge hang-up for him, as it is for many. Sam Storms, who wrote a marvelous book called Chosen for Life, said in an article, “To those who minimize the Scriptural record of man’s total depravity, election is the primary reason people are in hell. To Calvinists, who accept the Bible’s teaching of total depravity, election is the primary reason people are in heaven.” If one has a skewed view of total depravity, or original sin, unconditional election will seem to be a horrific doctrine. But when you understand the Bible’s teaching that we are dead in our trespasses and sins, that we have no spiritual life at all in ourselves, then election is a most glorious, comforting truth. Spurgeon said it best: “I believe the doctrine of election, because I am quite sure that if God had not chosen me I would never have chosen him; and I am sure he chose me before I was born, or else he never would have chosen me afterward.”

Arminianism teaches conditional election, that is, that God elects those who are depraved but who He foresees will believe in Christ for salvation in the future. Though people are sinful, they can meet God’s condition of believing in Jesus by exercising their own free will. There is still some glimmer of ability that a sinner has to embrace Christ of his own free will.

From the text in Romans above, and everywhere you look in the Bible, we can see that unconditional election is taught. God elects those who are totally depraved and are not able to exercise their free wills to embrace him. This is not to deny there is a freedom of will, but to say that our free wills will lead us straight to hell. Our wills are in bondage and cannot embrace Christ unless they have been born-again of the Spirit. God elects believers on the basis of His sovereign good pleasure, conquering their wills so that they are made willing to exercise faith, (which is a gift of God), in Christ for salvation. So it is based on God’s free and sovereign grace, not conditioned on some foreseen faith that we might exercise at some point.

Sam Storms says this: “Does God elect people because they believe in the Lord Jesus Christ (Arminianism), or does God elect people in order that they shall believe upon the Lord Jesus Christ?” (Calvinism)

Conditional election fails in three ways:

(1.) It puts the primacy on man’s choice and not God’s choice in salvation. Believers were chosen by God before the foundation of the world (Eph.1, Rev. 7:9-17). As in Romans 9 above, God chose Jacob unconditionally, before the boys were born or had done anything either good or bad.

(2.) It fails to recognize the extent of our depravity. It makes us better than what we really are. By doing this, it robs God of His sovereignty and glory. If we are as depraved as the Bible says we are, then salvation cannot originate with us. Without election, no one would be saved. That is why I put this doctrine alongside Matthew 28. Depraved humanity could never choose God on their own. “Men loved darkness rather than light.” (John 3:19) Believers go into the world to proclaim the Gospel knowing that the Sovereign Lord of all will grant it success, for His elect will come to Him by the means of the Gospel.

(3.) It fails to save anyone! It makes salvation dependent upon man. The wonder is not that God justly rejects some sinners but that He graciously saves any sinners at all. Augustus Strong said, “We may better praise God that he saves any than charge him with injustice because he saves so few.” Or J.C. Ryle: “The believer who knows his own heart will ever bless God for election.”

This will be a good place to end for now, but much more still needs to be said. The mystery of election is this: “Once your enemy, now seated at your table, Jesus, thank you!” (Sovereign Grace Music)

As we prepare even now for the upcoming Lord’s Day, let us pray for the city of Boston and the families affected. Let us also pray for the many needs in our own congregation and that God would graciously call sinners to Himself in our community and around the world.

Praising our great God,

Pastor Bill

Jan 162013

O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?

1 Corinthians 15:56 (ESV)

Last Fall a dear friend of mine suddenly became a widower. In God’s wisdom and plan He took her to be with Him. I was with the man for a while the other day and the grief is still very fresh. The apostle Paul does say, “But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope.” Most assuredly, even as believers, we grieve the death of a loved-one. But believers in Jesus grieve with hope. Their sorrow is surrounded by the comfort of God’s promises. Through faith in Jesus Christ, God has granted eternal life, and death is only a gateway to experience God’s glory forevermore. As the title of hymn so rightly proclaims, “It is not Death to Die” (H.A. Cesar Malan, 1832); believers in Jesus will enjoy all the comforts of everlasting joy in heaven.

Only God’s Word and the promises therein can give comfort to my friend. So I pointed him to the text above and I point you to the same. “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” Death cannot hurt nor can death destroy a Christian! Death has absolutely no victory over the Christian, for Christ their Savior has gained the victory over death. Christ is the First-fruits of all who will be raised. At death He will carry His children to be with Him where death has no authority. Death has no power over the Christian. Where once the reality of death loomed over us and would surely capture us in its grip, God in mercy saved us, by His grace, and granted to us eternal life. Upon God’s regenerating work and the fruits of repentance and faith, death lost its grip and we fell into the grip of another. And no one or nothing can snatch us out of that grip (John 10:28).

Jonathan Edwards wrote, “Death spent all of its strength killing Christ; and in killing Christ, it killed itself!” Death is now but a shadow. It might appear to loom large, but a shadow cannot hurt you. A lion can hurt you, but a shadow of a lion cannot touch you. Where once death was like a lion, for the Christian death is like a lamb.

I understand that even believers are weak and sometimes the prospect of death terrifies us. But the very ground of our hope can never be shaken. The shadow of death is just that – a shadow. A child may be afraid of the dark and does not want to be in his room, even though nothing is there. We try to reassure the child: “It’s alright, there’s nothing there.” Sometimes in our weakness we fear death like the child fears the dark. But remember, there’s nothing there that can hurt you.

Those who have not trusted Christ will find that all their earthly comforts will fail them on their day of death. Their foundation will be swept away and they will be consumed in God’s wrath. But God’s elect have hope in great and precious promises. Christ has conquered death once for all. Death has been defeated and it cannot hurt us anymore.

Knowing these truths should cause us to take great risks for Christ’s Kingdom. We should pray today for an American pastor who is being tortured in Iran right now for proclaiming the Gospel. His trial is set for January 21. Let us pray for his wife and children, that they would remain strong and look to Christ and His Gospel. Let us remember what it will take to carry the Gospel to the lost. But let us also remember that God’s promises are sure. So let us encourage one another with these words (1 Thess. 4:18). Death’s grip is gone and it can’t hurt us anymore! Hallelujah!

May 302012

“Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your Master.”

Matthew 25:21 (ESV)

On September 10th of this year, the Notla River Association will celebrate its Sesquicentennial annual meeting. The Baptists have a very rich history here in the mountains and God’s faithfulness has been clearly evident. At last year’s annual meeting, I was approved by the delegates to bring the Missions sermon for this monumental year. What an honor for me! So, for the last several months, I have been reading and praying about what message to bring to the delegates in 2012. In my reading and praying, I have come across a most wonderful book entitled, A Heart For Missions: The Classic Memoir of Samuel Pearce, by Andrew Fuller.

Contrary to what many know or care to believe, the Calvinistic Baptists were among the main promoters of global missions. Behind the mission of William Carey was a theologian and pastor by the name of Andrew Fuller. (By the way, all pastors should be theologians and give themselves to the diligent study of Biblical truth.) Andrew Fuller’s biblical Calvinism was the driving force behind William Carey’s desire to reach the Hindus in India for Christ. William Carey most certainly wrote his influential work, An Enquiry Into the Obligations of Christians to Use Means for the Conversion of the Heathens. In Which the Religious State of the Different Nations of the World, the Success of the Former Undertakings, and the Practicality of Further Undertakings, are Considered, with an ear to Andrew Fuller’s teaching on the Doctrines of Grace. They were very close friends and God would use them to found the Particular Baptist Society for the Propagation of the Gospel Amongst the Heathen.

But there was another man that God used to promote the Gospel amongst the heathen of Hindustan (as he called India), and his name is Samuel Pearce. Most have heard of the Serampore Trio: William Carey the translator, William Ward the Printer, and Joshua Marshman the preacher. But few have heard of the man that God used in England to raise support and to communicate to British Baptist associations what God was doing in India.

Samuel Pearce was called to pastor the Cannon Street Baptist Church in 1789 and he was ordained for the Gospel ministry on August 18, 1790, at the age of 24. He was part of a group that met on October 2, 1792 at Martha Wallace’s home and created an association to carry on the work of missions. William Carey would depart for England on June 13, 1793, and the rest would remain to “hold the ropes” for him as Carey went into Hindustan.

God gave Pearce a deep zeal for global missions. O did he want to go! After the meeting in October of 1792, he writes, “I returned home resolved to lay myself out in the cause. The public steps I have taken are too well known to need repeating, but my mind now became inclined to go among the heathen myself.” Even Carey had told him, “Well, you will come after us.” His heart said, “Amen!” and his eagerness of the work increased. He wrote: “I made it a constant matter of prayer, often begging of God, either that He would take away the desire, or open a door for its fulfillment.”

Pearce made known his desire to go to all the leaders of the Particular Baptist Society and he submitted to their leadership. He asked them all to pray if he should go and join Carey. But in God’s providence, they told him no! They all felt that he would do more good promoting the cause at home than he would do in India. A friend and father in the ministry wrote to him thus: “I really think you must not leave England. The heathen will get more by you here then they will abroad; and surely your post (Cannon Street Baptist) should not be given up. Who is there in your neighborhood to make a stand against false religion, my dear brother?” He wrote to his wife Sarah on November 13, 1794, “I am disappointed but not dismayed. I ever wish to make my Savior’s will my own.”

No one in all of England promoted the cause of missions like Samuel Pearce. He was so interested in the work. He raised funds and went around the English countryside telling of God’s works in India. He was a faithful preacher to a local congregation. He would write in his diary on October 17, 1794, “My business is only to be where you would have me.”

By the spring of 1799, Pearce was desperately sick with pulmonary tuberculosis. He traveled to South England to try to recover, leaving his wife and five children. Sarah could not endure being away from him, so she went to meet him in July. Sarah would try to bring him home later that month. By this time Pearce’s voice was so far gone that he could not even whisper without pain in his lungs. He died at the age of 33 on October 10, 1799. William Carey said of him, “I have seen more of God in him than in any other person I ever met.”

The lessons we can learn from Samuel Pearce are many, but I do want to highlight a few for us at Redeemer. First of all, when God truly saves his people, He puts into their heart a love for Himself, which will manifest itself in their love for the lost. Pearce used every opportunity of family worship, private worship and public worship to pray for missions. May the Lord help us to pray for missions and missionaries every time we join for worship. Secondly, we must work together to accomplish the task. We have covenanted together to promote Christ’s Kingdom here and abroad. May we not forget this! Thirdly, we must pray and give. This goes without saying. Lastly, God has called us all to be involved, some to go and some to send. Some of us might have strong desires to go serve the Lord in a certain place or capacity. But God is sovereign and he will put us right where he wants us. Let us see His sovereign hand in all our daily events and circumstances. None of them are insignificant. I believe Pearce heard those words, “Well done good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your Master!”

I want to remind you of two things before I close. First of all, the Studebakers will be at our church tonight to share about their mission work in Ecuador. Secondly, the informational meeting for the New York City mission trip is this Saturday, at 9 AM, at RBC. Please pray for these things.

Apr 262012

For all the people wept as they heard the words of the Law.

Nehemiah 8:9 (ESV)

On average, Bible readers in the United States personally own 4 copies of Scripture. Eighty-four percent of readers have more than one Bible. With the amount of Bibles we have and the easy accessibility of obtaining a new one, I still wonder how many really read the Word and desire to study it. Are we like Ezra, the priest? In Ezra 7:10, we read, “For Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the Lord, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel.” Does that verse describe you? In America, we are so blessed to have access to so many Bibles, Bible translations, Bible dictionaries, Bible encyclopedias, Bible maps, language tools, study Bibles, lexicons, and the list could go on an on. But do we really use them or do we take all these things for granted? There are still hundreds of people groups in the world today who do not have the Bible in their own tongue.

What is your reaction when you come in contact with the Word? Do you merely read it out of obligation? Do we come to the Word with a heart of thanksgiving that we have been given the very words of life? In Nehemiah 8, the people gather as one while Ezra the priest reads the Law to them. In 8:5, Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people, for he was above all the people, and as he opened it the people stood. When Ezra and the other Levites exposited the Word and explained it to the people, the people wept when they heard the words of the Law and because they could understand it.

What do you think it would be like to witness a people group receiving a Bible for the time? I am giving you a link to see it. I was pointed to this link in my missions class at Southern. It will move you: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w9dpmp_-TY0. It’s a ten minute video of the Kimyal tribe in Papua, Indonesia, receiving copies of the Bible in their own tongue for the first time. I pray this video will challenge you to be more thankful for your Bible. I pray that you and I will read it and study it more, that its truth will sink deep into our hearts, that we will apply it to our lives, and that we will teach it to others. It would also be a wonderful thing if many would be stirred to work in Bible translation. There are still so many who have never experienced what the Kimyal people have experienced. Don’t take your Bible for granted. Get into it today!

Dec 082011

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them [disciples] in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them [disciples] 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 (emphasis mine)

As I develop this subject over the next several weeks, I pray that I am relating, not only my own view of baptism, but also the view held by the members of Redeemer Baptist Church. This is a serious issue for us and one that warrants careful study. Many paedobaptists that I have talked to will say that baptism is not really that important of an issue. They have said to me, “Does it really matter if I have been sprinkled as an infant or immersed as a believer?” I reply, “Yes, it does matter.” This issue, which I have settled in my mind and heart, came to my attention recently (I will not relate the incident at this time), and I felt that I should once again study the matter and reaffirm my commitment to Credo-baptism: baptizing only those who have made a profession of faith in Jesus.

I see the biblical mode of baptism as immersion. After all, the word baptizo always means to immerse or dip. Adoniram Judson came to this conclusion while on the boat to Burma. He knew that when he got to India he would be meeting William Carey, the English Baptist and pioneer missionary to India. Judson was an American Congregationalist, still practicing the baptism of infants. When Judson got aboard the ship, he was became consumed with his defense of paedobaptism. He so desperately wanted to stand his ground when he met William Carey. It was about a month later on board the ship that Judson, as he studied the Scriptures, changed his views on baptism. He simply did not see the practice of baptizing infants as biblical.

Judson knew what was at stake and he did not take it lightly. It was a paedobaptist denomination that sent him to the mission field. Judson knew that if word got back to the Congregationalists in America that he now held to believer’s baptism, he would lose all support from them. His wife, Ann, felt the struggle in his heart. She also was very worried about all this. How would you like to be on your way to a foreign land and find out before you even get there that the group that sent you had rescinded all financial support? How would you ever get home with no money?

Well, that’s exactly what happened. When word got back to America, Judson’s support stopped. A new society was formed in New England, the American Baptist Missionary Union, which would support him in his work. Judson was their first foreign missionary.

But while on ship, Judson’s notes were compiled into a book called Christian Baptism. Judson begins with a compelling study of the word baptizo. He clearly demonstrates that the word always means to immerse. It cannot mean anything else. It never means “to sprinkle”. As he studied the issue biblically and historically, he realized that this was a serious issue and it would change the course of his life. I highly recommend this book. It is still in print by Audubon Press, Laurel, MS.

If the mode is immersion, who then are the subjects of baptism? I will show over the next several weeks that the answer to this question really does matter. Obviously, as Baptists, we hold that only disciples are the subjects of baptism, and not infants. I am absolutely committed to this position. As I read and understand the Scripture, my conscience, as Luther would say, is held captive to the Word of God. So, I say it like this: I am first a Christian by the Sovereign Grace of God alone. Secondly, I am a Baptist by conviction. Thirdly, I am Southern Baptist by voluntary association. By Southern Baptist I mean I am an Historical Southern Baptist. I hold to the Doctrines of Grace like the founders of the SBC. It is clearly evident that they were Reformed men and I am committed to preach and teach the Doctrines of Grace as did our Southern Baptist forefathers. I am working to restore historic Southern Baptist principles. Our heritage is clearly linked to the English Separatists, who were staunchly Reformed. Our roots do not come from the Anabaptists, as is argued by many in our denomination. The evidence is clearly not there. Even those who support the Anabaptist-Kinship theory of Baptist origins admit, “Those who argue for a foundation in English Separatism are demonstrably correct. Those who see a connection to continental Anabaptism have not yet established indisputable evidence as such, but they can still suggest that similarities between the Swiss and South German Biblicists and Baptists are adequate to attract the interest of Baptists and sufficiently compelling to engender not only admiration but also in many cases imitation of their commitments and convictions.”[1]

Tom Nettles, in his three-volume work on the Baptists, clearly demonstrates that Baptists historically are orthodox, evangelical, confessional, and hold to a theologically-integrated ecclesiology. This means simply that Baptists historically allow the Bible to dictate how we do church. Baptists historically have held to the Regulative principle of worship. The Scriptures regulate how we worship. Part of that is how the ordinances that Christ has given to the Church are to be practiced among His people. The ordinances are serious matters.

After the aforementioned incident (concerning which I have given no details), I got out a book that I have had on my shelf for a year. It was written by Fred Malone and is entitled The Baptism of Disciples Alone. Thank you, Mike Foley, for the gift of this book. I have found it absolutely Biblical and compelling. It has a loving spirit yet it is firm and clear regarding the baptism of disciples alone. It is this book that has inspired me to write on this issue. Malone expresses my convictions (and I believe the convictions of RBC) so well. Who does Jesus say should receive baptism from his final commission? Disciples alone. Only those who have made a profession of faith. Please be in prayer and let us walk in love as we speak to this issue.

[1] David S. Dockery, ed. Southern Baptist Identity: An Evangelical Denomination Faces the Future. (Wheaton, Ill: Crossway Books, 2009), 124.

Nov 172011

Finally, brothers, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may speed ahead and be honored, as happened among you, and that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men.

2 Thessalonians 3:1-2 (ESV)

We had a very special service at our church last week. Our minister of music, Michael Roderick, was ordained for Gospel ministry. It is a special time for the man called to ministry and for the local church that affirms that call. Godly ministers are a gift from Christ, the Lord and Head of His body (Eph.4:7-12). He purchased His bride with His own blood. He will build His church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it (Matthew 16:18).

The Sovereign Head of the church said that, “As the Father has sent Me, so I am sending you” (John 20:21). And to what kind of world is Christ sending us? In Matthew 10:16, Jesus told his disciples, “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves.” While we at Redeemer were enjoying our special time together, there were churches in parts of the world whose pastors were arrested, beaten, taken from their wives and children, imprisoned and killed. There also were Christians that were tortured, churches that were burned to the ground, a Christian teenager beheaded, and others suffering incredibly. You can read about these instances on persecution.com, the home of the Voice of the Martyrs. November 13 was the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church. Of course, the persecuted church should be in our prayers daily.

An excellent spiritual exercise for a believer is to read and study the prayers of the apostle Paul. I sometimes read Paul’s prayers and then ask myself, “Bill, what are you praying for?” In 2 Thessalonians 3, Paul asks the believers to pray for him (and Silas and Timothy, see 1:1), and Paul’s great concern is that the word of the Lord may speed ahead and that it might be honored. You see, as always, Christ sends out his children as sheep among wolves. The wolves lie in wait to devour the sheep. The message of the cross is foolishness to them. They do not honor the word of the Lord, but rather they mock it, and scorn it, and ridicule and abuse those that treasure it. So Paul also asks that the Thessalonians pray that he might be delivered from wicked and evil men.

Nothing has changed in 2000 years in regard to persecution. Evil and wicked men still try to stop the Church from expanding. It is estimated that 171,000 of our brothers and sisters will die at the hands of the enemies of Christ in 2011. The difference in present-day America is that since we suffer so little, those who suffer a lot are often forgotten. Do we pray that the word of the Lord would speed ahead and be honored when we really face little to no opposition? Probably not like we should. We are not constantly being pursued by evil and wicked men. In God’s providence, I have not suffered like many others. Would I be willing to? How about you?

At the very least, we can be a voice. A voice that speaks up for those who are being persecuted. We can pray fervently that God’s word would speed ahead mightily in these very difficult areas and that His Word would be honored and loved and cherished. We can pray that God would deliver believers from evil and wicked men, though we know that according to His sovereign plan, He doesn’t always bring deliverance. We can pray for America and the indifference among the churches here. Let us not forget to pray for our persecuted brothers and sisters, and against the callousness in our own hearts. Let’s pray that God’s Word will speed ahead and be honored by all.

Oct 142011

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.

Acts 1:8 (ESV)

William Carey wrote a great little treatise to challenge English Baptists regarding their obligation to do missions, not only in England and the surrounding areas but also in foreign lands. He entitled the treatise, An Enquiry into the Obligations of Christians to use means for the Conversion of the Heathens. In Which State of the Different Nations of the World, the Success of the Former, and the Practicality of Further Undertakings, are Considered.

How about that for a title! But more than that: the message he gave to challenge hyper-Calvinistic thinking (Carey was much influenced by his friend and great Baptist theologian Andrew Fuller) was meant to help the church see that Acts 1:8 is not to be done one area at a time, but rather should be done in all places simultaneously. We should certainly begin right where God has planted us, but really we should seek, as believers, to labor in all four areas at once: Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth. Of course, one cannot be in two places at the same time, but together we can strategize and labor to make disciples of all peoples.

I am writing this week’s blog while on a plane after spending the last four days in New York City with the Metropolitan New York Baptist Association. I was born in Nyack, New York, which is here in the city, and when I was sixteen I flew into the JFK airport. But I have not, in my adult life, wandered around the city to learn about its distinctiveness and opportunities for missions.

The Georgia Baptist Convention has been in partnership with New York Baptists since the late 1980’s. The MNYBA has done incredible work in the five Boroughs of the city. I learned from George Russ and John Ramirez, directors of the Association, that NYC is not a melting pot. What you find in NYC are distinct communities of indigenous peoples who very often do not even speak English, but only their native tongue. There are over 800 languages spoken in NYC. If you want a real cross-cultural experience, all you need to do is go to New York. There are so many distinct people groups and most have absolutely no evangelical witness. The MNYBA is doing a great work there and God is raising up indigenous pastors in the city to reach the people.

I was extraordinarily blessed by the Southern Baptist pastors laboring there. They are godly men with a passion for truth and a heart for the nations. They face great trials but they are persevering by God’s grace. But I want to make something very clear to Georgia Baptists: they do not “need us” in one sense; as though they do not know how to do ministry, or lack preachers and teachers and seminars. They do simply need partners to help reach the masses. They need those who will commit for the long-term. Those who will get their hands dirty, help with evangelism, help with discipleship, and those who will pray. We need them in Georgia just as much as they need us in NY. They have men that could help us with Hispanic ministries right here in the mountains and they would love to do it. The MNYBA and the NAMB (North American Mission Board) have structures in place for groups to come and help in the effort.

The need is great everywhere we go. The lives of so many are empty and hopeless. They need the Gospel. Whether here or in NY, thousands wake up each day and never even give a thought to the majesty of God. They do not worship Him nor give Him thanks. They are completely unprepared to meet the King. So, RBC family, we have much to learn and do. I want us to be an Acts 1:8 church: a church that simultaneously is witnessing in our Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. I pray that God would raise from our number church planters and leaders and missionaries. Very soon, our men will go through evangelism training again. I will give more information when we begin. I invite all to come and be a part. I will be sharing more about NYC at Redeemer and in the Notla River Association in the months to come. Let us be in prayer for our partners in NY and for each other.