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.

May 152012

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.

Romans 8:18 (ESV)

Most of us really have no idea what it is like to be in constant physical pain. Yes, we might have little aches and pains, but they are often short-lived and we soon forget we even had an issue. Others however, are in a daily battle with constant, excruciating pain. Pain is a communicator. It tells us – may I say, screams to us – that something is wrong. When we have that pain, we know something is wrong and so we seek the cure or seek some relief. We might go to a doctor or search out some other type of remedy so that the pain will go away. Sometimes we can be helped and other times the pain persists no matter who we see or what we do.

Let’s face it: not one of us likes pain. We do not wake up each morning and pray that our bodies will experience excruciating pain. We would much rather enjoy pure comfort and ease of body. But some of you, in God’s frowning providence, are experiencing great pain. In light of your agony, I can only take you to God’s Word for encouragement. Here, in Romans 8, the apostle Paul holds out hope for those in pain.

The sufferings he refers to are sufferings and trials we endure because of the Fall. All of creation has been affected by it. All creation groans! Perhaps you are in agony over a physical issue or a financial trial. Perhaps it is a relational trial. It is the same word Jesus uses to refer to the pain of his crucifixion. “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer” (Luke 22:15). In 2 Corinthians 1:5, Paul said, “For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings…” Be encouraged to know that Christ Jesus your Savior knows what physical pain is all about. He can sympathize with our weaknesses (Hebrews 4:15). As a matter of fact, his entire life was one of humiliation, and he experienced all the trials of life just like we do.

The Apostle Paul was also no stranger to suffering. “Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure” (2 Co 11:24-27). He also had to endure what he called a “thorn in the flesh” (2 Corinthians 12). This was certainly some physical trial that he prayed three times for God to remove. But God, in his love for him, did not remove it because he wanted to humble him, helping Paul to see that His grace was sufficient for him.

Paul considers that these are sufferings of the present time – literally, the “now” time. By the “now” time, Paul means “in this present age.” Suffering and pain will be a present experience for us all, some experiencing it to a greater degree than others.

Here is where I want you to be encouraged today: because of what God has done for us in Christ, by virtue of being united with Him through faith and on the ground of His shed blood for your sin, these present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us! Paul calls us, in our present sufferings, to look ahead to that which will be far greater! Your pain and agony is real. It can be discouraging and you can feel so helpless and hopeless. But faith trusts God in His providence and hopes for that which has not been seen. Verse 24 says, “For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees?” This hope that Paul refers to is our adoption as sons, that is, the redemption of our bodies (verse 23). Let me say to those who suffer physically: you will get a new body some day! You will be given a body that will never get sick or grow weary. Those with bad eyes will have perfect vision to behold the glory of Christ. Those with bad ears will hear the worship of the saints and angels. Those with weak muscles will be forever strong and will be in a place where they will do the will of God perfectly.

When we hear of the glories that await us, our reaction is: I want that now! And it is right to long for the return of Christ, to love his appearing (2 Timothy 4:8). But Paul says in verse 25, “we wait for it with patience.” That’s the hard part! But now, in the midst of suffering for this season, is the time for us to trust God’s purposes for us. We don’t see the big picture, we see in a glass dimly (1 Cor. 13:12). Now is the time for believers to comfort one another and exhort one another and encourage one another to endure for the glory of Christ. Now we must join in prayer for each other and hold out the hope that believers have in the Gospel. Now is the time to weep with those who weep and to bear one another’s burdens. Now is the time to preach the Gospel to ourselves and trust in His sacrifice for us. Let us NOT wallow in self-pity. Let us guard against being me-centered. Let us rid ourselves of the “victim” mentality. Let us pray with Paul that God would be exalted in our bodies whether we live or die (Philippians 1:20). I pray that the world around us would truly see the hope that is within us.

Let me close with 2 Corinthians 4:16-18. For all those who are suffering greatly in our congregation, hear my heart in this: “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”

Read the words of William Cowper, printed below, from “God Moves in a Mysterious Way.” Are you experiencing God’s frowning providence? I pray today that behind that providence you will see His smiling face!

God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea
And rides upon the storm.
Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never failing skill
He treasures up His bright designs
And works His sovereign will.

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy and shall break
In blessings on your head.
Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.

His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flower.
Blind unbelief is sure to err
And scan His work in vain;
God is His own interpreter,
And He will make it plain.

I can offer no encouragement for your suffering on my own. It can only come from God’s Word. By grace let us all hold fast to Christ and to each other in hope!

May 102012

Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 3:12-14 (ESV)

Yesterday, at about 10:30 AM, I completed my last final exam for my Master of Divinity. It has taken seven years to complete this. I am truly thankful to God for His abundant mercies and provisions; to my wife who has supported me on this journey every step, even a hard move to Southern, then back to Blairsville to support a church plant effort; ro my children, who have only known me to be studying for some test or working on some project – I haven’t been able out and play with them as much as I would have liked; to my father and step mother, and my two brothers; to my mother who went home to be with Lord three months after I started at Southern; to my church family, Redeemer Baptist, for your constant love and prayers and support.

I thought I would have a feeling of relief, but I do not. Perhaps if I wasn’t already in the ministry, I would feel relieved. But since being in the ministry carries its own weight, there is no real relief. I know that my learning has only begun. That’s right. I have so much yet to learn. I do believe in many ways Southern prepared me well. What Southern could not prepare me for is learning to balance ministry and family, being disciplined with my time, the sacrifices necessary to plant a church, harsh criticism, expectations of having all the answers and working miracles, and, like the apostle Paul said in the above verses, dealing with my own sin. We will never stop learning to deal with our sin until either we die or Jesus comes back.

Yes, I might have obtained an MDiv, but that really does not mean much. I still have not obtained the greatest prize: the consummation of my redemption. We live in the tension of the “already and not yet”.[1] I have been saved in the past. I am being saved (sanctification) in the present. I will be saved in the future. I have not obtained perfection. I will battle with my sin until Jesus returns. This could lead to real discouragement, but like the apostle Paul, I do not want to quit the fight against my own sin. So I press on to make Christ’s resurrection life my own, not because I’m mentally tough, but because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Jesus’ ownership of me is the only cause of my pressing forward! The thing that keeps me going through all my failures, inadequacies and all the struggles of life is that Jesus will not let go and I belong to Him.

The same idea is found in Philippians 2:12-13, where Paul says, “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” For believers, the cause of our pressing forward and straining toward the prize, or the cause of working out our own salvation is that our God works in us. He gives the desire. He is sovereignly behind it all!

Because I have not obtained the prize yet in its fullness, I press on toward the goal. The word for goal here can refer to a “finish line” in a race or to an archery target.[2] At the end, reaching this finish line, or hitting the target we are after, means being in the presence of Jesus Christ forever. Our earthly achievements cannot even compare to receiving the inheritance that is imperishable, unfading, undefiled, kept in heaven for us (1 Peter 1:4).

So, like I said, receiving another degree does not mean much. I still have much to learn. My learning is not over and neither is yours. My reading of the Scriptures and of other books is paramount to an effective Christian life and ministry. I should never cease in my pursuit of God. Some have asked, what are you going to read (outside the Bible, of course) when you are out of school? If God so wills, I plan to dig deeper into the writings of Jonathan Edwards and John Calvin. I will continue reading missionary biographies and Baptist history.

My battle with sin is not over yet and neither is yours. So let us be patient with one another. “Love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8). Let us take responsibility for our own sin, seek reconciliation and forgiveness when necessary, and move forward. Quit hanging on to the past. Jesus paid for all the sins of his people. Trust in His sacrifice and his call of justification. Remember the words of Charity Bancroft who wrote, “When Satan tempts me to despair, and tells me of the guilt within, upward I look and see Him there, who made an end to all my sin. Because the sinless savior died, my sinful soul is counted free, for God the just is satisfied to look on Him and pardon me.”

It’s not over: your learning, your battle with sin, your trials, your physical pains, etc. But let us keep pressing on. Let us not give up the fight. Let us press on toward the goal of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. “Keep your eyes on Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2).

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[1] I refer you here to George E. Ladd’s book, The Gospel and the Kingdom.

[2] See the ESV Study Bible note on this verse.