What Is An Evangelical? And Are You One?!?

The Presidential election season is ramping up and in an ever-increasing manner for the next 6 months we will be bombarded with advertisements, both television and print, touting the accomplishments of one candidate, while bemoaning the opposing candidates record and/or character. Now might be a good time to make a commitment that for every five minutes of watching cable news, you’ll spend 10 minutes reading your Bible!

One of the interesting developments to come out of the last Presidential election is our culture’s disdain for the term, ‘evangelical.’ The term was bandied about by most major news outlets without defining it or seeking to understand it, which caused it to become a term of derision in our culture. Some Christian’s and respected Christian organizations (such as the Gospel Coalition) suggested the term ought to be jettisoned by Christ-followers. Alan Noble, editor of Christ and Pop Culture states, “For much of society, ‘evangelical’ describes a specific voting bloc.” Noble’s statement reveals that for many in the United States, the term ‘evangelical’ has been co-opted or better yet, hijacked by the Republican Party. The term in our society has shifted from a theological category to a political category. The term ‘evangelical’ has nothing to do with politics (Thank God) and everything to do with what Gospel-centered Christ-followers believe.

British Historian David Bebbington helpfully suggests there are four primary convictions of an evangelical.[1] What are they?

  • Conversionism: The belief that lives need to be transformed through a “born-again” experience and a life-long process of following Jesus. Nicodemus, a member of Israel’s religious leadership was told by our Lord Jesus, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God” (Jn. 3:3). So an evangelical is one who, along with Peter would exclaim, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead…” (1 Pet. 1:3).
  • Evangelism: The conviction that God commands His disciples to engage the mission of God through communicating the Gospel both at home and abroad. After His resurrection Jesus tells His disciples, “All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me. 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” (Matt. 28:18-20).
  • Biblicism: A firm belief that God has spoken in His Word, the Bible and we are to live in obedience to God’s Word. The Apostle Paul tells us, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16-17, emphasis added). An evangelical is one who has a high regard for and obedience to the Bible, as God’s revealed Word.
  • Christocentrism: The conviction that Jesus’ life and sacrificial death are the only possible means of redemption. The Apostle’s, referring to Jesus, boldly proclaim, “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). An evangelical makes it their aim to live their life in honor of Christ.

So what should we do with the term ‘evangelical?’ Should we jettison it as has been suggested? I don’t think so. If we’re asked in the upcoming election cycle, are you one of those evangelicals? I think we should (gently) take that as an opportunity to share what we believe and the hope we have, not in politics, but in Christ and His grace to us.

 

Pastor Travis

[1] I’ve changed some of Bebbington’s language to make it more helpful. His four are Conversionism, Activism, Biblicism, Crucicentrism.

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Considering Eldership

One of the pastoral axioms that has resonated with me over the years is, ‘Whatever your Elders are, your church will become.’ For good or for ill, the Elders will shape the corporate life of the church. They will either help or hinder the mission of God for your particular church. Therefore, it’s imperative that we heed the Apostle Paul’s instruction[1] and carefully consider whom we appoint to shepherd the church as Elders. So, what should we look for when assessing a potential Elder? I find it helpful to gather with the existing Elders to pray and think through a mental grid with the headings of character, competency, culture, compatibility and calling. Let’s examine each one.

Character

The first grid to consider when assessing a potential Elder is the character grid. Because the role of an Elder is such an enormous responsibility[2], the Lord gives the Church qualifications that must be met over a long period of time before a man can be considered for the office.  In John 21, Jesus appears to Peter after his denials, and Jesus asks him three times, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”  Peter responds, “Yes” and Jesus says, “Feed my sheep.”  Jesus is telling Peter to shepherd His people but notice that Jesus reaffirms Peter’s role in the ministry after Peter reaffirms his love and loyalty to Jesus.  Therefore, the most important ingredient, the most obvious character trait needed for an Elder is a deep love and loyalty to the Lord Jesus Christ.  To many this seems so obvious it goes without saying, however, it needs to be said and stressed because the Church isn’t simply a nonprofit business, nor is it simply a civic club and an Elder is not simply a successful businessman[3], nor simply an involved community member, nor is he simply to be a “good ol’ boy.” Leadership in the Church is fundamentally different than leadership in the world (Mk. 10:35-45; Jn. 13:1-7), therefore Elders need to be men whose love and loyalty to the Lord shape their character into Christ-likeness.

In addition to love and loyalty to Jesus, the Bible lays out the qualifications for Elders in two key places (1 Tim. 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9), and since the lists are penned by the same author, and almost identical, let’s consider 1 Timothy 3:1-7.

Here is a trustworthy saying: If anyone sets his heart on being an overseer, he desires a noble task. Now the overseer must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect. (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?) He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil. He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap.

In these seven verses the Apostle Paul details 17 qualifications of an Elder, which breaks down into 4 categories. 1) Relation to God. 2) Relation to family. 3) Relation to self and 4) Relation to others.

Relation to God

  1. A man:
  2. Above reproach: untarnished reputation
  3. Able to teach: can effectively communicate the Gospel
  4. Not a recent convert: mature, established believer

Relation to Self

  1. Sober-minded: mentally & emotionally stable individual
  2. Self-controlled: temperate, able to master one’s own feelings
  3. Not given to drunkenness: free from addictions
  4. Not a lover of money: free from the bondage of money

Relation to Family

  1. Husband of one-wife:  One-woman man. Honor’s his marriage covenant
  2. Respect from children: successful father, has his kids respect
  3. Manages own family well: provides for, loves on, and leads

Relation to Others

  1. Respectable: honorable, well-lived
  2. Hospitable: lover of strangers, engages non-Christians
  3. Not violent: even-tempered. A peaceable man
  4. Gentle: loving, gracious, patient
  5. Not quarrelsome: peaceful attitude, non-contentious
  6. Good reputation with outsiders: well thought of by non-Christians[4]

When men of Christ-like character are shepherding the church, they promote unity, maturity, and spiritual growth. Therefore as an Elder Board is seeking the Lord’s guidance through prayer, it’s of utmost importance to really consider a potential Elder’s character. Once you’ve established there is a long-term lifestyle of Christian maturity, then you’re ready to move to the second portion of the grid.

 Competency

            The next portion of the grid is in the area of competency. Does the potential Elder have the requisite skills needed to effectively shepherd others? Paul tells us that an Elder must be “able to teach.” Does this mean a potential Elder must have the gift of teaching? Not necessarily, but it does seem to indicate he must be capable to explain the Scriptures accurately and in such a way that it benefits others spiritually. He should be known in the congregation as a man whom others can go to have the Scriptures explained clearly and winsomely to them.

Another skill that is needed is an ability to disciple others. Does the potential Elder’s life demonstrate an ability to disciple others in their walk with Christ? Is he able to help others grow in faithfulness, love and knowledge? Remember, an Elder Board isn’t primarily a decision-making board, but a board made up of men who shepherd others in discipleship after Christ and make decisions on behalf of the church.

While an Elder Board isn’t primarily a decision-making board, decisions do need to be made, so another requisite skill is an ability to process information and interpersonal dynamics and think biblically and clearly on given matters. In addition, are they able to strategize and execute a plan to help move the church forward in its mission? Is there evidence of this type of competency, blended with the character component in this man’s life? If so, you have the making of a potential Elder.

Culture

The next part of the grid has to do with the potential Elder’s embracing of your particular church’s culture. Each church has its own culture, its own shared ethos. Wise leaders want to make sure a potential Elder embraces the culture of the community. It would be incredibly foolish to appoint an Elder who doesn’t share your particular doctrinal distinctives and who doesn’t embrace your mission and philosophy of ministry. At Trail Fellowship, we want to make sure that a potential Elder embraces our foundational principals (What We Believe, God’s Plan of Redemption, What Is The Gospel, and Our Mission). We want to make sure that he is committed to our theological vision, our mission, our people and our culture. This takes time to assess and again its why Paul’s admonition, “Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands” is so valuable. Be slow and be sure that a potential Elder embraces the culture of your church, or you’ll regret it. If he checks out in the character, competency and culture grid, you’re ready to move to the fourth portion of the grid—the compatibility portion.

Compatibility

            On the night before the crucifixion, Jesus prayed[5] that his people would be unified “so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.” While Jesus’ prayer is for the Church at large, it certainly extends to the leadership of each church—the Lord would have his under-shepherds to be united, working as one for his purposes. Therefore, another ingredient that needs to be considered when assessing a potential Elder is their compatibility with the existing Elders.

Something to consider is, ‘does this potential Elder bring something to the team that would complement the existing team?’ Usually amongst Elder Boards, one is gifted for missions work, another has pronounced administrative talents, while another is a big-picture, visionary guy, others are gifted in processes and details, while still others are geared theologically. You want on your Elder Board people of different giftings, who complement each other, so that ministry areas are represented well, and when making decisions an area of ministry isn’t neglected.

Another important consideration is does the potential Elder get along with the existing Elders? Questions such as, ‘Is there friction between this potential Elder and any acting Elder? When communicating with others is there a pattern of humility and graciousness, which leads to edification, or is there a pattern of insistence and forcefulness, which leads to frustration? Does he listen to the experience and opinion of others or is he so head-strong others feel put off by him?’

 When assessing a potential Elder, you need to carefully assess the compatibility component because you don’t want unnecessary friction, which can lead to the fracturing of the unity amongst the Elders, which almost always spills over into the life of the congregation.

Calling

If a man has checked the boxes of Godly character, he has requisite competence, he embraces the church’s culture and is compatible with the existing Elders, the final portion of the grid to consider is the area of calling. Paul in 1 Timothy 3:1 states, “If anyone aspires to the office of overseer[6], he desires a noble task.” Paul is not condoning selfish ambition or a carnal desire for a prominent position within the Body of Christ, but rather he is recognizing the office of Elder, the shepherding of God’s people is a noble task. Is the office of Elder something that God really calls us into? In Acts 20:28 Paul affirms it is. When speaking to the Ephesian Elders Paul states, “Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers” (Emphasis added). As John Stott so rightly states, “So what we call the ‘selection’ of candidates for the pastorate/eldership entails according to Paul three essentials: the call of God, the inner aspiration and conviction of the individuals concerned, and their conscientious screening by the church as to whether they meet the requirements which the apostle now goes on to list.”[7]

A potential Elder needs to sense the Lord is calling him into the office of an Elder, which will bolster him to follow the Apostle Peter’s exhortation, “To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder, a witness of Christ’s sufferings and one who also will share in the glory to be revealed: Be shepherd’s of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock.” Again, a potential Elder must sense he is being called into the office of Elder, because the role of an Elder is not to be served, but to willingly serve others, even when it’s incredibly painful and taxing.

What do you do if a potential Elder meets the character, competency, culture and compatibility components, but when you approach him about becoming an Elder, after praying about it, doesn’t sense the Lord is calling him into the role in this season of his life? You trust the Holy Spirit is speaking clearly to him! The temptation at that point is to apply pressure, to twist his arm into service, but it’s better for all involved if you let him turn down the offer, and then continue to pray that the Lord through the Spirit will place a desire within him to serve as an Elder in the future. And trust the Lord to do it.

Some of the most pivotal decisions that are made in the life of a church is the selection of Elders. As was said in the opening, ‘whatever your Elders are, your church becomes.’ Hopefully this grid will help us identify mature, able leaders, who model Christ-like character and promote within the life of our churches health, maturity and fruitfulness.

[1] 1 Timothy 5:22

[2] Hebrews 13:17

[3] That’s not to say an Elder can’t be a successful businessman, but that a successful businessman may not have the character needed to be an Elder.

[4] Adapted from: Driscoll, Mark. On Church Leadership. Pg. 15-16, Crossway, 2008

[5] John 17:21-23

[6] Elder, pastors, bishops, and overseers are synonymous words in the New Testament, Eph. 4:11, 1 Pet. 5:2

[7] Stott, John R.W. The Message of 1 Timothy and Titus, The Bible Speaks Today. Pg. 92. Inter-varsity Press. England.

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Redeeming the Time

Well, here we are. The State of Oregon is in its seventh week of Governor Brown’s Stay Safe, Stay Home orders in an effort to slow the spread of the Coronavirus. It has been a disorienting experience as we try to stay informed with the latest developments, learn to navigate a changing landscape, and incorporate new technologies that enable us to stay somewhat connected during a time of practiced distance. What weird times we are living in. Not unprecedented, of course, but weird, nonetheless. How does one live and make the best use of time during this season?

When the Apostle Paul wrote to the church at Ephesus he instructed them, “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil” (Eph. 5:15-16). “Making the best use of time” is, more literally, “redeeming the time.” Paul sees time as a precious gift given to us from the Lord and we must seize it, rather than squander it. We ‘redeem time’ by freeing it from useless pursuits and instead dedicate it for purposeful endeavors. If we don’t listen to Paul’s instruction; if we don’t relate to time wisely, we will unwittingly, waste it.

But what does redeeming the time look like in a worldwide pandemic? How can we, under the Lord’s leading, use our time wisely, making the best use of it? Let me offer three suggestions.

By recalibrating your spiritual priorities: This season we’re living in has afforded us the opportunity to recalibrate our spiritual practices. If you find yourself with more time on your hands than before, see it as an invitation from the Lord to spend more time in prayer, reading God’s Word, and engaged in His mission. You fail to redeem your time if you fail to prioritize your spiritual growth. This season is a great opportunity to recalibrate your spiritual priorities, but you’ll need to be diligent in it as we’re prone to get distracted. As John Piper famously (and ironically) tweeted, “One of the great uses of Twitter and Facebook will be to prove at the Last Day that prayerlessness was not from lack of time.”

On the other hand, if you’re one of many who have less time on their hands than before, as you’re now homeschooling and working, then remember it was Martin Luther who said, “I have so much to do that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer.” The busier we are, the more necessary prayer becomes.

By renewing relationships: One of the interesting developments that has come out of this pandemic is that our normal routines have been forced to change. I was speaking with an older friend the other day and he mentioned that because his health club is closed, he has been walking a loop of about 3 miles and he has connected with several other neighbors out doing the same. Trea and I have had a similar experience. While we were out for a walk, we reconnected with one of our neighbors who we have not seen or spoken with in a very long time. Could this season be an opportunity to renew relationships with neighbors and in time, enable us to share the reason for the hope we have within us amid uncertainty (1 Pet. 3:15)? Could the Lord be using these renewed relationships to draw others within our communities into the Kingdom? Yes! The Lord uses people to draw other people into His redemptive work, and this unique season is providing us a new avenue to connect with those we otherwise would not have. So, redeem this time by looking to renew relationship with neighbors and community members.

By resolving not to return to ‘normal:’ For many of us, these last 7 weeks have forced us into a different way of life. We have had to reconsider the Psalmist’s words, “Our days may come to seventy years, or eighty, if our strength endures; yet the best of them are but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away…Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Ps. 90:10; 12). This counting of our days, in light of eternity, is crucial. It causes us to reevaluate practically everything. It forces us to ask questions such as, ‘Have I been seeking and building my kingdom or His?’ ‘Have I been so busy making a name and an image that I’ve failed to rest in the knowledge of being created in God’s image?’—the very thing that happened at the Tower of Babel (Gen. 1:26; Gen. 11:4). ‘Have I been so preoccupied with building a life, that I’ve neglected my family life?’ ‘Have I been seeking my identity in my children, rather than finding my identity in being God’s beloved child?’

This season of our lives—living in a worldwide pandemic—will not be wasted if it causes us to reevaluate our lives, our relationship with the Lord and resolve to not return to ‘normal.’

My hope is that when the COVID19 crisis passes, we will have used the time wisely.  Maybe even by adopting a pandemic pace of life, where we purposefully carve out enough margin in our days to hear the Lord’s voice through His Word, seek His face in prayer, and in His name love well those within our family and community.

 

Pastor Travis

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Life, Learning and Jack

September 9, 2018. I didn’t know that day what I now know. It was the first week after school had started and we fully expected Taitum to have a great year in 4th grade. So when our neighbors Bob and Mary (best neighbors in the world) called Trea and asked if Taitum would like to take ownership of Jack, a 25 year-old Arabian we thought, ‘sure, that’ll be a nice addition to Taitum’s life.’ She had been taking lessons for over 6 months and I knew there would come a day when she would have a horse. I just wasn’t sure we were ready for it, but Taitum was.

Tait meeting Jack

Most days, Taitum is up early feeding and caring for Jack, and as soon as she’s home from school, she’s off on a ride. They are inseparable.

The great expectations for Taitum’s school year never materialized. She did great academically, but each day was a battle. The little circle of girlfriends she had rejected her. They wouldn’t speak or look at her. This went on for weeks, which for a 10-year-old girl felt like eternity. It got to the point where I asked her one morning, “Taitum who do you talk to during lunch?” And she responded by saying, “Nobody. But I have a paper sack that I make into a face and talk to it and then when I get home, I talk to Jack.”

Now this isn’t a rant about mean girls, because we don’t think these girls are bad kids, in fact, we really like all of them. It also wasn’t the result of parenting, as we think highly of their parents. (By the way, even if you had good parents, if you reflect upon your childhood there are probably things you did that you aren’t proud of, people you spoke harshly towards and didn’t treat as well as you should have, right?) So, if it’s not mean girls or poor parenting what was it then? It was 4th grade kiddos growing up and navigating life. This is the sin nature being expressed, and we as humans, tend to sin against those we’re in closest proximity to (which is why it might take greater spiritual discipline to be married than to become a monk).

As this school year comes to a close, I’m incredibly grateful to the Lord for Jack. Jack was Taitum’s stabilizing reality this school year. He was her friend. He listened to her when nobody in her class would. He gave her something to look forward to each day. She’s gained a certain independence with Jack, gained confidence, and through the 4H Horse program, gained a wider circle of friends.

The course of learning the Lord had Taitum on this year was different than my expectations, but in all reality, it was better. She learned how to navigate disappointments, how to give her best academically when she felt her worst socially. She learned (and is still learning) that her younger sister will always be her best friend and biggest supporter.

Tait Fair practice

And truth be told, I learned as well. I learned that the love of a girl for her horse is immeasurable. I re-learned that I can trust all the details of Taitum’s life to the Lord. The Lord knew long before I did what Taitum needed. Jesus told His disciples, “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” (Matt. 7:26)

I take great comfort in the fact that the Lord knows the needs of our children better than we do, and as the heavenly Father, He can orchestrate our lives to supply our needs and exceed our expectations. We can trust the Lord with every facet of our kids’ lives, knowing that ultimately, He knows their needs better than we do, and loves them with a love more lasting than ours.

Taitum and Jack Eyes

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What is an Evangelical?

The Presidential election season is ramping up and in an ever-increasing manner for the next 18 months we will be bombarded with advertisements, both television and print, touting the accomplishments of one candidate, while bemoaning the opposing candidates record. Now might be a good time to make a commitment that for every five minutes of watching cable news, you’ll spend 10 minutes reading your Bible!

One of the interesting developments to come out of the last Presidential election is our culture’s disdain for the term, ‘evangelical.’ It became a term of derision in our culture. Some Christian’s and respected Christian organizations (such as the Gospel Coalition) suggested the term ought to be jettisoned by Christ-followers. Alan Noble, editor of Christ and Pop Culture states, “For much of society, ‘evangelical’ describes a specific voting bloc.” Noble’s statement reveals that the term ‘evangelical’ has been co-opted. The term in our society has shifted from a theological category to a political category. The term ‘evangelical’ has nothing to do with politics (Thank God) and everything to do with what Gospel-centered Christ-followers believe.

British Historian David Bebbington helpfully suggests there are four primary convictions of an evangelical.[1]What are they?

 

  • Conversionism: The belief that lives need to be transformed through a “born-again” experience and a life-long process of following Jesus. Nicodemus, a member of Israel’s religious leadership was told by our Lord Jesus, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God” (Jn. 3:3). So an evangelical is one who, along with Peter would exclaim, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead…” (1 Pet. 1:3).
  • Evangelism: The conviction that God commands His disciples to engage the mission of God through communicating the Gospel both at home and abroad. After His resurrection Jesus tells His disciples, “All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me. 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” (Matt. 28:18-20).
  • Biblicism: A firm belief that God has spoken in His Word, the Bible and we are to live in obedience to God’s Word. The Apostle Paul tells us, “All Scriptureis breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16-17, emphasis added). An evangelical is one who has a high regard for and obedience to the Bible, as God’s revealed Word.
  • Christocentrism: The conviction that Jesus’ life and sacrificial death are the only possible means of redemption. The Apostle’s, referring to Jesus, boldly proclaim, “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). An evangelical makes it their aim to live their life in honor of Christ.

 

So what should we do with the term ‘evangelical?’ Should we jettison it as has been suggested? I don’t think so. If we’re asked in the upcoming election cycle, are you one of those evangelicals? I think we should (gently) take that as an opportunity to share what we believe and the hope we have, not in politics, but in Christ and His grace to us.

 

Travis

 

[1]I’ve changed some of Bebbington’s language to make it more helpful. His four are Conversionism, Activism, Biblicism, Crucicentrism.

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A Normal and Natural Witness

Tucked away in Acts chapter 11, is a fascinating account that at first glance doesn’t seem that impressive; Luke uses only three sentences to convey the scene. He writes, “Now those who were scattered because of the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word to no one except Jews. But there were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who on coming to Antioch spoke to the Greeks also, preaching the Lord Jesus Christ. And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number who believed turned to the Lord” (Acts 11:19-21). This is amazing! These Christ-followers, who were scattered over the persecution of Stephen decided they would take a chance and tell the message of Christ to fellow Jews, but also, they would cross a cultural barrier and share the message of Christ with non-Jews. The Lord blessed their witness and a great number of Greeks responded to the Gospel and put their faith in Christ! What caused these anonymous men (Luke doesn’t even tell us their names) to share the message of Christ with both Jews and Greeks?

First and foremost, they have a deep love for the Lord and a concern for His glory. These men, no doubt, have a deep love for the Lord, having tasted and seen that the Lord is good. They have served Him in Jerusalem, and now having arrived in Antioch due to persecution they, out of love for Him and concern for His glory, continue to tell as many people as possible of His great mercy and love. The fact is God is glorified when His mighty works of mercy and grace are made known, which is why the psalmist encourages us to “tell of his salvation from day to day. Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples” (Psalm 96:2-3)! When you or I tell an unconverted person about the Lord Jesus Christ and His saving power, that in itself is honoring and glorifying to God.

The second thing that prompted these men of Cyprus and Cyrene to tell Jews and Greeks about the Lord Jesus is a love for their fellow man and concern for their welfare. The desire to win our fellow man to Christ is the normal and natural outflow of a heart that’s been rescued by Christ! It’s the heart behind Paul’s words when he said, “I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers…” (Rom. 9:3). If we have personally experienced and known the love of Christ and if we are filled with gratitude for His grace, which has rescued us from death and hell, than our normal and natural desire will be to tell others of the salvation that Christ offers them, as there is no greater good that we can offer another than to tell them of Christ and His grace. If, as J.I. Packer says, “we find ourselves shrinking from this responsibility and trying to evade it, we need to face ourselves with the fact that in this we are yielding to sin and Satan. If (as is usual) it is the fear of being thought odd and ridiculous, or of losing popularity in certain circles, that holds us back, we need to ask ourselves in the presence of God: Ought these things to stop us loving our neighbor? If it is false shame, which is not shame at all but pride in disguise, that keeps our tongue from Christian witness when we are with other people. We need to press on our conscience this question: Which matters more—our reputation or their salvation?”

May our lives overflow in love for the Lord, which will produce overflow in love for our fellow man and enable us to find it normal and natural to share with others the message of Christ, and that we too, like the men from Cyprus and Cyrene, would be used of the Lord to bring others into a saving knowledge of Christ Jesus, our Lord.

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Communion: Past, Present & Future Significance

communionFor I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.”  In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

So then, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup.  For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves.”

1 Corinthians 11:23-29

 

When the Apostle Paul wrote these words to the church in Corinth, he described the significance of communion with past, present and future language, and every time that we come to the Lord’s Table, we proclaim its three-fold significance.

We see the past significance of the Lord’s Supper clearly by the Lord’s double usage of the phrase, “Do this in remembrance of me.” As we take the bread and the cup we remember His substitutionary death on our behalf. The broken bread symbolizing the Lord’s broken body and the juice representing His blood. As we hold these material elements we remember that God became a man, willingly went to the Cross in our place, for our sin, where His body was broken and His blood was spilt so that our sins can be forgiven and we can be reconciled to God.

Communion also has a present significance. Paul writes, “Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup.  For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves” (1 Cor. 11:28-29). Therefore, communion is an occasion for examining our lives and hearts before God in light of our profession of His death and resurrection. This examination is crucial, because it would be sheer hypocrisy to pretend we are in communion with God while actually harboring and cherishing known sin in our hearts and lives.

Lastly, communion has a future significance. The Apostle Paul said, “For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes (1 Cor. 11:26; emphasis added). During the last meal Jesus shared with His disciples He said to them, “Truly I tell you, I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God” (Mark 14:25). So every time we take communion we are proclaiming our belief in Christ’s resurrection, and at the same time proclaiming our belief in our future physical resurrection, and still yet, proclaiming our belief in the resurrection of the entire material universe at which time we will see Jesus face to face and partake in God’s great banquet (Is. 25:6-9; Rev. 21:1-7). This future significance of communion should cause us to live our lives in light of this future reality and to long for the day when we will be in God’s presence!

So communion anchors us in the past work of God, stabilizes us in the present love of God, and focuses us on the future glory of God. What an honor to share this table!

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