My top 5 highlights from #T4G

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Last week, I travelled down to Louisville, Kentucky, for Together for the Gospel 2014, three days of heavy duty teaching, singing, and visiting with friends from around the continent who you only see at events such as these.

This was my second time at T4G, and it was a very different experience for me this time around.

I didn’t live-blog (sorry folks who were looking forward to it!). I didn’t take copious notes. I even missed a few sessions due to some other commitments (I’m catching up on those now!).

But, y’know something? It was probably the best conference experience I’ve ever had. Here are my top five moments:

1. People who are more than profile pics! These conferences are always a double-edged sword for introverts like me. I have to work really, really hard to be social as it’s tempting to curl up in a corner with a book and hide. But over the three days I was in Louisville, I got to see many older friends (Alex Leung, Chris Poblete, Pat Aldridge, Dave Jenkins, Derek Rishmawy, Dan Darling, Matt Capps, and Jonathan Howe among them) while meeting several folks for the first time who I’ve really enjoyed interacting with via Twitter like Matt Sims and (all-too-briefly) Mike Leake.

2. DeYoung brought it. Of the messages I was present for, Kevin DeYoung’s may well have been the standout moment of the entire conference. He offered a powerful exposition of Jesus’ view of the Bible—a defence of inerrancy that wasn’t intended to encourage mental assent, but delighted and devoted confidence in the Bible as the Word of God.

A few standout quotes:

  • “Is your chastened epistemology a sign of humility or that you’re hard of hearing?”
  • “If quoting Deuteronomy to the devil was enough for Jesus, it should be enough for us.”
  • “When we become proud of our doubts, we are guilty of the sin of unbelief.”

John MacArthur, a man not known for positive hyperbole, had this to say: “Not only is this one of the finest talks you’ve heard, it’s one of the finest you will ever hear.” Listen at T4G.org.

3. Listening to 7000+ (mostly) men sing. Loudly. Once again, Bob Kauflin led us all in singing praise to the Lord, and once again, it was the one of the best and most genuine times of singing I’ve been a part of. There was nothing showy, no lasers or smoke machines, just Kauflin and a piano. The attendees sang—and more importantly, they sang like they meant it.

(Worship leaders, there might be a lesson here…)

4. The gospel by Numbers. In what I’d definitely call as the close-second to DeYoung’s inerrancy message, Ligon Duncan showed us the gospel in a passage you wouldn’t have expected: Numbers 5:1-4. These verses, the defilement laws, “show that those who are unclean make everything they touch unclean,” but they also have a massive gap: there’s no way to be made clean in them. In the gap, they serve an essential purpose: to point us to the One who makes all things clean!

“Jesus is the One who makes all things unclean clean… All this he does so you can say when sharing the gospel, there’s nothing he cannot touch, nothing he cannot make clean…. so that we might become the righteousness of God.”

Isn’t that the kind of Jesus we want to tell people about?

5. The freedom to rest. Wednesday night I was completely bagged. I had a lot to do that day and was pretty wiped by the time 7:30 rolled around. So, rather than walking over to the Yum Center and catching Matt Chandler’s message, I did something new for me: I went to my room, wrote for a bit and relaxed for a couple of hours. Feeling the freedom to actually go and rest is new for me, and it’s something I’m really grateful for.

So those are probably my favorite moments of T4G 2014. Now, to get back to the normal routine and figure out where to put this big stack of books that came home with me!

Were you at T4G or did you listen online? What was a highlight moment for you?

Why I may (not) be live-blogging #T4G14

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Over the last few years of attending conferences, I’ve tended to live-blog them, taking copious notes and sharing them here in real-time or something close to it. This year, although I have no doubt I’ll be taking lots of notes, I’m not sure if I will be live-blogging at T4G. It’s hard work and fun work… but man, it’s a lot of work.

So here are a few reasons why I may or may not do it this time:

1. My notes tend to be more like on-the-fly, loosely paraphrased transcripts. I don’t catch everything, but I do manage to get about 80 percent of what’s said in a pretty faithful form. This is tricky to do, but I know a lot of people find them helpful.

2. I don’t want my note-taking to be distracting to other attendees. Conference venues like the Yum Center tend to not be set up to handle live-blogging well. And because my tendency is to not be a gentle typer, I am concerned about my clickety-clacking distracting the other attendees.

3. Not live-blogging gives a little more flexibility to my schedule. I don’t “have” to be there on time or at all, if something requires my attention elsewhere (I’m thinking a work or family-related emergency).

4. Sometimes it’s fun just to sit and watch. I’ve never really just sat back and watched at one of these. This might be a good thing to try.

5. Sometimes sharing the material online is fun, too. I’ve received a number of emails from folks saying they’ve found my notes helpful in the past, and I do appreciate having the opportunity to help others when possible.

6. There’s a livestream. The livestream is really handy and allows people to listen in as they go about their day.

So what say you all? Live-blog or not live-blog?

God’s Love Compels Us: a free #TGC13 eBook

On April 6-7, 2013, The Gospel Coalition held their 2013 World Missions pre-conference, “God’s Love Compels Us.” With permission from the kind folks at TGC, I’ve put together my notes from the conference into a free eBook (.pdf format), which is now available for download.

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Here’s what’s included:

  1. Don Carson: The Biblical Basis for Missions
  2. Andy Davis: Are People Without Christ Really Lost?
  3. David Platt: Why the Great Commission is Great
  4. John Piper: The heart of God in the call to proclaim
  5. Michael Oh: the individual’s suffering & the salvation of the world
  6. Stephen Um: Jesus and Justice
  7. Mack Stiles: The Ministry of Reconciliation

The conference was a tremendous blessing to attend and I trust you’ll be both encouraged and challenged by the messages included in the book. Enjoy!

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Gary Millar: Jesus Betrayed and Crucified #TGC

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My notes from Gary Millar’s session at TGC13′s national conference, “His mission: Jesus in the gospel of Luke.” (All notes are paraphrased.)


If you’ve ever flown into Ireland—north or south—you can’t help but notice it’s remarkably green. And the tourist board fails to tell you the obvious reason why: It rains a lot. After 45 years in Ireland, God mercifully uprooted our family to Australia, where the tourist line is “beautiful today, perfect the next.”

We don’t easily take the weather for granted, but we do all too easily with people. And though the consequences of taking people for granted is toxic for our relationships, it’s even more toxic to take our relationship with God for granted. It’s possible that even some of us here are taking the Lord Jesus Christ for granted right now.

Are we more drawn to ideas than to Jesus? To success than Jesus? Is it possible our hearts are here but elsewhere?

We’re all more than capable of taking Jesus for granted. We may love theology, strategizing, theology, exegesis, preaching… but the prior question is: Do we love Jesus Christ?

If not, then we need to read the gospels. Because hte gospels give us a person. The gospels are dripping with theology, but the theology is embodied in the person of Jesus. And we must not miss how Jesus stands out in this long passage (Luke 22:39-23:49).

Jesus stands out as the one who keeps his head while everyone else is looking theirs.

Jesus leads the way to the Mount of Olives. He’s the one who meets Judas. He’s the one who stops the disciples rebellion the moment it begins. He is the one who is making things happen; he is the one in control.

The contrast between Peter and Jesus couldn’t be more stark. Where Jesus is calm, Peter is panicked. Where Jesus speaks calmly, Peter blurts out lies.

There’s even a sense that the one who is on trial is the one who orchestrates the trial.

His silence with Pilate is telling. His silence in verse 23 is not despair; he stays silent to move things forward to his ultimate goal. Jesus hasn’t given up, he knows exactly what he’s doing. He won’t break his silence to defend himself in a sham trial.

He knows what he is doing. He is in perfect control.

When he does speak, it shows his mind is in perfect control, as we see when he speaks to a group of grieving women. Even there, he is concerned for others more than himself. He knows that things will get worse for them according to verse 31. But he is completely collected.

Even when Jesus is hoisted up between two thieves, he is in perfect control. He is mocked for not saving himself, but what does he do? He prays, “Father forgive them, for they do not know what they do.”

He is the judge of all creation, the one who rules over all things. And he is in perfect control.

He is calm under extreme pressure. He’s under unimaginable stress—sweating drops of blood—but he remains calm. This is where he leaves everyone else behind. He’s not just in control of himself, he’s in control of the events themselves.

It’s not just that he knows how to respond to what he’ll find, he already knows what he’ll find. He is in control of the entire sweep of human history, and so he is in calm.

Yes, he is the lamb led to the slaughter, but we must also see Jesus as he is:

The sovereign God in action.

When we have control, we use it to make live better for ourselves. But not so with Jesus. When we say Jesus is Lord, we say he is in control of all things. And we see this perfectly in his walk to the cross, where he uses his control over all things.

Jesus is also perfectly innocent.

As he is interviewed over and over again, he is called innocent.

Jesus is praying, Judas comes with armed men. Jesus is silent in the kangaroo court, because his evidence is obvious. They rush him to Pilate who says he finds no fault in this man. Herod does the same implicitly. NOw that doesn’t stop them from treating him shamefully and harshly, and sending him back to PIlate.

Pilate should have let him go, but the people demanded Jesus’ death—and Pilate knew he was condemning an innocent man to death. If you needed any more evidence, you need only look at the ending verses of our passage. Certainly, this man is innocent.

This is the most stunning miscarriage in all of history. But Jesus isn’t just the wrong man, he’s the perfect man—and we killed him. He is the Son of God who walked the earth—and we condemned him.

Place him next to anyone else in the world and it serves only to illuminate his perfect innocence. Aren’t you so glad he came?

At last, here’s a man we can look up to. A hero worth having. A man with no secrets, no pride, nothing he’s keeping from us. A man so brimming with perfect innocence that he gives himself up for us.

Really, how could we take this innocent man fro granted?

Jesus stands out as the one who trusts God in the most horrific moment ever to happen to a human being.

Yes, he is the one in control of his emotions, yes he is orchestrating the events in a sense, but he is the one who trusts the Father perfectly. “…nevertheless not my will but yours be done.”

This again is voiced at the end, “Father into your hands I commit my spirit.”

Luke wanted us to get the fact that this man who is in complete control, he also trusts God flawlessly.

Have you ever thought about this: our situation is so hopeless—we actually need to trust God for us? Even the best of us can’t pull it off properly. Which is why it’s such a relief that Jesus trusts God perfectly for us.

My problem isn’t that I’m not trustworthy, it’s that I’m incapable of trusting God perfectly myself. And the same is true for you.

Jesus stands out because he’s in control even when everything is falling apart, even when he is innocent, even when others are determined to condemn him, because he trusts God perfectly.

Sometimes I think we take Jesus for granted because we don’t think about how awe-inspiring and trustworthy he actually is. He is not a cardboard cut-out. He is the one in whom power, beauty and majesty come together.

This is our Lord Jesus Christ—the sovereign God in the flesh. HOw can we fail to run ot him? How can we take him for granted?

How can Jesus not stand out here—not just because of who he is, but who he is surrounded with? Luke wants us to know about the people who stand by Jesus, bump into Jesus…

Jesus is surrounded by weak people. 

The disciples are falling apart. While Jesus is wrestling with having to die for us, but the disciples are so emotionally exhausted that they struggle to stay awake.

Peter is terribly weak. His actions display this–in his rush to attack the guard; his denial of Jesus… earlier he’d said he’d go to prison or death with Jesus. He couldn’t live up to his bold claim. When he was confronted by his weakness, he wept bitterly.

Jesus is surrounded by evil people 

Judas betrayed Jesus with a kiss. The evil of the leaders and priests is displayed too—they could have taken him at any time, but they did so at night. The guards, the crowds, the thief on the cross… Jesus is surrounded by evil people who are consumed by self-interest.

Pilate released Barabbas instead of him because of political self-interest. Herod wanted a magic show and when he didn’t get it he joined the soldiers in mocking Jesus.

We are utterly self-centered, too.

Jesus is surrounded by oblivious people. 

They have no idea what’s going on—they have no clue. Simon of Cyrene. The people at the fire with Peter. The crowds and the soldiers who were looking to add a bit of dark humor to their job. They all had no idea of the significance of what was going on in front of them. People who maybe get a bit of it, but not all of it.

The women who recoiled at the injustice of everything going on. But Jesus’ response tells us they don’t quite get it. But he dies for them—and for you and me.

Why does Luke write this? Why doesn’t he write the theology of the events?

This is the theology. Here is one man dying for the ungodly—here is Jesus Christ.

This becomes clear in the case of Barabbas—a man called Son of the Father who was a murderer, who is replaced by the Father’s Son who had done no wrong.

In the Hunger Games series, the heroine, Katniss, takes the place of her sister in an utterly selfless act. But it’s an understandable one. It’s her little sister.

But Jesus’ sacrifice is different. We are the ones for whom Jesus is dying. We are the one for whom Jesus drinks the cup.

It’s clear that people don’t get who Jesus is throughout the gospel.

But then he is recognized by a thief, a terrorist.

A terrorist is the first to recognize Jesus for who he is. He is the first to receive the invitation to join Jesus at his banquet table. He somehow gets that Jesus is the King they’ve been waiting for even with all the clamoring around them. And he asks the only thing that makes sense—”Jesus, remember me in your kingdom.”

Then, as the world is recognizing the death of Jesus, its creator, the sky turns dark, the ground shakes. And a gentile soldier recognizes who Jesus is—the innocent one who died for weak, evil, guilty people.

Jesus dies for us, even though he is the perfect Son of the Father, and we are utterly unworthy.

Luke invites us to stand with these people. To see and savor this Jesus. To acknowledge this Jesus as the one who takes our guilt. The Lord of the universe who forgives us by bringing about his own death.

This is the heart of the gospel. How can we take this Jesus for granted?

Stephen Um: Jesus and Money #TGC13

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My notes from Stephen Um’s session at TGC13′s national conference, “His mission: Jesus in the gospel of Luke.” (All notes are paraphrased.)


Jesus talked a lot of money. He talked about greed about ten times more than he did sexual sin. This is not to minimize sexual sin, but it helps us recognize the insidiousness of greed—the danger of the love of money.

When someone is committing adultery, no one needs to come alongside them and say, “Hey, you’re committing adultery.” But when it comes to greed, we’re not always sure. That’s why Jesus says, “take care, be aware, be on guard.”

There are no accountability groups for greed in the church. There’s no computer software. But we need to recognize the seductive power money can have in our hearts.

Before we start, we need to recognize three things: we need to disaffect our view of money because we often look at money and think it’s a dirty word. Obviously because we live in a fallen world, we’ve seen money used and abused—but God gives money to us as a gift. Secondly, we need to view money as a tool. It’s not any more inherently evil than any other thing God has created. Thirdly, we need to have an intentional theological understanding of money.

There are three truths I’d like us to understand from this passage:

The problem of money

What’s going on in our passage is Jesus is telling a story to his disciples, that there was a very rich man who told a manager to turn in his records, and then we was going to fire him. The loss of the position as manager in Roman culture meant the forfeiting of your social status.

1. The first danger of money is clearly seen here in that it can become your security. 

The manager had to make a fundamental choice about his allegiance. Money is morally neutral, but the heart isn’t neutral. He could have repented of his dishonest actions, he could have been like the younger son in Luke 15‘s parable, but we see he wasn’t repentant. The unjust steward instead looked to himself, asking “What shall I do?”

He turned to himself for the solution, instead of away. The danger of money is it can become our security.

This person is extremely anxious, he’s insecure. He’s afraid—he says, “What am I supposed to do?” His identity was wrapped up in his work. So what does he do? He comes up with a plan.

The problem is he went back to the problem for the solution. He didn’t look outside the problem for the solution. Why is this man in this situation? Because he wasted his master’s possessions. THe word “wasted” here is the same word used in Luke 15 for the younger son who “squandered” his property. It refers to reckless living—the manager misappropriated funds for his own purposes.

It’s a character issue, not a competence one. [Read more...]

Kevin DeYoung: Jesus and the Lost #TGC13

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My notes from Kevin DeYoung’s session at TGC13′s national conference, “His mission: Jesus in the gospel of Luke.” (All notes are paraphrased.)


When I was first asked to speak on Luke 15, my first thought was, “Awesome, I know what’s in Luke 15.” My second thought was, “Ugh, everyone knows what’s in Luke 15!”

I want to tell you one thing you need to know to understand these three parables, two things about God and three things we need to do with it:

The context

There’s a deliberate pattern where some event or some question will prompt Jesus to give a teaching or tell a parable. Looking back in Luke 10, a Lawyer comes to Jesus and asks “what must I do to have eternal life?” And Jesus tells him, but the lawyer seeking to justify himself asks, “who is my neighbor?” And this prompts Jesus to tell the parable of the good Samaritan. Or the scribes and Pharisees who are clamoring for the seats of honor and it prompts Jesus to tell the parable of the wedding banquet… Luke is very helpful to us in that he gives an introductory statement to so many of Jesus’ parables, and he does so here in Luke 15. The sinners and tax collectors were drawing near to Jesus, and the scribes and Pharisees grumbled.

They didn’t like the company he was keeping.

Sinners and tax collectors.

“Sinner” is a pretty broad term—it could mean non-Pharisees, non-Jews, those who aren’t walking with God… in short, they’re people who sin. They’re not obeying the commands of God.

Tax collectors is a narrower term and it’s not a compliment. These were people who bid to Rome to collect taxes in Judea. The problem with the tax collectors is not that they collected taxes, but that they were cheating and swindling the people. They were almost always thieves and swindlers—they could do just about as they pleased.

The closest analogy might be the old city bosses or the mafia who had bought all the authorities and were virtually untouchable by the law.

In the Mishna, a Jewish document written about a century after Jesus, it mentions thieves, sinners and tax collectors in the same breath. The liberal and conservative wings of Judaism both agreed it was acceptable to lie to tax collectors.

But here’s Jesus—not just ministering to them, but receiving with them. Eating with them.

It would be like setting up to hand out literature at an abortion clinic and seeing your pastor walk about of the clinic saying, “See you at seven, okay?”

We all have our categories. we have “sinners,” and we have our “tax collectors.” You love the poor, but do you love the rich? [Read more...]

Don Carson: Jesus’ resolve to head toward Jerusalem #TGC13

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My notes from Don Carson’s session at TGC13′s national conference, “His mission: Jesus in the gospel of Luke.” (All notes are paraphrased.)


Every gospel is organized a little differently; this is something that we sometimes miss in a “bitty” reading of Scripture. In Mark’s gospel, for example, gives us examples of Jesus’ miracles scattered throughout Scripture. Matthew meanwhile, picks up on these miracles and puts them all in chapters 8 and 9.

In our passage tonight, is another ordering that is unique to Luke. Luke is telling us in his ordering of his gospel that he is going to Jerusalem to die. Everything in Luke’s gospel that takes from Luke 9:51 onward is taking place of the looming shadow of the impending cross.

That’s what this structure means. It’s a hint how to read the book. So I’m going to run through this passage before us (Luke 9:18-56) and show you a couple of things that will help you to read this book in light of the cross.

I want to make two assertions that rise from reading the book of Luke carefully. The first is this:

In his own time, Jesus is the misunderstood Messiah. But the reader sees what his contemporaries did not see: Jesus is resolved to go to Jerusalem to die and rise again.

We’ll see how this works out in five sections of this chapter:

1. Jesus is God’s Messiah but this Messiah will suffer, die and rise again. 

In Caesar Philippi, Jesus asks the disciples who they think he is; Peter says he is God’s Messiah. What Peter is confessing is that Jesus is God’s Davidic King whom God promised. But Peter did not mean what we mean when he made that confession. Peter doesn’t have the category of a Messiah going to the cross to die.

What Peter meant is not all that the Bible teaches—what he says is the truth and he’s blessed by Jesus for speaking the truth; but it’s still not full Christian truth. And this is pointed out in verse 21 when Jesus strictly orders them to tell no one. And the reason for that is that what the crowds understood by Messiah is a cluttering up of expectation—of dominion, of kingship. That’s why he works to reorient their understanding of what Messiah means.

But there’s no way they understood this. How do we know? When Jesus is crucified, they are shattered. They still have no category for a crucified Messiah. They were probably looking at each other saying, “Deep, deep. Jesus says deep things you know.”

But they didn’t understand. [Read more...]

Colin Smith: Jesus Despised #TGC13

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My notes from Colin Smith’s session at TGC13′s national conference, “His mission: Jesus in the gospel of Luke.” (All notes are paraphrased.)


The events of Luke 4:16-30 take place early on in Jesus’ ministry. Word of His ministry in Galilee had already spread through the area, and os this is taking place about a year in. This is a town where folks played with Jesus as a child, who maybe had a table mended by Jesus… And we’re told it was Jesus’ custom to worship here.

When someone becomes famous, it’s a big deal for a small town. And this great day comes, after all the stories have been circulated, Jesus is coming back to town, and no doubt word circulated so much so that there would have been a really big crowd.

We all know how dead religion can be—but this day was different. The pattern would have likely been the same as always, right up to the reading from the Prophets. And Jesus stood and chose to read from Isaiah 61, and this is what he read:

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives… to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.

He rolls up the scroll and sits down. The people, with bated breath, turn wondering what he’s going to say and he says, “Today, this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

Four identifying characteristics of Jesus’ preaching: [Read more...]

John Piper: Jesus the Son of God, the Son of Mary #TGC13

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My notes from John Piper’s opening session at TGC13′s national conference, “His mission: Jesus in the gospel of Luke.” (All notes are paraphrased.)


The only place in the entire book of Luke does the author write in the first person (Luke 1:1). The reason he does so is so that we may have certainty (Luke 1:4). The word “certainty”— asphaleia—means security (NT) or safety (OT). The idea seems to be that Luke is saying, “Theophilus, you’ve been taught many things, but I want you to know them differently—I want you to know them as locked down, secure unshakeable reality.

The reason I”m lingering over this is not only because Luke did, but because we live in a time when people don’t know these things in an asphaleia kind of way. THey have ideas in their heads and they know them like clouds and not mountains.

But when resistance comes, the old cloud goes away and a new cloud lodges in their minds–that’s the way a lot of people know doctrine. I want you to know the doctrine locked down, nailed down, immovable like a mountain, not a cloud, says Luke.

He doesn’t want you to know them any other way—he wants you to know the truth so it’s safe from being changed from the culture or ceasing to be what they are. They’re safe to be what they are forever!

This is the kind of knowing we want to have. The other kind of knowing—the kind that wrecks churches—is different. Luke knows what it means to be a most excellent Theophilus. He’s the one who wrote to us about most excellent Festus and Felix—how did they know? Felix had an excellent understanding of the Way, but hoping for a bribe sent Paul on his way. That’s the kind of knowing that wrecks churches, that brings reproach on churches.

Luke saw Paul’s back—he knew the scars he had—he knew the kind of knowledge that sustains obedience. And he wanted Theophilus to know it too.

When Paul preached to Festus, Festus told Paul, “Your learning is driving you out of your mind.” And Paul replied, “I am not out of my mind… I am speaking what is true and rational.”

You can’t buy truth with wealth. You can’t control truth with power, which is why rich and powerful people don’t like it. Truth doesn’t give them enough wiggle room. It locks them down and you either submit or perish.

How does Luke build the asphaleia in his head so they’re absolute unshakeable reality—mountains, not clouds?

In the first two chapters he does it by paralleling John the Baptist and Jesus. Remarkable that John the Baptist receives so much attention in the first two chapters of Luke.

So how do you preach on two chapters of the Bible? I’m going to show you how Luke shows Theophilus how to get the truth into his heart in an asphaleia kind of way. And he does it by showing Theolophilus the following: [Read more...]

Mack Stiles: The Ministry of Reconciliation #TGC13

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My notes from Mack Stiles’ session at TGC13′s World Missions’ pre-conference, “God’s Love Compels Us.” (All notes are paraphrased.)


I want to read tonight from 2 Cor 5:11-21. This passage is best known for it’s ambassadorship, but I’m amazed at how gospel-centered it is. I have five marks of the ambassador that I’d like to highlight as we look at the text:

1. Our motivation for ambassadorship.

Paul is saying here that when we understand what’s at stake, we fear God and therefore we persuade people. We understand what’s coming—and so we persuade people. We lay out facts, we answer questions, we teach.

Our motivation is different from what people may see—we’re not proud, and we’re not crazy, though it may look like both. And though we fear God, we have concluded something—that sin can be forgiven and that reconciliation with God is possible.

And that conclusion leads us to an understanding that we don’t live for ourselves—and this conviction makes us look crazy to unbelievers, even to some other believers.

You listened to David Platt last night—don’t you think he’s a little crazy? And it’s true. He’s filled with a tender-hearted crazy love for the lost.

Verses 14-15 are sometimes used as a prooftext for universalism, which is a heresy that you can’t defend with this passage—but our concerns about definite or universal atonement sometimes mask the point of these verses: They’re about our motivation. We’re motivated by our fear of the Lord, in confidence in the truth that moves us to speak the truth to others.

2. How we view people.

Once we’re motivated correctly we view people correctly. Our natural tendency is to view people through worldly eyes—people even do that to Jesus, seeing him as a good moral teacher. Paul’s point here is that if people did that to Jesus, how much more are they to do that to others.

C.S. Lewis reminds us that there’s no such thing as a mere mortal, so ambassadors check their hearts and slay a tendency to hate others in their heart.

But at the same time, we remember that people are also sinners. So we have a correct view that prevents us from glorifying people.

We also view the possibility of people—that they can become renewed, redeemed, restored new creations in Christ. And is there any more joy in ministry than that? To see people become new creations in Christ, to grow in Christ and see them begin to share with others…

Do you have people in your life who you don’t believe will come to Christ, who might be too sinful or too hard-hearted, who perhaps look like they have everything they need? You’re tempted to believe they don’t need God. Don’t believe that. People the world around need God—they need to become new creations.

3. How we view the world.

God is reconciling the world, it goes out to all the world—there’s a tendency to think the message is just for small parts of the world. Now many Muslims will honor Jesus more than much of the western world. But to deny the deity of Christ is to cut the heart out of the gospel.

But there are no barriers to God. This gospel is going out through the world. And it’s our hope you’ll see with joy how God is moving out among the people of the world. There are no barriers to God—take heart! Do you see people from other faith backgrounds and think you can’t get to them? Do you see people who seem to have it all together and think you can’t get to them? Don’t!

4. Our role as Christians in the world.

We are Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. That’s an amazing thought. He didn’t come up with this image by himself—he did to make sure we understand our role.

Ambassadors exist to deliver a message. That’s what they do. So when you are sitting down with a family member, or a friend or a neighbor and a spiritual topic comes up–when that happens, when you screw up your courage and engage, think about this brothers and sisters that there from the very throne of God stretches a cable that somehow comes to that person through you.

You represent the foreign power of the Kingdom of God. It doesn’t always feel that way, but it’s true. And we need to get the message right. We don’t change the message, we give it as taught.

Listen, we don’t leave the message undelivered and ambassadors don’t live at home, living as wanderers in the world. It means they don’t make the world their home. They’re always a bit uneasy living here. The message we shout out to the world: We implore you, on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God.

Now this isn’t something we only say, but it’s also what we do. We mostly say, but the gospel should come out in everything we do. We want to live and eat and breathe the gospel so that when it comes out it feels natural. The gospel is the in-and-out of life, it’s the hub of life. Whether it’s an elder’s meeting, or meeting with children in the neighborhood… it all should flow out of the gospel.

Listen—it needs to come out of us. Some of you here tonight may not know about this reconciliation with God. This is a message for you: You are divinely created, but cut off from God. The Bible says that because of your sin, you’re in rebellion to God. Understand your potential: You can be reconciled to God through the shed blood of Jesus Christ, who died for your sins. What’s required of you is not to claw your way into good standing, but to accept what has been done for you.

That’s the message we shout.

5. Our understanding of God’s work in the message of the gospel.

Much ink has been spilled on 2 Cor 5:21. It contains two huge ideas: imputed righteousness and substitutionary atonement in 24 words. Imputed righteousness means a righteousness that doesn’t come from inside you—it comes to you. It’s a God-given righteousness, who took our sin and put it on His Son, who “became” sin. Jesus wasn’t a sinner, but he took sin upon himself. And he clothes us in Jesus’ righteousness so we may stand before God.

Just as imputed righteousness is a righteousness that comes from outside of us, substitutionary atonement comes from outside of us too. Atonement means to pay for our sin, and most of the world thinks this is something we do. Substitutionary atonement means that God pays for your sin for you.

In our ministry, I love being able to show people the gospel in all of Scripture—the gospel in Jonah, who was a sacrifice for the sailors. The gospel in Joseph, who was sold by his brothers for a few pieces of silver and when they stand before him, he forgives them. And Abraham who sees the ram, who is the sacrifice in place of Isaac, which becomes so clear a picture of the gospel that John the Baptist could say on the sight of Jesus, “Behold the Lamb of God!”

Do you love the gospel? When I’m describing imputed righteousness or substitutionary atonement, are you like, “yes!” or “…dinner.” I suspect many of you do—I suspect many of you are giving your lives for the gospel. Are you willing to call others to die for the gospel?

Brothers, make sure your understanding of the gospel motivates you to give yourself up for the gospel—and call others to give themselves up for the gospel, too.

Remember five marks of Christ’s ambassadors: We’re motivated; we view people through God’s eyes. We understand his work is for all the world. We understand our role and we have a firm grasp on the message of the gospel. Amen.

Stephen Um: Jesus and Justice #TGC13

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My notes from Stephen Um’s session at TGC13′s World Missions’ pre-conference, “God’s Love Compels Us.” (All notes are paraphrased.)


I’ve been given this great topic on Jesus and justice and in some ways it is a topic we all need to consider very seriously. As C.S. Lewis has said, every human being has an innate sense for justice. We all have this innate sense of what is right and what is wrong.

On the right you have those who say that justice is a personal responsibility; on the left you have those who say it’s in the domain of the state. And within the Christian church, we have a number of attitudes toward justice and the church—some focus solely on preaching, while others focus almost on the gospel as demonstrated in acts of service. Churches can get divided, theologians are divided… although there’s controversy, we cannot avoid the discussion for two reasons:

Practially, there’s too much injustice going on in the world to do nothing. And secondly, more importantly, the Bible shows that justice is extremely close to the heart of God.

Justice defined

How does the BIble define justice? What do we see in Scripture?

Justice is grounded in God’s character. The community when it looks at the character of God, should have a desire to reflect the character of God. There are structural provisions throughout the Old Testament to respond to justice, to respond to the needs of the quartet of the marginalized.

DeYoung and Gilbert have noticed carefully that some things are different from OT times. We’re no longer an agrarian society, our land is not given directly by God, etc. But we also would be wise to note that although many of the outer trappings have changed, the call to reflect the character of God has not.

Jesus doesn’t rescind the OT commands of justice—He draws all the OT law under the great commandment, that we are to love the Lord our God with all our hearts, minds and souls, and we are to love our neighbors like ourselves. The Great Commandment and the Great Commission ought not be in tension.

Justice is grace-fueled. Grace fuels a desire toward justice. If we are not those who are middle-class, but poor in spirit, then certainly the gospel will grab our hearts and move us toward meeting justice.

Justice is holistic. Jesus didn’t just meet spiritual needs—he fed people, he cared for them, he exercised demons…

Justice is radical. When you are engaged with the marginalized with one-way giving of your time, money and intent—then you know you’re connected God’s sense of justice.

Justice is universal. The concept of justice is expanded beyond our families and communities and churches, but even to our enemies who are in need.

Justice is eternally significant. Proclamation of the gospel is essential, but demonstrating the gospel is also essential. Demonstration is not the same as proclamation, but it is the evidence of salvation.

How justice is denied

We deny justice by focusing on the external instead of the internal. We focus on legalism, instead of grace. We perform acts appearing to be good on the outside.

In Matthew 7, Jesus describes two similar types of people—and both bear fruit, but one bears good fruit and the other bears bad fruit. He characterized people not by being good or bad, but humble or proud. One does his deeds to exalt himself, the other does his deeds to please God.

We deny justice by moving way from being radical to doable. We don’t recognize how radical the demands of the Law really are—we begin to think they’re doable. That we can actually do them ourselves.

In Matt. 5, Jesus says, “You have heard it said, ‘you shall not murder, and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’” Now that second half isn’t anywhere in Scripture. He also says, “You have heard it said, ‘you shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy’”—which is the opposite of what the Bible says elsewhere.

So why would anyone want to add to the Law? To make the radical command doable. And if you can make it doable, you can justify yourself. The Law was not given to show us these are doable, or manageable but to point us to a Savior? What’s easier to do—to tithe or to give sacrificially?

The impulse of the human heart is the narrow down the commands of God so we can justify ourselves.

We deny justice by moving away from the universal to the narrow. It’s all about self-absorption. We are to be concerned with the needs of others, to think of others more and think of ourselves less, as someone has said. When we become self-centered we think only of ourselves and our needs and our desires—and we are prevented from walking humbly and seeking justice before our God.

It’s deadly to deny justice in this way. Where do we get the hope to reflect God’s character and justice?

Justice delivered

Justice demands judgment. Let’s brake this down: Grace is getting we don’t deserve. Mercy is not getting what we deserve. Justice is getting what we deserve either for punishment or protection. Because of our sins, we are accountable to a holy God and there needs to be punishment, there needs to be penal justice. But all those who are marginalized, those who are in need, need to receive protective justice. So this is going to lead to three things:

It’s going to lead to a change from focusing on the external to focusing on the internal. We deserve judgment, but he gives us justice in Jesus. When we come before judgment, we’re going to want to plead justice. And God won’t demand for a payment for something that’s already been paid. God doesn’t double-dip. We need to recognize that we’ve received grace. That we received mercy. We can pursue radical grace-fueled justice because we have received grace.

Secondly, we have the capital to be radically self-giving, rather than settling for what’s doable.

Lastly, we have the ability to be radically self-giving universally, instead of self-focused, on account of another. We have the ability to show generous justice to because what we’ve received in the gospel.

Friends, we have received the gospel, which says we’ve received love and compassion—counter-relational love that we don’t deserve. That we’ve received mercy that we don’t deserve because Jesus has absorbed the judgment that we did deserve. And this should move us to disadvantaged on account of the needy. We are called to respond not only to the great commission, but also the great commandment which calls us to love our neighbors as ourselves.

The individual’s suffering & the salvation of the world #TGC13

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My notes from Michael Oh’s session at TGC13′s World Missions’ pre-conference, “God’s Love Compels Us.” (All notes are paraphrased.)


It seems that no matter how much we want to or how hard we try, we can’t avoid suffering. When we suffer we ask questions, “God are you really good? God do you really love me?” Today’s psalm, Psalm 22, shows us that God really does does love us and he really is good. Today’s thesis is this:

God has been, is and will be faithful to his people both corporately and individually in suffering—and the nations will come to worship the Lord through their suffering.

In verses one and two David is complaining about the perceived distance between his circumstances and his God. In verse one we hear pain in David’s voice, “my God, my God” he says. His prayer and honest complaint is “When Israel cried to you, you saved them—when I cry to you, you don’t!” There’s this painful reality that God has acted but doesn’t seem to be acting in David’s life.

David’s enemies are so near and God seems so far away. Long before there were lions, tigers and bear (oh my), there were bulls, oxen and dogs. They “encompass” him.

And then in Psalm 22:22, we see a shift, where David goes from his lament to praising God, it looks like we’re missing the second act of a three act play.

But before we get to the second half of the psalm, we need to see three things when it comes to suffering:

God is in control of everything.

This is usually the first temptation when suffering comes. Nowhere does David see himself as a victim of faith. Biblical reality is that God is working out all that he has sovereignly ordained, in this world and in this live, including your salvation.

Salvation is a part of God’s good design.

This is the second temptation we see when suffering comes—it may be part of God’s plan, but maybe God’s plan isn’t good. So how is it good? First, suffering is for non-Christians. Suffering functions to teach you of your need for Jesus Christ. Pain is a God-given indicator that something is wrong—and the most significant thing that is wrong is your relationship with God is broken. In Japan, supposedly the most advanced society on the plant, why would four percent of middle school girls sell their bodies to dirty old men? It’s not because they need money. They get their $300 and spend it the next day on a Gucci wallet. It’s because of their spiritual emptiness. Money and wealth are not something to be lauded and sought after. But poverty and pain are not good in and of themselves—they exist to point us to the solution to these things, which is in Jesus Christ. And Christians need to be present with those who are in pain, so we can share with them the lessons of pain, and point them to the solution to pain. But suffering is also for Christians. We seek after emotional, spiritual, financial comfort—but if this were Jesus’ goal, his ministry would have been very different. Suffering and pain are part of our discipleship.

Not all suffering is the same.

There are at least three types of suffering found in Scripture:

Suffering as the consequence of sin.

Common suffering. This is suffering that effects people whether or not they’re Christians. It includes illness, typhoons, financial struggles, poverty, death itself.

Christ’s suffering. This is suffering for the sole reason of standing up for Christ. It also includes common suffering that is compounded for the sake of Christ—financial struggles due to generosity. Many Christians have never experienced such suffering. Our lives are so innocuous that they don’t bother Satan much at all.

What kind of suffering have you experienced—do you know anything of suffering for Jesus Christ?

Tabulating what kind of suffering you have is not the point. The point is following Jesus. Christ and accepting the often difficult and always wonderful consequences of doing so.

David learns these lessons and in the second half of the psalm we see the fruit:

We see David exhort believers to give praise to God—and we see David exalt the world to join in giving praise to God.

Why do we praise Him? Because he has not despised the afflicted. The poor will be fed. The wealthy will be fed.

Now, can I say something about money here? Many pastors think we value money too much. But we might value money too little because we don’t seem to understand the value it holds for furthering the gospel. It’s value is redeemed when it’s invested in eternal, gospel purposes. When we don’t believe God’s promises, we spend frivolously or hoard fearfully. When we believe, we release ourselves from the need to build an earthly inheritance.

Jesus said the field is ripe for harvest, but the laborers are few. I used to think the problem was there were too few willing to be sent, but I think the problem actually is there are too few senders.

William Carey once said, “I’ll go into the mine if you hold the rope.” But the message being sent to missionaries today is “Buy your own damn rope.”

When we sit on our money, our hearts become clogged, and the whole health of our lives is in jeopardy when we don’t give sacrificially and joyfully. Giving that is joyful, sacrificial and displays the glory of God in the gospel is the goal.

In this psalm, David says that he will share these blessings—that he will lay out a feast in celebration. What would it look like if we really believed that?

Every spiritual blessing. Without qualification, without hesitation. In verse 27, we can see the extent of God’s blessings in salvation. The ultimate celebration is the sharing of these blessings with others—this is a missional intent. A personal doxology is not enough.

Let me be clear, missions is not the primary purpose. Worship is—but we have been given a primary mission that flows from the primary purpose. And that primary purpose is lost if the mission is neglected. David exhorts Christians to worship and calls the world to join in that exaltation.

We live in a world with more than two billion people who have not and will not hear unless someone will go and suffer. If Jesus Christ being proclaimed among all the nations matters to you, won’t you get involved?

Our suffering is not merely for our own sanctification. It is to prepare us for proclamation. Proclamation of the difficulty of life in a fallen world, but also of God’s grace that sustains us in the midst of suffering and will ultimately free us from that suffering in the end. Suffering has missional purpose with missional implication. Where you have suffering at work, you have gospel fruit.

This psalm echoes Jesus’ suffering on the cross. We hear his cries to God, his enemies surrounding Him. And like David, we have full confidence that God will not leave us nor forsake us. But for Jesus, God turned his face away and poured out his wrath upon Him.

We ask questions like, “Why does suffering exist,” and the ultimate reason is so that Jesus would suffer for US. In a meaningful purpose-filled suffering so that God would be worshipped throughout the world and through eternity.

We suffer so we might take the gospel to the ends of the earth, that the worthy name of Jesus might be worshiped, that our God might become their God.

John Piper: The heart of God in the call to proclaim #TGC13

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My notes from John Piper’s session at TGC13′s World Missions’ pre-conference, “God’s Love Compels Us.” (All notes are paraphrased.)


Missions is not he same as local evangelism. Missions is the specialized calling of te church to plant the church and make disciples in areas where the church has yet to go.

There are approximately 3100 unengaged people groups in the world.

There are 98,000 evangelicals for each of the unengaged people groups of the world.

3100 people groups is small. We can do this of we will. The world, the devil, war against the will of the church to do this.

If this will is to be sustained, it will be by faith–and hearing by the word of Christ.

My job today is to strengthen your faith and your will and perhaps strengthen your call to this task.

Verses one through ten of chapter five ate additional reasons for by you should not lose heart in this ministry of the word and in the cause of missions.

You should have a joyfully serious courage in the cause of world missions. And this text gives four reasons for that–four foundations for real joyful courage.

Realism (5:1-5)

Few things are discouraging than shattered expectations–based on unrealistic expectations. And so Paul gives us clay pot expectations.

Four evidences of realism:

  1. We live in a tent not a building. He calls the body a tent, not a castle or a building. The point of calling it a tent is that tents aren’t very good against harsh weather. Therefore since this is where you live, you should be free of the expectation of escaping transience. We do missions in our bodies–they are frail and temporary.
  2. This tent may be destroyed. Not just shattered or wasting away but destroyed.
  3. Destroys the subjective grounding of the tent. We groan. Be burdened. All the time. While you live in the tent it’s going to groan. It has nerve endings and limits.
  4. Calls the Holy Spirit a down payment. It’s a guarantee. This word is right but only half right. It only gets half the meaning of the word. The point is it really is a down payment and only a down payment. We will someday have the rest of the down payment. But not now. Get used to it.

Resurrection.

Same five verses. Paul is proclaiming a redirection body–a building, not a tent. He ponders in these verses that he might die before the redirection and he doesn’t want that to happen. Unclothed refers to dying before the resurrection. The point is not release but resurrection.
What will it be like?

It will be a building not a tent. We have a building from God. A God-built building.

It’s like a house not made with hands. That’s very strange. Why would he say that? Not made with hands? It doesn’t come out of nowhere, it comes from Jesus. The word destroy and the word not made with hands is used in Mark 14:58—”I will destroy this temple made with hands and in three days make another not made with hands.” I think Jesus is saying Jesus built a temple when he was raised from the dead and Jesus will build us new bodies.

It’s eternal in the heavens. An eternal body, you’ll never ever be without a body when you get your resurrection body. It’s risky being a missionary in a tent. This is such a wonderful promise for us because if you have to watch people being thrown to the lions in the Colosseum or if you’re a missionary who watches her husband’s head cut from his head… We have a resurrection hope!

Reunion.

If we must die before the resurrection, we will be reunited with Christ. He was here in the flesh, we will be there with him in the flesh, though naked and unclothed and not in our final destination—but that, Paul says, is better than death. “We would rather be away from the body and be at home with the Lord.” Without verse eight we would almost certainly misunderstand verse four.

In verse eight, Paul says we don’t want to be unclothed. You might get the impression in the first five verses that bodiless existence is preferred to living within the body. But verse eight prevents us from going there. It’s only preferable as a step toward the final goal of being within the resurrection body.

You do not have to labor under the sadness that the dead are in an inferior position. Paul, choosing between three options—live in the tent, live bodiless with Jesus, live in the resurrection body—chooses “B” when he can’t have “C.” His choices are C, B, A. And they should be ours as well.

Reward.

We’ve seen Paul trying to help us with joyfully serious courage with realism, resurrection and reunion and now finally reward. The reason I’ve put the word “serious” is because of these verses (2 Cor. 5:9-10). I’m saying that makes a person serious in his joy. Really serious. Paul draws the inference from these verses from 5:11 of fear—I’m saying “serious.” He’s saying “fear.”

Knowing the fear of the Lord we persuade men. We get about our mission and ministry—with a trembling in our hearts—joyfully and seriously. This fear is fully compatible with the joyful confidence we have in the rest of the chapter. It in no way prevents Paul from saying “we would prefer to be away from the body with the Lord.”

The judgment of believers awakens a kind of fear in Paul, one that doesn’t push him away from Jesus but toward him. He embraces it—because it’s the path to Jesus.

If you right now are feeling “that doesn’t make sense to me—it sounds like double-talk, nonsense—confident, don’t lose heart, fear of Jesus”—you need to change.
At 67, I feel these immature emotions as I read the Bible because I’m not where I ought to be. Too many people feel like this, feel like there are these things that don’t fit with our emotional structures and so they drop them. Don’t do that! Assume you’re the problem. You’ve got to change, not the Bible. I come to the Bible a broken sinner, an emotional wreck. I come to be fixed, not to tell the Bible what it can tell me how to feel.

Peter described this fear in the same connection as perfectly compatible with calling God “Father.” I have a Father who is going to judge me according to my life—and I’m going to walk before Him in confidence.

Could it be that part of our problem is that we have only known the comfort of the Holy Spirit—and we don’t understand the fear of the Lord? Paul calls it the fear of Christ, a sobering exception of judgment and it’s embraced as good and empowering. Missionaries know how to embrace the fear of God and have a confidence—missionaries who get the job done have roots in a sovereign God who doesn’t let us fall and doesn’t let us lose heart.

What is it about the judgment that is so serious or produces this fear in verse 11 that makes it so motivating for holiness in a right, godly, not legalistic kind of way?

What is it that makes it so serious? Verse 10 tells us—that each will receive what is his due, whether for good or evil. That deserves a sermon, but it’s going to get another three minutes then we’ll be done. The best commentary on this verse is in 1 Cor. 3, referring to Paul himself and Apollos. There he says that there’s labor that’s built on the foundation that’s good and labor built on the foundation that’s bad—foul, perishing, evil. Here’s his explanation 1 Cor 3:12-15:

“…If anyone’s work is burned up, he will experience loss, but he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping the fire.”
Each one will receive what is due, whether good (reward) or evil (loss). From this awesome scene, Paul says we make it our aim to make it our aim to please him. Without faith it is impossible to please God—and what is done in faith will be rewarded, and what relies on self will be lost.

Conclusion

What Paul is doing in this passage is undergirded in chapter four—that we do not lose heart. He gives us four reasons for why we can be joyfully and seriously courageous in our mission. We are realistic about our mission and our situation. Resurrection, whether eaten by lions or worms, we will have a resurrection body that will shine like the sun. And if you die before the resurrection, you will be reunited with Jesus, which is still far better than dwelling in the tent. And there will be a great deal of trembling before Jesus, and justification will be at play there, and you will be rewarded for all that you do—and you will experience loss for everything that is not done in faith. And that loss will fuel our joy for spending our eternity with Jesus, who we will enjoy forever and ever.

David Platt: Why the Great Commission is Great #TGC13

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My notes from David Platt’s session at TGC13′s World Missions’ pre-conference, “God’s Love Compels Us.” (All notes are paraphrased.)


My text is 2 Cor. 4:13-18. So tonight, in a world made up of approximately 16,000 people groups, of whom approximately 6000 are still classified unreached, we read these words.

[In this message] I am not trying to propose a particular utopian vision nor a particular eschatological vision. I’m not saying we in this room or in the western world can pull up our spiritual bootstraps, nor am I saying we are sovereign over this task… but as we are coalescing around the gospel, I want to urge us not to be content with the daintiness of talk and prettiness of words, but to let’s… go after the most dangerous people groups of the world… and do it with all joy. This, I am convinced is the heart of the apostle Paul in these words in 2 Cor 4.

I want to exhort us in a definite attempt to render the world evangelized under the sovereign grace of God… for that is what the gospel compels us to do.

As we believe the gospel with deep seated conviction in our lives, let’s proclaim the gospel with death-defying confidence in the world. In 2 Cor. 4:1-12, we heard Paul describe the power fo the gospel and the weakness of the messenger, and now he reaches back into the Psalms, in Psalm 116:10, where we see a clear connection between believing and speaking. Suffering cannot silence the spirit of faith, the psalmist says. And this, Paul says, is the same spirit at work in us. So believing automatically leads to speaking. Possession of faith automatically leads to proclaiming the faith. According to Paul, when you believe in the resurrection, you proclaim the resurrection—there’s no such thing as a privatized faith according to Paul. If you believe the gospel, you will proclaim the gospel no matter what it costs.

A privatized faith is a profound curse in the Western church.  A faith that says, “It works for me, but who am I to tell my neighbor what they are to believe—even more who am I to tell the nations what they are to believe? And even more, who am I to tell them that if they don’t believe what I believe, they’re going to be condemned to hell?”

We can all relate to that.

When telling the people of my church about visiting Northern India, where approximately 99.5 per cent of the population is non-Christian, thinking “who am I to tell them that all they believe isn’t true—that all their gods are false and if they don’t turn to Christ they will spend an eternity in Hell… that’s extremely arrogant, isn’t it?” And it would be the height of arrogance—if it were untrue. But we know this gospel is true—and it is the height of arrogance not to speak. It is the most evil thing you can do to know the truth and keep it from others.

But if you believe the gospel, in the resurrection from the dead, you can’t not proclaim it.

So do you believe the gospel? Do we really believe this—because if we really do then we can’t sit idly by in our churches while 2.8 billion people have never even heard the news of the resurrection. We believe and so we are compelled to proclaim the gospel to unreached people groups, knowing that we will face suffering and affliction while doing so.

And we know this because they’re unreached—it’s going to be hard. All the easy groups are gone. These people don’t want to be reached.

As I continue to study this text the more convinced I become you cannot rightly understand it outside the context of gospel proclamation in dangerous situations. We see this in all of his examples of his suffering—it’s all the result of proclaiming the gospel in Asia. The principle here: persecution follows proclamation.

Think about our brothers and sisters in Saudi Arabia, North Korea or Somalia right now… if they don’t speak, they don’t have a problem. But as one woman I spoke to in the horn of Africa said, “If I share the gospel with the wrong person, I will have my throat cut.”

Now we all won’t face the same situations as in Saudi Arabia or North Korea or Somalia, but we have to remember that persecution follows proclamation. We don’t do this because we have  sick desire to be dangerous. It’s just the reality of what we’re going to face—resistance. So why go? Because of the gospel—as we believe this gospel in our lives, let’s proclaim it with death defying confidence in the world.

As we live to extend God’s grace among more people, let’s long to exalt God’s glory among all peoples. Don’t you love the tow-fold goal Paul has in ministry? Verse 15 sums up the purpose of all Christian missions. “All suffering is for your sake so that more and more and more of you can experience God’s grace.” Isn’t that what all our ministries are to be about? To extend the gospel to more and more and more people so that more and more and more people would know the resurrected Christ.

In Northern India, in one of the most physically and spiritually impoverished areas in the world, an area about the size of Tennessee—100 million people—where the population is about 0.1 per cent Christians. And there approximately 50000 people die daily, which means approximately 49999 people plunge into an eternal hell, most of whom have never heard the gospel.

So we’ve partnered with brothers in ministry, training Christians to reach the people. Two brothers go to some training where they’re told to go into villages and say to the first person they see and say, “we come in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, can we pray for your village?” They did this in a village with no Christians. They got as far as Jesus and the man they spoke to brought his whole family and 20 people came to Christ. And they trained these same believers to go and do the same. And now three years later, their are churches that are started—real churches, not just “where two or three are gathered” churches—and they’re worshiping Christ. One villager shared his testimony and said, “Our village was like hell until we heard the gospel.”

This is what we live for. We want more and more people to know the gospel.

But, that’s not all.

Listen to Paul, “It’s all for sake so that it may increase thanksgiving to God.” The proper end of missions is not the saving of souls, it’s the glory of God. More specifically thanksgiving to God.

More and more people who are happy in God!

That’s the cry of the psalmist, and the angel in heaven and of the Apostle Paul himself!

And that’s the problem itself isn’t it? Apart from the gospel, they’re not giving thanks to God. That’s what we know from Romans 1—they didn’t give thanks to God. Their foolish hearts became darkened, thinking they were wise they became fools… they exchanged the true God for images of created things.

There are scores of people who are not worshiping the true God, giving thanks to Him, and this drives missions—not because we feel guilty, not because we have all this stuff, it’s glory for our God. We must sacrifice our live and shepherd our churches to penetrate unpeople groups because our God doesn’t deserve the praise of just a few thousand people groups, but of all 16,000 people groups!

That’s why we’re going to go to the 200+ million Americans who aren’t giving thanks to God… to Laos and Japan where there are over 350 million people following Buddhist rules and regulations instead of giving thanks to the true God… and people who believe the gospel, who believe Jesus is worthy of worship will be driven to go and reach them.

It’s the supreme purpose of missions—it’s what makes the great commission great—as we live to extend God’s grace among more people, let’s long to exalt God’s glory among all peoples.

As we continually envision eternal glory with God, let’s joyfully embrace earthly suffering from God. So it all makes sense what Paul says at the end of this chapter. As long as we believe this gospel, as long as we proclaim this gospel, our outer selves will be wasting away. We will face affliction.

Pushing back darkness is never going to be easy. Ministry, missions will never be easy so long as we’re pushing back darkness. We follow a Savior who sent out His disciples as sheep among wolves. It’s not a good place to be, among wolves. Our danger in this world increases to the degree we’re committed to the Lord. So those who want a comfortable easy life in this world, stay away from Jesus.

So we’re told, don’t be surprised by what is about to happen to you. This is the unavoidable takeaway. The more passionate and committed we are to taking the gospel to the nations, the more we will face affliction.

We have made safety a “god” not just in our world but in our churches—we have equated safety with wisdom. And I’m not saying we should be reckless…but God will pass us by so long as we embrace safety over obedience.

But this is the crux of the text. Suffering may be inevitable, but God’s purpose is inevitable. Suffering will come, affliction will come, Paul says, but all of these sufferings are from our God for our good. It’s granted to us—given to us—by God so that we would know God. As we share in Christ’s afflictions, we share in His comfort, too. Suffering may be inevitable, but God’s purpose is unstoppable.

I love how Satan acts not only under God’s permission, but to fulfill God’s purposes. In Acts 8, we see Stephen persecuted and the church is scattered and proclaims the gospel out wherever they go. And we see that Paul is there approving of Stephen’s death, and in doing so winds up founding the church that would later send HIM out on mission. The gospel going to more and more and more people will involve suffering, but it will be worth the price.

As we coalesce around this gospel, let us coalesce around the accomplishment of this gospel. As we believe the gospel with deep seated conviction in our lives, let’s proclaim the gospel with death-defying confidence in the world. As we live to extend God’s grace among more people, let’s long to exalt God’s glory among all peoples. As we continually envision eternal glory with God, let’s joyfully embrace earthly suffering from God—knowing that if God is for us no one can be against us.