Monthly Archives: April 2013

A Terrifying Assessment

Roger Bear
BCM Campus Minister
Indiana State University
Terre Haute

By Roger Bear

What is the most terrifying statement in God’s Word as far as you are concerned?  For me, Jesus’ concluding words from the Sermon on the Mount make me shudder.

“Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ “ (Matthew 7:22-23)

How can this be? How could such a terrible misjudgment of relationship ever develop? I have spent long periods of time in my own life in the throes of doubt and dryness, begging God to assure my heart and make Himself known to me. I’ve often found myself longing for the faith and confidence, the demonstrations of the Holy Spirit’s power that I’ve heard, seen, and read about other Christians’ lives and ministries, particularly those who prophesy/preach, who speak and uncover demons and depravity, who heal with their hands and their words, who lead great movements!

So how can this be? What will have taken place in a man’s or woman’s life so that when he or she stands before our Lord Jesus He will say, “I don’t know you,” and more, name him or her an “evildoer”? The key has to be in the innermost desire of our hearts.

In the Sermon, throughout all of Jesus’ life and words, and in all of Scripture we are warned that we can long for and set our affections on the things of God, the benefits, the beauty of creation, and what God has and can do for us and through us rather than longing for Him. In many and subtle ways we can become addicted to the work of God’s Hands rather than the beauty of God’s Face, the Face of Jesus. We can fall victim to our Enemy’s greatest deception: that accomplishment, success, growth, accolades, appointments to boards and committees, recognitions (and all of these in the name of Jesus, the church, evangelism, missions, building, expanding) are the same as knowing Him. But they are not.

Jesus says later in John, Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” (John 17:3)  And Paul, whose life and experiences epitomize the work of preaching, casting out demons, and healing, who had the credentials and the oratory skills to silence his critics, and whose rugged and ragged journey would have made him a “saint” in anyone’s book, said, “I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,  and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead. “ (Phil. 3:10-11)  Do you know Christ, or have you set your affections on the things God has given?

One of my daily prayers? “Oh, Father, please know me, so that I can know that I am known by You.”

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The Name of the Game

Jake Evans, Pastor of Sugar Creek Baptist Church in West Terre Haute

By Jake Evans

There is a story of an elderly preacher in Scotland who was criticized by one his deacons on a Sunday morning before the service.  “Pastor,” the deacon said, “something must be wrong with your preaching and your work.  There’s been only one person added to the church in a whole year, and he’s just a boy.”  The pastor listened intently to the deacon’s words having felt the weight of this already himself.  “I understand what you are saying,” the pastor replied, “but God knows that I’ve tried to do my work.”  On this day the pastor’s heart was heavy as he went into the pulpit, and as he finished the message he felt the strong inclination to resign that day from his pastoral work.

I am confident that this story resonates with every pastor.  The stark reality that it highlights is the fact that as pastors we can put in countless hours each week preparing for our messages, visiting the sick, conducting funerals, counseling the spiritually wayward, and attending committee meetings with little to no apparent effectiveness in our efforts.  Pastoral work is hard work and often times we feel like throwing in the towel because we feel our work is in vain and that we would be better suited doing something else.

What I want to argue is that we need a paradigm shift in how we think about “success” in ministry.  Success, according to the pragmatic spirit of American culture today, is defined chiefly by fruitfulness.  Someone or something is successful if there are quantifiable results.  A business is successful when it increases its sales and grows its market.  A legal firm is successful when it wins more cases than it loses.  A television network is successful when it gets more viewers than the other networks.  By this standard of success the deacon had every right to question his pastor and the pastor had every right to feel it was time to resign.

But is this pragmatic, modern American view of success applicable to the church and the work of ministry?  My answer is no.  In Joshua 1:8 we have a passage of Scripture that turns on its head this notion of fruitfulness as the hallmark of success.  Joshua has taken over command of the nation of Israel and he and people stand on edge of the Promised Land about to enter into it.  Before they do, Joshua reminds them of one very basic but profoundly important principle: their success in the land will be predicated on their faithfulness to the “Book of the Law.”  Joshua tells them, “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it.  For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success,” (ESV).

The last sentence is the game changer.  Having imbibed the cultural milieu of today numerous Christians and pastors alike have come to think about success in ministry in terms of the quantifiable.  The mindset is that if we have a certain number of conversions and baptisms and we meet our annual budget then we are successful.  Joshua 1:8, however, reminds us that we cannot define success in ministry according to worldly standards.  In God’s view success is not our fruitfulness it is about faithfulness to Him and His Word.  After all, “What then is Apollos?  What is Paul?  Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each.  I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth,” (1 Cor. 3:5-6, ESV).  The name of the game in ministry is faithfulness not fruitfulness.  God and God alone determines when and how much fruit He will bring about through our work.

Returning to our story above, after the service that morning while the elderly pastor was feeling inclined in his heart to resign the boy came up to him after everyone else had left and asked him, “Do you think if I worked hard for an education, I could become a preacher—perhaps a missionary?”  Do you know what?  That boy did become a missionary.  His name was Robert Moffat, a Scottish Congregationalist missionary to Africa.  Was this elderly preacher really unsuccessful?  In the world’s eyes yes.  In God’s eyes no.

Editor’s Note: For further reading on this topic, consider Liberating Ministry From the Success Syndrome, by Kent & Barbara Hughes.

Inspired By His Greatness

By C. Michael Wren, Jr.WREN-MICHAEL-39

                The church is uninspired.  It is painful to say, because the statement hits so close to home, but it has to be said.  The church of our generation in this country (perhaps I should speak only for West Central Baptists) is not adequately inspired toward a dynamic, world-changing lifestyle of faithfulness and witness.   The situation reminds me of what I experience as a parent every June.  After about four days off from school, one of my kids will frown at me and say, “I’m bored.”  On one level I completely understand.  They have had most of their life for the last 9 months programmed for them.  Now, they have no schedule to keep and they aren’t sure what to do with themselves.  But as an adult, I can’t help but say, “Bored!  I don’t get the summers off!  How can you be bored when you have the freedom to do anything you want?  No assignments.  No tests.  No waking up early.”  It just isn’t right to have that kind of opportunity in front of you and not enjoy it.

But on the other hand, it also isn’t right for believers to be children of the creator, heirs of eternity, redeemed by the blood of Christ, and have no sense of God’s majesty, no zeal to celebrate his wonder, and no urgency to tell other people about how indispensable the knowledge of God is.  Consider what the prophet Isaiah has to say:

Do you not know?  Have you not heard?  Has it not been declared to you from the beginning?  Have you not considered the foundations of the earth?  God is enthroned above the circle of the earth; its inhabitants are like grasshoppers.  He stretches out the heavens like thin cloth and spreads them out like a tent to live in.  He reduces princes to nothing and makes judges of the earth irrational,” (Isaiah 40:21-23).

Our God is unique.  There is no god like Him.  He is the sovereign king of the universe.  Compared to him, all of the nations are but a drop a bucket (40:15).  The great leaders of this earth are reduced to nothing (40:23).  He knows every one of the trillions of stars in the galaxy by name (40:26), and He has chosen to use his limitless power to lift poor sinners up out of the ash heap (28-31).  After considering such majesty and the greatness of his love, how can worship be ordinary?  How can obedience to Him seem tedious?  How can we claim that God overlooks our problems?  Why do our churches conduct business as if God has not spoken, does not care, and is powerless to change the world around us?  Where in Scripture have any of these ideas been suggested to us?

The conclusion is that we are not inspired by God’s greatness.  I have to believe that this is what fueled the evangelistic zeal and biblical faithfulness of the church in the New Testament era.  We are right to promote solid training materials.  We are right to consider effective methods of connecting with people who are different from ourselves.  But in the end, having better methods will not motivate people to move outside the walls and tell the story about the redemption our great God has accomplished.  We fail to shake up the world around us because we are not inspired by the greatness of God.  David Platt explains it this way in his new book, Follow Me: A Call to Die. A Call to Live:

“If Christianity involves supernatural regeneration whereby the God of the universe reaches down his hand of mercy into the depths of our souls, forgives us of all our sin, and fills us with his Spirit, then a spectator mentality is spiritually inconceivable. For people whose hearts, minds, wills, and relationships have been radically turned upside down by the person of Christ, the purpose of Christ will reign supreme,”  (page 70).

We are uninspired and there is no excuse for it.  We have forgotten how great our God is.  Our churches and our witness are suffering because of it.

The Assignment — A Parable

Larry Snyder Pastor of Victory Baptist Church, Clinton

Larry Snyder
Pastor of Victory Baptist Church, Clinton

Do you know that God has a purpose and a plan for your life?  Nothing is more exciting than coming to that realization and discovering what God has called you to do.  Nothing is more thrilling for the believer.  But are you doing it?  Are you obedient to His will?  Have you been faithful?

A parable is told (the author is unknown) about a man who was sleeping one night in his cabin, when suddenly his room filled with light and the Savior appeared. The Lord told the man that He had work for him to do and showed him a large rock in front of his cabin. The Lord explained that the man was to push against the rock with all his might.  The man did this, day after day. For many years he toiled from sun up to sun down, his shoulders set squarely against the cold massive surface of the unmoving rock pushing with all his might.   Each night the man returned to his cabin sore and worn out, feeling that his whole day had been spent in vain.

Seeing that the man was showing signs of discouragement, Satan decided to enter the picture by placing thoughts into the man’s mind, “You have been pushing against that rock for a long time and it hasn’t budged. Why kill yourself over this? You are never going to move it.”  The man began to believe that the task was impossible and that he was a failure and he felt discouraged and disheartened. “Why kill myself over this?” he thought.  “I’ll just put in my time, giving just the minimum effort and that will be good enough.” And he planned to do this until one day he decided to make it a matter of prayer and take his troubled thoughts to the Lord. “Lord,” he said, “I have labored long and hard in your service, putting all my strength to do that which you have asked. Yet, after all this time, I have not even budged that rock by half a millimeter. What is wrong? Why am I failing?”

The Lord responded compassionately, “My friend, when I asked you to serve Me and you accepted, I told you that your task was to push against the rock with all your strength, which you have done. Never once did I mention to you that I expected you to move it. Your task was to push. And now you come to me with your strength spent, thinking that you have failed, but is that really so? Look at yourself. Your arms are strong and muscled, your back is sinewy and brown, your hands are callused from constant pressure, and your legs have become massive and hard. Through opposition you have grown much and your abilities surpass what you used to have, yet you haven’t moved the rock. Your calling was to be obedient and to push and to exercise your faith and trust in My wisdom. You have done this. Now, my friend, I will move the rock.”

Our task, men and women, is not to move the rock.  Our job is to be faithful and obedient to do what God has called us to do.  Are we doing that task?  Have we been faithful to it?
“Help me, Lord, not to fear what I’ll miss if I do your will; help me to fear what I’ll miss if I don’t.”  Amen.